Political Scientists

Gavin Schmidt had a bit of a rant on Twitter about some political scientists find[ing] ways to blame climate scientists for the lack of progress in CO2 emission reductions.

This, unfortunately, led to a claim that this was typical natural/physical science arrogance towards the social sciences and that it was unhelpful to suggest that awareness of a problem alone will lead to action.

The one problem was that the original rant was really aimed at one person (the name of whom my regulars can probably guess) not at all political scientists. I will add that I think I’ve encountered more social scientists making sweeping claims about physical/natural scientists, than I’ve encountered physical/natural scientists making sweeping claims about social scientist. It is possible, of course, that I simply haven’t noticed the latter. FWIW, my own view is that social science is very difficult. Social/political systems are very complicated and, from what I can see, it is very difficult to develop solid understandings of such systems. It’s not easy to make simplifying assumptions and there are no fundamental conservations laws that help to prevent people drawing what might turn out to be nonsensical conclusions.

However, the other issue was the suggestion that natural/physical scientists think that simply making people aware of a problem will alone lead to action. I seem to see this kind of claim quite often. Not only do I not think this is true (I think most natural/physical scientists are well aware that it’s not this simple) I also have never quite understood what scientists should do that is different.

I can only really speak for myself, but my own view is quite simple. I think I have some understanding of a topic that is policy relevant and I happen to believe that making people aware of this is important. I don’t think that doing so will alone lead to some kind of action, but I still think it’s important for scientists to engage with the public and with policy makers.

What do those who criticise how natural/physical scientists engage publicly, think that they should do differently? If no action follows, should they simply stop communicating? Well, this seems rather unsatisfactory. Not only do many communications experts suggest that it’s important to continually repeat important messages, but it would be bizarre to think that such a complex issue could be resolved so straightforwardly.

Do some think that if scientists behaved differently that it would somehow lead to policy progress? I’m not quite sure how this would work, but it would also seem to be a variant of the linear model, which is what social scientists regard as not working (ironic?).

Should natural/physical scientists become more familiar with societal/political complexities? I have no problem with this in general; I think it’s useful to become better informed about these broader aspects of the topic. However, I would have thought that there were also other people who could help the overall communication process; say, people with expertise in politics/society. Maybe some social scientists.

Should natural/physical scientists move aside so as to open up the public communications landscape to those with other expertise? I think we should aim to be inclusive, but I’m not sure why natural/physical scientists should aim to make space. If we’re such ineffective communicators who have little influence, what difference would it make? If there is some other group who have an extensive understanding of how to communicate publicly and how to influence society and develop effective policy, they should be able to easily dominate the public landscape. Scientists shouldn’t need to step aside.

Okay, this is getting rather long. I think I still find myself surprised at how often I encounter people who seem to have similar goals, but who end up at odds with one another, rather than supporting one another. I’m also interested in better understanding what it is that social scientists think that natural/physical scientists should do differently, when it comes to communicating publicly. If any were willing to spend a bit of time explaining this to me, it would be appreciated.

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50 Responses to Political Scientists

  1. TTauriStellarBody says:

    “What do those who criticise how natural/physical scientists engage publicly, think that they should do differently? If no action follows, should they simply stop communicating? Well, this seems rather unsatisfactory. Not only do many communications experts suggest that it’s important to continually repeat important messages, but it would be bizarre to think that such a complex issue could be resolved so straightforwardly.”
    Its simply an angle to play the man\(person) rather than the ball. When one looks at the levels of engagement in the issue across various western nations one can see a pattern that the US and other English speaking countries seem to have a specific problem. Scientists are not communicating that differently across those countries, other than because of the nature of the political debate around climate science in them being forced by political and media actors giving undue prominence to talking points from PR firms like Heartland, bloggers and a very small number of contrarian experts.

  2. John Hartz says:

    I firmly believe that people have to understand the nature and magnitude of a problem before they can intelligently discuss and ultimately agree-upon the best ways to solve the problem .Thus it is incumbent upon climate scientists to effectively communicate the science either directly or indirectly (e.g. through journalists).

  3. TTauri,

    Its simply an angle to play the man\(person) rather than the ball. When one looks at the levels of engagement in the issue across various western nations one can see a pattern that the US and other English speaking countries seem to have a specific problem.

    In some cases, this may be true. However, I also see it from some who I think are well meaning. I get the impression that it is a combination of (and maybe more than) actually disagreeing with how some scientists choose to communicate, a sense that scientists don’t understand the societal/political landscape, a sense that they’re not being given the opportunity themselves, and a bit of frustration themselves that we aren’t really achieving much. I think some of what they’re getting at has merit, but I also think they don’t always understand themselves what motivates natural/physical scientists to communicate publicly.

    JH,
    That’s generally by view, even if it might take a long time to change people understanding of the nature and magnitude of the problem.

  4. John Hartz says:

    Please note that the person behind the just released IPPC guidelines on communcating the science of climate change is Roz Pidcock who has a PhD in physical oceanography from the University of Southampton. As we all know, she honed her communications skills at Carbon Brief where she served as deputy editor and science editor, covering new research in the climate sciences and media coverage of climate change.

    From a recent Reuters article…

    Scientists should ease off using graphs and numbers to talk to the public about climate change and instead speak through human stories and colorful metaphors, or climate warnings may fall on deaf ears, U.N. experts say.

    Global warming, for example, can be described as a “heat-trapping blanket” – where burning fossil fuels makes the blanket thicker, raising the temperature of the planet, they say in a guide published by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    “Climate change can feel distant and intangible, and yet it’s never been more important to make sure the science around it is heard and understood,” said Roz Pidcock, who commissioned the guide.

    With hurricanes, floods and other impacts of climate change becoming increasingly destructive, countries urgently need to step up their ambitions to cut emissions if they are to keep global warming within safe limits, say experts.

    But efforts to spur climate action will be wasted unless scientists do a better job of explaining climate issues, Pidcock said in a webinar event.

    Keep it human and visual, says U.N. guide to talking climate by Zoe Tabary, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Feb 9. 2018

  5. A political science degree holder is apparently Trump’s senior advisor in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, a position that John Holdren held under Obama. It was probably initially going to be an economics guy, but Trump decided that at least political science has science in its name.

  6. John Hartz says:

    Out of criousity, is journalism generally considered to be a social science?

  7. JH,
    I would regard journalism as a vocation, rather than a social science.

  8. T-rev says:

    >some political scientists try to find ways to blame climate scientists for the lack of progress in CO2 emission reductions, instead of, say, politics.

    Gavin is mistaken, as a climate scientist he doesn’t seem to understand social chnage at all ?
    Emitters are to blame, not politics. High emitters elect politicans to enable them to keep emitting. Until low emissions lifestyles are normalised, nothing changes at the political level to drag the recalcitrant science deniers and other high emitters along as well.

    Gavin himself was in Sydney for a conference this week. Professor Kevin Anderson in his various talks takes aim squarely at climate scientists as being complicit, because they should know better

    While his recent lecture is worth watching entirely, I cued up the bit where he assigns ‘blame’. Climate scientist are the first people he ‘blames’. Not once does he mention politicans.

  9. T-rev,

    Emitters are to blame, not politics.

    I think “politics” was just meant as a short-hand for all sorts of societal factors. However, we elect politicians who are then meant to enact policy. If the policy they enact is ineffective then that would seem to be their fault first, and ours second, for electing them in the first place.

    I’ve seen Kevin’s argument before, and I’m starting to agree with it more (those who understand this, should be probably be setting some kind of example). However, that would still be done mostly with the goal of trying to set some kind of example that might then influence some kind of political/societal change, not because climate scientists are actually to blame.

    I also have some problem with it in the sense that I don’t really think climate scientists are ultimately responsible for this. However, I suspect that there is some argument for those who truly appreciate the scale of the issue, doing something to really indicate this.

  10. jchilds says:

    When asked today why he is leaving Congress, Trey Gowdy said, “I like jobs where facts matter.”

    The first thing that climate scientists have to get through in their minds is that their perceived treatment is no different from the treatment others receive. While they may not be used to being on the receiving end of such treatment, whining about it is a sign of weakness. Gowdy never whined about it until he decided to leave. Now he wants nothing to do with it again.

    The second is that Gavin’s rant is that politics is politics. Anyone with any degree of political sophistication can and usually will read his rant with a “no shit, Sherlock” attitude.

    The third thing is that Gavin is refusing to look inward. I have myself for years roundly criticized the climate science community for doing more damage to themselves through their style of communication – which the standard response I read is “if they can’t handle what I say or the way I say it then it’s their problem.”

    Which also is indicative of a bigger problem: the utter failure to modify style. The steretypical view of the climate activist is the, “We are the experts, we know better than you, you don’t know anything, and we demand that you do x, y and z.” Unfortunately, being an arrogant ass to an even more arrogant and bigger ass when the latter is who you want to persuade DOESN’T WORK! It backfires.

    Finally, climate scientists, in order to be effective, must do the following things: (1) don’t be activists but be advocates – willing to make deals and take less than is ideal; (2) turn focus away from climate science because as much as a politician shouldn’t be doing climate science nor does any science ever include a “call to action”; and (3) become polymaths – meaning to have an interdisciplinary knowledge of economics, budgets, electoral politics, military, transportation, etc.

    The latter is important because politicians must balance all of these things. Anyone who says to a politician to ignore everything else should be no more surprised at being disregarded than a person who tells me to ignore everything else and focus on my job. Sorry, bub, but I have a family, too, and you can please step out.

    Gavin is the director of GISS. He has to prioritize things under his management because he can’t say “yes” to everyone or everything. Thus, perhaps, he may be wise to consider how he can better persuade higher ups about the utility of his work.

    I’ll end with this: had the climate science community been willing to accept less than ideal we could have been a couple of decades into a global climate framework. Instead, they are no closer now than 20 years ago (The Paris Accord is useless for anything other than symbolism). Maybe small steps every five years would have helped.

    Activists are the worst people to make deals with. Shield them out, get some pragmatists in there, and watch the slow but steady progress that results from those who know how to deal with dissenters.

  11. jfchilds,
    There are a number of things that I could respond to in your comment (for example, why you appear to have ignored that Gavin’s “rant” was actually in response to someone who specific who has probably done more to directly hinder climate action than most climate scientists might have done indirectly) but why this

    become polymaths – meaning to have an interdisciplinary knowledge of economics, budgets, electoral politics, military, transportation, etc.

    There are lots of people with relevant expertise, who understand the significance of this issue. Why should climate scientists become polymaths, rather than everyone else just starting to pull their weight?

  12. dikranmarsupial says:

    Communications experts are sorely needed elsewhere. I am hoping that 2017 was peak bullshit, I don’t remember politics being so dominated by claims that had so little basis in fact, but more importantly presented with so little embarrassment, even when it is pointed out.

    Personally I think there is a place for science to be presented in the traditional way, rather than being made a human story (not my cup of tea). The policy aim that is most important for me is that policy (and the electorate) should be well informed, so ultimately we need the information to be made available in a range of forms so that there will be some form that suits most people.

  13. There may be a tendency to think that people who raise an issue should solve the issue. I was once in a group where they had the explicit rule that the person raising an issue should NOT solve it. They had the rule because otherwise there would be a disincentive to raising important issues.

    No idea whether such a see-it-solve-it rule made sense in hunter gatherer groups, it sure does not make sense in case of climate change. Scientists cannot get rid of the corruption in Washington DC by themselves.

  14. Chris says:

    Finally, climate scientists, in order to be effective, must do the following things: (1) don’t be activists but be advocates – willing to make deals and take less than is ideal; (2) turn focus away from climate science because as much as a politician shouldn’t be doing climate science nor does any science ever include a “call to action”; and (3) become polymaths – meaning to have an interdisciplinary knowledge of economics, budgets, electoral politics, military, transportation, etc.

    “willing to make deals..”? What does that mean in reality? Climate scientists have provided and continue to provide the information that informs us of consequences in the real world. This obviously isn’t precise since the consequences of continuing massive release of CO2 from fossil fuels depend on scenarios going forward. What’s the relevance of “deals” in the real world context? “Deals” implies some sort of commodity over which some bargaining might be made. What do you mean exactly?

    In fact there is lots of evidence that scientists are very effective in providing policy-relevant information and that the obstacles to productive policy reside largely in vested interests. The scientific evidence on dangers of ciggie smoking was known for decades before productive action was taken due to intransigence of governments concerned about costs of extending lifespans, corporate lobbying and misrepresentation and ciggie companies buying time to redirect their markets etc. The adverse effects of antibiotics as growth promoters is very well understood and publicised from the science – this is taken into account in EU policy and ignored to a considerable extent in US policy. That’s obviously due to sets of competing interests that differ in the EU and USA and very little to do with inadequacies in scientists efforts in publicising the science and its consequences. The current US administration rejects the Paris accord; the previous one agreed/promoted it – nothing has changed in terms of the policy-relevant information from climate sciences – the balance of corporate/political interests have changed…

  15. My last comment was written before I had seen jchilds’ comments, which was a clear example of the nonsensical idea that scientists need to solve the problem.

    Climate scientists only need to do one thing: science.

    In America children are regularly mass murdered, today again, 9% of American want universal background checks, but corrupt Washington does not move and let the slaughter continue. Churches are regularly shot up. Thoughts and prayers. Hundreds of people are killed in Las Vegas, but bump stokes are still legal. ISP can now sell your data to anyone, no one wants this. Net neutrality has been destroyed, no one wants this.

    But a bunch of climate scientists is supposed to defeat an economic sector controlling 6% of the economy whose business model is corruption, while Washington is raising axes on solar energy. It is too bizarre. This is a job for all of us.

  16. In my comment under moderation it should be: “93% of American want universal background checks,”

  17. ATTP:
    Why should climate scientists become polymaths, rather than everyone else just starting to pull their weight?

    Because the atmosphere is among the front runners for World’s Most Complex Dynamic System.

  18. Michael Hauber says:

    Climate Scientists should think about the problem, and think about what they can do to help solve it. Kind of like every other person on this planet. Probably the most important contribution a climate scientist can make is to ensure they communicate the message well, so find a communication expert and take their advice. I’m a random Joe on the internet and not a communication expert.

    Does keeping score of whether climate scientists are doing more or less than their fair share of solving the problem help anything?

  19. JCH says:

    Blaming Gavin Schmidt is stupid. Point-blank stupid. If you want an examples of supreme arrogance, go

  20. Chris says:

    (3) become polymaths – meaning to have an interdisciplinary knowledge of economics, budgets, electoral politics, military, transportation, etc.

    Rather like the IPCC and its reports…yes?

    One of the features of science is that it has considerable elements of “polymathy” which is why for example AIDS was understood and treatments developed relatively quickly (few decades) though the collective efforts of individuals with wide varieties of expertise. To suggest that individual scientists become polymaths in the way described is as unrealistic as supposing that scientists studying AIDS in the 1980/90’s should have been retroviral molecular biologists AND epidemiologists AND synthetic chemists AND public health specialists etc. [*]

    Far better to make use of our abilities to solve problems through collective effort. This does require far-sighted individuals that have skills to build teams of individuals with various relevant expertises, that are able to make honest appraisal of evidence from multiple sources, that have the nous to accommodate expert opinion with other influences on policy and the political influence to enact this. It would be helpful if newspapers, TV and commentators reported the science honestly and faithfully.

    [*] Incidentally the fact that that policy responses to the scientific evidence around AIDS in the 1980’s were less than adequate was far less due to insufficiencies in scientific communication and far more to do with a reluctance of politicians to engage with the problem, particularly under Reagan’s administration. Likewise the appalling policies around AIDS in South Africa under Mbeki were made in the light of very clear scientific evidence which was ignored/rejected in the cause of political interests. Attempting to shift the blame for inadequate policy back onto the scientists that provide policy-relevant information seems to be a contemporary addition to the arsenal of tactics to avoid honest engagement with evidence. I have the feeling that another element in this is the desire of some species of social scientists to get a few fingers in the pie.

    And wouldn’t it be helpful if the social scientists that beat up on climate scientists adopted some elements of polymathy themselves and learned something about climate science?

  21. John Hartz says:

    I believe that the judicial systems of the world will play a key role in the human race’s efforts to mitigate and adapt to manmade climate change. Climate scientists in turn will serve an indepensable role as expert witnesses. Serving as an expert witness requires effective communication skills.

  22. Steven Mosher says:

    i like gavin. but he needs to call out the person and the argument directly.

  23. Steven Mosher says:

    There may be a tendency to think that people who raise an issue should solve the issue. ”

    well when you enter the political sphere and advocate specific solutions..then expect to be attacked unfairly.

    look. the minute a single climate scientist stands and says we should tax carbon or we should build more nukes, then everyone is dragged into the political and policy arena.

    and the fights not fair , ffs

  24. Steven Mosher says:

    “However, the other issue was the suggestion that natural/physical scientists think that simply making people aware of a problem will alone lead to action. I seem to see this kind of claim quite often. Not only do I not think this is true (I think most natural/physical scientists are well aware that it’s not this simple) I also have never quite understood what scientists should do that is different.”

    this is not that hard.
    for a while i worked as an operations research director. my job? lets take a simple example. ESA radar. First you have to build a model. then design a test. then run the test.
    then report the results. they are confusing and ugly.

    if you orient the arrays in this way your kill rate goes up. but so does your loss rate.
    if you increase the power by x your valid tracks go up, but you become more detectable.
    in option A your weight and cost goes up, but your effectiveness goes up. and oh ya your range goes down so you need refueling.
    and so forth and so on. not even to mention how option A or option B changes the nose shape which changes the aero which changes the engine which changes the IR which changes the countermeasures package which changes the doors which changes the RCS which changes the effectiveness which changes the fleet size which changes the …you get the idea.

    nobody ever thinks to ask “steve, whats your solution” your job is to explain your results. to explore options and detail all the knowns and unkowns. what happens in a rcp 2.6?
    this.
    4.5?
    that.
    6?
    we think x happens.
    are you sure?
    oh, models all fall short. but this is the best tool we have. it could be worse in this regard and not so bad in that regard.

    ideally, if you ask me what we should do, as an analyst i should say:

    “study my results and come back with more questions or use my results to make an informed decision or ignore them”

    I provide information to decision makers. you want to destroy that bridge drop this bomb, or two of those bombs. cost is x and y, life lost is z and q. thats your decision space. I dont pull triggers. if you suggest a different solution I will explain those results.

    highly compartmentalized. hard to do because you have to bracket your ethics.
    I always thought coroners also had a tough job. meh.

    However, now that some scientists have decided that they have an obligation to talk about their favored solutions, well all bets are off. go strap yourself to a coal train.

  25. Steven,

    i like gavin. but he needs to call out the person and the argument directly.

    I think there is a bit of a catch-22. If he does, the person will probably whine about being targetted by climate scientists, if he doesn’t others will complain about him not calling out the person and argument directly. Less of two evils, really.

    Michael,

    Probably the most important contribution a climate scientist can make is to ensure they communicate the message well, so find a communication expert and take their advice.

    I think it’s always good to get advice. However, what I often see are people are complaining about how scientists comunicate without providing really concrete advice as to how to do it better (or without understanding the context of the science communication in the first place).

  26. Steven Mosher says:

    “I think there is a bit of a catch-22. If he does, the person will probably whine about being targetted by climate scientists, if he doesn’t others will complain about him not calling out the person and argument directly. Less of two evils, really.”

    to an outsider it looks like a strawman then

    Further, The only way the real culprit can defend himself is to identify himself,
    and then of course Gavin can say,
    “well I never mentioned him by name, I was thinking of someone else”

    The person in the catch 22, is the unnamed

  27. Steven,
    Maybe in an ideal world we would all be open about who we were criticising and those being criticised would respond thoughtfully to their critics. We don’t live in an ideal world.

  28. Steven Mosher says:

    “I think it’s always good to get advice. However, what I often see are people are complaining about how scientists comunicate without providing really concrete advice as to how to do it better (or without understanding the context of the science communication in the first place).”

    It’s hard to beat Feynman.
    Tell the whole truth.
    Explain the uncertainties.

    I would add:

    1. Avoid making any statements outside your area of expertise, dont speak as a citizen or human.
    As an expert on science you occupy a very special place in a democratic society
    You get to speak directly to power about the facts. To preserve that power I’d advise
    that you swallow your personal, non expert, ideas about taxes, economics, politics,
    etc. When asked about policy, stick to the science YOU have published, or the
    science directly in your field. Don’t talk about polar bears and be like Susan.
    2. Avoid adjectives, stick to numbers
    3. Avoid speculation, especially with the press. Speculations like “if this rate of ice melt continues” while mathematically simple, should be avoided.
    4. Buy a nice pair of shoes.

    Radical I know. But Seriously thousands of people do this every day. When someone at work asks me X or Y, I explain that I am not qualified to give that answer and refer them to the expert
    in charge. We are at a point however that if you fail to have a policy idea or recommendation, and if you shy away from blowing smoke out of your amatuer ass, then you are criticized.

  29. Steven Mosher says:

    “Steven,
    Maybe in an ideal world we would all be open about who we were criticising and those being criticised would respond thoughtfully to their critics. We don’t live in an ideal world.”

    I think climate scientists should stop abusing children. Its just aweful, when you guys say nothing about this. Horrible.

    Ya in an ideal world I would say the name we all know, but why do that when its an unfair world and it works so much better to not name the accused and just let people wonder.

  30. Steven,
    You’re welcome to say the name if you wish. I wasn’t trying to keep it secret, I was mainly trying to focus on something slightly different.

    As for your earlier comment about expertise, yes we should try to remain within our range of expertise, or make it clear when outside that. However, that’s related to what I’m getting at. It seems that climate scientists are being blamed for not achieving more (why haven’t we started reducing emissions, despite all this science communication?). Not only do I think this is not their role, it also potentially leads to some trying to do more and then being called on being outside their area of expertise. The irony to me is that many doing the criticising are those who could simply help to improve the overall engagement by focusing on the aspects that fall within their own area of expertise (many do, of course, but some seem to not be able to avoid having some kind of go at natural/physical scientists).

  31. Scientists have solved the problem (science says “get carbon emissions down to zero in order to avoid the adverse effects of climate change”), it is just that we don’t want to do that. That is a different problem, and it isn’t a scientific one.

  32. Yvan Dutil says:

    Personally, I have touch at semi-pro level the political science, the economics and I ahve even done politics.

    This is just the usual rant of social science, and this is integral bullshit.

    The truth is that most scientist are very good communicator. Repeat again : scientist are very good communicator. Communication is an integral part of the scientific training.

    The truth is that most scientific concept are simply outside the range of the common knowledge. Hence, the receiver has NO WAY to know if it is true or not. This is just impossible. In brief, science is an argument of authority for anybody outside the practitioner in a narrow field. Anyone, you claim the opposite is just bullshitting. By the way, this is very common for science communication practitioner.

    Therefore, as a lambda citizen, you accept science result mostly because people have a very good opinion of science. Scientists are considered more trustworthy that almost any profession.

    Nevertheless, if scientific results are in opposition with your core belief system (the ideas that make you think your are a good person) or your pocket, you will just reject them.

    So, how political scientist (and politicians) deal with such situation : they impose it by force because there is no way that they can be solved democratically. And, usually this is done when there is absolutely no way to avoid the make the hard decision.

  33. John Hartz says:

    Given the unprecedented problem that manmade climate change is and the need for the hiuman raise to decisively act to resolve it ASAP, petty sqaubbling among and between climnate scientists and social scientists is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titianic!

    Perhaps the scientific community needs training in team building?

  34. Russell Seitz (@RussellSeitz) says:

    Because the atmosphere is among the front runners for World’s Most Complex Dynamic System.

    A distant runner-up actually.

  35. Mitch says:

    The problem is not scientists communicating, but that there is a concerted effort funded by parts of the fossil fuel industry to confuse the issue. One has only to look at how the acid rain problem was resolved when there wasn’t concerted political opposition. A group of scientists observed the dropping pH, The issue got publicized, and Congress passed a bill to study the problem. The problem was presented to National Academy of Sciences who put together the scientific consensus. Based on that, the Clean Air Act was amended.

    So, I don’t think that everyone got stupid since 1980. And, I don’t blame scientist for not communicating sufficiently.

  36. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: For your eyes only… 🙂

    ‘Still working’: Astronomers explain why they don’t publish by Daniel Clery, Science, Feb 14, 2018

  37. ” “It’s a perverse system where winning time on its own is seen as important,” he says.”

    I suspect this is not just astronomers, but affects many fields in academia. Research income is easy to measure, research output rather less so! ;o)

  38. Michael 2 says:

    The phenomenon seems quite similar to whether computer specialists (programmers, network engineers, etc) should talk to the client. The problem with it is that the salespeople have already been talking to the client, and rather a lot of what the salepeople say just isn’t exactly true; either it is an exaggeration, or hoped for, and occasionally made up and not even possible.

    So the engineer comes along, always speaks the truth on the topic of his expertise, and creates uncertainty because what he says isn’t what the salesman said.

    A scientist, working in a field, presumably works with truth and measurements. An instrument reports something; wavelength, voltage, etc; documentation is usually automated. Where is opportunity to misrepresent? But the *selling* of this work product is handled by salespeople who condense, summarize, posssibly misrepresent the result of all these measurements.

    So when a climate scientist speaks with precision, it doesn’t align very well with what the politicians have been saying, which lacks precision and it is by design because it is intended to become a slogan; to fit into the smallest possible yet strongest sound bite.

  39. Eli Rabett says:

    Allow Eli to point out that the political scientist Gavin was ranting about, according to other political scientists understands neither political science nor politics.

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2018/02/nothing-new-in-pielkesphere.html

  40. michael2 wrote

    ” The problem with it is that the salespeople have already been talking to the client, and rather a lot of what the salepeople say just isn’t exactly true; either it is an exaggeration, or hoped for, and occasionally made up and not even possible.

    So the engineer comes along, always speaks the truth on the topic of his expertise, and creates uncertainty because what he says isn’t what the salesman said.”

    It would be better if we left the client believing the untrue things the salesman said? I don’t think so (for a start the client is likely to be more upset by not getting what they were led to believe they would). Sounds to me like a criticism of the salesman rather than the programmer. Likewise we should be criticising those who spread climate misinformation rather than those that truthfully correct it.

    So when a climate scientist speaks with precision, it doesn’t align very well with what the politicians have been saying, which lacks precision and it is by design because it is intended to become a slogan; to fit into the smallest possible yet strongest sound bite.

    what like this?

    What we need is “salesmen” who either know what they are talking about, or who defer to the experts when necessary.

    I’d rather have an uncertain public than a public with certainty in something that is essentially bullshit.

  41. Canman says:

    A lot of climate [Snip. -W] scientists are to blame for the lack of progress in CO2 emission reductions. They’ve been pushing Mark Jacobson’s unicorn dust, while doing their best to block the one thing that’s been demonstrated to actually work:

    They’re a bunch of misanthropic malthusians!

  42. Canman,
    I think what you really mean is some small fraction of US climate scientists. The Jacobson vs Clack debate is really a US issue, not a global issue.

  43. Marco says:

    I can see that Canman supports massive subsidies and government involvement (EDF is largely owned by the French government, 85% of stock). Right?

    Furthermore, Canman is lying that climate scientists have done their best to block nuclear power.

  44. Canman says:

    The Energiewende Isn’t a US thing. Have Stefan Rahmstorf or Victor Venema ever criticized it?

  45. Canman says:

    Marco,

    I do support subsidies to build some 4rth gen demonstration projects. And Mark Jacobson has clearly done his best to block nuclear power.

  46. BBD says:

    Mark Jacobson has clearly done his best to block nuclear power.

    Jacobson isn’t a climate scientist. Your claim that ‘a lot’ of climate scientists are actively engaged in blocking nuclear (whatever that means) is just an empty assertion. As is the canard that they are a ‘bunch of misanthropic malthusians’.

  47. Ken Fabian says:

    My own view of how politics has played out is that climate science denial, by nuclear’s conservative “friends”, has impeded nuclear far more than anti-nuclear activism or any links it has with climate action activism. Imagine the past 3 decades with conservative thinkers and leaders working to fix the climate problem instead of working so assiduously to avoid having to fix doing so. No knowing how different things might be but probably the main voices on the climate action side might have been conservatives and other mainstream ones rather than – by default, in the vacuum of mainstream indecision and opposition – political environmentalists. Not strength of opposition from nuclear opponents but weakness of support.. The economics are another issue but it is not looking good for nuclear. That may change if adaption of energy systems to large proportions of intermittent RE fail to keep pace – but only if Conservative politics commits to strong climate actions rather than continues to fight them.

    Which is, I think, the failure point all around; not climate science communications but politics, with a toss up between uncaring apathy or committed opposition, both based in ignorance, as the most significant barrier. The information is there – widely disseminated, freely reproducible, tabled and presented to governments that requested it, with experts always available and willing to address misunderstandings and answer questions for decision makers, just waiting to be asked.

    People holding positions of trust and responsibility, who have an obligation to take expert advice of adverse consequences seriously are proving themselves untrustworthy and irresponsible – politicians, bureaucrats, corporate leaders, journalists and news editors. Scientists have mostly been doing their job – far too many of those others have not.

  48. Canman says:

    BBD,

    Mark Jacobson has done a lot of modeling of black carbon. I would think that makes him a climate scientist. There’s certainly a lot of activist groups like the NRDC and the Sierra Club working to block nuclear.

  49. Willard says:

    Canman,

    While it’s easy to go from “scientists” to MarkJ, it’s less easy to go from MarkJ and “a lot of activist groups” to scientists. The first part is so easy that going from a group to a specific person can oftentimes lead to peddling. That you’re peddling is reinforced by the fact that you’ve just switched to “activist groups.”

    Please stick to the clash between social and natural scientists, or at the very least pay due diligence to your counterfactual that going nuclear would already have solved everything.

  50. Marco says:

    Canman, the Energiewende had nothing to do with nuclear power, but everything with a reduction in the use of fossil fuels.

    And you cannot use Mark Jacobson himself as evidence that climate scientists were pushing “Mark Jacobson’s unicorn dust”. You do know that Jacobson has sued several climate scientists for pushing *against* Jacobson’s “unicorn dust”?

    And finally, some subsidies for 4th generation demonstration projects aren’t going to cut it. By the time this can be introduced in a large scale in *several* countries, we’re at least 30-40 years later. If you want to support nuclear power *now*, governments need to invest *massively* *now*, because private investors aren’t going to do it.

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