Archive for the 'Climate Change Communication' Category

Dilemma: Past and Future of Science in Society

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Dilemma: Past and Future of Science in Society

Dilemma: I like those old Greek words. They suggest hope, or perhaps, hopelessness. It is pretty clear from, say, Aristotle’s Treatise on Rhetoric, that the types of political arguments and of political behavior we see today have been around a long time. That includes attacks on reason, logic, and science. Hope, perhaps, is represented in that this is something that we have seen before. Hopelessness, because there is seemingly nothing that can be settled by knowledge as long as knowledge is in conflict with want, belief, and emotion.

Since my transition to the chaos of Trump, I have been trying to find a foundation for analysis. We often search for such a foundation in past behavior and past experience. This leads to what I will call the past-future dilemma, which is, should we try what we have done with success in the past, or does the future require something different? (more…)

Organization, Presence: Adaptive Management in the Trump Administration

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Organization, Presence: Adaptive Management in the Trump Administration

The transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration has jolted the climate-science community, indeed, the science community in general. The open reporting supported by social media fuels and amplifies conflict and anxiety. Fears are propagated as facts.

We are at a moment where how we, the community of scientists, organize and respond will be critical to how the U.S. science enterprise appears in 4 years, 8 years, and 12 years. What I am going to do in this blog is to think about how to monitor and manage what, presently, feels like convulsions from one outrage to the next. This blog follows from my EOS editorial Take the Long View on Environmental Issues in the Age of Trump and my previous entry on ClimatePolicy.org, Fear and Loathing, Irony and Deception. This blog will be followed by further analysis as rhetoric and positioning are replaced by actions. (more…)

The Climate Uncertainty Shuffle

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Quantifying and characterizing uncertainty is among the most important contributions that scientists make to the advancement of knowledge and understanding. Mischaracterizing uncertainty and using it to mislead public audiences is among the most common tricks of those who oppose climate policy.

Scientists work hard to understand sources of uncertainty and to accurately characterize that uncertainty. It is often the central goal of scientific research and, done well, leads to peer-reviewed articles—often highly valued ones—which are the foundation for researchers’ professional advancement.

One great example of rigorous uncertainty characterization is climate sensitivity, which many scientists have worked very hard to understand and quantify over multiple decades. (more…)

New Attempts in Climate Change Communication

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Scientists have failed to communicate with the public about climate change risks in a way that resonates with people and that enables informed decision-making.

We emphasize what we don’t know and the ways that what we do know might not be entirely correct. Scientists are better at describing the potential limits of individual studies than we are at synthesizing multiple independent lines of evidence into highly robust conclusions. Often, we overlook the potential for awful outcomes or incorrectly characterize outcomes with unknown likelihood as having a “low probability” of occurring.

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Climate Change: A fundamental shift of our place in the world

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Climate Change: A fundamental shift of our place in the world

Richard B. Rood, University of Michigan

This blog appeared originally in the Michigan Journal of Sustainability, The Conversation: Climate Change: A Fundamental Shift of Our Place in the World.

A scientist colleague told me, recently, he had realized that talking to the press about climate change was not about education and outreach, and he was no longer sure of his role. During the 1990s at the federal research labs, there were initiatives to communicate science to the public. A common vehicle was a one-page popular summary of technical journal articles. An underlying premise of this public outreach was that there was one conversation, that of informing the public of meaning, value and societal importance. This naive notion of outreach did not recognize other types of conversations. Already in the 1990s, there was an emerging political conversation about climate change. There were also philosophical conversations about humans, nature, conservation and sustainability – some anchored in religious convictions. A more psychological conversation evolved about being responsible for doing damage to the planet.

As these conversations have evolved, scientists have thought more formally about communication. In one meeting of scientists, I said that every time a climate scientist wrote or talked it was potentially political. When scientists participated in interviews, blogged or sat on panels at the local museum, then there was almost certainly a political element that might be extracted from their words. Some of my colleagues were offended at my statement, maintaining that that they never spoke politically, only from dispassionate knowledge. I also maintained that most scientists are ill-prepared to participate in the political arguments.

Recently, Secretary of State John Kerry framed climate change, the persistent warming of the Earth and its consequences, in terms of weapons of mass destruction. Secretary Kerry and President Obama reached for the seemingly easy comparison of climate change deniers to those who believed that the Earth was flat before the European sea exploration of the fifteenth century. This comparison motivated a predictable and easy response from those who consider climate change to be an exaggerated risk, with the public presence of that risk being maintained by a community of self-interested climate change believers – the warmists. So now we have the warmist versus the deniers. This is yet another type of conversation – tribal, you are wrong because of who you are.

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NRC Report: A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

New Report: A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling

In late 2010 and 2011, I was writing about organizing U.S. climate modeling. I combined and posted some of the WU blogs on ClimatePolicy.org as Something New in the Past Decade? Organizing U.S. Climate Modeling. I want to revisit those issues in light of the release of a National Academy of Sciences Report, A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling (2012).

I am a co-author of this Academy report. In this blog, I am writing not in my role as a co-author, but from my personal perspective. This blog fits in with many of the themes I have written about in the last few years.

First, I want to explain the role of the National Academy of Sciences. The Academy is a private, not-for-profit organization created by President Abraham Lincoln at the height of the Civil War. Lincoln and others at the time realized the importance of science and technology to the United States and wanted a way to get independent advice on issues important to policy. Almost 150 years later, this importance is greater, but the role of science is an increasingly controversial political issue – especially when scientific investigation comes into conflict with how we might want to believe and to act. (see, here or edited here ) So one role of the National Academy is independent review – a role that is at the heart of the scientific method and the culture of scientific practice.

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Belief and Knowledge and Humans and Nature:

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Belief and Knowledge and Humans and Nature:

I am starting this entry from a previous blog, Rhetoric Again – Cycles. I got some interesting comments as well as a couple of letters for that entry. To set the tone, here is a thought from the end of that blog.

There is little doubt that humans are the dominant life form on the planet today. We shape every ecosystem. We consume all forms of energy. Throughout time, plants and animals have determined and altered the environment. Today we humans change our environment, the atmosphere and ocean. Not only are we a dominant life form, we have this amazing ability to extract rocks and liquids and gases from the Earth and to burn them. We have the ability to push land around, to remove mountains, to build islands, and to manufacture concrete. We are, therefore, not only biological, we are geological.

We humans are a force of nature – while yet a part of nature. Because we have the ability to remember, to reason, to develop and to accumulate knowledge, unlike other parts of the natural world, we have the ability to make decisions that influence the future of our environment. Therefore, our role in nature, in the natural world, is unique. To be clear, that uniqueness is not in our ability to change the environment, but in our ability to understand the consequences of those changes and the ability to anticipate and influence the future.

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We are what we repeatedly do

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Form of Argument: Adventures in Rhetoric

In 2009 I received some questions from Westview High School in San Diego, California (see here). A few weeks ago I heard from the same teacher, Bob Whitney, and he was curious about how I would respond to the issues raised in this posting on Rogues and Scholars. This is a long exchange of postings between two engineers, Burt Rutan and Brian Angliss.

In my blog, for better or worse, I have tended away from engaging in the type of discussions that are represented by this exchange. A couple of reasons: One, this line of argument that works to discredit climate change is at this point political, and as I argued here, engagement in this argument is not productive. Two, while it is necessary to address the factual inaccuracies that are stated in this type of discussion, it has been done repeatedly and well by many others (look around, for instance, at Real Climate). That said – what do you say to students who have the discussion between Rutan and Angliss at hand and want to make sense of it all?

When I look at the words used by Rutan, I see words anchored around fraud, dishonesty, alarmist – this is an argument that relies on discredit and personal attacks. Such an attack quickly raises the emotion and takes the discussion away from a knowledge base. It is the sort of attack that has become pervasive in our political conversation in general, and it is an excellent diversionary tactic. It raises the specter of distrust.

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What to do? What to do?

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

What to Do ? (1) Politics and Knowledge:

A few months ago a Republican candidate for State Office came to my office to talk about climate change. At the end of the hour he asked me how I thought we could advance beyond the current political state which is publicly characterized by, my word, tribalism – do you or do you not believe in climate change? Since I had recently posted an article on the subject (here), I had some semblance of an answer queued up. At one level the answer is time, but I will get back to that.

At the top of the strategy was the realization by scientists that climate change was, now, a political issue, and that within the realm of the political culture, knowledge-based education was not, first and foremost, the way forward. In fact, in many cases, the exposure of more knowledge, more science, was likely to have a negative effect, fueling the political turmoil, and damaging, more, the body of scientific knowledge. Nuance of the scientific literature adds to uncertainty, and all uncertainty can be used to build doubt, which is the goal of the political argument.

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