Friday, May 24, 2013

Like father like son

 First the dismissive chuckle:
Stupid environmentalists! Getting excited over a meaningless plan that allows emissions to double.

Then somebody challenges the "double" part of the statement. And Roger flashes a degree of cognitive dissonance that may not via with Sr's climate-research-kills-kids-by-tornado, but is equally as startling because more unexpected:

Strangely, no response from the illustrious Dr. Pielke Jr. And he's supposed to be the reasonable one . . .

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pielke Sr: Climate research makes children die in tornadoes

In a particularly ugly and nonsensical Idiot Comment of the Day, we have this:

Drink in the crazy. Yes, Roger, we should defund science and send the money to Oklahoma for tornado shelters.

Never mind that what bothers you about climate science is its success in predictions and what those predictions are, not a supposed lack of skill. Never mind that tornado deaths have plummeted in the last hundred years because scientists have learned to more effectively forecast (or "develop projections of") when and where they will strike.

Never mind that "Too much science research" is the very last reason that home-of-Senators-Coburn-and-Infoe doesn't have an adequate public safety net in the most literal sense of the word -- that if any state embodies the principle of damn-the-science, and should therefore have plenty of money for public goods like tornado shelters, if their hostility to science were not matched by an equal or greater hostility to government action to promote the general welfare.

As I say: never mind that. To come out with that crap while they are still sifting through the wreckage of their lives is just crass. Not everything is about your pet issue, fer Chrissake. Twenty in the Douchebag jar, Roger.

UPDATE: IDK, maybe I'm being too hard on the man. If only there were some form of incontrovertible and objective evidence that this little brainstorm was an ill-mannered, whiny bitch slap of weapons-grade stupidity. But there's one one way we could ever know that for sure . . .

. . . and there you go. That's $20 in the Jar for you, Tony. It's the one you've labelled "Retirement Fund."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dear Andrew Revkin: Time to rethink your dismissal of Cook et al

Doubling down:
The clear message of the team conducting this fresh assessment of the climate science consensus is that it’s vital to close that gap to have a chance of breaking societal deadlock on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. On his Skeptical Science blog, John Cook, the paper’s lead author, put it this way:
Quite possibly the most important thing to communicate about climate change is that there is a 97% consensus amongst the scientific experts and scientific research that humans are causing global warming. Let’s spread the word and close the consensus gap.
Forgotten [Really? Did they say climate communication was the only thing that mattered? No, they said "to have a chance." I.e., closing the gap is necessary but not sufficient condition, not the only thing that matters] in much of this is a point made in an e-mail message sent to me and some other science communicators this morning by Dan Kahan, the Yale law professor who studies the cultural filters that influence how people perceive and react to information. Kahan linked to his fresh post reviewing how many times in recent years such studies have been promoted, then asked this:
Climate scientists aren’t the only ones whose message never gets through. The “science of science communication consensus” that deficits in knowledge & rationality are not the problem [there's more than one problem!]— 99.9999999% agree! — never does either, & to the very people it should be of value too, viz., those trying to promote constructive engagement w/ climate science.
Is there someone studying that science communication problem???!
. . . 
This doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time to communicate climate science [in contrast to what you tweeted yesterday]. But it does mean that communicating the science of science communication matters, too.
For more on the wishful nature of hopes that closing such gaps will matter much, read Keith Kloor and David Appell.
Dear Andrew,

I like a lot of what you write, and I respect your ability to take a second look at your positions and well, it's time. Your own shifting justifications for why Cook et al doesn't matter should be a warning sign that something is amiss: "This study will not fundamentally alter the climate debate forever" (*) is quite a climb-down from "This is an irrelevant study that tells us nothing new and changes nothing."

The Cook study added a greater degree of rigor to the evidence that 97% of climate scientists agree global warming is happening and is human caused. Most Americans -- 70% in the 2011 Six Americas study -- do not know this. Attempting to defend the initial, rather rude and ill-thought-out, dismissal of the study reflects a natural and predictable defensiveness, but you should reconsider.

Neither the authors of the study nor anyone else claimed the study solved all the problems in communicating the science of global warming, still less that it showed a way past all the obstacles to collective political action.

But as a piece of science communication -- a subject you have written and lectured about on many occasions, and therefore seem to think is relevant in some way to the challenges we face -- it was a stunning success(**). Both your initial dismissal and the further attempts to justify it are wrongheaded and invite the label of "inactivist" which some have attached to you.


* A point Appell makes in even more bizarre fashion when he crows ("Climate Candy: The Proof" (!)) that the Huffington Post is no longer leading with the study the next day (?)).

** Let us consider some of the reasons for its success:

1. A simple message.
2. Careful research that sticks to the facts.
3. A message grounded in what we know well, not in new science, extremes, or "single study syndrome."
4. Information that the disengaged (not aware it has been available for some time) have REPEATEDLY TOLD POLLSTERS would increase their concern about global warming.
5. Despite a message well-gauged to increased concern, it is not apocolyptic, not overwhelming, and not likely to make people want to "tune out" the issue.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The intolerant moderates

Skeptical Science won the internet last week with a superb original paper by Cook, Nuccitelli et al that evaluated over 12,000 sources and found 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is happening.

Amazingly some people managed to miss the point:
Their names are practically a role call of the "intolerent moderates" -- journalists who have chosen to define themselves as independent-minded thinkers ready to castigate both sides. The intolerant moderates accept that climate change is happening and action is necessary, but struggle to occupy a middle ground condemning the excesses of both sides. Since the excesses in the climate debate are not at all equally distributed between science deniers and the concerned, this positioning often leads to tepid critiques of climate deniers coupled with energetic castigation of the other side for minor, or, as in this case, nonexistent sins.

Dave Appell just doesn't see the point of the study:
I'm not very keen on these kinds of numbers -- they are made for lazy journalists who don't want to examine the complexity of the science, reporters who just want a number that quickly and easily supports their position.
Or maybe reporters who want to convey to their readers a simple, rock-solid case that a majority of climate scientists believe climate change is real and is caused by humans something only 30% of Americans know to be true (Really).

Kloor is spouting the same sort of nonsense:
The latest example is this survey by John Cook et al that is getting a lot of undeserved attention in the mainstream media. I say that because, questionable methodology aside, the survey tells us nothing new and is, as science journalist David Appell noted, “a meaningless exercise.”
I enjoy their quoting one another for added support: but they are both completely, utterly, ludicrously wrong.

It's hard to say which is the more fundamental fail here: that Kloor doesn't understand that replicating results is critical to science, or that he thinks that he has somehow become a scientist, whose responsibility it is to follow and critique the bleeding edge of climate science, rather than his actual role as a science journalist helping the public grasp the critical core of the field, a job that evidently has to be done by scientists, who have pulled off a massive coup of science communication, only to be sneered at by the people who are paid to perform that function themselves.

I really expected better of Revkin than to jump on this bandwagon. This is why the survey is not a "meaningless exercise":

Half of the public in this survey -- HALF -- said that if 90% of climate scientists agreed that global warming is happening, it would increase their concern. This mind-boggling result is possible, again, because SEVENTY PERCENT OF THE PUBLIC DIDN'T KNOW MOST CLIMATE SCIENTISTS THINK GLOBAL WARMING IS HAPPENING.

That three SCIENCE JOURNALISTS do not know this about their audience is scandalous. It borders on professional incompetence. These people are lecturing scientists about science communication?

UPDATE: In the comments, MikeH perceptively notes that the intolerant moderate is a subspecies of the VSP:

They are the Very Serious People (popularised by Paul Krugman in his NYT column)

"Valuing common sense over scientific consensus when there is a conflict. When pushed far enough VSP will eventually err on the side of science but will hold a candle for pseudoscience as long as it has a veneer of respectability.
Loves the hell out of the balance fallacy. They feel uncomfortable pointing out flaws concentrated in the right-wing or left-wing without pointing to an opposite example. "Both sides do it!"

Climate scientist 2+2=4
Denier 2+2=5
VSP 2+2=4.5

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

So it's come to this

We passed 400ppm the other day. It occasioned some hang-wringing, but no more than that. Many were at pains to point out that the milestone is strictly symbolic, that CO2 is steadily rising and likely will continue to do so, etc.

It's hard to know what will be required to shake us out of our torpor and motive human civilization to begin aggressively cutting fossil fuels. Something will, eventually. The beauty of this problem is that is will get progressively worse until we are ready to stop ignoring it. The unfortunate thing is that it will then continue to get worse for many decades after that.

Optimists abound, of course. Mark Lynas is still in the mix, accusing "catastrophists" of ignoring past human impacts on the environment:

 As in his ill-considered attack on Diamond's "Collapse," however, Lynas is really rebutting a straw man: no one is arguing that humans' changing their environment is a new thing. Changing it in this way and to this extent is a new thing.

It's hard to tell from a Tweet, but Lynas seems to want to think that because changes happened in the past, and humanity survived it, that there's nothing to worry about in radically altering the climate upon which our survival depends. But of course, that is not at all what the historical record shows. The historical record is replete with mighty empires that turned fertile lands into deserts, tribes that hunted the large mammals to extinction (creatures they might have domesticated as farm animals or beasts of burden), societies that outgrew their water supplies or the available food supplies. Predictable disasters resulted.

The long history of people altering their environments is in part a history of people who carelessly or in ignorance damaged the productive capacity of the environments they inhabited. It's entirely in keeping with that history that we face similar choices today.