Years of Living Dangerously

I watched the first episode of the Years of Living Dangerously documentary. I thought it was very good. Quite powerful. It covered the drought in the US South-West which – as I understand from the Pielke Jr-Holdren debacle – has likely been influenced by climate change. It covered the link between the extreme drought in Syria and the civil war. It discussed how deforestation is having a significant impact on our emissions, something I hadn’t quite realised. It also spent quite some time focusing on how religion (and politics) is influencing people’s views about climate change. Katherine Hayhoe was involved in this part of the documentary and I thought she did a really great job.

I can see how some will howl about it being overly alarmist and others will claim that “there is no link”, often – it seems – by playing strawman games. Consider this article by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, which says,

But claims linking the latest blizzard, drought or hurricane to global warming simply can’t be supported by the science. Our warming world is, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increasing heat waves and intense precipitation in some places, and is likely to bring more extreme weather in the future. But the panel also said there is little evidence that this warming is increasing the loss of life or the economic costs of natural disasters.

How does this paragraph even make sense? They use sentence three to support sentence one, despite sentence two largely contradicting sentence one. So, as far as I could tell, this documentary didn’t present anything that wasn’t consistent with the evidence and didn’t seem to be presented in a manner that was overly alarmist – although, maybe that’s my bias as I do think there are things to be alarmed about. Maybe it’s time to consider responding to those who claim something is too alarmist with “what, don’t you think people can handle the truth?”. Of course, I don’t think we should be using alarmism as a way of achieving some goal, but we also shouldn’t sugar-coat what the future is likely to hold.

Anyway, those are my thoughts, for what they’re worth. The first episode of the documentary is well worth watching and – if you did so – you could then make up your own mind about it’s merits – or not.

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77 Responses to Years of Living Dangerously

  1. I should have added that I first saw the documentary on Eli Rabett’s blog.

  2. Rachel says:

    I haven’t watched this video but it sounds good and I’ll try to get around to watching it eventually.

    But I just want to comment on something you’ve said which is we “shouldn’t sugar-coat” the future. I agree! This is one of my pet hates. I can’t stand it when people try to downplay something bad because I find it condescending: it suggests that we can’t handle the truth. I’ve never much cared for euphemisms either. If parts of the planet are going to become uninhabitable to humans under business as usual, then people need to know.

  3. Rachel,
    Yes, I was thinking about this a little last night. Last year, there was quite a lot of discussion about the deficit versus asset model of science communication. In general, it seems that those who criticise things as being too alarmist also criticise the deficit model as being condescending. That position seems contradictory.

  4. The total influence of deforestation has been estimated as large, but most of that has taken place long time ago. The estimate is also highly inaccurate as this Table 6.1 form page 486 of the final version of AR5 WG1 report tells.

    We see that over the period 1750-2011 net land use change has released 27 – 73 % of the releases of fossil fuel emission or 42 – 108 % of the atmospheric increase. Land sink over all land areas is roughly as large making the total net flux over land areas rather small. Over the latest decade net land use change corresponds to little more than 10 % of fossil releases, and is estimated to be significantly less than the residual land sink. Even the recent numbers have large uncertainties as the terrestrial carbon cycle is not known particularly well.

  5. My link to the table failed. I put a copy here

  6. Pekka,
    Let me see if I understand that properly. Over the period 1750-2011, Land use changes could have contributed to 10% of the increase in atmospheric CO2. In recent decades, however, it is likely a net sink, rather than a net source. Presumably, that’s partly because we’ve done most of the damage already?

  7. Rachel says:

    AndThen,
    I might get into trouble for saying this but personally I think social scientists are among the worst communicators. Their stuff is way too verbose and filled with obscure words.

  8. Rachel,
    I’ve always assumed that that’s because I’m just not clever enough to understand it 🙂

  9. Rachel says:

    You and me both 🙂

  10. The land use changes have never led to large annual effects as compared with present fossil fuel based releases. Their total is so large, because they have taken place so long.

    Land areas react to increasing atmospheric CO2 by absorbing part of that, exactly as oceans absorb a part of that. Over land areas CO2 goes to increasing living biomass and to soil. This takes place parallel to the changes in land use and applies both to natural environment and to environment modified by man over the centuries.

    The natural net flux of land areas has also strong short term variability related to ENSO and other weather variability. This variability has been misinterpreted by some skeptics as evidence of the reversed influence of temperature on CO2 concentration rather than of CO2 on temperature.

  11. Paul S says:

    It covered the drought in the US South-West which – as I understand from the Pielke Jr-Holdren debacle – has been likely been influenced by climate change.

    I think that exchange really only focussed on the presence of a trend in that region. AR5 says this about drought there:

    ‘Recent long-term droughts in western North America cannot definitively be shown to lie outside the very large envelope of natural precipitation variability in this region (Cayan et al., 2010; Seager et al., 2010), particularly given new evidence of the history of high-magnitude natural drought and pluvial episodes suggested by palaeoclimatic reconstructions (see Chapter 5). Low-frequency tropical ocean temperature anomalies in all ocean basins appear to force circulation changes that
    promote regional drought (Hoerling and Kumar, 2003; Seager et al., 2005; Dai, 2011).

    Seager et al. 2010 seems quite general whereas Cayan et al. 2010 has some specific things to say:

    ‘The recent drought in the Colorado basin has seen the lowest accumulated deficit in flows at Lees Ferry in over a century of measurements, and has only a 60% chance of occurring in a century. However, given the amount of natural variability in the region’s runoff, the current drought is not outside the realm of droughts likely to be encountered due to natural variability.’

    They also state:

    ‘Downscaled climate model projections show longer and more intense future droughts in the Colorado basin, and a high likelihood of worst-in-century droughts with multiyear flow deficits that exceed any in the observational record by 60–70%.’

    So, it’s the usual case of increased drought in this region being expected due to projected and current climate change but we don’t know enough about the statistics or the process level specifics of recent events to make a definitive attribution.

    I think drought in that region is a typical consequence of La Niña so it could well be that processes involved in “the hiatus” have played a substantial role in recent events. Looking at the Wiki page for US droughts I find this:

    ‘Short term droughts hit particular spots of the United States during 1976 and 1977. California’s statewide snowpack reached an all-time low in 1977. Water resources and agriculture (especially livestock) suffered; negatively impacting the nation’s economy. This drought reversed itself completely the following year.[23]’

    This coincided with the long La Niña period of the 70s and then the reversal at the time of the “Great Pacific Climate Shift” in the late 70s. There are some indications that a similar shift is occurring now so it might be that the drought will lift over the next few years.

  12. PaulS,
    I was taking that from John Holdren’s response to Roger Pielke Jr. It says

    The main exception is the Southwest and parts of the interior of the West, where increased temperature has led to rising drought trends (Groisman et al., 2004; Andreadis and Lettenmaier, 2006).

    So, my understanding is that we can attribute the increased temperatures to climate change and, hence, if the increased temperatures have influenced drought trends in this region then the statement climate change has likely influenced droughts in this region seems reasonable. Maybe, however, I’ve misunderstood this and maybe I should have prefaced it with there is evidence to suggest.

  13. Mark Ryan says:

    “I’ve always assumed that that’s because I’m just not clever enough to understand it :-)”

    …that’s how I feel about the atmospheric sciences!

  14. Paul S says:

    ATTP,

    Groismann et al. 2004 appears to be just about the observations. Andreadis and Lettenmaier 2006 looks more interesting because it presents a process-based approach which can explain increased South-West US drought in terms of temperature increase. The AR5 attribution chapter doesn’t reference it though it seems relevant.

  15. PaulS,
    Thanks, that’s interesting. I should probably have a better look at those papers myself. I got the impression from the Pielke-Holdren issue that there wasn’t much disagreement about the likelihood of climate change having influenced droughts in this region of the US, but that’s just an impression and the situation is presumably more nuanced and complicated than that.

  16. Pekka,
    I saw that a while ago. I liked that he carefully defined the different ways in which one could ask a question about the link between droughts and climate change. Many seem to think that any association between climate change and droughts (or any extreme event) implies the first question (caused by) while it’s often intended to be either the second (influenced by) or the third (will influence). My comment about the South-West drought was intended to be framed in the way he’s framed his question 2. Although, as PaulS indicates, it may not be quite that simple, it does seem that there is at least some evidence that global warming/climate change has influenced droughts in the US South-West and West.

  17. Mark Ryan,
    Maybe we all have to put more effort into explaining our motivations and our results 🙂

  18. andrew adams says:

    I don’t think we should be using alarmism as a way of achieving some goal, but we also shouldn’t sugar-coat what the future is likely to hold.

    Indeed. I came across this piece this morning

    http://climatechangenationalforum.org/pliocene-perils-and-global-warming-scare-tactics/

    in which Andreas Schmitter takes issue with statements made in a video by Dr Maureen Raymo about ecosystems collapsing due to climate change and mentions approvingly the NYT piece by Nordhaus and Shellenberger, saying “scare tactics don’t work in communicating climate change”.

    Now Andreas Schmitter is of course entitled to disagree with Dr Raymo but there isn’t anything in the video which strikes me as being massively controversial and it was certainly my understanding that there are some ecosystems which are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. More importantly I see no reason to believe that Dr Raymo was doing anything other than honestly communicating the conclusions she has reached based on her research, and so to accuse her of using “scare tactics” is wrong and insulting.

    It does seem that certain people are all in favour of “honest” scientific communication as long as the message is one they approve of.

  19. Andrew,
    The last sentence in that CCNF piece seems quite revealing

    The rate of global surface temperature change for the past 15 years has certainty not been underestimated. It could be argued that it has been overestimated.

    Not only is this not demonstrably correct (Cowtan & Way, for example), but also not all that climatically relevant.

  20. Paul S says:

    andrew adams,

    It’s an interesting problem. I see no reason why some plausible impacts of climate change wouldn’t be scary if presented clearly and directly. It’s fine to point to science communication research which says scary stories don’t work (I’m not clear in what sense “don’t work” is meant here) but there must be a point where presenting things in a manner which deliberately avoids “scare tactics” becomes dishonest, for want of a better word.

  21. PaulS,
    Yes, the latter part of your comment is a good way of putting it. As much as one should avoid making something seem unnecessarily alarming, actively trying to make it seem less alarming would be equally dishonest.

  22. MikeH says:

    “scare tactics don’t work in communicating climate change”

    Bullshite.

    Leave aside for a moment the fact that the term “scare tactics” as used by the neo-Lomborgist BTI is a loaded term.

    If we look at anti-smoking campaigns or road safety campaigns which have run in Australia and internationally for decades, they all based on scaring the crap out of viewers. Presumably the professionals who work on these campaigns have had plenty of time to assess their effectiveness given they spend megabucks on them. And whaddya know – they keep making them scarier. And importantly the “scare tactics” are based on good science.

    IMO, the key to Living Dangerously’s message is Cameron’s statement in the promo “This is 100% a people story”. This has been discussed in Oz. There is an increasing understanding that to communicate climate change, it needs to relate to how it affects people. No point talking about the effect on ecosystems or extinctions or damage to the GBR. People need to understand how it is likely to affect them.

  23. MikeH,

    “scare tactics don’t work in communicating climate change”

    I think there’s a subtlety here. One of the reasons that they may not work is that if something is overly alarmist (or perceived to be) it provides ammunition for those who would rather the message didn’t get out. So, if there was a general consensus that climate change was real and presented a real risk, then it may well work. Given that there are those who believe (appear to believe) that it doesn’t present a possible future risk, using scare tactics could then provide them with the opportunity to say “see, it’s just a bunch of alarmists trying to scare you”.

  24. MikeH says:

    I should also point out that when the Gillard government introduced a carbon tax to Australia, the Labor government proceeded to sell it by running “happy clappy” ads for a bright new renewable energy future. Climate blogger Dave Spratt described it as “brightsiding” – selling a solution without mentioning the problem it was intended to solve.

    The climate science denier Tony Abbott on the other hand used “scare tactics” describing the carbox tax as a “wrecking ball” through the economy. He was on tele every night claiming the end was nigh. The town of Whyalla was going to wiped of the map. Industry would desert Australia in droves.

    Guess who won the election?

    And no, I am not suggesting that we use Abbott’s approach. Just pointing out that BTI are full of shite.

  25. MikeH says:

    ATTP
    I agree that the messaging has to be based on good science that can be defended. I disagree that we should care about what the cranks think – they will whine no matter what the message.

    And there is no need for any fabricated “scare tactics”. The IPCC reports are scary enough.

  26. andrew adams says:

    PaulS,

    Yes, exactly. I can understand the argument that people are instinctively resistant to scary stories, but if the message is deliberately toned down how can they get a proper understanding of the problem? And people will also instinctively cling to caveats and uncertainties – whichever way the argument is framed if people are determined to find reasons for inaction they will do. It would be nice if those criticising the way scientists communicate would be a bit clearer about exactly what kind of message would be effective assuming that climate change is a significant existential risk which requires action.

    One thing which does occur to me as being helpful is if scientists as well as stressing the potential dangers of climate change also point out that we have a choice whether to take action and that we have the ability to take control of our destiny and avoid the worst consequences – they don’t have to mention this in every speech, article etc. but it should be part of the overall message. Oh, but of course that’s “advocacy” and scientists aren’t allowed to do that.

    Another thing which might also help this discussion is to stop over-generalising about what “people” will do. I keep reading about how climate science communication has “failed” and how “people” reject the arguments made by climate science but of course many of us* do listen to what scientists are saying and do accept the need for action, in fact as far as I can tell we are in the majority. I don’t doubt that the number is not as high as it could or should be – there is doubtless a section of the population who are still unconvinced but could be persuaded and that’s where I think communication efforts should be focussed. But there is also a section who will never be convinced and maybe in some (many) of those cases it’s not those doing the comminucating who are at fault.

    *By “us” I mean members of the public with no particular expertise in the subject.

  27. Nordhaus and Shellenberger imply that “Years” uses exaggeration scare tactics about drought (etc.) that can’t be supported by the science. I’m skeptical.

    In “Years” episode 1, Katharine Hayhoe says “… we have years when it’s dry as a bone, we have years when it’s record flooding. And that’s just the way it’s always been as far back as we go. … what happens if you take that exact natural cycle of drought/wet, drought/wet and you make it hotter? Well, when it’s dry all that extra temperature is gonna cause even more water to evaporate; it’s gonna dry out the soil even more. So the average drought is gonna become more severe as it gets warmer.”

    In my opinion Nordhaus and Shellenberger should either explain why Hayhoe’s claim (that droughts are caused by natural cycles and only made more severe on average by warming) can’t be supported by the science, or retract their implication.

    Nordhaus and Shellenberger then act as though “Years” claimed that climate change was the most important driver of increasing losses. This might seem odd, especially because the closest example I could find was this conversation:

    SUSAN RICE: “Climate change is now well understood to be a major national security issue and a source of stress on a number of the underlying causes of conflict: drought, floods, food shortages, water scarcity. All of these drive increased human insecurity, poverty, and can contribute to conflict.”

    TOM FRIEDMAN: “How much do you feel that stress in northern Syria where you had this region afflicted by drought from 2006 to 2010 right on the eve of the revolution there contributed to it?”

    SUSAN RICE: “It’s very hard to quantify, however we all know that where there is drought, where there is insecurity, when there is poverty, hunger, poor governance, repressive policies… it may make the tinder in the box more readily ignitable.”

    Susan Rice didn’t claim that climate change was the most important driver of increasing losses. She even called it “very hard to quantify” and listed other drivers. Unsurprisingly, her claims were similar to those in the Pentagon’s QDRs. So it might seem odd that “Years” has been implicitly criticized for making a claim they haven’t made.

    It only seemed odd until I realized that Nordhaus and Shellenberger founded the “Breakthrough Institute” where Roger Pielke Jr. is a senior fellow.

    For years Pielke Jr. has disrupted conversations about how climate change makes weather extremes more severe. When scientists try to discuss how climate change makes weather extremes more severe without reference to complicating factors like economic losses, Pielke Jr. appears to make his standard claim about economic losses… regardless of whether they’re relevant. Presumably by coincidence, this tends to derail conversations about physical science more towards Pielke’s field of political science, and muddies the waters of physical science literacy among Congress and the general public.

  28. Layzej says:

    Hi ATTP,

    I believe that even with the corrections provided by Cowtan & Way the atmosphere has still warmed less than was expected over the last 15 years. I would think that Andreas Schmitter is right to take issue with the statement that “climate scientists have *always* underestimated the rate of change in the climate system.” Perhaps “often” would have been a better word?

  29. Layzej,
    Okay, but I took it to be implying that the analysis of the data produces trends that are over-estimated, rather than the models predicted faster warming than has been observed. If the latter is what he was meaning, then I agree. I find his use of “over-estimate” a little odd, but maybe he was meaning when compared to models. I don’t think that there is much disagreement that the models trends have tended to be higher than what’s observed. I do agree, though, that “always” is too strong.

  30. John Mashey says:

    1) Katharine Hayhoe, besides being a good scientist and communicator, is also one of the nicest people on the planet, as anyone who talks to her for a minute knows. See The Price of Truth: Limbaugh Operatives Encourage Abusive Hate Mail At Female, Evangelical Climate Scientist.

    2) How about keeping the discussion on the TV show … the "pause" has been dealt with numerous other times and places.

  31. AnOilMan says:

    ATTP, Mark Ryan: Could you guys just reduce it to bite size bullet point science so I could understand it, and design the solution? And don’t use any crappy pseudo science… that stuff never works in practice.

    Anyways… I did see the first episode, and I feel that its walking a tight rope between disaster porn, and science fact. I believe we all know that we can’t claim that Climate Change ’caused’ something, but we do know that Climate Change will enhance bad weather, like droughts, flooding, and severe storms.

    Like it or not, it does put the face on Climate Change damage that is missing from work like Tol’s. People are financially and emotionally devastated by the damage it causes. I think it also high lights other aspects of Climate Change related damage. The destruction of economic links (droughts literally closing towns) in our society are less obvious, but it is happening now. Its the same in Canada by the way. Pine Beetles are destroying so much forest, that mill towns are literally being shut down. (All it takes to stop pine beetles is a cold snap.. In Canada, you’d think we could have a cold snap once in a while, but not any more.)

    By the way take a close look at your insurance, many companies have riders in to eliminate payouts for climate change attributed damage, or least (in Canada) outright refusal to insure anything that is likely risky, like flood plains.

    So, yes… this is personal, for everyone. No one is going to help you.
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/an-industry-that-has-woken-up-to-climate-change-no-deniers-at-global-resinsurance-giant/article15635331/?page=all

    That also means you are already paying cash for Climate Change.

  32. Brigitte says:

    Was out all day and therefore I am coming to this a bit late, as usual. I agree social science text can be verbose and sometimes even obscurantist, but there are also loads of exceptions, such as Katherine Hayhoe – and I believe things are getting better. But just for your enjoyment I give you this quote which always makes me smile: “He that uses many words for explaining any subject, doth, like the cuttlefish, hide himself for the most part in his own ink.” John Ray (1627-1705) (taken from Greg Hollin’s blog post on jargon: http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2012/08/01/making-science-public-the-issue-of-language-jargon/)

  33. Steve Bloom says:

    Keep your eyes on the pea, Anders. The global mean surface temperature is only one component of the climate system. There’s a rather long list of important changes that have been observed and either underestimated or missed completely.

    As for Raymo’s other point about ecosystem collapse, I think it’s hard to draw any other conclusion from considering Pliocene vs. present climate. If Schmittner’s point is that we haven’t progressed very far along the trajectory to a Pliocene-like climate (or worse) as yet, sure. But I’d like to see him try to make a scientific argument it’s not inevitable given current CO2 increases. But even just considering present trends in ecosystem changes, scientists who study them are worried indeed.

  34. Steve Bloom says:

    That’s a very moderate comment, Brigitte.

  35. Steve Bloom says:

    Re ecosystem collapse, here‘s some happy reading. Title/abstract:

    Catastrophic Collapse Can Occur without Early Warning: Examples of Silent Catastrophes in Structured Ecological Models

    Catastrophic and sudden collapses of ecosystems are sometimes preceded by early warning signals that potentially could be used to predict and prevent a forthcoming catastrophe. Universality of these early warning signals has been proposed, but no formal proof has been provided. Here, we show that in relatively simple ecological models the most commonly used early warning signals for a catastrophic collapse can be silent. We underpin the mathematical reason for this phenomenon, which involves the direction of the eigenvectors of the system. Our results demonstrate that claims on the universality of early warning signals are not correct, and that catastrophic collapses can occur without prior warning. In order to correctly predict a collapse and determine whether early warning signals precede the collapse, detailed knowledge of the mathematical structure of the approaching bifurcation is necessary. Unfortunately, such knowledge is often only obtained after the collapse has already occurred.

    A frequentist approach is not our friend.

  36. OPatrick says:

    Relevant perhaps is this article by Neil Thorns, chair of the newly named Climate Coalition, in the Guardian. He is quite open in admitting that their new approach is the result of testing out different forms of communication on focus groups. They found that what worked best was appealing to the things that people care about close to home. I have a degree of scepticism about this, not least that it’s even easier for anyone who wants to undermine action to sell uncertainty at the local level. But I also wonder if the large-scale, long-term message may lose out. On the other hand, anything that’s shown to work is worth trying. Honesty and effectiveness….

  37. andrew adams says:

    As we’re on the subject of impacts of climate change, anyone here living in or near London might be interested in this event on 25th April. I’ll be going.

    http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/getting-involved/special-interest-groups/climate-change-ecology/

  38. Vinny Burgoo says:

    OPatrick, have you seen Climate Coalition’s new approach in action?

    http://fortheloveof.org.uk/stories/

    It’s, er… Well, I won’t say cretinous. (Whoops!) Under the heading ‘Facts’: British fun-lovers will be robbed of picnics because summers will be colder and wetter (says a brief 2010 BBC report of a speculative study that bucked the usual message) and British gardeners will be able to grow fewer crop varieties because it’ll get hotter and… well, just because. Also, cheese will be off the menu, as will turtles, bluebells, beaches and cycling (that last because The Netherlands, home of cycling, will be underwater).

    Whom are they hoping to convince with such flakey fluff?

  39. Vinny Burgoo says:

    andrew adams: ‘I can understand the argument that people are instinctively resistant to scary stories… people will also instinctively cling to caveats and uncertainties… if people are determined to find reasons for inaction they will do. …Another thing which might also help this discussion is to stop over-generalising about what “people” will do.’

    Okey dokey.

  40. Vinny Burgoo says:

    To answer my own question: all the flakey fluff is from the climate-concerned public, so what Climate Coalition’s new approach is doing is showing how ignorant such people are of what climate change will likely mean for them.

    So I suppose the new approach must be aimed at convincing ‘denialists’ that they are right.

    Is it some sort of conspiracy?

  41. When people incoherently accuse scientists of being “eager deceivers”, one wonders whom are they hoping to convince with such flakey fluff?

  42. andrew adams says:

    Vinny Burgo,

    No contradiction there, although I could have worded it better. The point is that whatever kind of message scientists put across there will be some people for whom it won’t have the desired effect. There will be others for whom it will. So you can’t over generalise and assume that everyone will react in the same way – you have to accept there are different audiences and different individuals within those audiences.

  43. OPatrick says:

    Vinny:

    Under the heading ‘Facts’:

    I’m sorry, but I think you are being dishonest there. Although the link is indeed labelled ‘The Facts’ there is no way that anyone could confuse what is given there with anything other than people’s (albeit evidence-supported) opinions.

    In the first example you give you claim it says (my emphasis):

    British fun-lovers will be robbed of picnics because summers will be colder and wetter

    whilst what it actually says is (my emphasis):

    But as the impacts of climate change become more extreme, summer in the UK could look very different. Scientists think cold, wet summers could become the new norm.

    I might well ask ‘who do you think you are trying to convince’.

    I do wonder what a similar project organised by some of the ‘sceptical’ groups might look like. Actually, given the letters I read in the local papers and other such sources I don’t really need to wonder at all. And I can guarantee that I wouldn’t need to misrepresent it to make my point.

  44. Steve Bloom says:

    Actually the picnic business is probably because Vinny thinks Al Gore’s doppelgangers will outlaw fun.

  45. Eli Rabett says:

    More for Pekka and ATTP. Land use changes in the 18th and 19th century were associated mostly with the settlement of North America (and South America and Australia to an extent). A major part of this was altering the albedo of the surface. Another effect (more speculative on my part) was exposing the soil which produced a lot more solid aerosol. Not sure how much of this gets into the AR5.

  46. foxgoose says:

    John Mashey says:
    April 10, 2014 at 3:47 pm
    1) Katharine Hayhoe, besides being a good scientist and communicator, is also one of the nicest people on the planet, as anyone who talks to her for a minute knows. See The Price of Truth: Limbaugh Operatives Encourage Abusive Hate Mail At Female, Evangelical Climate Scientist.

    I don’t drop in here often, since I know I’m not welcome, but I can’t let John Mashey get away with recycling Joe Romm’s hysterical, and long since debunked, “climate denier death threat” nonsense.

    If you read the Romm piece Mashey is linking to you will find one very unpleasant email to Hayhoe which could be properly described as “hate mail”.

    Many people, on all sides of the climate debate were distressed when Katherine revealed her “hate mail” to a journalist – even Andrew Montford expressed some sympathy.

    I was less generous, because I remembered some similar previous incidents of “denier hate mail” – so I did a bit of research and responded with a comment at BH :-

    Ms Hayhoe is an activist/scientist of the first rank and uses her professorial position at Texas Tech to spread some of the most blatant climate propaganda I have seen. Anyone who is interested in the background can download a pdf of her lecture slides here:-

    http://temagami.tosm.ttu.edu/khayhoe/climate_slides/index.htm

    The slide which claimed 300,000 people were dying from climate change every year has been disappeared, I think following advice from Richard Betts that the WHO figure was “unsupported by science” – but the others are just a compendium of Gore style alarmism without a trace of scientific rigour.

    I agree with the point Richard Betts and his colleague made in a report he linked to here recently – when they said that, while detrimental effects of climate change on human populations are difficult to prove, there is a very real threat of exposing primitive, poorly educated populations to extravagant claims about mass deaths etc which could cause panic, political instability or migration.

    Ms Hayhoe’s brand of alarmism may therefore have serious unforeseen consequences and it’s not surprising many people feel strongly about it and express their views that she is misguided, stupid, lying etc etc. Sadly this kind of discourse seems to be inevitable in a debate as heated as the climate one and I’m sure most of us have experienced it.

    She has however published one particular email she received (linked by Bish in the post) which is obscene, threatening and violent to a degree which goes way beyond any reasonable discourse – but this particular email and its author have some history.

    Many of us will remember that around June 2011 there was a huge “climate scientists receive death threats” story in Australia which ran and ran in sympathetic media – gaining a little more colour each time the story was retold. Police were apparently involved, universities had to step up security and climate scientists and their families lived in abject fear of assassination by demented deniers.

    A star part in the drama was played a lady scientist called Anna Arabia, who published a letter with the same sort of threats and obscenities that Kate Hayhoe received.

    http://wakeup2thelies.com/2011/06/20/death-threat-gate-or-the-afp-must-investigate-anna-maria-arabia-claims/

    Following Barry’s last link above to Kate Hayhoes original post of the letter in December 2011, you can link through to Tom Nelson’s June 2011 post on the Anna Arabia episode

    http://tomnelson.blogspot.com/2011/06/breaking-in-comment-on-this-blog-today.html

    Ms Arabia was quoted as saying “There’s no doubt that there is an orchestrated campaign”.

    It emerges that, following the Australian publicity an individual called Stan Lippman from Seattle posted on Tom’s blog cheerfully explaining that he was the author of the missive which he described as “not a death threat, just my usual counter propaganda tactic”.

    Now it appears that Kate Hayhoe’s email was from the same disturbed individual – which she knew because she linked to the Tom Nelson page in her December post.

    So what we have here is a single, disturbed, obnoxious but harmless character whose history and identity is well known to everyone involved – and whose two pathetic missives have provided the warmist cause with an avalanche of “evil denier death threats” publicity across two continents.

    Just Google “Hayhoe threats” and “Anna Arabia threats” to see how much mileage the warmist PR machine and its tame hacks have dragged out of this one sad individual.

    The really cynical thing is that Hayhoe slipped this old missive, from the well known nut-case, in with a load of other fairly rude but unexceptional emails to try and give the impression that she’d been inundated by “hate mail”.

    If anyone doubts the veracity of my account, as I’m fairly sure some will, they can check out Stan Lippman’s colourful history here:-

    http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2009/08/06/the-oddballs-for-king-county-executive

    http://seattletimes.com/html/politics/2009336813_lippmann13m.html

    But the really amusing sting in the tale (sic) is something I only discovered after making the BH post.

    Lippman’s original profession, before his disastrous legal career, was as a physicist – and his first venture into politics was to stand as a green activist:-

    http://www2.ci.seattle.wa.us/ethics/vg/20061107/lipsta.htm

    So the true headline, behind the Mashey-recyled Romm shock horror tale should have been:-

    “Vulnerable female climate scientists receive vicious death threats from climate activist physicist.”

    Funny old game climate ball.

  47. FG,

    I don’t drop in here often, since I know I’m not welcome,

    Can’t deny that that is indeed the case. Ever given any thought as to why?

  48. foxgoose says:

    Yes, quite a bit – but if I posted my conclusions things could only get worse (as someone once nearly said).

    But even you must have had just a bit of a chuckle at my comment surely.

  49. Foxgoose,

    Yes, quite a bit – but if I posted my conclusions things could only get worse (as someone once nearly said).

    Hmmm, that might be wise. Although you shouldn’t necessarily see that as me implying that your conclusions are likely to have any merit.

    But even you must have had just a bit of a chuckle at my comment surely.

    Why would I have chuckled at your comment. It seemed quite offensive.

  50. foxgoose says:

    In what way did you find it offensive?

  51. FG,

    Ms Hayhoe is an activist/scientist of the first rank and uses her professorial position at Texas Tech to spread some of the most blatant climate propaganda I have seen.

    This.

    And, this would suggest Katherine Hayhoe was got many more than just 1 unpleasant email. You’re either suggesting she’s lying or you’ve decided that because you only have direct evidence for one email, that it’s just making a mountain out of a molehill.

  52. In what way didn’t I find that long rant about “Ms” Hayhoe offensive?

  53. foxgoose says:

    Anders

    You’re either being lazy. dishonest or both.

    1. Do you believe 300,000 people a year are currently dying from climate change when there is no supporting evidence? If you don’t – what’s offensive about calling it blatant propaganda?

    2. The items I linked to showed the emails she had disclosed to the press – so that people could judge how serious they were. Even in Romm’s hysterical hit piece the emails (apart from the one I described myself as “obscene, threatening and violent to a degree which goes way beyond any reasonable discourse”) were simply rude – much like the responses I get here. You have simply linked to a puff article, written to hype the “denier death threats libel” which carefully avoids showing the emails themselves.

    If you’re not prepared to get to the basic truth of these arguments by examining the evidence – you are simply acting as a propagandist yourself.

  54. Foxgoose,

    You’re either being lazy. dishonest or both.

    You wonder why I find you offensive.

    Do you believe 300,000 people a year are currently dying from climate change when there is no supporting evidence? If you don’t – what’s offensive about calling it blatant propaganda?

    You can decide whatever you like. I’m free to decide that your inferences are offensive.

    The items I linked to showed the emails she had disclosed to the press – so that people could judge how serious they were. Even in Romm’s hysterical hit piece the emails (apart from the one I described myself as “obscene, threatening and violent to a degree which goes way beyond any reasonable discourse”) were simply rude – much like the responses I get here. You have simply linked to a puff article, written to hype the “denier death threats libel” which carefully avoids showing the emails themselves.

    Let’s make something quite clear. And I’d really like you to think about this a little and really give it some thought. I at no stage mentioned the emails to Katherine Hayhoe or anything about what may have happened to her in the past. My only mention of Katherine Hayhoe was that I thought she did really well in this video. (Also, if you think the responses you get here are rude, maybe you should try not to be so offensive yourself.)

    Now really try and concentrate here. You’re the one who’s come here, mentioned the emails and some slide in one of her past presentations and then made inferences both about her and about the significance of these emails. Now you’re suggesting that I should have some view about these. You brought them up, not me. My only suggestion was that you may not have all the information about the emails that you would need so as to really draw the conclusions that you have. Although, I do think that just because emails are only rude isn’t really a particularly good defense.

    If you’re not prepared to get to the basic truth of these arguments by examining the evidence – you are simply acting as a propagandist yourself.

    Given that I’m not the one trying to present some kind of argument about someone else, while you are, I think it’s rich that you’re calling me a propagandist.

  55. OPatrick says:

    Foxgoose, can I just check – the e-mails were simply ‘rude’ but Joe Romm wrote an ‘hysterical hit piece’ – is that right?

  56. > I at no stage mentioned the emails to Katherine Hayhoe or anything about what may have happened to her in the past.

    That’s a peddling trick, AT. You mention someone S and Foxgoose feels anything that involves S is relevant or something. And now that Foxgoose has the feet on the door, he can raise any concerns he wants about your person.

    The modus operandi is not difficult to spot after a while.

  57. Willard,

    That’s a peddling trick, AT. You mention someone S and Foxgoose feels anything that involves S is relevant or something. And now that Foxgoose has the feet on the door, he can raise any concerns he wants about your person.

    The modus operandi is not difficult to spot after a while.

    Indeed, that’s why I thought it worth pointing out.

  58. AnOilMan says:

    Willard, ATTP, it also maligns and distracts from the discussion. Its a win if he can goad you into attacking him, and even if he can’t, you’re at least no talking about anything useful.

    I’d delete his posts.

  59. toby52 says:

    Wthin the rules of Climateball, denier insults are “robust debate” and “free speech”, while, if they are questioned, it is a “smear campaign”.

  60. foxgoose says:

    [Mod : Enough. Not interested in taking this any further.]

  61. > Is it some sort of conspiracy?

    Is this some kind of rhetorical question?

  62. Vinny Burgoo says:

    OPatrick, where is the dishonesty in saying that a bunch of blurbs gathered under the heading ‘[The] Facts’ is under the heading ‘[The] Facts’?

    I’ll give the ‘will’/’could’ thing. I wrote that in a hurry.

    And I agree that a ‘sceptical’ version would probably be even worse.

  63. dana1981 says:

    Regarding Schmittner’s ‘overestimated’ surface temps comment, I’m guessing he’s talking about modeled, not measured temps. I left a comment asking for clarification on that point. In either case I agree it’s not relevant to long-term climate change, so I’m surprised he made that comment.

    The first episode of ‘Years’ was very well done, with all the appropriate caveats made when discussing the connections between climate change and extreme weather. The BTI folks are indeed arguing that people can’t handle the truth, although their arguments are based on misinterpretations of the social science literature. If people are only presented with doom and gloom, that can trigger denial, but Years doesn’t only present doom and gloom.

  64. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Steve, when are you going to admit that Al Gore is fat?

    (I was thinking about your extinction-event obsession^Winterest the other day. I had just found out about the Ordovician-Silurian extinction event. (Slow of me, I know.) As it happens, I live on top of an Ordovician-Silurian uncomformity and the extinction, of course, is missing. Do you think my missing bedrock might in some way explain my lack of interest in the possibility that we’re setting ourselves up for another Permian (is that the right one?) extinction event?)

  65. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Willard, is Al Gore fat?

  66. Vinny Burgoo says:

    UncoNformity. Even I know that much.

  67. jsam says:

    Is Vinny for real?

    Or is he just trying to convince the silent audience that “climate sceptics” are nutters whose favourite tipple is White Lightning? Could he be a Greenpeace agent provacateur? Inquiring minds want to know.

  68. OPatrick says:

    Vinny, the impression of dishonesty was given by you pretending that the examples you gave were being presented as facts (changing the wording from could to will) when they clearly weren’t. I agree that the title of the link for that page is not a good choice, it doesn’t sum up what the page is about nor does it represent the largely reasonable concerns people are expressing. Your (‘non’) use of the term cretinous also deserves some epithet, but I don’t think dishonest quite captures it.

  69. Vinny Burgoo says:

    OK, OPatrick, I’ll be more honest about what I think of COIN’s latest offering: it’s cretinous. It’s based on ‘research’ (by Adam Corner, I think) that sought to identify ways of getting non-lefties more convinced of the cataclysmic nature of climate change. The result? Quote a lot of already-convinced posh ninnies spouting half-true factoids that are sorta-related to things they quite like, actually. (And yes, that is itself a half-true factoid. I’m trying to be brief.)

    And the worst thing about such efforts to convince the British public that climate change requires immediate and drastic action is not that they are so cretinously misshapen; it’s that they are post hoc. We’re already doing our bit (through, for example, a >£100/tonne-CO2 tax on road fuels). They hope to build popular support for what has already been imposed without it.

  70. ­Cretinous. “Research.” Non-lefties. Cataclysmic. Posh ninnies spouting half-true factoids.

    Please continue, dear Vinny.

  71. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Thanks, willard. I will. But not now, OK?

  72. Eli Rabett says:

    No. Not all right. Eli needs the giggles.

  73. jsam says:

    Which under-cover Greenpeace operation is Vinny working for? He’s good, very good. 🙂

  74. Steve Bloom says:

    No, Vinny, the PETM is what you want, not the P-T or any of the other early ones, although they do stand as object lessons in what the climate system can do. It’s amazing how, despite long opportunity to amend your considerable ignorance of key aspects of the climate system, you remain just a tone and concern troll. One would almost think you made a conscious choice to not know better.

    Myself, I just spent the last couple hours catching up on research relating to Miocene CO2 levels, and not because I needed it for some current debate. Actually understanding stuff, or at least trying to as much as possible, is good. Try it some time.

    As for Al, since apparently he has for years bestrode the global intellectual scene like a colossus, he can be as fat as he wants.

  75. AnOilMan says:

    Perhaps Al is just getting the usual middle page spread. Its such a common phenomenon, that Wallace and Gromet made fun of it.

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