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« The greens and government | Main | A Very Important Commission »

Scenes from an ERCfest

The UK Energy Research Centre is a kind of retirement home for greens, where environmentalists go to spend their declining years writing political pamphlets at your expense. Back in March you paid for them and some of their colleagues in green NGOs to hold a conference entitled "Breaking the Deadlock", about how better communication of climate change can help win political battles for the eco-movement. There were some familiar names involved - Chris Rapley and Adam Corner for example - plus representatives of organisations like COIN and the Transition Towns and with a cast of that nature it's not surprising that there was much of interest; notes of what went on have now been published.

I was much amused by Adam Corner's apparently being upset that media people and scientists didn't invent enough spurious links between last winter's floods and climate change:

Carbon Brief conducted analysis of the recent national floods, and found that only 7% of thousands of articles mentioned climate change.


...a colleague from the scientific community who was interviewed about floods, was asked by the interviewer if it was related to climate change. However they did not answer the question...

And Corner's concern seems to have been shared among the audience

Everyone understands that [flooding] is happening more frequently but there is no next step to talk about climate change.

Another amusing snippet was the suggestion that the public might be impressed by a look at how scientists' fears over global warming have led them to adopt sustainable lifestyles:

Q: Do we need to record stories how climate scientists have acted in their personal lives?
A: some senior climate change scientists are very carbon intensive people around the world, therefore personal stories might not be that helpful.

"Don't mention the carbon footprint", it seems.

There was also a passing reference to Roger Harrabin's Cambridge Media and Environment Programme:

How to engage people from the media on breaking the deadlock?

Idea: Discussions with media who persistently report about low carbon futures, how do they do it in the face of extreme opposition? And then share those insights with journalists who do not do that.

BBC OU Environmental Seminars are related, but on a smaller scale.

Read the whole thing.

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Reader Comments (19)

"Everyone understands that [flooding] is happening more frequently but there is no next step to talk about climate change."

Who needs evidence/observation/science when we have the ancient knowledge telling us about Global Warming. Growing season starting earlier, more extreme weather, more flooding, Arctic ice disappearing etc., Gaia must have told them.

Nice to see a gaggle of self-deluding sycophants spending public money so easily.

Jun 25, 2014 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

When are these people going to work out that 1) the public are not in denial, they're not scared of AGW, they are waiting for the next installment of proof before they upgrade their reactions 2) the scientists are not communicating more convincing proof because they haven't got it. Repackaging what the public already know won't make them any more responsive it will just make them bored.

Jun 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Wow times wow ........................ Cherry picking some of the disfuctionality contained in the notes - "Political precautionary processes can be done by techniques that are not evidenced based" - indeed they can and most often they are not evidence based. "Once people start talking about their feelings, one can then manage them and regulate them" - spot on - they reveal that they do want to manage people!

Jun 25, 2014 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Thomson

All this agonising over why 'we the people' have not handed our brains over to the climate authorities to be filled up with their sloppy science and emotive appeals for dramatically increased control over our lives! It does seem that many such agonisers are so pleased with the putative solutions they cling to for 'the climate problem', that they will do all they can to promote them. But, as the thoughtful SINTEF report last year concluded:

In open societies where both scientists and the general public are equipped with critical skills and the tools of inquiry, not least enabled by the information revolution provided through the Internet, the ethos of science as open, questioning, critical and anti-dogmatic should and can be defended also by the public at large. Efforts to make people bow uncritically to the authority of a dogmatic representation of Science, seems largely to produce ridicule, opposition and inaction, and ultimately undermines the legitimacy and role of both science and politics in open democracies.

SINTEF report noted on BH last year:

Jun 25, 2014 at 11:01 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

"Another amusing snippet was the suggestion that the public might be impressed by a look at how scientists' fears over global warming have led them to adopt sustainable lifestyles:"

Good luck with that one, most cliscis seem to do more flying than commercial airline pilots.

Jun 25, 2014 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Read the whole thing.

I think I've got the gist. I'd much rather spend my coffee break leafing through a new plant catalogue that just arrived.

Repackaging what the public already know won't make them any more responsive it will just make them bored.
Jun 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

It makes them better worse than bored - it makes them understand that they are being sold a pup.

Jun 25, 2014 at 11:21 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I wonder if the Belgian scientists who wrote the words below last year were invited to take part?

The public and politicians must be informed about the hypothetical character of the predominant ‘consensus’ on climate change, which has been uncritically disseminated in the media for more than ten years. If it ever existed, this so-called “climate change consensus” has now been totally undermined by the facts.

Ah hae ma doots that they were.


Jun 25, 2014 at 11:37 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

COIN @climateoutreach
The best UK climate campaign video yet? COIN's communication research led to this campaign and we feel proud:

Adam is policy advisor (I wonder if misleading the public, in the vid about UK floods and CC, is good policy)

Jun 25, 2014 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Strange that this, the UCL report and the Commons Scitech report all come out in the same couple of days and all say (roughly) the same thing: WHY don't they get it? Of course they attempt to answer the question solely by reference to each other. No external or opposing sources are to be consulted. Same old liars, same old lies.

Geronimo is right to go back to 'Warm Words', for this unconsciously revealing document betrays the mentality in ways they have tried to conceal since. Their concern over whether the folks are buying the story shows that this is the aim of the entire exercise. To get people to buy in unquestioningly to whatever they want to hang on the skeleton of their hypothesis so anything they want to do is accepted as for the good of 'The Planet'.

But as it turns out, will the biggest mistake be to have declared the debate over? We know why they did it, 'Warm Words' makes it quite clear. But now they can't get their story on the news often enough because it just is not controversial in the eyes of news editors who have bough in already. All concerned are merely the protestors of the 60s and 70s who have become the establishment but still want to be the underdogs. Sad.

Their best bet would be to declare the debate re-opened. Then win it, if they can.

Jun 25, 2014 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

The reason they won't declare the debate re-opened can be stated in two words: Steve McIntyre. The first thing waiting for them would be Steve's measured critiques. Despite paleo not really being critical to the IPCC's argument that CO2 emissions may cause harm they chose to double down in defence of Mann and colleagues from 2003 onwards. If they really opened up it would be a bloodbath. Tough choices for Consensus Communication Central.

Jun 25, 2014 at 12:37 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

"...As climate change science is frequently contested, this raises anxiety amongst
scientists and scientists in general who are not used to delivering a story that other
people like to vigorously challenge..."

Really, and there was me thinking that science only progressed through vigorous challenges to existing beliefs and that public (or peer) scrutiny and criticism of scientific output was how we separated the wheat from the chaff.

Jun 25, 2014 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteveW

'Read the whole thing'...

Oh, Bish - do I have to..? I was rather hoping to enjoy my lunch...

Jun 25, 2014 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Here is Adam Corner (and Chris Rapleys) fundamental misunderstanding...he writes...
"The reason that those on the right doubt the veracity of climate science is not because they have examined the evidence-base and found it wanting. It is because the cultural architecture of climate change – from the people who communicate about it (environmental campaigners), through to the dominant policy responses (taxes, regulation and behavioural changes) – look, smell and feel like the sorts of things the right should oppose."

Like much of climate science, he sees a half-truth and then just jumps straight to an unfounded conclusion. Yes, right-wingers (and also some of us without left/right-wing baggage) are persuaded to look at the science more deeply and critically because the solutions to the supposed problem look just like loony-leftyism, but having then looked at the science they discovered no evidence at all, just circular reasoning, over-reliance on poor models with vague, self-serving assumptions, spurious correlations, biased data-mining, contradictory theories reaching the same conclusion, failure to predict anything correctly, hubris, hypocrisy, and a cabal who can neither admit when they are wrong nor resist the temptation to just make stuff up with no supporting data or theory - such as linking floods in the UK to climate change just 18 months after linking droughts in the same place to climate change.

Trust in climate science is the problem: Left-wingers and greens have just too much of it - presumably because it coincides with their other anti-growth, anti-industry, anti-car dogmata! All the rest of us are rightly skeptical. But even those who might accept the narrative (because science it isn't) find that the same people who are so utterly pessimistic about CO2's effect on the environment are simultaneously ridiculously optimistic that we can happily ditch fossil fuels and renewables will magically then take their place. It's like Alice Through the Looking Glass!

Jun 25, 2014 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

This is pure activism and zealotry: "How can we best manipulate other people into doing the things we think they should do?"

Any links with science, reality, truth, and integrity were abandoned long ago, it seems.

Jun 25, 2014 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Read the whole thing. It's quite a hoot. I particularly liked this bit:

"Shifting the fixation is actually a major challenge; Renee would be interested in thinking through this with others. Such as looking at what research looks like that does not conform to the standard evidence based methodology."

If there is no evidence why not just make stuff up. Apparently they need better "stories".

Jun 25, 2014 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterpotentilla

IMHO: In politics, if you can't get your own way by military means; because it always falls apart, and you can't get your way by economic means; because the only thing socialists have ever managed to redistribute is poverty, and you can't get your way by the will of the populace; because they don't want it, the only way left is to lie,cheat and swindle to get it.

As a former Labour supporter, long ago when it had a humanitarian ethos (after all, it grew out of Methodism, not Marxism), I regret having to say this.

Jun 25, 2014 at 6:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

"Read the whole thing."

No Andrew NO!

Thank you but no thank you!

Your blog post was more than enough. Whathisface Corner - I am wondering, what is his mental age, not much more than his shoe size I'll warrant.

Jun 26, 2014 at 12:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Everybody seems to agree that it is energy that drives the weather and climates, and that much of this energy is in the wind. Has anyone considered what the impact of the REMOVAL of this energy by the infamous, bird-chopping turbines will have on the weather and climates?

Jun 26, 2014 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Q: Do we need to record stories how climate scientists have acted in their personal lives?
A: some senior climate change scientists are very carbon intensive people around the world, therefore personal stories might not be that helpful.

Just a reminder:-

"Greenpeace chief commutes - by plane: Executive flies 250 miles from Luxembourg to Amsterdam despite organisation's anti-air travel campaign"

Jul 10, 2014 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

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