Tag Archives: Climatology

The “consensus message” in communicating science

Here is an interesting talk by John Cook from the University of Queensland. He is presenting results from his PhD research on the effect of consensus information on public attitudes towards climate science. He surveyed representative samples of Australians and Americans about their political ideologies and the effect of consensus on their acceptance of human-caused global warming. After being shown evidence of the consensus on human-caused global warming, Australian acceptance of this scientific reality grew across the political spectrum, but especially among conservatives.

I found his debunking of several myths about the negative role of consensus information valuable.

Cook is the founder of the climate science blog Skeptical Science will be a red flag to some of the conservative commenters here  who will no doubt lauch into personal attacks on him. But his message is valuable. And, I think, worth extrapolating (intelligently) to other areas where scientific consensus gets attacked.

AGU Chapman Conference — Climate Science: John Cook.

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Communicating climate science – Michael Mann comments

Here’s a relatively short talk by Michael Mann talking about his own experiences in communicating climate science, and the political attempts to intimidate him. He is an interesting speaker and his story is important.

via AGU Chapman Conference — Climate Science: Michael Mann – YouTube.

Mann is the author of the book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. It’s very informative and easy to read. Essential reading for anyone interested in the science and politics of climate change.

See “Good faith” science – and its enemies for my review of Mann’s book.

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Empathy for colleagues

Science follows certain procedures, but does the media get the signal? Credit: CSIRO

The Australian astrophysicist Mathew Bailes recently got international recognition for his part in the discovery of an exoplanet which could be made of diamond. As he says: “Following the publication of our finding in the journal Science, our research received amazing attention from the world’s media.” (See Diamond planets, climate change and the scientific method)

It’s always nice when a scientific discovery, and the work of a scientist, receive public attention. Even though, as he says:

” in the overall scheme of things, it isn’t that important.

And yet the diamond planet has been hugely successful in igniting public curiosity about the universe in which we live.

In that sense, for myself and my co-authors, I suspect it will be among the greatest discoveries of our careers.

Our host institutions were thrilled with the publicity and most of us enjoyed our 15 minutes of fame.”

It could have been different

But here’s the lesson in this story:

“The attention we received was 100% positive, but how different that could have been.

How so? Well, we could have been climate scientists.”

And he asks you to consider a parallel scenario;

“Imagine for a minute that, instead of discovering a diamond planet, we’d made a breakthrough in global temperature projections.

Let’s say we studied computer models of the influence of excessive greenhouse gases, verified them through observations, then had them peer-reviewed and published in Science.

Instead of sitting back and basking in the glory, I suspect we’d find a lot of commentators, many with no scientific qualifications, pouring scorn on our findings.

People on the fringe of science would be quoted as opponents of our work, arguing that it was nothing more than a theory yet to be conclusively proven.

There would be doubt cast on the interpretation of our data and conjecture about whether we were “buddies” with the journal referees.

If our opponents dug really deep they might even find that I’d once written a paper on a similar topic that had to be retracted.

Before long our credibility and findings would be under serious question.”

And:

“Sadly, the same media commentators who celebrate diamond planets without question are all too quick to dismiss the latest peer-reviewed evidence that suggests man-made activities are responsible for changes in concentrations of CO2 in our atmosphere.The scientific method is universal. If we selectively ignore it in certain disciplines, we do so at our peril.”

It’s worth those of us outside the climate science community reflecting on this. Scientists and non-scientists alike.

Consider the continuing harassment of Dr Michael Mann who is still be pursued by climate deniers and conservative politicians. What do they want. His emails from years back! (see Professor turns to law to protect climate-change work).

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Check out those climate change claims on the internet

This looks interesting. Skeptical Science has introduced a Firefox add-on which enables an internet surfer to rapidly check out the arguments found on web pages and blogs. Great for those without a specialist knowledge in the area of climate science. So much of this information on the internet is distorted or downright wrong. This could save the interested surfer the time and effort required to research claims for themselves.

As the image above shows  the report includes information on the real science. I can see people wishing to place comments at an offending blog using this feature.

The add-on also enables interested surfers to make their own reports on blogs and web pages. Those supporting the science as well as the offending ones.

This will provide a chance for the more interested surfer to contribute information and links to the Daily Climate Links email and Global Warming Links page. A chance to contribute to a very useful resource.

Go to Skeptical Science Firefox Add-on: Send and receive climate info while you browse for more information on the add-on. Looks like it could be fun.

You can download the SkS Firefox Add-on at Skeptical Science 1.0.

See also: Get your climate change science on the run for details of Skeptic Science’s iPhone and ipod Touch application. Another useful way of checking our the science of climate change.

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Anti-science lies being exposed – slowly

This is a sane word of advice at the time of hysterical attacks on climate science and scientists under the “climategate” tag.

It comes in a submission from the  University of East Anglia to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Science and Technology investigating the “climategate” business. It finishes with the comment:

“Given that the stakes for humanity are so high in correctly interpreting the evidence of global warming, we would meanwhile urge scientists, academics, journalists and public servants to resist the distortions of hearsay evidence or orchestrated campaigns of misinformation, and instead to encourage open, intelligent debate.”

Ah, if only! Recently on another thread we had a denier accusing scientists of “Lying” and being “eco-fascists,” “lying parasites,” and “parasites of the environmental movement.”

For those of you who want a bit more sanity in this discussion have a read of the university’s submission. It’s avalable as a word document (submission) and together with an appendix.

The submission covers the key accusations being made by the climategate deniers and might be an eye-opener to some.

They say “Lies get half way around the world before truth gets its boots on.” It takes time but truth will eventually out.

I look forward to the time that all these inquiries report their findings.


Update (or BREAKING NEWS as Ian Wishart would claim): It’s also worth having a read of this statement Climate change and the scientific process from the Office of the NZ Prime Minister’s Science Advisory Committee. A printable version of “Climate change and the scientific process” is available for download here ( PDF file, 139 kb).

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