Tag: Naomi Oreskes

That little old word ‘truth’.

Truth: the true or actual state of a matter.

Well nothing complicated about the definition, is there!  If only society was equally motivated by getting to the truth of climate change.  Yes, I know I’m being naive!

Why my mini-rant?

I’m well in to James Hansen’s book Storms of my Grandchildren and it’s confirming my fears about the issues that are facing mankind now!  But more of that later.

What triggered me putting ‘pen to paper’ was a recent report from the Yale forum on climate change and the media.  Here’s how it opened,

Scientific Consensus Stronger than Scientists Thought?

Bruce Lieberman   May 2, 2012

More than two decades after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began publishing the latest scientific consensus on the globe’s changing climate, widespread doubts persist in the U.S. over whether there really is widespread agreement among scientists. It’s the primary argument of those who deny basic scientific foundations of warming.

But new and innovative survey results suggest the consensus among scientists might actually be stronger than the scientists themselves had thought.

The battles to define and debunk scientific consensus over climate change science have been fought for years. In 2004, University of California San Diego science historian Naomi Oreskes wrote about a broad consensus she found after studying 928 scientific papers published between 1993 and 2003.

But what I found deeply fascinating was that later on Bruce Lieberman, the report’s author, lists in detail the actual levels of agreement compared to the perceived levels.  To make it easier to take in, I have amended the telling differences to italic.

In sum, the newly released poll results identified surprisingly common points of agreement among climate scientists; and yet for each point, those scientists underestimated the amount of agreement among their colleagues. The results:

  • Human activity has been the primary cause of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures in the last 250 years. (About 90 percent of respondents agreed with this characterization, but those respondents estimated that less than 80 percent of their scientist colleagues held that view.)
  • If governmental policies do not change, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will exceed 550 parts per million between 2050 and 2059. (More than 30 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that just over 20 percent of their peers held that view.)
  • If and when atmospheric CO2 concentrations reach 550 ppm, the increase in global average surface temperature relative to the year 2000 will be 2-3 degrees Celsius, or 3.2-4.8 F. (More than 40 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that less than 30 percent held that view.)
  • If governmental policies do not change, in the year 2050, the increase in global average surface temperature relative to the year 2000 will be 1.5-2 degrees Celsius, or 2.4-3.2 F). (More than 35 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that just over 30 percent held that view.)
  • The likelihood that global average sea level will rise more during this century than the highest level given in the 2007 assessment of the IPCC (0.59 meters, 23.2 inches) is more than 90 percent. (More than 30 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that less than 20 percent held that view.)
  • Since 1851, the U.S. has experienced an average of six major hurricane landfalls (> 111 mph) per decade. The total number of major hurricane landfalls in the U.S. from 2011-2020 will be seven to eight. (Nearly 60 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that just over 30 percent held that view.)
  • The total number of major hurricane landfalls in the U.S. from 2041 to 2050 will be seven to eight. (About 35 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that less than 30 percent held that view.)
  • Given increasing levels of human activity, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere can be kept below 550 ppm with current technology — but only with changes in government policy. (Nearly 70 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that just over 50 percent held that view.)

Now back to Hansen’s book.  Here’s what Hansen writes starting on p.144,

Getting to the truth!

Sea level rise is one of the two climate impacts that I believe should be at the top of the list that defines what is “dangerous,” on any time scale that humanity can imagine.  Ice sheets take thousands of years to build up from snowfall.  Reasonable “adaptation” to a large sea level rise is nearly impossible, because once ice sheets begin to rapidly disintegrate, sea level would be continually changing for centuries.  Coastal cities would become impractical to maintain.

The other climate change impact at the top of my “dangerous” list is extermination of species.  Human activities already have increased the rate of species extinctions far above the natural level.  Extinctions are occurring as humans take over more and more of the habitat of animal and plant species.  We deforest large regions, replace biologically diverse grasslands and forests with monoculture crops, and introduce foreign, invasive animal and plant species that sometimes wipe out the native ones.

Hansen points out that about a billion people live at elevations less than 25 metres (81 feet).

I included a short video of James Hansen in a Learning from Dogs Post just a few days ago.  You’ll find it here – go and watch it – and think about the truth!

Photo: Winston Churchill, photographed by Cecil Beaton, at 10 Downing Street, London, in 1940.

Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.– Winston Churchill

The joys of a cup of hot tea!

Taking a bit of a breather.


All my life, well all the years that I have appreciated a ‘tea-break’, stopping for a cup of hot tea has been laden with symbolism.  A chance to let the brain catch up with whatever one is doing.  When working with others an opportunity to stand back and evaluate how the particular project is going.  When sharing a project with a loved one, an opportunity to lay down memories for future years, and so forth. (Jean and I were building a chicken coop yesterday afternoon.)  Sure there are millions of people that share these feelings.

Anyway, as many of you have been aware, the last 10 days or so on Learning from Dogs have been pretty ‘full-on’ in terms of man and Planet Earth.  It started with me publishing on the 27th February a Post called Please help! – A plea to those who understand climate science so much better than I do!.  Then on the 2nd March, I republished a Post from Patrice Ayme called The collapse of the biosphere.

Then on the 5th March, with a big thanks to Dan Gomez, I published A skeptic’s view and then responded to that Post with Reply to a skeptic on the 8th March.  Finally, last Friday, I republished a Post first seen on Naked Capitalism which I called I must go down to the sea again, spelt H2CO3!

That there were a total of 6,313 viewings of those Posts and 69 comments (OK, that doesn’t mean different individuals) was incredibly gratifying – a very big ‘thank you’ to all of you that read the Posts, and likewise to those that commented.

But one of the most wonderful aspects for me was the incredible sharing of ideas and resources.  So the point of today’s Post is to bring all those links and contacts onto one ‘page’, so to speak.

Martin Lack was the first to point me in the direction of the book, Merchants of Doubt.  There are a number of videos on YouTube but the one below is a good introduction to Naomi Oreskes.

On October 28, 2010 historian of science Naomi Oreskes gave a presentation at Forum Lectures (US Embassy Brussels), based on her new book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, about how right wing scientists founded the George Marshall Institute which has become a key hub for successfully spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about climate change, along with other environmental issues, and how myths about science enable these political strategies to work.

An in-depth video of over an hour from the University of Rhode Island’s Spring 2010 Vetlesen Lecture Series, hugely worth watching, is here.

Then there is the powerful blog site, De Smog Blog.  As the site explains, “The DeSmogBlog Project began in January 2006 and quickly became the world’s number one source for accurate, fact based information regarding global warming misinformation campaigns.  TIME Magazine named DeSmogBlog in its “25 Best Blogs of 2011” list.

Moving on.  One of the challenges is knowing how to look up some reasonably reliable information about a person who is claiming this or that.  That’s where SourceWatch is invaluable.  The website describes itself, “The Center for Media and Democracy publishes SourceWatch, this collaborative resource for citizens and journalists looking for documented information about the corporations, industries, and people trying to influence public policy and public opinion. We believe in telling the truth about the most powerful interests in society—not just relating their self-serving press releases or letting real facts be bleached away by spin.

Let me give you an example of how SourceWatch works.  In my Post A skeptic’s view, Dan offered extensive comment about U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s book The Greatest Hoax.  A quick search on SourceWatch revealed (a) (my emboldening)

Arthur B. Robinson is one of the three co-founders of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a group best known for organising a petition disputing the scientific evidence for human-induced global warming.

On January 7, 2009, the Willamette Week reported that Robinson is “in the vanguard of a small but vocal and persistent collection of scientists, industry advocates and commentators who dismiss human culpability for climate change. … Robinson’s critics say his analysis is simplistic, but it remains persuasive a decade later with powerful policymakers like U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a visible and effective player in blocking a bill to limit greenhouse-gas emissions last fall.

and then very quickly revealed (b),

James Mountain Inhofe, usually known as Jim Inhofe, has been a Republican Senator for Oklahoma since winning a special election in 1994.

James M. Inhofe has voted in favor of big oil companies on 100% of important oil-related bills from 2005-2007, according to Oil Change International. These bills include Iraq war funding, climate change studies, clean energy, and emissions.

On to another book.  I forget who recommended the book by James Hansen, Storms of my Grandchildren but it’s another ‘must-read’ for all those wanting to better understand the risks that lay ahead.  As the book’s website explains,

IStorms of My Grandchildren, Dr. James Hansen—the nation’s leading scientist on climate issues—speaks out for the first time with the full truth about global warming: The planet is hurtling even more rapidly than previously acknowledged to a climatic point of no return.

On that website there is a section Hansen On The Issues that includes this 2-minute YouTube video of Dr. Hansen talking about his book.

I can’t close without mentioning some other wonderful websites.  There is Skeptical Science, described thus,

Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation

Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn’t what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that refutes global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?

Then there’s ClimateSight, a wonderful effort by Kate, “Kate is a B.Sc. student and aspiring climatologist from the Canadian prairies. She started writing this blog when she was sixteen, simply to keep herself sane, but hopes that she’ll be able to spread accurate information about climate change far and wide while she does so.”  Kate’s interest and passion in the subject is unmissable and it’s a real pleasure to subscribe to her postings.

Bill McKibben’s famous site, 350.org, is a must for the thousands of people that are working for a better future.  As the mission statement opens up,

350.org is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. Our online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organizers in over 188 countries.

350 means climate safety. To preserve our planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million to below 350 ppm. But 350 is more than a number—it’s a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.

350.org works hard to organize in a new way—everywhere at once, using online tools to facilitate strategic offline action. We want to be a laboratory for the best ways to strengthen the climate movement and catalyze transformation around the world.

Read the full statement here.

Plus you should stay close to RealClimate, which describes itself as,

RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science. All posts are signed by the author(s), except ‘group’ posts which are collective efforts from the whole team. This is a moderated forum.

There are so many more fabulous sources of real caring about the society we are and, more importantly, the society we hope to be.  In this category comes Wibble.  Then there’s Dogs of Doubt, that I shall be referring to tomorrow on Learning from Dogs, and The Green Word and so on and so on.  It shows the power of ‘hands across the ether’ that the modern world of web sites now offers.  I put great faith in this power becoming the power of truth and the power of change.  (If you have a blog or a website that resonates with the ones mentioned here, please do drop me an email giving me details.)

Finally, I’m closing with this.  If it all sometimes feels too much for you and you want to drift away into the world of the inner consciousness, into the world of dreamtime, then you can do no worse than to call by Sue Dreamwalker‘s wonderful website.  Try this, for example.  Dan and I had no idea what we were getting into. 😉

Oh blast, my tea’s gone cold!

Dr. Michael Mann

A review of Michael Mann’s new book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines.

I’m republishing in full a recent Post on Kate’s fabulous blogsite Climate Change.  As a degree student, Kate is a fantastic representative of the generation that is going to have to deal in full with all the crap that my generation (born 1944) has brought about!  Learn more about her here.  Anything that can spread the word to those, especially in my age group, that are climate change denialists is no bad thing.

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

February 22, 2012 by climatesight

Available from Columbia Press

Throughout all the years of public disputes about climate change, arguably no scientist has taken as much flak as Dr. Michael Mann. This mild-mannered paleoclimatologist is frequently accused of fraud, incompetence, scientific malpractice, Communism, and orchestrating a New World Order. These charges have been proven baseless time and time again, but the accusations continue. Dr. Mann’s research on climate change is inconvenient for those who wish to deny that current global temperatures are unusual, so he has become the bulls-eye target in a fierce game of “shoot the messenger”. In “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines”, a memoir of his experiences, Michael Mann finally speaks out.

The story begins quite harmlessly: an account of how he became a scientist, from childhood curiosity to graduate work in theoretical physics to choosing climate science on a whim out of the university course calendar. For those who have followed Dr. Mann’s research over the years, there is some great backstory – how he met his coauthors Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes, the formation of the IPCC TAR chapter about paleoclimate, and how the RealClimate blog operates. This book also filled in some more technical gaps in my understanding with a reasonably accessible explanation of principal component ananlysis, a summary of millennial paleoclimate research before 1998, and an explanation of exactly how Mann, Bradley and Hughes’ 2008 paper built on their previous work.

Dr. Mann’s 1998 paper – the “hockey stick” – was a breakthrough because it was the first millennial reconstruction of temperature that had global coverage and an annual resolution. He considered the recent dramatic rise in temperatures to be the least interesting part of their work, because it was already known from instrumental data, but that part of the paper got the most public attention.

It seems odd for a scientist to downplay the importance of his own work, but that’s what Dr. Mann does: he stresses that, without the hockey stick, the case for climate change wouldn’t be any weaker. Unfortunately, his work was overemphasized on all sides. It was never his idea to display the hockey stick graph so prominently in the IPCC TAR, or for activists to publicize his results the way they did. Soon the hockey stick became the holy grail of graphs for contrarians to destroy. As Ben Santer says, “There are people who believe that if they can bring down Mike Mann, they can bring down the IPCC,” and the entire field of climate science as a result.

Michael Mann is an eloquent writer, and does a fabulous job of building up tension. Most readers will know that he was the target of countless attacks from climate change deniers, but he withholds these experiences until halfway through the book, choosing instead to present more context to the story. The narrative keeps you on your toes, though, with frequent allusions to future events.

Then, when the full story comes out, it hits hard. Death threats, and a letter full of suspicious white powder. Lobby groups organizing student rallies against Mann on his own campus, and publishing daily attack ads in the campus newspaper. Discovering that his photo was posted as a “target” on a neo-Nazi website that insisted climate change was a Jewish conspiracy. A state politician from the education committee threatening to cut off funding to the entire university until they fired Mann.

Throughout these attacks, Dr. Mann consistently found trails to the energy industry-funded Scaife Foundation. However, I think he needs to be a bit more careful when he talks about the links between oil companies and climate change denial – the relationship is well-known, but it’s easy to come off sounding like a conspiracy theorist. Naomi Oreskes does a better job of communicating this area, in my opinion.

Despite his experiences, Michael Mann seems optimistic, and manages to end the book on a hopeful note about improvements in climate science communication. He is remarkably well-adjusted to the attacks against him, and seems willing to sacrifice his reputation for the greater good. “I can continue to live with the cynical assaults against my integrity and character by the corporate-funded denial machine,” he writes. “What I could not live with is knowing that I stood by silently as my fellow human beings, confused and misled by industry-funded propaganda, were unwittingly led down a tragic path that would mortgage future generations.”

“The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” leaves me with a tremendous empathy for Dr. Mann and all that he has gone through, as well as a far better understanding of the shouting match that dominates certain areas of the Internet and the media. It is among the best-written books on climate science I have read, and I would highly recommend it to all scientists and science enthusiasts.

“The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” will be released on March 6th, and the Kindle version is already available.