Tag Archives: AGW

If We Release a Small Fraction of Arctic Carbon, ‘We’re Fucked': Climatologist

from Brian Merchant at Motherboard

This week, scientists made a disturbing discovery in the Arctic Ocean: They saw “vast methane plumes escaping from the seafloor,” as the Stockholm University put it in a release disclosing the observations. The plume of methane—a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat more powerfully than carbon dioxide, the chief driver of climate change—was unsettling to the scientists.

But it was even more unnerving to Dr. Jason Box, a widely published climatologist who had been following the expedition. As I was digging into the new development,…. read the rest here.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Climate Change

global warming, climate change or something else?

I am expecting a few comments to end up in my spam folder as a result of this post spouting bullshit about scientists changing the name and at least one reference to Al Gore……blah blah blah….. don’t fucking bother.

from Alexander White writing for the Guardian.

Why is climate communication so hard?

The recent debate about “climate change” versus “global warming” highlights why climate communication is so difficult.
An ice cap melting

How people communicate about controversial topics like global warming are powerfully influenced by heuristics. Photograph: John McConnico/AP

What term works better to communicate about our warming planet, “climate change” or “global warming”?

With the release of a new Yale study, the question has been rekindled, with blogs as diverse as FiveThirtyEight and Thinkprogress looking at the study and its implications.

The study, and the various commentary about it,  is interesting, not just because it finds that “the terms global warming and climate change often mean different things to Americans—and activate different sets of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, as well as different degrees of urgency about the need to respond”, but because it highlights why climate communication is so difficult.

Just why is it so hard to talk about the climate?

Harry Enten’s FiveThirtyEight article is a good place to start, because it underscores the problem. The article explores the use by Democratic and Republican members of congress. Enten shows that despite the Yale study showing that Democratic voters responding better to the “global warming” terminology, Democrats in congress prefer to say “climate change”. In fact, Republicans were more likely to say “global warming” than Democrats, which is the opposite of what the Yale study recommends. Enten also notes that the same phenomenon is found in US television, with Democratic-leaning shows like Hardball preferring “climate change” and Republican leaning shows like Hannity preferring “global warming”.

The Yale study showed that not only did Americans use the term global warming themselves, but they heard it more in public discourse, suggesting that despite Democrats politicians and media figures saying “climate change” more, it engages them less.

Of course, there have been many studies, and the frustrating thing for climate communicators and campaigners is that they are often contradictory. For example, a study from 2011 showed that Republicans preferred “climate change” to “global warming” when endorsing the reality of the threat.

Another study by EcoAmerica from 2009 suggested “global warming” be ditched and the phrase “our deteriorating atmosphere” be deployed to better engage “soccer moms” and “environmental agnostics”. The awkward term never caught on, and neither has Joe Romm’s preferred term “hell or highwater” or “global weirding” (coined by Friedman).

Even the Australian Parliamentary Library has weighed in with a briefing paper on the topic, unhelpfully adding the UNFCCC’s use of “climate variability” to the mix.

The debate about terminology would be an interesting side note were not the issue so important. Global warming, or climate change if you prefer, is the greatest threat facing humankind this century. These seemingly innocuous phrases profoundly affect how people perceive the issues, assess the seriousness and support efforts to mitigate global warming. The complication is that although terminology is important, the manner and scale of influence is difficult to measure or understand.

Yet, commentators and communicators often firmly come down on one side or the other, with staunch views about what works and what doesn’t. (I use the terms interchangeably in this article and more generally in my articles for The Guardian.)

A significant contributor to this is the illusion of asymmetric insight, a fascinating cognitive bias that helps explain, in my view, why climate communication is so diabolically difficult.

Asymmetric insight is a phenomenon where someone believes they understand the reasons why other people do or believe things, while at the same time being skeptical that others could ever understand them.

Research by academics Pronin, Ross, Kruger and Savitsky from 2001 into this phenomenon found that not only do you believe you understand hidden states in others far better than they know in you, but when this is expanded to groups, it’s even more pronounced:

The results showed liberals believed they knew more about conservatives than conservatives knew about liberals. The conservatives believed they knew more about liberals than liberals knew about conservatives. Both groups thought they knew more about their opponents than their opponents knew about themselves.

This bias is commonplace and widespread, and definitely not confined to climate communication. During elections, we see this cognitive bias on display nightly by pundits and commentators who confidently explain that movements in polls can be explained because voters think one thing or another, or are responding to a recent event.

When you hear statements like “people support Obama’s climate change policies because…” or “Democrats prefer the term ‘global warming’ because…”, you are seeing this bias.

People, especially commentators, believe that they see the world how it really is, whereas most other people (especially those people who disagree with them) are deluded, ignorant or self-interested. The bias of asymmetric insight means that people are less likely to see others who disagree with them in nuanced or complex ways; simple things can explain complex and multifaceted changes in opinion or actions.

Tying into the difficulty of climate communications is the fact that typically the people doing research into this field – and again, the same applies to other areas – are heavily invested in the area. Climate communicators mostly care deeply about the dangers of run-away climate change. The result is that they often underestimate the extent to which most people are ambivalent or uninterested in the issue.

Because asking questions about peoples’ attitudes on an issue will generally prompt a response, the disinterest and ambivalence is hidden, and so it is easy to assume that most people have a latent interest or concern about global warming, when in fact they probably don’t. The ups and downs of climate polling in Australia for example appears to show an increase in the polarisation over the issue, but it is easy to over emphasise that when you’re asking the question compared to large swathes of the community where the issue may rarely or never come up.

The Yale study found that as many people “use neither” (35 percent) as use the term “global warming” (35 percent) and more than double that use “climate change” (15 percent). This suggests to me that as a communications challenge, regardless of the term used, the biggest barrier is disinterest, not the specific language being used.

A lot of communications is done by heuristics, but even when hard numbers, in the form of polling, is brought to the equation, there is an enormous risk that judgemental shortcuts are used to interpret those numbers. Because we believe we can understand why people believe the things they do (while at the same time not believing that others could possibly understand us), it is easy to skew or ignore the results of research like the Yale study.

As far back as 2003, Republican pollster Frank Luntz advocated Republicans use the term “climate change”, ostensibly to give the Republicans cover against the far more effective term “global warming”. The memo is worth reading even eleven years later, and the Yale study and many other studies over the last few years simply confirms much of what Luntz wrote then.

And although Luntz highlights his “words that work”, really what he does is build a context through which he can influence peoples’ attitudes. Creating this context goes beyond the “silver bullet” of a single phrase by creating shared meaning. The Yale paper again underscores this, as I noted earlier: the terms “global warming” and “climate change” mean different things to different people.

Just changing from one phrase to another without also shifting the context is unlikely to change attitudes. This would be as ineffective as the long-standing and fruitless focus on the “deficit model” of environmental communication.

The diabolical challenge for climate communications is that we often think we are gaining valuable insights from research like the Yale study, but more likely we are succumbing to the illusion of asymmetric insight.

Original article here

 

2 Comments

Filed under Climate Change, Uncategorized

Palmer’s revolt leaves Abbott with no climate policy

by James Wight at Precarious Climate

Australian coal mining billionaire politician Clive Palmer announced on Tuesday that his party’s Senators will vote against the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), the Abbott government’s proposed replacement for the carbon price it wants to repeal. Palmer wants the promised ERF funding to be redirected to pensions, and says he is even prepared to block budget bills if necessary.

Undeterred, the Government has pressed on, releasing the ERF White Paper on the eve of Anzac Day (in the tradition of the Green Paper released on the last day before Xmas). But with Palmer offside, ERF legislation will struggle to find any support from non-government Senators.

Labor and the Greens oppose the ERF as too weak. The Motoring Enthusiasts will vote with Palmer United. The Liberal Democrats, Family First, and Democratic Labor are unlikely to support any climate policy because they don’t believe the problem is real. And independent Nick Xenophon won’t support the ERF unamended. That makes up to 43 votes against the ERF, and only 38 votes are needed to block legislation. So it is very unlikely that Abbott will be unable to pass the legislation. This leaves Abbott with almost no climate policy (except the soon-to-be-neutered Renewable Energy Target, and some other bits and pieces that won’t achieve much).

Whether or not Abbott is able to implement the ERF probably won’t make much difference to emissions, because the ERF is a laughable scheme which will pay polluters to (in theory) voluntarily act to avoid emitting CO2 they otherwise would have emitted. I’ve written previously about 21 reasons why Abbott’s policy won’t work, including some issues which have received little attention – and almost all of what I said then remains essentially accurate.

Another thing which will make no difference is the “safeguard mechanism”, the penalty for polluters who exceed their baseline emissions levels under the ERF. Too many people are withholding judgment until the details are announced, when in fact we already know all we need to know. All ERF policy documents have made clear that both the fund itself and the supposed safeguard will allow emissions to increase wherever production increases (even if historical absolute baselines are used they will not apply to new companies or significant business expansion). In other words, the ERF is designed to cut emissions intensity (emissions per economic output), not absolute emissions. This is pointless as emissions intensity will fall automatically even if emissions rise; the problem is that those efficiency gains are being cancelled out by the exponential growth of the fossil fuel economy. The Government is budgeting zero revenue from the safeguard mechanism because they know it will never come into play.

What’s new in the White Paper?

  • The policy objective, which used to be to meet Australia’s inadequate emissions target of 5% below 2000 by 2020, is now merely “to reduce emissions at lowest cost over the period to 2020, and make a contribution towards Australia’s 2020 emissions reduction target”.
  • The White Paper contains endless impenetrable text about how the Government will design emissions-reduction-verifying “methods” (through consultation with polluters), but there is still no reason to think these methods will have any validity. We do learn that methods will be reviewed by an “independent expert committee” called the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee, which would be reassuring if the Abbott government didn’t have a history of appointing ideological allies to such panels.
  • ERF funding is still capped for the first four years, and it sounds like beyond that funding will be decided in each budget. Again this is hardly reassuring, as every climate program’s funding seems to diminish over time.
  • Polluters who fail to deliver emissions cuts contracted by the government must “make good” by purchasing offsets from other domestic companies. I cannot find any mention of earlier proposals to allow international offsets, though business groups continue to lobby for this.
  • The 2015 review of the ERF will focus merely on operational elements.

A few journalists have made some half-hearted attempts to get more information out of Environment Minister Greg Hunt, but whenever he is asked a question about the ERF he just starts rabbiting on about how bad the carbon price was. Meanwhile, we’re hearing more and more from government members and advisors that climate change isn’t real after all. In the last fortnight, Attorney-General George Brandis, government backbencher George Christensen, and Abbott’s business advisor Maurice Newman have all challenged the science of climate change.

Perhaps they’re ramping up their attacks on science because they realize the ERF is losing credibility. Because there is one way in which it does matter whether the ERF goes ahead. If it proceeds, Abbott will be able to use it to support the talking point that his government has a policy on climate change, reassuring voters who are concerned about climate change but nervous about the alleged costs of a carbon price. But if the ERF founders, and Abbott succeeds in his overall agenda of climate deregulation, then he will have no significant policy to greenwash his government. And as the hot summers keep coming, there’ll be nothing to stop those concerned voters from becoming alarmed.

Read the original and check out all the other excellent articles at Precarious Climate here.

5 Comments

Filed under Climate Change, idiot politicians, Rogue's Gallery

The Statistical Probability That Climate Change Is Not Manmade Is 0.01 Percent

That climate science relies too heavily on models is one of the last arguments that climate change deniers cling to—many of them argue that proving climate change is manmade is impossible. But one researcher says he’s basically just done the opposite: he used statistics, actual observed data, and, most importantly, no computer models at all to prove that climate change has not been a natural phenomenon…. read the rest here

 

1 Comment

Filed under Climate Change

IPCC WG2 Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Instead of relying on leaked drafts of this report, you can now download the final version. Before you do though, please have a read of Graham Readfearn’s take, but before you do even that, please consider this story from the New York Times about the awful mudslide in Oso, Washington. To me, it is almost an analogy for the entire human race and our human caused climate change.

A Mudslide, Foretold

Timothy Egan

DON’T tell me, please, that nobody saw one of the deadliest landslides in American history coming. Say a prayer or send a donation for a community buried under a mountain of mud along a great river in Washington State, the Stillaguamish. Praise the emergency workers still trying to find a pulse of life in a disaster that left 25 people dead and 90 missing.

But enough with the denial, the willful ignorance of cause and effect, the shock that one of the prettiest valleys on the planet could turn in a flash from quiet respite in the foothills of the North Cascades to a gravelly graveyard.

“This was a completely unforeseen slide,” said John Pennington, the emergency manager of Snohomish County. “It was considered very safe.” He said this on Monday, two days after the equivalent of three million dump truck loads of wet earth heaved down on the river near the tiny town of Oso. Unforeseen — except for 60 years’ worth of warnings, most notably a report in 1999 that outlined “the potential for a large catastrophic failure” on the very hillside that just suffered a large catastrophic failure.

It is human nature, if not the American way, to look potential disaster in the face and prefer to see a bright and shining lie. The “taming” of this continent, in five centuries and change, required a mighty mustering of cognitive dissonance. As a result, most of us live with the danger of wildfire, earthquake, tornado, flooding, drought, hurricane or yet-to-be-defined and climate-change-influenced superstorm. A legacy of settlement is the delusion that large-scale manipulation of the natural world can be done without consequence.

What happened when the earth moved on a quiet Saturday morning in the Stillaguamish Valley was foretold, in some ways, by the relationship that people have with that sylvan slice of the Pacific Northwest.

Almost 25 years ago, I went into one of the headwater streams of the Stillaguamish with Pat Stevenson, a biologist with the American Indian tribe that bears the same name as the river and claims an ancient link to that land. The rain was Noah-level that day — just as it’s been for most of this March.

We drove upriver, winding along the drainage of Deer Creek, one of the main tributaries of the Stillaguamish. We couldn’t see Whitehorse Mountain, the dreamy peak that towers over the valley, that day. We could barely see beyond our windshield wipers. At last, we arrived at an open wound near road’s end. I’d never witnessed anything like it: an active slide, sloughing mud and clay down into the formerly pristine creek. We watched huge sections of land peel and puddle — an ugly and terrifying new landscape under creation before our eyes.

Stevenson pointed uphill, to bare, saturated earth that was melting, like candle wax, into the main mudslide. Not long ago, this had been a thick forest of old growth timber. But after it was excessively logged, every standing tree removed, there was nothing to hold the land in place during heavy rains. A federal survey determined that nearly 50 percent of the entire basin above Deer Creek had been logged over a 30-year period. It didn’t take a degree in forestry to see how one event led to the other.

The Stilly, as locals call the river, is well known to those who chase fish with a fly rod, and to native people who have been living off its bounty for centuries. Zane Grey, the Western novelist, called it the finest fishing river in the world for steelhead, the big seagoing trout that can grow to 40 pounds. What Stevenson showed me that day in a November storm was how one human activity, logging, was destroying the source of joy and sustenance for others. When the crack and groan of an entire hillside in collapse happened a week ago Saturday, I thought instantly of Stevenson and that gloomy day at Deer Creek.

And, sure enough, logging above the area of the current landslide appears to have gone beyond the legal limits, into the area that slid, according to a report in The Seattle Times.

Yes, but who wants to listen to warnings by pesky scientists, to pay heed to predictions by environmental nags, or allow an intrusive government to limit private property rights? That’s how these issues get cast. And that’s why reports like the ones done on the Stillaguamish get shelved. The people living near Oso say nobody ever informed them of the past predictions.

Just upriver from the buried community along the Stillaguamish is Darrington, a town with a proud logging tradition. The folks who live there are self-described Tarheels, transplanted from Southern Appalachia several generations ago after their own timber mills went bust. They hold a terrific bluegrass festival every year, and they show up in force at public hearings where government and environmentalists are denounced with venom. It’s not their fault that the earth moved, certainly. But they should insist that their public officials tell them the plain truth when the science is bad news.

An Act of God is a legal term to describe an event outside of human control. No one can be held responsible. Exactly 50 years ago Thursday, in Alaska, the second largest earthquake in recorded history, magnitude 9.2, remade the Last Frontier State. What had been gravel beaches rose to become 30-foot cliffs. What had been forests at sea level were submerged, leaving only the ghostly silver tips that you can still see. In Anchorage, 42,000 people were left homeless.

That quake was an Act of God. Even so, cities along the West Coast have adopted strict seismic standards to lessen the human misery, should another earthquake of that size strike.

The Dust Bowl, arguably the greatest environmental disaster in American history, was not an Act of God. A drought, even a prolonged one, was no stranger to the High Plains — same as heavy rain is to the west side of the Cascade Mountains. But those regions have been considerably altered by human hands. In both cases, you love the land, but you should never forget that it can turn on you.

Now, I’m an atheist, so the whole “Act of God” thing doesn’t even register in my thoughts as everything has a cause and most things arise from chance. Anthropogenic climate change, like the American Dust Bowl, is not occurring due to chance. It is most definitely of our making. The predictions and warnings have been coming from the scientific community for much longer than the 25 years or so of IPCC reports and yet, still our emissions continue to grow and at some point, like the millions of tons of mud in Oso, Washington, climate change will come crashing down on us.

Graham Readfearn’s take is here

The IPCC report is here.

The original NYT article is here.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Climate Change

The hellish monotony of 25 years of IPCC climate change warnings

This is the title of the latest article from Graham Readfearn at the Guardian. For me, I think an equally acceptable one would be…

25 years with our heads in the sand. Not even ostriches are stupid enough to do that.

Anyway, Graham writes…

The latest blockbuster United Nations report on the impacts of climate change makes dire reading, just as the first one did almost a quarter of a century ago.

Entire island nations “rendered uninhabitable”, millions of people to be displaced by floods and rising seas, uncertainties over global food supplies and severe impacts on human health across the world.

The news from the United Nations on the likely impacts of climate change is dire, especially for the poorest people on the planet.

There will likely be more floods, more droughts and more intense heatwaves, says the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

As human emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, natural ecosystems come under extreme stress with “significant” knock-on effects for societies….

Read the full article here.

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Climate Change

Going for the youth vote…inadvertantly

I promised myself I would ignore the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics Party (CSP) because quite frankly I found them to be so far on the right hand fringe of Australian politics, they have a tiny tiny following and so are really of no consequence and very little interest except in a kind of old school, circus freak show kind of way. No offence meant to any circus freaks by the way.

I used to write about the CSP a fair bit, mostly focussing on the dishonesty of a few of their hierarchy. Nothing too serious of course, just making up grossly exaggerating professional credentials, misrepresenting blog comments and lying about stuff including their nonsense claim that they are a centrist party. Their position on climate change is out there with the wackiest of the wacky as evidenced by their devotion to the ever loopy Christopher Monckton and their endless spouting of just about every denier canard ever uttered. You will notice I’m not providing any links to anything I’ve written about them because it’s easy enough to find. Just search my blog for “CSP” and you’ll have plenty to read.

Anyway, I was sent an email today by a colleague pointing me to the AEC website and this announcement…

regI was wondering why they changed their name? Not catchy? Perhaps they realised that it’s a bit too prescriptive? Maybe a name change will result in a better result at the next election? Maybe it’s all three. In the last election they saw their vote for the Senate positions drop from 0.2% in 2010 to 0.13% in 2013. They could do worse I guess. Anyway, given the timing it’s clear they have seen how easy it was for a couple of morons from other fringe parties to get elected by vote harvesting and they want to try to get their own moron elected in the rerun for the WA Senate spots next month. They even admit as much….not the moron part but the rest, in their own Press Release. Try and ignore the spelling and grammatical errors and poor setting out.  Whoever wrote it was probably a bit excited. Link here.

Nice logo…very American looking and the Party name also has a very American feel about it. I’m almost inclined to think whomever came up with both has been spending a lot of time visiting The American GOP sites and watching Glen Beck or Sean Hannity videos on YouTube. They are always carrying on about attacks on their freedom and future prosperity. You could have gone all out and whacked “liberty” in there somewhere. The Freedom, Liberty and Prosperity Party (FLAP) Now, before anyone discounts FLAP and says that’s a bit silly, what was pointed out to me in the email, was this part…

FAP

Oh dear….. Anthony, you are either completely out of touch or a bloody genius! Even I, in my 40’s, know enough about youth culture to know there is an internet meme attached to the word FAP. Fap is…..ummmmm. Well according to the Urban Dictionary…

ud

 

Yes yes I know that the Urban Dictionary isn’t a real dictionary but I can guarantee that if you go out into the street and ask a heap of people aged 15 to 25 what “FAP” is, most of them will give you the Urban Dictionary definition. It is of course a lot older than that and it originally was an adjective meaning drunk or befuddled. Either way, whomever came up with it, clearly didn’t think it through…. or did they? I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of apathetic politically naive young voters see FAP, have a chuckle and vote for them. No harm in that, FAP will need all the help they can get. Now that people are waking up to the wrecking ball Abbott, they are hardly likely to give their vote to a party that is even further to the right than him.  The turmoil that he has created will see voters wanting stability in the Senate and these knucklehead fringe dwellers that try to vote harvest and do shady preference swaps won’t get a look in, especially if voters go and look at the policies. Speaking of which, I’m pleased to see that FAP are continuing with all their principles, including their conspiracy ideation about “Agenda 21″. Good stuff. That’s the sort of thing the loony right- wing Tea Party in the USA carry on with. Maybe I am sensing a theme here. American looking banner and American sounding name, American culture has permeated into our youth, our youth are fairly apathetic but will find FAP funny…hmmm. Genius! Anyway, speaking of American politics…

we-choose-to-fap-not-because-it-is-easy

 

2 Comments

Filed under Classic denier comments, idiot politicians, Rogue's Gallery