Climate communicators in Edinburgh

It was a bit of a weekend of climate communication in Edinburgh. Yesterday morning I went along to Dynamic Earth, where the Natural Environment Research Council was hosting an event called UnEarthed. Ed Hawkins was there with a display about their Weather Rescue project.

Yesterday evening I went to go and see Katharine Hayhoe give a talk. It was really very good; informative, entertaining, passionate; everything that you would expect from an excellent science communicator. The focus was the idea that facts aren’t enough, that you need to find innovative ways to engage with people, rather than simply plying them with more and more facts.

The suggestion was that there are a number of steps to effectively engaging with those who might be dismissive of the risks associated with climate change. Try to appreciate other people’s positions and look for shared values, try to find ways to connect, explain what we do, and don’t, know (including that scientists agree), and try to be inspiring.

These all seems like quite reasonable suggestions that are probably more difficult in practice than they are in theory. I would really quite like to be able to better communicate; to be more passionate. However, I think it’s partly not in my nature (this post was probably one of my more passionate ones, and even it doesn’t really qualify), it’s partly been beaten out of me (figuratively, rather than literally), and it’s partly a consequence of scientific reticence. I think scientists sometimes feel that their role is more to inform than to influence, and this does somewhat constrain how they communicate.

We did have a brief discussion at the end of the talk about how science communicators could be more passionate, and how there are some who think that they should remain dispassionate. My own view is that we should be very careful of buying into the Pielke-like attempts to define how scientists should conduct themselves in public. I think scientists are as entitled as anyone to communicate passionately about a topic that they regard as important. On the other hand, I also think that some feel more comfortable aiming to simply provide information that others can use as they see fit

The one concern I have with the “facts aren’t enough” message is that it doesn’t mean that facts aren’t important; even though they may not be enough, we don’t want to discourage those who feel more comfortable presenting facts than trying to find innovative ways to engage. Even those who can find ways to engage effectively with those who have a tendency to be dismissive of the risks associated with climate change still need “facts”.

I must admit that even though I found Katharine Hayhoe’s talk very interesting and thought-provoking, I’m still not sure how I can better engage publicly. Someone did once suggest to me that maybe we should consider leaving science communication to those – like Katharine Hayhoe – who can identify, and engage, with those dismissive of some areas of science. I didn’t really agree then, and I still don’t really agree, but it is something I do consider. What I do think, though, is that we certainly need more people who are able to engage effectively, and passionately, with those who seem reluctant to accept that climate change carries risks that we really should be trying to address.

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111 Responses to Climate communicators in Edinburgh

  1. As usual, there is something I wanted to get into the post that I didn’t manage to do. Something Katharine Hayhoe said that I thought very interesting, was the idea that we should try to remove climate change from the list of things about which we’re specifically concerned; like poverty, economic collapse, terrorism, etc. Climate change is not really something that exists in isolation. It will likely impact many of the other factors about which people are justifiably concerned, and addressing it can be done in a way that also addresses the issues that directly concern people (or addressing these other issues without also thinking about climate change would likely be counter-productive).

  2. I would not want to discourage scientists from talking about their science, but I do think that non-scientists are probably on average better at being openly passionate and warm. Science also has a peculiar way of thinking that will not match with everyone. Most natural scientists tend to be introverts and not crowd-surfers.

    I would love to see more artists, activists, politicians, etc. involved. If only not to play into the framing of the mitigation sceptical movement that this is a scientific debate. If the response to their nonsense comes from scientists, it can look like a scientific debate for a person who has no experience with real scientific debate, i.e. nearly everyone.

  3. Victor,

    I would not want to discourage scientists from talking about their science, but I do think that non-scientists are probably on average better at being openly passionate and warm.

    Yes, I thought something similar. There will, of course, be some scientists who are openly passionate and warm, but maybe scientists should mostly see themselves as supporting those who are more naturally so.

  4. I went to a talk and discussion when Katharine Hayhoe visited Oxford just before she came to Edinburgh. I don’t think she is daying talk about science, but don’t expect that it will be engaging for many people, or will turn around those that have difficulties accepting it because it seems (to them) to conflict with their values (e.g. not liking perception that it is ‘big Government’). Coincidentally, I was giving a talk the next day – I had been invited by the local Labour Party to do a talk. After I’d heard Katharine I ended up rewriting my talk!! I read the Labour Party ‘rule book’ and also their 2017 Manifesto and used that to help frame a challenge to those who attended “It says … and so …”. It went really really well. They asked me to come back to help them work through the implications. I now plan to get an invitation to the local Conservative Party, and other local groups. I have one booked with Rotary in the Spring. In each case I think that Katharine’s approach will help me. I also think Climate Outreach have oodles of great gear (www.climateoutreach.org) on how to engage with, say, more conservative audiences.

  5. “daying talk” >>> “saying don’t talk”

  6. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Communciating the science of climate change is one thing, getting people to act on the information recieved is quite another. Unfortunately, the human race is rapidly running out of time to forestall a catastrophic future for our children and grandchildren.

  7. Richard,

    I don’t think she is daying talk about science, but don’t expect that it will be engaging for many people, or will turn around those that have difficulties accepting it because it seems (to them) to conflict with their values (e.g. not liking perception that it is ‘big Government’).

    Yes, I agree, that is roughly what I think Katharine was suggesting in the talk.

    I also think Climate Outreach have oodles of great gear (www.climateoutreach.org) on how to engage with, say, more conservative audiences.

    I was looking at their site a few days ago, mainly because I was arguing with some of the Climate Outreach people on Twitter about consensus messaging. It does like it has lots of good stuff, though (even if they do buy into the anti-consensus messaging story 😉 ).

  8. John Hartz says:

    More recent thoughts about communicating the science of climate change by a panel at COP23…

    James Hansen, Pam Peterson, and Philip Duffy join us to discuss how the hesitancy among scientists to express the gravity of our situation is a major block to our understanding and response to climate change, The reticence results from a combination of factors: political pressure, institutional conservatism, the desire to avoid controversy, aspiring to objectivity, etc. But when the data and the conclusions it leads to are alarming, isn’t it imperative that the alarm be transmitted publicly? Here is another facet of society’s apparent inability to assess and respond appropriately to the present immense, existential threat of climate change.

  9. John Hartz says:

    The panel descussion with James Hansen at COP23 was sponsored by the United Planet Faith & Science Initiative.

  10. Ragnaar says:

    Trying to recall what I learned at college, I took a marketing path. Kim Witte has done some interesting work:

    This above has to do with ‘fear’ messaging. I am not saying that is a primary strategy to date. While I am on the wrong branch of the above, I don’t think she was talking about climate change. A skeptic can say, climate change will not get me. And others can say, it will, and here is evidence of it getting people in Texas.

    She said:
    ““The minute that perceived threat exceeds perceived efficacy [the ability to effectively respond], then people begin to control their fear instead of the danger and they reject the message,” she says in The Use of Fear Appeals…”

    We got the Lomborg message on how little COP21 will do. Hansen blasted COP21.

    I do recall that communication is responsibility of the sender. Blaming the listener for not getting the message is not a winning strategy.

    Marketing can have a bad name. Provide value. Value that is experienced by each customer. That’s marketing.

  11. John Hartz says:

    Speaking of fear messaging…

    Here’s How to Make Climate Change Extra Scary by Susie Neilson, Nautilus, Oct 29, 2017

  12. Francis says:

    ” I’m still not sure how I can better engage publicly”.

    Question: What do you mean by ‘better’? Are you measuring yourself by the number of hard-core skeptics you convert? Or the number of posts you make? Or the number of times you speak to general-interest audiences?

    If there is anything that the communication wars have taught us, it is that the very idea of ‘better’ communication is hotly contested.

    My personal recommendation is that you should seek to be your best self. Don’t try to do things that don’t feel honest or natural, but don’t be afraid to participate in a contested environment.

  13. Francis,

    If there is anything that the communication wars have taught us, it is that the very idea of ‘better’ communication is hotly contested.

    Yes, this is a good point. One critique I have of those who seem to think they can give advice about science communication is that their advice often seems to involve telling people what they’re doing wrong, without really providing any specific advice as to how to do it better. Not always true, of course.

  14. cm says:

    I think one angle that will gain traction is presenting CC as a personal health issue. I work in environmental epidemiology, and the link is obvious to some (academic) groups but not at all clear in the general population. I just presented (very briefly) and led a discussion on Climate Change and Health to a small professional group and all but one of the people there were surprised to hear details, even if they felt somewhat knowledgeable on the issue of CC in general.

    Many people care about the environment, but many, many more care about their own personal health and that of their family & friends. Not to belittle the environmental issues, but in terms of communication I definitely think health concerns are being left out of the conversation, and that including them may bring many people to speak out that were previously reluctant.

    The Lancet just came out with an article if anyone is interested in some details:
    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)32464-9/fulltext

  15. cm,
    Katharine Hayhoe commented that “nearly every human on the planet has the values that allow them to care about climate change”. I think this is correct. However, what I still don’t get is how you get them to care if they don’t regard it as something to care about. For example, I don’t necessarily think that those who are dismissive about climate change, don’t care about the environment.

  16. cm says:

    I agree. I think most people don’t understand the urgency regarding climate change, and when you talk about something as big as the entire global ecosystem, they assume that somehow things will adjust and correct themselves. At least that’s my impression from talking to people. They can’t see the problem up close. That’s why I think including conversations about health consequences is important – it slightly shifts the conversation, places a more personal urgency on the issue and connects our actions better with environmental issues and back to us again. And it’s not incorrect – it’s not a trick to get people to listen. There are going to be severe health consequences for all of us at some point depending on how bad things get.

  17. cm,
    You’re reminding me of something else Katharine Hayhoe highlighted 🙂 If you consider the US, then there are regions where people claim to be concerned about climate change. However, there are very few regions in which people expect it to impact them personally. So, it seems that many (in the developed world, at least) regard it as something distant, possibly both in space and time (it will occur somewhere else at some point in the future).

  18. cm,

    And it’s not incorrect – it’s not a trick to get people to listen. There are going to be severe health consequences for all of us at some point depending on how bad things get.

    My impression is that the hard part is convincing people that this is indeed the case.

  19. John Hartz says:

    Even if an individual totally embraces the scientific consensus about manmade climate change, he/she struggles with what do about it in the context of living one’s life on a day-to-day basis. This dilemna is poignantly described in the following opinion piece. It is well worth reading.

    We Were Warned, Opinion by Anthony Doerr, Sunday Review, New York Times, Nov 19, 2017

  20. Mal Adapted says:

    Katharine Hayhoe is an interesting character in the drama of the climate commons. Having myself outgrown a Sunday-school indoctrination in liberal Christianity by age 12, then trained to the ‘semi-doctoral’ level for a scientific career, I’m intrigued by Hayhoe’s apparently successful integration of devout religious faith with a scientific commitment to not fooling herself. As an imperfectly socialized techno-nerd, I’m impressed with her ability and willingness to engage her co-religionists on the need for collective action against AGW. I’m sure glad someone is doing it, because my own attempts have tended to make things worse 8^(!

    OTOH, I’ve met Christian conservationists whose commitment to creation care is inspired by theistic belief. As an atheist trained in scientific skepticism and a conservationist by ideology, I have no quarrel with such people, even if they think it’s blasphemy to worship the creation instead of the Creator 8^D.

  21. Willard says:

  22. Ragnaar says:

    Here:

    http://www.sightline.org/2015/05/06/3-climate-messages-that-win/

    we have The Villain.

    They’ve advised important people and we see how well that worked. And wind and solar are affordable. That’s the message. And to protect our children from The Threat. I see in the short piece, they don’t even try to message conservatives. I mean when you play a football game, you don’t try to negotiate a tie. It’s about winning.

    It’s all important. Identify The Villain. We need someone to blame and it’s not us.

    How to do marketing. Don’t message that something is affordable when it’s not. The future will prove things out. If it turns out your message was untrue, people will remember.

  23. RICKA says:

    Maybe the message should be that if you are not pro-nuclear energy you are anti-environmental?

    So many people seem to believe that we can produce 100% of our energy needs with wind and solar – and fail to realize that this is not possible (at least yet).

    Renewable is such a small percentage of world total energy requirements and fossil fuels are such a large percentage, that only nuclear has a shot at replacing fossil fuels over the short term (say next 30 years).

    We should be shooting for a world with at least 60% or even 80% of energy requirements produced by nuclear, and hydro, and attempt to provide the rest with renewable. This might actually be doable.

    100% renewable is not (at present time).

  24. Rick,
    I don’t have any strong sense of where we should end up. My own view is that we should probably be spending more time working out how to start, rather than arguing about where we should end up.

  25. Steven Mosher says:

    I smoke.

  26. John Hartz says:

    RickA: Talk to me about nuclear once you have figured out how the existing waste already generated by world’s nuclear power plants can be safely and permanently stored.

    By the way, do you know that the involved utilities recently pulled the plug on the construction of the only two new nuclear power plants being built in the US? One half-built plant now sits in Georgia and the other in South Carolina. The cost overruns for both projects were exorbitant and caused the Westinghouse company to go bankrupt. Since Westinghouse had been acquired by Mitsibushi, that conglomerate is in deep financial do-do as well.

  27. Ragnaar says:

    Torches and Pitchforks.

    David Roberts at Vox doesn’t think the message can be tuned to work with conservatives.

    “People don’t develop political and policy opinions based on an assessment of climate science. They assess climate science based on preexisting political and policy opinions. That’s why trying to change minds with science-based arguments is so rarely effective.”

    https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/11/10/16627256/conservatives-climate-change-persuasion

    There was a pause, there wasn’t a pause. Who cares?

    Then he says it’s on the conservative elites. The non-elites will follow them. But they are not moving because they get money from big oil and conservative media elites get money from clicks and views when the right is worked into an anti-climate frenzy. I only know of one, and that’s Fox. Why not say their name?

    Now we have to fight. As the right owned the Cold War while the left said, I am not too fond of Commies either, the left is advised to own this Climate War.

    “The only way Democrats can achieve progress on this is to intensify the fight.”

    “…telling vivid stories with heroes and villains and repeating them frequently.”

    Here is a solar panel. Here is an oil spill.

    And let’s make them mindless sheep too:

    “What we have in the US is not a “difference of opinion” about climate change, it’s conservatives being mistaken about some very basic facts. They’re mistaken because they’ve been lied to and misled by leaders and influencers within their own tribe.”

    The basic facts might be a science based argument.

    As I look at the article, it’s about the conservatives, but where are the solutions? Any vision to lead us anywhere besides a victory over the Republicans? Does it have anything to do with climate change?

  28. Willard says:

    > As I look at the article, it’s about the conservatives, but where are the solutions?

    A story doesn’t tell everything, therefore it’s useless.

  29. Ragnaar says:

    It was useful.
    Can’t message them, but can fight them. An elite based explanation.

  30. Steven Mosher says:

    “RickA: Talk to me about nuclear once you have figured out how the existing waste already generated by world’s nuclear power plants can be safely and permanently stored.”

    done. but you’re not up on the latest.

  31. John Hartz says:

    Barring a Black Swan climate event, the only way to get the US back on a course to mitigate against manmade climate change is to create Democrat majorities in both the House and Senate. Every American climate hawk should actively engage in the political process in their home state and Congressional District. Democrats must also take control of both state legislatures and governorships. Given what recently transpired in Virginia, I am very optimistic about the 2018 election cycle.

  32. John Hartz says:

    Steve Mosher:

    Done.???

  33. JCH says:

    Given what recently transpired in Virginia, I am very optimistic about the 2018 election cycle.

    Virginia has Washington DC and Maryland: role models. Alabama has Mississippi.

  34. Steven Mosher says:

    yes done.

  35. John Hartz says:

    Spot on!

    To combat climate change, increase women’s participation

    How can you beat climate change with only half the world’s population? Gender was among the main side-topics at the UN climate summit in Bonn. DW spoke to women who intend to be part of the solution to climate change.

    by Katharina Wecker & Irene Banos Ruiz, Deutsche Welle (DW), Nov 20, 2017

  36. Mal Adapted says:

    Steven Mosher, quite tersely::

    I smoke.

    Why, are you on fire? Do you wish to be put out? Then you’d be the extinguished Steven Mosher 8^).

  37. Willard says:

    > An elite based explanation.

    As opposed to what kind of explanation?

  38. Ragnaar says:

    A non-elite based explanation. Where decisions are not so top down. So his argument is partly, it’s not your fault, you just want to fit in with your peers. It’s your peer’s leadership that is the problem. Not that you can do anything about it, because after all, they are elites.

    A non-elite argument is that the common man conservative is stupid and doesn’t take his cues from conservative elites.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elite_theory

    I think a lot of arguments are directed at the elites.

  39. Steven Mosher says:

    “catastrophic future”
    hmmm
    it will be more like things getting more shitty every year. people will continue to adapt.

  40. RICKA says:

    John Hartz asks “RickA: Talk to me about nuclear once you have figured out how the existing waste already generated by world’s nuclear power plants can be safely and permanently stored.”

    My thought is to build more reprocessing plants and reprocess the stored nuclear waste, which will both reduce the amount and lower its radioactivity.

    If I was King, I would have regional reprocessing centers – say 8 or so, and they would reprocess all the currently stored waste at our 100 ish nuclear plants.

    Then I would pick a plant design that was approved (passive cooling) and start construction on 100 new plants, spread out over the entire country. So 2 per state (on average). We could get those up and running within 5 years and it would double the share of electric produced by nuclear from 20 to 40%.

    Meanwhile, we could work on thorium reactor designs or small scale nuclear designs.

    Storing the nuclear waste is a much smaller problem than climate change – right?

    Each plant has stored its spent nuclear fuel on-site without any issues that I am aware of for decades – so I don’t really see that as a major objection to going nuclear.

    If we start building 100 plants of identical design, the costs should be dramatically reduced.

    Of course, I am not King.

  41. Willard says:

    > A non-elite based explanation. Where decisions are not so top down. So his argument is partly, it’s not your fault, you just want to fit in with your peers. It’s your peer’s leadership that is the problem. Not that you can do anything about it, because after all, they are elites.

    Come on, Ragnaar. There’s nothing “elite” about the fact that everyone gets their cues from people with whom they identify. That includes our leaders. Saying otherwise is not “non-elite”: it’s wrong. No man is an island, not even Ayn Rand.

    Seeking egalitarian ideals is all well and good. (I might be biased.) It should not turn into wishful thinking.

  42. John Hartz says:

    Steven Mosher:

    Hmmm.

    people will continue to adapt.

    Until they can’t.

  43. John Hartz says:

    RICJA: If I were King, I would retask the entire US Military Industrial Complex to mitigate manmade climnate change.

  44. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    it will be more like things getting more shitty every year.

    Optimist.


    people will continue to adapt.

    Obviously. Right up until they can’t.

  45. John Hartz says:

    Speaking of the human race’s ability to adpat to a warming world…

    At 12:13 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on September 1, 2017, the San Francisco Bay Area National Weather Service office issued an urgent weather message: “Dangerously hot conditions to begin the Labor Day weekend.” The heat wave set a new record temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit in downtown San Francisco, handily beating the previous record of 103 degrees set in 2000.

    “Hot temperatures will create a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are likely,” the message read, advising all San Franciscans to drink plenty of fluids, seek out air-conditioning, and check up on relatives and neighbors. The advisory also warned of heat-related illnesses—particularly for the elderly, children, and sick people—as well as pets and livestock.

    Some scientists think another group should be added to the list: pregnant women.

    Global Warming Might Be Especially Dangerous for Pregnant Women by Ellie Kincaid, The Atlantic, Nov 21, 2017

  46. izen says:

    @-SM
    “people will continue to adapt.”

    Adaption may not be required. The ability of small communities, up to tribal, clan and warlord level to survive on a hunter-gatherer or small-scale agriculture is evident from human history in a wide range of hostile conditions.

    But civilisation, large scale agriculture, trade and all the good stuff that goes with it has motre a record of punctuated equilibrium.
    Inuit and Bedouin have a record of peristence that Ankor Wat and the Roman empire fail to match. Collapse is often swift.

    I would guess that one inference that could be made from your “I smoke” comment is that even if the scientific knowledge of direct harm becomes the widespread established general knowledge of the population it will not prevent use. If it is profitable to the producer and of perceived benefit to the consumer then the opportunity to continue production and consumption will persist.

    It requires regulation to ban the production, (CFCs, asbestos) or restrict the sale of a product (tobacco, opioids) by central governance. That is only politically feasible once the scientific knowledge of harm has become accepted general knowledge.

    The system of global trade with its distributed production and consumption may be less flexible as things get shitty incrementally than failed states that have reverted to feudal systems. But with the addition of advanced military hardware from the remaining bastions of technological civilisation that hang on.

    The role of science communication is to transfer scientific knowledge into the public realm so that it becomes general knowledge. That makes it difficult for governments to ignore and easy to regulate, even in the face of business interest that find it profitable to continue without constraints.
    But even when science communication is (almost) completely succesful, it will not eliminate the harm unless the opportunity is removed.

    When science communication fails, by design, for 50 years a product that provides energy from the C-H bond in a refined product can become an established major element in the daily survival on the majority of the global population. As the real dangers of consumption of this product now get transferred into the public realm it will be interesting to see how the systems of governance, and global trade respond.

    http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2003460

  47. Mal Adapted says:

    Steven Mosher:

    it will be more like things getting more shitty every year. people will continue to adapt.

    In a manner of speaking, yes. As things get shittier, some will ‘adapt’ by dying.

  48. Steven Mosher says:

    “In a manner of speaking, yes. As things get shittier, some will ‘adapt’ by dying.”

    of course. you seem to forget, I smoke.

    think about that

  49. Steven,
    Except, you probably do so despite accepting the risks. That’s somewhat different to doing so while denying the risks.

  50. Steven Mosher says:

    “In a manner of speaking, yes. As things get shittier, some will ‘adapt’ by dying.”

    Some people die after fertilization and before birth. We even have a profession that helps them.
    In those cases we value the choice of the mother over the potential life of the cells. Choices.

    “someone might die”, is hardly a convincing argument unless one values the life of abstract “others” you never met, never will meet, and have zero connection to.

    Brutal, I know. But from what I observe most people do not care about the lives of those who will be alive in 2100. Oh they care enough to talk about it, or care enough to wonder why “communication” about the issue is failing.

    So, how do you make people care about the lives of others? I dunno, sounds semi religious to me.

  51. BBD says:

    With apologies to The Fifteen…

  52. Steven Mosher says:

    “Steven,
    Except, you probably do so despite accepting the risks. That’s somewhat different to doing so while denying the risks.”

    But the point is even if you get some skeptics to acept the reality of the risk, they are still unreachable. The point is some people won’t care regardless, because they choose to values other things than “future people will suffer”.

    Another way to put it is this. In the end all you can do is make your own choices and trust that others will see the wisdom of your ways. My friend recently quit. Looking at the results, I will actually try it again. He didnt tell me to quit. But he showed the way

  53. Steven Mosher says:

    Cigars. Inhale them for the best effect

  54. BBD says:

    Cigars. Inhale them for the best effect

    Philistine. And besides, I thought that was the other stuff 🙂

  55. Steven Mosher says:

    “I would guess that one inference that could be made from your “I smoke” comment is that even if the scientific knowledge of direct harm becomes the widespread established general knowledge of the population it will not prevent use. If it is profitable to the producer and of perceived benefit to the consumer then the opportunity to continue production and consumption will persist.

    It requires regulation to ban the production, (CFCs, asbestos) or restrict the sale of a product (tobacco, opioids) by central governance. That is only politically feasible once the scientific knowledge of harm has become accepted general knowledge.”

    damn I love it when people read my mind — sorry for the small print.

  56. Steven,

    But the point is even if you get some skeptics to acept the reality of the risk, they are still unreachable. The point is some people won’t care regardless, because they choose to values other things than “future people will suffer”.

    Indeed, and I would personally disagree with that choice. However, I still prefer the idea that people make informed decisions, even if I personally disagree with what they’ve decided.

  57. Steven Mosher says:

    “Philistine. And besides, I thought that was the other stuff 🙂”

    never touch that stuff.

    Looking at a “bug” the other day the kid asks me.
    “is that a 1 cigarete bug or 2 cigarette bug”

    https://www.sott.net/article/269265-Brain-Researchers-Smoking-increases-intelligence

  58. Ragnaar says:

    From the article:
    Elites shape opinion, only elites can change it

    I am trying to argue for a greater self determination of opinions for non-elites. If the right elitists change their story on global warming as suggested, some will not follow. Then we could say they are following harder to identify minor elites. But that’s a half victory as the blamed elites don’t have the power suggested.

    A politician will position themselves in front of the parade and pretend to lead it. But they are actually following it.

    With the 2016 elections, there was elite abandonment. This monster machine built by the elites lost Trump and Sanders voters. These two positioned themselves in front of voters.

    I’ve taken cues from people with whom I identify. Libertarian writers are less well known. They are mostly not in power.

  59. Steven Mosher says:

    “Indeed, and I would personally disagree with that choice. However, I still prefer the idea that people make informed decisions, even if I personally disagree with what they’ve decided.”

    I dont want to get to this place, but there are not many choices left when it comes down to hard differences between value systems.

  60. Steven,

    I dont want to get to this place, but there are not many choices left when it comes down to hard differences between value systems.

    I don’t follow what you mean.

  61. Mal Adapted says:

    Steven Mosher:

    But the point is even if you get some skeptics to acept the reality of the risk, they are still unreachable. The point is some people won’t care regardless, because they choose to values other things than “future people will suffer”.

    Assuming that by ‘skeptics’ you mean pseudo-skeptics, I think you pretty much have the right of it. “Lord, bless me and my wife, son John and his wife, we four and no more, amen” – the Deacon’s grace.

    OTOH, there may be a subset of the disengaged, the dismissive and even the luke- and luck-warm (excluding the extinguished Mr. Mosher), who are at the threshold of caring, and who may step over it if they somehow apprehend the costs that people they might be acquainted with are already paying and they might find themselves paying next year. Recent widely-reported weather disasters, sadly enough, appear to have caught people’s attention 8^(.

  62. Steven Mosher says:

    “Assuming that by ‘skeptics’ you mean pseudo-skeptics, I think you pretty much have the right of it. “Lord, bless me and my wife, son John and his wife, we four and no more, amen” – the Deacon’s grace.”

    yup, thats the attitude.

    Imagine trying to sell some of these people on the idea that we should reduce budgets on war machines and instead send foriegn aid to “those” people who may suffer future damage from climate change?

    If my boss gave me that selling job, the quota would have to be hella low.

    just sayin

  63. Steven Mosher says:

    ATTP, when differences are due to value systems.. words dont work.

  64. Steven,

    ATTP, when differences are due to value systems.. words dont work.

    Probably, but I would like to think that – mostly – our value systems aren’t that inconsistent.

  65. Willard says:

    > With the 2016 elections, there was elite abandonment.

    I don’t think so, Ragnaar. First, there’s teh Donald. Second, there’s Mnuchin:

    Wilbur Ross.

    Betsy DeVos.

    Rex Tillerson:

    Should I go on?

    Please don’t conflate populist rhetoric with reality.

  66. izen says:

    @-“Something Katharine Hayhoe said that I thought very interesting, was the idea that we should try to remove climate change from the list of things about which we’re specifically concerned; like poverty, economic collapse, terrorism, etc. Climate change is not really something that exists in isolation.”

    Specific concern about poverty, economic collapse, terrorism, etc are a way of framing an issue to avoid resolution. None of these issue exist in isolation. Wealth reduces the impacts of climate change, poverty amplifies the damage from extreme events and sea level rise. But poverty cannot be tackled as a specific problem without consideration of fossil fuels as a cheap efficient energy source.

    There are a number of chemicals that can be treated as specific concerns. Research revealed compounds that are harmful to humans and society either directly or indirectly. With a scientific concensus established a institution endowed with the necessary GLOBAL authority has banned the production and use of those chemicals.
    No educational outreach or controversial science communication was required.

    http://chm.pops.int/TheConvention/ThePOPs/TheNewPOPs/tabid/2511/Default.aspx

    But Carbon dioxide is not Chlordecone. The reasons why one can be banned without much dispute, and the other prompting questions about how passionate scientists need to be in communicating the risks may be instructive.
    It is not a matter of values in the sense Mosher is citing.

  67. izen,
    That is a valid point. A lot of the issues are not independent. However, I still agree with the basic point that climate change is not something that we can solve in isolation and, similarly, is something that will impact many of the others things about which people will often be concerned.

  68. Ragnaar says:

    If I was head elite poobah, I’d build institutions for messaging. Institutions for secondary education to turn out battle hardened young thinkers. Rules upon rules for getting elected. I’d control the broadcast airwaves. And lord over landline phones and print newspapers too. And the USPS. And I’d crackdown on jaywalking and rubber band guns.

    It is true that the Wiki doesn’t even bring up Republicans and Democrats when discussing Elite Theory. But aha. They are really one in the same. More controlling trickeration.

  69. John Hartz says:

    This is what happens when the Koch brothers and their ilk are calling the shots at a state-level. Up until the election Scott Walker, Wisconsin had been one of the more progressive states in the country and had a rich history of protecting the environment. Oligarchy ain’t pretty.

    Wisconsin Lawmakers Consider Eliminating State Air Pollution Rules

    GOP Bill Would Eliminate State DNR Regulations, Leave Only Federal Rules

    By Laurel White, Wisconsin Public Radio, Nov 21, 2017

  70. Steven Mosher says:

    WRT wisconsin

    Perhaps the non political audit tells us something

    https://legis.wisconsin.gov/lab/media/2081/04-1highlights.pdf

  71. izen says:

    @-SM
    “Perhaps the non political audit tells us something”

    By pointing out how ineffective the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is at issuing permits and regulating air quality within the state, the legislative audit body makes the case for smaller government.
    Clearly the state should abandon any attempt to issue permits or regulate emissions, it is a waste of taxpayers money and inhibits enterprise. It is unclear if there would be a net benefit if the legislative regulation was carried out effectively. It is certain that it is inappropriate government action when it is so obviously broken.

    the removal of state government from any role in regulation would also make the legislative audit body redundant. If the state is not involved in permitting or regulating then it is a waste of taxpayer money to have a body that audits its non-performance. Even smaller government.

    In less developed nations it may be necessary to bribe local officials to permit enterprise and ignore regulations. In Wisconsin there may be no need to bribe, or fund the re-election, of anyone!

    Now if only people with similar views could be appointed to regulatory bodies at the Federal level…
    (grin)

  72. Willard says:

    The kind of communication that speaks to me:

  73. izen says:

    @-W
    An amazing solution!
    Dynamos are notoriously inefficient below around 2000rpm so in one minute the weight moves one inch and has to spin the dynamo at +2000rpm. For a five foot weight drop giving an hour of light you need about a 2000:1 gearing ratio.

    That is a difficult mechanical challenge. Omitting a battery for storage was presumably done to make the design task even harder.

    It is not as if the problem has been completely ignored.
    http://www.exprodirect.com/ex-pro-led-dynamo-windup-torch-radio-and-emergency-mobile-device-charger..html

    Johnson’s comment on walking dogs comes to mind.

  74. izen says:

    Correction, the gravitylight gives 20mins of light for one weight drop. So the gearing is a mere ~600:1. The latest version also has extra lights on cables so you can put the light were you need it, not just on the ceiling under a dropping weight.

    I still think this is techno-green snake-oil.

  75. John Hartz says:

    Raganaar:

    What is your working definion of elite in the US political context?

  76. John Hartz says:

    On a positive note, here are two success stories about climate communications.

    In his own words: Behind a one-time skeptic’s climate ‘flip’ by Bud Ward, Yale Climate Connections, Nov 20, 2017

    A chat leads to a change of view on climate by Karin Kirk, Yale Climate Connections, Nov 21, 2017

  77. Magma says:

    I still think this is techno-green snake-oil. — izen

    Or if not that, a needlessly complicated solution in search of a problem. Based on the 100 mW power draw stated for the lamp, a single 18650 Li-ion battery could power it for 100 hours, and be recharged by an cheap 2.5 W solar panel. Given a choice, I prefer inexpensive, low-voltage, no moving parts technology.

  78. John Hartz says:

    And for those of us celebrating the U.S, Thanksgiving Day….

    Despite the unmistakable evidence that climate change is happening and that the effects we’re already experiencing are mostly caused by our own actions, it’s not uncommon to meet deniers—even around your own family’s Thanksgiving table.

    Some of the misinformation that creeps into the doubters’ discussions are the lingering leftovers of years of deliberate peddling of misinformation, often by fossil fuel interests.
    Some of it persists because, face it, not everybody is well versed in the scientific consensus, which is based on multiple streams of evidence from dozens of specialized disciplines. Who can keep up?

    Even those who are thankful this year for the work of the United States Global Change Research Program, which just published an update of the latest science, may not have studied all the details.

    With that in mind, we asked you to share some of the common myths and errors you hear at family gatherings. And we’ve pieced together some short answers from that state-of-the-science report and other authoritative sources.

    Debunking Climate Change Myths: A Thanksgiving Conversation Guide, InsideClimate News, Nov 22, 2017

  79. izen says:

    @-Magma
    “Or if not that, a needlessly complicated solution in search of a problem.”

    I hope it is just misguided enthusiasm for the concept of making light from gravity, with ‘green’ justifications bolted on.

    But the high production values of the video make me more cynical. In the first’ kerosene is bad’ section there is a very neat cut/edit from close-ups of filling a 4L container, handing over money and a dilapidated and partially dissembled pump meter. It was well made and effective visual story telling. But not how kerosene for lighting is sold. The ‘steampunk’ meter was photogenic and a trope of a ‘backward, underdeveloped’ land. But kerosene is sold by traders and in shops in small bottles. The coke bottle is a common size.

    It is the evidence that much more thought and effort seems to have been expended on the promotional video, and it is much better designed, as a marketing tool, than the product it promotes.
    The young worker at the end thanking them for a job so he could show his respect for his parents was especially maniplulative.

    So what are the odds the African local factory is an assembly plant for far East manufactured parts.
    Perhaps it is a bout of lower back pain that skews my judgement, but I would not be surprised to find the ultimate recipient of the local government grant for job creation, and the generous donations from guilt-ridden western wealthy do-gooders, is listed in the Paradise Papers.

  80. Willard says:

    > Given a choice, I prefer inexpensive, low-voltage, no moving parts technology.

    Marie-Antoinette tried that with her “let them eat cake.” It did not work out that well.

    The alternative is a kerosene lamp or worse.

    Sometimes, what first-world ClimateBall players consider snake oil is better than kerosene.

  81. Willard says:

    Well, it seems that there’s a choice after all:

    More cheesy video, either proving that more money has been invested into marketing or that it’s just a promotional video and does not target a ClimateBall audience.

    For the size of a 2.7W battery, one can buy a Sun King Pro All Night. If you live in Uganda, that is. So for 40 bucks, it could last 5 years, but there’s only a two-years warranty.

    Here’s something seemingly more neutral:

  82. Willard says:

    Looking at pricing, I’ve seen that producing a Gravity Light could cost something like 5 bucks to produce, which is a Good Thing. I could buy one at AMZN or WMT for a bit less than 100$. As usual, middlemen takes almost everything. Prices are lower in Africa:

    The cost of the GravityLight will depend on whether it is sold in the developing or developed world. In the U.K., for example, it is set to sell for £49 ($63), while in Kenya it will cost roughly 2,500 shillings ($24.70). Once a user has set it up, it costs nothing to run.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2016/09/27/using-gravity-to-light-up-homes.html

    For now, the two products we’re looking at are still countries apart.

    So the question becomes how long these lamps could last, and who can afford to pop 25$ in Africa in one go. Size of payments matter, for while kerosene sold in small bottles in rural regions are up to 40% the price in urban areas, each bottle costs way less than 25$. The poorer the region, the more price gouging there is.

    In any event, my main point is this: the image of people living in darkness in early evenings speaks to me, and should speak to anyone with basic life experiences. We from the first world take light for granted. Once we see the problem at hand, it’s more difficult to deny it.

    Transpose this experience into AGW and reaching out to anyone will be possible.

  83. izen says:

    @-W
    “The alternative is a kerosene lamp or worse.”

    Because of increasing cost and scarcity the kerosene lamp has already been abandoned in much of West Africa.
    The LED torch has almost entirely replaced kerosene.

    Unfortunately it is dry-cell powered torches that are now widespread. Although you get more light per buck from batteries than kerosene the problem now is disposale of dead batteries.

    https://www.gogla.org/sites/default/files/recource_docs/rep_15_579.pdf

  84. Willard says:

    Thanks, Izen.

    My 40% figure came from a similar document:

    This study reveals a substantial disparity between the per liter price of kerosene at fuel pumps in urban centers compared to the price for small volume purchases from kerosene vendors in rural villages. In the rural villages in five African countries, Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Tanzania and Kenya, the median price per liter of kerosene for small volume purchases was 35% higher than prices found in nearby urban centers. This means that estimates of the economic payback period for people who replace fuel based lighting with modern off-grid lighting, which often involve the use of urban kerosene prices to estimate baseline lighting fuel costs, tend to understate the benefits of making the switch. The true cost of kerosene to rural consumers, as revealed by this study, indicates that the typical payback period for a switch to modern off-grid lighting is on the order of 26% shorter than would be indicated by an analysis that uses urban kerosene prices.

    Over the past decade, oil prices have fluctuated dramatically with a generally upward trend. Kerosene prices tend to track world oil prices, which subjects those who rely on kerosene for lighting to prices that are both volatile and increasing. Given the price premium that many rural people pay for small volume purchases from rural kerosene sellers, the savings in avoided kerosene purchases for those who switch to modern off-grid lighting will be even greater for rural households than for their urban counterparts.

    Finally, this study also highlights a scarcity of kerosene in West Africa, where it was observed that households now more commonly light their homes with candles or low-cost dry cell battery powered lamps than with kerosene.

    https://www.gogla.org/sites/default/files/recource_docs/kerosene_pricing_lighting_africa_report.pdf

    Which goes on to show yet again that to speak of Africa is too fuzzy. It’s like speaking of America, Europe, or Asia as a whole.

  85. Willard says:

    I also left Alex Azar, Russell, teh Donald’s pick for Health and Human Service:

    From 2007 to 2017, Azar worked for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. While he was a senior VP, Lilly paid a record $1.415 billion to settle a case on its off-label promotion of the antipsychotic Zyprexa. Rising up the ranks, Azar became president of Lilly USA, the largest division of Eli Lilly, in 2012, a position he held until resigning in January of this year.

    During Azar’s tenure, Eli Lilly raised the prices on its insulins in the United States by 20.8 percent in 2014, 16.9 percent in 2015, and 7.5 percent in 2016. Eli Lilly’s biggest seller, Humalog insulin, is now off-patent. But rather than becoming cheaper, Humalog costs more now than when it first came to market in 1996. When Azar started working at Eli Lilly in June 2007, the list price for a vial of Humalog was $74. When he quit in January 2017, it was $269.

    https://www.thenation.com/article/alex-azar-trumps-hhs-pick-has-already-been-a-disaster-for-people-with-diabetes/

    AlexA has a net worth of something around 9 millions.

  86. John Hartz says:

    The dam is starting to crumble – thank God…

    A Split From Trump Indicates That Flynn Is Moving to Cooperate With Mueller by Michael S. Schmidt, Matt Apuzzo & Maggie Haberman, New York Times, Nov 23, 2017

    Given that Trumps seems hell-bent on replicating every move made by Nixon, the next act in this unfolding tragedy will likely be Trump attempting to fire Mueller and his team.

  87. Ragnaar says:

    “What is your working definition of elite in the US political context?”

    One with a high enough level in the Federal or a State’s government
    The rich
    Certain individuals in Academia
    A high enough level in a large NGO

    The above is a loose definition. Some can certainly find things to disagree with my definition.

    What I’ve been trying to say here is, Don”t blame the elites too much. One might then blame others for the next thing, and the next thing.

  88. John Hartz says:

    Recommended supplemental (to the OP) reading:

    Lessons in communicating climate change, from a scientist and Evangelical Christian by Sonia Smith, Columbia Journalism Review, Oct 27, 2017

  89. John Hartz says:

    Ragnaar: Prior to the election of JFK in 1960, the US wa pretty much under the control of the WASPs. i.e., White Anglo Saxan Protestants. Since then, it has been pretty much under the control of large corporations and super-rich individuals.

  90. izen says:

    @-W
    “Which goes on to show yet again that to speak of Africa is too fuzzy. It’s like speaking of America, Europe, or Asia as a whole.”

    I see we have been refering to the same body of research from gogla.
    It also examines why solar lighting, gravity lights and other clever technological solutions have not had as much market penetration in Africa, and by extension other places as well.

    It would less ‘fuzzy’ to talk of poverty as the determining factor.
    The old advantage of kerosene lamps was that the initial outlay for the lamp was small. It could even be home-made from a tin and some fabric. The cost of fuelling the lamp is an ongoing expense, but one that only requires a small outlay for each purchase of fuel. Importantly, that payment can be adjusted according to the funds available.

    This is the only economically viable pattern of use if you are on a dollar a day or less.

    Dry-cell LED torches have replaced kerosene because they can duplicate this finacial pattern. The initial outlay is small, or they can be constructed from canibalised parts. The re-fueling is also low cost with batteries able to be purchased when and if funds allow.

    While it LOOKS as if solar lights and gravity gadgits would be better, with a pay-back time of a year or two and no fuel costs, the initial cost is far too high to make them economically viable.
    This is not helped by the UN, IFC and all the other NGOs and governments pushing solar lighting insisting on restricting the market to certified and approved products of high quality, and higher price.

    $25 is a massive debt to incur for these rural populations. Even with generous credit schemes it would represent a reduction in a families’ wealth of ~5% for a couple of years. Unlike kerosene and batteries the repayments are likely to be fixed costs, rather than adjustable by the individual.

    Solar systems are making progress in the form of cheaper unbranded products, and sperate component parts, PV panel, charger, and rechargable battery, that can be home made.

    Solar lighting systems are the first choice in Africa, and on other continents for those with the assets to make the initial investment. But while talk of problems in the adoption of solar power in Africa may be fuzzy, the problem framed as one of the inhibiting effect on individual poverty on technological change is not.

    This might be the point Heyhoe makes, that responses to climate change cannot be discussed in isolation. It is deeply linked with the economic profile of a population. Poverty inhibits the adoption of alternatives. Wealth encourages increased consumption of fossil fuels as well as alternatives.

  91. John Hartz says:

    Izen: Katharine Hayhoe

  92. John Hartz says:

    ‘Tis the season to interview Katharine Hayoe (or attend one of her lectures as the case may be)…

    The Carbon Brief Interview: Dr Katharine Hayhoe by Robert McSweeney, Carbon Brief, Nov 23, 2017bv

  93. Willard says:

    > $25 is a massive debt to incur for these rural populations.

    Indeed, and 40$ is worse. Solar-Aid’s model seems to require even more, as it’s coupled with an education outreach in remote areas. The only way I see companies could saturate the market would be through a micro-financing scheme. The owners should also be nugded to return the lamps back, say with a small refund.

    My point about the fuzziness of speaking of Africa is that the continent is huge and diversified. SunnyMoney’s territory is Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia. This is a very small part of Africa, yet it’s quite big for a crew of small, independent selling agents. There is a place for hundred if not thousands of such companies. Market competition should drive the unsustainable models out and create a range of products that could vary from one region to the next. All this will take time, as economic innovations are money-driven.

  94. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Izen: ‘$25 is a massive debt to incur for these rural populations.’

    Willard: ‘Indeed, and 40$ is worse.’

    This looks like a much better deal:

    https://www.olx.co.ug/ad/35-offhurry-as-the-offer-lasts-cheap-reliable-gdlite-solar-lighting-s-ID15IhXx.html

    I can’t find specs in lumens but the built-in 6W LED by itself would be much brighter (3 or 4 times?) than the SunnyMoney/SolarAid/Jeremy Leggett Sun King Pro All Night desk lamps’s maximum brightness (a risible 100 lumens), plus you get a much bigger battery (and it’s a SLAB, so easily replaceable), a more powerful solar panel, two plug-in lights, greater robustness, greater flexibility and it’s half the price of the Sun King Pro. (USD$40 is about USh150k. This is going for USh80k.)

    But no doubt SolarAid will continue towin awards.

  95. Willard says:

    Here’s the video, Vinny:

    Yummy.

  96. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Yummy indeed and ‘Great for Champing!’ apparently.

  97. Steven Mosher says:

    “Looking at pricing, I’ve seen that producing a Gravity Light could cost something like 5 bucks to produce, which is a Good Thing. I could buy one at AMZN or WMT for a bit less than 100$. As usual, middlemen takes almost everything. Prices are lower in Africa:”

    The gravity light in that video?

    cost is less prolly than 5, at scale
    1. the motor
    2. Everything else is plastic

    At SCALE the cost of these device will trend to the cost of plastic by pound
    and the cost of the motor– cost of its metal by pound

    The part count looks very very high ( look at the repair guide) and so the tooling costs
    would be your highest cost element, at least 10 tools required (quick look)

    Figure a single tool ( each plastic piece requires a tool)T1 will run you 50-100K, less if you go with soft
    tooling, but then you will be buying new tools forever.

    At scale you could wholesale it at $10 bucks, sells in kenya for 20

    Amazon fulfillment and other crap…. makes up majority of the cost.

    basically. If a thing has no Electronics ( chips) and you want to know what it costs: weigh it.
    at scale after amortorizing the tooling, you are left with material cost– pounds of steel and pounds of plastic.

  98. Willard says:

    Thanks, Mosh.

    I took the 5 bucks from there:

    https://venturebeat.com/2012/12/26/this-5-lamp-is-powered-by-gravity-and-just-destroyed-its-funding-target-on-indiegogo/

    As far as I can see (I’m no industrialist), most of the costs should come from the last mile. In a continent that stretches 8,000 km vertically and 7,400 km horizontally with few infrastructures, getting the product in the hand of the client is not a trivial matter.

    Another reason I’m insisting on the size of Africa is that we tend to downsize it in our imagination:

    Africa is bigger in toto than in Toto.

  99. Steven Mosher says:

    “As far as I can see (I’m no industrialist), most of the costs should come from the last mile. In a continent that stretches 8,000 km vertically and 7,400 km horizontally with few infrastructures, getting the product in the hand of the client is not a trivial matter.”

    ya the last mile is gunna be a killer. Shipping to africa can be more expensive that shipping to bumfuck arctic circle.

    I now know more about shipping then I ever wanted to. ugg. and customs and taxes and duties

    weird expensensive places? panama and macedonia. fwiw

  100. John Hartz says:

    Speaking of the elites…

    The richest 1% now owns more than half of all the world’s household wealth, according to analysts at Credit Suisse. And they say inequality is only going to get worse over the coming years, with millennials having a particularly tough time.

    The Swiss bank released its latest Global Wealth Report on Tuesday, together with a statement that contained the immortal phrase, “The outlook for the millionaire segment is more optimistic than for the bottom of the wealth pyramid.”

    The research showed that there are increasing numbers of dollar millionaires. This is partly because the strength of the euro has created 620,000 more of them in Germany, France, Italy and Spain (conversely, depreciating currencies in the U.K. and Japan have seen 34,000 and over 300,000 people in those countries respectively lose the status).

    The richest 1% now owns more than half of all the world’s household wealth by David Meyer, World Economic Forum, Nov 15, 2017

  101. Michael 2 says:

    Science (facts) should be pure and untainted by conspicuous advocacy; not to say a person has no opinion but when a scientist becomes an advocate it becomes almost inseparable to dismiss the science at the same time as dismissing the advocate.

    In Canada right now is some interesting non-debates on the use of gendered pronouns with distinct virtue signaling and herd maintenance activities, perhaps on both sides (asuming only two sides exist). Advocates do not want conversation, dialog or even debate since it “legitimizes the opposition” who, they suppose, will simply go away if not legitimized.

    What that means for science communication is to separate the process of providing a basic science education from moral judgments; and leave morality to the advocates. That way you don’t raise the barriers of moral purity: “I’m not permitted to speak to you or listen to your words.”

    But there’s a price to pay for reasonableness; “If you are not with us, you are against us.” Your own side might turn against you since there can be only two sides and your virtue signals had better be clear.

    But more than two sides exist! I come here (and go there) to see the discussions on scientific topics. I do not signal my virtues since I’m not sure I have any.

  102. Joshua says:

    M2 –

    “…. with distinct virtue signaling…”

    What is “distinct virtue signaling” and how is it different than having an opinion?

    I come here (and go there) to see the discussions on scientific topics. I do not signal my virtues since I’m not sure I have any

    Sorry, but I have to say that strikes me as more than a bit ironic. Seems to me that the whole point of your comment was to stake out a virtue and characterize yourself with that virtue.

    What that means for science communication is to separate the process of providing a basic science education from moral judgments;

    First, your binary taxonomy doesn’t seem very realistic to me, but even if we go with it how do you propose separating morals from science. Robots?

  103. Everett F Sargent says:

    Did someone mention Sun King?

  104. Michael 2 says:

    Joshua says: “What is distinct virtue signaling and how is it different than having an opinion?”

    A virtue signal alerts the reader that no matter what you are about to read, the writer subscribes to YOUR point of view. Townhall, for instance, wants readers to know “Conservative news…”

    “Conservative” is the virtue signal. It isn’t an opinion; it is a flag, a banner, a dog-whistle; it means don’t look here for balanced commentary, we’re one sided and proud of it.

    Avaaz.org features “Goodbye Fossil Fuels!” That’s its virtue signal. We’re one sided and proud of it.

    “Seems to me that the whole point of your comment was to stake out a virtue and characterize yourself with that virtue.”

    That means you were triggered by the last sentence of my comment and is the only sentence that “spoke to you”. It is why virtue signals should be avoided by scientists but embraced by advocates. Full disclosures at the *end* seem reasonable, maybe even obligatory in cases where otherwise you might confuse readers: “I thought you believed X but here you are advocating Y” and then I say, “Yes, that is generally true, but I explore X for its values even though I mostly subscribe to Y”.

    It will still trigger some readers but at least maybe hopefully some of the X words go in before you find out I’m a Y.

    “First, your binary taxonomy doesn’t seem very realistic to me, but even if we go with it how do you propose separating morals from science. Robots?”

    Science is nuanced, politics is not.

    I do not propose to separate morals from science; they are not joined and cannot be joined.

    Scientists watch eagles die from electrocution and windmills; they count them and measure them. I helped for a while as a volunteer. I discovered that my feelings cannot simply be turned off and I decided a career with Fish and Fur wasn’t for me. I can be an advocate for wildlife but not a scientist. Oh, I can do the science, and did, measurements and so on, which I delivered to the chief scientist who seemed really not to care what lived and died, or why. That’s good science. Taking no sides.

  105. BBD says:

    It will still trigger some readers but at least maybe hopefully some of the X words go in before you find out I’m a Y.

    Of course, I had to read on…

    Scientists watch eagles die from electrocution and windmills; they count them and measure them. I helped for a while as a volunteer. I discovered that my feelings cannot simply be turned off

    To discover M2 virtue-signallling – with all the subtlety of a defecating hippo – that he’s on the hate-windmills team.

  106. There may well be cases in which responding to a comment is sub-optimal.

  107. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    There may well be cases in which responding to a comment is sub-optimal.

    Indeed.

    M2 –

    Thank you for your concerns about virtue signalling and activists mixing morals with science.

  108. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP writes “There may well be cases in which responding to a comment is sub-optimal.”

    Or the article itself. It can be an indication of interest but where I don’t comment should not indicate a lack of interest; often it signifies agreement, nothing more to say.

  109. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    …the chief scientist who seemed really not to care what lived and died, or why.
    That’s good science. Taking no sides.

    Of course.
    That’s why Copernicus got so famous…
    Copernicus said that the object at the center of the planets’ orbits might be the Earth or it might be the Sun – but he was careful not to take any sides.

    Same with Newton.
    For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
    Or maybe not.
    Who can really say?

    Climate change due to human GHG emissions?
    Be rigorously lukewarm.
    Assuming 50 / 50 odds is always the best way to do science.

    If you take a side – especially if you take a side that integrates evidence with theory, it’s not science.

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