It’s what we know that’s most important

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If we’re to be out there, we also have to be smart.

Chris Mooney offers some thoughts and advice based on climate scientists’ efforts to increase their engagement with the public and explain -and if necessary defend- the science.

Facts and framing: Both are important

When it comes to science communication, the facts are the baseline from which one absolutely cannot stray; but at the same time, we have to be aware that people respond most strongly to the frame.

Uncertainty and risk

Remember that the political attack is also largely scientific in nature, at least in terms of its framing. It exaggerates uncertainty about particular scientific studies (…) in order to distract from the big picture.

So any scientist walking into this context had better be ready for one obvious trap: Being lured into talking about uncertainty to the detriment of what we actually know.

This is in sharp contrast to what Judith Curry is pushing for: Framing the issues in terms of uncertainty and stressing what we don’t know. I am in firm agreement with Chris Mooney here. Judith’s strategy is a dead end in terms of increasing the public’s knowledge about climate change.

Conversations about uncertainty invoke a frame which in the public mind is easily confused with doubt. Non-scientists have a very different perception of uncertainty than scientists. Framing what we know and don’t know in terms of risk is much more useful in getting the message across, because it leaves less room for misinterpretation (there is less of a gap in how this term is understood, whereas “uncertain” to a layperson means “I don’t know”).

Let me stress that I’m not advocating to downplay the uncertainties. But emphasizing (let alone exaggerating) them is not the road to increase people’s understanding of the issue, where what we do know is much more important to convey (if you goal is to increase the public’s knowledge of the scientific knowledge). It is thereby useful to distinguish the different levels of confidence of the knowledge: Some aspects are virtually certain, whereas others have a wider confidence interval.

This also depends on the level of knowledge of the public. If your audience doesn’t even grasp the basics and has a very twisted view of what is scientifically known, it’s most useful to keep your message simple and focussed on the broad outline of what we do know. As Neven suggested to Judith Curry, who is invited by the Republicans to testify for the US House of Representatives:

Be sure to tell them AGW is real. Start with that and end with that, please.

Herman Daly makes the point very well that the basics of what we know is most important, “at least as to the thrust and direction of policy”. Consider e.g. this quote that I’ve often used since:

To make the point more simply, if you jump out of an airplane you need a crude parachute more than an accurate altimeter.

If politicians or members of the public aren’t even aware that they’re (very, very slowly) jumping out of an airplane (the situation of which can only very, very slowly be changed), then details about the accuracy of the altimeter are of far less importance than telling them they’re about to go mid-air (albeit in slow motion). Don’t tell them which brand of parachute is better though. And only tell them to grab a parachute after you’ve made sure that they value their life in a somewhat similar way as you do. Otherwise you may be accused of advocacy.

Language

In the end, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t use scientific lingo and qualifications/weasel words/passive voice that are the norm in scientific discourse. If we do, the message will get lost on or misinterpreted by the public. If we don’t, we’ll be accused of hiding uncertainty/adhering to dogma/being an advocate or whatever accusation happens to be in vogue. I wrote about this catch 22 before.

It will continue to be a balancing act to be both true to the science and make the message palatable and interesting to the audience. But one thing is for sure: Talk the same way as you do to your fellow scientists and your message will fall on deaf ears. Check out Steve Schneiderand Randy Olson for some very useful perspectives on this balancing act.

Advocacy

Mooney again:

You’re going to be accused of being an advocate no matter what you do. (…) Don’t get angry, and don’t get distracted. Remember what it is that the (…) public, and political leaders, need to know about climate research–and tell them that. Tell them twenty times. And then do it again.

Don’t let your anger or frustration shine through in your communication. It doesn’t go over well (except with people who share your anger or frustration, which seems to be a major factor for blog popularity).

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172 Responses to “It’s what we know that’s most important”

  1. Lou Grinzo Says:

    I apologize if this comes across as overly generalized, but all this talk from Curry of uncertainty reminds me someone saying, “Why wear seat belts or avoid driving while drunk? Even with all the testing and modeling of car accidents, the tribe of experts can’t tell you exactly how you’ll be injured in a crash or even if you’ll be seriously hurt.”

    Probably one of the best ways of getting lay people to think about risk is Stephen Schneider’s technique of polling an audience. Ask them how many people have house/apartment insurance (bunch of hands go up), then ask how many of them expect their homes to burn down this year.

  2. rab Says:

    Bart, you are right on! A major problem is that scientists use words like “uncertainty” and “significant” in a completely different way than journalists do. When Jones was asked whether the earth has cooled since 1998, he gave an answer using the word “significant” in its mathematic sense. The result was a PR cock-up of the first order. Journalists and the non-scientific public interpreted his answer as “It really has cooled, but the drop is small enough that we will ignore it and continue to believe in global warming”. When what he really meant was that the time period was so short that the temperature difference is smaller than the year-to-year fluctuations that occur for reasons unrelated to AGW. For many scientists, this was a watershed in understanding communication issues. Curry was apparently not one of the many scientists who caught on.

  3. Rocco Says:

    And here I was hoping I’d get to see His Lordship again.

  4. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Lou, I would have to disagree with your contention re Schneider’s technique. This is a highly misleading approach to assessing risk. A better approach would be to look at common risks for which insurance isn’t available (I don’t think any insurance companies are offering climate change policies).

    One way of introducing climate change issues and risk would be to talk about deaths caused by various power generation technologies. This would bring home to people the fact that coal-fired power generation has by far the highest death rate per Mwh of electricity generated of all (although a good deal of this is due to poor coal mine safety standards in China). Another worthwhile approach is to talk about risks we (nearly) all accept, like driving cars, and compare that to other risks, such as air travel. The point is that we all make judgments all the time about the acceptability or otherwise of risks. The best way to do so is to make the risk of a particular action explicit, put some numbers on it, and weigh that against the benefits of the action. Insurance against risk is only possible for some risks. Taking action to avoid a risk is not the same as insurance, nor are its costs necessarily comparable.

  5. Roddy Campbell Says:

    I completely with Alex agree re house insurance. It’s a terrible, almost dishonest, analogy.

    We know the odds of our house burning down, the insurance compaines have full statistics. We know precisely the rebuilding costs. We know the effect on our finances of it happening and failing to have insurance. It couldn’t be further away from dealing with uncertainty and unknowns.

  6. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Bart, some good points in your post, now I have had time to read it more carefully. There are a couple of points I’d like to make. First, I think it is important to recognize where your audience is coming from, and to meet them where they’re at. That is one reason I think you may be wrong about Judith’s approach. The people she is trying to reach already have some knowledge about the subject, mixed with varying degrees of misconceptions. Acknowledging the uncertainties may be a good starting point with these people, simply because there is a huge trust deficit following Climategate (whether that is justified or not is beside the point). It may not be such a good starting point with others. As regards Judith’s forthcoming date with the politicians, she has no choice – they have made it clear that uncertainties is one of the issues they want to discuss.

    The other point I’d like to make is that it is important that climate scientists separate, as far as they are able, their scientific knowledge from their political preferences, and make it clear when they are speaking which is which. It’s important also for them to be clear about what they know as fact, what they have strong evidence for, what appears likely but on the basis of weaker evidence, and what is still unclear.

    It is probably also helpful if scientists do not stray too far from their area of expertise. This is where they should be most trustworthy, and most trusted. Even here, they still need to be careful to not oversell their certainty. Remember Lord Kelvin!

  7. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Bart, your post is baffling in a couple of areas.

    Firstly, for the last decade or more the message from the IPCC and all environmental organisations like Greenpeace has been chock full of ‘certainty’, as you recommend. Sea levels will rise, polar bears will die, extreme weather events will increase, deserts will get more deserty, agriculture will fail to feed us, the Maldives and Bangladesh will be under water. 97% of scientists, 2c rise this century minimum. Multiple lines of evidence. You know the stuff. And this has come from the ARs and the SPMs and been translated across by media and Greenpeace et al with just the approach you recommend? In the UK at least there has been high acceptance of AGW and its consequences, most recently shown by the Climate Act which passed with (from memory) only four votes against.

    So I don’t think that re-framing the message to precisely the form it’s been in anyway for a long time is likely to change anything?

    Secondly Neven’s advice ‘Be sure to tell them AGW is real. Start with that and end with that, please.’ is, perhaps unintentionally, ironic. Let’s assume the public and politicians believe that AGW is real, for the sake of argument. What now? AGW itself doesn’t matter, it’s how it impacts us that does. And that’s affected by the scale of temperature rise (1c, 2c, 4c?) and the much more uncertain science and economics of impacts.

    Your post is about stressing what we know, and staying off stressing uncertainty as it dilutes/confuses the message, so by implication staying on more certain turf. You may find that for a lot of people saying what Neven suggests is all you can say. Impacts are harder and instrinsically less certain.

    And since Neven’s advice references Congress and policy it may be difficult to stay off questions like ‘what will happen?’, ‘what will happen to my constituents in Arkansas’, ‘over what time-scale will this happen’, ‘will US agriculture be positively or negatively affected against a bau scenario’ and so on.

    What messages do you think advocates should be using to get the clear known facts across without becoming vulnerable to accusations of uncertainty denial, let alone alarmism?

  8. Marco Says:

    Roddy, Alex, you are wrong on the insurance issue. We know the averaged risk, and now that IF our house burns down we will PROBABLY get a significant amount of the costs reimbursed. But there is a good chance that we’re spending money for ‘nothing’: most people will never see their house burn down. There is, in other words, great uncertainty whether we will ever get our investment back, and most people never will.

    Moreover, Roddy, you may want to read the SPMs: “likely” is one of the most common words. That’s not certainty, that’s explicitely expressing uncertainty.

  9. Alex Heyworth Says:

    So, Marco, how much did your climate change insurance policy cost you?

  10. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Alex I’m not sure how we can explain the paucity – or irrelevance – of the insurance analogy. People are very attached to it, and seem to elide it into the precautionary principle, which is of course entirely ok.

    I’ll try:

    Marco – let’s assume that your house is important to you, ie you will be homeless/destitute if it burns down, so you need protection. You also know that a certain number of houses just like yours will burn down each year – wiring, leaving a pan on, a candle upset by a pet, a child playing with electric heater – you know how it happens, and it could easily happen to you, or one of your very immediate neghbours.

    If you can be bothered you can look up the odds, the number of fire claims, the standard deviation and so on – the insurance companies can anyway, and they are competing for your business.

    You know exactly the rebuilding cost – there are tables that show you. You know the refurnishing cost, and the rehousing cost while it’s done.

    What don’t you know, I have to ask? You are certainly not spending money for nothing, you are spending a very precise amount against a very precise risk which will, should it happen, cost a very precise amount, and if not covered by insurance will have very specific consequences for you.

    Further the analogy is irrelevant because house insurance is simply a method of spreading a known and certain annually recurring cost among different groups with different risk preferences. The only reason I can see people like it is because it sounds like the precautionary principle, and has the word fire in it.

    Your point re ‘likely’: I said ‘..this has come from the ARs and the SPMs and been translated across by media and Greenpeace et al with just the approach you recommend?’ I didn’t suggest there was too much certainty in the IPCC, I said that the translation of it across to the public was along Bart’s recommended lines.

  11. milanovic Says:

    @Roddy

    “Firstly, for the last decade or more the message from the IPCC and all environmental organisations like Greenpeace has been chock full of ‘certainty’, as you recommend.”

    I don’t know for GreenPeace, but how on earth can you say IPCC is chock full of ‘certainty’?. I would rather say it is chock full of “likely”, “very likely”, “more likely than not”. Have you for example read the synthesis report of AR4? Just for fun I counted the occurrences of “certain” and “likely” in the synthesis report. The word certain was mentioned once (actually virtually certain), “likely” was mentioned 43 times, (“very likely”, likely” etc.). Where did you het that idea?

  12. Roddy Campbell Says:

    milanovic – I spoke carelessly, apologies.

    Bart’s post is about how the scientific consensus, as represented by the IPCC let’s say, has been transmitted,it’s about communication with the public as the opening quote from Mooney says, and later a reference to how JC should communicate with Congress.

    So what I meant to say was that in my view the message of the IPCC has been communicated in a way not dissimilar to that suggested by Bart, through the media and other organisations like Greenpeace that transmit information.

    Bart suggests avoiding stressing uncertainty, it only confuses/distracts, and sticking to what we do know.

    I think that is how the message has been transmitted (although the certainty has imho been over-stressed especially on impacts), so I’m not sure why he thinks it will work now.

    (Does ‘very likely’ means 90%+, ie what a layman might call ‘nearly certain’? :) )

  13. Alex Heyworth Says:

    If climate policy was really like house insurance:

    the President would get in touch with an insurance company and say “I want to insure my country against climate change”. The insurance company would say “sure, how much cover do you want?” The President would reply (for example) “ten trillion dollars”. The insurance company would send out a quote for (say) 50 billion dollars for the first year’s premium, together with a 40 page policy document full of exclusions and a reminder that, should you accept the quote and pay the premium, your insurance will expire at midnight on the 365th day after you pay. As climate change started happening more often, the premium would keep rising until eventually one year the insurance company declined to renew the policy. This would roughly coincide with the time when it might actually be worthwhile to have the insurance.

  14. Sou Says:

    I agree that the framing is important when talking with non-scientists, or anyone outside the field of climate science. I also agree that the framing depends on the audience.

    Here is an article from the Sydney Morning Herald that talks about what local councils can do in regard to climate change.

    “Queensland will be threatened by higher flood levels from intense torrential downpours brought on by climate change, a local government conference has been told.”

    http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/climate-change-the-new-flood-risk-for-qld-20101110-17nb6.html

    Parts of Australia are having frequent 20 year, 50 year and 100 year floods!

    Down south, governments are building desalination plants because the south east of Australia is getting drier, and the water storages are no longer filling up, even with an unusually wet season because of the extra long drought we’ve had.

    Deniers can talk all they like, but at the local level here at least, there is some action in response to the changing climate, though not nearly enough (eg we still produce far too much coal).

  15. milanovic Says:

    @Roddy Campbell

    Ah, i see what you mean. I guess certainties have been overstated by organizations as Greenpeace, but that’s what I would expect from such organizations, in the same way I don’t expect commercials of companies to be “fair and balanced”. I agree with you however that scientists should be fair in acknowledging uncertainties, but that does not mean they should stress them. If appropriate, they should stress what we do know almost certainly: that climate is changing, that GHG emissions are for a large part responsible and that it is likely that temperatures will increase a lot more if we continue with business as usual.

  16. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Sou, I don’t know where you live in Australia, but I would take issue with your contention that water storages are no longer filling up. Canberra’s water storage is currently filled to 88.8% of maximum capacity. Most of the large storages on the Murrumbidgee are completely full.

    The SMH article is interesting in that it shows the Queensland government suggesting practical adaptation measures to be taken, without going overboard.

    And BTW, I don’t know of anybody, anywhere in the world, who is producing coal. I assume you mean mining coal.

  17. Sou Says:

    Alex, I’m in Victoria. I didn’t contend the water storages are no longer filling up at all. Fortunately it’s been wet with the current El Nina rainfall. (The south west of Australia hasn’t had it quite as good.) And it’s good to hear that Canberra has water. I haven’t seen the Hume so full in years either.

    The climate in the south east (and south west) of Australia is likely to be drier this century, compared to last century. In any case, Melbourne storage is still only 50%, with the largest reserve, the Thompson, only 34% full, despite the extra wet spring. The water storages are not likely to be sufficient in the medium to longer term. The new buzz phrase in some government circles is ‘water security’ – probably Victoria’s most pressing issue.

    http://www.melbournewater.com.au/content/news_and_events/whats_new/whats_new/20090423.asp

    Anyway, we’re getting off topic. My point was more to give examples of framing the message – as per the message to Queensland local councils. And the messages between Melbourne residents and government decision-makers.

    Most people here are well aware of the changing climate, so the messaging is different from that to audiences that have not seen/noticed their local climate changing. Many farmer organisations for example, have moved on from ‘is the climate changing’ to ‘how do we best deal with it’.

  18. Roddy Campbell Says:

    milanovic, agreed – which takes me back to where I was in my comment – if what we know is ‘climate is changing, that GHG emissions are for a large part responsible and that it is likely that temperatures will increase a lot more if we continue with business as usual’, and we would need to define ‘a lot’ of course, where does that get us?

    What are the impacts of that, when will they occur, are they good or bad, that’s the next question, and the most important one.

    This is my main issue – impacts are riddled with uncertainty in a way that temperature is not, and so you cannot get across to the public the importance of addressing AGW without uncertainty, because the importance lies entirely in the impacts. What are the effects of a sea level rise of x over y years on different countries. Do you know?

    I’m a layman. I have read some unutterable bollocks on impacts. I haven’t read it all, but some strikes me as shocking. Which has the natural, if not necessarily correct, effect of making me windy about the rest. But that’s a different point.

    (The other area which is not communicated at all to the public is that the policies so far suggested would have zero impact, with little uncertainty, on the outcome.)

  19. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Reading history books and historical novels about Australia my impression from afar is that there is never enough water, except on the rare occasions when there is too much.

    sou – you could stop mining coal and be poorer, that would help? You might find the Chinese buy it from somewhere else though. So you’re stuck with adaptation, as Aussies always have been when it comes to weather, climate, and precipitation.

  20. Sou Says:

    To clarify – when I said ‘filling up’ in my first post, I meant ‘filling up to capacity’, rather than ‘not getting any inflow of water’.

    And ‘mining coal’ if you prefer. Although it could be argued that miners produce coal by mining it :) (Not the same as manufacturing coal, of course.) It’s the continued reliance on coal-powered electricity that is a problem here. It’s too cheap and plentiful, has strong unions, brings in government revenue and more – so it’s a political nightmare for governments.

  21. milanovic Says:

    You are right that on the impacts the uncertainties are large and actually I haven’t read very much on that topic myself.

    I am also no climate scientist (I am biologist), but from my biological experience I can say that environmental change in general is more often detrimental for ecosystems (or organisms) than beneficial, simply because organisms and ecosystems are adapted to the current state of the environment. If changes are slow (on evolutionary timescales), adapting to changing environment is no problem, but if they are fast extinction waves can occur.

    Now, my idea (as a layman here) is that societies are, just as ecosystems and organisms, adapted to the current state of the environment. If, for example, the total area of fertile land doesn’t change when climate changes but the specific areas that are fertile do change, that can already be a huge problem. Sea level rise is also not so much of a problem if we consider only the land area that is lost , its just that there lie some pretty big cities near the coast.

    But again, I am certainly no expert on this topic

  22. Roddy Campbell Says:

    milanovic – agree. Speed of change is critical, although have you read much Stephen Jay Gould? Very good on how even evolution can happen in short time scales! (I read it to counter the creationist ‘no proof of evolution because we’ve never seen it’ stuff).

    I need to read more too, but when I look at my farm, in the UK, and wonder what effect 2c average (whatever that means) global temperature warming over 100 years will have on my yields, farming practices, bird life, insects in hedgerows, and so on, given that all these things happen with the temperature ranging in a 20c to even 30c range – what’s your instinct, as a biologist?

  23. Bart Says:

    Alex (nov 12, 8:36) makes some good points, and I agree with most. You’re right that in her efforts at engaging the more serious skeptics, the message shouldn’t be made overly simplistic, and in order to build trust, stressing uncertainties may even be a good strategy. I have to think about that a bit more; it’s certainly a point worth considering. In some instances trhough, I have a feeling she went overboard into exaggerating uncertainties, which is akin to exaggerating the certainty, but then in the other direction. Neither are useful. I also agree with the need to separate personal opinion and values from the “pure” scientific statements. I made that point in my post as well.

    Roddy (8:48) misunderstands what I mean. The point is not that stressing uncertainty “dilutes the message”. That comes straight from Judith’s dogma frame, which I reject. The point is that stressing uncertainty creates uncertainty misunderstanding amongst a non-scientific audience, because scientists and non-scientists have a very different perception of uncertainty.

  24. Marco Says:

    Roddy: I can look up the approximate risk that my house catches fire. However, there’s a lot more factors that will determine whether my house catches fire, and if it does, whether it burns down all the way or only a small part. I thus only have an approximate risk, with a LOT of variability. The only thing I can do is the calculate my maximum risk: I *assume* my house burns down completely.

    (In reality, there is an additional risk: my house burns down with me in it…in which case my fire insurance isn’t helping me much…)

    Moreover, the actual costs will depend on *when* my house burns down. I cannot predict with accuracy (ha!) what the costs will be of rebuilding my house. I can’t even predict with accuracy how much my insurance company will pay me. I cannot even predict it still exists when my house burns down!

    Regarding “certainty” you said:
    “Firstly, for the last decade or more the message from the IPCC and all environmental organisations like Greenpeace has been chock full of ‘certainty’, as you recommend.”

    Now you shift to the *translation* of the message of the IPCC…

  25. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Bart – apologies, I did misrepresent you.

    Marco – I replied to milanovic about that, I meant the transmission of the message from IPCC to public via media, governments, ngo’s, lobby groups etc – see my reply to milanovic.

    Insurance – everything you say is inexact I think is exact, so I give up! :)

  26. milanovic Says:

    @roddy

    Indeed, evolution can happen relatively quickly. The idea that evolution only works in millions of years is indeed outdated. Personally I am involved in bacterial evolution, which can be observed in weeks. However, 100 years is still a very short time in the evolution of plants and animals, as this only amounts to a few generations.

    “what’s your instinct, as a biologist?”
    From a biological perspective 2 or 3 degrees can be very important. As a farmer, I guess you know that as well as I do. I only have a small vegetable garden, but some late frost or some more rain can have large impact on crop yield. And as I said, I guess impacts are expected to be
    detrimental in general, because if for example the UK becomes less fertile, while Russia becomes more fertile, it would take some time to adapt to that.

  27. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Sou, I was just indulging in a gentle leg-pulling with the remark about coal production. Of course, it is commonplace in mining and oil industries to talk about “production” when they mean “extraction”. One of my minor pet peeves.

  28. Chris S. Says:

    We do have a term for species that are able to adapt quickly to new environments: Pests (or Weeds).

    @Roddy: As a UK farmer you may be interested in Maurice Hulle’s latest. Aphids in the face of global changes Hulle et al. 2010 Comptes Rendus Biologies Volume 333, Issues 6-7.
    Abstract: …Aphids are particularly sensitive to temperature changes due to certain specific biological features of this group. Effects on individuals have repercussions for aphid diversity and population dynamics. At a pan-European scale [we provide evidence] for an increase in the number of aphid species present over the last 30 years and for earlier spring flights.
    doi:10.1016/j.crvi.2010.03.005

    (See also this part of the discussion:
    “There are many more examples of probable effects of climate change on the relationships and equilibria between aphids and the various organisms with which they interact and, particularly, on the transmission of plant viruses by aphids (review [47] T. Canto, M.A. Aranda and A. Fereres, Climate change effects on physiology and population processes of hosts and vectors that influence the spread of hemipteran-borne plant viruses, Global Change Biol. (2009) (early view on-line).[47]). A final example concerning aphid pests of crops illustrates the complexity of the mechanisms that need to be considered when trying to understand the overall effects of climate change. Barley yellow dwarf virus causes a highly damaging disease of cereals and is transmitted by several aphid species. There are several viral strains transmitted with different efficiencies by different aphid species. One of the strains particularly common on maize is transmitted by maize aphid Rhopalosiphum maidis (Fitch, 1856). In Great Britain, global warming and agricultural policy have favoured an increase in the area under maize. Higher temperatures may also allow other aphid species to transmit this viral strain to other cereals, such as wheat [48], for which the economic consequences of infection are much more severe than for maize. Thus, warmer climatic conditions, through their effects on the host plant, on different aphid species and on the virus, may, for the first time, render this maize-specific strain a danger to wheat crops in Great Britain [38].”

  29. Roddy Campbell Says:

    milanovic and Chris:

    My instinct, as a UK farmer, is that yields would rise, rather as mil refers to frosts, subject to any dramatic changes in precipitation (more better, less worse) and stuff like the aphids – but that seems normal to me.

  30. willard Says:

    Bart,

    Taking uncertainties under consideration would certainly be a good strategy. For it to be a strategy, we should be talking about uncertainty. Let’s say we want to say that

    > The IPCC underplays uncertainty.

    This sentence does not talk about uncertainty. It talks about the IPCC. It says something about the way the IPCC is handling uncertainty.

    Invoking certainties is a strategy to talk about the IPCC.

  31. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Two more poinst I would like to make, Bart. The first is specifically directed to Scott Mandia, but it is advice that Michael Mann needs to take on board as well. My advice: forget the rhetoric about a ” well-orchestrated and well-oiled misinformation campaign” It is at best half true and it gets up the nose of many people who consider themselves independent thinkers and whose only link to “big oil” is when they pay up at the gas station. Alienating people you would like to convert to your point of view is bad strategy.

    The second point is that climate scientists should try to frame any policy recommendations in a positive way. Talking gloom and doom too much tends to just leave people feeling overwhelmed. Better to talk up a vision of a cleaner, greener, wealthier, happier future for all (which is indeed possible, with the right policies). Cheaper energy rather than carbon taxes. Fund innovation and research to drive the price of renewables and nuclear energy down below coal so that everyone can enjoy abundant, cheap energy. I believe it can be done. I hope you and your colleagues do as well. I hope you can convince the politicians that this is both true and a message they can sell to the public.

    BTW, in my view it is far more important to drive the costs of renewable/nuclear energy down than to spend money now on implementing renewables that are not cost-competitive. Far too much money has already been wasted on this. Politicians need to push the need for a massive research effort in the same way that Kennedy sold the vision of putting a man on the moon.

  32. Marco Says:

    Alex, you will find many scientists unwilling to talk about policy, unless in general terms.

    As soon as they DO talk about policy, the Wattsians get all upset (see the recent Scientific American poll, with one major outcome that “keeping science out of the political process” should be a policy…

  33. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Alex- we seem to agree, or at least be close, on much. This was my more cynical framing on policy http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/a-letter-from-london/ and I QUITE agree re big oil well-funded coordinated blah blah. It really gets up my nose that I might think as I do because I’ve been manipulated by a clever campaign etc.

  34. Anna Haynes Says:

    Bart, would it be possible for this blog to use the threaded comments plug-in?

  35. Bart Says:

    Alex, Roddy,

    It’s probably the mirror image of that it really gets up my nose that I might think as I do because I’ve been manipulated by some dogma. This may be a way to better understand each other’s frustration?

    That said, I think there is a lot of misinformation out there, but Alex is quite right that the vast majority of it is not organized nor having anything to do with the fossil fuel industry, and the word “campaign” is for that reason not the best (even though I’ve used it myself in the past, and even though there is a campaign of sorts with a basis in the various think-tanks with a history of manufacturing doubt).

    Dr. Abraham (working together with Scott Mandia -who has a blog as well btw- on the “fast response” activity) has a good column in the Guardian that I find very good; It mentioned the misinformation out there but he doesn’t frame it as a fossil fuel derived campaign. Even though you may disagree with his gist, I think it probably gets you less worked up than the “campaign” narrative.

    People who are convinced that climate change is somehow a non-problem are not going to be convinced of the opposite by some scientist informing them about the science. So those who are deeply entrenched in the “skeptical” camp are not the target group of scientific information campaigns or of science-minded blogs.

    On your second point, I used to somehow agree, but I’ve since learned that it’s too rosy of a picture of renewables and of innovation. They are still (much) more expensive, and their price will only slowly be reduced. There’s something to say that having painted too rosy of a picture of the needed energy transition has alienated a lot of people, who since came to understand that it’s not anywhere near as easy or cheap as promised/suggested. So this is a dangerous strategy I think, that could easily backfire. It’s a bit of a game of roullette to gamble that innovation will drive the prices down enough so that renewables will be cheaper than coal or unconventional fossil fuels. We need employment and economic drives (ie a price on carbon) as well IMO. I prefer not to dwell on that discussion here; there’s an older thread focussing on innovation vs implementation.

  36. Bart Says:

    Anna,

    Do you mean that replies to comments are placed directly under the comment that they reply to? I haven’t tried to upgrade this blog’s features very much, though suggestions are always welcome indeed.

  37. Hans Says:

    You seem to overlook the biggest certainty on the planet.
    Fossil fuels are a finite resource.
    We have already burned up half of the oil we can possibly extract from the earth. We have already produced half of the CO2 we can possibly produce.

    CO2-emissions are falling, no matter how many Climate Conferene you fly to. The economy will no longer sustain te emissions of the first decade of this century.

  38. willard Says:

    Bart,

    I prefer my threads without indentation and threading, like here and at Keith’s place.

  39. dhogaza Says:

    Hans:

    CO2-emissions are falling

    Really?

  40. dhogaza Says:

    And, yes, I know there was a small, temporary drop in 2009 due to the severe world-wide recession.

  41. Bart Says:

    Hans,

    We’ve been over this numerous times before: Yes, fossil fuels are finite, but it depends a lot on the costs we’re willing to pay. As the easily recoverable reserves decline, we’ll go after the less easily recoverable, and then there’s unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands or even methane hydrates. We’ll probably reach some economic limit well before the physical limit, but the climate problem will have gotten out of hand long before that. Peak Oil and definitely Peak coal will not solve the climate problem.

    We can agree to disagree of course instead of rehashing this again.

  42. Pat Cassen Says:

    Bart- Can you put ‘recent posts’ and ‘recent comments’ on every page? Saves a little clicking around.

    Thanks.

  43. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Bart, a fair response to my comment on the desirability of pushing a more positive message. As you say, to some extent it would be a big gamble. Of course, in the long term it must be true that renewables will be cheaper than fossil fuels, as the scarcity and price of the latter increase. However, as you point out in your reply to Hans, that could be some way off, and maybe too late (depends a lot on who you listen to; Dave Rutledge of Caltech thinks peak coal may be only 20 years away).

    I still think it is worth considering more positive ways of positioning clean energy.

  44. Alex Heyworth Says:

    PS another reason I think the gamble might be worth taking is that the current approach doesn’t seem to be working all that well. (Depending a bit on what country you are in.)

  45. willard Says:

    Pat,

    For what you’re looking for, God invented the RSS Reader:

    http://www.google.com/reader

    Any other RSS reader can fit the bill.

    Warning: this may easily make you read ten times more as you already do.

  46. Paul Kelly Says:

    Is no one able to provide an accurate description of certainty/uncertainty the is both honest and understandable by the general public?

    Let’s make a list and rate the certainty.

    It is undisputed that CO2 has measurable radiative effect on global average temperatures. It is not much disputed that other forcings and feed backs impact CO2′s effect. For the instrumental period, there is good confidence in the general accuracy of the raw temperature data and somewhat less confidence in the efficacy of smoothing and value adding programs applied to that data.

    There is very little certainty about feed backs.

  47. Steve Bloom Says:

    “There is very little certainty about feed backs.”

    This garbage again? It was wrong the last time you tried to float it, and it’s still wrong. Trying to imprint your preconceptions on the science is a waste of time.

  48. Paul Kelly Says:

    Steve,

    Feel free to educate me on the certainty of of the feed back value of clouds, ENSO, carbon soot, glacial/sea ice melt or any feed back mechanism of your choosing.

  49. Hans Says:

    @dhogaza: yep, CO2-emissions are dropping

    http://www.eea.europa.eu/pressroom/newsreleases/deep-emission-cuts-give-the

  50. Hans Says:

    Bart says:
    “We’ll probably reach some economic limit well before the physical limit, but the climate problem will have gotten out of hand long before that.”

    We can agree to disagree on this.
    In my view we have already reached the economic limit of fossil fuel extraction.
    The recent economic recession may be the first sign of the coming fossil fuel crisis. CO2-emission (and thus fossil fuel use) is already falling.

    I think this is very important in the broader climate discussion.
    If you just want yessayers on your blog and want to exclude certain subjects (e.g. limits to growth), just say so.

  51. dhogaza Says:

    @dhogaza: yep, CO2-emissions are dropping

    Hans:

    1. When did China and India join the EU?

    2. You claimed that emissions reductions are due to carbon becoming too expensive due to their becoming too expensive: “The economy will no longer sustain te emissions of the first decade of this century.” The article you cite does not support that claim.

  52. dhogaza Says:

    In my view we have already reached the economic limit of fossil fuel extraction.

    The recent economic recession may be the first sign of the coming fossil fuel crisis. CO2-emission (and thus fossil fuel use) is already falling.

    Well, cite something that supports your view, rather than something that makes no such claim.

  53. Pat Cassen Says:

    Thanks, willard (I’m already pedaling as fast as I can…)

  54. Roddy Campbell Says:

    I watched a chunk of the Curry/Pielke jr/Revkin debate at Purdue – interesting I thought.

  55. Bart Says:

    Paul Kelly,

    The IPCC provided a scale of likelihood and confidence level with a lot of their statements, which is a description of their relative certainty.

    Raving,

    I took Willard’s words as meaning: Don’t focus on the motive , but rather focus on the arguments. I.e. it doesn’t conclict at all with what I said, and it seems you’re attacking a strawman.

    Hans,

    We haven’t yet reached the economic limit of fossil fuel use. Far from it. Just look up the fraction of fossil fuels in the total energy use, projections of price developments of various sources, and what their portion of the energy mix will be based on socio-economic modelling.

  56. Hans Says:

    dhogaza; China and India joined the EU when they started to make things (that we can no longer afford) for us.

    But seriously, I suggest you read theoildrum.com, especially Gail Tverberg’s posts. And of course Richard Heinberg’s museletter.

    Bart, you can find clues for the limits to fossil fuel use on my blog (cassandraclub). Oilextraction has already peaked, gas and coal will peak within a decade.
    I base my opinion on the real physical world and not on socio-economic modeling.

    I hope that you keep an open mind and welcome opposing views on your blog. This is exactly what Judith Curry is talking about.

  57. dhogaza Says:

    Hans:

    I base my opinion on the real physical world and not on socio-economic modeling.

    The economy will no longer sustain te emissions of the first decade of this century.

    Pick one argument, stick to it, and maybe people will treat you seriously.

  58. Hans Says:

    dhogaza: I suggest again that you read up on the subject, before reacting

    http://netenergy.theoildrum.com/node/5304

    It’s not my aim to be treated seriously. I’m quite happy without it.
    I introduce free information, that you would have missed otherwise.
    Take it or leave it.

  59. dhogaza Says:

    Hans:

    China and India joined the EU when they started to make things (that we can no longer afford) for us.

    Strange then that the “dropping carbon emissions” paper you pointed us to doesn’t include China and India …

    I base my opinion on the real physical world and not on socio-economic modeling…

    But seriously, I suggest you read theoildrum.com, especially Gail Tverberg’s posts. And of course Richard Heinberg’s museletter.

    Immanuel Velikovsky’s disciple? *That* Richard Heinberg?

  60. Raving Says:

    “Anthropological data suggest that we differ widely in our normative judgments. And even where we seem to agree, there is good reason to doubt that we really do so.”

    From …
    No norms and no nature — The moral relevance of evolutionary biology

    Bart Voorzanger

  61. adelady Says:

    D.o.n.’t go for the nesting / threaded posts, Bart. Once you’re past about 20 total comments it drives me nuts.

    If you want to change things to make following discussions between commenters easier, find a numbering plug-in, so people can refer to Hermione@ 73 …..

  62. Sou Says:

    +1 – what adelady said :)

  63. Raving Says:

    Bart,

    There is more to humanity than objectivity.
    There is more nature than objectivity.[*]

    In working with situations which cannot be described there is efficient advantage to non-objective methods[**]

    You motivation is to be strictly objective. My response is constructed as per your preference, notwithstanding that motivation should be disregarded.

    [**] Recursion upon this non-objective advantage provides the basis for [*]

  64. Raving Says:

    “It’s what we know that’s most important”

    Yes, ignorance is your prerogative.

    Now I could mean that as ridicule …/sarcasm on/ … /sarcasm off/
    … and I can mean that with sincerity.

    It’s a truism that what is most important is what a person knows and does *best*. Each person would be well served to stay close to what they know. It really is important.

    So I’ll leave you with this this thought …

    The 3 Wise Monkeys (“see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”)

    Is ignorance right?
    Is ignorance wrong?
    Does it matter?
    Is it a prerogative?

  65. dhogaza Says:

    Lord, a monkey-ish appeal to the supernatural, what’s next?

  66. Rattus Norvegicus Says:

    Raving,

    I’ve got an answer. Ignorance is always bad.

  67. Paul in Sweden Says:

    Dear Bart, I read your blog regularly and pay particular attention to your comments elsewhere. I am not a scientist but worked for several decades as an engineer. (there seems to be a huge divide on CAGW between scientists and engineers.) I do not read your writing because I like what you write, I read what you write because you provide a point of view and factual information that I might not be privy to elsewhere.

    “Non-scientists have a very different perception of uncertainty than scientists.”

    Bart, I believe you have understated the situation!!!

    Lay people, engineers & scientists have a vastly different view of uncertainty than is portrayed by climate scientists. Forgive me, just this once in this post for using a broad brush. Forget that I said that. Bart I believe I fully understand uncertainty.

    At this point in time, I have (wasted) countless man hours reading papers this side of the paywalls trying to figure out if there really is a CAGW problem that justifies the massive govt. policy programs that have failed to gain universal support.

    Bart, I continue to read and respect your writings on this topic. I do so because – “I just do not know”, but will continue to seek answers. Those answers may very well come here at your blog.

  68. dhogaza Says:

    (there seems to be a huge divide on CAGW between scientists and engineers.)

    Which is odd, because scientists react to uncertainty by trying to reduce it.

    Engineers react to uncertainty by conservative over-engineering, hoping to overcome the worst case.

    Except, apparently, with uncertainty in climate science, where many (by no means all nor by no means most) react by suggesting we do nothing at all.

    Personally I think it’s more likely that we’re seeing a bunch of very vocal, politically conservative engineers speaking up which are in no way representative of engineers as a whole. I know that none of the engineers I know personally reject climate science …

  69. Heiko Gerhauser Says:

    Hi Bart,

    if you think of climate change in the context of us playing Russian roulette with the world by emitting GHG’s, you are bound to see a greater urgency in stopping with this mad game when you hear the word uncertainty.

    On the other hand, when you look at the issue like a cautious investor being peddled an investment, the word uncertainty will make you run away from said investment.

    And finally, based on an analogy from the climate economist Nordhaus, when some people hear the word uncertainty in the climate debate they react like peace activists who hear the argument that uncertainty about a potential threat posed by country B to country A is a good reason for a preemptive war.

    I wonder whether these differences are really due to different risk averseness in the generic, or different levels of willingness to suffer now for the benefit of future generations. To me these can be seen as very unattractive reasons for favouring high discount rates, they suggest selfishness and some other not so nice character traits.

    Maybe a better reason is that people have different preconceived views about how the world is likely to develop and what could threaten that development, and that these preconceptions colour their take, when faced with probabilities that are simply unknowable.

    Some people for example worry very much about totalitarianism/communism and see this as the key threat, and tend towards the peace activist reaction to climate change ;-), or rather to what they fear is being proposed as policies to deal with the problem.

    We’ve only got one world, so we can’t assess probabilites like for house fires, an interesting example used above.

    Suppose we did have a 100 Earths with slightly different initial conditions.

    I could imagine that the key to survival of the human race to the year 2100 may be in economic policy. And if you did the throwing of the die 100 times over, you might find that no matter the GHG policies in place, all that mattered was say free trade, and without the right free trade policies, economic doom always follows by around 2050, and around 2070 to 2080 some mad cult of doom in the chaos that follows is then able to develop a disease that kills all of humanity.

    Or, maybe the free trade stuff matters little, and without the right GHG policies, agricultural productivity takes a dive by around 2050 due to changes in rainfall patterns, crops being eaten by bugs or smothered by weeds, leading to chaos and, along some chain of events, to certain doom.

    In the house fire insurance case, everybody involved, or at least the insurance companies, have a good basis for assessing probabilities. But, with only one Earth, and one humanity at our current stage of technological development, we haven’t got a huge record of previous occurrence. Instead we must work out probabilities from first principles and by analogy with past events. Yet, the past events aren’t properly comparable, anything we have developed through technology may mean this time will be different. And, no model is good enough to work out how a system as complex as human society or the biosphere will function, when put to stresses never experienced before.

    We are inherently left in the position of having to make policy choices in the face of incomplete knowledge and unknowable probabilities. Put in some tribalism, which humans appear to have a tendency for inherited from our evolutionary past, and the fears of the other tribe are readily belittled, and probabilities are readily assigned for unknowables in the process based substantially on the perceived rightfulness of your own tribe.

  70. Eli Rabett Says:

    It may be a little late, but what Roddy is saying is that no one will write insurance on a risk that they cannot quantify. What he is missing is that if the insurance companies think there is no risk, they will write anything you want. Clearly, the insurance companies think there is a real risk (see all the links to Swiss Re)

  71. Bart Says:

    Heiko,

    Very well said. I like your analogy of Russian roulette vs cautious investor. A lot depends on the undesirability of the outcome, which is in the eye of the beholder.

  72. Roddy Campbell Says:

    What ‘ickle bunny is missing is that the insurance companies like Munich and Swiss may tell us there is a problem so they can write us insurance on it.

    He’s listening to car salesmen.

    He also loves an extreme – ‘no one will write insurance on a risk that they cannot quantify.’ and ‘if … there is no risk, they will write anything you want’. They play the odds, as best they can, but premia and risk availability are as much based on recent loss experience and capital flows.

    At the moment catastrophe risk is extremely cheap (inc Florida storm damage). That would indicate, in his world, that the insurance companies think there is little risk? In my world it might indicate that, but is just as likely to indicate a paucity of recent claims.

    Stick to what you know, Eli.

    (Oh, and listen to the Purdue Revkin debate).

  73. Paul in Sweden Says:

    dhogaza Says:
    November 14, 2010 at 22:55
    [...]Engineers react to uncertainty by conservative over-engineering, hoping to overcome the worst case.

    Except, apparently, with uncertainty in climate science, where many (by no means all nor by no means most) react by suggesting we do nothing at all.[...]

    There is an American TV show called Numb3rs that was rebroadcast here in Sweden. I find parallels in the series premise with the current climate “policy” debate. — If you are unfamiliar with the program just ignore the reference – “all of life reduced to a few equations”. It is a comforting idea.

    dhogaza, the phrase “react by suggesting we do nothing at all” is critical.

    Engineers over build(on paper), but like a 2×4 to the forehead, reality has a nasty way of getting in the way of our thoughtful plans.

    Beancounters rule the world(and for good reason). Engineers hate beancounters – perhaps climate scientists should meet a few…

    There is no argument from myself that society should have as little impact on our environment as possible. However, at this point in time anthropogenic CO2 emissions are not even on the top ten of my environmental list.

    I do not see a vast divide between CAGW proponents and individuals such as myself.

  74. willard Says:

    > I do not see a vast divide between CAGW proponents and individuals such as myself.

    That explains the importance of using terms like CAGW. What would we be arguing about, if we were to realize that this term wedges not divide at all?

  75. Paul in Sweden Says:

    Willard, I would be happy if the IPCC dropped the term “catastrophic”. It is an unnecessary wedge.

  76. adelady Says:

    Roddy, the reason Florida insurance costs are so low is that they’re backed by the state. (Otherwise no insurance company would offer cover for any building risks in Florida.)

    And if there really is a catastrophic hurricane or other flooding in Florida, there isn’t enough money in the state coffers to meet the expected outlays. Who will pay? That would be the Federal government, thereby getting the taxpayers of Maine, California and Alaska to bail out a really silly government failure in a state far from those taxpayers.

  77. Roddy Campbell Says:

    adelady – at the moment catastrophe reinsurance is cheap, which is not backed by anyone. Insurance in Florida is not cheap except insofar as it’s price regulated to some extent, which appears to be limiting supply. I was only talking about reinsurance.

    Citizens Property Insurance Corp is state-backed, but otherwise afaik the Florida insurance market is private. Do you know differently? Insurers of various types, typically homeowner, have difficulties with Floridan state regulation, and the loss adjusters, and the statute of claim limitation, but this is distinct from purchasing reinsurance. See articles surrounding Crist’s recent veto.

    Pielke Jr has a post today on declining hurricane losses http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/11/82-billion-prediction.html

    That catastrophes can occur that can bust insurance companies is nothing new, and then someone pays, or doesn’t. AIG went bust, and Alaskans paid their share.

  78. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Re the supposed increase in hurricane losses due to AGW, here’s a section from another recent Pielke Jr post, ref those who think, wrongly, that the reinsurers are actually predicting higher losses from AGW-related insurance claims, rather than trying to gain premia or justify rates:

    ———————————————————
    Earlier this week Munich Re called for action on climate change, while touting its green investments, explaining that the rise in costs due to hurricanes was due to only one factor:

    “[Since 1980] windstorm natural catastrophes more than doubled, with particularly heavy losses from Atlantic hurricanes. This rise can only be explained by global warming. . . [I]nnovative insurance solutions will be needed to bring about the necessary transformation within the energy sector, where investments are often only feasible with the backing of innovative insurance covers. ”

    Writing last year in the peer reviewed literature, Munich Re successfully replicated work that I have been involved in, reaching exactly the same conclusions that we did about hurricane losses in the Atlantic:

    “There is no evidence yet of any trend in tropical cyclone losses that can be attributed directly to anthropogenic climate change.”

    Knowing some of the scientists at Munich Re, and having high respect for their work and integrity, I can only conclude that the marketing department is not talking to the research department. What else would explain such polar opposite messages? (In case you are curious, the messages in the peer reviewed research results are consistent with the state of the science on this subject. The other stuff is not.)
    ———————————————————————-

  79. willard Says:

    Paul in Sweden,

    Here is a paragraph where the IPCC talks about abrupt climate change:

    > The possibility of abrupt climate change and/or abrupt changes in the earth system triggered by climate change, with potentially catastrophic consequences, cannot be ruled out (Meehl et al., 2007). Disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (See Meehl et al., 2007), if it occurred, could raise sea level by 4-6 metres over several centuries. A shutdown of the North Atlantic Thermohaline Circulation (See Meehl et al., 2007) could have far-reaching, adverse ecological and agricultural consequences (See IPCC, 2007b, Chapter 17), although some studies raise the possibility that the isolated, economic costs of this event might not be as high as assumed (See Meehl et al., 2007). Increases in the frequency of droughts (Salinger, 2005) or a higher intensity of tropical cyclones (See Meehl et al., 2007) could occur. Positive feedback from warming may cause the release of carbon or methane from the terrestrial biosphere and oceans (See Meehl et al., 2007), which would add to the mitigation required.

    Source: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg3/en/ch2s2-2-4.html

    From this paragraph alone, we see that the word “abrupt” should be used to the acronym AGW. And even then, it’s clearly stated as a possibility that can’t be excluded. So the IPCC is not saying that AGW will lead to C. It only says it’s possible and that this possibility raises concerns. Considering that these scenarios are not to be excluded, it would not be responsible to omit the possibility that abrupt climate changes can lead to catastrophic consequences.

    Among the many things it does, trying to wedge things up with the “CAGW” epithet portrays a possibility as a eventuality, confuses projection with prediction, conflates theory with models and shifts between science to communication issues.

  80. Roddy Campbell Says:

    willard – there are a number of blogs and commenters on those blogs where abrupt/catastrophic seem to be taken as the primary reason for the urgency of action. Dhoghaza for example would seem to hold that view (apologies if putting views in his mouth). Using the above abrupt, ice sheets, sea level, collapse of NATC, methane etc, it is difficult to tell whether people believe these are projections, predictions, probable, improbable, unlikely, we don’t know.

    There also appear to be people who can only deal with CAGW – the possibility that AGW will be pretty much a nothing, a couple of degrees over a century, with limited knock-on dramatic (unadaptable) effects in sea levels, precipitation, extreme weather events.

    That possibility seems unacceptable somehow, but maybe they just embrace the precuationary principle more warmly than I do, or find WG2 more credible and less one-sided than i do.

  81. Eli Rabett Says:

    If you read the Munich Re stuff (Schmidt, Kemfort and Hoeppe), you see that Pielke is dealing seconds as usual. The lad requires careful parsing. What they say is
    ———————
    No trend is found for the period 1950–2005 as a whole. In the period 1971–2005, since the beginning of a trend towards increased intense cyclone activity, losses excluding socio-economic effects show an annual increase of 4% per annum. This increase must therefore be at least due to the impact of natural climate variability but, more likely than not, also due to anthropogenic forcings.
    ——————-

    And yeah, the insurance companies and the reinsurers need models of the future to write policies. If they don’t have them, they ain’t gonna take the risk. Stop trying to harumph your way through this.

  82. Roddy Campbell Says:

    “Stick to what you know, Eli.

    (Oh, and listen to the Purdue Revkin debate).”

    But mainly the first sentence.

  83. Eli Rabett Says:

    Eli knows when someone can’t or won’t read.

  84. willard Says:

    Roddy Campbell,

    Yes, lots of people are believing lots of things.

    Regarding the precautionary principle, even Martin Peterson admits that it has a plausible epistemic interpretation:

    > [I]t seems that an epistemic interpretation makes sense, according to which it is more desirable that risk assessments avoid making false-negative rather than false-positive errors.

    Source: http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/v8/n4/full/7400947.html

    We might not like to use the principle for decision-making, yet wonder how to estimate the cost of a false-negative bet against abrupt climate changes.

    Perhaps this site could help people put their money where their mouth is:

    http://www.longbets.org/

  85. Paul Kelly Says:

    Bart wrote: “It is thereby useful to distinguish the different levels of confidence of the knowledge: Some aspects are virtually certain, whereas others have a wider confidence interval.”

    I tried to define certainty for various aspects in my last comment. Since no one has challenged that assessment, I’ll assume it is correct. It is the feedbacks that raise sensitivity to dangerous levels and feedbacks that have the least certainty. If you avoid uncertainty, you cannot discuss feedbacks. Without feedbacks there is no reason for action.

    So far, no one is any closer to words that honestly explains climate science without diminishing the desired sense of urgency felt by policy makers and the general public. The IPCC is proven inadequate to the task, as evidenced by the necessity of this post and similar others frequently seen on climate blogs.

    The continuous search for the proper framing is the sign of a weak argument. Is it global warming or climate change or the latest climate disruption?

    Statements like: “Conversations about uncertainty invoke a frame which in the public mind is easily confused with doubt.” are an insult – even if unintended – to the listener. It sounds like advice to Luther from the Bishops.

    Not confronting uncertainties because the people are too dumb or too scared or too easily influenced by the “evil denial machine” doesn’t show much confidence in the argument either.

  86. adelady Says:

    Public perceptions of “uncertainty”? I think it is incumbent on scientists, or journalists at least, to correctly convey what scientists mean by “uncertainty”. I checked 3 online dictionaries. Only one included a reference to statistics.

    Most importantly, check out the synonyms. Not one of them conveys the idea of discussing the mathematical likelihood of anything _and_ the majority have a distinctly negative connotation.

    The condition of being uncertain; doubt.
    Something uncertain: the uncertainties of modern life.
    Statistics The estimated amount or percentage by which an observed or calculated value may differ from the true value.
    The state of being uncertain; doubt; hesitancy:
    An instance of uncertainty, doubt, etc.
    Unpredictability; indeterminacy; indefiniteness.

    —Synonyms hesitation, irresolution, indecision, ambivalence.
    –Synonyms: distrust, distrustfulness, dubiety, incertitude, misdoubt, misgiving, mistrust, mistrustfulness, query, reservation, skepticism, suspicion, doubt
    Synonyms: doubt, dubiety, skepticism, suspicion, mistrust

  87. Bart Says:

    Paul Kelly,

    If I describe a research project to my colleagues I use different language than if I explain it to my parents.

    My main point is that in conveying a message, one should think through how to best do so. If the target group speaks a different language, it’s best to adapt your language to theirs to that the message is indeed conveyed. There’s nothing nefarious or insulting in doing so.

    It’s not about avoiding or ignoring uncertainty. It’s about explaining things ins a way that rings a bell with the target audience.

    For people who are already versed in the big picture and some details of climate science, naturally the communication will be different than for the general public. My point of stressing what we know and being aware of what uncertainty means to them (see also Adelady’s comment just below) is mostly relevant for this last group: People who are not deeply ingrained in this whole discussion.

  88. Roddy Campbell Says:

    “It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

  89. Chris S. Says:

    Roddy, do you keep livestock? How are you getting on with blue tongue vaccinations? Or perhaps you don’t feel that precaution to be necessary.

    Ask yourself this – why are they building midge-proof stables at Newmarket?

    http://www.homeofrestforhorses.co.uk/news/newsitem/current/2007/mar/what.html

  90. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Yes, my brother has cows and sheep, he deals with livestock. We had a blue tongue scare three, maybe four years ago, I recall our neighbour had it. No, we don’t vaccinate against it, I’m not aware it’s a serious livestock threat.

    To keep the midges out, and any diseases they might be carrying?

  91. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Chris S – what was your point? We know it’s warmed, and so it’s changed farming conditions a little bit – mainly for the better where I live as it happens. I have friends in Scotland whose grouse moor has been ruined by sheep tick living at higher elevations because of warmth. Us country folk know a bit about warming!

  92. Chris S. Says:

    Bluetongue was largely restricted to areas south of 40°N prior to the turn of the century (Wilson & Mellor, 2009). An outbreak in the UK in 2007 cost around £35 million in vaccinations alone (Webb, 2008).

    African Horse Sickness is carried by the same vector, it hasn’t been detected beyond S. Spain and Portugal. However, as an insurance against risk, the owners of expensive racehorses in the UK are spending large amounts of money midge-proofing their stables (AHS has a 90% fatality rate on infection).

    What do you think – is this a sensible precaution? Is this “insurance against risk” warranted?

    I thought the link I gave above may have been too basic but the illustration is stark, I’d provide more but it’s probably easier to Google “African Horse Sickness” for more info.

    Webb, D. (2008) The economic and social impact of the Institute for Animal Health’s work on Bluetongue disease (BtV – 8). DTZ Report for IAH.

    Wilson, A.J. & Mellor, P.S. (2009) Bluetongue in Europe: past, present and future. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, 364, 2669-2681.

  93. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Yes, we were worried in 2007, especially as it was our neighbour to the West that had cases, which is the prevailing wind, and it was a new thing. But he seemed to get rid of it fairly easily, I didn’t hear any more of it, and given that there have been various outbreaks around Europe which seem to have been easily contained too I’m not aware that it’s an important European agricultural issue, but I’ll read more, or ask my brother what ministerial decrees he has received on the subject from DEFRA, or advice from farming magazines.

    At the moment DEFRA say the last reported case was in 2008, and was an imported beast.

    What you have to bear in mind is that warming (however caused) causes pluses and minuses – don’t forget the pluses – nature is not an equilibrium anyway, and adaptation works, even if (eg foot and mouth) at occasional cost. In the case of blue tongue, vaccination works should the disease ever get a grip in Europe.

    Because of intensive farming livestock farmers live with the threat of disease constantly, I would have thought this was a very minor one, and quite a good example of how eco-changes, like midge movement, can give rise to tremendous alarmism, especially among those who know little about farming. There are far greater anthropogenic risks in farming, for example food chain issues like CJD, or ruining land by bad practices or chemicals, or poisoning water courses.

    Re horses – for a few very expensive animals like racehorses I would have thought a sensible and cheap precaution to install stable midge screens, rather as you put a Ferrari in a garage and leave the Polo outside, even though the equine disease has not made it to the UK yet. I note various South African web-sites with advice on how to prevent it in stables. Again – looks like a non-issue to me for Europe.

  94. willard Says:

    Bart, your spam filter sucks.

  95. Bart Says:

    Willard, thanks for the hint.

    Roddy, Chris,

    Discussions of livestock farming etc is off topic. No more please.

  96. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Bart – quite right, I’m not sure why Chris brought up blue tongue and midges, but I rose like a salmon.

    Re framing arguments, what we know etc, a very interesting article by Mike Hulme (UEA) in today’s Guardian in honour of Climategate’s anniversary.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/nov/15/year-climate-science-was-redefined

    “I believe there have been major shifts in how climate science is conducted, how the climate debate is framed and how climate policy is being formed. And I believe “climategate” played a role in all three.”

  97. The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 317 Says:

    [...] [...]

  98. Neven Says:

    The continuous search for the proper framing is the sign of a weak argument.

    Or the sign of an inconvenient truth that has to be brought home nevertheless.

    How do you frame something that needs to be said to someone who doesn’t want to hear it?

  99. willard Says:

    Bart,

    I tried to publish an answer to Roddy since yesterday. It’s the fifth time, now.

    Even when I try to send you my comment by email, it gets rejected.

    I don’t know why.

    Bye,

    w

  100. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Neven, read the Hulme article i linked to above.

  101. Bart Says:

    Willard,

    I fished it out, no clue why it got in the spam folder (it’s just the standard wordpress thing; I didn’t recognize any word that I manually added to the blacklist). Guess your previous comment (that the spam filter sucks) wasn’t meant as a hint of an off topic discussion…

  102. willard Says:

    Bart,

    Thank you for your help. Here it is:

    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/what-we-know-is-most-important/#comment-9374

    Perhaps WP did not like the reference to on-line betting?

  103. Neven Says:

    Roddy, I’ve read it. Rearranging deckchairs comes to mind.

  104. Roddy Campbell Says:

    It’s much better than that. He describes very well I think why there has been no climate policy achieved.

  105. Neven Says:

    He describes very well I think why there has been no climate policy achieved.

    Really? Did he say it’s because ultimately nobody wants to change their lifestyles or voluntarily impose limits?

  106. rab Says:

    Neven’s correct. The idea that scientific findings force a change in lifestyle is anathema to the majority.

  107. willard Says:

    Not only we dislike being told to change our hairstyle, appealing to our fears does not motivate us to change it:

    http://bigthink.com/ideas/24991

  108. Neven Says:

    That’s why it would be best if we would just make fun of the hairstyles. Maybe that’s the best frame there is. DenialDepot is by far the best climate blog out there, after all.

    Can someone please revive Bill Hicks?

  109. Roddy Campbell Says:

    ‘The idea that scientific findings force a change in lifestyle is anathema to the majority.’

    Yup. Correct. Scientific findings are just that, as they were with, say, swine flu. They are projections. So, there is then a political process – do we abandon all international travel to avoid any chance of swine flu? Clearly not. that would be an unacceptable change to our lifestyle as a result of scientific findings.

    It’s what Hulme’s article is about. Read it with an open mind if you can. Of course none of us wants to change things we have chosen if we don’t have to. It’s why the linear approach he talks about is doomed, why other approaches to the reality of AGW have to be found.

  110. Roddy Campbell Says:

    I’d never heard of denialdepot. What a not funny shocker. Dearie me.

  111. Neven Says:

    Thanks, Willard, that was an interesting read.

    I, for my part, believe that the emphasis shouldn’t be on AGW alone, as there are many other problems that are putting an increasing amount of stress on ecosystems and thus economies and societies. All of them are mainly caused by our choice to let the economic concept of infinite, exponential growth be the basis or our economy, culture and society. Minor problem is that nothing can be infinite in a finite system.

    The ultimate goal is not to mitigate AGW per se, but to transition towards a more sustainable society. This should be stressed continuously. Who can be against a sustainable society?

    Of course none of us wants to change things we have chosen if we don’t have to.

    Funny thing is that it’s the other way around. You decide you don’t have to change anything because you don’t WANT to change anything. And thus AGW (and all those other problems, like top soil erosion, peak oil, water scarcity, overfishing, ocean acidification, wars over resources, large-scale pollution, you know, the little things) is not real or not a problem. It’s psychological denial. That’s okay, we all have it in one form or another.

  112. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Aaaah Neven I love you. You’re a sustainable finitist. Would you have been one, say, 100 years ago? Would you have predicted mass starvation and doom and stuff? Or do you think you have brilliantly selected the moment when Malthus would have been right?

    ‘there are many other problems that are putting an increasing amount of stress on ecosystems and thus economies and societies.’

    or

    There are many societies (ok, all) exhibiting that core stat of success over the undoubted environmental and anthropogenic challenges they face of …. increased life expectancy.

    ‘Minor problem is that nothing can be infinite in a finite system.’ oh dear the old ‘stone age ended when stones ran out’ conversation. Which finity is bothering you today? Oil again? You might be right there. It’s all finite, what’s the problem? You can ration finity, but what good does that do? extends something for about ten years.

    What’s your career, your job? I would hazard a guess nothing too market down and dirty related? Nothing too real? A ….. consultant?

  113. Roddy Campbell Says:

    sorry if a bit brisk, my post ….. I love ‘I’m a Celebrity ..’ so bit hyper.

    x

  114. Neven Says:

    Roddy, would you say that Western society is currently run in a sustainable way?

  115. willard Says:

    Neven,

    There is also Baron von Monkhofen insicive wisdom:

    http://theclimatescum.blogspot.com/

    I for one would emphasize beauty. Here’s an explanation why:

    Inspiring people means sending fitness signals, not distress signals.

  116. Neven Says:

    A sustainable society is very beautiful, everyone!

    There, that’s my message, that’s my frame, that’s what I know is most important. :-)

  117. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Neven, the entire earth is made of “stuff”. So most of the things that we mine can never run out in any meaningful way (Sol will have turned into a red giant and cooked all life on earth, including our descendants – if any – long before we run out of stuff).

    This is not to say that there are not issues with how Western society is run. Just that I do not think “sustainability” is a particularly useful framework for analyzing most of these issues. I think it is better to focus on specific concerns, eg habitat destruction, or air/water quality, or fisheries management (now there is one issue where sustainability has some meaning:-)).

  118. Roddy Campbell Says:

    ‘Roddy, would you say that Western society is currently run in a sustainable way?’

    Is there an implication that if only we ate more rice we’d be ‘better’, ‘more sustainable’?

    Yes I think it is sustainable in the West. We have stable populations, peace, and the best environmental conditions we have ever had (air, water, eco-stuff).

  119. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Roddy Campbell Says:
    November 17, 2010 at 10:01

    “Is there an implication that if only we ate more rice we’d be ‘better’, ‘more sustainable’?”

    And tofu, Roddy.Mustn’t forget the tofu.

  120. Neven Says:

    I think it is better to focus on specific concerns, eg habitat destruction, or air/water quality, or fisheries management (now there is one issue where sustainability has some meaning:-)).

    I think it’s important to focus on your basis first. My point is that if you focus on just one issue, be it the one you name, or AGW, or financial bubbles, you lose the overview. That’s because all these issues are in my view symptoms of a root cause, and that’s where your basis comes in. All these issues cannot be solved if the basis of your economy, society and culture continues to be a concept of exponential, infinite growth. They are mutually exclusive. You will never become sustainable if this economic concept is at the core of your system.

    Is there an implication that if only we ate more rice we’d be ‘better’, ‘more sustainable’?

    I haven’t come to the stage of implying yet. I asked you a very simple question. Do you think our current system can be sustained in the long-term (or even better: indefinitely, if you want true sustainability)? Can it?

    Yes I think it is sustainable in the West. We have stable populations, peace, and the best environmental conditions we have ever had (air, water, eco-stuff).

    I’ll grant you that one on stable populations (in the West), but peace? Do you realize your country is at war as we speak? The main reason we have better environmental conditions is because we shifted all heavy industry to developing/cheap countries.

    Never mind the fact that those developing countries are aiming for our standards (which they have a perfect right to, BTW). Can that be sustained? A very simple question, with a very simple answer, but I want you to answer it.

  121. Neven Says:

    And tofu, Roddy.Mustn’t forget the tofu.

    Tofu isn’t very sustainable. :-p

  122. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Neven, my answer to your question is twofold: I do not think our current system can be sustained indefinitely. However, I do think it is possible for a large human population to be sustained indefinitely at a level of material well-being equivalent to that enjoyed by the more comfortably off in the western world. There would need to be some changes, but these are not impossible, or even necessarily unlikely. Most of the changes would improve the environment. It will not happen in my lifetime, or even in the lifetime of my children. There may be several reversals along the way. However, I do not believe that the evolution of human society is a zero sum game, so in the long run I think a better world is inevitable.

  123. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Neven I did answer it – yes. As sustainable as sustainable can ever be in a world sans equilibria. Every bit as sustainable as our ancestors’ lives were in 1CE and 1000CE and 1500CE and 2000CE. Malthus was wrong – sorry.

    ‘The main reason we have better environmental conditions is because we shifted all heavy industry to developing/cheap countries.’

    I don’t think that’s very fair on all the good work the environmental movement put into cleaning up our air (lead in petrol), our rivers (I remember pre 70′s we poured all our effluent from our farms and factories into streams and rivers), our food (additives, hormones etc), our buildings (asbestos, lead in paint), acid rain NOx and SOx, the list goes on, DDT, smoking over other people, how many examples do you want?

    The real reason we have cleaned up is because we can. We’re rich enough to have strict environmental regulations and do conservation stuff. We can feed and clothe and house ourselves in a few hours a day and have chosen to breed at replacement rate, and look after the environment.

    Until ….. along came ……. BEHIND YOU! ……. AGW.

    I grant you that man is having more effect on the earth than ever before; because there are 7 billion of us that is a truism. It has always been a true statement, no truer now than ever before.

  124. Neven Says:

    Neven, my answer to your question is twofold: I do not think our current system can be sustained indefinitely.

    Alex, thanks for that. This is only logical in my view.

    There would need to be some changes, but these are not impossible, or even necessarily unlikely. Most of the changes would improve the environment.

    I agree with you. Do you think one of the prerequisites of a (more) sustainable society would entail an economic system that doesn’t revolve around infinite, exponential growth? Or can you have both sustainability and a system where infinite growth is the main driver?

  125. Neven Says:

    Neven I did answer it – yes. As sustainable as sustainable can ever be in a world sans equilibria.

    Roddy, thanks for one of the most original answers I have yet received when asking this question. I hope you don’t mind my pointing out that ‘as sustainable as can be’ is not the same as ‘sustainable’. Do you think that the current system can be sustained indefinitely? Or would some things have to change?

  126. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Neven I hope ‘original’ wasn’t a polite euphemism for ‘plain dumb’!

    I was sliding around the word sustainable, since you chose it I was trying to stick to it, although I find it a tricky one, hence my answer.

    When I look out of my window in Kent I see a lake, which my father built, with trees round it which have self-sown and grown, some duck, two swans, rabbits, deer – a whole eco-system. Is it sustainable? Not in the sense that if it was left well alone it would look quite quite different in only 20 years time, let alone 100.

    Man is a species, like any other. We’ll continue dominating and expanding, if we can. As the dominant grasses and trees will around my lake, and a pike that will kill the trout in the lake, and moorhen that will displace the duck.

    So I view our current Western society as eminently sustainable, within the context that I do believe in Darwin and don’t believe in equilibrium. It will change – of course it will. As nomadic farmers invented a way of life built on limited sustainability in one place, sometimes resources move you. As we have seen societies thru archeology vanish. What happened to the great Egyptian civilisation? It wasn’t sustained, was it? Was that resource-driven? I suspect not.

    It’s a complex system. So I took your question to mean sustainable in a resource sense. In which case, again, I answer yes, absolutely. I find the ‘argument ad finitum’ wholly unconvincing!

  127. adelady Says:

    I like to put ‘sustainability’ in the same group as ‘fertility’. One writer on gardening – a very particular form of permaculture (one that is a lot more hard work than most) – put it very well.

    Fertility does not rely on the amount of nutrients available in the world (or garden or community). It’s how often and how quickly everything is reused in the food production system.

    So nothing, or as little as possible, should be burnt or sent to landfill or other long term sequestration away from production.

    And sustainability is the same idea applied to objects and substances other than those used for food production. It’s not how much you have of anything that determines how valuable it is, it’s how much use or benefit a ‘thing’ can offer for as long a time as possible. (But it doesn’t have to be in the same form, just so long as it isn’t transferred out of utility or benefit into a waste accumulation.)

  128. Neven Says:

    Roddy, I’m sure that there are plenty of things we can agree on, but there are a few things in your last comment I disagree with.

    Man is a species, like any other. We’ll continue dominating and expanding, if we can.

    First of all, we are reaching the point at which we can’t expand any more. There’s a multitude of signs pointing to that. Second, we are conscious beings. Unlike the dominant grasses and trees around your lake, unlike the trout-killing pike, unlike the duck-displacing moorhen we are a species that can make conscious choices.

    s we have seen societies thru archeology vanish. What happened to the great Egyptian civilisation? It wasn’t sustained, was it? Was that resource-driven? I suspect not.

    It’s a complex system.

    Indeed, and the more complex it becomes the harder it becomes to sustain. The Egyptian civilisation didn’t collapse due to one thing only, but due to many things, just like the Roman Empire did, and the Mayans, and Easter Island. But all of them disappeared because they couldn’t be sustained any longer. They weren’t sustainable in their form. This is what happens to societies that aren’t societies who do not actively try to become truly sustainable.

    Sustainability is about the question whether what you can continue what you are doing or whether at some point you will have to change it. It is abundantly clear that the current global system cannot continue indefinitely. It isn’t sustainable. Things will have to change. Now, will we as conscious beings try to influence which changes will come about or will we just let whatever changes happen come over us, like duck and the trout?

    Darwinian laissez-faire will never bring societal sustainability. It will be something along the lines of brutal, ruthless, beastly. That’s a moral choice each one has to make for himself. Unfortunately the choice has consequences for others as well.

  129. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Bart will chop us soon for being OT…. :)

    ‘First of all, we are reaching the point at which we can’t expand any more. There’s a multitude of signs pointing to that.’ – Malthus called the top back when, he was a bright bloke. Despite what looked like convincing working, he was wrong. You think you can spot the signs, do you? We (the world’s population) are better fed, clothed, medicined, and housed than ever before, with 7bn of us – to me the signs point precisely in the opposite direction!

    Malthus: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”. Not so far, Tommy.

    ‘Second, we are conscious beings. Unlike the dominant grasses and trees around your lake, unlike the trout-killing pike, unlike the duck-displacing moorhen we are a species that can make conscious choices.’ – that’s an interesting but separate debate – I think we resemble other species more closely than you think despite our evident choice-making ability. But that’s more a Dawkins/SJ Gould conversation.

    ‘The Egyptian civilisation didn’t collapse due to one thing only, but due to many things, just like the Roman Empire did, and the Mayans, and Easter Island. But all of them disappeared because they couldn’t be sustained any longer. They weren’t sustainable in their form. This is what happens to societies that aren’t societies who do not actively try to become truly sustainable.’ – It sounds like it happens to ALL societies regardless of what they try to be? Which is what I was looking for. If all societies that have ever existed have vanished (except the current ones which will vanish later) then your word ‘sustainability’ just becomes a dream? It’s never actually existed? So perhaps closer to a religion. The Native Americans were sustainable I guess – look what happened to them, Europeans arrived and un-sustained them

    ‘Sustainability is about the question whether what you can continue what you are doing or whether at some point you will have to change it.’ – you ALWAYS have to change it, eventually? Otherwise the Goths invade, or China drives you out of business or you die of the plague? What is this dream of Gaian equilibrium?

    ‘It is abundantly clear that the current global system cannot continue indefinitely. It isn’t sustainable.’ – it’s abundantly UNCLEAR that the current system is less sustainable than any other that has ever existed, to me. Which is what I meant by my original reply when I said ‘As sustainable as sustainable can ever be in a world sans equilibria. Every bit as sustainable as our ancestors’ lives were in 1CE and 1000CE and 1500CE and 2000CE.’

    ‘Darwinian laissez-faire will never bring societal sustainability.’ – it’s not supposed to, it’s supposed to enable adaptation and change, in order to survive. And yes, sometimes it’s ‘brutal, ruthless, beastly.’

    But right at the moment, C21, we, globally, have the least ‘brutal, ruthless, beastly’ world we’ve ever had! Look at % in chronic hunger, life expectancy, almost any measure you want. And tell me why the world is so awful – and if you agree that in fact it isn’t, then tell me why this society is less sustainable than past ones. It looks fine to me. As sustainable as any society is in a world sans equilibria.

    I wrote a guest post for Jeff Id which relates in part: http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/environmentalism-as-religion-are-environmentalists-the-secular-successors-of-the-judeo-christian-tradition/

  130. Neven Says:

    Yes, it is indeed going too far off-topic, otherwise I’d ask what the God is of a middle-aged, white male who was born to a dad with a lake. I can understand how you have to brush every potential threat to society off the table, otherwise your whole narrative falls apart. I don’t know how old you are (and if you have any kids) but I hope for your sake you will not have to witness the intrusion of reality into your chapel. To destroy oneself and not be aware of it, must be bliss. I envy you. :-)

  131. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Neven – play the ball not the man.

    Explain where my reply comment to yours is wrong?

    Explain how I am unknowingly destroying myself?

    Explain where the world is so dreadful when every measurable measure has it pretty good (not perfect, of course).

    Explain why RIGHT NOW is the time to be Malthusian when it’s never been right before.

    (I have four children, and may well have more, being currently a single gentleman. My fertility rate is only at replacement rate though.)

    I view anthropogenic threats very seriously – Hitler and Stalin especially.

    Cheer up – it must be awful to worry so much and not even realise there isn’t much to worry about. :)

  132. Neven Says:

    Neven – play the ball not the man.

    You played the religion-card, remember?

    I’m not so worried, don’t worry, or suffering from the way things are. They will go as they go. But it’s an interesting exercise in ethics, philosophy and human nature/psychology.

    Explain where my reply comment to yours is wrong?

    It’s not much use, if I judged your tAV piece correctly, but I’ll give it a shot if Bart will indulge.

    We (the world’s population) are better fed, clothed, medicined, and housed than ever before, with 7bn of us – to me the signs point precisely in the opposite direction!

    This is nothing more but projection from a middle-aged, white male who was so lucky to be born to a dad with a lake. Somehow I always end up having this discussion with middle-aged, white males who owe their position mostly to luck. Fascinating, though predictable, stuff.

    There are almost one billion people in the world who are suffering from chronic hunger, and I’m leaving out malnutrition. Of course, over a billion people in the world are pathologically obese. I’m not saying: ‘Boohoohoo, poor Ethiopians, naughty McDonald’s’. But look at the facts, both at the relative as well as the absolute numbers.

    We are medicined fantastically. We are masters at dealing with symptoms, root causes and side-effects not so much. And it’s great for the economy. We need sick people, lots of them.

    Let’s not start about housing in Western society. Efficiency is a joke. Billions of people live in slums without water or electricity.

    And even if it were true, that everything is just fantastic, globally speaking, all of it is built on short-term sand.

    If all societies that have ever existed have vanished (except the current ones which will vanish later) then your word ‘sustainability’ just becomes a dream? It’s never actually existed?

    So, do you shit on your dinner table and piss over your pillows every day? You don’t? Why not? Because you cannot sustain it indefinitely.

    Otherwise the Goths invade, or China drives you out of business or you die of the plague? What is this dream of Gaian equilibrium?

    What is this dream of infinite growth trumping natural laws?

    But right at the moment, C21, we, globally, have the least ‘brutal, ruthless, beastly’ world we’ve ever had! Look at % in chronic hunger, life expectancy, almost any measure you want.

    How do you measure the level of ‘brutal, ruthless, beastly’? And how about measures like CO2 in the atmosphere, ocean heat content, the amount of depleted uranium particles in the Middle East, the amount of debt on individual, business and state level, the amount of plastics in the Pacific garbage patch, the price of crude oil, etc, etc. Why be so selective?

    And what is your difficulty with voluntarily imposing limits on your actions? Why does your God forbid that?

  133. RickA Says:

    I think Rumsfeld said it best – it is what we don’t know we don’t know that is most important.

    I have been following climate change news since 2008 and it seems to me that science is finding out new information all the time that requires us to go back and tweak the climate models.

    This is how science works and is as it should be.

    Things like carbon black changing albedo or the Earth’s magnetic field transferring energy from the sun to the Earth (in addition to just the radiation we receive).

    Or charged particles effect on ozone.

    Or warm water melting glaciers from the bottom.

    Or whether the MWP was worldwide or merely local.

    Holes in our understanding of the carbon cycle.

    I could go on and on – and that is just over the last three years.

    Who knows what we will learn tomorrow or next year that will cause us to fundamentally change the climate models, and therefore the forecast for 2100.

  134. Roddy Campbell Says:

    I think I’ve been spammed?

  135. Roddy Campbell Says:

    A cut-down version:

    ‘You played the religion-card, remember?’ – not intended to be personal, was musing on a) factless beliefs, and b) a presumption of a particular (religious) morality, for example Malthusian.

    ‘But it’s an interesting exercise in ethics, philosophy and human nature/psychology.’ – agreed

    ‘This is nothing more but projection from a middle-aged, white male who was so lucky to be born to a dad with a lake.’ – enough with playing the man already! I’m sorry the lake upsets you. I have two.

    ‘Somehow I always end up having this discussion with middle-aged, white males who owe their position mostly to luck.’ – you could be having it with pretty much anyone with open eyes, but I know what you mean. And pretty much all of us owe our position mostly to luck, good or bad. Acorn/tree etc.

    ‘There are almost one billion people in the world who are suffering from chronic hunger, and I’m leaving out malnutrition.’ Yup, I have the FAO website in my bookmarks too.

    In 1970 there were just under 900 million, in 1980 and 1990 and 2000 around 850m, and 925m now. (source FAO)
    In 1970 world population was 3.7bn, in 1990 5.3bn, and call it 7bn now.
    So, according to FAO we’ve gone 24%, 16%, 13%.

    Not bad? Going in the right direction? Probably lower at 13% than any time in history? (And part of the cause of the rise in the absolute number 2008/10 was biofuels – source FAO – the upward linkage of cereal/oil prices and biofuel subsidies, hunger being affected by food prices).

    I could do the same numbers for people who ‘live in slums without water or electricity’ too if I could be arsed.

  136. Neven Says:

    Roddy, according to your logic we have to increase world population to further eradicate world hunger. Bravo.

    not intended to be personal, was musing on a) factless beliefs, and b) a presumption of a particular (religious) morality, for example Malthusian.

    Yes, I was doing the same. Factless beliefs and a presumption of a particular religious morality, for example middle-aged, white, male pseudo-Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest-with-a-head-start no-limit mumbo-jumbo narcissism.

    Good luck with fending off reality. Pray hard and use incantations. As long as it works.

  137. Bart Says:

    Neven, Roddy,

    Agreeing to disagree is fine too. If you want to continue bickering, I’ll start another open thread; let me know.

  138. willard Says:

    > Who knows what we will learn tomorrow or next year that will cause us to fundamentally change the climate models, and therefore the forecast for 2100.

    A clean and concise appeal to ignorance.

  139. Neven Says:

    Don’t let your anger or frustration shine through in your communication.

    Oops. And it started off so well, with Alex Heyworth agreeing that our current system cannot be sustained indefinitely. Who knows how far we could have come together.

    Apologies to Bart and everyone! I’m still not immune to denialist ‘logic’.

  140. Roddy Campbell Says:

    apologies Bart – no bickering intended, possibly some turns of phrase were too flowery.

    ‘Roddy, according to your logic we have to increase world population to further eradicate world hunger.’ – That doesn’t follow from the fact that the proportion of the world’s population in hunger has halved in the period that world population has doubled. That’s ‘what we know’, as this post’s header says. That’s the reality. And I embrace it – it makes me happy that we’ve achieved that. Billions of people alive who wouldn’t have been if we hadn’t got so good at doing stuff. Progress in the finest sense of the word.

  141. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Neven, wrt infinite growth, obviously that cannot happen in the sense of infinite growth in the amount of matter devoted to the well being of one person. We cannot each have our own universe (at least not with current technology ;-)). However, this is not in practice what happens. As societies become more technologically advanced and more complex socially, a higher and higher proportion of their GDP does not involve the consumption of materials, but the provision of services. For example, I live in Australia, which is generally thought of as being a quarry providing raw materials for the Chinese. Yet 70% of our GDP comes from the services sector. (Note I am not saying that no resources are consumed by the services sector; just that a large proportion of our GDP comes from a sector that is low in resource consumption.) As people become wealthier, the things they value change. This is why, for example, Europe and the US now enjoy better quality water and air than they did 50 years ago – it’s because these things are now more valued than they were then. Eventually I believe societies will develop to the point where they will increase their GDP while at the same time decreasing their resource inputs (it’s possible that some countries have already reached this point, although it would be hard to analyze and I am not aware of anyone having attempted to do so). GDP does not just measure “stuff”.

  142. Alex Heyworth Says:

    PS Bart, apologies for continuing the “off topic” conversation.

  143. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Alex, now this thread is coming to its end, can I ask you a question?

    Why is it, do you think, ref my dialogue with Neven, that there is this conviction that everything is ghastly and unsustainable and we are heading for a brick wall, what one might describe as neo-Malthusian fears on every single front?

    People, including me, have tried to tackle it as ‘environmentalism as substitute for religion’, but that’s old hat.

    I am always puzzled that there is a presumption that it’s all going horribly wrong despite (imho) the vast majority of measurements showing it’s going exactly the other way (future CAGW aside).

    Is this, maybe, how it always is? I don’t think so, people have believed in golden ages before, progress, and so on. The hungry and sick will always be with us; a measure of whether we are being successful in dealing with it is whether the proportion of unhoused, hungry, sick, war-torn etc is falling, whether acid rain is a diminishing not growing problem, whether life expectancy is rising not falling, and so on.

    But people seem to search for anything to show it’s getting worse, and just get cross when they can’t.

    Can you explain from a down-under pov?

  144. Alex Heyworth Says:

    I can think of a few reasons, though I am not convinced any of them is necessarily the root cause of the problem. The first is modern mass media. The media have always greatly exaggerated all stories involving tragedy, disaster etc. As far as they are concerned, “no news is good news” is the wrong way round. A portion of the public are duped by this into thinking we really are going to hell in a handbasket.

    Another thread is that it is generally in the interests of politicians to make out that there are lots of problems which only they can solve. So their spin doctors are always busy trawling for stories they can spin that way. This is particularly true of politicians of the left, who are most prone to thinking that government intervention is the answer to everything, but many ostensibly right wing politicians also fall into this trap. Of course, it all ends in tears. As Margaret Thatcher said (approximately) “socialism is a wonderful system until you run out of other people’s money”.

    Finally, I think there are many people in the western world who simply feel guilty about being lucky enough to be born wealthy and healthy. To make them feel better about themselves they make up causes that they can rationalize as being in the interests of the world’s poor. Of course, none of them actually want to make any real sacrifices, so they project the guilt onto others and demand that the government do something. This is why you get the hypocrisy of environmental leaders and film star activists who push for green energy while they continue with a profligate high energy-using lifestyle.

    As a very interesting aside, there has been some coverage here in Aus about some research done by a former MP on the demographics of political party supporters. The Greens (who did very well in our recent Federal election) are predominantly supported by women in their 40s who are tertiary educated, generally in arts or education fields, rich, born overseas and have no children. I don’t quite know what that says about either the party or their supporters.

  145. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Predominantly supported by childless middle-aged educated women? Are there so many in Australia? Which bit of the research interest you?

    The rest…

    Para 1 – True. but the effect it has on me is mule-like I refuse to believe any horror stories now, whereas I used to believe in nuclear winter, mad cow, hormones in meat, salmonella, and that you could sharpen a razor under a pyramid (remember Lyall Watson?). Surely it must have some of that effect on others? Maybe ‘the young’ haven’t lived thru as many false scare stories from Chernobyl to Macondo (I deliberately pick actually serious events whose effects were a tiny fraction of that feared).

    Para 2 – maybe. I always feel slightly sorry for politicians facing an interviewer or a complainant complaining about ‘a problem’ and you can see them wanting to say ‘look, I’m sorry blind people have difficulties at traffic lights, but such is life, they’ll just have to be extra careful’.

    Para 3 – the same as my friend I used as the hook for my Environmentalism as Religion post, convinced the world was ghastly and felt sorry for her children. That they will live longer, be better fed, and be safer than she was seems neither here nor there.

    Thanks for reply …. I get interested by people like my interlocutor on this thread, where does such strong belief, desire even, in gloom and doom come from. Oh well.

  146. Bart Says:

    Roddy,

    Perhaps your premise that people who are worried about climate change have a desire to believe in gloom and doom is false?

  147. Neven Says:

    Perhaps your premise that people who are worried about climate change have a desire to believe in gloom and doom is false?

    Impossible!

    Everything is a scare story, a hoax! Ask the Liquidators, they’ll confirm that Chernobyl was nothing more than a scare story of which but a eenie weenie tiny fraction happened.

    Reconstructing the past, the present and the future with Roddy Campbell. Everything has the same merits.

  148. Neven Says:

    In my experience it’s the people who think they have no religion are the worst religious fundamentalists. Roddy is a perfect example. Totally unaware of his own church.

    I’ll back off again now. It’s Roddy Campbell’s sheer arrogance and lack of self-consciousness that makes my hairs stand on end. The ignorance and confirmation bias I don’t mind so much, we all suffer from that.

  149. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Bart, that wasn’t my premise. My question (to Alex) was asking him why he thought people so often thought things were bad and getting worse in direct contradiction of the facts. They didn’t have to be enviros or AGW-ers in particular, it could be a conviction that rape rates in South London are frighteningly high, or (common among my friends) that skunk represents a fearsomely greater mental health hazard than plain cannabis or that ecstacy is a seriously dangerous drug.

    Since there is a decent overlap between AGW worriers and environmentalists, and since some environmentalists believing in gloom and doom is almost tautologous, I don’t object to some link though.

    Neven’s comment above illustrates my point perfectly though. You can choose to give credence to the Wikipedia page he links to, saying, inter alia, that
    ‘According to Vyacheslav Grishin of the Chernobyl Union, the main organization of liquidators, “25,000 of the Russian liquidators are dead and 70,000 disabled, about the same in Ukraine, and 10,000 dead in Belarus and 25,000 disabled”, which makes a total of 60,000 dead (10% of the 600 000, liquidators) and 165,000 disabled.’

    Or you can give credence to the WHO page (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/index.html), which says, inter alia, that:
    ‘As of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers’
    ‘About 4000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children and adolescents at the time of the accident, have resulted from the accident’s contamination and at least nine children died of thyroid cancer; however the survival rate among such cancer victims, judging from experience in Belarus, has been almost 99%.’
    ‘no evidence or likelihood of decreased fertility among the affected population has been found, nor has there been any evidence of increases in congenital malformations that can be attributed to radiation exposure.’
    ‘Confusion about the impact has arisen owing to the fact that thousands of people in the affected areas have died of natural causes. Also, widespread expectations of ill health and a tendency to attribute all health problems to radiation exposure have led local residents to assume that Chernobyl related fatalities were much higher than they actually were.’

    and so on. I would have thought that choosing to give credence to the former is a pretty good indicator of a desire to believe in doom and gloom, wouldn’t you?

    And I would have a small bet with you that Neven and others like him, even after reading the WHO report, will prefer to continue believing Wikipedia, the doom and gloom version. You don’t think so?

  150. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Nev – you still playing the man not the ball with another comment sans a single fact? Go and read the WHO Chernobyl link, I found it very interesting, it was the review 20 years on, put together by:

    International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),
    World Health Organization (WHO),
    United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),
    Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),
    United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),
    United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA),
    United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR),
    The World Bank.

    and so might be more credible than Wiki.

  151. rab Says:

    Roddy: “but the effect it has on me is mule-like I refuse to believe any horror stories now”
    Isn’t this precisely the problem? You have decided to ignore a class of “stories” based on whether or not they are scary, not based on whether or not the source is credible. I was very on top of the Chernobyl story since it broke; I’ve worked at a nuclear research lab since 1980. Every single person here is AVID for real data from the fallout. The scare stories are a media phenomenon. But with AGW it is exactly the opposite. Much of the media say it’s a hoax, while the scientists are really worried.

  152. Neven Says:

    Roddy, that list is almost as impressive as those of national academic institutions that explicitly endorse the consensus on AGW.

    It makes me wonder also: why don’t names like IAEA, WHO, World Bank and anything with UN in them set off your conspiracy alarm bells this time? AGW is a hoax, the IPCC is a fraud, but Roddy blindly trusts practically the same organisations that say the effects of Chernobyl are minor.

    Wikipedia is certainly not the most trustworthy of sources, but that report you link to is a political communication tool, if ever there was one. The fact that you take it as gospel truth is very telling.

    I happen to have translated a documentary a few weeks ago that was about the Liquidators. It’s good to know the archive material and interviews were a sham. Piss on graves, anyone?

  153. Roddy Campbell Says:

    rab – I’ve got harder to convince would be a better way of putting it. And I am absolutely aware of the dangers of confirmation bias. My scepticism extends to my own opinions.

    Tell me about Chernobyl – is the WHO 20 years on report I linked to reasonably authoritative as far as you know? Where else should I be looking?

    And btw – I believe in AGW, in WG1. I’m not so sure about WG2, and very very unsure about WG3.

  154. Neven Says:

    Roddy, thanks are due. You made me look into the Chernobyl thing some more. I found some more stuff a skeptic would like (conclusions should interest you).

    And btw – I believe in AGW, in WG1. I’m not so sure about WG2, and very very unsure about WG3.

    Me too. Maybe we have more in common than I thought. :-)

    But if AGW is true, how can you possibly maintain that our current (Western) society is sustainable?

  155. Bart Says:

    Rab, excellent comment!

  156. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Neven – when did I ever say AGW was a hoax, the IPCC a fraud? I didn’t, and don’t think so.

    Why do you think the WHO, UNEP, UN-OCHA and UNSCEAR would collaborate in a nonsense report?

    Who is Rob Edwards, an apparently (on quick view) aggressively anti-nuclear environmental journalist, who wrote the article in the link you provided? Is he more reliable than WHO?

    I am aware that you will continue to believe that Chernobyl, certainly the world’s worst nuclear accident, killed tens of thousands or more, with very little evidence. That’s fine. Let me know when you have some evidence, and then I will be happy to change my view, which is that it didn’t (based largely on WHO).

    Re your next post – who is Makarevitch?

    Bart – do you not see, even a bit, what I mean by doom and gloom?

    (Neven – Sustainable – whatever the definition – I think AGW impacts on NA and EU (Western Society) will likely be small relative to GDP, hence society unaffected – put it another way, impacts other than AGW will likely be far more significant in whatever happens this century).

    rab – I cannot agree that over the couple of decades pre climategate ‘Much of the media say it’s a hoax’, slightly depending on your geography. The UK media (combining print and BBC/ITV) would have been 90%+ onside in my opinion over that period. Since CG the sceptics have had more air for sure.

  157. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Neven – more links for you (I haven’t read yet).
    http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2006/9241594179_eng.pdf – health
    http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/chernobyl/IAEA_Pub1239_web%5B1%5D.pdf – environment

    rab – which reports should I believe from your pov on Chernobyl?

  158. Neven Says:

    Roddy, it looks to me like the IAEA Chernobyl report is very much 90% WG3 and 10% WG1.

    FYI, I have nothing against nuclear energy, as long as it’s produced by Generation IV reactors.

    Why do you think the WHO, UNEP, UN-OCHA and UNSCEAR would collaborate in a nonsense report?

    These organisations are not homogeneous. Some parts of it do honest and good work, other parts don’t. I have a strong suspicion that this Chernobyl report is an example of the latter. For instance that Makarevitsch guy reports that ‘other UN agencies implied are close to the IAEA and at least a top manager was since hired by a nuclear equipment manufacturer.’

    It’s like with the IPCC. WG1 is pretty solid, WG2 and WG3 is where the special interests come in (all of them, from environmental groups to corporations) and things get muddy.

  159. Neven Says:

    rab – which reports should I believe from your pov on Chernobyl?

    It’s not so much about what should be believed, it’s about being consistent. I think that is rab’s point.

    WG2 probably and WG3 certainly are not to be trusted when it comes to GW, but the IAEA is when it comes to the consequences of Chernobyl. That’s contradictory behaviour.

    You could of course change your mind and say: Hmmm, that WHO/IAEA report is not very trustworthy, so maybe the effects of Chernobyl weren’t a tiny fraction of that feared, after all.

    If you do that I’ll apologize for being so direct. :-)

  160. Neven Says:

    Roddy, I don’t know if your German is up-to-date but here you can read some more WG3-esque shenanigans by the IAEA wrt the effects of Chernobyl. They have quite a history of distorting the truth.

  161. Neven Says:

    Here’s an interesting website concerning the link between IAEA and WHO. I think I’ve posted enough links now. Let those who present themselves as skeptics be skeptics.

  162. Roddy Campbell Says:

    But I haven’t seen anything except for an activist anti-nuclear journalist called Rob and a man I don’t know with a Russian name and weird logic that would make me think the report wasn’t trustworthy within reason?

    And from what I can gather nor have you?

    Here’s part of Makarevitch’s logic: ‘The most involved agency (IAEA) will only exist as long as atomic energy will stay in use, therefore its pledge of the exactness of its own conclusions seems insufficient because it is clearly judge and party, therefore biased towards a pro-atomic view.’ Er …. ok. And UNHCR loves refugees and so encourages wars I guess? I don’t think the IAEA is worried about being disbanded.

    Assessing the impacts of Chernobyl 20 years later, however hard, is multi-factors easier than what WG2 attempts to do, so I don’t accept any parallel between WHO et al and IPCC in this case. There can be parallels in forward-looking situations (for example WHO made, in my opinion and that of my medical scientist friends, a complete hash of swine flu, on the alarmist side).

    My question to rab was asking his opinion, as someone who has worked in nuclear research for 30 years, where I should go for accuracy, and whether the WHO reports seemed a reasonable refelction of the truth.

  163. Neven Says:

    So you continue to maintain that the effects of Chernobyl “were a tiny fraction of that feared”?

  164. Neven Says:

    Oops, posted that comment too quickly. Here’s another interesting article.

  165. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Ich kann kein Deutsch sadly. Your two links:

    IPPNW are an activist group pro nuclear disarmament and anti civilian use of nuclear energy?

    And the other lot are a French anti nuclear power activist group, part founded by IPPNW, with an alternative theatre troupe as another founder? A third founder believes that ‘existing power structures need to be challenged, globalization must be resisted and political and economic priorities should be radically overhauled’. Hmmmm.

    Are these really the sort of sites you get your ‘facts’ from? Do you have any QC?

    Is that sceptical enough? Essentially, having looked at the provenance of the two organisations, and their over-riding objective of ridding the world of nuclear, civil and military, I’m not sure I would listen to them on Chernobyl without triple-checking any claim they made.

    Is that unreasonable?

  166. Roddy Campbell Says:

    Your Pravda link – I’ve read it three times and can’t see what recent studies the journalist is referring to – can you?

    The Rob Edwards article you linked to earlier referring to independent research over-turning the WHO report? That research, the TORCH report, was commissioned by the Green Party specifically to rebut the WHO report.

    QC QC.

  167. Neven Says:

    Is that unreasonable?

    Not as unreasonable as taking that Chernobyl report as gospel truth, I admit.

    Roddy, I could’ve posted stuff from sources that were much more anti-nuclear. Especially for you – and also for myself – I’ve searched for more credible sources.

    IPPNW are an activist group pro nuclear disarmament and anti civilian use of nuclear energy?

    They are the German branch of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War organisation. Definitely pro nuclear disarmament (aren’t you?) but not anti civilian use of nuclear energy as far as I can see.

    The IndependentWHO collective is a tad more ‘green’ but I thought you might be interested to know more about the relationship between IAEA and WHO. I’m glad to hear that one particular stance of one of the many founders induces you to sweep everything off the table wrt to the link between IAEA and WHO. Very skeptical thing to do.

    I’m not going to convince you that the effects of Chernobyl might not be a tiny fraction of that feared, am I? Well, in that case, I might as well give you immense pleasure by saying: you are right, Roddy, you’ve won!

  168. Roddy Campbell Says:

    You’re not going to convince anyone of anything with that ragbag of references, Nev. These are your ‘more credible’ sources? Heavens.

    Your links:

    – IPPNW is sort of anti civilian nuclear, some branches more than others (The US branch least, it seems, the Swiss most). The German wing supported ‘a resolution … passed at the World Congress of the IPPNW in Melbourne in 1999, acknowledging that the production of nuclear energy causes ecological problems and encourages the proliferation of nuclear weapons.’ – source your link to IndependentWHO. A fudge by the sounds of it. Anyway I can’t read the German site to see what they say about it all.

    – IndependentWHO – All their founders are very parti pris, I only listed the most laughable (a theatre troupe) and most extreme (PHM). You want me to list the others? I wouldn’t wish that if I were you. One more – ContrAtom. Hmmmm. OK, one more – ‘The “Sortir du nucleaire” network maintains the view that France should abandon nuclear energy.’ Hmmm. All likely to have unbiased objective views on Chernobyl and the IAEA then.

    IndependentWHO claim a million children around Chernobyl were irradiated and ill. Michel Fernex’s report for them on Chernobyl, well, you read it. If you can.

    – An article by Rob Edwards, a crusading anti-nuclear enviro-journo (from my brief research), reporting on a report commissioned by …. The Green Party.

    – An unknown Russian called Makarevitch, with weird logic I have previously referred to suggesting that the IAEA has to lie about nuclear to preserve its own existence, and that since people who work for the IAEA sometimes also take jobs in the nuclear industry it’s a dodgy organisation. Hmmm.

    – An article in Pravda by Pavol Stracansky dated August 2008 where I am unable to discover what ‘new report’ he is writing about, since he never tells us what it is so far as I can see, with copious quotes from Greenpeace, and references back to the Green Party report of 2006. Pavol’s recent articles include ‘hundreds of thousands of girls and women believed to be at risk of female genital mutilation in Europe’.

    - The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation website advertising New Book Concludes: Chernobyl death toll 985,000, mostly from cancer

    QC QC, Neven. If these sites really are your ‘more credible’ sources, and you rely on facts sourced from these or even more biased sources, I have to wonder whether you really do just want, desire, doom and gloom over facts and objectivity. Journalists and crusading organisations may not be accurate, objective, and unbiased. They may even be the opposite.

    Read the WHO reports, see if you think they’re fudging it, or whether the answer might be closer to the 985,000 claimed above.

    Which do YOU think, and why?

  169. Bart Says:

    Neven, Roddy,

    This is getting seriously off topic. Feel free to continue the discussion about Chernobyl on the open technology thread if you wish, but not here.

  170. Neven Says:

    Bart, there is no need to continue the discussion. Roddy has won the debating game. He is right, and consistently so (with everything), so he has won. He is the winner. The champion. I humbly bow before his superior intellect, his eagle-eyed perception of objective truth and his unflinching, unselfish, I repeat: unselfish, tenacity in defending progress and freedom. Hail the victor!

  171. Roddy Campbell Says:

    No game. Gimme facts, hard facts, from credible sources. And apply Occam’s Razor.

  172. Judith Curry’s Testimony: Where There’s Smoke… | Climate Denial Crock of the Week Says:

    […] uncertainties is not the road to increase people’s understanding of the issue, where what we do know is much more important to convey (if your goal is to increase the public understanding of scientific knowledge). Alongside that I […]

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