Last week my wife and I travelled to a family gathering. My family is used to the fact that I advocate action to mitigate global warming. In fact, maybe they’re a little tired of it, so I don’t harp on the point. But they know that I’ve never been a doomsayer — in fact I’ve always scoffed at such things — so when I mention that it’s an existential threat to their children and grandchildren, they can’t help but take it seriously.

Here on the blog, readers are already aware of the issue. You already take it seriously. Even deniers take it seriously. That means we can talk about it in a different way than is meaningful for others. Most people don’t care to hear about sea ice retreat or humidity increase or sulfate aerosols. They aren’t interested in looking at graphs of climate-related data (which is too bad, because I do love graphs). And until global warming affects them personally, they won’t give it much thought.

Lately, it’s been affecting them personally more and more. It was pretty hot here in the eastern U.S. last week. Yes, there have always been heat waves, but lately they’ve been more common, they’ve been hotter, they’ve lasted longer. I take that opportunity to mention that the disappearance of Arctic sea ice seems to be altering the jet stream, making weather patterns (like heat waves) more sluggish and hence longer-lasting. I emphasize that the reason for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice is: us. And I never forget to mention that it’s going to get worse. A lot worse.

I also noted two people who had some interest in the issue themselves. One was a driver at a gas station with a bumper sticker saying “Global Warming is a Hoax.” Didn’t talk to him — lost cause. The other was a waitress at a restaurant. She mentioned, in idle conversation, that her husband was a firefighter and that he was presently several thousand miles away fighting wildfires out west. When I stated that wildfire has become a much more serious problem in the last few decades and that it’s due to man-made climate change, she didn’t respond with some lame denier excuse about how it’s entirely natural. She said, “Oh yes!”

If there’s one group of people who don’t need convincing about global warming, it’s those who fight wildfire. The problem has gotten much much worse, and they can see it with their own eyes — they can feel the heat. Their families know the worry of loved ones being in the line of fire. If you want to find some global warming deniers, don’t bother looking among the ranks of those who risk their lives to combat wildfire. Look instead in the U.S. senate and house of representatives.

When people ask me what they can do, I think I know what to tell them. Vote. Vote against any politician who denies that global warming is a serious problem which we need to address now. Make this your #1 voting issue. When we, the people, start to vote based on how candidates address global warming …

I’m curious to know what others’ experiences are about how best to talk to people about global warming — not the passionate advocates who populate blogs comment threads, but the everyday people who do the everyday jobs which make the world work.

135 responses to “Proselytizing

  1. Very important topic, one I’ve been mulling a lot recently. Most of the good I can do is probably in talking to those around me, not hanging around on climate blogs – but I’m REALLY BAD at it. It’s just so far from most people’s radar that I feel like some kind of nut bringing it up. People get that glazed eyed look. But I think I have to start practicing more and perhaps it’s something that can be learned, something to get better at over time.

    [Response: I think it’s worth learning. And it’s the average person we most need to reach. I hope to learn from other people’s experience … so everybody, bring it on.]

  2. Sorry Dan. It’s all about practice. And just like learning piano or tennis, you’re going to make the occasionally awful, truly horrible, mistake along the way. The only thing to do is to learn from it – and to do it more – so the clangers become a smaller and smaller proportion of your total efforts.

    But like the man said, it’s best if you know your audience. My 88 year old mother is a scoffer – but she has solar panels on her roof regardless. She thinks it’s “wicked, wanton waste” that a sunny country like Australia generates less solar power than Germany. Germany! Of all places!! If your conversation partner isn’t receptive to a science discussion, they might well be receptive to technology or economic (e.g. insurance) arguments. Any avenue in will get you where you want to go – eventually.

    The main thing to bear in mind is that you never, ever, get anyone to change their minds in a single conversation. If it looks as though that’s what’s happened, it’s because the way’s been paved by earlier discussions, maybe not with you, but useful nevertheless.

    Think of yourself as being just one among many strategies in a marketing/ advertising campaign. Advertisers used to tell us that someone needs to see / hear a message 23 times before you can expect them to recognise it. And that’s straight advertising. Not like this topic. Personal products advertisers are not having to counteract a constant message that it’s good to be dirty and smelly. We are.

  3. Dan J Andrews

    Like you, i usually riff off current events like the stalled or slow moving weather patterns. Also, my work takes me into the Arctic for a few months of the year and when people ask what it is like I mention the beauty, the quiet, the openness, but then will mention something about the changes being noticed by us and the people who live there.

    I’ll relate some of the stories from the people (changing ice conditions, rains when it shouldn’t, freeze-up and thaw change, change in quality of ice itself on inland lakes and ice roads, birds they don’t have names for showing up)–without fail every time I’m up there I’ll be asked several times “What is happening to our weather” followed by a recitation of things that have changed over their generation.

    In general, not much science but instead anecdotes (yes, I know) from the people affected. I do toss in some brief explanation of what is causing those changes but the stories themselves are mostly what I convey to others.

  4. Martin Vermeer

    Vote also with your wallet. And with your eyeballs — don’t give advertising revenue to media players that don’t deserve it.

    • And also wallet vote by moving to an electric car for more than a 50% reduction in GHG, vote by putting solar panels on your roof, vote by putting on a light colored roof, vote by putting in LED lights. By doing this you can affect change. Over the past 6 years we have been able to cut CO2 by 70% and in most reguards our lifestyle is better not worse.

  5. An important topic– and a tough one. I teach a philosophy course that uses the history of evolutionary thinking as a way of getting students to see just how strong the evidence for evolution is. It seems to work (but I suspect that our local Mormons and other fundamentalists just avoid taking the course). For one thing, I’ve found that rehearsing very short, basic answers to the ‘questions’ deniers continually raise helps: the reason the questions are raised over and over again (what about the last 15 years, couldn’t it be something other than GHGs, what about the sun/cosmic rays/…) is pretty clear: asking questions that seem ‘reasonable’ over and over helps to create doubt (it provides a quick ‘maybe, but’ gut-reaction). Providing short, sharp answers isn’t conclusive, but at least it helps block the questions’ immediate impact for anyone who’s already taken the answers on board…

  6. I sometimes have good luck with this. One time I was explaining the rules of tennis to a furnace repairman who was a sports but not tennis fan right after a grand slam, and was able to segue into something about knowledge. One time it was a chat with a stranger on a walk to the post office, and about how Boston tides are noticeably higher in the decades I’ve been there. Always important to mention how small it is on a daily basis but how noticeable over time.
    Current events are good; we work too hard to separate weather from climate, as they are, after all, related (weather over time, decades, and space, whole globe and atmosphere per Heidi Cullen). Don’t underestimate people’s intelligence, and be careful to explain what’s still being figured out. Nowadays with all the extreme events, especially Sandy, it’s easy to bring up the breakup of the Arctic and the way that messes with the jet stream and how that results in blocked weather patterns. On blizzards and cold, it’s not entirely dishonest to say that is cold leaving the Arctic, with careful caveats that this is an oversimplification.
    Most people don’t regard it as immediate, but the people I work with are, over time, increasingly coming to me with agreement and requests for more explanation. They know I’m quite good at checking weather though I’m not a weatherwoman, and can see that part of that results from long study. They are very willing to learn as long as it’s neither excessive nor condescending.
    There’s a nice little bit (much of it is good but rather long) at about minute 8:30 here, Arctic/jet stream/segue to blocking high and how Sandy developed which is still a hot topic mid-Atlantic.
    For most people, hand gestures showing the wavy jet stream coursing around the round globe help. [Response: I’ve started using that one too.] It’s friendly, though like you all, with stubborn opposition I retreat.

    (apologies for weird other name – WordPress did it; my name is so common I often use a z or q to differentiate)

  7. Jay Dee Are

    I meet some friends for lunch every Saturday. We’ll talk about anything. When climate comes up, I’m the most adamant that climate is changing. The most adamant denialist is a geneticist. On global warming: He says there has been no warming since 1998. I say look the data. He says he has. I say analyze the data for the past 30 years. On sea level rise: He says there hasn’t been any sea level rise. I refer him to the University of Colorado’s web site. On other planets as analogs to Earth: He brings up Mars. I say Mars has no significant greenhouse effect an no climate inertia (no oceans). I also say look at Venus, with its runaway greenhouse effect, as an object lesson. He has a conspiratorial view of climatologists. He recently heard about the cooling effect that aerosols had on climate before about 1975. He called it the climatologists’ latest excuse, making it sound like Watergate (my interpretation). I explained that some aerosols reflect incoming radiation.

    He does concede that weather has been more extreme lately. If I bring up the meandering jet stream and how it affects our local weather, we’re basically on the same wavelength unless I bring up global warming.

    My advice: Keep the conversation going and have a good grip on climate science and climate data.

  8. Photon Wrangler

    “It is a mistake to suppose that the public wants the environment protected or their lives saved and that they will be grateful to any idealist who will fight for such ends. What the public wants is their own individual comfort.” That was Senator Burt, a character from Issac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves.

    I’ve largely abandoned the strategy of endlessly repeating the evidence for AGW with those who would deny it, or express some well-intentioned doubt based on something they’ve seen on TV, or read in the paper. Being knowledgeable on the science is of course helpful, but it is folly to engage in a protracted discussion about it with someone who has their mind made up. And there’s the nasty side effect of perceived “false equivalency” for those that may be tuning on in the periphery of the conversation.

    Instead, I now go straight to the heart of the matter: morality. The underlying, implicit message of all of the charts, graphs, maps, and models is simply this: Due to the current method for securing our comfort and prosperity, future generations are going to be deprived of both.

    It’s vocabulary that everyone understands. It’s a concept that everyone understands. At the most basic level, doing the moral thing is simply Doing What You Know is Right. Except for the occasional lucky sociopath, just about everybody is bound by this knowledge. People also understand that Doing What You Know is Right is often not easy. It isn’t fun. It usually won’t make you rich. But you don’t have to tell people this, again, because it’s largely built-in.

    I honestly believe that many of the self-professed “skeptics” out there don’t really believe that what they are saying, and what they are being told by their champions, is true. Never underestimate the mind’s capacity for self-deception, particularly in cases where certain knowledge might call in to question one’s idealized self-image (“I am a good person. What I am doing is OK.”). That’s the critical thing about talking about the moral dimension of climate change. It doesn’t get tangled in the barbed wire of soothing half-truths people surround themselves with. Properly aimed, it sails right over and drops right into the foxhole of the soul. And it makes an awful mess when it does.

    • Thank you, food for thought.

    • Properly aimed, it sails right over and drops right into the foxhole of the soul. And it makes an awful mess when it does.

      Great bit of mental imagery there. I am so borrowing that. Lately, I tend to go for the “It’s so much warmer up in the Arctic than it ought to be (because of us), but the air is still cold up there relative to here, so it’s changing all the normal circulation patterns and messing with the jet stream. It locks in the same weather for weeks at a time” approach. Oh, also the fact that we’ve raised global temps by almost a degree C since pre-industrial times means the air can hold 4 – 5% more moisture, which is making storms noticeably more severe. People can see that happening. I point them to recent severe flooding in India, Austria, and China. And also the 2011 – 2012 flooding events in Pakistan, Thailand, Bolivia, Australia, and Germany. Heck, in 2012 global sea levels were measurably down because all the water was on the freakin’ *land*!

      The ‘lazy’ jet stream phenomenon is certainly demonstrable here in Ireland. Hadn’t rained in a *month*. Grass is turning brown. Unbelievable in a place where the weather often changes 5 times in a day. We had not a cloud in the sky for almost a week. Though, it just pissed rain monsoon style for about an hour as I was writing this. Reckon I brought it on :-)

    • Perfect quote to start the comment with. The subtle point might escape the readers, so it’s worth mentioning that the inspiration for the title of the book is Friedrich Schiller’s quote:
      Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain

      How very fitting!

  9. My tactic, right or wrong, when I hear a relative or acquaintance parrot some denialist talking-point (not just on global warming, but on the economy, budget deficit, etc.) is to do some googling, get some facts, then write an email to the person giving the facts and their sources (such as this blog). My theme is that I think they’ve been given some bad information and need to consider a broader picture. This way I can avoid exaggerating or otherwise making mistakes in the heat of the moment. Occasionally when I see something worth repeating I will send it proactively to a wide email distribution – but usually I reserve my general-distribution emailing to fun stuff like a new cat video.

  10. Horatio Algeranon

    “The Lonely Truth”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    Nobody wanted the Truth
    At picnic get-together
    Or office Christmas party
    Or anywhere whatsoever

    The Truth was uninvited
    And spent it’s time alone
    Conversing with itself
    On internet and phone

    • That’s one of the best I’ve seen from you, Horatio. Reminiscent of Michael Leunig.

      Couldn’t find any among his work on the topic, but you may enjoy this or this.

  11. A lot of folks up here in Upstate NY claim to be happy about global warming, since we’ve had some pretty mild winters lately. When I point out that the soil suffers without snow cover, or the bogs are harmed if they don’t freeze over and we get more mosquitoes, or that the flooding we’ve seen the last few years is going to be more common, they harrump and shuffle off. Hopefully the other people listening to the conversations get something from it, but the deniers just drop the subject when they realize they can’t argue it anymore.

  12. My strategies:

    –Keep it short.
    –Be firm yet humble.
    –Don’t get caught in verbal ‘power struggles.’
    –And, as several folks here have already said, look for everyday ‘angles.’

    As a reaction, I am pretty taken with what photon wrangler wrote. It is a matter of international and intergenerational justice.

    And when you consider the world we’ve inherited, and what we are doing to it, it seems also an ultimate act of ingratitude. Do we not appreciate a world in which agriculture is a reasonable way for a culture to ‘make a living?’

    • Good points. Another thing I like to include in any discussion is a bit about the nearly 200 year history of climate science and the incredible work by Fourier, Tyndall, Arrhenius, Callendar, Plass, Revelle,Seuss,Manabe and countless others that are the foundation for today’s climate scientists. By any standards they were all nothing less than really solid scientists, and some of them were simply brilliant.

  13. John Russell (Twitter@JohnRussell40)

    Like others, I take every opportunity to discuss climate change, but always as a result of someone mentioning the weather — which is quite often here in the UK! So, whether we’ve suffered record rainfall (as in 2012), or the sudden heatwave which we’ve just experienced (‘heatwave’ being a relative term in the UK), the changing path of the jet stream and then the melting Arctic ice provide the way in. That always leads into the subject of uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels and the rising heat content in the climate system. I usually leave it there as by this time, nine times out of ten, I’ve met with eyes glazing over.

    If I elicit a denial meme from the other party I never put them down: I always try to make a joke of it. “I think you’ve been taking too much notice of what you read in the Daily Mail haven’t you?” I usually end the conversation there but always follow up with an email which is liberally sprinkled with links to scientific websites like those of NASA and the UK’s Met Office. But I always avoid links to blogs. However science-based they are, link to a blog and you are in danger of appearing to legitimise all blogs as reference material for climate discussion. Unfortunately, for the uninformed to discriminate between science-based and fake-sceptic blogs they need a certain level of understanding of climate science and in the early stages of learning about the subject they can become easily misguided. We all have to be aware how insidious fake-sceptic sites can be when they say the things that feed an innate need in people to deny those things which are too unpleasant to take lightly.

    Very occasionally a person I talk to reveals themselves to be an ‘activist’ climate sceptic. I only have one thing to say to them once that becomes apparent and that’s, “well your opinions go against the officially stated position of every major scientific institution around the world”. Don’t bother arguing any further with the entrenched: just concentrate on influencing the fence-sitters and the ‘don’t knows’. A quiet, science-laden response usually commands respect. If they know you and like you at least they will realise that there is a more considered, alternative viewpoint to the banal, man-in-the-pub, ‘it’s-all-a-hoax’, scoffing, stance.

  14. Bern from Aus

    In my line of work, I frequently bump into people who have only heard the fossil fuel industry point of view, that it’s not that big an issue. I usually try to politely point out to them that nearly every climate scientist that isn’t paid by the FF industry disagrees with that viewpoint.

    I’m bumping up against quite a few who have gotten their ideas re AGW from the denier blogs. Sometimes it’s quite easy to point out the errors in their statements, other times it’s more difficult. The hardest case I’ve come across is the guy at the next desk. He’s an air quality modeller, and he states that he accepts AGW, but he doesn’t think it’s a big deal, mainly because he has little faith in predictive modelling.

  15. I’ll be the first to admit that I suck at conveying this message, often because I fall into the trap of taking settled science and incorrectly applying it to a flawed understanding of statistics. As an example, after Katrina I would argue furiously for science that stated warming would likely raise water temperatures, increasing both the frequency and magnitude of hurricanes (not a perfect statement, but essentially true). I then made the mistake of betting on increased hurricane frequency over the following years, which of course didn’t come to pass (side note: I will definitely use the post from Susan on Hurricane Sandy for future discussions; thanks!). The science is there, accurate, and complete, but random variability and a number of outside factors prevent one from taking overall climate trends and applying them to a few years of observations.

    For some of the same reasons, using examples like the recent heat spell can often emphasize a point, but it doesn’t really work for me in the long run. Skeptical friends who tend to quiet down when I discuss AGW during heat waves are the first to taunt when it gets unseasonably cold; even over decades, one can point to some weather extremes like forest fires (and to a lesser extent, floods) which show a strong and disturbing upward trend, but be met by counterarguments that hurricanes and tornados do not. Unfortunately, all of this doesn’t help in my firm belief (which Tamino phrases far better than I can) that we won’t really be able to convince people of the need for change unless it affects them directly. I worry that it’s simply too difficult to convince the average person that our current course of up to 6C temperature increases by 2100 translates to action in the next decade, let alone the immediate response that is actually required.

    However, what I have the most trouble with in conversation isn’t that AGW is real and dangerous, it’s addressing what we can actually do about it. Here in the US, we dump far more CO2 into the atmosphere per capita than anywhere else, but our overall impact and output has actually been decreasing over the last decade. I hear from friends that it doesn’t matter what we do here, the developing world is the real problem over the next few decades. And when it comes down to it, a better way to answer this question is where I hope we might really be able to make more of an impact. We’ve focused for so long on limiting CO2 and other emissions, and our primary policy strategies (taxation, cap and trade, trade sanctions) make this a priority. Frankly, the results from going this route are abysmal, even when democrats controlled all branches of government.

    There are all kinds of proposals out there for climate engineering (some of which are quite wacky, and others may do far more harm than good), but I keep coming back to the idea that eventually we’ll have to result to some form of this (e.g., carbon sinks, dumping sulfur into the atmosphere, blocking parts of the sun’s radiation) to avoid complete catastrophe. But in arguments I’ve had with skeptics, I’ve found that proposing government funding for a better scientific understanding of the impacts of these strategies gets a far more receptive response than arguing over a carbon tax.

    As a final note, I initially had a horrible reaction to the title of Tamino’s post. “Proselytizing” connotes the spread of religious beliefs, which seems on its face to be the exact opposite of discussing and advocating settled science. After reading the post (and Photon’s response regarding morality), I’m coming around to the idea that this is really what needs to be done. When I discuss AGW I’m using sound science to justify my argument (or at least I’m trying to do so). However, in a conversation with those not intimately familiar with the science, it comes across more as a “belief” in the face of over a decade of steady surface temperatures. I’m sure this is obvious to many of you, but it’s a bit of a revelation for me. Fervently arguing our case using the strategies of ancient missionaries and prophets? It may very well be exactly what’s needed to convince this world of its coming doom.

  16. The first story that comes to mind for me was with a state patrol officer in SE Iowa last year. I was caught going a bit over the speed limit while trying to get to St. Louis before rush hour began (I know I know… but it isnt really a common thing with me, I swear). It ended up evolving from a potential speeding ticket into about 20 minutes of conversation about the environment.

    The officer was very nice, and after doing the typical check for warrants and for current license/registration, he decided to ask what I do and why I was in Iowa rather than home in Louisiana. I mentioned I was visiting family, that I had moved far from where I grew up to try and secure a job after college, and that I studied environmental science but work for the weather service in hydrology. After that, he wasted no time trying to ask me my “opinion” of climate change. Not knowing what his opinion was or if this would cause me some sort of trouble if I sounded “controversial,” I gave a rough overview of where the science is today and tried to speak in any “I think” or “I believe” terms. I ended up surprised.

    “I’m not a scientist, but I think I can see that something is happening,” he says. “Farmers I talk to say that the weather isn’t the same.” “Crops are coming in different.” I used this opportunity to tell him observed climate changes in the upper midwest, including increased rainfall extremes and more stagnant drought/flood patterns. I also told him that increases in temperature and CO2 might help productivity increase at first, but science was pretty strong that eventually increased temperatures would eventually exceed the best ranges for established crops, and we could see drops in yields that could cause food issues. “Maybe you’re right, that wouldn’t be good,” he says.

    He thanked me for talking to him about climate science, gave me a warning, and let me start heading south again after a delay that pushed me further into rush hour. Stop-and-go traffic added about another 30-45 minutes to my trip. I guess it was bittersweet.

  17. I usually try to steer the conversation towards three facts:
    1) Earth’s as hot as it’s been since the first humans showed up, but all this change happened in the last century when we started burning oil/gas/coal.
    2) Carbon dioxide levels are as high as they’ve been since the continents separated tens of millions of years ago; all this happened in the last century when we started burning oil/gas/coal.
    3) It is much, much more expensive to take carbon dioxide out of the air than it is to not put it up there in the first place.

    The basic strategy is to get a couple facts across about how big the problem is, how unprecedented and obviously caused by humans it is, and how much easier it is to not emit CO2 now than to deal with it later.

  18. I just keep honing the analogies, looking for the ones that do the job best (capturing all the significant parts of the process) while being instantly relatable. I explain the greenhouse effect using the blanket analogy. I say, “the blanket is not warm itself, so why do feel warm?” They usually get that it’s because body heat is ‘trapped’ by the layer, and understand immediately when I say blankets slow down the escape of heat from the surface of the skin. I use the GFC to explain the ‘apparent’ slowdown in global temps, if someone brings that up, and maybe later talk about the oceans. Are shares going to continue to lose value in the long-run?

    It’s good to ask easy questions that lead to straighforward answers. That can be engaging, as long as you avoid being patronising. Having the information is nothing if you can’t engage interest. You have to be as short-winded as possible without being curt. And don’t be passionately proscriptive. I say that it’s not because we know what will happen, but because we do not know how benign or bad it will be that action is sensible. I don’t try and sell them anything. I sound like the most reasonable persion in the room this way. I’m talking to voters, not policy-makers, so all I have to do is appeal to their reason. I’m wary of moralising.

    • Disclaimer: I work in the arts, so my job doesn’t make the world go, but it does help civilize it, or so I hope.

    • David B. Benson

      barry — GFC?

    • barry wrote:

      I use the GFC (“Global Financial Crisis”) to explain the ‘apparent’ slowdown in global temps, if someone brings that up, and maybe later talk about the oceans.

      I think the problem with this approach — bringing in the GFC, is that this is setting them up for the next climate denialist they run into, or for that matter, even themselves, assuming they think you are wrong but choose not to argue. They only thing they need to know or learn to be disabused of the “GFC” argument is that CO2 has been going up throughout the decade, and the slowdown will appear inexplicable. I would skip to the actual, main reason: el Nino and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.(more recently and accurately referred to as the “Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation”).

      When the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation is in its negative phase it amplifies conditions that result in la Ninas. When it is in its positive phase it amplifies condition that tend to result in el Ninos. El Ninos, driven by winds, store heat in the ocean depths, la Ninas bring it back to the surface where it is released into the atmosphere. Currently the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation is in its negative phase and therefore it is masking the accumulation of heat by the climate system by burying it in the ocean. But when the oscillation switches back to its positive phase that heat will come back to haunt us, and temperatures will rapidly rise like they did back in 1998, with each decade being warmer than the decade before, as has been the pattern since the 1970s..


        When it is in its positive phase it amplifies condition that tend to result in el Ninos. El Ninos, driven by winds, store heat in the ocean depths, la Ninas bring it back to the surface where it is released into the atmosphere.

        I meant to say that la Ninos store heat in the ocean, el Ninos bring it back to the surface. How the heck I managed to switch the two…?

      • CORRECTION:to my Correction: la Ninos should have been “la Ninas. Maybe I should quit while I am behind. Jeez!

  19. I pointed out to some climate change denying fundamentalists that they were bearing false witness when they slanderishly attributed imaginary evil motives to people they don’t know, and repeated unproven accusations of dishonesty about them. It shut them up but only briefly, no doubt saving their important “insights” for less critical recipients. Climate Scientists take note – Global warming is apparently a devil inspired doctrine intended to destroy all that is good in humanity!

    Not much likelihood people who believe that are going to change their minds from anything I say, even though it’s clear that, in the right context – like better informed leadership – they could probably be persuaded to believe we have a real problem.

    Of course not all Christians or other religious people have beliefs so entirely divorced from reality. I had imagined that ethics was something at the core of religious practice – and in truth lots of religious people do indeed see the problem of living sustainably and passing on a world in good shape to future generations as an ethical one. And because so many people do have religion -and they often vote – I keep thinking that it would be a lot easier if they could agree there is a serious problem and ethical choices are fundamental to it.

    I don’t know to what extent it works but I find myself more often arguing on ethical grounds – the ethics of providing resources and opportunities as well as reducing harms for future generations, the ethics of honest science and honest debate and to my mind very crucially, the ethics of trust and responsibility of those in positions of authority – like media, politicians and community (including religious) leaders.

    • Ken Fabian wrote, “Climate Scientists take note – Global warming is apparently a devil inspired doctrine intended to destroy all that is good in humanity!”

      Don’t laugh! Such is the meaning of the Cornwall Alliance’s “Resisting the Green Dragon” video tape series. Incidentally, the Heartland Institute created the Cornwall Alliance as a kind of answer to the Evangelical “Creation Care” movement, basically by branding environmentalism as a false religion and concern regarding global warming as the Trojan horse of environmentalism. And the Heartland Institute is of course largely funded by fossil fuel, so essentially this would appear to be a case of fossil fuel interests using an Evangelical belief in Revelation’s End Times and the final cataclysmic battle between Good and Evil as a means of wielding religion as a weapon in the defense of their profits, future be damned.

      • It is also a classic case of the mirror universe that has been built up over the last 40 years. One need only come up with a new way to describe things that makes sense to see it turned on its head within 24 hours, often in a manner that is cockily in your face. Nauseating … it’s much easier to do that than think.

      • I do think it’s going to be the ethics, not the science that pierces the armor of disbelief amongst the religious. Pointing out the symbolism of dead stuff from the bowels of the Earth as the means to acquire wealth and power beyond all previous imagining – but the catch is that used to excess the world will get hotter and more hellish, enough to ultimately eat away all that was gained and then some… has been mostly gratuitous on my part. Does that make me a troll? It had some amusement value but probably hasn’t helped. In truth I don’t know how to get through to such people other than by raising issues of ethics.

        I do think that it’s through incompetent or unethical community’s leaders that the seeds of denial and obstruction are spread about, watered and fertilised and, whilst it may be an individual’s right to believe or disbelieve as they choose, that is not true of those in positions of public trust. So the ethical considerations most need to be pointed out to such people – which include media, commercial and political leaders as well as religious.

        When it comes to arguing the science and addressing the denier talking points – I suggest avoiding all phrasing that gives the impression that air near the surface is the world ie never say “the world warmed by x degrees” or “global warming has slowed over the recent decade”. If it’s difficult to get away from the primacy of air temperatures, focus on known underlying phenomena that makes for the ups and downs. Or, as I prefer to point out – the ups and levelling offs; if there ain’t no warming how come it’s up then level off, up then level off and not up and down? The Escalator graph is a good tool to back that up. And Tamino’s Foster and Rahmstorf’s graph of global average air temperatures adjusted for ENSO, volcanic aerosols and solar irradiance is also invaluable for moving the discussion from oversimplistic and biased interpretations of the evolution of temperatures to looking at what underlies those wiggles. For those who think it’s natural, looking at the natural variations is a good point to start at.

        What any one person says is never the whole story; here in Australia we get endless reiterations of a misquote of Tim Flannery’s. It’s almost impossible to get acknowledgement that Flannery made no actual prediction of “never getting enough rain to fill dams ever again”, although what he did say was not well worded for clarity. But one source, even when actually (rather than allegedly) saying something that was wrong does not invalidate everything everyone else says. So when someone says that “Flannery said dams would never fill again”, I like to ask what they thought after checking with the Bureau of Meterology that what Tim
        Flannery said was correct.

        I have noticed that climate scientists and communicators aren’t always up to date with what others have been doing; like agreeing that warming has paused (like surface air is the whole world again) and where the heat has been going is a mystery but deep ocean was likely – when the data showing that it is not a mystery and heat is going into deep ocean is (according to Dana Nuccitelli at already out there. So staying current helps.

  20. Grigory Graborenko

    Only once have I successfully managed to convince a climate skeptic to change their mind, although I’ll keep trying.

    The guy is a major conspiracy theorist, but has a phd in English literature, and was good at maths and physics in his younger days (he’s mid fifties now). This happened right after the footnote mistakes in the IPCC report and climategate a year or two back. The conversation started with him telling me, “Have you heard? They disproved climate change! The IPCC is discredited!”

    It was tough going at first, but I sat down and just talked out the basic science. I explained how CO2 is closing the atmospheric window, and that we have satellites that are measuring the drop in spacebound radiation (for me, the single most convincing ‘proof’ that AGW is happening). I talked about how we can effectively carbon date the CO2 in the atmosphere and know it’s ours. I told him that simple calculations, without computer modelling show a 1 degree rise per doubling of CO2, water feedback is another degree, and all the other stuff is the final degree. I then finished with the idea that these are solid concepts, and that skeptics need to show an equal and opposite negative feedback of 3 degrees per CO2 doubling to argue that it does nothing.

    He said nothing, then a week later he told me he read this amazing article about runaway AGW and how it will doom us all. I took that as a victory and left it at that.

    • “I told him that simple calculations, without computer modelling show a 1 degree rise per doubling of CO2, water feedback is another degree, and all the other stuff is the final degree.”

      Good going, Grigory. That is indeed the most likely, if unfortunate, outcome of our profligate use of fossil fuels. And I’m also afraid that will be the outcome *before* equilibrium (we’ll hit CO2 doubling to 560ppm by 2050 on the present emissions course, and a 3C increase by… 2060. Just a wild arsed guess, of course).

      My favourite dichotomy in this whole affair is how the AGW deniers are always very quick to tell us all about how water vapour is so much more important than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, then in the very next breath tell us how it can’t act as a feedback. Duh. Each 1 deg C of increase in global average temps allows the atmosphere to hold 4 – 5% more moisture. We’re already seeing the effects of that through increased global flooding events over the past few years.

  21. Barry raised a good point above, when he spoke about the utility of questions. It’s very true that they are often much more powerful than answers, as Socrates knew.

  22. > this amazing article about runaway AGW and how it will
    > doom us all. … a victory

    My experience is that it’s more convincing to debunk the wackos on all sides of the political wheel. Most of the bad news is expected to accumulate after 2050 or so.

    Yes, models tell us what we can expect. Facts as evidence of what’s expected haven’t bubbled to the surface in many areas yet, or are barely emerging from background.

    Those claiming they know facts beyond what’s observable — it must be happening because they believe it will, so they say it’s started already — just leave people to ping-pong back and forth between uncited claims.

  23. One of the most effective phrases to use is (nodding sympathetically) “Yeah, I used to think that too…”

    • Horatio Algeranon

      “Yeah, I used to think that too…”

      — by Horatio Algeranon

      “Yeah, I used to think that too…”
      That sea-ice loss is ceasing
      That warming stopped in ’92
      And since has been decreasing

      That things were warmer in the past
      In Medieval times
      That current warming will not last
      And lapse to Ice Age climes

      That horses caused the rising seas
      By diving from the piers
      A sort of “horse sense”, if you please
      Obtained from many beers.

      That CO2 is simply life
      And will not change the climate
      The logic of a Barney Fife
      Can’t reason with or rhyme it

      That scientists are bent on fame
      And fortune from their work
      I only have myself to blame
      For being such a jerk.

  24. Thanks for this encouraging post and the comments.

    My surrounding is a mix of (lame or vehement) deniers and passive want-to-not hear-this; probably similar to most social structures.

    I try to keep my lines or arguments very simple and away from those loopholes like it-always-changed or it-stopped-changing and the nerving graph-section interpreters.

    Until 1800 we were 1bn,
    when I was born after WWII I joined 2.5bn,
    now we are supposedly +7bn,
    maybe more, who knows the real number?
    And when I will die I will leave behind +8bn,
    if I am lucky!

    Lucky, because, apart from my own health issues or whether I will long survive that (financial) fight for food once I am depending on others, we clearly have passed a number of points of no-return! This is all kinds of resources but much more important the condition we find our habitat in: including its (changing) climate.

    How can +7bn or some 10bn in and out of it in less than 200 years not influence our habitat, that climate?

    If one had put seven of the 1bn on a small island in the Caribbean in 1800 they would have either killed each other, starved or made the island into a tourist attraction today, drawing millions to visit by plane and boat, smoke, drive, eat, drink, s… and severely alter that island, its surrounding into something un-comparable to what is was 200 years ago.

    That is what we all have done to our island, our planet, now an overpopulated cage of rats not seeing the obvious.


  25. The Arctic ice cap. The idea that one of the Earth’s most distinguishable characteristics will be gone during summer tends to shock most people.

    I told my sister recently that the Arctic had lost 80% of it’s volume in just over 30 years and it was a “Eyes Wide Open” moment for her; a genuine physical reaction of shock.

    Follow that up with a quick explanation of the Arctic being our “Canary in the Coal-mine”, and I believe you may have an easier time explaining what the threat is.

    • How do you explain that the antartic has been gaining in ice then? Wouldn’t that be considerred a canary as well?

      • Only sea ice is gaining, and only very slightly, my friend. And that can be explained by science. OTOH, the Western Antarctica ice shelf is one of the most rapidly warming places on the planet.

        Methinks you haven’t read a single one of tamino’s excellent articles here before commenting on this one.

      • Kevin F, you are joking, right? This was predicted by Manabe. Think about it. What happens when the warmer, moister air above the oceans around Antarctica blows over the still very, very cold interior?

      • Martin Vermeer

        [You mean the Antarctic sea ice.] In a way yes, though it isn’t nearly as big. According to this article it’s the increase in cold melting water from the Antarctic ice shelves that slows down the melting of the the sea ice… Antarctica has lots of shelves.

        Try to think like a cat: every change is a worry. Few surprises are good news.

      • How do you explain that the antartic has been gaining in ice then?

        It hasn’t.

        See here.

      • We seem to be caught in the usual Antarctic bind of undefined ice–sea ice (which is increasing, seasonally) and the polar ice sheet itself (which is not.)

      • If you go to and download the data into a spreadsheet, the average for 1980.67 to 1985.67 versus 2007.67 to 2012.67 for the maximum Antarctic sea ice increases by 0.24 million km^2: that’s less than 1.3% and less than 1 times the average standard deviation. The minimum Arctic sea ice for the same period falls by 2.76 million km^2, more than 10 times as much as the Antarctic increase, more than a 37% decline, and slightly more than six average standard deviations. Are you familiar with the term “six sigma”? (BTW, by not detrending before calculating the SD, which is what I did, makes the SD artificially larger; more accurate calculations will make the numbers worse for any fool who argues “but Antarctic ice is increasing.” Don’t believe me? You do the math.)

    • Even Dr. G. Schmidt acknowledges that there have been times (early Holocene) that had less artic ice than 2012.

      • Philippe Chantreau

        Brilliant argument Kevin. Now, make the entire current world economy, 7 billion people who want to be as fat and happy as westerners, and their agriculture take a time travel trip to the early Holocene and see what happens. Ought to be fun, I always wanted to see a saber-tooth tiger…

  26. interesting approach here:
    “… In 2006, ‘outdoor philosopher’ Kate Rawles cycled 4553 miles from Texas to Alaska, following the spine of the Rocky Mountains as closely as possible. … she talked to Americans about climate change – from truck drivers to the Mayor of Albuquerque – to find out what they knew about it, whether they cared, and if they did, what they thought they could do.”

  27. I’m not too worried about the real deniers. But I am interested if someone who genuinely is undecided asks my opinion. I don’t bother with the details – just let them know that I think its a serious issue and I think action is necessary.

    My logic is that your genuine concern is something they will remember, while all the details that we find so interesting are superfluous.

  28. Aaron Lewis

    There are more fires because it is hotter, dryer, and there are fewer hard freezes to kill beetles. These factors (including more fires) affect the entire ecosystem. The concept of endangered species needs to be revisited.

    Since 1935, we have lost 5 or 6 species of chipmunks from Yosemite National Park. and that affects the whole ecosystem. Northern Boreal forest is converting to deciduous forest at a break neck speed and the treeline is moving north, putting tundra ecosystems at wholesale risk..Loss of sea ice changes all of the entire Arctic ecosystems, right down to where bird poop fertilizes the tundra.

    Here in California, native plants are blooming at odd times of the year, and that confuses all the insects that depend on those plants,which in turn confuses the birds. This is not the ecosystem that John Muir knew.

    More fires is a very powerful metric of ecosystem change. And when entire ecosystems are changing this fast, then terms like “ecosystem fragmentation” become an oxymoron because every cubic millimeter of every ecosystem is being affected by global warming.

    Some have scoffed at my doom-saying over the years, but it is better to have an orderly evacuation rather than to wait until everyone is screaming “FIRE!!” and stampeding for the exit. That is how people get trampled, That is why we have fire drills. We need some AGW drills The Oakland Hills fire,( ) is a good object lesson. There were issues with hose /fire plug threads and radio communications. I planned to evacuate via BART, but BART lost power and shut down without warning. This is an example of the critical infrastructure that we lose in AGW events. (1991 was the 6th of 28 consecutive years that have been warmer than the average 20th century temperature. The Oakland Hills Fire was in a time of global warming.)

    A half mile wide fire break may not stop a wildfire in windy conditions, but it is a place where people and animals can survive a fire. Sometimes, that is enough.

  29. Wildfires. Remember wildfire feedback effects are not in the CMIP5 models being used in the IPCC report under preparation and see John Mitchell’s comments in “An email from John Mitchell Mar 29 2012” found here::

    I think the modellers are a problem (in general) as one prominent climate scientist said to me “If there is a conflict between their models and the real world, the modellers will prefer to believe their models.”

    I think this happened at the recent wierd weather conference in Exeter. See here:

    Anybody agree?

  30. Eli’s first rule for this sort of thing is you can’t insult a stuffed bunny. Seriously a sort of bemused grin works wonders.

  31. I have taught High School Chemistry for the past 9 years. I occasionally discuss AGW in class. 6 years ago many students dismissed AGW and there were always several deniers in each class. The last two years deniers are much less vocal and the other students are much more interested in listening. Most students say that they can see that the weather is changing.

    I assign students to read the NSIDC October melt summary and write a report on the Arctic sea ice. They also read the NCDC yearly climate summary in January and write a report. Most students tell me they have never seen the data before. The data alone speaks much better than anything I say. When we have discussions now I emphasize that wind electricity is cheaper than coal, and solar will be cheaper in a few years. If we go the cheaper route we will reduce CO2. I find people respond better to a solution than doom predictions, especially when the solution is cheaper.

    • “I find people respond better to a solution than doom predictions, especially when the solution is cheaper.”

      So true…

      Plus, it undercuts that whole ‘alarmist’ label–though truthfully, I remain alarmed.

      • Horatio Algeranon

        “I find people respond better to a solution than doom predictions, especially when the solution is alcoholic” (vodka and tonic, 7 and 7, etc)

      • Horatio Algeranon

        …undercuts the whole “on the (band)wagon” label

    • John Garland

      ” I find people respond better to a solution than doom predictions, especially when the solution is cheaper.”

      True enough. But I note that denier types who speak about “alarmist” scientists don’t bat an eyelash when predicting the total economic doom that will result from shifting away from carbon. Somehow total economic doom isn’t an alarming statement.

  32. I tell people I won’t argue or debate anything but that I’ll study with them.

    I tell them that, to just get up to speed on the basics, to just make sure we’re at the same basic level and on the same basic page, that we’ll read Spencer Weart’s The Discovery of Global Warming (I tell them, for now, that we’ll disregard the conclusion inherent in the title).

    I tell them that as we read Weart that we’ll also do David Archer’s 23 lecture series on global warming on YouTube, emphasizing again the foundation of the basic science just to be sure we’re on the same page.

    I’ve yet to have any takers.

  33. I’m not too worried about the real deniers. But I am interested if someone who genuinely is undecided asks my opinion.

    I find it pays to listen carefully to anyone spouting denier mantras. Often it’s just part of the air they breathe (I’m thinking of some engineers I know here) and they haven’t really thought about it much – except for don’t-take-my-money. It’s worth throwing in a few questions about Arctic sea ice, but especially about technology.

    They might be engineers (or whatever) but most people with a technical bent cannot resist the temptations of super duper all-new, bright and shiny technology – especially if it’s really clever. Being a non-engineer, I find it easy by asking questions to get such people to explain stuff to me and in the process they have to acknowledge that it’s a) good stuff, b) not as expensive/ difficult/ disruptive as they might have thought in the first place. The fact that this group never go anywhere without most of them bringing along their laptops means that “we” can find relevant stuff right then and there. I don’t see these people very often, but they can be gradually worn down. Very gradually. (But in the meantime they are lessening the vehemence of their statements and are just that little bit more sceptical of what they hear and read. So at least they’re not spreading those negative memes around quite so blithely.)

  34. Flakmeister

    Be someing somewhat of a glutton for punishment I call out the GW deniers at Zerohedge, a libertarian leaning site. Hey, on a hot day, you can always cool off rolling around in the mud with the other pigs…

    I have been able to convert one skeptic who admittedly did have systems modelling experience, He was blown away when I linked to Tamino’s discussion of the Two-Box model. Many other deniers have either been converted or effectively silenced,,,

    My MO is to focus on a facts based discussion and to call out the usual crap arguments. It has gotten very nasty. What I achieve is that those people with thinner skins that would be otherwised overwhelmed by the abuse can chime in with their concerns over AGW. So even if I don;t convince the deniers, their views are marginalized as they are made to look silly…

    This would have been impossible with out resources like Open Mind and Skeptical Science…

    The same technique was extremely sucessful there in delivering the Peak Oil message there; the Drill Baby Drill and abiotic oil types were overcome, but it was a street fight…..

    One question for the real scientists that may be lurking out there, how long would it take for the earth to basically freeze up if C02 was removed. In other words what is the time scale for the WV-temperature feedback to run in reverse?

    • Martin Vermeer

      Flakmeister, I don’t have the best answer to your question (good answers are surprisingly hard to find) but I have one answer, probably the first one ever given: ”A single summer night”…

  35. My tactics change depending on my mood and the stupidity of the person I am confronting. If Al Gore is mentioned, I point out that anthropogenic warming was predicted 11 years before Al Gore Sr. was born and watch the smoke pour out of their ears.

    Pointing out the strength of the consensus can be fruitful–it’s one reason why the denialists spend so much time denying it.

    I sometimes try to identify my opponent’s favorite logical fallacy–ad hominem and argument from consequences seem to be favorites.

    However, if I am up against a Gish Galloper, there is little point to countering each argument unless you want to discover their periodicity. This provides a good opportunity to sharpen my claws.

  36. A better answer, from Scholar:
    Not long at all; without CO2, water starts to freeze out of the atmosphere.

    • Thanks! Tis’ a very nice thing to have in one pocket so to speak…

    • Brian Dodge

      If we could wave a magic wand and make the heavier molecular weight CO2 “settle out” with increasing concentrations in the lower atmosphere, (like some denialists believe), decreasing the ~1/4 of the CO2 that is above the troposphere, it would have a similar effect. That CO2 (and other noncondensing GHGs), keeps the upper layers of the troposphere warm enough to support some water vapor (about 1/1000th that at sea level at the top, if memory serves). This provides some amplification, which supports more water vapor in the next lower layer, which provides even more greenhouse effect amplification, and so on to a layer at the surface which has ~ 80% RH and 283 kelvin temperature. Hey, it’s not turtles, but water vapor feedback, all the way down!

  37. I teach a university biology class for non-science majors, a good proportion of the students are studying to be elementary ed teachers. Part of one lecture focuses on climate change. I try to keep it simple: the earth is warming, CO2, a green house gas is the main cause and nearly all of the steady increase in atmospheric CO2 is due to burning fossil fuels. Our per capita carbon foot print in Indiana is very high because of reliance on coal for electricity. I am very clear that these are points that are very well supported and proven. I also show some graphs of how “planting zones” have changed and are expected to change. I’m in northern Indiana and by the middle of the century, Indiana’s planting zone will be that of northern Alabama during the 1980s. This is shown graphically with maps of Michigan, IL and IN migrating to northern Alabama and to Texas or the Gulf coast by the end of the century. This is much better than predicting a change of x degrees. I also show pictures of scientists lighting methane that escapes when ice is punctured on arctic ponds. This feedback is something that surprises students and something that they can remember. I also illustrate the effects of warming and ocean acidification on corals.

  38. If you can handle the nasty (I’ve been there and it’s sometimes touch and go), you can do some good. You know what you’re talking about too, whereas I am sometimes reaching. Sometimes lay language helps but 100% accuracy is a reach.

    • meant to be a response to flakmeister …

      • Don’t worry, I give as good as I get and I don’t mind streetfighting…. :)

        On the subject of tactics, distilling it down to the point where the choice for them is “liar or fool” usually takes the day. Also, in the case of a conspiracy/hoax allegation, also challenging with “So why can’t the otherside show it’s fake” seems to be effective…

        In practice what usually happens is a simultaneous gish gallop with many posters, a true mosh pit, with one willing to be a little more serious once things calm down. Then you go into a little detail, like the Two-Box or address their specific issue and very often it is modelling. In many cases I find that I do not have to argue with that person again and while they may not openly support AGW they are no longer members of the mob…

        And I do know that I am making a difference. The silent majority is slowly emerging which I find very reassuring esp. given the nature of the site….

  39. If you are hoping to convert a sceptic/denier in any field with the overwhelming power of your logic, knowledge and undeniable good sense I suspect you are in for a lot of disappointment. But intelligent people can and do change their minds, they may just do it in private and perhaps after doing their own research triggered by your logic kn…etc .
    If you meet them six months later and they tell you all about this new thing they have discovered don’t say ‘ I told you so ‘ just put it down as one for the grandchildrens future. And keep on spreading the word.

  40. If it isn’t on Prime Time TV the message probably isn’t going to get through.

    I keep thinking that maybe a ‘review’ of climate science by bodies like the NAS or Royal Society (another review – no criticism intended for efforts to date) but with video coverage and maximum fanfare might be of some value. Starting with what these organisations are and some of their standout achievements, how scientists become members and through to how they find an appropriate panel/committee with the right combination of detachment and independence and inside knowledge. Maybe with a look at those panel members as both human beings as accomplished scientists – they have to be seen as people. The ones who got the top marks at school – never needing to cheat then and not about to start when the future of the planet is at stake.

    Where do you go to urge the appropriate people to do something like that? Is that something that would be instigated through those institutions or through media producers? I suspect that there’s plenty of potential in the subject for compelling television. If media are genuine about their role as informers – as serious about that as they are about their role of promoting the business interests of their shareholders and advertisers – they could redeem themselves for the appalling job they’ve done up till now.

  41. David Kirtley

    Today I put up a post on a facebk group, Global Warming Fact of the Day, about this very subject. I think it might be helpful to learn from former skeptics what made them change their minds. Here’s that facebk post:

    Often we climate change communicators struggle over how best to present our message, what to stress, what not to stress; is too much scientific info good or bad?, does debunking a denial myth only make that myth stronger?, etc. Over the years I’ve collected stories of “conservative skeptics” who have come to accept that AGW is real. For example:

    -D.R. Tucker –
    -Shawn Lawrence Otto –
    -Stu Ostro –
    -Admiral David Titley –
    -Rep. Bob Inglis –

    In these personal “conversion” accounts I find it interesting that the science behind AGW is so important. Ultimately the skeptic has to honestly face the facts of the science:

    -D.R. Tucker: “I began reading the [IPCC] report with a skeptical eye, but by the time I concluded I could not find anything to justify my skepticism.”

    -Shawn Lawrence Otto: “My climate epiphany wasn’t overnight, and it had nothing to do with Al Gore. In the mid-90s I noticed gradual changes in the weather patterns floating over Minnesota. Curious, I began investigating climate science, and, over time, began to see the thumbprint of climate change.”

    -Stu Ostro: “the change from hard-core skeptic to my current way of thinking was not a sudden, reactionary thing based on a single warm day! It was a looong journey, based on trying to assimilate all the information I could.”

    -Admiral David Titley: “The evidence kept mounting….Maybe I should take another look.”

    -Rep. Bob Inglis: “[My sons said,] ‘Dad, I will vote for you, but you are going to [need to] clean up your act on the environment.’…But then the other thing that really happened was as I get to Congress [for the] second time, I was on the science committee and got to see the evidence.”

  42. A mite OT, but it is important imnhso to note that ClimateCrocks is covering the way Jason Box’s work that made the cover of Rolling Stone got buried by the Tsarnaev controversy, with copies hard to get (especially in Boston). I hope it will be online to nonsubscribers soon. Please take a look, and scroll down where you will see the noticeable black box and perhaps sympathize with my appalled recognition over a week ago that this was a sad coincidence, to put it mildly.

    Also OT, but the shallow mathturbation (if you will forgive the amateur also-ran) on financial consequences of methane has brought a lot of stuff out of the woodwork, much of it quite good, and much dismissal (Revkin, of course, saying that as it is exaggerated there is nothing to exaggerate, go figure). It may even turn out well, as the level of our engagement has increased and facts are pouring in.

  43. Definitely make it a voting issue. Whatever meaningful decisions are made are going to be made by elected officials, and nothing motivates a politician like his career being in jeopardy. I try to tell people that it is generally a bad idea to have leaders who deal with problems by pretending they don’t exist.

    If people were inherently rational, we would not be having this conversation. So, keep in mind you are trying to affect an emotional change. Facts and logic will not win a battle, and you will meet much resistance if you try to push too hard. Better to let them drink a little at a time.

    One of my conversations with a lunch friend who takes great pride in being rational started with him arguing that whatever warming there is was small, and not our fault, and him finishing with, if what I was saying was true, there’s nothing we can do about it. I pointed out that he had just flipped from the problem being too small to worry about, to being too big for us to solve. “NO I DID NOT!” I decided that was enough for the day.

    He is the conservative Republican of the group. The Libertarian is a nihilist and thinks the science is probably correct, but doesn’t care. I guess I’d be a moderate Democrat (strongly in favor of equal marriage rights; gun control laws are probably a waste of time at best). It makes for interesting conversations.

  44. For one reason or another, I don’t feel alarmed or worried about the future under global warming. Maybe because I don’t have children. Maybe because I’m cynical about enough being done in time. Maybe the potential suffering is too abstract (far-off in time, dependent on so many things) to really grab my psyche. Whatever the case, my chief interest (as a layman) is how things work and how well we understand those workings. Curiosity motivates me, not concern, and I think this has been a boon in communicating the subject. The kind of people I talk to about climate change are everyday people, well outside the climate wars, and mostly ignorant of the subject.

    I had taught a class for three months – a captive audience – and afterwards we’d often go for a drink at the pub and amongst other topics that came up I’d explain to the best of my ability the science of climate, making sure they understood that while I was fairly well read on the subject(s), I was no expert. The whole shebang started when I asked an economist in the class about statistics. After three months of numerous climate-related chats, he asked me, “So what do you actually think? Is global warming happening or not?” The students present took on board what I said. They trusted my judgement.

    This was kind of an epiphany. My interest in the mechanisms and study of climate was relatable. Their curioisty was sparked, too. I’d stumbled on a way to talk about it that invited – rather than demanded – attention.

    The conversations I have IRL are nothing like the ones on the net, and they are 100 times more ‘successful’. I’m not sure if there’s any advice gleanable from this anecdote, except, perhaps, that the best thing we can do is help the social conscience on the matter evolve (ASAP), rather than try to revolutionise attitudes. The media sensationalises, so doom and gloom is well-covered. What is needed is a subtler adjustment to the mindset of the general public; a basic acceptance of the fact of AGW as a daily truth. Then the worst-case scenatios that people read about have a firmer footing, and stand a better chance of being taken seriously (for what they are).

    The general public that should be targeted include no one embroiled in the climate blogwars. That is a waste of energy for the most part.

    Generalising about policy – the closest I get to proselytizing – is pretty straightforward, and I present it as a rational argument. Everyone agrees (except for the crazies) that more CO2 will warm the world. The uncertainty lies in how much, and what the consequences will be on the ground. If anyone says that climate sensitivity is small, I mention the range of possibilities (beyond the IPCC mid-range; 1C – 6C), which perhaps includes the one given by my interlocutor, and then say that if those pushing the worst case scenarios are alarmist, then those vouching for the best-case scenarios are pollyanna-ish. Expecting the worst is pessimistic, but hoping for the best is foolish. I say it is because we DON’T know how bad (or benign) things could become that we should mitigate emissions – its a risk management strategy. If we knew what was going to happen with great certainty, then we could pick and choose our policies to suit (mitigation/adaption). But we don’t, so we should build our policies with the range of possible outcomes in mind, not one or another. I analogise with insurance for life, car and home, maybe point out the success of the Montreal Protocol on CFCs, and always say that we are conducting a massive, uncontrolled experiment with the planet, having so far increased the atmospheric content of CO2 by 40%.

    I keep coming back to the notion that anyone wanting to convince others of the problem should look like the most reasonable person in the room. To do that means giving up the argument sometimes.

  45. I would find it quite interesting to have a discussion with a knowledgable CAGW believer. I live in a large, liberal city and virtually everyone I know believes in it. Besides one or two others that have a few vague doubts, I’m the only skeptic I know. Most of the people I know work in the creative industry and aren’t very scientifically minded. Some of us are interested in science, read scientific articles and so on, but none of us have the educational background to actually evaluate it.

    In general, I don’t debate the issue very often with friends for social reasons. Like most polarizing topics, people just get too mad and irrational. I never instigate, though if I meet someone who does, I can start off with the question “So, what do you think climate sensitivity is?” To which I’ll typically get a blank stare and continue “You know… degrees of temperature increase per doubling of CO2?” At which point I can start explaining how CO2 by itself would only account for a bout 1 degree/doubling, the rest is all hypothetical “feedbacks.”

    At this point they’re confused and angry – for all the political and ideological stuff they’ve read, their sources haven’t explained this fairly important cornerstone of the science. I tell them it’s not me they should be mad at. The fact that my own CO2 footprint is far smaller than any believer I’ve ever argued with is like salt in the wound.

    Why do I do it? Because it doesn’t matter. The science is irrelevant. People won’t change their behaviour. You could convert every skeptic in the western world but we’d still be on track to double CO2 in a few decades.

    GW was just as hot a topic in the late 80s when I was in high school and I used to argue about it as a believer. 25 years ago I read articles telling us we were on the precipice, or that we were already “past the point of no return.” There were a few years in the late 80s/early 90s when I thought the world would change its behaviour – recycling, cycling culture, bike paths, fuel efficient cars, fuel cells… and then all of a sudden everyone started buying SUVs and McMansions. Some car company put out a campaign for a big-ass station wagon that could “save your soul.” And I knew it was over.

    In any case, if it “comes down to it”, as the people on this site claim it will, I’d like our country be wealthy and prepared rather than poor and neutered. I’d also prefer to see people live with some optimisim about a future they can’t change than be depressed about it. Even if it is on borrowed time. IF.

    If you believers are wrong though… Well, if you think you’re pariahs now, you ain’t seen nothin.

    [Response: It’s a pity that you can’t even be honest with yourself. GW was not “just as hot a topic in the late 80s.” The only thing that’s in dispute about that claim is whether your thinking is so twisted you’ve convinced yourself it’s true, or you’re outright lying — because that’s total bullshit. Your saying so is pathetic.

    It’s ironic that at the outset you admit “none of us have the educational background to actually evaluate it,” but when you discuss it with others you start by asking “what do you think climate sensitivity is?” That’s your attempt to make them feel as though they’re ignorant of the science (which they are) so it’s appropriate to doubt the experts. You might as well argue about the danger of cigarettes by asking “What’s the cellular chemical mechanism that makes tobacco smoke carcinogenic?” Of course your listener doesn’t know. Even the experts may not know (I certainly don’t) but the evidence that stuff is dangerous, even deadly, is no less overwhelming. If you were honest enough — with yourself — to act on the fact that you’re not qualified to decide, then you’d pay attention to the genuine experts. And all of us here know what they think: global warming is real, it’s caused by human activities, it’s amazingly dangerous, and we’re fools not to do whatever we can to mitigate it.

    But mitigating it means burning less fossil fuel, and that means economic changes. Apparently that frightens you so much that you’re willing to buy in to any bullshit that insulates you from any sacrifice.

    I would liken your essential argument to “If I get lung cancer from smoking I’d rather be rich.” It’s OK for you to decide for yourself as long as you know the risk, but it is not OK (in fact it’s reprehensible) for you to tell others that there’s no compelling reason for them to quit.]

    • “People won’t change their behaviour. You could convert every skeptic in the western world but we’d still be on track to double CO2 in a few decades.”

      A highly dubious conclusion to an interesting thought experiment! And clearly one that the fossil fuel industry doesn’t agree with–otherwise they’d find other uses for the money they funnel to the likes of Pat Michaels.

    • Denier,
      It is interesting to me that you seem to want to debate the subject with people who have no scientific background rather than those who understand the science. Would not the latter group prove more educational for you?

      You ask what climate sensitivity might be? Why not listen to what the scientists have found–between 2 and 4.5 degrees per doubling, with the most probable value being around 3 degrees per doubling.. At the low end, we might just barely be able to mitigate the effects. At the upper end, our progeny are pretty well toast. There are over a dozen independent lines of evidence that all point to the same range. I would call that pretty convincing.

      You claim that the feedbacks are hypothetical. Not so. Water vapor feedback is well established and known to be positive. The main uncertainties are clouds and aerosols. However, the sensitivity estimates discussed above are independent of this question of what each feedback contributes–if you get something less than 2 or more than 4.5, you probably aren’t doing it right.

      As to your argument that we cannot do anything about it anyway, I’m afraid I have no respect for that position. The question is not whether we win or lose but rather now much future generations will suffer. If we give up, we certainly will not leave a planet worth living on for them.

      You preach despair as if it were the Gospel. “Embrace despair, and you are free of responsibility,” you say. Here’s a question: Why do you need a guarantee of success to fight for what is right? Does the right cease to be right just because it does not always prevail? Is it any less valuable?

      Despair is not a Gospel. It is a mortal sin.

    • Martin Vermeer

      I don’t think you’re valuable enough to discuss with. Your viewpoints as presented are a muddle, and clearly you enjoy trolling more than learning. The world is awash in stupidity and dishonesty already. You’re just not interesting.

    • I’ll make a prediction. Climate alarmists will be pariahs if we are right as well. Climate change will not kill us directly. Well, a few will die in floods and a few in heat, but the larger problem will be an economic malaise resulting from higher costs for food, energy, and replacement of infrastructure. This will result in civil unrest, war, famine, reduced medical care, reductions in nutrition, etc. The environmental degradation will lower the carrying capacity of the planet, at the same time that our population is exploding. There will be a correction, and likely an over-correction. During that time, the deniers will blame realists for causing the economic collapse through their policies resulting in higher energy costs. It will not be rational, but then, it never has been.

    • The Denier: CO2 by itself would only account for a bout 1 degree/doubling, the rest is all hypothetical “feedbacks.”

      BPL: Google “Clausius-Clapeyron relation.” That ain’t theoretical, it’s been confirmed over and over again for a century and a half.

    • “I’d like our country be wealthy and prepared rather than poor and neutered.”
      How is having an economy and technical infrastructure “dependent on the kindness of others (foreign oil imports)” being prepared? What’s our accumulated wealth of coal fired power plants actually worth when it’s costing tens of billions in weather damages every year and rising if we keep using them? Whats our accumulated wealth of highway connected suburbia and suvs worth when the true cost of burning fossil fuels to keep it running is calculated?

  46. John Mashey

    ‘I would liken your essential argument to “If I get lung cancer from smoking I’d rather be rich.” It’s OK for you to decide for yourself as long as you know the risk, but it is not OK (in fact it’s reprehensible) for you to tell others that there’s no compelling reason for them to quit.]’

    Actually, this isn’t the best analogy w.r.t. smoking, but a better one is much stronger and more realistic.
    [Bob Proctor’s Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition is THE book, and people can read my review there.
    UCSF’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education (CTCRE) runs the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, a repository of 80M pages of documents, including some behavior that ought to be utterly appalling. My favorite is ~1984’s The Importance of Younger Adults, the likely impetus for 1987’s Joe Camel, a brilliant marketing campaign to get more kids to smoke younger.

    As it happens, I’m on the advisory committee for CTCRE, have given several invited talks there, visit them for events, and talk to Proctor now and then, as he’s at nearby Stanford. (With his OK, I did the climate version of his tobacco playbook, section 0.7 of PDF @ Fake science 2.)

    That brings us back to the analogy:
    1) While there is individual variation, nicotine addiction only happens for most people if they take up serious smoking while their brains are developing, say 12-18. Very few adult smokers started later. Most adult smokers, say after age 30, are trying to quit. If they started late, it’s much easier. If they started seriously as kids, it is statistically very hard to quit smoking and stay that way. Tobacco companies have known this for a very long time, part of why they helped create the Tea Party, since high cigarette taxes are helpful in discouraging kids from starting.

    2) So the real analogy is: “I can be richer now if I make sure that over the next few decades, we *require* increasing percentage of children to start smoking by age 12, hopefully reaching 80-90% by 2030.” Many of them will know by 18 that 40+ years later, their health will be bad, and many will die miserable lingering deaths from lung cancer, but meanwhile, it will be good for the economy, and maybe magical medical progress will take care of it.

    3) It’s not an issue of getting existing smokers to quit (hard), it’s that the climate version compels the young and unborn to live with the effects, with zero choice. As Chris Field says, a fundamental problem is that mitigation actions now have little effect now, but make a big difference in 50 years, a timeframe for which political systems don’t work very well.

  47. I started writing some replies, but instead I think I’ll ask a question first. What do you folks think the timetable needs to be? i.e., an 80% reduction of CO2 in 10 years? 60% in 20? 20% in 100 years? I’m curious.

    [Response: I’ll go first.

    I don’t know. I’m willing to learn more about it, in fact I’d have to before I could offer an intelligent opinion. In my not-so-well-informed opinion, we need an extremely intelligent balance between the risk of future disruption due to climate change, and the risk of present disruption due to changing our energy infrastructure. There will be some pain, we should minimize it within reason, and “big money” has to suffer at least as much pain as the rest of us.

    But before we can even discuss what to do in a meaningful way, we have to stop arguing about whether or not it’s real and whether or not it’s dangerous. So, every politician and policymaker who denies that it’s real and/or that it’s dangerous, has got to go.

    The sooner they go, the better our chance to avoid extremism on *either* end … both the “do nothing” selfishness and the “stop all industry now” foolishness.]

    • I don’t know what the numbers should be. The uncontrolled tinkering with the atmosphere will continue with results that could range from benign to catastrophic. When no one can guarantee the future, the quicker we wind down the experiment the better. Policies that take the risk seriously, balanced with other exigencies, will get my vote.

    • Turning CO2 emissions around is a big ask, but given the potential dangers of business as usual, its obvious we have to start now. We are in a position to monitor CO2 levels in the atmosphere while measuring the economic impact of reductions. The rate of reduction will be adjusted according to these circumstances.

      Trying to preempt the amount of reductions by a particular date is really just putting another “we don’t know enough to do anything just yet” hurdle in the way of getting started.

    • What Tamino said.
      No one being realistic and saying we should shut down all coal power plants this year. At the same time, there are very likely tipping points which will remove any power we have to mitigate the damages, and we won’t know if we have hit them until we discover that CO2 concentrations are rising faster than our emissions, and then it will be too late. Keeping deniers in office increases the likelihood that we will hit one or more tipping points.

    • I’ve shown three hypothetical CO2 emissions curves which all have the same chance of keeping the equilibrium warming at “only” 2C above pre-industrial temperatures. These curves can vary based on the immediate transient response, the Charney sensitivity, and the long-term Earth system sensitivity which includes slow feedbacks. These feedbacks aren’t hypothetical; they’re based on millions of years of paleoclimate evidence. Even though there’s a range of possible sensitivities, I think the following description of those CO2 emissions curves is qualitatively accurate:

      If we had peaked in 2011, we could slowly reduce emissions along the green curve. If you were to ski the green curve, it would be the bunny slope.

      Note that if we’d peaked in 2011, future generations would have the choice of emitting some CO2 after the 2040s. By waiting just a few years, we’ve already taken that choice away from them.

      If we wait until 2020 to peak, we’d have to reduce emissions 9% per year afterwards. That’s not a bunny slope, it’s more like a black diamond.

      We need to address the CO2 problem right now.

      • Heh, DS pre-empted my posting of these same data.

        I would add one modifier though – we need to address the CO2 problem yesterday.

    • Denier,
      If you found you had wandered into a minefield, what would be your timetable for trying to get out of it? Keep in mind that hurrying may make you more likely to step on a mine, but that the more time you spend in the minefield, the more likely one of the mines is to detonate spontaneously. The answer to your question is that we should get out as quickly as possible subject to the constraint that we maintain an economy capable of sustaining the population. There are things we can do right now to buy time, and having squandered nearly 30 years, time is the most precious commodity.

      We will not avoid difficult consequences. They are now a given. The question is how bad things will get.

    • Denier,
      Right now wind energy is cheaper than fossil fuels if the market distorting subsidies are removed from FF. Why don’t we remove the subsidies and see what the market can do right away? It would be a good start. If we make the FF pay for the damage they do that would also make sense. Why should they get to dump their pollution in my yard for free?

      I have some hope when I look at how fast the market installed gas for coal due to price. Wind can replace coal rapidly once the subsidies are removed.

    • Gordon Keith

      I think the question is wrong.

      It assumes that a certain level of reductions will achieve an acceptable result and other levels won’t.

      I don’t believe that this dichotomy exists in reality.

      Climate impacts are on a continuous scale the more we emit the worse the impact. The degree of impact which is acceptable or catastrophic is subjective, so too is the acceptable level of emissions .

      We can’t reduce emission enough to prevent the conditions that allowed Sandy. I suspect it’s already too late to cut emissions to allow island nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu to remain inhabitable, the heat is already in the system but the impacts haven’t yet worked through. I doubt we can cut emissions sufficiently to keep global warming below 2C.

      I think we could still cut emission sufficiently to keep global warming below 4C or 6C, and maybe even cut them enough to keep the carrying capacity of the earth above 1 billion people (I just wish I was confident we would).

      The more and the sooner we cut emissions the less the impact and the longer we have. If there are any cut off levels that will prevent negative impacts we are past them.

  48. Have the same problem from the other [dark] side. Bit like a mirror really , looking in, see the problems but all actions have the opposite effect. Best of luck with your proselytizing, at least I have learned how to spell it.

  49. The Denier,

    I know that the the amount of warming for a doubling of CO2 is 1C, and also what the range of of climate sensitivity is with estimated feedbacks. Whatever life/voting choices I make will be guided by the full range. Do you know what that is?

    I’m not prone to optimism either, but I’m still prompted by ethics.

    • Martin Vermeer

      I know that the the amount of warming for a doubling of CO2 is 1C,

      You know, nowadays whenever I hear someone mention this (correct) number, I know I am dealing with a denialist. And I know what’s coming next.

      But, it’s just not true that all feedbacks after this are unknown and uncertain. The water-vapour feedback is based on just as solid physics as the “dry” CO2 greenhouse effect: Clausius-Clapeyron and the constancy of relative humidity in the atmosphere. Already Arrhenius knew this.

      Think about it: everything important relating to weather is controlled by relative humidity. Evaporation from the ocean surface. Cloud formation. Precipitation, i.e., agricultural production.

      From general physical principles we may expect the background relative humidity of the atmosphere to remain constant even if temperatures go up. There is empirical evidence in support of this (like, no way to explain the glacial-interglacial temperature swing without it). So, absolute humidity will go up by 7% for every degree of temperature rise, producing another degree through water-vapour feedback. After that, the further feedbacks (clouds, aerosols) are indeed much more uncertain.

      But, just for entertainment, try to imagine a world in which this would not happen but absolute humidity (partial water vapour pressure) remains constant. Then, every degree of warming would produce a 7% drying of the climate — affecting cloud formation (with its own albedo feedback!), precipitation, and agriculture. Nah, I’ll sign on the dotted line for constant relative humidity…

      • Martin, I think you have misjudge Barry; not everyone who acknowledges this number denies the other numbers. Barry is saying we should deal with the reality that feedbacks exist and not treat them as hypotheticals.

      • Martin Vermeer

        Chris, I did not mean to attack Barry; this is just a propos of what he wrote, which copied a denialist meme. We shouldn’t be strengthening that meme. Barry probably understands this, but it needed to be stated a lot stronger.

      • Some of the denialists seem to think it is a “compromise” to accept the radiative physics of CO2, but to reject the equally well established physics dealing with feedbacks. Unfortunately, truth is not open to compromise.

      • Martin, I have to disagree. It’s a matter of opinion, but I think there is value in not filtering information. The deniers will have more ammunition if they can pretend that someone left out part of the information, even if what was left out is generally well known. Barry wasn’t copying the meme, he was just pointing out that, yeah, we know the effect of CO2 in isolation (IOW, Denier wasn’t saying anything we did not already know.), but only counting CO2 in isolation is a partial truth.

        It’s a battle of perceptions. It is valuable to be perceived as the side _not_ leaving out important information.

      • Nice observation! The denialati don’t like the water vapour feedback, but the world would be a disaster without it…

  50. I’m no expert on the required numbers, and it seems to be an area of active investigation:

    [Elzen et al., 2013] finds that developed countries must reduce their emissions by 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 if we are to have a medium chance of limiting warming to 2°C, thus preventing some of climate change’s worst impacts.

    This level of reductions is considerably higher than what the scientific community thought was necessary to meet the 2°C goal. The most recent IPCC Fourth Assessment Report laid out a recipe for a medium chance [1] of limiting warming to 2°C. This report — compiled by the world’s leading climate scientists — stated that developed countries would have to reduce their emissions by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and developing country emissions would have to be reduced substantially from their business-as-usual emissions trajectories.]

    So, 80% by 2023 would likely keep us below 2C, which would be awfully nice. Doesn’t seem plausible, though, does it? That’s where we are today: to avoid serious damage [and no, I’m not going to try to define that term here] we have to do the nearly impossible.

    But there’s bad, and then there’s worse: what we choose to do [or not to do] will still have a major effect on the health, wealth and well-being of our kids, and their kids. We, and they, will have to suffer through 2 C in all probability, which means a lot of people are going to die unnecessarily.

    But the coming generations aren’t yet condemned to try surviving 5 C or more. I’d like to keep it that way.

  51. Here’s something I tried, and it seemed to make an impression on folks watching.

    I turned an 8-year-old relative loose with the “Global Temperature Virtual Machine” (download link:, and he confirmed the NASA global-average temperature results with *raw* GHCN station data in just a few minutes (and without understanding what he was doing) while his parents watched.

    After the package is installed and started up (easy to do — just a series of mouse-clicks), the user – even an 8-year-old user — can quickly roll his/her own global temperature results from GHCN raw/homogenized data by clicking on random station icons on a Google map display.

    Average temperature results are updated “on the fly” as more stations are selected.

    It turns out that the global-temperature results published by NASA/NOAA/etc. are so robust that they can be confirmed with as few as 30 stations scattered around the world.

    Quickie instructions:
    1) Download from — it’s a big download @1GB. Most of the download is “virtual-machine” (VM) overhead. About 10 percent is actual temperature data/code.

    The file is bigger than I’d like it to be, but at least it will fit on a DVD.

    The virtual-machine will run on any Windows PC/Laptop or Mac (OSX 10.6 or newer) with at least 2 GB memory. (The “virtual machine” approach is a nice way to bundle software that will run almost “out of the box” on almost any PC/laptop, at the cost of having a bigger file to download).

    2) Download/install Oracle’s free VirtualBox software (available at

    3) Start up VirtualBox and import the virtual-machine file downloaded in step 1 via File–>Import Appliance. Wait a couple of minutes for the import to finish and hit the VirtualBox “Start” button. Wait a couple more minutes for the “global temperature virtual machine” to boot up and initialize.

    4) On the popup station-selector control window, press the “Single Station” button until it reads “Station Add”. (In “Single Station” mode, the program simply displays data from individual stations; in “Station Add” mode, global-average results are computed cumulatively from multiple stations as they are selected.)

    5) Turn it over to a little kid who’s old enough to know how to play “Angry Birds” and tell him/her to start clicking on random stations all over the world on the Google map display.

    6) As the little kid selects stations, raw/homogenized results computed by the program will be displayed along with the official NASA GHCN station results (upper plot). Also shown: the number of selected stations that actually reported data for any given year (lower plot). Station record lengths vary — not every station has data for every year — so monitoring the lower plot is also important.

    What you will see is that for any time period where you have ~30 stations scattered around the world reporting data, even the raw data results will line up with the official NASA results amazingly closely. It doesn’t really matter which stations. Rural/urban/whatever — as long as you have ~30 stations with decent global coverage, your results will line up with the NASA results.

    Put a little kid at the controls, and adults who have had doubts about the
    global temperature data (and aren’t totally blinded by political ideology) just might have their eyes opened and realize how much BS the right-wing denial machine has been feeding them.

    Of course, this is all just a tiny “blip” in the larger picture, but every little bit helps, I guess…

  52. I find it difficult to keep up my enthusiasm for talking to folks about this when the mainstream media *still* seems intent on pushing the same old many times refuted “sceptical” bunk.

    Only 2 days ago I saw a ~5 minute interview @ about 9.30am on nbc (I think it was) with some guy pushing his book about the mad mad world of “climatism” or some such. I counted more than a few outright barefaced lies, very very depressing, of course the ~60 year old presenter was lapping it up…

  53. My wife took a phone call the other evening and it was an opinion survey about climate change — “double blind” said the caller, they didn’t know who was paying for the survey. One of those “a, b, c, or d” deals offering limited choices to answer each question.

    One of the questions, about ten minutes on, was about the acceptable cost of doing anything — and the alternatives offered were all figured on a baseline assuming zero cost for doing nothing.

    Crap merchants, as P.K. Dick called them.

  54. I’ve enjoyed the thoughtful comments above. My own interest is not in proselytizing for either side but finding common ground so that understanding and policy based on that understanding may advance. It’s interesting to read this post and series of comments with a somewhat similar one running at WUWT- My Personal Path to AGW Skepticism. I’m not an AGW skeptic, but I think both sides include many knowledgeable, thoughtful individuals who can learn from each other. The tendency to stereotype (or even demonize) the other side has not worked for either side, has it? Since I teach a course in Global Warming/Climate Change at a university and have made a point of reading many climate blogs, I must say I’m not impressed by appeals the to authority, ad hominem attacks, exagerated claims, and the obscuring of differences between hypotheses and opinion on how the data will eventually support or falsify hypotheses such as the high or low climate sensitivity claims, even calling such hypotheses and opinons “the science.” I agree with some of the opinions above that there is little chance we will reduce CO2 emissions to earlier levels or even, in my lifetime, reduce the acceleration, so we are indeed conducting an experiment!

    • Doug Allen,
      Really? Thoughtful people on “both sides”. I am afraid I am a bit less impressed than you are with folks who deny 200 years of established physics, ignore over 98% of the experts in the field and whose idea of scientific debate is a rollicking Gish Gallop through logical fallacies and anti-science. If you teach a course on climate change, God help your students.

    • This statement is a silly Trojan horse. The position set out claims it’s all ‘up in the air’, and that neither side (97-98% of climate scientists on one hand, and deniers on climate blogs on the other) is better supported by the evidence– but this is just plain ridculous. It’s true that claims to authority, ad hominems, etc. are unimpressive– but very basic calculations show that CO2 (and other GHGs) make surface temperature much higher than it otherwise would be, simple measurements show that we have caused a substantial increase in CO2 levels, the water vapour feedback will cause still more warming, and the resulting risks to agriculture, to ocean productivity, to coastlines threatened by sea-level rise etc. are very serious. It’s just possible that these risks have been over-estimated– but that doesn’t imply we should all just relax and watch the experiment! If the deniers are right, we might get away with it, but if they’re wrong — much more likely on the evidence– then it will be a disaster. (Imagine taking a similar attitude as you sit in a sealed garage with a running car, and bloggers on either side argue over how poisonous CO is… )

    • ” I must say I’m not impressed by appeals the to authority, ad hominem attacks, exagerated claims,…”

      Maybe you should try and post that on WUWT and see the sort of kind gentle response you get. I’d post it there, but I’m banned…

    • Jay Dee Are

      Just remember one thing: Anthony Watts is stupid. As Mother Gump used to say, stupid is as stupid does. WUWT, what Anthony does, is stupid.

    • Doug Allen.
      You write:- “I agree with some of the opinions above that there is little chance we will reduce CO2 emissions to earlier levels or even, in my lifetime, reduce the acceleration, so we are indeed conducting an experiment!”
      You will have to help us here. There are over 100 responses in his thread so it is not immediately apparent that you are agreeing with anybody but yourself. . What “opinions above”? What “earlier levels”? And how long do you expect to live?

    • Martin Vermeer

      Since I teach a course in Global Warming/Climate Change at a university and have made a point of reading many climate blogs

      Teaching blog science at a university… are you f*king serious?!

    • “I’m not an AGW skeptic, but I think both sides include many knowledgeable, thoughtful individuals who can learn from each other.”

      Really?! Can you name some of the skeptics who are thoughtful and willing to learn from those on the other side?

  55. One way to focus attention on the problem without getting tangled up in worries about ‘uncertainty’ is to talk about risk. We wouldn’t even be discussing GHG reductions if we didn’t have good reasons to think our emissions pose a substantial risk, and we already pay a lot of money to protect ourselves from risks, including quite uncertain ones. We can greatly reduce the risks of dangerous climate change by building a new energy system over the coming decades. It’s a big challenge, but the risks of climate change getting out of hand are huge. We know how to build much more efficient buildings and transportation systems and a more adaptable electricity grid, we have immediate options for low-carbon energy sources as well as long-run options that need more research and development. The risk grows the longer we go without changing direction, so the sooner we get this started the better (hence my growing anxiety as governments defer and even resist the idea that we need to change direction…).

  56. > I teach a course in Global Warming/Climate Change at a university
    What department? I like your conservation/wildlife material, but I wonder about the rather troublesome disconnect I see often in understanding the basic material — comparing the physicists (“make everything as simple as possible”) to the ecologists (“don’t throw anything away”).

    There aren’t “many climate blogs” — or rather, there are way more climate bloggers than climate scientists. Recall what FDR said when he was told the USA had 30,000 banks– that it was a shame there weren’t that many bankers. Same problem.

    You wouldn’t rely on that sort of stuff for wildlife ecology, would you?

  57. Susan Anderson

    There are some people whose choices are an absolute indicator of dishonesty, so even if you didn’t know about some loser, their appearance in cites by these nattering nabobs of negativity is a guarantor of bad faith. Keep this in mind. On my chosen battlefield DotEarth, it is one wmar. I don’t bother with Watts, won’t give him the clicks.

    Don’t waste your energy, please.