Between Scientists & Citizens

Posts Tagged ‘climate change

The cost of hidden metaphors

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The New York Times’ blog Scientists at Work is a good example of how scientists’ communication might focus on process, not results.  I’ve been enjoying the current sequence about glaciers in Bhutan;  each episode ends with a cliffhanger!

A couple of words in the most recent post jumped out at me, though.  In addition to “reconstructing the history” and “behavior” of the glacier–how it “changed in the past”–the scientist-author explained his interest in figuring out what the glacier was like when it “last maintained a robust, healthy profile.”  Healthy?

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Written by jeangoodwin

November 12, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Listening to what can’t be said

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Judith Curry’s characterization of last week’s PBS report “Climate of Doubt” as “predictable” pretty much captures it. It takes a pretty short memory to think that in 2007 the forces of climate good were on the verge of political victory, snatched from them only by the might of the evil Koch brothers supplemented by the covert work of a host of political operatives (who, by the way, interviewed rather well). I was sorry that the counter-narrative Matt Nisbet’s group put forward in the Climate Shift report hasn’t gotten any traction.

There was one interesting moment, though:  something that wasn’t said.

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Written by jeangoodwin

October 27, 2012 at 10:04 am

Debate in the blogosphere: A small case study

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Steve Patterson over at RAIL recently wrote a typically fine piece on How Comments are Killing the Commons.   Coming at the subject as a student of public discourse, I find myself a little more tolerant of the blogosphere’s “partisan clowning” etc.  I’m more curious about specific communication strategies we can adopt to make comment threads work.  Steve McIntrye of Climate Audit recently referenced an essay by myself & Michael Dahlstrom, and my participation in the comment threads gave me an opportunity to observe close up several helpful and unhelpful strategies at work.  Here are three things I learned about blogospheric debate, especially in contrast to communication in more face-to-face settings.

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Written by jeangoodwin

July 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Morano analysis #8: repeating oneself all over again

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Let’s return one last time to the Morano v. Maslin debate.  I’ve been saying some favorable things about Marc Morano’s skill as an advocate.  But what about the fact that he–and in fact this whole debate–is boring?  Haven’t we heard all these arguments before, over and over again?  Yes–and it’s a good thing, too.
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Written by jeangoodwin

March 22, 2010 at 11:44 am

another analogy explaining climategate

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Yesterday, I looked at how one analogy for the impact of climategate went astray.  Here’s another, from Randy Olson’s recent interview with Ed Begley, Jr., over at The Benshi:

Like the point Bill McKibben makes recently, what’s happening with global warming is like what happened with the O.J. case:  you have a mountain of evidence, yet they manage to get it all thrown aside through their theatrics.

Bill McKibben recently likened the “controversy” surrounding climate science to the botched O.J. Simpson trial

Climategate is nothing more than Mark Fuhrman. You have one cop that does some weird things and that’s enough to outweigh all the evidence. They had to come up with a Mark Fuhrman for the glove, because the glove had O.J.’s hair, it had Goldman’s blood, and Nicole’s blood and fiber from the bronco. If they didn’t have Mark Fuhrman, they’re screwed. Well that’s what they did with Climategate, there’s sea temperatures, air temperatures, melting glaciers, with all that’s there, they’ve got to come up with some guy in East Anglia in Britain that’s kind of wacky, and they gotta hack into his computers, and make a case as they did with O.J. That’s the point Bill McKibben made recently, if you’ve seen what he said.

Ouch!  Ed Begley, Jr. (and Bill McKibben), I don’t think this is what you want to say!

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 19, 2010 at 12:10 pm

explaining the impact of climategate

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On the same Canadian news show that I mentioned yesterday, Joe Romm offers an alternative view. Should climategate and the recently discussed IPCC errors change what citizens believe, or how reporters handle the matter?

There’s no question that in this 3000 page report, the IPCC report, there were one or two relatively trivial mistakes, as the Washington Post put it.  But they have been used as an excuse by some in the media to question the entire science.  The analogy I use is: every major newspaper publishes corrections every single day and yet they expect the public to come back and believe what’s in the newspaper (ca. 4:00).

The analogy is a good one, although it goes against the point Romm is trying to make.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 19, 2010 at 9:39 am

Morano Analysis #7: Scientific consensus

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This mini-debate between  Maslin and Morano first caught my attention because of Morano’s “accusation” that Maslin was using an “appeal to authority,” and Maslin’s assertion of something like a scientific consensus in reply. Claims that the IPCC represents an authoritative “consensus” have been prominent in representations of the IPCC’s reports since the very beginning, and in one of my current projects I’m trying to figure out how consensus claims  work (or don’t).  The example here, though small, is worth examining closely.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Morano Analysis #6: The appeal to authority, by the numbers

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I have to feel sorry for Maslin. Once he’s accepted AGW as the central issue in this debate, he’s taken responsibility for presenting evidence of a centuries-long, world-wide, multi-system process. And he’s got about 60 seconds to get the job done. As we’ve seen, he can invite his audience to “look at” the evidence or he can remind them of some vivid event that they’ve already experienced. But the former isn’t going to help him meet his burden of proof now, and the latter is misleading and thus easy for Morano to knock down. The appeal to authority is a third option; can Maslin pull it off?

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 15, 2010 at 10:20 am

Morano Analysis #5: The adverse witness

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As a second way in to assessing the arguments in this debate, let’s examine how the two debaters deal with one bit of testimonial evidence they actually share.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 13, 2010 at 10:30 am

“framing” the debate, yet again

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So, here’s another example of the logos/pathos (or statistics/example, or abstract/concrete) problem for climate change communication I was talking about yesterday.  A communication consultant advises:

A better setting for talking about climate science is a real time impact of climate change, be it a record heat wave or record heavy rains followed by heavy flooding. There is no denying what your eyes can see. Last fall’s record setting flood in Atlanta was a textbook example of the kind of impact that should be highlighted. Only months earlier, NOAA had released a consensus science report documenting the trend of increased heavy precipitation during the fall months in the southeastern United States. NOAA identified climate change as driving the trend and predicted more of the same for the future.

Some have argued that focusing on current weather can be tricky. However, advocates were forced to do just that when opponents focused on the recent snowstorms as “proof” that global warming was oversold. Advocates were successful in pushing back on climate change deniers in that instance, and the same effort should be applied to upcoming heat waves, droughts and flooding, events that fit the pattern of increasing extreme events that scientists have clearly documented and predicted will only increase as the impacts of climate change intensify.

via Reframing the debate on climate science « Climate Progress.

Which is it?  Is an extreme weather event supposed to be presented as an “impact” caused by climate change? Or does it just “fit the pattern” (i.e., is consistent with) what scientists have predicted?

I’m not sure what the “success” advocates achieved explaining the recent cold weather.  Was it success in arguing that any particular weather event we experience gives us no basis for inferring the general state of the climate?  If so, that’s a success that AGW-skeptics will also achieve, if advocates keep insisting that a hot summer demonstrates global warming.

Written by jeangoodwin

March 12, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Posted in stray remarks

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