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Discussion > Children's Science books

Steve Richards, Thank you.
That is the point. Ideas before testing the ideas.
And when we test the ideas the measurements need to be clearly understood.
Using sciency language is not better science.

Raff misses the point when he says the same number in % or ppm is just as precise. They are just as meaningless.
The only difference is that it's more obviously extremely small with %.
Therefore it 's more obvious that the sensitivity to changed on CO2 must be very, very high if it is to be a problem.
Using % makes it obvious that the claims of those calling for immediate action are extreme.
Using sciency ppm numbers make them sound reasonable, maybe even plausible, to those who don't study closely.

Thus using ppm avoids the demand for extraordinary proof for extraordinary claims. Extraordinary proof that, as you point out, doesn't exist.

Dec 28, 2015 at 9:26 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

You do talk some nonsense.

"it's more obviously extremely small with %"
Do you know that carbon (not CO2) is only 300 ppm in the solar system? That is by your estimation "extremely small". In the earth's crust carbon is about 730 ppm by mass. Again, by your estimation that is "extremely small". But without that extremely small fraction, there'd be no life. So what exactly does "extremely small" mean to you?

Did you ask those questions? My guess is that those of you commenting on this thread also need a calculator to work out 0.028% of 1000.

Dec 29, 2015 at 1:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Steve Richards, yes, it also makes Raff look like an irrelevance, for citing old chestnuts like CO2 levels causing global warming.

0.040% seems far more realistic. Besides, if CO2 has risen by 0.010%, something must have dropped by 0.010%, so how do we know that the missing 0.010% isn't the cause of the recent warming, which has paused?

Dec 29, 2015 at 2:41 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

There some people who want to shine a light on the world to help explain it to you, but others wave the light right in your face, dazzling you so you don't get the time to examine issues properly, that's what trolls do.

In this case Raff seems to be practicing at getting one over by distracting skeptics and drawing them off thread so he can score points.
The point is here is not whether a tiny amount can have a great effect, but that a children's book massively misleads children about Greenhouse Gases by getting the CO2 out by 1250% and not mentioning water vapour.

And I notice ATTP, when called out for stating something wrongly, he went back and changed his own page and continued insulting says Steve McIntyre

Dec 29, 2015 at 8:12 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Stewgreen, you teach a lot of people (I assume) so ask them to work out 0.028% of 1000. You could even try asking what 1250% of 1 is. Try it yourself too. Try it one some 8 year olds. I expect neither you nor the children nor most of your students will get the correct answers without a calculator. You and the others are using percentages to confuse.

Dec 29, 2015 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Raff, if you really think we can't work out ppm or percentages then you're wasting your time talking to morons.
But you continue here so clearly you don't think we are not morons.

Thus I suspect you are looking to provide flamboyant rhetoric to impress onlookers.
Again, don't bother. There are no onlookers.

You keep making the argument that small things can have big effects. This is true.
But you ignore the point that that is arguing for a high sensitivity of the climate to changes in CO2 concentration.
Which is ridiculous.

It's disproven by history (every forest-fire would have led to runaway Venus).
It's disproven by the present (the pause).
You may have faith in the future. But it's not my religion.

Small things have small impacts unless sensitivity is high. Climate sensitivity is clearly not high.
That's why people hide the size in order to deceive.

Dec 29, 2015 at 9:11 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

M, unbeknownst to you, intelligence is not measured by whether one can do percentages. I'm sure you can "work it out" but that is not the point. But that seems to be lost on you - which might in itself be a measure of intelligence.

You write nonsense: you don't know what sensitivity to CO2 is, forest fires result in a piddling amount of CO2 and the pause, if it ever existed, is well and truly over with this year's temperatures - unless you believe in conspiracies (what am I saying, of course you do).

Dec 30, 2015 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Raff, only in climate science can so many experts, be so wrong, so often. Is climate science the first 'science' evah, to have needed psychologists to support the scientists?

Dec 30, 2015 at 2:27 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Golf Charlie, M Courtney, Stewgreen et al: I am afraid you have been caught bang to rights. What sort of an fool allows the discussion to be derailed by no more than a simpleton who has difficulty stringing two concepts together, is unable to read what others may write without construing the most absurd interpretations, regards history, historical data and discussion to be at best somewhat malleable, and is unable to remember much of what he/she has written, anyway?

I mean, you even waste time asking questions as if expecting an answer, where a simple review of this site will show that none will be forthcoming, no matter how simply the question might be put. Pull yourselves together and ignore the idiot; return to the topic of this discussion, and the blatant propaganda that is being perpetrated in the name of education...

Dec 30, 2015 at 11:01 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

… or even entertainment. I watched part of The Bee Movie the other day, and was appalled by the unashamed anti-human, anti-capitalism tripe that was being promulgated (apart from bees being able to blink; the workers being male; having a nuclear family; having a society structured along American human lines; etc., etc.). If you look at it, there are so many films that are like that; few, nowadays, seem to be pure escapism; most do seem to have a hidden – or not so hidden – message that the world is doomed, under capitalist humanity (e.g. Star Wars?).

Dec 30, 2015 at 11:09 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Ratty, no derailing. The OP suggested 0.04% was a better way of expressing CO2 concentration than 400ppm for an 8 year old. I propose that children of that age (and more generally, innumerate adults too) can't understand fractional percentages. Do you think they can?

Dec 30, 2015 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Obviously, you think that, if they cannot understand fractional percentages, they will understand what ppm means. Curious.

Hopefully, if a child reads something it does not understand, it will ask an adult about it; an adult with the most basic numeracy should be able to look at 0.04% and read that as a very small amount, and will have an opportunity to expand the child’s mind a little. However, not every adult is fully cognisant with parts per million (though that is a situation that could be very easily corrected, which might depend upon the adult’s motivation or desire for further learning), so the “400 parts” may be read as something considerably larger than reality – which, by the way, does seem to have happened with the book’s author, but you seem to have overlooked that.

Dec 30, 2015 at 4:10 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Ratty, that is quite true. And I doubt, even if it is spelled out for them, that many young children have a good appreciation of the million in ppm. Equally they probably have little appreciation of parts per hundred especially if the answer is something indecipherable with a dot in it. As you say, the author clearly is confused by fractional percentages. It is easy enough to remember 400 (ppm) but is that less than 0.5% or 0.05% - oh it's both, so let's go for 0.5 as it is nearer to a whole number...

It is clear to me that readers friends and children can't answer my earlier questions otherwise we'd have a t least a few oldies here saying, well my grandchildren gave me the answer to 0.028% of 1000 quicker than I could type it into my calculator!

This whole "very small amount" theme is just a proxy for calling CO2 an insignificant trace gas. Those pushing the line know they'd be seen as idiots using the trace gas line and just want to appear a little more sophisticated.

Dec 30, 2015 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

I asked an adult relative which of 0.028% and 0.04% is bigger and she said "the 28 of course".

Rounding up. Which of 0.03% and 0.04% is bigger?

Jan 2, 2016 at 2:38 AM | Unregistered Commenterclipe

I asked an adult relative which of 0.028% and 0.04% is bigger and she said "the 28 of course".

It's not nice to ask your own mum a trick question about the difference between 28 and 0.04.

Jan 2, 2016 at 4:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterclipe

CO2 is 400 ppm, 'not CO2' is 999,600 ppm :)

Jan 2, 2016 at 1:53 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

So what? Water starts tasting bad at much above 200mg/L (200ppm) salt but it is 999,800ppm water. Would you like a water supply at 200ppm salt? Like I said elsewhere this ppm vs % argument is a proxy for the "it's an insignificant trace gas" argument that makes whoever uses it a laughing stock. But you seem to be trying it out.

Jan 2, 2016 at 5:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Water starts tasting bad at much above 200mg/L (200ppm) salt

That's really interesting. As soon as I'm at home where my milligram scale is, I'll give it a try.

Jan 2, 2016 at 7:07 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Raff, you are a laughing stock.

Everyone knows CO2 is only a trace gas.

Chlorine at 10ppm in water will make your eyes water, and sting.

Jan 3, 2016 at 2:18 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I got out my milligram scale and some table salt.

I tasted the French village tapwater (temperature 15.3C in a clean pyrex beaker). Slightly earthy taste, as usual.

100mg table salt added to 1/2 litre (200 ppm) - no change in taste so far as I could tell.
200mg table salt added to 1/2 litre (400 ppm) - difference of taste discernable.
300mg table salt added to 1/2 litre (600ppm) - discernable salt taste, but I would not have described it "tasting bad". Perfectly drinkable according to my taste.

Several minutes between each tasting.

From subjective testing of audio systems, I know that non-comparative subjective tests are insensitive and easily influenced by the subject's knowledge. A more conclusive test would have been to have made an A/B test (A = water, B = water+salt), perhaps using water having no perceptible taste on its own (does such a thing exist?), randomised, with a reasonable number of trials. Under such conditions, I can well believe that 200ppm salt could be reliably detected by taste.

But my informal test described above was enough to convince me that the salt level would need to be at least several times 200ppm for the water to "start tasting bad".

Jan 3, 2016 at 9:57 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin, very interesting. But whether it is 200 or 600, the vast majority of what you were drinking was water. As with Robert Christopher's "CO2 is 400 ppm, 'not CO2' is 999,600 ppm", don't you think an appropriate question is, "So what?"

Jan 3, 2016 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Raff, I'm always in favour of expressing things in the way that conveys most clearly the central idea being discussed.

There is probabably a human tendency to imagine that the effect of a substance will be roughly comparable to its concentration. But in lots of cases, a concentration that, intuitively, sounds completely negligible, may have very significant effects. So sometimes things will be quoted as percentages with an implication (intended to mislead) that the effect will be negligible.

Expressing things as percentage purity is entirely appropriate in some cases. If you are buying some gold, what interests you is knowing how much gold you are getting, so the karat measure of percentage purity is the right one to use.

But sometimes it is used as a marketing ruse to detract attention from a deficiency. When I used to hear the advert that said "Kills 99% of household germs" my reaction was always to think "And what about the remaining 1%, if they just happen to be bacteria that can kill you?".

I think (from the smiley) that Robert Christopher's 999,600 ppm was not really meant to be taken seriously.

Jan 3, 2016 at 3:52 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin A on Jan 3, 2016 at 3:52 PM
"I think (from the smiley) that Robert Christopher's 999,600 ppm was not really meant to be taken seriously."

There was some humour present, because it was a 'new angle', highlighting just how little supporting information was provided in the book, rather than any decisive insight. It is worthwhile teaching children that evidence should not necessarily be taken at face value, and that 'missing information' may well be important. Not only do Estate Agents pick the best angle when photographing a 'house for sale', while potential purchasers need to check things out in more detail to gain a better understanding of what is being described, it is a major theme in Science, hence the motto: nullius in verba. Information gathering is part of the understanding process when information is available, relevant, but not presented.

When discussing 'Climate Change', noting that CO2 concentrations of 180 ppm are required for life to exist on Earth and a list of historic concentrations would help to gain a better perspective. Mentioning water vapour and its effect on climate would also help, as would stating the concentrations of CO2 in a stuffy meeting room or how plants grow faster with more CO2 in the atmosphere. But that wouldn't help the argument required by the current agenda! :)

So, why is 400 ppm quoted, with little context? It isn't to improve children's understanding. It does, though, conform to the Green Agenda, maybe so the book will be bought by schools and public libraries, and it imprints into the mind of children a value, a false cliff edge, which we are likely to be approaching for a few years at least!

"We're doomed I tell you, doomed!"

That isn't Science. It isn't helping children appreciate that Science is about understanding natural phenomena and using equations to predict an outcome.

Jan 4, 2016 at 4:03 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

Anyone interested in reviewing more books aimed at children or their teachers on climate? I'm keeping a Page of such reviews in the hope that it might help one day if more parents or schools decide that enough is enough when it comes to climate-crap, and want to find books to avoid and books to get:
My gmail account name is jsclimatelessons.

Jan 4, 2016 at 4:41 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

just got around to reading this discussion which seemed to get bogged down on the best method to represent numerical values. One important aspect, introduced by golf charlie in the second post, went uncommented upon - that factual errors in textbooks will influence pupil's academic evaluations. This applies across the entire school system. I became aware of this recently when I was asked to give a talk to final year GCSE and 6th form students about climate change. When the geography teacher (for that is who teaches CC!) discovered the stance I wished to take she became very perturbed, arguing that I could "confuse" pupils perhaps harming their exam chances. In other words my message was different from that in their textbooks and the understanding of the teachers.

We should worry about this. The school system, including textbooks, are generating generations of people resistant to any message that doesn't conform to the CAGW template.

Mar 15, 2016 at 6:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall