[Coral-List] Speaking of confusion over global warming

David M. Lawrence dave at fuzzo.com
Sat Mar 7 10:34:59 EST 2009

I ready Billy Causey's post and the following post about the same time. 
  The author, David Appell, gave me permission to forward this.  It 
shows the difficulty in getting the message to sink in (not so much in 
getting the message out).



-- Begin forwarded message --

Today I had a very eye-opening experience, and I’m still not over it and 
am frankly very confused.

I was asked to speak at a local club of entrepreneurs about climate 
change. Now, these were all smart, educated, ambitious guys about 30-50. 
The upper middle class of our country, probably in the middle of “upper” 
to “middle.” They asked good, smart questions.

I did my best to present the scientific case for anthropogenic global 
warming, and my best reading of the situation, including the weekly 
scientific journals, the IPCC reports, the AGU conferences, all the ups 
and downs of the controversies and all that. I tried to bring things 
down to a lower level and speak as we all try to write for the public, 
and not for scientists. That is, I tried not to use jargon, or 
equations, or detailed data – just a few of the basic graphs like the 
IPCC presents in their summary for policymakers.

I tried to stress that AGW has been determined to large probability by 
the methods of science and by the strict standards to which the 
scientific community subjects claims – requiring peer-review, presenting 
one’s work to the entire community, defending one’s work in seminars and 
conferences, the necessity of replication, and all that. That there is 
really is no legitimate scientific disagreement in the scientific 
community about the conclusion of AGW, and that our question now is what 
to do about it. That scientists are not liars or hoaxers or communists 
trying to impose a new world order.

My “opponent” was a former TV meteorologist who presented all the same 
old tired skeptic arguments that float around all the blogs and have 
been debunked for years. He cherry-picked data. He truncated graphs. 
Essentially none of what he showed had been peer-reviewed or had 
appeared in the scientific literature. He accused climate scientists of 
being “liars” and of perpetrating “hoaxes” and of all of them being in 
it for the sake of grant money. His data was, frankly, amateurish and 
cherry-picked. He would not even admit that carbon dioxide causes 
planetary warming of any kind. He rarely referred to a scientific 
publication of any kind, but usually some suspicious Web site like 
icecap.us or CO2science.org. And, of course, he was smug as hell.

I tried my best to rationally counter these arguments and step through 
the reasons why scientists are convinced humans are affecting the 
climate. I even got a bit emotional about him calling legitimate 
scientific workers liars and all that.

He talked. I talked. Then there was a Q&A. And after, as I talked to 
some of these entrepreneurs who came up after the talk, I realized they 
were no more convinced than when we started. They still seemed to think 
that there was legitimate scientific debate about the role of humans in 
our present climate change, and that it all came down to whom you chose 
to believe and where your political leanings were.

Of course, it does not, as all of you know. Science magazines will no 
longer even entertain queries about skeptical arguments, and with good 
justification. Even though I presented IPCC graphs and other well-honed, 
peer-reviewed conclusions that showed that climate models back-predicted 
the 20th century and that you cannot explain the last few decades of 
climate without manmade factors, my opponent would, just a minute later, 
continue to insist that climate models were all garbage and based on 
illegitimate science and throw up a graph from Co2science.org or some 
other non-peer reviewed site of questionable funding and act like this 
countered 25 years of thoroughly argued, thoroughly documented science.

And these smart entrepreneurs left our 2-hr talk thinking that it all 
seemed to come down to your “religious” beliefs and there was something 
to be said for both sides. No one was convinced of anything.


What are we supposed to do? We’re science journalists – we do our best 
to present the science. We’re not liars or hoaxers. Neither are 
scientists. Neither, probably, are skeptics. Nonetheless, scientific 
truth does and has emerged.

Maybe I’m simply a bad presenter. Maybe my opponent’s Limbaugh-like 
tactics were more effective than I supposed they could be.

What are we supposed to do? If our journalism can’t even reach a group 
of smart, college-educated American entrepreneurs, what chance do we 
have of reaching anyone?

What more can we possibly do? I am about ready to join a kibbutz and 
raise flowers.


David Appell, freelance science journalist
e: appell at nasw.org
w: http://www.nasw.org/users/appell
m: St. Helens, OR

  David M. Lawrence        | Home:  (804) 559-9786
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