[Coral-List] Sports and dilemma

GJ GJ at fishion.eu
Fri Nov 6 18:31:07 EST 2009

Dear Listers,

As I see it, there are different "games" played at the same time. In Dutch we have an expression from soccer: he plays the man, not the ball.

This paper in the Telegraph is typical: the author is attacking the scientists, but does nowhere attempt to tackle the science itself. It is a list of statements without any explanation, evidence, reasoning or theory. And, yes, there is a lot of cherry picking (maybe the Antarctic ice isn't changing, but the arctic ice certainly is). Certainly there is no attempt to proof that things are different by scientific evidence. He doesn't play ball according the rules of science. If the scientists play baseball these people play a sport like ice hockey or American Football where a lot of physical contest is within the rules of the game. In those terms the  revealing letters can be seen as the herds body checking the in and outfielders against the homerun wall.

This is not specific to the climate debate. I have worked as oceans campaigner for Greenpeace and found that the response of the fisheries sector often was: "the environmental NGO's of trying to destroy us fisheries for fundraising purposes". This was of course complete nonsense. If one would want to kill the fishing business the most effective approach would be to stop all fisheries management (where one has to accept the complete degradation of fish stocks and a lot of other marine biodiversity as collateral damage). Point is that the reaction to attack me and other advocates for responsible fisheries management made it impossible to have any real discussion. Simply because we didn't play the same game.

So, I totally understand the frustration so clearly voiced by Joanie. Even pitching a 200 mph fast ball doesn't help much if the other guy is trying to land his bat on your head. Alternative strategy? Get a good helmet and try to trip him before before he even gets to the plate. I am afraid fair games aren't very common in the real world.

The problem in this game of climate change is that there are no agreed rules and no umpires. There are all sorts of publications and discussion which result in some consensus by society.  You could say that they outcome of the PEW study is the response of the crowd to the game although the study doesn't exclude the possibility that climate change is down because many people find other problems more important such as economy, jobs and subprime homeloans). Many crowds enjoy a good fight (given the popularity of boxing, ice hockey and football), but most people also appreciate an honest contest. We cannot easily beat the opponents, but we can try to influence the crowd's verdict. I think that it might be more effective to expose the foul play than to try to take them head on with more science. Maybe environmental NGO's can also play a role in this. In any case the game is won by convincing the crowd, not by beating the opponent.

I completely agree with Sherri that one of the problems is that most people don't understand scientific graphs and such. Not only does it go over their head, but it also leads to responses of disdain and disinterest. Maybe underlying is also some sort of envy. I also found that good visual material helps a lot. I also found that it is very effective to personalize the story. What is working well here in the Netherland is ice skating (yes, it is obscure sports now). The Dutch are mad about ice skating as you will be able to see at the Olympic Games in February (http://www.vancouver2010.com/ ). But we really go crazy when we can skate outside on natural ice . Obviously, for this to happen it needs to freeze strong and long enough. If I plod through the data of the Dutch weather services, it is quite easy to make a graph showing the number of ice days has decreased over the past decades. But this story works better. When I was a kid, we could ice skate most winters for a reasonable amount of time (in 1979 I skated over ice 8 km to school every day for 3 weeks). We even experienced a negative correlation between skating days and school marks :). Now, 30 years later, my oldest daughter is almost 8 and has been able to stand on ice about 5 days in her whole life!. How come? Because the climate is really changing. This story works because people suddenly realise that they used to skate when they were young and now they hardly can. It is not about some remote melting glacier, shifting ice cap or bleached coral reef, but something that relates to their personal experience. I think we need far more of those stories to convey the essence of the scientific evidence.

I also wonder if we have a much deeper, maybe almost phylosophical dilemma.

For climate change there are 2 options: true or false.

For humanity to act there are also 2 options: we do or don't.

That give us 4 possible outcomes:

1. Climate change is false and we do nothing. No problem.

2. Climate change is false and we invest a lot to avoid it. Waste of money.

3. Climate change is true and we do nothing. Enormous problems and huge losses.

4. Climate change is true and we avoid it by actions in time. Well done. BUT there will never be proof that the prediction was correct!

If we wait for the full force ugly climate change scenario to become true it is too late for option 4. So we have to act now because 3 is far worse than 2.

But by doing so we can never tell we were right...

Any thoughts? You're welcome to crack this nut!

This may seem a rather academic point, but the problem is that AWG movement is constantly trying to move us to option 1. As most people are very resistant to change in the first place that is a very appeling to many. Mike has a point that we may be doomed.

Yet, I also see a lot of people and companies that really try to do the right thing. At least here in the Netherlands there is now much attention for CO2 neutral buildings and production processes, sustainability, corporate responsibility, etc. There is hope and still much to fight for.

Please keep up the good work and towards fair games!

Best wishes, GJ


Gert Jan Gast

Koningin Wilhelminakade 227

1975GL IJmuiden, The Netherlands.

P +31654240126

F +31255521546

Skype gjgast

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Eugene Shinn
Sent: 30 October 2009 18:31
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Public Perceptions about Climate Change

Someone sent me this book review  in the London


This is an example of what the (non coral) public often sees. The

letters at the end are most revealing. Gene


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)

------------------------------------ -----------------------------------

E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor

University of South Florida

Marine Science Center (room 204)

140 Seventh Avenue South

St. Petersburg, FL 33701

<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>

Tel 727 553-1158----------------------------------



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