There is just one reason we’re failing to address climate change. It isn’t discussed much. Nobody wants to hear about it. Nobody wants to confront it. Nobody wants to acknowledge the fundamental nature of the challenge. Yet we’re all edging closer and closer to unthinkable answers, no matter how hard we try to avoid asking the unthinkable questions. Read more…
“As Michael Mann noted, we can’t say for sure what impact climate change had on Haiyan because we only have one planet, and we’re running a dangerous experiment with it. But it’s important to ask the right questions when it comes to extreme events like Haiyan. Asking if global warming caused Haiyan is the wrong question”.
Dana Nuccitelli, writing in the Guardian (Will extreme weather like super typhoon Haiyan become the new norm?)
Dana is writing about attribution – the business of determining cause and effect. Since typhoon Haiyan, many media outlets have given considerable time and space to the terrible destruction and loss of life. Many reports have not mentioned climate change at all. Others did so in order to give time to those who insist there is no connection – this despite the fact that if we can’t prove a connection, then neither can we disprove one. A very few have correctly put the storm in context; climate change did not cause Haiyan, but there is no way the additional energy in the climate system now could not have had some effect. We just can’t tell what that effect was, or the extent of it.
The trouble with inadvertently conducting novel experiments on a chaotic system like the climate is that science finds itself in equally novel territory. Constantly reacting to events after they happen, climate science struggles to keep up with the unfolding events, and to constrain the scientific analysis to bounds described by uncertainty. This necessary equivocation puts climate scientists at a disadvantage when confronted by demagogues who seek only to leverage each event for their own purposes, for such people eschew equivocation in favour of hyperbole and disinformation. The prudent uncertainty of science is in stark contrast to those so very certain that Haiyan was not influenced by global warming. Read more…
“Despite criticizing climate scientists for being overconfident about their data, models and theories, the Heartland Institute proclaims a conspicuous confidence in single studies and grand interpretations…it makes many bold assertions that are often questionable or misleading and do not highlight the uncertainties… Many climate sceptics seem to review scientific data and studies not as scientists but as attorneys, magnifying doubts and treating incomplete explanations as falsehoods rather than signs of progress towards the truth. … The Heartland Institute and its ilk are not trying to build a theory of anything. They have set the bar much lower, and are happy muddying the waters.”
Many US teachers have been sent a memo by The Heartland Institute, an organisation whose mission is to “promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems”. The topic of the memo was a report on climate change by the NIPCC, an acronym for “Not the International Panel on Climate Change”.
In essence, educators are being asked by Heartland to review climate change science at a remove. By distributing the NIPCC report “Climate Change Reconsidered II – Physical Science” (CCR2) to teachers, Heartland hopes that the view they sponsor via the NIPCC – one that entirely contradicts the official findings of the IPCC – will prevail in the classroom, or at least feature in the curriculum. Read more…
Open Letter — October 2013
To: Diane Carol Bast, Executive Editor, The Heartland Institute
Re: Release of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science
Dear Mrs. Bast,
Thanks for sending out your helpful, if somewhat self-congratulatory, memo to so many US teachers (PDF). Its subject is important: the NIPCC’s gripping sequel “Climate Change Reconsidered II”, a title as original as the ‘Not the IPCC’ nomenclature is witty.
While I’m sure nobody would question your organisation’s motive in wanting to reach out to so many young and impressionable minds (and I’m sure very few will conflate this initiative with Heartland’s sturdy defence of the embattled tobacco industry during the 1990s) there are some minor issues that might demand attention.
“With the 2013-14 school year well underway, you’re no doubt planning how you will discuss with your students the subject of global warming (aka climate change)”.
The NIPCC report claims to be a ‘scientific’ document ‘faithful to the scientific method’. When you represent it, perhaps it would be better to use terminology that is equally faithful? Global warming may, to the popular media, be synonymous with ‘climate change’, but in climate science they are two different things. Global warming is a process, climate change is the result. It may seem like a small point, but science is irritatingly full of them. When discussing a curriculum with our educators, accuracy is a great virtue. It would be unfortunate if teachers were to gain the impression that such casual laxity was representative of the entire NIPCC report. Read more…
In today’s Guardian, Dana Nuccitelli writes about the need for conservatives to ‘come in from the cold’ (Let’s be honest – the global warming debate isn’t about science). He makes the same points I’ve tried to address: while contrarians conflate science with ideology, they disenfranchise themselves from a debate about that which they care about most – the socio-economic impacts of mitigation or adaptation. So mired are they in futile attempts to change the laws of physics, they don’t actually have time – and certainly lack the credibility – to discuss the issues that actually motivate them in the first place. Read more…
Last week, the IPCC released its latest report summarising the state of climate science and the impact of human activity on the climate (AR5: Summary for Policy Makers). A day later, Nigel Lawson, co-founder of UK-based climate change denial lobbying group GWPF (Global Warming Policy Foundation), wrote a damning article for the UK’s Daily Telegraph. From the title alone, it’s pretty clear this was not going to be an appeal to reason: “Climate change: this is not science – it’s mumbo jumbo”.
For a while now, I’ve considered climate change denial to be akin to superstition, which the Oxford Dictionaries site defines as “a widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences.” I mention this because when challenged, deniers often claim that the climate changes we are witnessing are not man-made, but products of ‘natural variability’. In this context, I find that ‘natural variability’ appears to be a synonym for ‘supernatural influence’.
Why? Because they can’t explain it. Not just that: many seem to believe they are not obliged to do so, which is suspiciously convenient, and all too reminiscent of those who would claim they don’t need to ‘explain’ God. In this, they share a view once expressed in a Guardian forum which, to this day, remains one of my favourite denialist non-sequiturs. When challenged, a poster calling himself Hamlet 4 insisted “I don’t need to prove climate change is caused by natural variability. It just is.”
***** Read more…