[Coral-List] Speaking of confusion over global warming

Szmant, Alina szmanta at uncw.edu
Mon Mar 9 13:17:23 EDT 2009

Dear David:

I feel your pain.  The problem is the high level of ignornace of science (your so called educated folks may be educated in business but not in how science works) and selfishness:  if you accept AGW as true and real, then if you are intelligent and educated you would have to do something hard about it, like give up the way you live, halve the number of people on Earth, etc etc.  Those are hard choices to make so people prefer to take the easy way out and go for the controversy.

What I do not know if whether those smug anti-folks like the one you debated are sincere in their beliefs or they have an ulterior motive (e.g. funded by oil and auto companies).

It is sad and worrisome.  I am reading a book  titled "The Shadows of Consumption" by Peter Dauvergne.  It provides great examples of how society will ignore and counter scientific evidence for financial gain.  If you haven't already read it, I recommend it (I'm only part way thru).  Doesn't give me much hope we will see the correct path in time.

Alina Szmant

Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Professor of Marine Biology
Coral Reef Research Program, Center for Marine Science
University of North Carolina Wilmington
5600 Marvin K. Moss Lane
Wilmington NC 28409
Tel:  (910)962-2362; fax: (910)962-2410;  cell:  (910)200-3913
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov] On Behalf Of David M. Lawrence [dave at fuzzo.com]
Sent: Saturday, March 07, 2009 10:34 AM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Speaking of confusion over global warming

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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