Climate Change Spin Doctors

Increased scrutiny of climate catastrophists' claims is leading to panic among the promoters of global warming hype. Rather than attempting to counter mounting evidence that global warming—at least as defined by the IPCC and its supporters—is not a valid scientific theory, a number of leading catastrophists have issued a public call to climate scientists. Their plea? Further dumbing down climate science by using a simplified “common climate language” to “advance the public's decision-making capacity.”

In a letter to the commentary section of Science, Thomas E. Bowman, of Bowman Global Change, Edward Maibach, of the Center for Climate Change Communication, Michael E. Mann, from the Department of Meteorology of Pennsylvania State University, Susanne C. Moser, of Susanne Moser Research and Consulting, and Richard C. J. Somerville, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, outlined their desire to reshape they way information about climate change is communicated to the public. “At this critical moment, scientific understanding has outstripped our society's capacity to use that knowledge by a wide margin,” they opine, “This situation must be resolved quickly to give policymakers—and the public—the broadest range of options. Therefore, the science community should adopt a common language and standard baselines to help nonexperts see the problem.” Not understand the problem, not decide if there is a problem, but “see” the problem.

The term “dumb-down” was coined by Ken E. Smith, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It is a pejorative term for over-simplification of things, often by the news media or political “spin doctors.” Now, it seems, we can add climate change proponents to the list of those who would take from the public the information they need to make informed decisions and replace it with a simplified version of the facts that is “easier” for the unwashed masses to understand. Of course the simple version is slanted towards the conclusions the spin-meisters wish to have everyone believe—that is the whole purpose of this exercise.

Nothing can make their intentions clearer than to quote from the text of their letter:

“First, we urge scientists and science journal editors to create a single, readily understood frame of reference for two critical concepts in climate science--atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and rising global temperatures—by using a standard unit of measure and a single temperature baseline. Specifically, because total anthropogenic forcing is the relevant policy measure, we strongly recommend referencing atmospheric concentrations of all long-lived greenhouse gases as CO2-equivalent (CO2e), not only CO2. CO2e is the concentration of CO2 that would cause the same level of radiative forcing as a given mixture of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.”

In other words, since CO2 fear-mongering seems to be loosing its effectiveness as the truth about carbon dioxide's real impact on global climate has been revealed, they wish to up the anty by jacking up the CO2 level with a fictitious reading that is supposedly the “equivalent” based on other gasses. Why not just say that they got it wrong? Why not tell the public that CO2 just isn't potent enough to have the effects they predicted and that there may be other gasses involved? Is it because they think that the public is too stupid to understand a more complicated answer or that once the details are revealed nobody will believe them?

The fake CO2e measurement is just the first step in obfuscating scientific reality. The next step is an even more blatant attempt to make historic temperature increases seem greater:

“Moreover, because understanding total anthropogenic warming is important for assessing risk, we recommend referencing a standardized pre-industrial temperature baseline. Adopting these two references as elements of our common language will help reduce confusion that has been inadvertently caused by reporting results that appear to be similar [such as 397 parts per million CO2 compared with 455 parts per million CO2e in 2005 and 2°C above pre-industrial compared with the late 20th century] but that have dramatically different implications with regard to understanding where we stand on the path toward real danger.”

It is widely known that pre-industrial temperatures were uncharacteristically low, so low that the period from the 16th century to the mid 19th century is known as the Little Ice Age (LIA). Just before the LIA was a very warm period, dubbed the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), that lasted for around 500 years. In fact, there are a number of alternating cold and warm periods that have been well documented going back to the end of the last glacial period of the Pleistocene Ice Age some 13,000 years ago. If anything it would be less biased to use a weighted average temperature for the whole of the Holocene Era (the interglacial period we are currently in). But even that would be a false comparison: Earth's temperature is always changing, through cycles short and long, mild and drastic. As we said in The Resilient Earth, there is no one right temperature for our planet.

Researchers continue to report that summer temperatures during the last interglacial were higher than at any time in the Holocene, and 5 to 10°C higher than present. Peak Holocene temperatures occurred in the first half of the period, and have decreased since about the mid-Holocene. As can be seen from the graph, during practically the entire Holocene period the Earth appears to be between 0.5 and 1.5°C warmer than today. The LIA does resemble a mini ice age or at least it appears to be the coldest period in over 10.000 years. The overall picture from the graph is an almost perfect mathematical curve that tops around 5-6000 years ago, a period known as the Holocene Climate Optimum. Ignoring all of this, the climate catastrophe crowd wants to rewrite the temperature records and chose a starting temperature more to their own liking.

The only meaning temperature comparisons have is relative, registering change between specific times in specific places. In ages past, temperature has varied in different ways, at different times, in different places. The variation that comes with the seasons has changed, the difference in average temperatures between the equator and higher latitudes has changed, and some places—notably Antarctica—have found themselves isolated from other parts of the globe by wind and sea currents. How do we compare temperatures taken in different locations, under widely different prevailing conditions, with a single blessed global baseline temperature? The proposed single temperature baseline is simply a crock, a ham-handed attempt by the global warming lobby to jack up temperature change readings.

What result do the letter's signatories expect adoption of their proposal to have? They expect the public to accept the anthropogenic greenhouse gas induced climate catastrophe horror story with minimal critical thought:

“Adopting these conventions will improve science communication and help stakeholders simplify appropriately, but we must also improve communication effectiveness beyond what any scientist or journal editor can be expected to do. Therefore, we urge the broader science, communication, and funding community to support large-scale projects to translate scientific assessments into simpler, more useful terms. We support Fischhoff's call for an interdisciplinary approach that includes the expertise of climate scientists, decision scientists, behavioral scientists, and communication practitioners.”

They must improve science “communication effectiveness” beyond what scientists or the editors of scientific journals can provide? Heaven forbid that we listen to the scientists themselves, directly and without the intervention of those who know the one true meaning of climate science. And of course, we should not put our faith in those who publish refereed, peer reviewed journals—heretofore the gold standard for presenting scientific theories and results. This is nothing short of a call for scientific censorship in the guise of making science more easily understood.

What is the expertise of “decision scientists,” “behavioral scientists” and “communications practitioners?” Decision theory in mathematics and statistics is concerned with identifying the values, uncertainties and other issues relevant in a given decision and the resulting optimal decision. Decision scientists, who are really social scientists, try to deal with situations where only subjective probabilities are available. In short, they are professional guessers, not practitioners of hard, physical science.

Behavioral scientists study and try to predict human reactions. They investigate the decision processes and communication strategies within and between organisms in social systems. Communications practitioners are PR agents, talking heads, expert front men (and women). Taken together, this mix of social scientists and shysters form a team, an unholy alliance, for selling the catastrophist's message, not doing science—they are climate change spin doctors.

Even the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the UN agency most responsible for making climate change the hot button topic it is—is not safe from criticism and improvement. They observe that the IPCC format “is inherently tuned for burying crucial insights under heaps of facts, figures, and error bars.” Their solution is to hide the facts, redraw the figures and remove the error bars. Not surprising, since Michael “hockey stick” Mann is one of the letter's authors.

Seldom is the true nature of the climate change debate revealed in such stark detail. Can anyone doubt that AGW is not a scientific theory but a social and political cause? How kind of the climate change propagandists to conspire so openly, so frankly. If you find these suggestions as reprehensible as I do, you can email Tom Bowman at tom@bowmanglobalchange.com.

Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.

Dumbing down

In 2004 the UK Tyndall Centre produced these comments in a working paper:

To endorse policy change people must ‘believe’ that global warming will become a reality some time in the future.

Only the experience of positive temperature anomalies will be registered as indication of change if the issue is framed as global warming.

Both positive and negative temperature anomalies will be registered in experience as indication of change if the issue is framed as climate change.

We propose that in those countries where climate change has become the predominant popular term for the phenomenon, unseasonably cold temperatures, for example, are also interpreted to reflect climate change/global warming.

That worked!

In 2006 a UK Government think tank came up with these suggestions for agencies interfacing with the public:

Treating climate change as beyond argument:
..it is our recommendation that, at least for popular communications, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won.

This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective.

The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken.

The certainty of the Government’s new climate-change slogan – ‘Together this generation will tackle climate change’ (Defra 2006) – gives an example of this approach. It constructs, rather than claims, its own factuality.

Just one big con trick.

climate change spin doctors

My, how positively public-spirited of them to protect us from cluttering up our brains with annoying facts. The depths to which they have sunk just shows their desperation - more and more people are wising up to the scam, and ridiculous ploys like this only make it more obvious what they are up to.