Saturday, February 24, 2007

pre-AR4 public perceptions of climate change covered a talk at the recent AAAS meeting about public attitudes on climate change. This survey was done last year before the media barrage surrounding AR4. Lets hope things have changed because it doesn't look good.

Among the findings:
  • Less than 30% believe global warming is caused by humans
  • Only 32% are "very" or "extremely" sure about their views on climate change
  • 64% think there is disagreement amount scientists about the Earth warming.

That last one is a depressing result of the false balance reporting and the 4 or so proftitutes still willing to sell their souls to get their name in print.

The advice from study author Prof Jon Krosnik of Stanford is a frustrating mix. The public needs "more certainty" and to be shown that they have caused the problem. But we can't be too discouraging because the public won't face a problem that can't be fixed.

NYT Review of Books reviews AR4 SPM

The New York Times Review of Books has reviewed the SPM of the IPCC Working Group I report released back on Februrary 2nd.

This excellent review by Bill McKibben recounts the brief history of IPCC reports. McKibben accurately, in my opinion, describes AR4 as essentially echoing the conclusion from AR2: that humans are causing the globe to warm. What's happened in AR3 and AR4 is that the scientific uncertainty has been reduced.

The SPM seems like it was rushed a bit. (Instructions to editors were left in the final copy.) McKibben notes how this, and the media focus on the shifting certainty, have obscured other points:
More important findings were ignored in accounts of the report and in some cases were obscured by the document's very poor prose, which is much more opaque than its predecessors. Those findings include:
  • The amount of carbon in the atmosphere is now increasing at a faster rate even than before.
  • Temperature increases would be considerably higher than they have been so far were it not for the blanket of soot and other pollution that is temporarily helping to cool the planet.
  • Alternative explanations for some of the warming (for example, sunspot activity and the "urban heat island effect," the raising of temperatures in cities caused by high building densities and the use of heat-retaining materials such as concrete and asphalt) are now known to be relatively negligible.
  • Almost everything frozen on earth is melting. Heavy rainfalls are becoming more common since the air is warmer and therefore holds more water than cold air, and "cold days, cold nights and frost have become less frequent, while hot days, hot nights, and heat waves have become more frequent."

McKibben goes on the describe how the conservative wording of the SPM, a natural outcome of the process that makes it, obscures these findings and the warnings of what will come.

The point, as mentioned below, is this: the Earth is committed to some warming based on what we've already put in the atmosphere but we have about 10 years to prevent the real bad circumstances from happening. There is a very large "procrastination penalty". The SPM mentions all this but its hidden behind the dry prose.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Boston Globe treats GW deniers with kid gloves

A Boston Globe story by John Donnely with a hopeful title about the global warming debate shifting instead gives a platform for global warming deniers to whine about how little attention they are getting.

The first sign of trouble in when Scott Barret of the International Policy Program at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies is referred to as a "global warming believer". The word "believer" is, of course, associated with religious faith where one must believe things that can not be proven.

Latter a parade of global warming deniers are referred to with the more generous term "skeptic". Skepticism is an important part of being a scientist but these people are not skeptics. They are extremely intellectually dishonest and hypocritical, refusing to see facts in front of them and picking and choosing pieces of the scientific method to discredit or use to make their story look good.

Thus this reporters description of two groups as "believers" and "skeptics" subtly frames the debate in favor of the skeptics.

What descriptions should he use? I recommend "scientists" and "frauds".

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I've recently encountered the word biostitute applied to anyone with some science credentials taking money to downplay or deny global warming.

This seems unfair to biologists who, as far as I know, don't make up a majority of the global warming denier crowd.

If the person is or has been on a faculty somewhere, takes money from oil companies and denies or obfuscates global warming then I propose they are a proftitute.

Example: Professor Fred Singer

Nisbit on framing coverage of global warming

Matthew Nisbet's take on the framing of the debate on global warming.

Raw data: roundup of IPCC coverage

Ill Considered has a list of most of the media coverage on the IPCC report.

Raw data: video clips of recent Government respones to IPCC

Cspan has video from the recent hearing in front the Science and Technology Committee and DOE secretary Brodman talking about that agency's role.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Coverage of IPCC SPM: The Confused

Good intentions behind these articles but may wind up confusing readers.

Associated Press (AP Science writer Seth Borenstein) - The Washington Post ran this AP story under the title "Global Warming Unstoppable, Report Says". That's an awful headline. If you read the story you find Mr. Borenstein trying to convey that some change is inevitable but we still need to do something.

This is a subtle distinction which I'm sure the defenders of the status-quo will try to confuse. Very simply: climate change is happening (because of CO2 already emitted) and will continue to happen (because there's no magic switch to shut it off right now) but the changes will be much worse if we really do nothing.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Coverage of IPCC SPM: The Bad

It's been a pleasant surprise that the MSM has been devoid of the "false balance" articles that used to show up whenever climate change was discussed. All the deniers/obfuscators are in Fox News, fringe internet news services and Op-Ed pages.

CNSnews - (Kevin Mooney) I've never heard of CNSNews but none other than MIT Prof. Richard Lindzen is willing to provide them quotes. The only new spin here is an attempt to malign the IPCC process which released the summary of the Working Group I report before the actual report. Also notable are some of the names to keep an eye on for providing anti-IPCC quotes: Lubos Motl (recently?) of Harvard, Christopher Landsea of the National Hurricane Center, Sterling Burnett of the National Center for Policy Analysis and author Bonner Cohen.

FoxNews - (Brit Hume) Although the title is "Not all Scientists are Buying what the UN is Selling on Global Warming" this short blurb only quotes Motl and Lindzen from the above CNSnews article.

National Post (Lawrence Solomon) - this Canadian paper allows Israeli professor Nir Shariv to spout his "its all cosmic rays" assertion for the cause of 20th century warming. This has been thoroughly debunked by Stephen Ramhstorf (a contributor) in this article.

Washington Post Op-Ed (Robert Samuelson) - We're all DOOOOOMED. Mr. Samuelson claims there's no solution to the global warming problem. This serves the "do nothing" position: its hopeless, so lets enjoy our cheap energy and damn the future generations. Samuelson focuses only on cap-and-trade schemes and says they can't solve the problem by themselves. Only an unlikely technological maricle will save us. Its true that cap-and-trade alone won't solve the problem but no one is saying it will. See the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton for how global warming can be curtailed with current technology.

Wall Street Journal Editorial - The most conservative editorial page in the MSM has a take filled with inacurracies. See realclimate for an explanation.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Coverage of IPCC SPM: The Good

Articles that summarize the results correctly and generally do a good job of conveying what the report says. (Peggy Mihelich and David E. Williams) - Notable for using the phrase "destabilize the climate" outside of a direct quote.

NYTimes (essay by William Stevens) - Good essay about how much more accepted the reality of climate change is now compared to 2000. His anecdote about how every cold spell generates cracks such as "So much for global warming" are familiar to anyone working in the field.

Washington Post (Juliet Eilperin) - Another summary with good quotes from many of the U.S. authors. Unfortunately, it couldn't resist throwing in some false "balance" from an Exxon-Mobil funded think tank spokesmen urging "caution". Thats worked so well so far.

Coverage of IPCC SPM release

There is of course a great deal of stories out there on the IPCC SPM release. I'll be selecting samples and grouping them in to categories. Check back for updates to the threads above.

Monday, February 05, 2007

What did the IPCC release on Februrary 2nd?

If you go the IPCC home page, you'll see a nice graphic at the top which says "The first volume will be released" and "Paris, 2 February 07". This would seem to indicate that the report of Working Group 1, who cover the basic science of climate change, was released on 02/02/07.

But only the 21-page summary of the WG1 report, formally known as the Summary for Policymakers or SPM was released.

The actual report will be on the web some time in May and in book form in June. I challenge you to find that information on the IPCC site.

These are scientists, not web designers, so I guess they deserve some slack. Still, a very successful publicity campaign has the world coming to your site. You should really be more clear.

Speaking of publicity campaigns: if this was all for the SPM (they had the lights out on the Eiffel Tower among other stunts), what will they do for the real WG1 report?

Update -- They've since changed the website to indicate that the full report will be issued later.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

White House rolls out the "job loss" boogeyman

This AP story (by John Heilprin) relays part of the Bush administration's spin on AR4 in the form of quotes from DOE Secretary Bodman and EPA administrator Johnson. They say the report is very nice thank you but they're not going to do anything because of "concern" about job loss from imposing carbon caps.

There is no paragraph from an economist backing up this speculation about job loss from carbon caps. Is this one of those "facts" that reporters never question because everyone just knows its true?

Update: And where's the "balance" from an economist talking about the job loss from doing nothing?

Cash offered to scientists to lie about climate change

With the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) just released, there's lots of activity to follow.

The Guardian reports on an offer from an ExxonMobil-funded think tank of $10,000 to any scientist who will find fault in the AR4

( story reprinted at

If you hear of any takers, let me know.

Overview of ExxonMobil shenanigans

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has a nice history/overview of what ExxonMobil has done to confuse the issue on his blog.