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Discussion > "Climate communication" - what do you think?

I looked at the text from "Exeter University on 27th June" and I wondered if I was reading the output of a buzzword generator rather than something written by a person. [text quoted below]

I put it into a Gunning fog index evaluator and got the result:
"The Gunning Fog index is 25.25".

("The fog index is commonly used to confirm that text can be read easily by the intended audience. Texts for a wide audience generally need a fog index less than 12. Texts requiring near-universal understanding generally need an index less than 8.")


"An interactive workshop co-sponsored by the Climaate Change and Sustainable Futures theme to consider how Exeter can build a sustained approach towards impact generation through establishing a new Climate Knowledge Exchange Network;

The University's Science Strategy has enabled Exeter to become a World leading centre for Climate Change research in the sciences and social sciences, spearheaded by the Climate Change an Sustainable Futures theme. In light of the forthcoming REF 2014 and the increasing emphasis being placed on generating meaningful social and economic impacts from scientific research, this workshop will bring climate researchers and key policy makers together to explore the ways in which academic research on climate change can achieve maximum impact alongside enabling the scientific community to better understand how its research is used by and communicated to policy makers, practitioners and publics.

This interactive workshop will consider how and in what ways Exeter can build a sustained approach towards impact generation through the potential establishment of a new Climate Knowledge Exchange Network and to consider the ways in which such a network would function and benefit stakeholders.

We invite researchers from both the natural and social sciences from any discipline to participate in discussing this important strategic initiative for the University and wider community. Speakers will be drawn from both Exeter academics and high profile external stakeholders and there will be ample opportunity for discussion through a series of breakout sessions during the event."

Jun 16, 2012 at 1:00 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I keep contact with the Hadley Centre. They are one of the best climate centres in the world. Something to be proud of. They should be given credit. They are under enormous pressure from government and are not allowed to say what they really think. But there's some really good scientists there. I like Richard Betts very much and respect him. He couldn't be a scientist and not discuss the uncertainties [in climate science]. Three cheers for him.

James Lovelock no less.

Blushing yet?

Jun 16, 2012 at 8:50 AM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Hi Richard,

I noticed on Tamsin's blog, that Judith Curry has raised the McGill research in relation to the low-frequency behaviour of GCMs, here and in several follow-up comments. She said,

I interpret the sluggishness/stiffness of the models in a different way: they do not simulate well multi-decadal and longer time scales of natural internal variability. This implies that the models are over sensitive to external forcing, with the inference that the models may be OVER estimating future climate change.

RPS has also made similar noises here and here. He said,

Shaun Lovejoy and his co-authors’ comments, and associated research, go to the core of identifying a serious problem with the IPCC-type approach to climate science. The multi-decadal global climate model predictions is NOT a boundary-value problem but an initial value-value problem ...

This is another contribution which documents shortcomings in the ability of multi-decadal global climate models to simulate the real climate. Global climate model projections neglect important low frequency natural climate effects on time scales of decades and longer according to this paper.

These are all pretty much the conclusions I take from this research, so I don’t think I’ve got it too far wrong. I’m happy that you disagree with aspects of this, and I think that your background gives additional weight to your view. So, if you have the time I really would appreciate some more detailed explanation for your disagreement then I've seen so far.

PS: I hope you'll extend the pub invitation to me as well. I'll definitely buy you a fourth if you do!

Jun 16, 2012 at 12:41 PM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

I know it's being discussed on another thread, but I just have to mention here that Richard has been given this rousing endorsement from James Lovelock, in part for being willing to discuss the uncertainties in climate science. So may I be mischievous and suggest that Richard should feel free to engage some public dialogue with Lovelock's recent remarks in the Hickman and MSNBC interviews, which would be educational for everyone:

On the Met Office Hadley Centre:

I keep contact with the Hadley Centre. They are one of the best climate centres in the world. Something to be proud of. They should be given credit. They are under enormous pressure from government and are not allowed to say what they really think. But there's some really good scientists there. I like Richard Betts very much and respect him. He couldn't be a scientist and not discuss the uncertainties [in climate science]. Three cheers for him.

Jun 16, 2012 at 1:01 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

The Talking Climate saga is not ending well..

Adam Corner belives sceptiscim is primarily down to motivated reasoning, and ideology, and refuses to consider discussing scepticism of aspects of the science.

When I point out to him, one reason that many are sceptic. ie actvist scientists he will not post my thoughts.. he got all huffy, and won't publish publically available information of a scientist who research is around reason to be sceptical, would be percieved by ANY member of the general public to be considered perhaps partisan on the issue.

My evidence being, a photograph of said scientist that is a green party candidate, waving a placard at the Copenhagne climate conference! ACT NOW -- it say

The same scientist, who is a co-author of a paper, with the Kiribati Youth representative at the climate conference. on Communicating Climate Change - Using Social Media

The same scientist is a policy advisor to a group COIN, who anyone would consider as an activist organisation, whose founder is involved in no less than 2 'denier's - Hall of Shame
As COIN and PIRC are funding Talking Climate that looks tricky..

Hi co-author (above)now working alongside him at COIN

The said scientist also has his own blog a hundred months and counting (ie the whole danegrous tipping point meme)

Of coure the main reason he will not publish that comment appears to be that said scientist, who want to talk about scepticism, and won't publish I think my perfectly valid reason to be sceptical, is none other than Adam Corner himself..

Picture of Adam Corner – Green party candidate carrying a banner at Copenhagen – ‘Act Now’ it says…

original greenparty source and write up by Adam Corner

Whilst also at Copenhagen Adam tweeted

loving Brown calling people ‘deniers’ and ‘luddites’ on Cif. Tell it like it is Gordy!
12:59 PM Dec 7th, 2009 from web

Adam defending the ‘climategate ‘Nature Trick’

these are well worth watching re: ‘climategate’ emails, esp nice showing legitimate use of ‘trick’ 2:16 PM Dec 8th, 2009 from web

Intellectual dishonesty at its worst. (that blog is PUBLICALLY funded) so deletion of the public (ie ME)should be seen in a different light.

If the event has got anything to do with people like that, please give some good advice, on how not to look stupid. Adam has now so irritated me in his censorshop of inconvenient information (he described it as not relevant to scepticism, and personally critical, well yes, toughen up, well welcome to PUBLIC debate.. )

that I considering a full write up... ie phsycologist, phsycologising denial, is placard carrying green activist at Copenhagen, and policy advisor to activist groups that whose founders and advisory board, sanction 'denier' photo Halls of Shame..

not a very snappy headline, but I'm sure the WUWT crowd will love it...

ie not very clever, I really want to engage with people that that, but just deleting me out of existance is WHY so many people are sceptical. Behaviour and intolerance.

Actually I'll sit on it for a bit, and hope to persuade him to publish it on his blog even though very few people will ever see it there (Talking Climate Alexa ranked 7,000,000 plus.

My real concern is thatthe departyments of Phsycology at Nottingham and Cardiff University, seem to think it is a good idea to sign up with PIRC and COIN !! (utter activist AND lobbying groups, ie also pro renewables, anti nuclear) so those universities risk being seen as partisan.

(on principle, I will NOT engage with someone that is intellectually dishonest, in this way, HE publically writes about others ideology, BUT comes over all coy, when the mirror is turned on him and deletes me on a PUBLICALLY funded blog)

Perhaps Richard could advise whoever, that stifling debate, censoring debate, etc, etc is UTTERLY counterproductive, however uncompfortble or off message it is for those involved.

Comment NOT published (reproduced elesewhere - on topic discussion, about Talking Climate at Climate etc)

Another couple for interest.

ps. if anyone hasn't noticed yet, the longer my comments are the more annoyed I am.

Jun 17, 2012 at 10:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Hello Richard

The one thing that surprises me considering your (well documented in these posts) willingness to politely engage with people on this blog, is that there do not seem to have been any Eureka moments? The exchange of facts and opinions does not seem to have led to anyone suddenly realising that something thay believed to be true, was in fact not true (or the reverse).
For both sides of the argument a Eureka moment would be the holy grail, the objective of any attempt by either side to "communicate" with the other. Why do you think that this has not happened either to you or to us?

Jun 17, 2012 at 11:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

Not totally a Eureka moment, at least something a little bit in that direction.

Months back, Richard pointed me to references on atmospheric CO2 adjustment time. Until then, I had thought that the IPCC "CO2 is forever"/"CO2 adjustment time is 100's of years" notion was something cooked up, solely on the basis of unvalidated computer models, that gave a suitable "it's worse than we thought" message palatable to the IPCC. It seemed to me that post nuclear testing C14 records showed, unequivocally, a completely different story.

Having started to look into it more deeply, primarily as a result of Richard's comment, I've now reached a point where all I can say is "whilst the IPCC CO2 concentration impulse response contradicts some known principles of dynamic systems, the subject is more complicated than I had thought and I currently have an open mind on where the reality lies".

[Currently, I'm trying to work it out from first principles, using the historical CO2 concentration record and the fossil fuel and land clearance estimated histories of CO2 release and reconciling these calculations with other approaches to estimating CO2 adjustment time/lifetime.]

Jun 18, 2012 at 9:01 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Hello Martin

pls point me at any sources on CO2 adjustment, I would love to read more about that. Surely Martin Selby impacts on this topic as well, his work seems to imply a fairly rapid transmission of CO2 into the various sinks.

Jun 18, 2012 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

Dung, send me an email at (funny_at_sign) and I'll tell you what I know. Writing it out will be a good discipline for me. One day I'll convince myself that black is white but then, a week later, I convince myself that the opposite is true. It seems to vary enormously depending on the assumptions you make.

Jun 18, 2012 at 7:55 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I don't suppose this type of conference every think to invite people along that they are trying to communicate to - to have a chat (ie the public)

you know that would make sense..

just fancy a trip to Exeter ;-) serious about theabove thought though.

Jun 18, 2012 at 11:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

So it's a "Bridging the Gaps" event. We have those here, and I have the coffee mug. What Richard is doing certainly counts as "Bridging the Gaps"!

But how depressing - the aim seems to be to set up a "Climate Knowledge Exchange Network". As if we need yet another organisation promoting global warming propaganda, in addition to CarbonBrief, Natureclimate, Climatecentral, and all the others.

Jun 19, 2012 at 1:19 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews


Tallking about communicating climate change to different audiences, have the details of the Nahle experiment this May been communicated to you and can you comment?

Jun 22, 2012 at 7:37 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung - I don't know if you tried to send me an email or not. I'll gladly send you what I have on the dynamics of atmospheric CO2 levels out of public view.

Jun 22, 2012 at 8:26 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

yeah, philip, the no-co2 composite trace of models is like an ECG flatline - dead. The models have no heartbeat of their own.

Jun 22, 2012 at 8:27 PM | Registered Commentershub

Hi Shub,

It's odd isn’t it? I've tried quite hard recently to find a mainstream counter example to the L&S conclusion, but no luck so far. I think it must probably generally be the case that decadal variability in GCMs is far too weak. The AR4 attribution chapter gives a lot of weight to comparisons between GCMs and observations and I would have imagined that the weak spectra should significantly weaken its conclusions. Again, no luck with any counter-arguments.

Jun 24, 2012 at 3:02 PM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

The talk is the day after tomorrow. Remember, Richard, as part of your talk, ask the audience and panel 'Is there room for doubt?'. Then come back and tell us how many think not. Please.

Jun 25, 2012 at 6:15 PM | Registered Commenterrhoda

Hi all,

The meeting went well today, and my talk seemed to be well-received. I'll try to make the powerpoint slides available online somewhere, but in a nutshell I covered the following:

1. My use of Twitter in science, for things like telling people about my papers (especially those in open review), IPCC information (review procedures, literature cutoff dates), and asking people's opinions (again particularly when seeking balance in IPCC writing)

2. Blogging, especially here on Bishop Hill but also Climate Audit, Climate Etc and Tamsin's blog

I said I thought that contributors to these blogs had a very wide range of opinions and expertise, and that the use of "denier" was inappropriate (and there was agreement on this from the audience). I also pointed out that while the majority of blog discussion tends to be airing of opinions, occasionally there can be genuinely useful contributions to the scientific process through the identification of errors (as seems to be the case with the Gergis et al paper, which I cited as a specific example).

I highlighted the general feeling of mistrust towards climate scientists, and the frustration that sceptics seems to feel when they are simple dismissed and shut out of the debate. I noted that the old habit of simply stonewalling sceptics has clearly backfired badly.

I also noted that mutual civility and respect are important for a sensible discussion. If climate scientists choose to 'engage', they should be prepared to do so respectfully and have the right to respect in return.

Incidentally, I specifically pointed people to this discussion here so they could read all your responses in more detail if they wanted.

And, Rhoda, yes I did pose your question of "Is there room for doubt?" and there seemed to be agreement that yes, of course there is, because this is science. Of course there are some areas where there is more doubt and some where there is less, but none of this should be a problem to scientists. I quoted Feynmann's "Doubt is not to be feared, but welcomed and discussed".

Another speaker noted that a few years ago, some climate scientists were edging into campaigning territory, and that this was the wrong thing to do. The same speaker noted that there were difficult balances to be struck when communicating science with a non-scientific audience - simplification if often necessary for ease of understanding, but not at the cost of accuracy and openness about uncertainty.

That's just a quick overview as it's late, but I just wanted to quickly let you know how it went and thank you all again for your feedback.



Jun 27, 2012 at 10:58 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts


I am sure nobody on BH would have anything but praise for all the things you said above. However a sceptic is a sceptic is a sceptic and so I am still sceptical.
What I sense is that you do not seek an open exchange of views with both sides learning from each other. What you seek is "how to treat a sceptic in order to persuade him/her to accept what is 'obviously' the truth?"

Jun 27, 2012 at 11:32 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Hi Dung

Not at all, in fact my final slide specifically pointed out that this is not my aim! I am not trying to "communicate climate change", I am communicating climate science, with all its interesting bits ie: the bits we know least about.



Jun 27, 2012 at 11:44 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts


OK then please comment on the Nahle experiment? And I hope you slept well hehe

Jun 28, 2012 at 12:19 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Jun 22, 2012 at 7:37 PM | Dung

Tallking about communicating climate change to different audiences, have the details of the Nahle experiment this May been communicated to you and can you comment?

No, I've not seen this, please can you post/email the paper/report ?

Jun 28, 2012 at 8:38 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

So, nobody bit on the room for doubt question. We can proceed with those who think there IS room for doubt. I just have more doubt than you. My doubt is based on the weakness of the evidence I've seen so far and the unreliability of some of those who are most vociferous in presenting it. I want more. I want better. I want measurements showing that what is claimed to take place in physics actually takes place in the atmosphere according to the assumptions. That's all. Shouldn't be too hard. No models, no proxies, no reliance on work a century old.

Jun 28, 2012 at 11:41 AM | Registered Commenterrhoda

Oh, and on a different line, some confidence that someone, anyone, actually has a grip on the degree and causes of natural variations. To the extent of explaining any past era without resort to epicycles.

Jun 28, 2012 at 11:42 AM | Registered Commenterrhoda

Richard did you mention that there is pressure for scientists to be oin message publically, so that sceptics do not misinterpet things..

Ie Peter Gleick pulling his senior scientist routine, on Tamsin Edwards choice of blog name..

Or TWICE I've seen you pull up Bob Ward. On Twitter and at Yale Climate Forum.
Very many scientist will not feel able to deal with peple that strongly push a message like Bob and Peter..

Jun 28, 2012 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Hi Barry

Yes, I mentioned the fact that some people don't like things being said that "could be misused by the sceptics", and that this was unscientific. Nobody objected. I think those attitudes are on the wane, fortunately.

Of course it was massively ironic that on pretty much the same day that Peter Gleick was warning Tamsin about her blog name being misused, he was doing a foolish thing which later gave his opponents the best bit of ammunition they'd had for ages.....! :-)



Jun 28, 2012 at 3:49 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts