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Discussion > Helping beleaguered climate scientists communicate

Martin, do you really buy into this "no warming for the last x years" trope? I always think it is just a rhetorical device used two score points in arguments: show a graph of the last x years', preferably starting on a high, draw a line through it and hey presto, no warming! Many people will be easily convinced by such tricks as long as they are not shown a longer-term graph with many ups and downs. I could understand Dung buying it, but not you.

Nov 19, 2012 at 5:57 PM | BitBucket>>>>

I know BB has run away from a losing argument in typical troll fashion but as proof of temperature flatlining over the past 15 years, from the senior Met Office climate scientist, I offer the following quote from a Richard Betts post on 'unthreaded at BH:-

"RKS: no, the last 15 years cannot be ignored. To date, this flatlining is still (just about) within the range of natural variability simulated by the models, so on the face of it, it doesn't disprove the models. However, it is part of our research programme to understand the reasons for this - is it just internal variability, or negative external forcing (sun, aerosols, etc) - or indeed is it the case that the positive forcing has been overestimated? There are genuine scientific questions here, which should not be dismissed.

Aug 21, 2012 at 12:27 PM | Richard Betts"

"or indeed is it the case that the positive forcing has been overestimated?"

He even appears to question the 'settled science' meme.

Nov 19, 2012 at 7:52 PM | Registered CommenterRKS

To be fair to Buckets, I thought BB admitted defeat in a moderately gracious fashion, rather than simply ignore the answer and then come up with an unrelated "what about xxx" question.

Nov 19, 2012 at 9:28 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Thanks Martin, even Buckets need love :-)

I didn't single out Dung for any personal reason, just that he clearly does not believe the GHG hypothesis. If there is a rise in CO2 and you believe the hypothesis, then other things being equal, warming follows. If you reject the hypothesis then clearly there is no reason for consequential warming.

We know that the CO2 balance has changed, so there must, other things being equal, be an accumulation of heat (somewhere). It is only the "other things being equal" part that should be debatable and as Mr Betts' indicates, other things are not necessarily equal. His post seems a very measured scientific statement and makes it clear that various causes must be considered. In contrast, your, "Which pretty much nullifies their CO2 message." seemed to jump directly to a conclusion. Hence my surprise.

Note that if one looked back over the temperature graph of the last century, one would have to say of the rises, falls and hiatuses (sounds ugly) that, "buggered if we know", probably summarises quite well science's answer to the question of why many occurred, even with the benefit hindsight.

Nov 19, 2012 at 10:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket


Dont start getting all reasonable all of a sudden, we need bogey men to hang all our repressed anger on! hehe

Nov 19, 2012 at 10:48 PM | Registered CommenterDung

BitBucket -
In partial response to your question

do you really buy into this "no warming for the last x years" trope?
I offer this chart, which shows the time sequence of 15-year and 30-year trends. One gets a strong hint of a ~60-year cycle, suggesting that 2000-2030 will be a period of low -- possibly zero -- warming. This chart doesn't suggest that there is no warming going on. But perhaps only half the warming of the 80s and 90s is down to greenhouse gases.

Nov 20, 2012 at 1:09 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Looks like someone had some fun looking for those trends. If you like graphs and trends, take a look at the SkS page on warming since 1998. They are rather more impressive than yours ;-)

Nov 20, 2012 at 1:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

BB -
Yes, it's always fun to fool around with the data. SkS may have more impressive graphics than are produced by 5 minutes with Excel, but SkS is, shall we say, selective. For example, take their figure 4, 10-year linear trends in three of the major global surface temperature datasets. About a year ago, I made similar graphs, for HadCrut3 [this was made prior to HadCrut4 availability] and for GISS. They paint a rather different picture than SkS's figure 4. One might well wonder why SkS hasn't updated that figure over the last 5 years. [By the way, my spreadsheet produces up-to-date versions of those charts, which I'm too lazy to upload, but to save you the suspense, I'll let on that the 10-year trends have declined slightly in the last year.]

More to the point, your comment wasn't really responsive to mine, which noted that the current 15-year trend in HadCrut4 is near zero, and there is an apparent oscillatory pattern in temperature trends which, if real, indicates that the temperatures may stall in the near future and that the underlying trend in temperatures is closer to 0.1 K/decade rather than 0.2. Do you have any reaction to those statements?

Nov 20, 2012 at 3:05 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Since I am the initiator of this thread - and without naming names - could I respectfully ask that commenters to refrain from encouraging the BittyOne in his blatant attempts to derail the thread with his various and sundry off-topic ramblings.

He was invited by Laurie Childs [Nov 19, 2012 at 3:19 AM]:

But seeing as you obviously think we have nothing to offer, bearing in mind that we are only playing around here and couldn‘t really give a toss what they do, perhaps you can help them out on how to “communicate” the “science” yourself. What would you say to them? Do tell.

But he's been dancing away from the topic - while rambling all over the map - ever since.

Some people leave and never say g'bye; others, like the BittyOne [Nov 19, 2012 at 7:07 PM], say g'bye and never leave.

Nov 20, 2012 at 3:23 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Harold, your graphs paint a different picture because they are plotting different quantities. Theirs plot anomaly vs time and yours plot 10-year trend vs start year. Also, why don't you plot back to 1900 when the HADCRUT3 data series start instead of just 10 years? What is special about starting in 1991?

Why have they not updated the graphs? At a guess, because they are quoting from papers that were published on the dates they state and the papers have not been rewritten. I'd say that is unremarkable, but maybe you see an ulterior motive.

I didn't remark on your original graph because I didn't know what to make either of it or of your interpretation. I also didn't want to be rude. I don't have a background in data analysis or statistics, so I can shed no expert light on your graphs. My gut feeling as a layman is that finding a 60-year periodicity in the derivative of a 120 year time-series (2 cycles) is fanciful. If you are a statistician you have doubtless computed a confidence level (or some such metric), which you can tell us. If you are not and have not, I would recommend not reading so much into your discoveries. That is not intended as an insult, just an answer (since you asked directly for one).

Nov 20, 2012 at 4:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

BB -
Thanks for your reply. In deference to Hilary, I won't respond here, as we have wandered far off-topic.

Nov 20, 2012 at 4:20 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Hilly, I saw your post only after posting to Harold. Since you ask, I don't think climate science can hope to please everyone.

Climate science (and much other science) is full of ifs and buts, of theories and propositions, of probabilities and possibilities. If scientists present their work in that form they will have no audience except each other. The public, like patrons of BH, want facts.

If on the other hand scientists present their work as fact, with uncertainty removed, they must chose between their various interpretations. They will then be condemned by people like you for choosing the wrong option, for emphasising their most probably outcome instead of the most benign.

Scientists cannot win in such an environment and you know it. The question is insincere which is why the discussion have moved on.

Nov 20, 2012 at 4:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Nov 20, 2012 at 4:27 AM | BitBucket

...I don't think climate science can hope to please everyone.

The question is insincere which is why the discussion have moved on.

Then why don't you address your disdain for the concept of communicating climate science in the most universally pleasing way to the people most actively, and influentially, involved in that practice?

The ones who are actually doing it.

See the link at the top?

Have you even clicked it?

There is a blog run by Adam Corner who specialises in advising climate scientist about the best way to communicate. As I have suggested above, why not tell him directly about this concern of yours?

And please, a current level of uncertainty *is* a fact. It looks like you could start with some communication of just basic science (let alone climate) being sent in your direction.

You are insincere. Why don't you move on?

Nov 20, 2012 at 8:48 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

BB, you are basically admitting that if the scientists reveal the true picture, then they wouldn’t be able to mobilise people to act on CO2. Agreed 100%! In which case, you’d better hope that CO2 isn’t that big a deal.

You cannot con a global population into turning our back on the substance that has raised most of us out of poverty and disease. If you haven’t got really good evidence that fossil fuels have to go then you’ll fail. The more you push substandard evidence, the harder it will be to make people listen if and when you have real evidence. Think frog in a pan of slowly heating water.

It is coming as a shock to climate scientists to discover that ‘trust me I’m a scientist’ means very little. Why? Scientist is just a label. It doesn’t guarantee quality work, It doesn’t ensure good record keeping. It doesn’t say you’ve been certified as a good person. It just means you’re quite clever and you get to work under your own initiative a lot. There seems to be no move to make climate science adopt any of the checks and balances required from businesses who impact upon the public. How can we trust them when intellectual property rights mean more to them than transparency and accountability?

Climate scientists and the top warmist agitators like Gore do not act like they believe CO2 is an issue. They have had the best induction into CO2 evidence anyone is going to get and they can’t give up the hydrocarbons. And don’t tell me that it’s disingenuous to expect them to suffer more than the rest of us for their cause. If they can’t convince themselves to experience the misery of a low CO2 existence, what hope have they of convincing the rest of the planet?

“But it’s big business and industry that has to make the real changes,” you might say. No! That’s the whine of a silly child who has no idea how business works. Businesses try to be as energy efficient as possible or they go bust. You can’t magically make them use very little energy. Only a new low CO2 energy source would change CO2 emissions from industry.

If there was a viable energy source to replace fossil fuels then we’d be using it, CO2 or no CO2. Installation of wind farms are the actions of those who can both afford expensive energy and don‘t mind spending other people’s money on vanity projects that will be loathed no matter what the future brings. This laughable idea promoted by warmists, that oil companies are suppressing other, viable new technologies is straight out of a Disney movie. With all the moustaches this Movenber, warmists must think oil barons are on every corner. People don’t use alternatives to what they’ve got now because the alternatives are not fit for purpose.

So let’s recap:-

Insufficient evidence.
Poor quality control.
Hypocritical leaders.
Rubbish solutions.
Significant action on CO2 – NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

So BB, instead of playing the troll here, start lobbying your own side. There are ways to make climate science more believable but it would involve hard work and new working practices which I’m not sure climate scientists have the discipline for.

Nov 20, 2012 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Apologies to Hilary and all other contributors

But I would like to ask HarlodW if I may ref the graph in his post:

@ Nov 20, 2012 at 1:09 AM HaroldW

This one:-

I had compiled one very similar but lost it due to computer failure c/w corrupted back up. Present fallback machine has a fried graphics chipset making scrolling a spreadsheet virtually impossible. Have sent begging letter to Santa!


Nov 20, 2012 at 10:44 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Heres one academic communicator, communicating what exactly (at Copenhagen)

Does dressing up like a smurf help?

or language like this.

but of course motivated reasoning and ideology only applies to one 'side'

Nov 20, 2012 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

oops first url, was at House of Commons, just before Copenhagen.. (friends of the Earth member, Stop Climate Chaos rally

Adam writes it up here:

this one was at copenhagen a couple of weeks later. (Green Party candidate)

Nov 20, 2012 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Green Sand (10:44 AM) -
Begging Hilary's indulgence to respond...
Of course you may use that graph. For my part, I don't consider it necessary for you to ask permission to use that which I posted publicly, but I appreciate your courtesy in making the request. You might want to make a local copy of it, lest I update the graph at some point in the future, and in a fit of housekeeping -- no, really, stop laughing, it *does* happen, albeit rarely -- delete the current version. Of course, it's also pretty easy to generate the figure; a few minutes with Excel (or Matlab, or R...) suffices.

Nov 20, 2012 at 12:29 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Last OT comment:-)

HaroldW, thanks

"Of course, it's also pretty easy to generate the figure; a few minutes with Excel"

Yes had it all nicely set up, quite interesting to note that the 30 year trends of all the terrestrial datasets peaked in the same month - Dec 2003 and all are continuing in reducing trends HadCRUT4 now being some 17% below its peak.

Enough, I will get my coat.

Nov 20, 2012 at 12:54 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Here's another interesting take on this seminar [h/t Tom Nelson] which provides a somewhat broader view than that of Adam Corner. Some excerpts:

IPCC should drop its big reports, meeting hears

Myles Allen, head of the Climate Dynamics Group at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and a lead author and reviewer on previous IPCC assessments, said that as a result of criticisms of earlier reports "IPCC statements are becoming so legalistic that their value as a communication tool is diminishing".

"We should give up on the 'Stalinist' notion of a single information vehicle," Allen told the meeting, organised by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, part of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford.

Allen suggested that the IPCC process was partly motivated by a desire "to make a big media splash," as a way of getting key messages through to policymakers.

But this could backfire when it came to conveying the uncertainties contained in climate change predictions.

"The whole IPCC enterprise of coming up with a way of communicating that cannot be misunderstood is falling apart," said Allen.

"The main function [of IPCC reports] at the moment is to provide a focus for sceptics," he added. If the misleading data about the Indian glaciers had been in a regional report, “it would have made only a small impact."

He was supported by Arthur Peterson, chief scientist at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and a member of the Dutch delegation to IPCC meetings. Peterson said that the intergovernmental panel "is not really up to the task of effective communication about the risks and uncertainties of climate change".

Rather than the IPCC assessments being described as a "scientific consensus" on the state of climate change, it would be better if they were described as "policy-related assessments that acknowledge uncertainty," said Peterson. [emphasis added -hro]

Quite a different picture than that painted by Corner, don't you think?! I was particularly struck by the conspicuous absence of any mention of "cli­mate sceptic attacks".

This suggests to me that perhaps Myles Allen did learn something from his interactions here and on CA, after all!

I also wonder if Corner's account was highly coloured by his preconceptions and advocacy.

Perhaps I should start another discussion on how can we help poor beleaguered enviro-activist-journo-psychologists communicate more effectively ;-)

Nov 23, 2012 at 3:10 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

for choosing the wrong option, for emphasising their most probably outcome instead of the most benign.

You would dearly like that to be what they do or have been doing, but it isn't. You are promoting a meme that most people at BH know to be untrue.

Nov 23, 2012 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

NW, there is an 'if' at the beginning of the paragraph you quote.

Nov 23, 2012 at 7:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Your thread and mine nicely complement each other, Hilary. Mine is about finding ways for skeptics to have their concerns at least heard (and preferably listened to) in the corridors of power, whereas warmist scientists, having had unfettered input into public policy for many years, seem concerned that that level of access is under threat due to a loss of IPCC authority, a "failure to communicate". So do they know more than we know? Are research funds showing signs of drying up? And is it a case of scrambling for the lifeboats as the IPCC ship goes under, very very slowly?

At the end of the day it is a question of who, and which research units, the policymakers keep listening to. In the event of any downsizing of the climate research industry, correct positioning could be crucial to ongoing involvement.

Nov 24, 2012 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

BB, indeed there is. So, as your scenario is pure speculation, what basis do you have for assuming that we would react in such a manner?

Nov 24, 2012 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

Hilary started this thread with a reference to Adam Corner’s article, which has received just three comments, two from BH regulars Foxgoose and Barry Woods, plus a reply from Adam. This is par for the course for Adam’s talkingclimate blog, as for other similar blogs discussing climate communication. There is no discussion unless sceptics start it, and the participation of believers is largely devoted to closing discussion down.
Corner also mentions the contributions of James Painter, Emily Shuckburgh, Nick Pidgeon, and Chris Rapley. These are not nobodies. Yet no-one who attended wants to discuss what they said, and nobody who didn’t attend wants to know what they said.
So either the communicators are not interested in communication, or they’re discussing things among themselves, off-line, where we sceptics can’t interrupt. Which is it?
(I haven’t been able to find any recording of the event, though the Reuters School of Journalism claims to put podcasts on-line).

Nov 25, 2012 at 9:14 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

There’s an article in today’s Observer which should be read by anyone interested in communicating environmental messages.
It’s about growing veg in the Australian desert using solar power to desalinate seawater. The journalist doesn’t talk down to the reader, and provides enough technical detail to make the story fascinating and convincing.
Here’s the point though. Being a newspaper article, and not a scientific paper, the journalist has to provide a “human interest” angle; in this case, the conflict between the Heath Robinson-like British inventor of the system and the Harvard-educated German whizzkid who’s put it into effect.
Which is as it should be. There are two sides to every question; plus and minus factors.
Climate scientists refuse to accept that. They see the problem as one of “communicating uncertainty”, whereas the rest of us just want to know both sides of the argument.
No wonder they feel misunderstood.

Nov 25, 2012 at 10:34 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers