Monday, October 22, 2007

Chicago Humanities Festival takes on climate change

The theme for this year's Chicago Humanities Festival is The Climate of Concern. An odd choice for a humanities festival? Artistic director Lawrence Weschler explains:
Concern about the changing climate, to be sure, but more generally and broadly about humankind’s place in nature, and the future of that relation. In those days, certainly here in America, the challenge still seemed to be one simply of rousing ourselves to the crisis at hand. We’ve watched in amazement as the discourse has since accelerated: suddenly the specter of global climate disruption and its many interrelated symptoms has become the media flavor of the year (all that noise, paradoxically, threatening to become simply another way in which we cocoon ourselves from the palpable reality of the situation at hand). Still, the challenge grows clearer and more urgent with each passing week: how do we, as a community of fellow humans, come to envision – with lucidity, vigor, and hope — our responsibilities toward each other, our progeny, and the planet?
Its certainly an interesting program. I'll be part of a panel on Sunday, October 29th, looking at climate change images. Stop by and say "hello".

Update: Some coverage of the panel from the Computation Institute Newsletter.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Al Gore to lauch $100 million climate change ad campaign

Kudos to Steve Hargreaves over at CNN Money who seems to be the only traditional media reporter (and just barely that since he writes for CNN's web site) to catch this:
The former vice president, Oscar-winner and now Nobel Peace Prize recipient is embarking on a climate-change advertising campaign estimated to cost between $100 million and $200 million a year, one of the largest public service campaigns in history [emphasis added]. Expect to see television commercials, newspaper spreads and Internet ads popping up in a few months time.

Funded by donations and proceeds from Gore's 2006 "An Inconvenient Truth," the campaign will focus on convincing people that they can do something about global warming.

"It's about communicating the urgency and solvability of the climate crises," said Brian Hardwick, a spokesman for the Alliance for Climate Change, an environmental group founded and chaired by Gore. "So [people] will demand the kind of change we need."

The campaign is organized through the Alliance for Climate Protection, which is also the organization Al Gore donated his Nobel Peace Prize money too.

Looks like I won't have to worry about global warming falling off the radar between now and the next IPCC report (if there is one.)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Recent polls on global warming

I last looked at polls of public opinion on global warming back in April here, here and here.

Those polls were taken during or soon after the media blitz which accompanied the release of the IPCC Working Group I Summary for Policy Makers, Al Gore's testimony to Congress and "An Inconvenient Truth" winning the Oscar.

Global warming couldn't keep up that kind of media saturation all summer. Nevertheless, a poll taken by Yale and Gallup in July showed a high level of awareness of the problem and what level of action might be needed. From Science Daily:
A growing number of Americans consider global warming an important threat that calls for drastic action, and 40% say that a presidential candidate's position on the issue will strongly influence how they vote....Sixty-two percent of respondents believe that life on earth will continue without major disruptions only if society takes immediate and drastic action to reduce global warming....A surprising 40 percent of respondents say a presidential candidate's position on global warming will be either extremely important (16 percent) or very important (24 percent) when casting their ballots.
Annoyingly, this is not the same group from Yale that did the poll back in March. They didn't ask exactly the same questions.

The same group that did the July survey also adid one in September about local responses to global warming. The NYTimes covered their blog.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Have you heard?! Gore wins Nobel!

This blog focuses on U.S. media coverage of global warming but even that restriction leaves to much to cover during the days following the announcement that Al Gore and the IPCC had won the Nobel Peace Prize...
for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change
In the deluge of coverage, it's nice to read the actual award. I especially like this passage from the press release on why Gore deserved the award:
He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.[Emphasis added]
However most of the U.S. coverage included one or more of the following items: Will Gore run for president? Bush is dumb. Which is better: Nobel Peace Prize or two U.S. presidential terms? Gore is famous. Nobody took Gore seriously. Gore is smart. Oh yeah, the IPCC also won.

You could write one of these yourself.

A French climate scientist visiting U. Chicago noted that in Europe at least, the coverage is all about the IPCC and Gore gets little mention.

I was pretty disappointed in the Washington Post but Deltoid has covered that well including links to Bob Somersby, the go-to source for dissecting the traditional media's horrible coverage of anything Gore-related.

Seth Borenstein, who usually writes great global warming coverage for the Associated Press, for some reason felt the need to quote a global warming denier in his article. The denier did his job and provided some juicy quotes, including that the Nobel Peace Prize had been "cheapened". But its not really news that he's going to say that so why report it?

Overall, my view is that its always good for the global warming problem to get another boost in coverage. Here in the U.S., the serious national stories are still dominated by the Iraq war or health care. This is also what the presidential candidates are mostly talking about. Keeping it on the front pages is a good thing.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

First detection of global warming in water vapor goes underreported

A significant paper was published online on September 19th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled "Identification of human-induced changes in atmospheric moisture content."

Why is this a big deal? Lets let the lead author, Ben Santer, explain the key findings (from new media Science Daily):
Our key findings were as follows:

1. Despite the relatively short length (19 years) of the observed water vapor data, we were able to identify a "fingerprint" of human activities in this observational record.
2. Unlike most previous "fingerprint" work, our study used results from virtually all of the world's major climate models. We showed that our identification of a human "fingerprint" in satellite-based water vapor records was robust to current uncertainties in climate models.
3. The model results enabled us to "disentangle" the contributions of different factors to the overall increase in water vapor. We found that in climate models, this increase in water vapor was primarily due to human-caused increases in greenhouse gases.
4. Bottom line: our results suggest that there is an emerging signal of human activities in the moisture content of Earth's atmosphere. The climate system is telling us a consistent story. The observed changes in temperature, moisture, and atmospheric circulation fit together in an internally- and physically consistent way.
And the reason this is important from Dr. Santer:
One persistent criticism of the "discernible human influence" findings of previous IPCC assessments is that such conclusions were largely based on "fingerprint" studies which relied heavily on surface temperature changes.

The thrust of the criticism was this:

"If there really is a signal of human activities lurking in the climate system, it should be manifest in many different climate variables, and not in surface temperature alone."

Our study helps to refute this criticism, and shows that we have now moved well beyond "temperature only" fingerprint studies.

Here's the press release from Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

About all I can find is coverage in the San Jose Mercury News and brief mention in United Press International. This would have been great to mention during the Bush and U.N. meeting's coverage the following week.

Monday, October 08, 2007

U.N. and Bush meetings coverage

(My apologies for the lack of posts. Work/life got in the way again.)

The Bush meeting was somewhat successful in its main goal: compete with the U.N. meeting on the same week. It did it by forcing almost every story on the U.N. to mention the Bush meeting, although not in a very good light.

Take this AP preview story which gave the background to the U.N. meeting but also was compelled to mention:
On Thursday and Friday, Bush will host his own two-day climate meeting in Washington, limited to 16 "major emitter" countries, first in a series of such U.S.-sponsored climate gatherings.

Many environmentalists fear this separate U.S. "track," which will involve China and India, may undercut the global U.N. negotiating process. But some hope it eventually helps draw those two big developing nations and others into a new, U.N.-negotiated emissions regime.
This Reuters story also mentions the Bush meeting but does not have quotes about what it really is. Shame on you, Deborah Zabarenko.

The NY Times U.N. preview story also mentions the Bush meeting and includes a few quotes on what a crock it is but is not as dismissive as the AP story. USA Today strikes a similar "balance".

The Washington Post had probably the worst article title, playing in to the Bush cult-of-personality with an article titled "Bust Steps Out in Front on Climate Issue". This absurd title seems to come from this quote:
"It's a great initiative that [Bush] has taken," said Lars G. Josefsson, chief executive of the European utility Vattenfall AB and an adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "But of course with that initiative, he also takes on a responsibility, which means he has to deliver."
Hey, W. Post, you're quoting an energy company executive. Bush is only taking an initiative to deliver a process:
But [United Nations Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth] faulted the Bush administration for promoting dialogue without pressing for concrete commitments. "When you don't want to do anything, talk process. Nowhere in this process is this administration talking about a concrete commitment," he said. "Is this administration going to be the one to break the logjam? I haven't seen any evidence of that."

The AP continued its tone with its preview of the Bush climate meeting titled "Bush Climate Goals Marked by Bureaucracy".

The post-meetings coverage for the U.N. emphasized the star power of Schwarzenegger and Gore: Reuters, Wash Post, Reuters again. U.N. Secretary Ban's call for a "real breakthrough" at least made it in to the Washington Post's coverage.

Business Week, of all places, had a good summary of the Bush meeting. Title: "Bush's Climate Meeting: Talk, But no Action." But U.S. outlets missed just how badly Bush's party was perceived from U.K's The Guardian:
George Bush was castigated by European diplomats and found himself isolated yesterday after a special conference on climate change ended without any progress.

European ministers, diplomats and officials attending the Washington conference were scathing, particularly in private, over Mr Bush's failure once again to commit to binding action on climate change.

For me, the most promising meeting that week was one between some U.S. Congressmen and officials from China discussing what do do post-Bush. Hat tip to H.E. Taylor's GW News who spotted this story in Der Spiegel.