The #scicomm merry-go-round

Katharine Hayhoe has an article in Science about facts not being enough. It’s basically about how to effectively communicate to an audience that might have a tendency to reject the need to do something about climate change. As a result, there’s been a rather lengthy Twitter discussion, initiated by Oliver Geden, who seemed to suggest that it was an example of why climate scientists shouldn’t talk about solutions, because they aren’t experts in this aspect of the topic.

I don’t think that scientists should necessarily be the ones to talk about solutions, but I also don’t think that there are topics that some should avoid simply because they don’t have directly relevant expertise. Ideally people should be informed, but there’s no reason why someone can’t publicly discuss a topic just because they aren’t an expert.

However, this seems to be another example of what I think I will now call the #scicomm merry-go-round. It seems that this communication landscape is composed of people (many of whom are scientists) who are trying to engage/communicate with the public, and another group who focus primarily on telling them what they shouldn’t be doing. Sometimes they even provide advice as to what should be done. However, if you then follow that advice, someone else will then pop up to explain why you shouldn’t do that.

If you focus on the science, you get accused of deficit model thinking; simply filling some knowledge deficit will not convince people to accept something. Consensus messaging, on the other hand, is regarded as polarising and tribalistic. If you try to present some kind of positive message by illustrating how some of the solutions could have benefits, you get told that you’re not an expert at solutions. If you follow that advice and go back to talking only about science, you’re back to being accused of deficit model thinking.

Credit : SMBC Comics.

My own view is that this is a very difficult, and complex, communication environment. I don’t think there is a single strategy that should be used, and I don’t think anyone really knows what’s best. If people actually want to make constructive comments about how to communicate publicly about this topic, maybe they should at least ponder the illustration on the right. Also, if their goal is to convince scientists that there are better communication strategies, maybe they should try to do so in way that doesn’t ultimately annoy their audience. That would seem, to me at least, to be rather ironic.

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236 Responses to The #scicomm merry-go-round

  1. Jon Kirwan says:

    The physical sciences hold the facts we know and why we know them; those areas where dead-ends were found and why; those areas were we may have theories but haven’t had enough time for the experimental results to develop; and those areas where we do not yet have good theory.

    But it takes a great deal of effort and time to develop the skills to master enough of any tiny subset such that your reliance upon the authority of others is close to nil and you can design and set up all the needed chains of reasoning from basic axioms all the way forward to increasing less and less prosaic facts that are the results of theory and experimental results. The public will never have the time or inclination for any of that. They have lives to live. So they must take everything in science upon authority despite the fact that science is open and available to those who want to pursue any question about it.

    I think scientists wishing to speak to the public on issues related to climate science face a number of problems.

    (1) If a scientist stays with the scientific facts they know and attempts to speak accurately and comprehensively about it, they will lose their public audience, seem to be lecturing, and otherwise just look like an elitist.

    (2) If a scientist stays with the scientific facts they know and instead fumbles their way through a technical argument, they may look like Jack Lemon (the actor) did when portraying the nuclear scientist in the movie China Syndrome.

    (3) No single scientist can hold all of the important domain-specific experimental results which support a comprehensive climate view as well as all of the experimental results that exclude other views. All any one person can do is master a few areas. So if a scientist stays with the scientific facts they know and demurs when asked a question on a domain they are not expert, this will be seen as “weakness” and a “failure” on their part. Worse, an admission that they themselves must also be accepting facts by authority (and therefore “not scientifically.”) Which makes the scientist seem “no better than” the rest of the public (who must accept all science fact by authority, too.)

    So, science holds the facts. But for domain experts to discuss them with the public is… to leave the public behind. And to risk being “a lecturing elitist,” or “fumbling,” or, many times, as “accepting the authority of others” and therefore no better than anyone else in the public.

    But the public has also grown some serious sophistication about “recognizing” when they are being “handled,” too. Decades upon decades, and billions upon billions of spent dollars, on research as well as actual advertising and messaging to the public has developed a certain… expertise of its own. The public is able to quickly tell when they are being pandered to.

    So if a scientist decides to leave behind their comprehensive view of their domain-specific knowledge area and try to engage the public with common jargon and simple analogies, then the public will recognize this behavior, too. They will see it as little different from other “messaging” and “propaganda” that they are continually exposed to each and every single day by organizations and individuals who also use common jargon and simple analogies and story-telling in order to get people to act a certain way or buy something.

    At best, the scientist is then seen as “having an agenda” just like other groups also “have an agenda.” And therefore no different from other such groups. At worst, they are seen as talking down to the public like children, or hand-waving, or smarmy, or willing to tell half-truths.

    But for sure, since the scientist has decided to leave their facts behind and engage the public on this common turf where propaganda wars are continually being fought, day after day, to capture human behavior… they will be seen as little different, too. And they will lose their authority in this way.

    Either way, scientists lose. They lose if they stay to the facts they know. They lose if they leave behind factual details and thereby become no better than anyone else trying to sell a product.

    The only way this gets communicated is very, very slowly and only then when local circumstances make things more obvious and visible. And that will be too little, too late.

    You have my condolences.

  2. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    If you focus on the science, you get accused of deficit model thinking; simply filling some knowledge deficit will not convince people to accept something.

    That description fits the bill to some extent. But I don’t think it always applies. Sometimes, at least, criticism of deficit model thinking isn’t directly criticism of focusing on science, but of assuming that focusing on the science is, or should be sufficient to convince people (including those who are ideologically predisposed to not be convinced).

    Consensus messaging, on the other hand, is regarded as polarising and tribalistic.

    That certainly happens quite a bit. My own criticism of consensus messaging (FWIW, which ain’t much) is again, with respect to (IMO) questionable assumptions about the efficacy of consensus messaging.

  3. Jon,

    The only way this gets communicated is very, very slowly and only then when local circumstances make things more obvious and visible. And that will be too little, too late.

    Yes, I think that we might have to accept that this could be a slow process. As you say, though, this may mean that we do too little, too late.

  4. Joshua,

    but of assuming that focusing on the science is, or should be sufficient to convince people

    Indeed, but there are certainly cases in which people decide to engage in simply communicating science, despite this not being sufficient to convince people. Choosing to mainly discuss science, doesn’t mean that one thinks this will be sufficient.

  5. Joshua says:

    Jon –

    (1) If a scientist stays with the scientific facts they know and attempts to speak accurately and comprehensively about it, they will lose their public audience, seem to be lecturing, and otherwise just look like an elitist.

    I think it’s worth pointing out that this dynamic unfolds, at least usually, when a polarized context preceeds the communication act.

    In most cases, sticking with the scientific facts is sufficient to convince the vast majority of people independent of their ideological orientation. Same for this:

    …So if a scientist stays with the scientific facts they know and demurs when asked a question on a domain they are not expert, this will be seen as “weakness” and a “failure” on their part. Worse, an admission that they themselves must also be accepting facts by authority (and therefore “not scientifically.”) Which makes the scientist seem “no better than” the rest of the public (who must accept all science fact by authority, too.)

    or this;

    …And to risk being “a lecturing elitist,” or “fumbling,” or, many times, as “accepting the authority of others” and therefore no better than anyone else in the public.

    You say:

    The only way this gets communicated is very, very slowly and only then when local circumstances make things more obvious and visible. And that will be too little, too late.

    I tend to agree. I do think, however, that it’s worthwhile to think of creating a different communicative context that looks outside of the the zero sum gain framework. In particular, I think that comes in the form of stakeholder dialog that seeks to identify and build upon common interests rather than slug out over oppositional positions.

  6. Joshua,

    In particular, I think that comes in the form of stakeholder dialog that seeks to identify and build upon common interests rather than slug out over oppositional positions.

    Isn’t that roughly what Katharine Hayhoe’s article was suggesting; find positive co-benefits that you can use to highlight why it might be beneficial to implement some kind of climate policy.

  7. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Choosing to mainly discuss science, doesn’t mean that one thinks this will be sufficient.

    I agree. And often that assumption is being made, or further, it is leveled as an accusation, inaccurately.

    To the contrary, it seems to me that there has to be a role for scientists to mainly discuss the science . And, IMO, there has to be a role for advocates within the science/policy interface. That is all pretty much trivially accepted in some contexts. – accepted as necessary (but not sufficient) parts of a whole. But when the policy implications become polarizing and ascendant, then people tend to focus on individual components so as to find a weak spot to attack.

  8. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Isn’t that roughly what Katharine Hayhoe’s article was suggesting; find positive co-benefits that you can use to highlight why it might be beneficial to implement some kind of climate policy

    Yes, I think it is. I do note, however, that she is routinely attacked for promoting that approach (and as we can see, IMO unfortunately, not only from “skeptics,” ) Bob Inglis would be another good example.

  9. Joshua,
    For a moment, I thought you meant that Bob Inglis was attacking Katharine Hayhoe, but you mean that he’s also approaching it from this perspective.

  10. Joshua says:

    Yes, Inglis is a good example of someone who is attacked for promoting that approach. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t seems rather apt.

    But I think that all speaks to thinking outside the box a bit – to considering how to create a different communicative paradigm as compared to taking a different approach largely within the same communicative paradigm.

  11. BBD says:

    It might just be me, but it feels like the tl;dr of the #scicomm merry-go-round is: ‘shut up’.

  12. Jon Kirwan says:

    One of these days, I need to learn how to format better for responses here. I’m going to assume that simple html works and give it a try. I’ll select a simple piece for a response to test this out…

    Joshua says:
    Jon –

    (1) If a scientist stays with the scientific facts they know and attempts to speak accurately and comprehensively about it, they will lose their public audience, seem to be lecturing, and otherwise just look like an elitist.

    I think it’s worth pointing out that this dynamic unfolds, at least usually, when a polarized context preceeds the communication act.

    A polarized context already precedes.

    A semi-intriguing report has suggested something I hadn’t considered before, too. Not sure what to make of it, just yet. Racial Resentment May Be Fueling Climate Denial

  13. Chris says:

    That’s an interesting report Jon. The extent to which a electing a black president drove America insane. I would add that the predictions/current situation of the poor peoples of the world being most adversely affected by climate change also supports the racist position of doing nothing to alleviate climate change.

  14. Steven Mosher says:

    “So if a scientist stays with the scientific facts they know and demurs when asked a question on a domain they are not expert, this will be seen as “weakness” and a “failure” on their part.”

    largely false. maybe totally false.
    i have yet to see a concrete example of a scientist ansering a policy question with the right answer: “I dont do policy, I do science”

    thve closest ive seen is one testimoney by hansen . when asked about taxes, he at least had the sense to preface his remarks with…I’m no economist….then came the but

    where have we seen that construction

    its really not that hard. A few weeks ago I sat in room being quizzed by 2 dozen bankers..refusing to answer question outside my area of knowledge enhanced my strength.

    try it. try having no opinion.

  15. Francis says:

    It would seem to me, SM, that if you were to follow your own advice then you wouldn’t have posted your comment.

  16. Jon Kirwan says:

     
     

    Joshua says:
    But I think that all speaks to thinking outside the box a bit – to considering how to create a different communicative paradigm as compared to taking a different approach largely within the same communicative paradigm.

    I wish I knew how you plan to do that.

    I took John Cook’s “Denial101x – Making Sense of Climate Science Denial” MOOC online course on communicating climate science to the public. (Some of the videos I had to watch are available at Skeptical Science’s Denial101x: Full list of videos and references at your fingertips page.) The course required a lot and I put in a lot of regular work into that course, back in 2015. A lot of effort has gone into studying, and then developing approaches to deal with, climate science denial behaviors. I really enjoyed the time I spent and I learned a lot, too, I think. The course really made me think hard. (And by the way, Katharine Hayhoe was a contributer to the course, as well.)
    But still, after a few years’ time since and despite the many lessons (yes, and “tools”) I learned in that course about communicating with the public about climate science, I have to say that I still don’t feel I have truly good tools to apply well. And not because I haven’t invested myself in learning about what others have learned. Because I have. So the remaining failures, if the problem itself isn’t fundamentally intractable, must be laid at my failure of imagination here. If you come up with something, please let me know. I admit my imagination may be lame.

    Scientists can take the high road, staying close to the facts they know. And they will lose all effect for some of the reasons I mentioned. Or scientists can take the low road of populism, setting aside the one and only thing that really does set them apart from propagandists. And they will lose all effect for some other reasons I mentioned. Borrowing from WarGames, perhaps one must then ask, “…the only way to win is not to play?” But no. That also loses all effect, too.

    And so I think for all the good and bad we humans may yet achieve, we will in the ultimate prove ourselves collectively no smarter than bacteria in a petri dish.

  17. Steven Mosher says:

    “It would seem to me, SM, that if you were to follow your own advice then you wouldn’t have posted your comment.”

    Not really. You might want to start by asking what field does this topic belong to?

    go ahead.. do your best

  18. Ragnaar says:

    First, one communicates that there is a problem. For some audiences that is incredibly easy which might indicate something. And for other audiences it is incredibly difficult. This stage is the set-up. Because if you aren’t going somewhere with this I don’t see the point. This one has played out for all kinds of wildlife before there was global warming. It was used against nuclear. And it was used against lead in gasoline and paint. It is used against GMOs and vaccines. This is not meant to be one sided. There were some threats, like phosphorus in lawn fertilizer and you can think of more. People have seen this before, they know the set-up part is important. And it is sales with all the risks that that entails. If communication can be used against GMOs, vaccines and nuclear power, why would it not work against renewables? Problem communication is also difficult when it’s hard to see. I don’t see it. And those that can really see it, are behind layers of science that I don’t understand. There’s I suppose half of our population that doesn’t see it either, and most of the ones that see it don’t understand it, that is they are convinced they see it. To parse it some more, I am convinced I see it, and think it’s 1.5 C per 100 years. I don’t see a problem, which brings up another part of communication. It’s not going to hurt me. But then people will try to convince me to save poor people. I still don’t care. But by now we are off in the weeds. Do I have to save the whole world from every last thing?

    Second is solutions communication. I think the most important part of this is that if your product sucks, no amount of communication can save it. You can get a 10 year freebie, but there’s a limit to freebies once every other person has a freebie.. We see communication sales in the MSM. The latest accomplishment of renewable power, but starting to creep in is some in depth communication. Products with value have demand pull and not sales push. And I’ve mentioned it before, it is best to stay away from a product that doesn’t have value. We can ask ourselves, is solutions communication supposed to include running down the competition? The reason for wind turbines is a laundry list of the argued problems that corporations have (a dog whistle). Which is to say, buy our product because the other product sucks. It is the cigarettes of energy production.

  19. “maybe they should try to do so in way that doesn’t ultimately annoy their audience.”
    Maybe the audience ought not have such thin skins. Feeling insulted shouldn’t shut down one’s thinking process.

  20. Steven Mosher says:

    Re reading, Katherine.

    Since the internet requires and forces us to respond to everything that comes into our feed, I have no choice but to respond. Twitter makes it easy. I can just “like” and move on. That way i show my support for those I like without specifically engaging the piece. Or I can re tweet it. This gives me a bit more latitude, because if later its found to be wrong, I can always say that retweeting does not imply endorsement and I was just retweeting so that others smarter than me could find the problems. Or I can do what other folks do. Find something wrong. That can range from Blue pencilling the thing, to hitting back with a clever meme and winning the internet for all time

    If She asked me for suggestions for improvement I would say this.

    1. Lose the part of political movitations and why you think facts are not enough. It’s unnecessary
    to your argument. It’s enough to say that from your own personal experience, that facts
    are not enough. Unnecessary and potentially inflamatory to discuss why you think this is the
    case.
    2. You are best when you describe this as your lived experience as a communicator. An example, even a fabricated one, would strength this.

    3. you are weakest when you use your lived experience to generalize to what scientists should do.
    Weakest perhaps where you claim we want the same things. Just state what you want,
    those who want the same things will identify.

    In short your best argument is.
    1. I am a scientist
    2. My work involves communicating that science to lay people.
    3. In my experience facts are often not enough to change peoples minds.
    4. Here is what has worked for me, communication is hard, YMMV

    basically your piece is what we would call a personal testimonial. I faced a problem. I tried X,
    X worked for me. If you face the same problem, i suggest you try X too.
    It works better as Pull marketing piece, than as a Push piece.

    Given the publication, I am assuming your audience is scientists. Scientists who are struggling with communication or sick of the internet wars, may use your suggestion. Some communication expert may object to you talking about communication, but you are not talking about communication.
    You are quite simply reporting your experience. What worked for you.

    pro tip: suggestions work better than orders.

    Those would be my suggestions for your piece.

    Of course YMMV.

  21. Steven Mosher says:

    ragman
    kinda nails it

    ‘Products with value have demand pull and not sales push.”

    Pull marketing would be a good topic

  22. Steven Mosher says:

    “Problem communication is also difficult when it’s hard to see. ” hence the importance of the extreme weather message.

    Unforntunately the pull message works best where the science is weakest.

  23. Jon Kirwan says:

    citizenschallenge says::
    Maybe the audience ought not have such thin skins. Feeling insulted shouldn’t shut down one’s thinking process.

    Physics has been my life. And one cannot long survive it without a pretty thick skin. Decades ago, I remember presenting what I thought was a good, novel idea before a small lunch-room of physicists. It was torn to sheds in less than ten minutes’ time. I should have seen the flaws. I felt so stupid. And they were so absolutely brutal at the time, too. Straight to the heart. It hurt a lot.

    I almost managed to slink away. I thought, “They are so much smarter, so much quicker. How could I have been so dumb. My life is over.” But then, as I was trying to walk away on my own a few of them grabbed me and asked if we could go out to lunch. I didn’t know what to say for a moment. But one quickly added that some of what I’d presented was actually interesting and they wanted to work through it some more with me.

    No time lost, the weaknesses exposed quickly and efficiently, and the remaining gems, if any, pulled out quickly for another go-around. I soon learned to let loose of and instead just expose ideas with the full expectation they’ll be torn down. It’s not personal. But if a creative idea passes through the grist mill a few times, it’s exciting stuff! I’ve learned to crave that heat and to actually want any flawed ideas I have quickly torn up so that I waste no more time on them.

    Unfortunately, I honestly do not know many outside the physical sciences who routinely take a beating and just come back five minutes later looking forward to more of the same. And it has been a battle separating that part of who I am and have become from close friends and family members. They may understand if I slip up on occasion and give me a pass if I plead for their forgiveness. But they aren’t used to it and wouldn’t accept any of it at home for very long.

    I don’t think the public is used to it, either. They certainly won’t embrace it. Feeling insulted quite often does shut down their thinking processes. They haven’t learned to look forward to seeing their own ideas torn to bits as I have. They want to cling to their ideas, even when they are terribly flawed and they’d be a lot better off if they just cast them aside. And they do take it quite personally when you try and “help them” that way.

  24. Steven Mosher says:

    “Unfortunately, I honestly do not know many outside the physical sciences who routinely take a beating and just come back five minutes later looking forward to more of the same.”

    huh?
    1st example. academia..philosophy or english.. take your pick. you expect to be challenged and told your ideas are shit.

    2nd. aerospace. you face murder boards as a part of the job. gunna brief the MOD in korea or malaysia or taiwan? before you go the whole deoartment attacks every element of your presentation, appearance, and speach.

    3rd. silicon valley. same thing you come up with product ideas and you go through the grinder. I had one poor guy working for me that had 10 years of proposing ideas that were all shot down.

  25. Steven,

    i have yet to see a concrete example of a scientist ansering a policy question with the right answer: “I dont do policy, I do science”

    This might be because, when they do, it isn’t reported. Also, this isn’t really about policy, but about how to engage. Katharine wasn’t (as I read it) suggesting that those were specific things that one should say, but was simply suggesting that one can find positive ways to frame things that will depend on the audience.

  26. Jon Kirwan says:

    Steven Mosher says:
    huh?

    I’m discussing the public’s familiarity and told a story to underline that point. You misunderstand me, unintentionally or otherwise, and are debating with a strawman. Have fun with it.

  27. izen says:

    @-Ragnaar
    “Products with value have demand pull and not sales push. And I’ve mentioned it before, it is best to stay away from a product that doesn’t have value.”

    Unfortunately this sage advice is often ignored by governments and financial institutions.

    https://www.thestar.com/business/2018/06/01/big-us-banks-are-back-embracing-the-coal-industry.html
    “U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to support the industry.
    Five of the country’s biggest banks are lending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to coal companies again, in one case eclipsing what they lent in 2014”

  28. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Products with value have demand pull and not sales push. And I’ve mentioned it before, it is best to stay away from a product that doesn’t have value.”

    That is only true if the “consumers” are aware of the “value” of the “product”. Cigarettes have plenty of “demand pull” (by virtue of being addictive) that far exceeds their actual value (plausibly negative, taking into account their carcinogenic properties). Of course having advertisers (“sales push”) trying to keep the consumers from being aware of the value of the product helped there.

    Nobody wants to change their lifestyles because of climate change (as it generally requires a change for the worse). In such situations some sales push is inevitably going to be required.

  29. dikranmarsupial says:

    ragnar wrote “First, one communicates that there is a problem.” “Second is solutions communication.”

    at which point you will be criticised for deficit model thinking and for talking about policy, which is outside your expertise as a scientist.

    and the #scicomm merry-go-round turns once more.

    AFAICS a lot of this criticism of #scicomm is rhetorical evasion of the content of the communication.

  30. Roger’s claim that that was deficit model thinking seems wrong. Deficit model thinking is (as I understand it) the idea that simply filling some knowledge deficit will get people to accept the need to do something. The point being made in Katharine’s article was not simply that one provides solutions (knowledge) it was that one provides positive aspects of various possible solutions. It’s not the knowledge about the solutions that is expected to influence people’s views, but the possibility that there could positive reasons to take action.

  31. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    “So the remaining failures, if the problem itself isn’t fundamentally intractable, must be laid at my failure of imagination here.”

    There may be intermediate options between your imaginative shortcomings and inherently impossible. Mosher’s response of using personal stories reminds me of the Victorian patent medicine adverts, stuffed full of glowing testimonials. There is a certain patronising element to that suggestion, dumbing things down into a ‘personal’ story is based on the idea that the masses talk about people, the middle class about events and the elite discuss ideas.

    The problem is not fundamentally intractable, but it does have systemic features that make changing beliefs and actions of individuals difficult, and of large institutions/governments virtually impossible. The inability to eliminate tobbacco use once established would be an example. The ‘personal testimony’ approach is used now on many ciggarette packets in the form of gross pictures of advanced disease. Governments juggle the rate of tobbacco tax to overtly reduce consumption and covertly maintain tax income. The tobbacco business has its own record of working to shape the discourse…

    The fact that you lack the tools to change the opinions and behavior of governments and business, and are often faced with individuals who are impervious to stories based on people, events or ideas, is not evidence of a failure of imagination.
    It is inherent in the power structures within modern society. There are powerful social dynamics that encourage stasis. After all if something has worked in the past, why change it. But society also acts as a noise amplifier. Like any chaotic dynamic system very small butterfly wing flaps can propagate through the system and radically reshape the landscape of future possibility.

    All methods can work and often fail to change the views and actions of others. All those methods are also employed to maintain those views and actions. To defend the status quo, or at least the profit margin and electoral dominance.
    But history shows, in the radical difference between the lives of our grand parents and us, that they always fail to prevent change.

  32. dikranmarsupial says:

    @ATTP exactly, AFAICS Katherine’s article clearly is, if anything, anti-deficit model. Of course society does need information in order to make an informed democratic decision, but just providing information isn’t enough, there are societal issues that also need to be addressed, such as politics, economics, group identity etc.

  33. dikranmarsupial says:

    I have to say that “personal stories” or attempts to find common ground with me would be a very bad strategy for communicating science to me, just presenting/arguing the evidence in a rational manner would be much better, that is just the way I happen to be. Of course that also means I can’t honestly use that strategy in my #scicomm, which is why I generally try to stick to the science. I suspect I am not the only scientist that would be uncomfortable with Katherine’s approach. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all issue, but honesty and a desire to get to the truth ought to be a common feature.

  34. Steven Mosher says:

    “I have to say that “personal stories” or attempts to find common ground with me would be a very bad strategy for communicating science to me,”

    Except she is not communicating THE SCIENCE, she is communicating why she cares and what works for her.

    How are you going to object?

    Argue that she is wrong about her experience?
    Argue that you tried the approach and it didnet work?
    Argue that she shouldnt care about what she does?

  35. Steven,
    I’m not sure that that follows from what Dikran was suggesting. I think it was mainly simply saying that the approach suggested by Katharine Hayhoe would probably not work on him. I think this is indeed a factor; there isn’t a one size fits all strategy.

  36. izen says:

    @-SM
    “How are you going to object?”

    Argue that she is trivialising a complex scientific issue by reducing it to persoanl anecdote?

    Argue that she is deploying her acedemic scientific authority to legitimise statements of ‘fact’, within a personal anecdote, which avoids engagement on the scientific merits of her underlying claims?

    ( I do not regard these as valid objections, but they are usable.)

  37. dikranmarsupial says:

    SM “Except she is not communicating THE SCIENCE, she is communicating why she cares and what works for her.”

    so that the audience is not hostile to the scientific message. The paper is about communication of science.

    “How are you going to object?”

    I wouldn’t. I just don’t find that approach persuasive when used in #scicomm# (I’d have no problem with it if we were discussing theology or politics – although I’d probably prefer to avoid discussions about politics), however I do realise that it will be effective with a different audience because (thankfully) not everybody is like me. That is the point. We are not all the same, either as the audience or the speaker, so different approaches are appropriate for different audiences and different speakers.

  38. dikranmarsupial says:

    Apparently it is possible to have a discussion without objecting ;o)

  39. izen says:

    @-dikran
    “This isn’t a one-size-fits-all issue, but honesty and a desire to get to the truth ought to be a common feature.”

    They probably come somewhere below maintaining the consistency of your worldview and defending your economic and social status within your social niche..

    I doubt there are strategies of ANY size that can fit ALL the versions of rejection of climate science and the implicit need to respond to it. Some individuals and institutions are inherently unable to make the change in beliefs or actions that would be required by acceptance of AGW. There is no way of making a size that fits if change is a direct threat to the existence, integrity and desires of the agency you target.

  40. Steven Mosher says:

    “Scientists can be effective communicators by bonding over a value that they genuinely share with the people with whom they’re speaking. ”

    Her arguement is that facts are not enough.
    So she starts with bonding over a value that matters, before getting to the facts.

    dk, says this wont work on him.

    So If I use her approach, I would first talk about what matters to me. Difficult problems, big data,
    and statistics. And Perhaps an anecedote about working on problems where its very hard to predict. And then I would talk about the temperature record.

    This would not work on dk, because he only cares about the facts. But note in her approach, you dont neglect the facts, you start by trying to identify with your audience. Of course, he may be turned of by her disclosure of being a christian. But since he only cares about the facts, and since the facts are enough for him, you have to ask yourself, why would her attempt to indentify with him
    turn him against the facts. At worst, he would think “why is she sharing this personal shit, doesnt she know I only need the facts”

    So I am struggling to understand why her approach would not work with DK

    She attempts to find a common ground in values first, and goes on to explain the science.
    If he going to reject the science? merely because he doesnt identify with her?

  41. Steven Mosher says:

    ” We are not all the same, either as the audience or the speaker, so different approaches are appropriate for different audiences and different speakers.”

    yes well duh.

  42. dikranmarsupial says:

    SM “Her arguement is that facts are not enough.
    So she starts with bonding over a value that matters, before getting to the facts.

    dk, says this wont work on him.”

    Yes, because I am happy for you to go straight into the discussion of the science because I want to make an active effort not to be distracted by issues irrelevant to the validity of the science (such as whether I want to pay higher taxes). No “strategy” or “approach” is required in my case, so it just distracts (or comes across as a “hard sell” attempt). As I said, not everybody is like me (probably a good thing).

    “This would not work on dk, because he only cares about the facts.”

    That isn’t correct. I care about lots of things, but the correctness of the science doesn’t depend on any of them. You need to be careful of caricatures, most people are a more complex than that.

    “Of course, he may be turned of by her disclosure of being a christian.”

    Not at all, it is an area of common ground for us, but it doesn’t affect the correctness of the science.

    “So I am struggling to understand why her approach would not work with DK”

    Because I doubt Katherine is a mind reader and hence will not know that she doesn’t need to set foundations for the discussion.

    “If he going to reject the science? merely because he doesnt identify with her?”

    there is no indication whatsoever in what I wrote that would suggest anything of the sort. I only reject science when it is clearly wrong (and even then I am open to the idea of de-rejecting it if better evidence/argument comes along).

  43. Steven Mosher says:

    “Argue that she is trivialising a complex scientific issue by reducing it to persoanl anecdote?”

    except she is not doing that or suggesting that.

    Lets try to break this.
    She argues that facts are not enough
    She claims that what works for her is to FIRST try to connect with her audience by indentifying with them.

    So lets imagine that we ask dk to go out and explain his brilliant work on C02 to lay people.
    And his purpose is to explain to them why Salby is wrong.

    There’s a stage.
    Now what?

    Generally, someone wil introduce him. what is the purpose of the introduction?
    will they just say… “oh, here is dk, he will speak next”
    well you all know that what works better is for someone to introduce DK and establish his credibility.. degree in this, author of that, blah blah blah.

    So DK starts. Does he just launch into his explanation and go to the board. does he explain that they should listen to him because he is really smart and educated? Does he make eye contact?
    why? what the hell does eye contact have to do with facts. Does he tell a self deprecating joke to start? why, what does humor have to do with the facts?

    spend some time, watch a guy who is really good at what he does. He uses a different way of identifying with his audience

  44. Steven Mosher says:

    “Yes, because I am happy for you to go straight into the discussion of the science because I want to make an active effort not to be distracted by issues irrelevant to the validity of the science (such as whether I want to pay higher taxes). No “strategy” or “approach” is required in my case, so it just distracts (or comes across as a “hard sell” attempt). As I said, not everybody is like me (probably a good thing).”

    But you claimed MORE than that you claimed her approach would not work on you.

    The facts are X

    case A
    She jumps to X and just gets to the facts

    case B.
    She starts with a joke, a personal anecdote, and attempts to identifying with you.
    ” I happen to be a christian and believe we have a duty to care about the planet”
    Then she gets to X

    In case A you accept X, and are happy she didnt muck about with unrelated stuff.
    In case B, you are unhappy that she didnt get straight to the facts, and you what?
    reject the facts?

    Watch Alley
    he does not get righ to the facts. he starts off by greeting his old friend and new friend
    he identifies with his audience… both he and his audience have neighbors who dont accept the science.. he spends a good deal of time, not getting to the facts.

    he sucks I know. Alley never works on dk, because Alley doesnt get directly to the facts

  45. izen says:

    @-SM
    “Alley never works on dk, because Alley doesnt get directly to the facts”

    I still find Alley’s personal shtick and enthusiasm endearing, perhaps because it overlays a high level of expertise and clear vision within his speciality.
    It is unsurprising that the same advice given to a ‘Best Man’ on how to make a wedding speech works in a similar situation where a disparate audience with a generally positive attitude to the event (there are always some resentful participants) are expecting a speech.

    I find the same techniques employed by Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and even late Carl Sagan, alienating, quite apart from the time wasted that could have been used to convey more information.

    Advice on rhetoric goes back to classical times. The problem of how to persuade others by public speech has a long historical tradition.
    “Friends, Roman, Country men lend me your ears… Ceaser was an honourable man…”
    But the media available has expanded somewhat recently. When printing was invented the art of writing persuasive text became a subject, replacing the previous tradition of advice on public speaking.
    Video may have shifted things back a little, but there is also the rise of twitter, blogs, online news and opinion and Facebook reposts.

    Perhaps the recent attempts by firms like Cambridge Analytics to utilise big data analysis to maximise opinion change, or stasis, by targeted messaging, viral images/slogans represents the latest example of ‘rhetorical’ persuasion methods.

  46. SM wrote “So DK starts. Does he just launch into his explanation and go to the board. does he explain that they should listen to him because he is really smart and educated? Does he make eye contact?
    why? what the hell does eye contact have to do with facts. Does he tell a self deprecating joke to start? why, what does humor have to do with the facts?”

    Please, enough of the uncharitable caricatures (for a start there are good reasons why some people find eye contact difficult). You could always ask what I would do (which is mostly wait until the topic of conversation arose).

  47. “But you claimed MORE than that you claimed her approach would not work on you.”

    That does not mean that the approach would cause me to necessarily reject the science, just that it would not increase my predisposition to accept it. The “trying to reach common ground bit” would not work, but the “communicating the science effectively” bit would. By pre-loading the science with factors that are not relevant it would at best be giving me extra work to do to prevent my cognitive biases interfering with my judgement of the science. I shouldn’t be more receptive to arguments because they are made by a nice person, or a person that is in my group, and since the easiest person to fool is myself, I need to be at least as skeptical of evidence that suits my existing position.

    “In case A you accept X, and are happy she didnt muck about with unrelated stuff.
    In case B, you are unhappy that she didnt get straight to the facts, and you what?
    reject the facts?”

    You appear not to be reading what I have written very carefully. In my previous comment, I replied to you thusly:

    “If he going to reject the science? merely because he doesnt identify with her?”

    there is no indication whatsoever in what I wrote that would suggest anything of the sort. I only reject science when it is clearly wrong (and even then I am open to the idea of de-rejecting it if better evidence/argument comes along).

    which makes it very clear that I would only reject the science if I found it was wrong (and then only tentatively).

    ” Alley never works on dk, because Alley doesnt get directly to the facts”

    You are no mind reader. Nor am I, so I try to pay attention to what people actually say, rather than build caricatures.

  48. rats, sorry, messed up the tags again.

  49. Jon Kirwan, I got your point and appreciate you taking the time to write it out. Thank you, I’m just a silly layperson, but long ago a writing lab taught me the beauty of getting one’s guts ripped out by honest well meaning critique, accepting it and learning from that, then producing a product many times more effective than what I’d originally thought was a wonderful piece of writing. Plus my working life has required honest assessment and reassessment at the expense of ego. I’ve learned to be okay with being wrong and turning that into lessons.
    I’d say Steve provided an example of the self-defensiveness shut-down, rather than affording the challenge(insult) some serious thought, as you did.

    Ironically, despite what some might think, scientists have been my heroes, I think it’s the communicators of rational science who have a lot more to answer for. The passive acceptance of utter lies when discussing competing opinions for starters.

    But, worst and what driving my increasing irritation, is the whole private club attitude of environmental groups, communication efforts, and other stakeholders.

    The contrarian message communicator makes common cause with anyone remotely interested in furthering their message. They network and share and pass along every effort to sow double no matter how unhinged. Me, say what you will about my style, I have been a passionate and substantive communicator of down to Earth reality. (http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com) My messaging is supported with copious links to real science sources that providing opportunities for independent learning. I have been reaching out for over a decade, freely acknowledging my flaws and weaknesses, all the while seriously learning more about this Earth, her people and what we are doing to her. What’s my feedback, nothing, nothing, silence, with at best the odd personal attack that consistently avoids the substance of what I’m struggling to enunciate, in favor of fretting about me not being like them.

    The inability to recognize and figure out how to utilize resources I find utterly appalling.

    Last week I got to read in a local paper about how scientists are so unsure of their science that they refuse to debate a ‘well meaning informed citizen such a Jim Steele who’s written an excellent critique in his must read book Landscapesandcycles.’
    Get what I’m saying, the media still floods the public with this notion that scientists are hiding from the debate and using it as a winning meme.

    All the while, there’s a little firebrand out in Colorado that’s done an exhaustive study of Jim Steele’s bullshit and lies. I hounded the fraud Jim Steele to stand up and debate – the best I got was him writing a vicious attack piece on me within the safety of his own blog. This was in f’n 2015 – all my attempts to promote this effort were roundly ignored by every one I turned to.

    Now here in 2018 I get to hear how Jim Steele still gets to run around proclaiming how no one wants to debate him on the science – and it stands because scientists don’t want to debate the fool.

    Why should they. I agree, he’s a game player, a manipulator and dishonest masterdebator. But I would debate him.

    Why aren’t people pointing out the fraud runs away from debates when they are offered?* In fact, that someone has made an exhaustive Virtual Debate based on Steeles quotes – but does anyone have the imagine and passion for winning a fight, to make use of this resource?
    https://confrontingsciencecontrarians.blogspot.com/p/in-nutshell-jim-steele-proposes-that.html

    All other science communication issues amount to nothing compared to the private club syndrome which has resulting in zero networking and ineffectual messaging, that’s helped lead to stuff like Scott Pruitt destroying the EPA with the nation’s silent acquiesce.

    * {Heck why don’t I hear people enunciating that a Constructive Debates demands that both sides honestly represent what the other side claims.}

  50. John Hartz says:

    Everyone participating in this discussion would benefit greatly by reading the scholarly paper,

    Doom and Gloom: The Role of the Media in Public Disengagement on Climate Change by Elizabeth Arnold, Harvard Kennedy School, May 29, 2018

    *Joan Shorenstein Fellow, Spring 2018, and Associate Professor of Journalism, University of Alaska

  51. John Hartz says:

    Elizabeth Arnold describes her paper (cited above) as follows:

    The underlying premise of this paper is that repetition of a narrow narrative that focuses exclusively on the impacts of climate change leaves the public with an overall sense of powerlessness. The paper focuses on five years of national media coverage of climate change in the U.S. Arctic, specifically stories about communities facing coastal erosion and relocation, to argue for journalism that provides a more representative view of the challenges posed by a warming climate. Such reporting would also include responses and innovations, and increase pressure on policymakers to act, rather than offering excuses for inaction.

  52. BBD says:

    Steven sez:

    try it. try having no opinion.

    Which is a good example of the tl;dr: ‘scientists – shut up’.

  53. tedpress says:

    …Sigh… so much dialogue here (intelligent, caring…) about two-thirds of the debate.

    Problem… solution… they call it PSR for a reason. Results.

    There are a number of people whose beliefs/opinions/attitudes/actions on this issue (as with any issue) have changed. Back in 2008 I was a skeptic. Now I am a lukewarmer. I have read of many who have flipped from one side to another. From skeptic to activist and vice-versa.

    If Lewandowsky was a social scientist, as opposed to a fool, he would perhaps have conducted research on how and why people actually did change their views.

    It wouldn’t even have to be limited to this issue.

    When such research is conducted (and spoiler alert, there has been research on this in the past for other issues), don’t be surprised if the answer seems fractal.

    Timing is important
    Hectoring is self-defeating
    Hope is everything
    Always, always leave room for your enemy to become your ally

  54. tedpress says:

    Oh–it’s Tom Fuller again, unintentionally masquerading as tedpress… sorry for any confusion.

  55. Jon Kirwan says:

    John Hartz says:
    hEveryone participating in this discussion would benefit greatly by reading the scholarly paper,

    Doom and Gloom: The Role of the Media in Public Disengagement on Climate Change by Elizabeth Arnold, Harvard Kennedy School, May 29, 2018

    From me anyway, thanks. I’ll definitely take the time it needs to get from top to bottom, soon. I did jump towards the end and read the closing thoughts. They reflect my own sense of things, well. Skimming backwards, I can see that this article is the result of the author’s own evolving path of understanding. It’s a story of sorts. And I’ll want to read it. Personal stories have impact, as Mary Beth Rogers’ book, Cold Anger, so clearly points out. But while I suspect the article may more fully inform me, having read the conclusions already I think it will likely leave me at the same place in the end. This has also been more than a 30 year process for me, with my first awakenings taking place during the late 1980s and early 1990’s when involved in designing a Dobson ozone spectrophotometer instrument for column UV.

    Denying things, putting one’s head in the sand, feeling helpless and unable to act, or that “no one else cares so why should I?” are very human responses. Steering people clear of these responses is like herding cats. Nearly impossible. (And there are some who may encourage these responses for a variety of reasons.) And it is especially difficult when you cannot provide a clear, convincing vision of a path to follow. Finding that clarity of vision isn’t easy. Not now. Not in this political and world environment. Yet none of that can be an excuse, either. There are no options other than significant action.

    There is another book I’ve been reading lately. Elinor Ostrom’s “Governing the Commons.” She writes immediately about the tragedy of the commons, various modifications of the prisoner’s dilemma, and an ironic result that rational self-interested behavior cannot ever result in rational collective behavior. Just the opposite. But then she adds, “I would rather address the question of how to enhance the capabilities of those involved to change the constraining rules of the game to lead to outcomes other than remorseless tragedies.” And the book is focused on what she’s uncovered by her lifetime of research so motivated.

    One of the things here in the US that we need to grapple with is the widespread behavior of breaking up into the smallest viable piece — the “single family.” This is the maximally consuming unit (small quantities, lots of excess packaging, maximal consumption of 3rd party services and products) and it also breaks up and scatters political power. (This also diminishes the sense of investment in the local community.) To have a significant impact on consumption, while at the same time offering something that doesn’t threaten to return to life in the 1600’s, we need to develop towards small communities of, say, 20 or so. This is something I’m struggling towards this year and I’m finding good successful models hard to find. We have the right key group for the board of directors to help guide us through the first critical five years or so and I think we may take the committing steps (can’t go back, once started) perhaps next year.

    Broadly speaking, though, I honestly don’t think we can afford the environmental overhead costs of the single family. The only way out is to find/develop/create workable and successful models for organizing in small groups larger than the single family. This is my own vision outward, anyway. But we also need a spectrum of visions to follow so that there are choices.

  56. tedpress says “If Lewandowsky was a social scientist, as opposed to a fool, he would perhaps have conducted research on how and why people actually did change their views.”

    one thing that doesn’t cause reasonable people to change their views is calling someone a fool, especially when it is someone that has demonstrable expertise in the subject under discussion. Might work at WUWT though ;o)

  57. Yes, maybe we could avoid calling people “fools” especially if they also happen to be co-authors of mine on some papers.

  58. Mitch says:

    Having watched the whole climate debate since it started back in the 80’s, I think there is too much navel gazing here. The important point is that when you as a scientist have a chance to discuss climate change, do it. Use a method that you are most comfortable with. The fundamental need is large numbers of voices that have a coherent message.

  59. Mitch,
    Yes, I probably agree. It’s why I find the somewhat regular criticism of science communication somewhat irritating.

  60. Me too. I suspect a lot of the questioning of the science is really a means of avoiding the issues that really prevent action (politics/economics/group identity) and that a lot of the questioning of the science communication is really a means of avoiding admitting that the science being communicated is sufficiently solid that some action is clearly warranted. Much of it is just a rhetorical game, the difficulty is in remaining in the discussion whilst not encouraging game playing. Sticking to the science and pointing out game playing (e.g. bullshitting, evasion, Gish galloping) where it really is blatant seems to work best for me.

  61. John Hartz says:

    A key paragraph of Elizabeth Arnold’s paper (cited above) and tied directly to the OP…

  62. John Hartz says:

    A key paragraph of Elizabeth Arnold’s paper (cited above) and tied directly to the OP…

    While it might seem contradictory to provide information about mitigation or adaptation in a story about climate change impacts, it is standard procedure in the coverage of public health. What reporter covering a flu epidemic wouldn’t think to provide information in the same story about the availability of a vaccine or how the disease was being transmitted? Lauren Feldman, of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, says unlike public health, stories about climate change seldom discuss both threat and efficacy information, or impact and action. “I think there is a model in public health. You tell a story about a crisis or a disease and you tell people what they can do to avert that crisis. A very similar approach can and should be taken with climate change. Here is a threat and here are some steps that you as an individual can take, and here is what the government is doing or and here is what industry is doing.”

  63. tedpress says:

    Mr. Hartz, I agree with you. I wonder if it is possible that some of the more extreme prognostications make your approach more difficult.

  64. Joshua says:

    Mitch –

    I think there is too much navel gazing here.

    What I find interesting is that for all the focus on what climate scientists are supposedly doing wrong in their methods of communicating about the science, there is little evidence (at least that I’ve seen) on whether or how much the public’s opinions on climate change is a function of climate scientists’ communication methods.

    It seems to me, on the other hand, that there’s a fair amount of evidence with respect to other causal factors in play.

    I found this kind of interesting:

    Numerous studies have indicated that the need for closure predicts political preferences. We examined a potential moderator of this relationship: political-identity centrality, or the extent to which individuals’ political preferences are central to their self-concept. We tested three hypotheses. First, we predicted that need for closure would be more strongly related to political identity (symbolic ideology and party identification; Hypothesis 1) and issue positions (operational ideology; Hypothesis 2) among individuals who see their political preferences as more self-central. Then we predicted that the stronger relationship between need for closure and issue positions among individuals high in centrality would be accounted for by stronger relationships between need for closure and political identity and between political identity and issue positions (Hypothesis 3). Data from a nationally representative survey provide evidence for these hypotheses, suggesting that the relationship between epistemic needs and political preferences differs as a function of how self-relevant politics is.

    http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797617748679

    Now views on climate change doesn’t necessarily equate to “political preferences” but they sure as as hell look to me like kissin’ cousins, in the very least. And one study isn’t conclusive, obviously.

    But it seems to me that the issues people are debating in the context of how climate scientists communicate reflect much larger issues w/r/t polarization and how “political-identity centrality” influences the way that people integrate evidence on a wide variety of controversial topics.

    Assuming that the abstract i posted above conveys something valid, I don’t see how a choice of climate science communicators’ methodology will change their audience’s “epistemic needs” or “political-identity centrality.” Of course, those choices might have a moderating effect between the interaction of epistemic needs/political-identity centrality with how people integrate information about climate change…but focusing primarily on that moderator role without even addressing the main causal mechanism in play seems to me to be a rather fruitless endeavor.

  65. Joshua says:

    JH –

    “I think there is a model in public health. You tell a story about a crisis or a disease and you tell people what they can do to avert that crisis. A very similar approach can and should be taken with climate change. Here is a threat and here are some steps that you as an individual can take, and here is what the government is doing or and here is what industry is doing.”.

    My question here is whether that isn’t a comparison of apples and oranges. Usually, questions related to public health aren’t addressed in a highly pre-polarized context. I tend to doubt that communicating about public health in non-polarized contexts serves as a very good model for communicating about climate change. In those ares of public health that do become polarized, say GMOs, or HPV vaccines, or how to deal with Ebola, or the relationship between vaccines and autism, or whether to conduct experiments using stem cells, I think that the impact of discussing what can be done to avert crises gets problematic, IMO.

  66. Joshua says:

    Perhaps the best way to communicate about climate change = Don’t talk about climate change?

    https://theconversation.com/many-republican-mayors-are-advancing-climate-friendly-policies-without-saying-so-97223

    In our research at the Boston University Initiative on Cities, we found that large-city Republican mayors shy away from climate network memberships and their associated framing of the problem. But in many cases they advocate locally for policies that help advance climate goals for other reasons, such as fiscal responsibility and public health. In short, the United States is making progress on this issue in some surprising places.

  67. Joshua,
    To my mind, there is a difference between there being situations where one can develop climate-friendly policies without discussing climate change, and it being the case that not discussing climate change typically helps to develop climate-friendly policies.

  68. Joshua says:

    Jon Kirwan –

    In response to your link about how Racial Resentment May Be Fueling Climate Denial

    I offer you the following:

    I don’t think it makes the case directly, but I do think that there’s an important overlap in the patterns.

    From this article,

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/05/30/white-americas-racial-resentment-is-the-real-impetus-for-welfare-cuts-study-says/?utm_term=.4ce01d24274e

    There is this quote

    Those results show that the push to cut welfare programs is not driven by pure political motives, such as decreasing government spending or shrinking government bureaucracy, Wetts said.

    which speaks, to my skepticism about what many people say grounds their views about the economics of climate change. I think that rather than being a driver, people’s stated views on economic economic data i(re: climate change or other topics) is often a moderator between tribal affiliation and policy preferences

  69. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    To my mind, there is a difference between there being situations where one can develop climate-friendly policies without discussing climate change, and it being the case that not discussing climate change typically helps to develop climate-friendly policies.

    Sure. I was being a bit hyperbolic.

  70. oarobin says:

    ATTP,
    Just saw an interesting video on the reproducibility crisis:
    Science and Skepticism – Steven Goodman
    your thoughts

  71. Ragnaar says:

    Extreme weather messaging. Not being a scientist I have all kinds of latitude. So, spend money on converting farmland to native prairie when it can reduce run off into rivers that have Spring flooding problems. What are fisherman that fish the rivers and hunters that can hunt game that move into new prairie grass? Rednecks. Who’s in favor of butterflies and bees? I have it from my second cousin that his program land, surrounding what serves as a ditch has massive root mass made out of carbon. Demand pull. To be honest, about one in two hundred agree with me. So while I claim to be selling something that has value it’s just one more thing that sits on the wayside. So I have failed at marketing. I’ll have to do more work and get some government money to fund the program.

    Ducks Unlimited probably has some good messaging ideas. You know some people with money. Just do it. Restore marshes. Non-controversial, lightly subsidized (charity deductions and the tax issues of donating land are complicated) and I suppose it works. I look for products that sell themselves because of their value. DU is in the neighborhood.

  72. Ragnaar says:

    “U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to support the industry.
    Five of the country’s biggest banks are lending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to coal companies again, in one case eclipsing what they lent in 2014”

    I see they shed problems in bankruptcy. Peabody for instance. Money finds value so that they are lending it money counts for something. This is a limited argument for coal:

    It will last 300 years from our own sources.
    It can be stockpiled about 5 minutes from the burners.
    We have plants already built where they are needed.
    It will work on the hottest and coldest days.
    It is part of a hedge becoming more valuable when other sources are more expensive.
    It can hold, status quo until nuclear is rolled out.
    While you can block a pipeline, blocking rail transport is more difficult.

    If I was Peabody I’d fund pipeline protesters but that would be evil so then I wouldn’t.

    Coal has problems. An image problem for sure. Lead, mercury and CO2. It is not agile, it’s terrible at that.

    In the Boston Matrix,its best hope is to be a cash cow.

  73. John Hartz says:

    A we know, Al Gore’s documentary film, The Inconvenient Truth, had a significant impact on public opinion in the US when it was released in 2006. It is heartening to see that a new batch of documentary films about climate change are being released this year.

    Grist traveled to the tiny mountain town of Telluride, Colorado, to see some of the most talked-about environmental and climate change-related documentaries screening at the Mountainfilm Festival. The films take on the challenge of addressing migration — both of humans and animals around the world — as well as the startling realities of communities facing climate change and environmental degradation today.

    In all, there were more than 150 movies and shorts featured during the long weekend, but here’s the lowdown on a few noteworthy films.

    New documentaries bring climate change to the big screen by Annelise McGough, Jesse Nichols & Kate Yoder, Grist, May 30, 2018

  74. Ragnaar says:

    dikranmarsupial says:

    “Cigarettes have plenty of “demand pull” (by virtue of being addictive)…”

    I know I shoot from the hip, get over sarcastic, switch sides of the argument in mid paragraph. I guess I have two criteria.

    Value and people see it.

    I smoke. Cigarettes have negative value. So they fail one of the two tests. JP tells me that one of my deep subsystems has taken over and what I think I want, loses to that.

    You mention sales push for cigarettes. Then that ended with laws about that. But really what is the product of the cigarette antis? Maybe it’s attacking your competitor when you don’t have a product. I’ll have to think about that someday. Maybe there’s some key to marketing wrapped up that deal.

  75. For good or ill, recent events, in the States, in Britain, and in Italy, among possibly other places, have demonstrated that “the public” as in “the electorate” does not always (often?) act in its own best interest. It’s possible to engage in endless speculation about why that is the cast and what that means.

    But, besides political mechanisms, there are other quasi-democratic mechanisms which can sort this out, even if these are done among forces and factors of means rather than some kind of egalitarian headcount.

    I could explain here, but not as well as BoE Governor Mark Carney, in two relatively recent interviews:

    Pardon the advertisements.

    Why does Mark Carney and these others care? Note his speech at Lloyd’s of London:

    Wish there was another, fairer, more direct way. But “the public” has erected wind turbines in the Town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, and, now, it is tearing them down because some citizens don’t like them, deeming them a “public nuisance”. People ought to read Henry David Thoreau and the windmills which were strung all over the Cape in the 1850s as landmarks. Public nuisances? No, public necessities. Sailors even navigated by them.

    Not a lot of intrinsic hope in this species, eh?

  76. Harry Twinotter says:

    “It seems that this communication landscape is composed of people (many of whom are scientists) who are trying to engage/communicate with the public, and another group who focus primarily on telling them what they shouldn’t be doing.”

    On blogs where someone sounds sincere but is really handing out backhands they go by the name “concern troll”. It is no one else’s business if a scientist gives an opinion on something which may only be indirectly to the scientist’s area of expertise.

    From a logical point of view if a group is focusing on telling another group they shouldn’t communicate, then the first group is being hypocritical. What makes the first group think that they themselves are authorities on the subject?

  77. oarobin.
    Thanks. I’ve just listened to it. Very interesting. I think I mostly agree with what was being presented. Well worth watching.

  78. Richard S J Tol says:

    “If you focus on the science, you get accused of deficit model thinking; simply filling some knowledge deficit will not convince people to accept something. Consensus messaging, on the other hand, is regarded as polarising and tribalistic. If you try to present some kind of positive message by illustrating how some of the solutions could have benefits, you get told that you’re not an expert at solutions. If you follow that advice and go back to talking only about science, you’re back to being accused of deficit model thinking.”

    The deficit model can be paraphrased as “if you’d know what I know, you’d agree with me”. If you’re a scientist, you can and should talk about the science. You should not expect, though, that people will agree with you on policy.

    You should not talk about things you do not understand, definitely not in public, and most definitely not if your audience may mistake you for an expert.

  79. Richard,

    If you’re a scientist, you can and should talk about the science. You should not expect, though, that people will agree with you on policy.

    Yes, this is pretty obvious. For some reason, there are some (often social scientists) who think it isn’t. I will add, though, that being a scientist does not preclude someone from trying to convince others to agree with them on policy.

    You should not talk about things you do not understand, definitely not in public, and most definitely not if your audience may mistake you for an expert.

    Again, pretty obvious. However, there are – again – some who confuse “not an expert” with “doesn’t understand”. Not having directly relevant expertise doesn’t preclude someone from discussing a topic in public. If it did, there would be very few people discussing each topic.

  80. You should not talk about things you do not understand, definitely not in public, and most definitely not if your audience may mistake you for an expert.

    Certainly there are limits to this. Otherwise, scientifically educated but otherwise inexpert individuals could never pose questions for experts to answer. There is also, I would argue, a place for scientific wonder in the form of communal banter.

    I could say, with innumerable examples, that certain experts in climate and in medicine should not make statements in peer reviewed literature where they get the statistics and its interpretation wrong, but they do. The most offensive instances are where significance probabilities are grossly misinterpreted as return times for events.

  81. Willard says:

    > The deficit model can be paraphrased as “if you’d know what I know, you’d agree with me”.

    Not exactly, Richie. That’s just Aumann’s agreement theorem. The so-called “deficit” modulz only needs to stipulate that the more you know something, the better are your judgments about it. Ideally, we could imagine that two agents who share the same priors are in fact undistinguishable, but that’s not required to presume that humans can learn.

    Unless you are willing to share your or Junior’s refutation of RobinH & TylerC’s result?

  82. “The deficit model can be paraphrased as “if you’d know what I know, you’d agree with me”. ”

    I think the definition in Willard’s post is more appropriate. Personally the thing that I want is for policy decisions to be well-informed (likewise electoral decisions), i.e. I don’t want the electorate/politicians to make decisions based on bullshit, e.g. the “brexit bus”. If someone understand the science well, but decides not to act on climate change because e.g. they don’t want to change their lifestyle (and preferably can be open about that), then at least that allows functional (rather than dysfunctional) democracy. I don’t require people to agree with me, or to do what I want them to (not that I know what that is), it just pains me to see people misled by bullshit on important issues (yes, I have picked a bad time to exist! ;o)

    “You should not talk about things you do not understand, definitely not in public, and most definitely not if your audience may mistake you for an expert.”

    #include “irony-o-meter.h”

    I disagree, talking about things you don’t understand is a good way of learning things, provided you are aware that you don’t understand. Seeing other people learning things by asking questions you might not have thought of and processing the answers is a good way of learning stuff as well (this blog being an excellent example). Passively sitting back and expecting others to educate us is lazy and sub-optimal in terms of efficiency.

  83. @Willard,

    I don’t get it: Where’s the role of likelihood, model, and inference engine in the Aumann line of thought, whether or not Cowen and Hanson appropriately amplify it? Surely, not all outcomes from such models and engines are equally transparent and, given arbitrarily complicated inferences using arbitrary, multimodal densities, outcomes can be completely opaque, beyond the capability of two people to foresee. But, then, to resolve, they must calculate, with aids if necessary, and then the question amounts to whether or not close-to-their-vests versions of their calculations are equivalent. But, in general, thats formally undecidable. Even if they can be inspected, they may not be decidable.

    Explain?

  84. Joshua says:

    You should not talk about things you do not understand, definitely not in public, and most definitely not if your audience may mistake you for an expert.

    Interesting to see such a claim made in a context where there is (1) general agreement that no one can understand all the implications of the relevant science and (2) people frequently attack claims of expertise as being, necessarily, appeals to authority.

    Much of this debate is about opinions about the implications of science which is, to some degree in dispute. Opinions are not a direct function of expertise. They also depend on degree of control over bias, differences in desired goals or outcomes, or views on which values are most important or relevant.

    It’s always interesting to see how people game “appeal to authority” and which people game thst fallacy most frequently.

  85. @dikranmarsupial,

    I disagree, talking about things you don’t understand is a good way of learning things, provided you are aware that you don’t understand. Seeing other people learning things by asking questions you might not have thought of and processing the answers is a good way of learning stuff as well (this blog being an excellent example). Passively sitting back and expecting others to educate us is lazy and sub-optimal in terms of efficiency.

    Indeed, not only do I agree with you, there is a form of graduate education which embraces and extols this:

    Productive stupidity means being ignorant by choice. Focusing on important questions puts us in the awkward position of being ignorant. One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time. No doubt, this can be difficult for students who are accustomed to getting the answers right. No doubt, reasonable levels of confidence and emotional resilience help, but I think scientific education might do more to ease what is a very big transition: from learning what other people once discovered to making your own discoveries. The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.

    That’s from M. A. Schwartz, “The importance of stupidity in scientific research, Journal of Cell Science, 2008.

    I recommend the entire read.

  86. Joshua says:

    “The deficit model can be paraphrased as “if you’d know what I know, you’d agree with me”.

    That depends on how you want to game the definition. If your intent is to be tribal and accusatory, then that is an excellent definition

    The deficit model could also be paraphrased in a more benign fashon: “There are certain facts which must be mastered in order to understand this issue.”

  87. Joshua says:

    Looks like I should have read Willard’s comment before posting my comment.

  88. Joshua says:

    If you’re a scientist, you can and should talk about the science. ..You should not talk about things you do not understand, definitely not in public, and most definitely not if your audience may mistake you for an expert.

    Richard says as he gives his opinion on whether and how scientists should give their opinions.

    Is there an irony meter that works on a logarithmic algorithm?

  89. Richard Tol on engineering:

    RH: But it still couldn’t afford to lose that amount of land mass. I’ve heard people talk about, ‘Oh, well engineers can sort out Bangladesh like they sorted out Holland.’ But I’ve been to Southern Bangladesh and it’s a mosaic of land and water, it’s difficult sometimes to see where they join. It’s just completely impossible to defend it from sea level rise.

    RT: No, that is not true. The big problem in Bangladesh is politics rather than engineering. I mean in many ways, Bangladesh is very similar to the Netherlands was 200 years ago: a mosaic of land and water, very densely populated, at risk from storms, at risk from floods from the sea, at risk from floods from the river. What has happened in the Netherlands is essentially that mosaic of land and water has been changed into hard lines between the two and water’s enclosed land. And Bangladesh can be done the same. I mean you would not …

    RH: It would be engineering on a scale completely unprecedented.

    RT: So? I mean we always do things that are completely unprecedented, right?

    [emphasis mine – note lack of any uncertainty]

    Is this Richard talking about something he doesn’t understand? Yes. Doing so in public? Yes. In a manner in which he might be mistaken for an expert? Yes (if e.g. ATTP might be mistaken for an expert – I don’t think he would claim that he is).

  90. I don’t know anything about hydrological engineering either, but a bit of googling suggests that the discharge rate of the Rhine is 2,000 m³/s and that of the Meuse 230 m³/s. By contrast, the outflow rate of the Ganges is slightly higher – 12,020 m³/s. One wonders how the Netherlands would cope with six times as much water to deal with…

  91. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    “Is there an irony meter that works on a logarithmic algorithm?”

    I think it would need to be hyperbolic.

    But there is no irony involved in Tol’s comment.
    I am sure he has the expertise to tell scientists how and when to discuss issues and would never talk about something he did not understand and risk being mistaken for an expert.
    (He does run the risk of being mistaken for an idiot.)

  92. Dave_Geologist says:

    oarobin

    Just saw an interesting video on the reproducibility crisis:
    Science and Skepticism – Steven Goodman

    ATTP can of course answer for himself. here are my unsolicited thoughts though:

    I presume you are trying to suggest that there is a reproducibility crisis in science generally and/or climate science particularly. Please provide evidence. Otherwise I might think you are just JAQing off. The obvious example that springs to mind is a certain contrarian who seems to pull his oceanic-mixed-layer thickness out of a lottery drum. More than an order of magnitude different IIRC, in papers a couple of years apart. Probably not what you were thinking about though.

    You missed out he final two words that belong there: “in medicine”. Mostly in drug development and testing, Which, in the context of the discussion, is not really science. It’s the commercial application of science. The “D” part of R&D, and is more akin to engineering for the human body. For profit.

    Unlike, say climate science, where the researchers don’t profit, other than by earning their meagre academic or civil service salaries. Denial and FUD pays at least ten times as much. The other difference, of course, is that climate scientists are not in general helping the profits of corporations: they’re reducing profitability. Of some of the largest and most profitable corporations on the planet. If the message is “follow the money to find the bad science”, you won’t find it in the IPCC or the CMIP contributors. if you believe that’s the lesson to be learned, you should be looking at in the contrarians who tell the fossil fuel companies what they want to hear.

    His other example was the (genuine) fear of harassment by well funded lobby groups and their surrogates. If you doubt it is well founded, read “Merchants of Doubt”. Whatever Oreskes’ flaws may be, she named names, documented guilt and bad faith and yet, strangely enough, none of the named were sufficient confident of their innocence to sue. Funny that. Guess those tobacco lawsuits must have left a sour taste in their mouths.

  93. Oops, forgot the Brahmaputra 19,300 m³/s and Meghna 3,600 m³/s, the Ganges – Brahmaputra – Meghna system is apparently 38,129 m³/s. Bangladesh might not be (hydrologically) quite as similar as the Netherlands 200 years ago, but I suspect they will be reassured by Richard’s engineering expertise. ;o)

  94. Joshua says:

    DG –

    Did you watch the video?

  95. Willard says:

    > Where’s the role of likelihood, model, and inference engine in the Aumann line of thought

    All that is required is the notion of common knowledge, Hyper, and with it an accessibility relation, which Aumann names reachability. It’s a fairly trivial result. RobinH blew it out of proportion

  96. @Willard,

    I thought Aumann was just illustrating in the setup, and didn’t think he meant that as a proxy for all knowledge. I’d argue most interesting knowledge is not common in Aumann’s sense, and,so, his result is completely uninteresting and trivial.

  97. Pingback: Science and Skepticism | …and Then There's Physics

  98. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    “Did you watch the video?”

    Yes.
    It was an interesting extension of his insights into problems in clinical research do, and do not transfer into the anti-science scepticism, that may use the language of science reform.
    He does a very good job of describing how opposition to science occurs when it is inconvenient to Religion, Government, and Commerce.

    That the concepts of data and method transparency to ensure full reproducibility is window-dressing for the ‘business-as-usual’ process of de-legitimising science that threatens the theology, ideology, and profits of the institutions with power.

    He explains why the real problems that emerge in medical research are NOT addressed by this false narrative of a ‘crisis’ in reproducibility, or transparency. He demonstrates that with the famous research on how damaging particulate air pollution is to health. Industry strongly opposed this, claiming that it was unacceptable unless ALL the methods data, code, documentation were fully publicly available. When this was done, showing that the original results were true, with industry prompting, the Government still rejected the science as something to inform policy.

    The ‘solutions’ proposed, in legal form in the US, are that any science used to inform policy must be fully documented and reproducible. But the effect is not to make the consilience of the evidence any better. What it does do is the intended outcome, severely limit the amount of credible evidence that is allowed into the policy discourse.
    He describes it as “raw politics” not a meaningful critique of the practice of Science as a ‘Truth’ finding discipline.

    He also makes the point that those who are deploying these attacks on the integrity of the science will also dismiss the science even if it DOES meet all the criteria, hoops, that government (and commerce) demand they jump through.

    I thought it was an effective deconstruction of how calls for ‘Open Science’ and ‘Transparency’ are not driven by any crisis in reproducibility (a straw-man) but just another tactic in the ongoing war between established power and any scientific knowledge that threatens it.

  99. Eli Rabett says:

    Allow Eli to point out that in the US the 2000, 2004 and 2016 elections were fought and won on demonizing the Democratic candidates. The Dems attempted to fight on the issues and lost. In 2008 the issue was survival of the economy and that caught everybunny’s attention.

    The bunch of clowns demonizing Hansen, Al Gore, Michael Mann and a few select others know what they are doing.

    So your choices are

    a) Demonize them. They are in denial. Call them Deniers. When they whine call it whining
    b) Defend their targets on your side.

    The rest is navel gazing

  100. oarobin says:

    Dave_Geologist,
    you have presumed far too much from my request for attp’s opinion!

    I propose watching the video because it is an interesting take on the reproducability crises, open science and the intersection between science and policy. it has a some interesting points i have not heard publicly expressed before, specifically:

    1. the reproducability crisis (mostly affecting medicine and psychology) is entirely consistent with a reversal to the mean from the publication bias and a misinterpretation of what p-values represent

    2. it has an example of the six cities study (new to me), whose finding were the basis of EPA pollution regulations that spark controversy with industry. The similarities of the initial reactions of a scientist doing the original research when attacked, the reaction of industry affected by the regulation (including attempts to get the raw data and re-analyze it), the subsequent reanalysis that took place that didn’t change the conclusion are all eerily similar to events that are happen in climate change.

    3.it offers a timely reminder that even if the science is reproducible and conclusion sound, policy makers have the option to make policy decisions without reliance on any science at all.

  101. Steven Mosher says:

    dk

    “That does not mean that the approach would cause me to necessarily reject the science, just that it would not increase my predisposition to accept it. The “trying to reach common ground bit” would not work, but the “communicating the science effectively” bit would. ”

    But you cant separate these two DK. Her approach is to get you to accept the science. So first
    she tries to identify with you. And then presents the science.
    if she fails to identify with you and you accept the science, then it has worked.
    basically, for the rational audience, the combination works. Its like Alley telling a joke. Maybe you dont laugh. Ok, so the joke doesnt work. But his PURPOSE is not to get you to only laugh at the joke, his purpose is to communicate the science.

  102. Steven Mosher says:

    “I find the same techniques employed by Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and even late Carl Sagan, alienating, quite apart from the time wasted that could have been used to convey more information.

    Advice on rhetoric goes back to classical times.”

    Ya think? classical times, really? who knew?
    Thats as crazy as saying that GHG theory goes back to Tyndall.
    Rhetoric doesnt work. just ask dk.

  103. Steven Mosher says:

    “When printing was invented the art of writing persuasive text became a subject, replacing the previous tradition of advice on public speaking.
    Video may have shifted things back a little, but there is also the rise of twitter, blogs, online news and opinion and Facebook reposts.”

    here.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Lanham

    he was a cool teacher

  104. Steven Mosher says:

    “Which is a good example of the tl;dr: ‘scientists – shut up’.”

    Err no, BBD, Try not to have an opinion. work actively to not have an opinion and not offer advice.
    Not permanently of course, then I would call you Monk. This is just a suggestion. Resist the urge.
    watch what happens. as a practice

  105. Steven Mosher says:

    “Please, enough of the uncharitable caricatures (for a start there are good reasons why some people find eye contact difficult). You could always ask what I would do (which is mostly wait until the topic of conversation arose).”

    See those questions? They are asking what you would do.

    1. Would you just jump in and go to the facts ( I can show you gavin doing this)
    2. Would you start by claiming authority ( I am smart, educated, employeed in x, )
    3. would you start by trying to make some personal connection with your audience
    eye contact, joke, anecdote, or try to find commmon ground.
    common ground can be on identity, beliefs, experience, place, common friends.
    4. would you start with a question? mystery? odd fact? and then give closure.

    You see you have no choice but to start, unless you practice not having an opinion.
    So you must start.

    would you be surprised to discover that there are common opening gambits?

  106. “See those questions? They are asking what you would do.”

    no, they were suggesting what I would do. If you want to know what I would do, just ask, I have demonstrated on several occasions that if you ask me a direct question I will give a straight answer.

    “would you be surprised to discover that there are common opening gambits?”

    you only need gambits in an adversarial situation. If you want to understand someones position, there is no need to take an adversarial position, you can just ask.

  107. “But you cant separate these two DK.”

    Of course I can, it is called “being rational”.

    “if she fails to identify with you and you accept the science, then it has worked.”

    No, in this case the “identify with you” strategy has failed, but the “arguing science on its merits” part has worked. The need to identify first is the essential argument of the paper, and I would agree, in many cases that is necessary, just not for everybody (including me) which is why #scicomm is not a “one size fits all” activity (not that Katherine is suggesting it is, but a lot of those against “consensus messaging” or “deficit model” rarely seem to knowledge they have some value – IISTR asking Warren Pearce how to distinguish between situations where consensus messaging is O.K. and when it is not, but he was unable to answer the question).

  108. Dave_Geologist says:

    DG –
    Did you watch the video?

    Skimmed it and mostly looked at the slides. Always risky I know 😦

  109. Dave_Geologist says:

    oarobin

    you have presumed far too much from my request for attp’s opinion!

    I did indeed and apologise for jumping to the wrong conclusions about your motives and the content of the video. My bad.

    I assumed he was promoting the anti-science slides, not showing what was wrong with them. I won’t say “lesson learned”, because I’m human 😦 . But I will say “a lesson to be learned” 🙂 .

    It does promote a tangential thought re sci-comm. We’re often advised not to repeat a false claim before debunking it, On the grounds that repetition reminds readers or listeners of the claim and reinforces it before you get to make your arguments. It’s a tough discipline to follow. Especially if you come to it from the viewpoint of writing a Discussion or Letter about a scientific paper. Usually you’re challenging a specific point and restate it for clarity. Sometimes you may be told that you’ve misunderstood, and instead of a discussion and reply you get a clarification by the author. Goodman restates in spades. I reacted angrily to what looked like the usual science-bashing based on a nugget of a problem. A fake-skeptic would also skim the words, but think “great, here’s a leading doctor admitting that the emperor has no clothes”. I don’t have an answer to that. ISTM that you’re damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t.

    On a further tangent, defensive figure-drafting is also an area where advice conflicts with normal scientific practice. IOW making sure the the figure stands alone without its caption, so that it can’t be abused by addition of a misleading caption (so embed a key and annotation, don’t say “squares represent…” or expand abbreviations in the caption or text. It can still be photoshopped, but that opens up the bad actor to malfeasance accusations and removes the “all a misunderstanding” defence. But again, at least in the dead-tree era, editors liked to have the stuff that was most prone to correction or clarification in the text, so it was easier and cheaper to print an Erratum. And presentation-skills trainers say don’t fill your slides with text which you then read out, let the slides complement the dialogue.

  110. Dave_Geologist says:

    Rhetoric doesnt work. just ask dk.

    Really? It did for Trump. And Brexit. And in Hungary. And Italy, despite the shambles the 5* mayor made of Rome. And in the Philippines. Need I go on?

  111. “Rhetoric doesnt work. just ask dk.”

    the caricature again 😦

    Of course rhetoric does work, just not on everybody, not on every topic and not all the time (there you are, the “rule of three” ;o). Rhetoric makes me exceedingly skeptical when it comes to science, because in science what matters is the strength of the argument/evidence and if you have to use rhetoric to be convincing, it is a tacit admission that you don’t think the science stands up for itself (a bit like bowlers sledging batsmen – they only do it when they are not confident of taking their wicket and feel the need to seek a psychological edge, so it is actually a complement ;o). However, that doesn’t mean I am not susceptible to rhetoric on other subjects where it is less of an issue for me. Not wanting to Godwin the discussion, but IAUI fascism in the early 20th century flourished on the electorates susceptibility to rhetoric (and not just in Italy and Germany), however there were plenty of people who saw through the rhetoric at the time, even outside the groups that were being scapegoated.

  112. Richard S J Tol says:

    “Yes, this is pretty obvious. For some reason, there are some (often social scientists) who think it isn’t.”
    There are none. You misunderstand the deficit model. The deficit model is about the link from knowledge to action. It is not about speaking in public.

  113. Richard,
    I’m well aware of what the deficit model is. I know it’s not about speaking in public. You’re kind of making my point for me (possibly unintentionally).

  114. Richard,
    Maybe I should clarify my earlier comment. I was pointing out that there seem to be a number of people who think what you said isn’t obvious to scientists who communicate publicly.

  115. Richard Tol wrote “The deficit model is about the link from knowledge to action. ”

    Citation required.

  116. I think Richard’s brief definition is okay. The deficit model is essentially the idea that providing some information (knowledge) will – by itself – lead to action. I think it is true that this does not work by itself and I think many scientists recognise this, despite the fact that many social scientists seem to still go around accusing scientists of “deficit model thinking” (which, in some cases, seems to just be a stock response when they can’t think of anything else to say).

  117. My understanding of the deficit model is that more information will overcome the public’s hostility to the science. Whether the public acts on the science doesn’t depend only on whether they accept the science is correct, but on a multitude of other factors. I think measuring the effectiveness of the “deficit model” approach by action taken is presenting an unfair test, because someone accepting the science as a result of more information, but deciding they don’t give a damn about future generations or people elsewhere in the world (so they will protect their own lifestyle) would count as a failure for the “deficit model”, but it shouldn’t. Science can only inform decisions, it can’t dictate values.

    I would agree that “deficit model thinking” can be used as lazy (and sometimes inaccurate) rhetoric, e.g.

  118. Of course I could be just being a bit pedantic, action is an indirect measure of the effectiveness of “deficit model” communication. Of course accepting the science is a gateway to action, but the expectation that acceptance will lead to action is at least as questionable as to whether just providing information will lead to acceptance (IMHO).

  119. My understanding is that “deficit model thinking” is explictly the idea that filling some knowledge deficit is all that needs to be done in order to convince people to accept som policy/action.

    My own view is that some scientists will quite rightly decide to focus on communicating the science and may well hope that doing so will help to fill some knowledge deficit. This doesn’t mean that they think that this is all that needs to be done in order to convince people that we need to do something about some problem.

  120. Could be that I am pedantic, there has to be a first time for everything ;o)

    The idea that providing information is all that is required for acceptance seems rather naive, but thinking that it will lead to agreement on action seems irrational, unless you think the scientific case over-rides all other considerations (which I don’t think is the case).

    I think improving acceptance of well-established science is a worthwhile goal in its own right. If nothing else it ought to help move the discussion on from dealing with canards (such as the rise in CO2 is natural) onto the real reasons why people don’t want to take action, which are largely political and economic rather than scientific.

  121. Yes, that’s my view as well. Science communication can have intrinsic value, even if it doesn’t lead to some kind of action. It’s also why I think accusation of “deficit model thinking” are often wrong – people who engage in science communication do not think it is that simple.

  122. Richard S J Tol says:

    @wotts
    Your understanding of the deficit model is correct. You are now a card-carrying expert on the deficit model* and you have acquired the right to publicly rebuke those who abuse the deficit model to try and shut you up.

    And indeed, the deficit model does not deny the intrinsic value of knowing and understanding stuff.

    *if you accept my arrogation of the right to issue said cards

  123. Joshua says:

    I think that people should be careful to be specific about context.

    In many cases, it is entirely reasonable for a scientist to think that providing information, to correct misconceptions, will directly lead to action. In such cases, the “deficit model” is functional.

  124. Interesting article on Brigitte Nerlich’s blog “Digging for the roots of the deficit model”

    some things that I thought were highlights:

    Importantly: “Better overall understanding of science would, in our view, significantly improve the quality of public decision-making, not because the ‘right’ decisions would then be made, but because decisions made in the light of an adequate understanding of the issues are likely to be better than decisions made in the absence of such understanding.” (bold in original)

    Note better decisions, but not “right” decision (action). That is pretty much what I want.

    Following on from this strategically chosen quote taken from Fremlin, the authors then posit the ‘deficit model’: “Thus, if only the public was properly informed and ‘understood’ science better people would have a more positive view of what scientists say and do, and this would be reflected in wider popular support (and more generous public funding).” I still hadn’t found the empirical foundations of the model though. Then I stumbled across some footnotes…

    There is a link with policy/action (of course), but it seems that the primary aim of “deficit model” communication was acceptance of science rather than specific action. It could be that the usage has drifted somewhat since then.

    Interesting comment from (I presume) the “Gavin”

    It was my tweet Warren is responding to, but that wasn’t really the point. My experience is that the DM is talked about wholly out of proportion to any actual scientist believing that is what they are doing. No-one I have ever met in #scicomm (mostly in climate contexts) thinks that by increasing people’s knowledge by itself changes peoples value systems. Thus 90%+ of DM-based critiques of scicomm are based on stereotypes held by the critic and don’t actually apply to anything real. That the DM was basically just something Wynne et al came up with, without any actual evidence that this was what anyone actually believed is totally unsurprising.

    [emphhasis mine]

    To which Warren Pearce replies:

    You may well be correct about scientists’ beliefs, and I would not be surprised if many working in climate have thought about these issues more than most. However, as any ethnographer knows, it is more important to see how people behave rather than ask them what they think. I daresay very few communicators would *say* that they signed up the deficit model. However, it is more interesting to research what they *do*.

    and the Gavin responds:

    But that leads directly to the common fallacy that gets repeated ad nauseum that because the ‘ethnographers’ are looking at scientists’ behaviour with the DM in mind, every time a scientist acts to fill the (very real) information deficit, it is assumed they are doing so because they adhere to the DM. Actually asking people why they are doing what they are doing would save a lot of unnecessary work.

    well, quite!

  125. Joshua wrote “In many cases, it is entirely reasonable for a scientist to think that providing information, to correct misconceptions, will directly lead to action. In such cases, the “deficit model” is functional”

    but that does not mean it is a necessary element of the “deficit model”, as implied by Prof. Tol.

  126. Yes, I remember that exchange between Gavin and Warren and it highlights a problem I have had. The idea that social scientists can observe some other group of scientists and then draw conclusions about the intentions of those other scientists on the basis of the observed behaviour and without actually asking them anything. I can see the logic of this from a pure research perspective, but I do think this is a scenario in which the observers are not independent (they’re also researchers/academics) and hence why this process is flawed,

  127. Richard S J Tol says:

    “The idea that social scientists can observe some other group of scientists and then draw conclusions about the intentions of those other scientists on the basis of the observed behaviour and without actually asking them anything.”

    Warren Pearce is a political scientist. He does not draw conclusions about intentions.

    “the observers are not independent (they’re also researchers/academics) and hence […] this process is flawed”

    “independent”?

    The key assumption here seems to be that all researchers think alike, and that therefore political scientists make the same mistake that climate scientists do.

    Schmidt’s “because the ‘ethnographers’ are looking at scientists’ behaviour with the DM in mind, every time a scientist acts to fill the (very real) information deficit, it is assumed they are doing so because they adhere to the DM” presumes that political scientists collect evidence to support, rather than to test a hypothesis.

  128. I think the general idea of trying to determine someones motivations from what they actually do is rather risky; for a start it implicitly assumes that people act rationally (which clearly they often don’t). Of course if you ask them, you only find out what they think their motivations are, but at least it gives you an option for interpreting their actions that you might not have considered. In this case I think it is perhaps a matter of scientists being caricatured as being rather more naive and simplistic than they actually are.

  129. “Warren Pearce is a political scientist. He does not draw conclusions about intentions.”

    he clearly does if he is saying someone’s communications are examples of “deficit model” as that implicitly assigns a motivation for their method of communication (at least according to your definition), which is to prompt “action”.

    If you leave out the motivation, all you can say is that the communicator is providing information.

  130. Richard,
    I don’t think Warren is a political scientists (not as I understand the definition, at least). The point I’m making is that they’re not observing other academics from outside academia, they’re observing them from within.

  131. Richard S J Tol says:

    @wotts
    Indeed. His undergrad is in political science, his postgrad in sociology. Same difference: Sociologists do not do intentions either.

  132. Richard,
    If you accuse some of “deficit model thinking” then you’re implying an intention.

  133. Richard S J Tol says:

    @dikran
    Suppose I hear person A say to person B: “I just told you that the climate sensitivity is much greater than 1.5K. So why do you not support emission reduction?”

    I have observed the deficit model in Person A, without inferring anything about her intentions. She may be trying to convince B of the merit of climate policy, or she may be teasing B, or trying to draw him out his deficit model thinking, or …

  134. No Richard, as I said up-thread, acceptance of the science is only one of the components of any decision on whether or not to take action, there can be valid reasons not to take action even if you accept the science. Thus the question is plausibly asking what these other factors are. Assuming that this is “deficit model” is assigning a motivation to A; A doesn’t necessarily think that communicating climate sensitivity alone warrants action from B.

  135. Richard S J Tol says:

    @wotts
    Deficit refers to model, rather than to thinking, so it is not an accusation. The deficit model is positive, not normative.

    As I explained to Dikran, people can display deficit model thinking for all sorts of reasons. It is consistent with various intentions.

    Bernie Lewin’s book is an interesting case in point. Paraphrased, he argues “if only you understood the shortcomings of climate science as I do, you would not support climate policy either”. That’s the deficit model. I think it is safe to assume that you and Lewin have opposite intentions.

  136. Richard S J Tol says:

    @dikran
    Suppose I hear person A say to person B: “The climate sensitivity is much greater than 1.5K. So why do you not support emission reduction?” Suppose that this is the only thing A has said to B.

    A may not believe in the deficit model, but she does display behaviour consistent with the deficit model.

    We still do not know why A said what she said.

  137. Richard,
    The “deficit model” is the model (simply filling the knowledge deficit will lead to action). “Deficit model thinking” is clearly thinking that this is true and if aimed at a scientist clearly implies that their intention is to fill a knowledge deficit so as to lead to action.

    I think it is safe to assume that you and Lewin have opposite intentions.

    Whatever our relative intentions, my view is certainly not “if only you understood climate science as I do, you would support climate policy”.

  138. “A may not believe in the deficit model, but she does display behaviour consistent with the deficit model.”

    It is also consistent with a less naive model, which is the point Gavin made in his comments to Warren Pearce, but you attributed it without uncertainty to deficit model in your comment.

  139. “Whatever our relative intentions, my view is certainly not “if only you understood climate science as I do, you would support climate policy”.

    nor mine, and I have already said that quite explicitly on this thread already.

  140. Richard S J Tol says:

    @wotts
    I think it is safe to say you support greenhouse gas emission reduction and Lewin does not.
    I think it is also safe to say that you are more aware of the pitfalls of the deficit model than Lewin is.

    People’s behaviour does not simply match their intentions. Argumentum ad absurdum, for example, seeks to establish the opposite of what it appears to do, and goes awry if the audience does not recognize the absurdity.

  141. Richard S J Tol says:

    @dikran
    Very true. A’s behaviour is consistent with a number of alternative models, and we would need to let her talk more to exclude those (or not).

  142. Richard wrote “Warren Pearce is a political scientist. He does not draw conclusions about intentions.”

    Warren actually makes it clear that he is making inferences about intentions in his response to Gavin’s criticism on Brigitte’s blog:

    Point taken; ethnographers (or any other social researchers) should consider definitely consider multiple possible interpretations of their observations and be mindful of opting for familiarity.

    It may save me a lot of time if I relied on asking scientists why they are doing what they are doing; for example, through a survey. To be clear, this would provide *some* interesting data. However, it would be naive to rely on this data alone.

    [emphasis mine]

    Of course I suspect Richard won’t be able to admit he was wrong…

  143. Richard wrote “Very true. A’s behaviour is consistent with a number of alternative models, and we would need to let her talk more to exclude those (or not).”

    yes, that isn’t what you actually did though is it (“I have observed the deficit model in Person A,”)?

  144. Richard S J Tol says:

    An hour ago, Jacob Rees-Mogg tweeted something that contradicts the Stolper-Samuelson Theorem.

    Does this mean that he does not know this, or does he think it is irrelevant, or is he saying something that he knows to be false because it is politically expedient?

    Do the people who respond and explain Stolper-Samuelson to Mr Rees-Mogg do so in the expectation that he will change his mind, are they hoping against hope, do they seek to mock him, or do they want to display to their own followers that they do understand Stolper-Samuelson?

  145. Richard S J Tol says:

    @dikran
    On “intentions”: Economists and psychologists assume that people have motivations, and that observed behaviour is a manifestation of those motivations.

    Political scientists, sociologists and anthropologists assume that people behave. Stated intentions and motivations are just another form of behaviour.

  146. Richard, that looks like obfuscatory bluster to me, not going to rise to the bait, sorry.

  147. Richard wrote “Stated intentions and motivations are just another form of behaviour.”

    Richard wrote ““Warren Pearce is a political scientist. He does not draw conclusions about intentions.”

    There is obviously a distinction so fine there monomolecular wire would required to make the division (assuming it actually existed).

  148. Richard S J Tol says:

    Sure, Dikran, and physics is just a form of biology.

  149. Richard wrote “cryptic evasive waffle

    Richard wrote “Stated intentions and motivations are just another form of behaviour.”

    actually Warren’s response to Gavin’s critcism is inconsistent with that as well:

    It may save me a lot of time if I relied on asking scientists why they are doing what they are doing; for example, through a survey. To be clear, this would provide *some* interesting data. However, it would be naive to rely on this data alone.

    If stated intentions were just behaviour, then asking them is completely reliable, their answers are by definition their stated intentions. They would only be unreliable as a guide to their true intentions. Warren is clearly not just interested in stated intentions, but their actual intentions, contradicting your claim.

    Stop digging Richard.

  150. Sorry that should be “[cryptic, evasive waffle]”

  151. What I wonder about is how this is different than a scientific or technical dispute? (Even?) There there is a range of dialogue:

    1) The critical letter fby a sharp rebuttal. In the worst case this can go on for several rounds.
    2) An approach to the original authors offline with the criticism. In the best case this proceeds to a collaboration in a folllow-on paper. Otherwise it goes to “1)”, hopefully in a more congenial manner than otherwise.
    3) As sometimes happens with major/controversial papers in Statistics, the primary paper is published and then fby in print a number of comments fby a rejoinder.
    4) Peer review is open source, as a couple of the recent papers from Dr James Hansen and colleagues recently were.

    People in this context don’t change their minds when simply presented with facts either. There’s process and calculation and models and assumptions. There’s doubt about the accuracy of supporting papers, and citing of superseding papers. There’s a lot of room for judgement.

  152. izen says:

    @-R Tol
    “People’s behaviour does not simply match their intentions. Argumentum ad absurdum, for example, seeks to establish the opposite of what it appears to do, and goes awry if the audience does not recognize the absurdity. ”

    Ah.

    I had thought it was a mistake to take what you say and assume the opposite is true.
    (As with that ridiculous definition of the deficit model; in that it has nothing to do with invoking action)
    Thank you for explaining why you so often make arguments that are obviously absurd.

  153. izen says:

    @-hypergeometric
    “What I wonder about is how this is different than a scientific or technical dispute? (Even?) There there is a range of dialogue:”

    The Goodman video on Science and Skepticism, the subject of the next post covers this.
    He points out that PARTS of science are always under attack, but not all of it.

    Just those bits that threaten the legitimacy of authority, power or commerce.
    Religion;
    Heliocentric solar system, Evolution
    Politics and commerce;
    Lead, CFCs SOx, DDT, Tobacco, Sugar, OPs, CO2…

    The materials science involved in discovering and developing Neodymium magnets and the observational astronomy that discovers exoplanets, not so much.

  154. Jon Kirwan says:

    dikranmarsupial writes:“Rhetoric makes me exceedingly skeptical when it comes to science, because in science what matters is the strength of the argument/evidence and if you have to use rhetoric to be convincing, it is a tacit admission that you don’t think the science stands up for itself…”

    This is why I think it’s a catch-22. Scientists using vernacular lose their high ground. Others are rightly skeptical. Scientists sticking to their jargon lose their audience. Either way, game over.

  155. izen says:

    @-ATTP
    “I think Richards brief definition is okay.”
    I do not.
    @-“The deficit model is essentially the idea that providing some information (knowledge) will – by itself – lead to action.”

    There are a lot of other competing models about how, what, and why people take action. The deficit model may attempt to collapse all these subsequent stages of cognition leading to action within itself by claiming that an information deficit must be eliminated before all the other things can lead to action.

    IIRC the deficit model appeared in educational theory a long time before it was used as a club on climate scientists for following an allegedly discredited theory.
    It is why some of us are old enough to know multiplication tables by rote. The (Victorian?) deficit model was that the student was an empty vessel, with a deficit of information. To correct this they were taught to memorise information. So the multiplication tables, dates of monarchs and capital cities were acquired by repetition and recall.
    The gap between this concept of correcting an information deficit and action is obvious.

    Later educational reformers decided that rote learning of multiplication tables left students with a knowledge deficit. they did not understand the concept of multiplication, only the result. The original assumption that if you provide information, knowledge and understanding will spontaneously emerge was not accepted. Teaching how to understand became the trend rather than just correcting a deficit of information.
    A deficit of understanding may be an impediment to appropriate action, there is little evidence that correcting that deficit is necessary, or sufficient for people to act.

    The strongest assumption in the deficit model is that providing information will enable understanding to develop. There are still several cognitive steps with multiple factors before that leads to action, or even belief and choice.
    The strongest critique of the deficit model is that it does not lead to action BECAUSE there are all these other factors and influences.

    But that is not an accurate definition of the theory or its purpose.

  156. izen,
    I don’t know history, so you may well be right. From what I’ve been lead to believe, the deficit model implies providing information will – by itself – lead to action. Admittedly, this does seem rather simplistic, so it’s hard to believe many ever thought this to be the case.

  157. Joshua says:

    IMO, there is often a problem in these discussions where people are discussing issues as if context isn’t particularly important and utilizing terms that don’t have uniform definitions. And so people argue about which definition is “true” or “accurate,” when in fact, there are definitions which actually can be described as either. It’s like the definition of “skeptic” or “alarmist,” which have no real meaning, and instead serve as tools to advance a particular argument.

    I would suggest going back to what Anders said initially – before Richard started introducing his useless and as usual, nonsensical contributions.

    If you focus on the science, you get accused of deficit model thinking; simply filling some knowledge deficit will not convince people to accept something.

    Certainly, ((MO) this accusation is often seen exactly as Anders described.

    And to a large extent, I think the accusation reflects a real phenomenon – even if that phenomenon doesn’t exist in some pure form as might be technically entailed in how some people define “the deficit model..”

    I think it is true that there was, at least in the past, a fairly widespread misconception among some scientists or other advocates for ACO2 emissions mitigation that “skeptics” lack of conviction about the risks of ACO2 emissions stems from their scientific ignorance.

    It’s an understandable perception. It’s entirely logical to think that by providing information you can correct misconceptions that impede support for policies. Scientists in the public sphere encounter that mechanism quite frequently.

    But my perception is that over time, more people have come to realize that with climate change, as with other polarized contexts, the mechanism isn’t so simple. Indeed, many people now realize that there are many factors which contribute to why “skeptics” (and “realists” alike) support or oppose a variety of climate change-related policies. In fact, many people now realize that attempts to correct “misconceptions” w/r/t climate change, if anything, can have a larger backfire effect than the desired effect.

  158. Joshua says:

    Andres –

    Admittedly, this does seem rather simplistic, so it’s hard to believe many ever thought this to be the case.

    Again, I think it’s entirely understandable that scientists might think that a mechanism that works for other, less polarized contexts, would work in the discussion of what do do about climate change. In many cases, indeed, simply correcting misconceptions moves the needle on policy development.

    I would be fairly surprised if there were many scientists who still felt that simply correcting potential misconceptions about climate change would move the needle significantly on the popularity of various mitigation policies. But I would say that there are still a lot of scientists who feel that correcting misconceptions is a necessary, if not sufficient, step to take in helping the public to make informed decisions about climate change policy. I’d say that:

    1. It’s easy for people who are so inclined, to leverage scientists’ view that correcting misconceptions is necessary if not sufficient, so as to demonize scientists as elitists who think that merely by favoring the common citizen with their knowledge and wisdom, the public till come to agree with them on political policy options. Richard provides a very nice example of that.

    2. It’s quite possible, and to some extent understandable, for scientists to mis-judge the extent to which misconceptions about climate science explain why members of the public don’t agree with them on political policy options. That probably happens to some extent, providing a convenient lever for folks like Richard to advance their agenda.

  159. Ragnaar says:

    izen;
    “He points out that PARTS of science are always under attack, but not all of it.
    Just those bits that threaten the legitimacy of authority, power or commerce.”

    It depends how I look at it. What threatens power and commerce is the solutions lacking the attribute of being solutions being pushed. So what threatens power and commerce is the politics. It isn’t applied science here. It is climate science used by some as indicating a problem leading to an answer to that problem, that in not an answer. It is Democrats applying science while not being scientists but politicians. It can be a dangerous thing. We just look at Germany’s grid.

    I can ask is it reasonable to hang the albatross of Germany’s grid on climate scientists? We could say no. It was people not climate scientists that took the science as the reason to re-structure their grid. And it was also not science but the fear of science when they torched their nuclear power.

    While we’re on nuclear power how does that fit into what I quoted of yours above? Nuclear power scientists would be lucky if anyone cared enough to attack their science. They exist in a world of apathy. In the United State and Western Europe, nuclear power through a number of factors was consigned to be the last of its kind. I’ll suggest the Democrats got their workouts beating up on it and Republicans just stood around like innocent bystanders. Who defend it like they defend this climate science? I missed that march. We could could say nuclear power is not science, but policy. I’d rather be safe and call that science. A wind turbine ain’t going to get me, pretty sure of that.

    And to add a bit about power and commerce. When landline phones tanked, I didn’t care. That was to me just fine. But they were power and commerce and replaced, without getting into the weeds, as it’s just supposed to be an example. Who attacked the science then?

    And to add a bit more, when power and commerce was attacked by renewables, it was government pushing renewables and it seems perhaps rational to react more than normal. So scientists may be feeling some of the wrath more property aimed at government. So when the government is used as a bulldozer of change, it’s different.

  160. @Ragnaar,

    Well, it’s not Science and not entirely politics … But there has to be some reason why no one knows how to really build nuclear plants. (Of course I could be accused of having a peculiar definition of what constitutes “really building”. See any other post here where I addressed nuclear power.) Wish they did know how.

  161. izen says:

    @-ATTP
    “From what I’ve been lead to believe, …”

    Sometime ATTP you are easily led.
    Perhaps you are applying insufficient skepticism, especially considering who is doing the leading.

  162. izen says:

    @-Ragnaar
    “It depends how I look at it.”

    Enough squinting, distortion and smoke and mirrors and you can even see the German grid as a persistent symbol of a bad choice leading to failure and death. Caused by climate scientists, although you frame that as a rhetorical ‘question’.

    @-“I can ask is it reasonable to hang the albatross of Germany’s grid on climate scientists?”

    An albatross from the tale of the Ancient Mariner. ?!
    AFAIK they have kept the lights on. There are no significant brown-outs or failures to meet demand. Unexpected blackouts are not a common feature of the German experience.

    And then another refracted view;

    @-“Nuclear power scientists would be lucky if anyone cared enough to attack their science. They exist in a world of apathy.”

    What problem do exist in the German power grid meeting demand while trying (and sometimes failing) to reduce FF use are to some extent the result of anything but apathy towards nuclear power. It is the removal of that carbon free (sustainable?) source because of popular opposition that has raised some of the difficulties in transitioning the grid.

    @-“when power and commerce was attacked by renewables, it was government pushing renewables and it seems perhaps rational to react more than normal.”

    In the US they did not push very hard. Some Greenwash projects under Obama, and Kalifornia imposed some regulatory aid opposed in other States. But the tax breaks and subsidies for Gas and Oil remained much higher. Under the present administration even those modest efforts are being rolled back in favour of coal !

    Other Governments made a much bigger effort. Denmark and Norway have pushed renewable and sustainable sources and actively pulled FFs. Regulation and Tax incentives for industry and citizens have been aggressively pursued to speed the transition of the energy economy.
    AFAIK the rational Scandinavians have not reacted against such initiatives more than normal.
    In fact such policies seem to gather more support than most attempts by Government to shape social and economic sysytems.
    Not all political systems and societies are the same. A parochial view can be misleading, depending how you look at it.

  163. Ragnaar says:

    izen:

    I had hoped to argue that Energiewende is not the fault of climate scientists. This is about communication so maybe I stay with that for a few sentences. I am trying to say, it’s not the science. Other than being high with sensitivity, you got most of what you want. Its others applying the science. Energiewende. That’s the money. I forgot why Lomborg was trounced? Was it applying the science? I still want a climate Navy. That’s the good old U.S. Of A.

    On the one had you got Republicans and on the other Energiewende. It’s enough to seek therapy.

    Short and from memory. Dry cask storage in MN or shutter the plant. You can have your storage if we get renewables. In MN renewables are being mandated. Eligible for credits. In MN, free of sales tax and a partial property tax exemption. It’s a bulldozer.

    Have you heard of this Anthony Downs character? Where are we at? Stage 3. This is going to cost a hell of a lot. And the signals have been coming for quite awhile.

  164. Willard says:

    Shitposting in one thread ought to be enough, Ragnaar.

  165. Dave_Geologist says:

    presumes that political scientists collect evidence to support, rather than to test a hypothesis.

    Hahahaha. Only Wednesday and I’ve had my laugh-of-the-week already 🙂 .

  166. Dave_Geologist says:

    I can ask is it reasonable to hang the albatross of Germany’s grid on climate scientists?

    No Ragnaar, it’s not. Why not? Because the albatross in question is not an real-life oceanic bird, it’s another one of your imaginary dragons.

    Germany’s power grid stability and security of supply has been rising despite a huge expansion of intermittent green electricity production. Average power outages per consumer amounted to 12 minutes and 42 seconds in 2015, according to the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur). In 2014, the average outage was 12 minutes and 17 seconds. “The slight increase in supply interruptions was mainly caused by weather events such as storms and heat waves,” the agency’s president Jochen Homann said in a press release. “The energy transition and the rising share of decentral generating capacity continues not to have any negative consequences for the quality of supply.”

    So Germany is not only coping with retiring its nukes and greening, it’s also coping with storms and heatwaves. Just as well, we can expect them to be more intense, and more frequent, respectively 😦 .

    Greece BTW, which relies heavily on plants burning filthy lignite, comes in at about 150 minutes. An order of magnitude worse than “albatross Germany. My, that albatross sure is a powerful flyer!

    You really ought to find more reliable sources Ragnaar. This sort of thing does your credibility no good whatsoever.

  167. Dave_Geologist says:

    I forgot why Lomborg was trounced? Was it applying the science?

    No. IIRC it was for misrepresenting the science. Not the same thing at all.

  168. Ragnaar says:

    Dave_Geologist:

    The mythical serpent was mentioned in a number of moderate sources and not just right-wing ones:

    05/24/16 MIT Technology review
    10/07/17 New York Times
    09/14/17 BNA

    Your link has a paragraph that starts with this: “The sources of energy generation so far have little impact on security of supply.” They mention: “A fleet of costly backup power plants…” The link talks about crashes and adds them up. Costs are equally important.

  169. jacksmith4tx says:

    Ragnaar,
    Did you notice that China just slammed the brakes on their plans to roll out solar power?
    Perhaps this is a reversal on their energy/climate policy? Looking at solar energy stocks I think the party is over. The flood of excess modules is going crush the price of solar panels and it looks like by the time this is over (2024?) we will have a lot of US manufactures going BK.
    I watch this site for prices: http://pvinsights.com/

    The bigger question now turns how this policy change will affect emissions and pollution. Unless they replace this lost low carbon production with nuclear, biomass or hydro we are going to see a much more business as usual trajectory of CO2 ect..

  170. Willard says:

    Guys,

    This is a #scicomm thread.

    Thanks.

  171. jacksmith4tx says:

    Sorry Willard, maybe this is more on topic:
    “More than a year after his tenure at the White House ended, former presidential science adviser John Holdren considers himself “unleashed.” No longer a government employee, he’s frank about his opinions on the current government—and unafraid to bring politics into conversations about science.
    “He is a lying, bigoted, misogynistic egotist and a bully who has undermined important aspects of American democracy,” Holdren said of President Donald Trump during an interview with Pacific Standard about science policy. “The man is, by personality and character, the most abominable president in United States history, and we need to get rid of him.”

    Very nuanced critique with just a slight hint of disgust.

    https://psmag.com/environment/obamas-science-adviser-on-science-in-the-first-year-of-the-trump-administration

  172. @jacksmith4tx,

    If you’d like to discuss solar futures, you are welcome to do it here, in the comments.

  173. Dave_Geologist says:

    Indeed Ragnaar, costs are also important. Remind me how much nuclear costs? Including waste disposal? Nice goalpost-shift, BTW.

  174. Dave_Geologist says:

    Did you notice that China just slammed the brakes on their plans to roll out solar power?

    A link would be nice Jack. Especially one that demonstrated a government policy change. All I could find was solar-farm companies planning to scale back investment by about 20% because they are financially over-extended and/or have over-built in some areas, so that they now have more capacity than they have customers. So they won’t need to build coal plants to fill the gap in demand. The gap is too little demand, not too much.

    And how exports to the US may be hit by Trump tariffs. US suppliers won’t go bankrupt for lack of customers. They’ll go bankrupt because their prices are undercut, as happened to the European suppliers. That didn’t stop European PV installation. And are you seriously suggesting that businesses will stop buying solar panels because they’re too cheap?

  175. I wondered for a moment whether somone had instituted a competition for saying silly things on blogs and running away when the errors are pointed out, but no…

  176. Pingback: Airtime for policy experts | …and Then There's Physics

  177. dbostrom says:

    “My own view is that this is a very difficult, and complex, communication environment. I don’t think there is a single strategy that should be used…”

    It is, indeed, and if you’re standing over the shoulder of somebody designing instruments to assess how people think and decide about the domain of issues that includes climate policy it’s fairly easy to see that while there are indications of good advice on how to communicate, it would be a lie to quote from a playbook as that document can’t yet be assembled due to our lack of full understanding.

    So unfortunately the clamor urging scientist to do better is itself composed mostly of handwaving with little in the way of tested procedures on offer.

  178. jacksmith4tx says:

    DG,
    RE: China solar.
    I hope you are right and the Chinese are still planing to meet their Paris emission pledges. Some have speculated a new Russian gas pipeline to be completed in 2019 might keep them within their self imposed targets. I have my doubts. They might fully understand the consequences but have decided AI & bio-science are a bigger priority. I guess the calculation might be that technology might solve the problem faster than mitigation.

  179. Dave_Geologist says:

    I expect they’ll follow Hong Kong: overbuild and face oversupply as efficiency kicks in.

    I worked on a gas project out there 15-20 years ago where the buyer was trying to get out of his commitments by hook or by crook. Why? because they’d bought 20-30 years of gas, and built a nuclear power plant in the New Territories, on the basis of extrapolated demand growth from the 80s and early 90s and anticipated industrial expansion in the New Territories. Yes demand grew, but not as fast as predicted because productivity improvements and energy efficiency measures meant they could make more for less*. The process was repeated when production moved to the mainland. Looks like they’re still at it.

    During the years of 2006–2010, corresponding to the 11th Five-Year Plan, China reduced its energy intensity by almost 20%.

    I suppose you’ll “have your doubts” about the numbers. Guess what? I have my doubts about your speculations. Lots of them. Until you present evidence, you’ll stay in the same pigeonhole as the people who invoke unicorns or skydragons as part of their ABC AGW denial.

    * It’s part of the reason Trump’s bring-back-the-jobs promise is a pipe-dream. Those overseas factories aren’t employing the 20-30,000 people their predecessors did in Michigan. They’re employing 5-10,000. Take British Steel for comparison. In the 1980s it employed 120,000 people and made most of our steel. Now it employs only 10,000 people and imports are up. But it still makes half as much steel as it did in the 1980s. If it doubled output it would only employ 20,000. So 100,000 jobs were lost due to automation, and 10,000 due to competition. I visited a local steelworks as part of a school work experience tour in the 1970s. Molten steel was still poured by two guys tilting a hopper using billhooks. My uncle knows someone who did that job. He miraculously avoided being killed or scarred for life from spillage (I presume they were very, very careful). But his lungs are shot from the fumes. Who wants that sort of job?

  180. @jacksmith4tx,

    They might fully understand the consequences but have decided AI & bio-science are a bigger priority. I guess the calculation might be that technology might solve the problem faster than mitigation.

    There is no engineering, economic, or business evidence that anything other than mitigation+adaptation is going to contain the problem, let alone fix it. Such a belief in a technological hope might as well be called superstition because that’s what it is. For example, while there has been progress on pricing Free Air Carbon Capture and Sequestration, the new price range, of US$90-US$200/tonne CO2 still puts (a) fixing the problem well out of reach of any budget, even if global economic growth continues unabated, and (b) cannot keep up with our prodigious emissions of the stuff.

    Facts are, some day we’ll stop emitting, because the per year economic impacts will be unacceptable but by then there’ll be a huge Carbon hangover that’ll need to be addressed, and addressing it is intrinsically expensive. It’s just hard to grab onto a relatively inert molecule at one part in 2500 and do it at scale.

    People keep trying to run away from the inevitable. Whether or not it’s liked, there is a big change in lifestyles coming, both a low- or zero-Carbon economy and adjusting to the economic and everyday impacts of climate change.

  181. jacksmith4tx says:

    hypergeometric,
    I suggest that we, actually our technology, is teraforming the planet without a blueprint.
    It’s not just CO2 and temperatures. It’s the massive quantities of chemicals dispersed around the planet coupled with maximum resource extraction that are at the heart of the problem. While I can accept that a carbon tax is an economic solution to a problem our technology created I think the root of problem is how our minds deal with distant and somewhat abstract problems like climate change. Put me in the tribe that thinks controlling our technology is the best way to change our destiny.
    Economics does play a central role in this global teraforming experiment. Our use of debt is fundamental to this process as it is a loan from the future. I see many parallels in the way humans think about debt and climate change.
    http://creditbubblebulletin.blogspot.com/2018/06/weekly-commentary-q1-2018-z1-flow-of.html
    “In nominal dollars, Total U.S. System Credit expanded a blazing $962 billion during Q1 to a record $69.717 TN (349% of GDP). Non-financial Debt (NFD) expanded a record (nominal) $874 billion, with one-year growth of $2.413 TN.”

  182. @jacksmith4tx,

    I suggest that we, actually our technology, is teraforming the planet without a blueprint . It’s not just CO2 and temperatures. It’s the massive quantities of chemicals dispersed around the planet coupled with maximum resource extraction that are at the heart of the problem.

    Actually, I am quite confident Earth and its biosphere will be just fine. Changed, naturally. But it is a big mistake to think that humankind are as insulated from changes in the biosphere and the physical world as they think. Our survival mechanisms have never in the history of civilization, and, possibly, never in the history of humanity faced the changes that are posed to crash down around us, let alone our hyperfragile economic systems. Civilization, in my quantitative judgment, will never get to the point of keeping itself intact through an emissions event that would threaten the biosphere. And, if it collapses, so will the human population on the planet, in a period of wholesale death and slaughter humankind could never have imagined.

    It is possible a set of people will embrace the Taleb Antifragile ideas and try to build systems in accordance with them. They’ll succeed, perhaps, when everything else is failing.

    While I can accept that a carbon tax is an economic solution to a problem our technology created I think the root of problem is how our minds deal with distant and somewhat abstract problems like climate change.

    Oh, I don’t think a Carbon Tax is an effective way of dealing with this at all. (I’ve written about why I think that elsewhere.) I see the choices narrowing, because it is very late. These are subjective judgments from my personal scholarship and have no quantitative backing. (However, I’m not sure how that could help in this context.) Climate change is anything but an abstract problem. The “problem” as you call it is widespread ignorance of physical science. I don’t mean research level science. I mean understanding basics about how the world works, first year college stuff.

    There are two choices, as I see it:

    First, we can aggressively criminalize production and consumption of Carbon, on a global scale, including imposing sanctions like the quivering international body of law chooses to impose upon nuclear rogue states and NGO players.

    Second, we can do none of that and wait until the impacts from climate change are financially and economically intolerable, leaving the ethically intolerable in the gutter along with any pretense that we are an altruistic species, and then begin to change. Alas, most of the political leadership and the public know next to nothing about systems with delays, and, so, have a hard time understanding how, if we wait for that, the economic burden to not only reverse our habit and then fix the problem will be nearly intolerable.

    And this rubbish about technology and AI coming in to help is just that. I know. Technology, over the decades, across many fields, advances according to its own inexorable trends and patterns. Surely, if one accepts anything from classical Economics, one is gullible enough to necessarily accept these projections. They, at least, are based upon historical data and series, not just working things out in theory. AI is superstition. It can do a lot. I work with machine learning algorithms and such all the time. But it has extreme limits. Chess and Go are not the energy system.

  183. Dave_Geologist says:

    @jacksmith4tx, put me in the tribe that says we should look to the past when we contemplate our destiny. Mother Nature has run this experiment before. Multiple times. Pretty much every time there was a mass extinction, or lesser extinction events. IIRC the Ordovician (Ice Age) and the KT (asteroid, but probably exacerbated by the global warming caused by a Large Igneous Province erupting) are the only ones where warming and CO2 are not implicated.

    And know what? Most of the time it was the Top Dogs that went under, some of which had flourished for hundreds of millions of years, not the cockroaches or algae. Trilobites, dinosaurs, the large amphibians and land crocodiles which had occupied the dinosaur niche; spinosaurs, pliosaurs and ichthyosaurs in a mid-Cretaceous LIP event, brachiopods, conodonts, crinoids. And of course corals, which are so vulnerable that in several cases there were no survivors whatsoever, and it took millions of years for their niche to be filled by evolution from a distant, non-reef-building relative. I’m not arrogant enough to think humans will do any better than dinosaurs. Although as hyper says, much of the damage will be self-inflicted, as we fight over what’s left.

    Neither our current civilisation, nor any I can envisage in the next few centuries, could survive a PETM-scale event (7-8 °C) of warming. The supercharged hydrological cycle that brought about turned places with a seasonal Mediterranean or Californian climate and confined rivers into places with 30-year droughts punctuated by mega-floods that covered the entire landscape and rolled car-sized boulder hundreds of miles. Climate disruption across the world is seen on land, and indirectly in a change to sediments washed into the sea (e.g. different clays). 7-8°C sounds a lot, but it went so quickly from 3-4°C to 7-8°C we don’t know where the tipping point lies. So anything above 3-4°C is an unacceptable risk, and we could easily get there with BAU. If not this century, in the next.

  184. jacksmith4tx says:

    Dave,
    You omitted any mass extinction events from gamma ray burst. Some think a GRB (gamma ray burst) event caused the Ordovician-Silurian extinction but I put GRB in the same category as asteroid impacts. We might have technology that could deflect an asteroid but if a GRB happens close enough it’s game over.
    hypergeometric,
    I don’t think AI is a silver bullet, it’s the gunpowder that accelerates other technologies.
    https://www.msn.com/en-ca/weather/topstories/a-perfect-forecast-machine-learning-may-be-the-answer/ar-AAyigiw
    Note all the caveats but don’t ignore the possibility of a breakthrough.

  185. Note all the caveats but don’t ignore the possibility of a breakthrough.

    The article by Jaideep Pathak, Brian Hunt, Michelle Girvan, Zhixin Lu, and Edward Ott is not new stuff at all, at least in the sense that it pertains to weather forecasting. I’d say the article is a real stretch: Just because there’s predictability of one particular chaotic system from data series saying nothing about predicting weather or climate. But, hey, it’s MSN.

    Compare this (2013) or, even better, this (2012), or possibly even this (1990): Try again.

    Want to do extended range prediction or use chaotic models? Sure. Go for it. But no machine learning there.

  186. Dave_Geologist says:

    GRB has been suggested jack, but AFAIK on the basis of no evidence, so it doesn’t even rank as a hypothesis. OTOH the glaciation was real, the biggest of the Phanerozoic, it followed a period of hothouse conditions so life would have been poorly adapted, and it drained the continental shelves when life was largely restricted to the oceans and the shelves were the most productive part, the Amazon of their day. Occam’s Razor says glaciation.

    Anyway my main point was that, in general, the higher up the food chain you were, the less likely you were to survive. We, of course, are currently at the top, with a social order that’s struggling to cope with 10 million refugees in five years.

  187. jacksmith4tx says:

    hypergeometric,
    You remind me of all the people who insisted I would loose money when I installed my solar panels*.


    If fact I managed to win the top prize ($6,000) in a statewide contest called Biggest Energy Saver.
    * The system cost about $24k with no tax credits – 100% my cash and has generated 64Mwh (net 35Mwh to the grid) since 2012 even after I bought my Volt in 2016.

  188. jacksmith4tx says:

    Dave,
    I just threw that out there for completeness. As it relates to our current climate and mass extinction I give GRB a extremely low probability. Maybe there is a astrophysicist around here that could shed some light on if there have been any GRB events in our corner of the galaxy.
    I would like to know what part of the food web you are watching for early warning signs. Some of the things I follow include algae blooms, jellyfish, insects populations and hypoxia.
    https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-06/hcfo-fdo060818.php

  189. The paper on machine learning of the Kuramoto-Sivashinsky is important no doubt. It will be a breakthrough when they use related ML techniques in climate and earth sciences.

  190. Dave_Geologist says:

    I tend to watch storms, floods and droughts jack. Since the last sharp warming event (the PETM) has as its most obvious (non-isotopic) geological signature a complete disruption of the global hydrological cycle. Probably something to do with the warmer atmosphere holding >50% more water vapour 😉 .

    There were a couple of recent events tentatively attributed to GRBs, but as more were identified closely spaced in time, the odds seem to be shifting to solar proton events. The chances of two GRBs so close together in time, with energy differing by only a factor of two, are calculated as very low (<1%). They caused no apparent harm to life. However we didn't have the internet, TVs, satellites, aircraft in flight, nuclear power stations, power grids or street lights back then. They were 30 and 50 times bigger than the 1956 event. A repeat would kill thousands I'm pretty sure, maybe millions if there was an outcome like a series of uncontrollable fires breaking out in megacities.

  191. @jacksmith4tx,

    A concern I have about citing possible but very rare events which threaten humanity is that people as a collective assess risk very poorly. They approach it in qualitative terms, being impressed with newsworthy and spectacular tragedies, ignoring the small, slow, steady bleed even if the latter dominates by an order of magnitude or more.

    If GRBs, asteroids, LIPs, and so on are tossed onto the pile of perceived risks, there is a tendency for some of the public to say “There are a lot of things which could conceivably kill us which we can do nothing about. Climate change is just one more.” Undoubtedly they might define “we can do nothing about” in various ways, but that perception of impossibility might include events which transform the energy system.

  192. jacksmith4tx says:

    hypergeometric,
    Let’s agree that discussions about exoplanet events should be avoided when discussing climate change. GRBs, asteroids and ice ages are distractions and part of the climate skeptics tool box of deception.
    Have you had a chance to check out Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman? Here is a podcast of a presentation he made to the Long Now Foundation:
    [audio src="http://podcast.longnow.org/salt/redirect/salt-020130813-kahneman-podcast.mp3" /]
    BTW: Kahneman is one of the original founders of the new discipline of behavioral economics.
    The first step in addressing climate change will be getting everyone to agree it’s happening and applied behavioral economics might help.

    Dave,
    Keep an eye on this new ESA’s Aeolus satellite. Aeolus will orbit the Earth 15 times a day with data delivery to users within 120 minutes of the oldest measurement in each orbit. The orbit repeat cycle is 7 days (every 111 orbits) and the spacecraft will fly in a 320 km orbit for three years. The data from Aeolus will provide reliable wind-profile data on a global scale and is needed by meteorologists to further improve the accuracy of weather forecasts and by climatologists to better understand the global dynamics of Earth’s atmosphere. Aladin fires a powerful ultraviolet laser pulse down through the atmosphere and collects backscattered light, using a large 1.5m diameter telescope, which is then analyzed on-board by highly sensitive receivers to determine the Doppler shift of the signal from layers at different heights in the atmosphere.
    https://phys.org/news/2018-06-satellite.html
    I suspect someone will integrate this data with other data sets from space, land and oceans and we might see the forecast horizon for weather prediction measurably improve. Too bad it only has a 3yr lifespan.

  193. @jacksmith4tx,

    I am substantially through with Thinking Fast and Slow, and it is a very important book, primarily about people’s assessment of probability and risk. (Which is why I am interested.) I also have another book jointly by Tversky and Kahneman, Choices, Values, and Frames, which I have started.

    However, you haven’t been paying attention if you think there’s something in the work of behavioral economics which will turn this around. Hear from Kahneman himself:

    Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, one of the world’s brightest minds, is very sorry about what he’s got to say: “I’m deeply pessimistic. I really see no path to success on climate change”. According to the guy who knows our own brains better than we do, and with a Nobel Prize to prove it, the threat of climate change is simply too “distant, abstract, and disputed”. Climate change “just doesn’t have the necessary characteristics for seriously mobilising public opinion”. Widely examined in academia, but seldom shout to the layman, climate change is not just a political problem, it’s a psychological one. In theoretical terms, it’s the perfect problem: climate change has no single identity, no single cause, no single solution, and no single enemy.

    He’s not the only one.

  194. jacksmith4tx says:

    @hypergeometric
    Yeah Kahneman said much the same thing back when he made that presentation 5yrs ago. Thanks for the link.

  195. Dr James Hansen offers a summary of the Professor David Keith work on Carbon Capture and storage, pointing out that the costs cited there were only a portion of the process. As I indicated, even if the costs were the entire cost of scrubbing and sequestering CO2 it wouldn’t be a win. The winning zone is down below US$.30/tonne CO2. There’s a long, long way to go.

  196. Dave_Geologist says:

    @jacksmith4tx
    Re the end-Ordovician extinction(s). There is a recent paper in Geology, Ocean euxinia and climate change “double whammy” drove the Late Ordovician mass extinction, which addresses it. There were two pulses of extinction, tied to the initial glaciation and to subsequent warming. The authors implicate ocean euxinia as a factor in the first, as well as global cooling. Peak glaciation was about midway between the extinction pulses, suggesting to me that the change (or rate of change) was as important as the end point. Or perhaps, among those not killed by euxinia, all the warm-lovers died in the first wave, and the cold-adapted survivors copped it in the second. It was a short, sharp glaciation, at least as big as the Pleistocene and lasting only about a million years. Wiki says 1 Ma to 35 Ma, but looking at the geochemical anomaly curves, the main event, bracketed by the extinctions, lasted about 1Ma but was preceded by a long period of much slower cooling. Reduced continental shelf area, which at the time was prime living space, has traditionally been implicated in addition to cooling. Euxinia is more often associated with warming events, but that far back as there were no land plants to colonise the shelves. The additional surface area exposed when sea level fell would have been barren, whereas in more recent glaciations it was rapidly colonised by land plants. So the rules of the game may have been different.

    There is a non-paywalled commentary on the paper.

  197. Professor Kerry Emanuel and Dr Richard Rotunno just recently gave a fine example of how disagreements in Science are handled.

  198. Yeah, but that sort of Honest Debate where both sides represent their opponents position truthfully, has nothing to do with the dialogue with contrarian types. Which is probably why serious people have made so little inroads with the childish, yet disgustingly successful, Republican oligarch driven climate disinformation campaigns of total deception.

    Our opponents have absolutely no interest in the truth, so are free to twist anything anyway that’s convenient for their arguments, which has nothing to do with learning or education and everything to do with political stonewalling. Rather than praying for more rational dialogue (which they aren’t the least bit interested in.), perhaps more attention should be expended on exposing and directly confronting their fraud, and calling it what it is, a malicious attack on reason and our future. (see Naomi Oreskes – Merchants of Doubt, for the documentation)

    14 observations on our dysfunctional public dialogue.
    https://confrontingsciencecontrarians.blogspot.com/2018/05/14-observations-re-2018-public-dialogue.html
    Case in point, regarding the GOP disregard for truth or public opinion or reason:
    https://confrontingsciencecontrarians.blogspot.com/2018/05/bibliography-scottpruitt-war-on-epa.html (And that’s how they win, while we gab away, they just keep on doing, with no shame or scruples.)

    Although it’s not just the US, sounds like Australian science is getting hideously battered by right wing interests also.

  199. John Hartz says:

    Jeremy Deaton explores psychological barriers to acceptance of the reality of manmade climate change and to taking appropriate actions to mitigate it…

    Uncovering the Mental Health Crisis of Climate Change by Jeremy Deaton, Nexus Media, June 12, 2018

  200. Okay John, read it.
    I’m curious what do you think we should get out of that article?
    What can we do with it?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    “It is challenging to recognize the size and scale of the problem and at the same time consider how little any one person can do to stop it. “Facing the hard truths of our climate crisis takes steady courage and a certain amount of grit,” wrote Jennifer Atkinson in High Country News.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~
    I myself find that the only thing keeps me from totally imploding is a life time of looking at my life from an Earth-centric perspective. By that I mean developing a thorough understanding of Earth’s evolution and the fact that I am a product of Earth and part of a pageant that continues well beyond my short dance across Earth’s stage.

    Also a bit of the hippy in me, helps. I am the eyes of the universe. How can I say such a thing. Well, think about it.

    The simple observable plot of Evolution is a constant striving towards better cognition and manipulatory abilities. With the human body and mind, the universe may have achieved it’s ultimate tool for understanding itself. Only through our eyes is IT capable of contemplating itself.

    The universe is all about doing and action – only the human mind has gained the ability for deep introspection and accumulating knowledge.

    The ultimate oneness.

  201. @citizenschellenge,

    Naw, I prefer the George Carlin idea that Earth invented us because it wanted plastic, now has it, and is just going to chuck our species collectively out the window.

  202. John Hartz says:

    Ctinzenschellenge: You ask:

    I’m curious what do you think we should get out of that article?

    A better understanding of why it is so difficult for humans to to accept of the reality of manmade climate change and to take appropriate actions to mitigate it.

  203. Actually I was curious what specific quote you found insightful or helpful.
    Just trying to understand you folks, after ten people read the same article and each gets something different out of it.

    For instance, I’d have described the article as being about the increasing challenge of coping with both our powerlessness and the overwhelming implications of what we are doing to ourselves and this biosphere we depend on.

    Hyper, Yeah, George was great for a laugh at the total folly. Though I never thought about the ‘pageant of evolution’ as an invention. Though guess it has produced many inventions.

  204. New: Anyone who thinks AI is about to solve our climate crisis or even help significantly with technology should read the latest from Professor Gary Marcus. Even Hinton has expressed doubts.

  205. dikranmarsupial says:

    FWIW (not read it yet, but looked interesting) : https://arxiv.org/abs/1806.04731

    Deep learning to represent sub-grid processes in climate models
    Stephan Rasp, Michael S. Pritchard, Pierre Gentine

    The representation of nonlinear sub-grid processes, especially clouds, has been a major source of uncertainty in climate models for decades. Cloud-resolving models better represent many of these processes and can now be run globally but only for short-term simulations of at most a few years because of computational limitations. Here we demonstrate that deep learning can be used to capture many advantages of cloud-resolving modeling at a fraction of the computational cost. We train a deep neural network to represent all atmospheric sub-grid processes in a climate model by learning from a multi-scale model in which convection is treated explicitly. The trained neural network then replaces the traditional sub-grid parameterizations in a global general circulation model in which it freely interacts with the resolved dynamics and the surface-flux scheme. The prognostic multi-year simulations are stable and closely reproduce not only the mean climate of the cloud-resolving simulation but also key aspects of variability, including precipitation extremes and the equatorial wave spectrum. Furthermore, the neural network approximately conserves energy despite not being explicitly instructed to. Finally, we show that the neural network parameterization generalizes to new surface forcing patterns but struggles to cope with temperatures far outside its training manifold. Our results show the feasibility of using deep learning for climate model parameterization. In a broader context, we anticipate that data-driven Earth System Model development could play a key role in reducing climate prediction uncertainty in the coming decade.

    [emphasis mine, suggests maybe “right, but for the wrong reason”]

    NN have been tried before, a decade ago, but they are deeper now, and must therefore be better ;o)


  206. Deep learning to represent sub-grid processes in climate models
    Stephan Rasp, Michael S. Pritchard, Pierre Gentine


    key aspects of variability, including … the equatorial wave spectrum.

    I have a formulation for this spectrum, and can see how a deep-learning framework would have difficulty in identifying the underlying pattern. There’s both a mathematical aspect to the pattern and an interpretation aspect that needs to be identified simultaneously.

  207. John Hartz says:

    citizenschallenge:

    The “takeaway” message of Deaton’s article is contained in the final paragraphs —

    Climate change is a problem with the scope and urgency of World War II, and while it will unfold more slowly and less predictably than the war, it demands a response on the same scale. Like the war, rising temperatures threaten violence, depravation and the deaths of millions. Writing in The New Republic, author and activist Bill McKibben, argued, “By most of the ways we measure wars, climate change is the real deal: Carbon and methane are seizing physical territory, sowing havoc and panic, racking up casualties, and even destabilizing governments.” And, like the war, climate change demands the massive and immediate mobilization of American industry.

    And so, faced with overwhelming odds, we might do as Churchill would. Acknowledge the difficult road ahead. Feel our dread and despair. And then commit to do better. Understand that anxiety is not action. Worry is not resolve. In times of crisis, people want to be soldiers, not victims. They want to feel community, solidarity and empowerment. This, perhaps, is what Schapira sought in setting up her humble wooden booth. Filled with dread, she took up arms against that which she feared most. “I’m asking people about their anxieties that have to do with climate change,” she tells visitors.

    “Is there anything that you would like to talk about today?”

  208. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I have a formulation for this spectrum, and can see how a deep-learning framework would have difficulty in identifying the underlying pattern. There’s both a mathematical aspect to the pattern and an interpretation aspect that needs to be identified simultaneously.”

    There is no particular reason why a neural network would have a problem with that (after all, yours worked). Detecting underlying patterns is what neural networks are good at, like our own neural networks, the problem is that they even detect underlying patterns where they don’t actually exist.

  209. Dave_Geologist says:

    the problem is that they even detect underlying patterns where they don’t actually exist.

    Just like humans then 🙂 . And in the climate world, mathturbators 😦 .

  210. “There is no particular reason why a neural network would have a problem with that (after all, yours worked). “

    Why would you imply that I was using a neural network? I don’t ever recall intentionally using a neural network in any of my work. If you are saying my brain is a neural network, that’s quite a stretch.

    Plus, I don’t see how a neural network will help in coming up with a closed-form solution to Navier-Stokes, or to including a known physical forcing. These are both problems solvable only from incorporating knowledge (i.e. knowledge based reasoning), which is not what a neural network (i.e. connectionist) uses. I guess there has always been an intent on fusing the two but I am not sure how much that has advanced
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15516709cog1203_2

    “the problem is that they even detect underlying patterns where they don’t actually exist.”

    Again, this is a problem related to the inability to do a controlled experiment in climate science. Patterns are much easier to reject if they don’t follow controlled testing. Consider this latest paper in Physical Review Letters: “Puzzling Tropical Wind Pattern Generated with Simple Model” doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.120.244505 Looks very interesting, but how is this testable?

  211. If you say so.
    I imagine all of us gravitate to the myths that best fit our circumstances. Me, to begin with there’s my live long passion for learning about evolution and our planet’s physical processes. So had little space for modern media derivatives (sports, movies, love of fiction and fantasy, etc.) to fill my head, I was busy forming an image of true reality, our Earth’s story. Also I get to live in rural southwest Colorado on 40 acres that include riparian, meadow, sage/pinion mesa, with mountains beyond and a decent amount of wildlife. When my dog is out walking me, or I’m going to jobs, I’m surrounded by and attentive to the natural world going on about me with its many splendored things. That’s what fills my day to day awareness, as opposed to what most of the rest of humanity who are buried in cities and our detritus are exposed to on a daily basis.

    … and guess it’s the German in me that’s always had me taking all this shit more seriously than those around me would have preferred. I loved George Carlin, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1uaw3WIOlc, usually good for a laugh, he certainly helped with coping, but … (okay never mind, ‘nough said.)

    Hey, but back to the real world, the blessed rains this weekend tamped down the 416 Fire so it’s now holding at 34,000 acres burned, with a thousand fire fighters doing their damndest to totally tamp it out before hot temps and winds return. Around me most people are thinking we’re going to be getting back to ‘normal’ – never for a moment do they think about the fire, why something so small exploded so fast. They refuse to connect the dots between the past half century of AGW and how that’s been changing our landscape and atmosphere. Most are incapable of facing the reality that this is only the beginning. We’ve hit the slippery sliddy slope with the end our society and eventually (if the lessons from deep time mean anything) the entire biosphere we were born into. There is no other direction. Earth on a grand scale will be okay, life will survive, knocked down a few rungs, yet again, but think of all the new building blocks made available for it to learn to exploit. Those plastics of ours being but the tip of the iceberg of the legacy we’ll be leaving our Mother Earth.

    It’s 2018 and people aren’t prepared; the act of preparing and learning all that is happening and what it means is too heart breaking and soul robbing; avoidance has always been humanity’s strategy in times that were out of our hands. Me I’ve had decades of learning and growing awareness and pre-mourning, it’s worn down my humor, though it has also made me ever so appreciative of the wonder and beauty that still exists and the importance of trying to appreciate everyday to it’s fullest, no matter what the day to day demands we do.

    The future was in our hands during the 60s, 70s, 80s, even 90s but given continued avoidance and focus on supercharging the world’s “economic engine” and inventing global conflicts, we’ve done nothing but put the pedal to the metal. … (sorry for the digression ATTP, but I do feel a need to explain myself)

  212. Above was re hypergeometric: June 18, 2018 at 1:56 am

    @John Hartz – June 18, 2018 at 11:39 pm”

    “Climate change is a problem with the scope and urgency of World War II, …”

    {Funny that, that particular sentence hit me like a punch in the gut.
    I’d call that a ‘society-centric’ perspective,
    a Earth-centric perspective makes clear how absolutely totally different today is from WWII, I’d bet on any level you care to examine in detail.}

    “And so, faced with overwhelming odds, we might do as Churchill would. Acknowledge the difficult road ahead. Feel our dread and despair. And then commit to do better. Understand that anxiety is not action. Worry is not resolve. In times of crisis, people want to be soldiers, not victims. They want to feel community, solidarity and empowerment. This, perhaps, is what Schapira sought in setting up her humble wooden booth. Filled with dread, she took up arms against that which she feared most. “I’m asking people about their anxieties that have to do with climate change,” she tells visitors.
    “Is there anything that you would like to talk about today?””

    {Funny that one. Seems to me that’s what I’ve been dedicated to. But what if no cares to hear about it or discuss it? Or foster those that do, kind of like those winning GOP fools have been doing so skillfully for so long, as the intellectually enlightened stand around with …}

    https://confrontingsciencecontrarians.blogspot.com/p/hall-of-shame.html
    https://confrontingsciencecontrarians.blogspot.com/p/in-nutshell-jim-steele-proposes-that.html
    https://confrontingsciencecontrarians.blogspot.com/p/who-says-understanding-earths-evolution.html

    Thanks for the feedback John.
    cheers.

  213. dikranmarsupial says:

    PP wrote “Why would you imply that I was using a neural network?”

    I was referring to the one between your ears.

  214. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” If you are saying my brain is a neural network, that’s quite a stretch.”

    what else would you call a network of neurons?

  215. Equally likely is that there is something more to the brain than that. We don’t know.

    Solving physics problems is more akin to a rules-based paradigm.

  216. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Solving physics problems is more akin to a rules-based paradigm.”

    The brain performs logical reasoning, but it does so on connectionist hardware, so most of the spotting of connections and patterns is done by the low level neural network, but our brain concocts a post-hoc logical explanation for our thought processes. The idea that we actually do anything as a “rules-based paradigm” is rather wrong-headed (IMHO).

    This is very noticeable to me when I am playing chess. Sure sometimes I logically work through the lines of play, but that isn’t where my tactical or strategic play comes from, just how I check them.

    “Equally likely is that there is something more to the brain than that. “

    Like what? How do you know it is equally likely?

  217. Dave_Geologist says:

    Again, this is a problem related to the inability to do a controlled experiment in climate science. Patterns are much easier to reject if they don’t follow controlled testing.

    We can’t do controlled experiments in geology, astronomy, most of biology and much of theoretical physics. Yet we manage somehow. One way we manage is consilience. Physics, chemistry, geology and climatology are all-joined-up. We can do controlled experiments on the radiative properties of GHGs, and of automobiles. So if we observe a correlation between global temperature and both atmospheric CO2 content and automobile numbers, our conscious or unconscious Bayesian prior is that CO2 is by far the more likely cause of warming. And if the question turns to “did the automobiles create atmospheric CO2 or did the atmospheric CO2 create automobiles”, we can measure the CO2 content of exhaust emissions and scale up by the number of automobiles. Then see if that is a significant fraction of atmospheric CO2. And we can chemically analyse automobiles to see whether they can be constructed from CO2, either in a self-organised way or by the invisible hand of a Designer. We can do the same with “it’s solar cycles”. We have modern measurements of solar insolation and proxies going back in time, which show that it”s way, way too small, even if some cycles match. Or with “it’s the sea”. Ocean CO2 content is going up not down. Etc.

  218. Dave said:

    “We can do the same with “it’s solar cycles”. We have modern measurements of solar insolation and proxies going back in time, which show that it”s way, way too small, even if some cycles match. “

    Yes, that’s probably the best approach for doing a controlled experiment. For ENSO we would create a wave model and first formulate it against modern measurements. Then we check (i.e. cross-validate) against proxy measurements and find if all the cycles match going back hundreds of years. That’s the best we can do as far as controlled testing for climate science. The ongoing process is to replicate or reproduce or reject the model.

  219. Curious why bring chess into the discussion. There’s no point in improving Deep Blue as it met its goal of beating the best human player while never doing anything more than a straightforward rules-based program.

  220. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Curious why bring chess into the discussion. There’s no point in improving Deep Blue… ”

    To show how supposedly logical tasks are not performed by human beings using logical reasoning (though that may be the post-hoc story we tell ourselves that we take for the truth until we look a little deeper). It was made very clear that I was talking about human reasoning, rather than machine reasoning:

    This is very noticeable to me when I am playing chess. Sure sometimes I logically work through the lines of play, but that isn’t where my tactical or strategic play comes from, just how I check them.

    [emphasis mine]

  221. @WHUT,

    Yes, that’s probably the best approach for doing a controlled experiment. For ENSO we would create a wave model and first formulate it against modern measurements. Then we check (i.e. cross-validate) against proxy measurements and find if all the cycles match going back hundreds of years. That’s the best we can do as far as controlled testing for climate science. The ongoing process is to replicate or reproduce or reject the model.

    Yes, apart from non-stationarity concerns, that is probably the best that can be done with conventional/classical approaches. It stands on a difference in (almost) philosophy of Science, but there is a possibility that non-mechanistic “models” might be superior for some of these systems. That is, use a technique like the Perretti, Munch, and Sugihara (2013, PNAS) nonlinear state-space reconstruction method which essentially uses a dataset and processing thereof to predict. Because it is devoid of a causal model, it is dubbed “model-free.” In their paper P-M-S showed it offered better predictions than even “correct” mechanistic models.

    So, the question is, is a batch of series for a bunch of observables its own smallest and most accurate self-description? After all, with systems of this connectedness, it’s not at all clear the neat Kinetic Theory of Gases result will work, even with second- or higher-order corrections. Speculating, is modeling climate or oceans NP-hard?

  222. HyperG, Thanks, I have seen reference to the use of Takens embedding theorem to extract deterministic dynamics for a time-series such as ENSO. The paper by H. Astudillo, R. Abarca-del-Rio, and F. Borotto is the most promising along this line. They can reconstruct any interval from other intervals in the time-series without understanding the mechanism, subject to an error margin. This the kind of experiment that provides confidence that there is indeed long-range order and coherence in the behavior.

  223. dikranmarsupial says:

    PP you appear to be trying to evade the original point (plus ca change), which was whether “a deep-learning framework would have difficulty in identifying the underlying pattern.” Neural networks are good at this kind of thing, and when we identify patterns in data using our reasoning, we are actually performing pattern recognition in a very similar way, whether we recognise that or not. As usual this sort of evasion does not encourage confidence in your research.

  224. @dikranmarsupial, @WHUT,

    Well, rather than acting like pre-Galilean natural philosophers, it seems to me that if there were interest in the outcome, an experiment is in order.

  225. “PP you appear to be trying to evade the original point (plus ca change), which was whether “a deep-learning framework would have difficulty in identifying the underlying pattern.” “

    How can I be avoiding it when I originally said that a neural network is not going to be able to generate a closed-form analytical solution to Navier-Stokes.

  226. hypoerG

    “Well, rather than acting like pre-Galilean natural philosophers, it seems to me that if there were interest in the outcome, an experiment is in order.”

    I used Eureqa quite a bit in the past, which was a symbolic regression tool. It may have helped me find a few patterns, but was pricey at $2500/year and alas, it no longer exists. I am on the lookout for a replacement and would like to run experiments in the background when I get a chance.

  227. “Equally likely is that there is something more to the brain than that. “

    Like what? How do you know it is equally likely?

    Thanks for chopping up what I said, which is this:
    “Equally likely is that there is something more to the brain than that. We don’t know.

    I am no linguist but this to me is a conversational figure of speech to indicate that you don’t know any more than I know what is going on inside the brain.

    And of course you are free to pick this apart too, as is your want.

  228. dikranmarsupial says:

    No, it is suggesting that there is something more that we don’t know about. There doesn’t seem a great deal of evidence for that, so “equally likely” is just not justified.

    “How can I be avoiding it when I originally said that a neural network is not going to be able to generate a closed-form analytical solution to Navier-Stokes.”

    you don’t need to do that to “identify the underlying pattern”, which was your claim (I quoted it directly). More evasion (as you haven’t addressed that point even though you replied).

  229. “you don’t need to do that to “identify the underlying pattern”, which was your claim (I quoted it directly). More evasion (as you haven’t addressed that point even though you replied).”

    I don’t think I am being evasive. I mentioned the (now defunct) machine learning tool Eureqa above in this thread. There are ways to prime the target solution with a differential equation formulation so that it might be able to root out a pattern. Eureqa is not a neural net as far as I can tell, but I can tell you how it can help find solutions to Navier-Stokes.

  230. dikranmarsupial says:

    You are being evasive. The “that” in “you don’t need to do that to “identify the underlying pattern” is “generat[ing] a closed-form analytical solution to Navier-Stokes.”, and here you are again going back to solutions to Navier Stokes. That is evasion as it is ignoring the argument that doing so is not necessary.

    Sorry, I have better things to do that engage in argument by attrition.

  231. Once again, can see how DM pulls a volunteered discussion point in to a rhetorical argument that he needs to win.

    Recall, I entered this thread by volunteering this observation.

    “I have a formulation for this spectrum, and can see how a deep-learning framework would have difficulty in identifying the underlying pattern. There’s both a mathematical aspect to the pattern and an interpretation aspect that needs to be identified simultaneously”

    I guess this is where curiosity ends and the rhetorical battle starts.

  232. Maybe we can draw this discussion to a close?

  233. Over at the Azimuth Project forum, in which Prof. Baez started a project discussion to investigate ENSO, we had someone contribute that had run a neural net to fit to the ENSO time series. The correlation looked really good. He apparently had quite a few inputs to the neural net, but didn’t want to describe any of the structure, citing intellectual property concerns.

    I first asked him why he was using some of the ENSO data as input. We didn’t get an answer to that.

    He was also only using the ENSO data back to 1990. I asked him why he didn’t use that portion to cross-validate with pristine data prior to 1990. He also didn’t reply to that.

    He stuck around for a few weeks and then disappeared from the forum. Every once in a while I check to see if he has done anything more with his NN. Apparently now all he does is tweet anti-AGW diatribes.

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