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« Scenes from an ERCfest | Main | Watts reasons with Goddard »
Tuesday
Jun242014

A Very Important Commission

University College London has set up a grandly-named "Policy Commission on the Communication of Climate Science" and today the team, led by Professor Chris Rapley, has issued its much anticipated report.

Having scanned a few pages, it comes over as just what you'd expect: we learn that GWPF is a "right-wing think tank" and that "Riley Dunlap and Peter Jacques, based on a study of over 100 climate-change-dismissive books, identify strong links to conservative think-tanks".  (The latter paper was covered at BH here, where I noted its bonkers allegation that my publisher is "overtly conservative"). There is also an approving link to Suzanne Goldenberg's specious claim that we sceptics have a billion dollars a year to spend and another to Skeptical Science. Still, this sort of idiocy is no doubt good enough for a Very Important Policy Commission.

But these are peripheral points. The guts of the report is the usual climate-communication navel-gazing enlivened only by a marginally less defensive posture with regard to the misdeeds of climate scientists:

Accounts of [Climategate] and the associated ‘hockey stick controversy’ can make uncomfortable reading for those with high expectations for standards of scientific conduct.

A strong public backlash is to be expected if a mismatch is exposed  between expectations and reality. A salutary example is provided by the public dismay and loss of confidence following the release in 2009 of emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, which cast the behaviours of leading climate scientists in a poor light (‘Climategate’).

The recommendations are equally dull. For example, making sure that scientists enjoy a privileged position in the policymaking process:

Decision-making should not be through the ‘linear’ mode, characterized as ‘truth speaks to power’, but by a collective process (‘co-production’) in which all interested parties, including the public, play their part.

...a new learned society:

New organisational mechanisms are required to support the public discourse on climate science and to achieve necessary professional reforms – notably a forum for active public discussion and a professional body for climate scientists.

...but more amusingly a new "narrative":

A climate science ‘meta-narrative’ is required that delivers the results of climate science in a manner that is accurate, engaging, coherent, relevant, and which – by making clear the limits of certainty and knowledge – is robust against new discoveries and unfolding events.

Someone more cynical than me might suggest that climate science has already shown itself well able to, ahem, "deal with" new discoveries. Indeed, it has sometimes appeared to be entirely immune to them.

 

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Reader Comments (68)

I would say that what is needed is a narrative that delivers the results of climate science "warts and all".

A bit more honesty about what is known and what is still (informed hopefully) guesswork would go a long way.

Jun 24, 2014 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Brown

A salutary example is provided by the public dismay and loss of confidence following the release in 2009 of emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, which cast the behaviours of leading climate scientists in a poor light

"Behaviours" ho hum. Were they Americans, ignorance of uncountable nouns would be understandable, if not acceptable. It seems that brain-rot is now fully established in UK academe too.

Jun 24, 2014 at 2:22 PM | Registered CommenterHector Pascal

Rapley just doesn't get it! That he thinks he is an expert in climate science communication just about says it all.

Jun 24, 2014 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterceedy

My sentiments are similar. There is a great deal of waffle and repetition of old ideas. Though they have realised that alarmism is counter-productive and that they haven't done enough about it in the past. The idea that we need yet another climate propaganda organisation is particularly clueless.

Jun 24, 2014 at 2:44 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

They talk about change in 'communication', but if all they mean is the usual suspects churning out the same old rubbish, it's hard to see what change they mean. Suppression of ALL scepticism? Censorship? Re-education for all? What?

Jun 24, 2014 at 2:53 PM | Registered Commenterrhoda

Rejoice! As long as climate activism is stuck between inane reports, navel gazing, communications angst and the extremely stupid idea that we're already doomed whatever we do, there is literally zero chance anything of any consequence will be done by anybody.

Jun 24, 2014 at 2:55 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

"...robust against new discoveries and unfolding events"

So, on that principle, the sun still goes round the earth.

Jun 24, 2014 at 3:04 PM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

For those not familiar with how tightly the Left coordinates its message with its funding charitable foundations, here is a link to the Rockefeller funded Communication for Social Change site describing precisely how that works. http://www.communicationforsocialchange.org/roots

It came up as I was following up on all the funding efforts requiring Deliberative Democracy and so-called 'participatory dialogue' that so many of the K-12 education reforms globally are actually in preparation for.

Jun 24, 2014 at 3:11 PM | Registered Commenteresquirerobin

So, the Schneiderian Scenario device is being discarded in favour of more bureaucracy, more chuminess with government, and maybe less science (as in 'Efforts to understand the climate system better are important, but they should not be allowed to divert attention and effort from decision-making and policy formulation based on what is already known and can be addressed.'), and somewhere separate for concerned citizens to chat with one another, no doubt under supervision (as in 'new organisational mechanisms are required to support the public discourse on climate science and to achieve necessary professional reforms – notably a forum for active public discussion and a professional body for climate scientists.').

It would not be hard to be better than the Royal Society, which has singularly failed to protect us from overblown assertions about 'what is already known' and what we must do about it. But I suspect it would not be hard to be even worse. And that is the direction I think they want to take us in.

As for de-emphasising new science, you can hardly blame these benighted would-be Platonic Guardians. It sometimes seems that scarce a day passes without some new insight undermining the catastrophists' position. Of course, 'catastrophe' is old-hat now. It has done its work as a trusty servant to win attention, but it is a bit hard to keep on using it when you are in the establishment, your forecasts are failing, and the foundations of your careerism are crumbling. Best to keep a slightly lower profile with such emotive stuff perhaps?

But all is not yet lost for our would-be controllers. They have found a device that would not look out of place in some new wheeze to squeeze consultancy money out of the gullible in the civil service and private corporations. Here it is from Section 6.2:

Susan Michie and her co-authors have developed a generalized framework to analyze, characterize and address behavioural change challenges. The Behavioural Change Wheel identifies three factors that are necessary and sufficient prerequisites for the performance of a specified volitional behaviour. These are motivation (the brain processes that energise and direct behaviour), capability (these may be physical or psychological, the latter being the knowledge and skills necessary for the behaviour) and opportunity (the physical and social context that enables or promotes the behaviour).

That looks like it could keep our Guardians busy for a good few more years as they pursue our motivations, capabilities, and opportunities. No doubt with a view to crippling them all.

Jun 24, 2014 at 3:14 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

They seem to labour under the misapprehension that it is their right to control the process of policy making.

Jun 24, 2014 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

omnologos:
there is literally zero chance anything of any consequence will be done by anybody.

The wind power industry, which rides on the back of and to a degree drives the AGW scam, has done a great deal of environmental and economic damage, particularly in Scotland. There is little prospect of its being reined in for a long while yet.

Jun 24, 2014 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

"Much anticipated" by whom, may I enquire? I don't recall being asked to vote for Chris Rapley.

I suggest that he take his report, turn it sideways, and....

Jun 24, 2014 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

At least they cite The Hockey Stick Illusion. Also Delingpole's 'Watermelons', Booker and North 'Scared to Death', Lawson's 'Appeal to Reason', one of Paul Homewood's blogs, and a Lindzen article.

Jun 24, 2014 at 3:49 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

What is it with idiots like Rapley that they never learn? He set up the Science Museum Climate Change exhibition, which must have been one of the greatest communication flops ever. These guys should be released from taxpayer funding and sent out into the real world to earn an honest living.

Jun 24, 2014 at 4:26 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

The debate has typically been been framed as yank liberal vs yank conservative. Both sides are a complete waste of space. You can expect nothing from the GWPF, but the Guardian has fallen to extraordinary lows of which Suzanne Goldenberg is a preposterous new low. John Cook is like a character out of VIZ. 'the most pathetic little man who ever lived'.

Jun 24, 2014 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Wind power generation seems to be more successful in Texas than anywhere else because the power distribution system was beefed up to distribute power and the base load has a large natural gas turbine component. The key was to allow engineers to design the system. Texas isn't a state where the Greenpeace crowd has much influence. This means the renewables are built to work and not satisfy Al Gore's and Michael Mann's fantasies.

Jun 24, 2014 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterFernando Leanme

Fernando Leanme - That little commie, GW Bush


How about funding green infrastructure? Texas, of all places, has the strictest renewable-energy mandate in the USA - and consequently lots of windmills. And who can we thank? Enron. It lobbied Governor George W Bush hard for the measure in 1999, partly because it coveted the chance to trade carbon credits and partly because it needed to help out its loss-making windmill arm, Enron Wind. Enron was showered with plaudits from green groups for its support for alarm about climate change.

http://www.wired.co.uk/wired-magazine/archive/2009/12/start/matt-ridley-climate-alarm?page=all

Jun 24, 2014 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Our betters will spend a long while (at our expense) deciding what colour the Behavioural Change Wheel should be.

I'm worried about the threat from telephone borne diseases.

Jun 24, 2014 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

Totally misses the point that possibly the biggest problem with "climate science" is dreadfully poor use of statistics.

There is no mention of "statistics" and only three trivial mentions of math: "solving a crossword or mathematical puzzle", "risk and uncertainty cannot readily be carried across to non-specialists by mathematical definitions", and "Specialized terminology is employed, including the language of mathematics".

Jun 24, 2014 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter

It's not going to help them that, as Anthony Watts has noted today, "Climate burnout is fast approaching". Plus, of course, that despite their continual banging on about the terrors of AGW, the weather just keeps on doing its thing and remaining generally unalarming (but as skittish as ever). They're crying wolf on an epic scale.

But let's not disabuse them of their notion that it's just bad communications making us so recalcitrant. Yes, guys, please feel free to communicate every last one of your scary stories as loudly as possible, the public will just lap 'em up, more, please ... ;-)

This still leaves the problems caused by the idiot politicians who believe in this stuff, of course.

Jun 24, 2014 at 6:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve C

If you read the footnotes that report is citing documents from the Future Earth Alliance. I started my blog because those intentions coming out of the 2012 Planet under Pressure conference in London were so alarming on their intentions. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/future-earth-alliance-where-education-climate-and-economic-planning-are-all-cores/ explains what is sought there and with the overriding Belmont Challenge with the US and now others.

Secondly, there is a word now being used by the behavioural scientists targeting motivation via education. They are going after Triune Consciousness where behvioral change is not even conscious.

Finally I explain in my book Credentialed to Destroy why outcomes based education never goes away. It just gets renamed. That report once again tells why. Behavioral change is the true goal and that requires education that targets values, attitudes, and beliefs. The current hiding place globally is the actual definition of what Learning now means. It is changing values, attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors. No need to get the mental involved at all. In fact Axemaker Minds are in the way of what that report intends.

Jun 24, 2014 at 6:39 PM | Registered Commenteresquirerobin

Oh good grief, not more "Climate Communication".

If anything the "communication" needs to go the other way.

Jun 24, 2014 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterKatabasis

A single mention of the words "right-wing-think-tank" means that this is a document about politics not science. I know there has to be academic freedom, but I want my science taxes spent on science, not diverted to fund political causes.

Maybe we need one of those mythical "right-wing" govts to look at how academics spend our money.

Jun 24, 2014 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Mikky

The GWPF is a right wing think tank. Everything it does discredits the argument against global warming. A bit like Sarah Palin supporting the tea party.Death by slime.

Jun 24, 2014 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

The "truth" is now "right wing"? Sheesh, why the abuse? Science and data doesn't have a "-wing" GPWF is sensible, unlike your posts here, which personally I would like a rest from..

Jun 24, 2014 at 8:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterLondon Calling

To suggest 'better climate communication' is required is deliberately projecting a totally bogus premise - if only we could express the science of AGW better, the public would finally understand.

If the science really was settled and if there wasn't literally dozens of red flags against AGW theory, then 'communication' wouldn't be an issue.

They're losing and they know their losing. To attempt to redirect the problem - from the basic facts of AGW are being repeatedly shown to be wanting - to it's just a 'communication issue,' exposes this move for what it really is. It's simply a comfort blanket, a delaying tactic, a switching of the pea under the cup. And they're the ones in denial.

Jun 24, 2014 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

This 'Policy Commission' is hardly new and represents the worn and tired old rehashing of political spin by not-very-bright individuals who never move outside their cliche-regurgitating bubble. Sadly, but very obviously, the members of the commission wrongly perceive themselves to be a group of genius-level 'science communicators'
Charles Dickens described this type of organisation very nicely in his essay 'The Circumlocution Office'.

Jun 24, 2014 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

They talk about a mismatch between expectation and reality and how this can lead to a public backlash. Perhaps what they had in mind is the Met Office improved temperature forecast for the years 2004-2014 as reviewed at No Tricks Zone.

The great and the good seem to prefer to squander public money on pointless debates about the communications of climate science instead of demanding to know why the so called science, which is largely based on computer models, appears to be complete garbage, if the forecasting power of these models is a reasonable indicator of their performance and credibility.

Jun 24, 2014 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

What they, the alarmists cannot countenance, bear to acknowledge is that their monumental edifice - and so carefully constructed a mighty tower of stone and built on solid foundations with a history of experimentation.

Ah that devil!

A CO2 inspired Djinn, in gaseous form, a spiteful sprite and out of his bottles, canisters, chimneys and spouts - ah yes man made and all - who could argue that? Throw in a film or two - one by a failed politician called Al and oops yeah throw in a Nobel Prize or two [where's yours Mikey?].


And lo and behold when the T data was fixed - hell and damnation! We are were all going to burn man.

Until, a few dedicated number crunchers and Meteorologists and notable others - defenestrated the grand supposition scam.

The ALARMISTS just can't bear it - to be outdone by a few dedicated amateurs with a bloodhound's nose for the truth of it.

Jun 24, 2014 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Just SHOUT LOUDER........!

Jun 24, 2014 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterjones

"Decision-making should not be through the ‘linear’ mode, characterized as ‘truth speaks to power’, but by a collective process (‘co-production’) in which all interested parties, including the public, play their part."

Does that mean that Government decisions should be based on a majority decision from NGO's after funds, the simple minded, the corrupt and those who know nothing about the subject, but happened to be in the BBC audience at the right time?

Jun 25, 2014 at 1:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

I read this as
1. climate science is viewed, legitimately we may add, as less than credible,
2. because the science is not so good, public input is necessary, as a lot of the policy decisions are not sciience but ideologically driven.
3. if it all falls down in the near future, we told you so, it's not been our fault and we weren't part of the BS that made everryone mad.

Jun 25, 2014 at 1:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Proctor

Could somebody somewhere please point out one single example where climate science as currently practiced has been of ANY perceivable or useful benefit to our national and global societies and industries ?

Accurate and trustworthy SEASONAL predictions of which none so far exist, would be of huge benefit to a numerous range of industries.

Predictions for a future climate going forward of 2 or more years, if ever achieved in the next 3 or 4 decades, are basically useless as so many other factors both natural and man made also change in that 2 + year long time slot which would arguably negate and / or call into question any so called climate predictions.
________________

I have asked this question some three or four times in other high profile climate skeptic forums over the last few months and have yet to receive an answer let alone an actual real and demonstrably beneficial example of societal benefits arising from climate science as it is currently practiced

Jun 25, 2014 at 1:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterROM

"A climate science ‘meta-narrative’ is required..."

Genuine science does not need a 'meta-narrative'. This statement is confirmation, if any was needed, that climate science is a branch of 'meta-physics'.

Jun 25, 2014 at 2:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterRayJ

"Decision-making should not be through the ‘linear’ mode, characterized as ‘truth speaks to power’, but by a collective process (‘co-production’) in which all interested parties, including the public, play their part."
------------------------------------------------------
Even the public are allowed to be involved! That's big of them. Why, this could even lead to democracy.

What this really means is that favoured parties get two votes - one as a member of the Great Unwashed, and another when they are wearing their scientist's, or NGO member's, or industry lobbyist's, hat.

They must think that people are stupid if they imagine that anyone with halfway decent critical faculties is going to fall for their transparently self-serving proposals.

Jun 25, 2014 at 3:42 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Entirely OT but Reuters reports that Italy is about to cut the solar FIT by 10% to help reduce power prices. (There is quite a lot of solar in Italy). Reportedly four European countries have done that now (especially Spain of course).

Surprised the "denialosphere" hasn't had much to say about it so far. Regulatory risk is rapidly scaring investors away from renewables.

Jun 25, 2014 at 4:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterBill

As BS quotes

A climate science ‘meta-narrative’ is required that.......is robust against new discoveries and unfolding events.

In Popper's terms, communication is about deliberately protecting "climate science" against falsification. In Kuhn's terms, "climate science" is over-due for a scientific revolution.

Jun 25, 2014 at 6:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

Anyone who says GWPF is a "right-wing" think tank, thereby self-identifies as far-left/totalitarian.

Jun 25, 2014 at 7:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterTuppence

Well they can 'communicate' until they are blue in the face but it still won't convince nature to start behaving the way they expect.

Jun 25, 2014 at 8:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

"Having scanned a few pages, it comes over as just what you'd expect: we learn that GWPF is a "right-wing think tank" and that "Riley Dunlap and Peter Jacques, based on a study of over 100 climate-change-dismissive books, identify strong links to conservative think-tanks". (The latter paper was covered at BH here, where I noted its bonkers allegation that my publisher is "overtly conservative"). There is also an approving link to Suzanne Goldenberg's specious claim that we sceptics have a billion dollars a year to spend and another to Skeptical Science. Still, this sort of idiocy is no doubt good enough for a Very Important Policy Commission."
If they see this and don't see the overfunded left-wing think tanks in operation on the topic it means 2 things.
1. This commission is politicized.
2 This commission identifies itself with left-wing think tanks all the way up to UNEP, UNFCCC and IPCC.

Jun 25, 2014 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterSanta Baby

Some climate scientists are also being scathing about this report, e.g. see this twitter chat between Gavin, Doug and others.

Kind of ironic that this report is allowing people from different camps to find common ground in this way….!

Jun 25, 2014 at 9:18 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

It is common when one thinks one is totally correct to assume that those who don't agree with you are misunderstanding what your saying - that there is a communication problem and if only one could get others to the same state of understanding one has they would agree.

What is ruled out completely as a scenario is that what they are saying is understood precisely by their interlocutors -and they disagree. So better communication is the only solution. (As an aside, these are single solution people, there is no solution to AGW other than an immediate reduction in CO2 output). This communication will be delivered in didactic mode of course as there's no need for dialogue if one's case is so strong.

Clear evidence for this is that not one critic of the CAGW was invited to help them see where their current "communications" were going wrong, they are assuming the message is perfect and that the only obstacle is the medium.

I once "communicated" on this issue with a climate scientist who was attending a conference on "Communicating the Science," (They have about three a year) and asked him/her to look at the problem another way, and that is to start the programme by asking "what winning would look like" if the communications was perfect. Frankly he/she didn't know what winning would look like, and if you can't frame the required outcome of your communications you'll never get them right.

I also pointed him to a presentation given by some unknown official on communications to some unknown climate scientists wherein said official gave some sound advice, one piece of which sticks in my mind and that was urging them to understand that their "opponents" could not be "ALL FOOLS AND KNAVES". I don't think he/she succeeded.

Off to find said document which I might put up on the discussion thread.

Jun 25, 2014 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Richard picks up on an interesting point - many climate scientists don't seem to like the report at all. I have collected some of their tweets. They don't like the jargon (there is much making fun of the language) or the dictatorial style (one mentions a 'climate Pope'). The failure to anticipate this is another example of the report's lack of self-awareness.

Jun 25, 2014 at 9:39 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Santa Baby

There are no left-wing think tanks, there are conservative right-wing think tanks and liberal right-wing think tanks.

From the same people that bought you nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, GM food,, nerve agents, the pharmaceutical industry, thalidomide, Bhopal, Wounded Knee, Hiroshima, Fallujah and Guantanamo Bay comes - gay marriage and (men hating) corporate feminism.

Jun 25, 2014 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Steve Forden:

I think we all need to get together and problematize this issue

Thanks Steve, whoever you are. And Richard and Paul for pointing to it.

Jun 25, 2014 at 10:08 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Gareth Jones:

Skimmed report and am fairly underwhelmed. Rather patronising to both climate scientists and contrarians

Now that is some achievement.

Jun 25, 2014 at 10:11 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I suggest the new professional, scientific body should be named: NIPS - National Institute for Poor Science.

Jun 25, 2014 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

Right wing think tanks are composed mainly of liars and charlatans in it for their own end. Left wing think tanks are filled with people passionate about the truth and the well being of the population (well the population of North London anyway).

“…we need to work in a more shrewd and contemporary way, using subtle techniques of engagement. To help address the chaotic nature of the climate change discourse in the UK today, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won, at least for popular communications. This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective. The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken…Ultimately, positive climate behaviours need to be approached in the same way as marketeers approach acts of buying and consuming. This is the relevant context for climate change communications…

(Executive Summary, page 8, IPPR report “Warm Words: How are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better?” August 2006)”

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) is a UK think-tank with strong ties to the Labour party that claims to produce progressive ideas committed to upholding values of social justice, democratic reform and environmental sustainability. IPPR is based in London and also has a branch in Newcastle, IPPR North

Jun 25, 2014 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

geronimo

The IPPR are a truly vile New Labour connected right wing corporate think tank that was very heavily involved in promoting global warming through lying.

Jun 25, 2014 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Their climate 'meta-narrative' would be just another narrative put before me, and I bet I would needs must honestly respond that I had never met a sillier.

Jun 25, 2014 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Sydney

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