Should Panelists Dismissive of Climate Change Be Included at Campus Forums?

That's the question raised in an American Observer article about this week's AU Forum held on the "Climate Change Generation? Youth, Media, and Politics in an Unsustainable World." The Observer is the digital news site run by graduate students in journalism at American University. Here's how reporter Kristen Becker described the issue with reactions from students, Forum moderator Jane Hall, and panelists Juliet Eilperin and Kate Sheppard:

Although a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found the number of Americans who believe climate change is occurring has dropped from 80 percent to 72 percent in the last year, the forum's panel lacked anyone who was skeptical about the existence of global warming.

Jane Hall, a professor at the university's School of Communication, and the forum's moderator, explained the decision was made because "most people agree that climate change is happening," even if they don't agree on the causes. Rather than "reflexively have someone who doesn't believe that climate change exists," she attempted to bring in skepticism through her questions and said she hoped students in the audience would as well. Only one student questioner admitted any skepticism about the science behind the phenomena.

American University student Lauren Linhard commented on the lack of climate change skeptics at the forum, saying, "Obviously, people who came here are interested in support of climate change, whereas, the people who didn't come are the people who don't care, so we didn't get that point of view in this."

Sheppard and The Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin addressed how they deal with this issue in their reporting.

Eilperin explained there is a difference between reporting on the science behind climate change and reporting on the political debate. She also cited President Barack Obama's focus on combating climate change as a possible reason why the issue of global warming is becoming more polarized.

"In our articles [in The Washington Post], we write the fact that the science is settled on that question," she said. "I think there's also the question of the political debate, which is different. It's one thing to . . . inform readers about the science concerning climate change, and it's another thing when you're actually covering in real time what's happening, and how there is a divide."

Sheppard noted that the dissenting voices aren't about whether climate change exists, but "how much is happening, how fast, what exactly that means."

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dcotler @4 I agree that titles don't mean much. ( I happen to be a geologist )I hardly ever bother with it but unfortunately those who prefer to quote authorities rather than do their own investigation of the actual data , which seems to be much of the media, usually pay a bit more attention to what one says if one uses it.
Calling opposing arguments drivel doesn't advance any discussion and suggests that the person saying it doesn't have any counter arguments or information worth presenting.


I'm assuming that your post was written and posted prior to Dr. Page's second post. He makes a clear concise argument and accurately quotes the IPCC AR4. It is hardly drivel and the fact that you dismiss it as such makes your criticism worthless. A doctor is a doctor is a doctor. If that honorific has been earned or bestowed the bearer need not make any excuse for using it. It appears even Al Gore will have that right soon. The fact that you choose ad hominem to begin your criticism based on the man's title indicates you just don't take the real debate seriously.

Your question shows the depths to which much of the MSM journalists and schools of communication have sunk on the Climate question. They have acted as propagandists for the AL Gore AGW paradigm. The climate facts are quite different as anyone bothering to read the IPCC science section can discover.
The entire IPCC evaluation process is flawed to the point of fraudulence. The Summary for Policymakers was finalised and published before the WG1 (Science) section. The editors of the latter were under implicit pressure and in some cases ,I believe explicit instructions to make the latter fit the former instead of the other way around as should have been the case.Where this was not done the conclusions of WG1 were simply ignored by the editors of the Summary. The most egregious case goes to the heart of and in fact destroys the entire AGW paradigm. The key part of the science is in section WG1 8.6 which deals with forcings, feedbacks and climate sensitivity. The conclusions are in section 8.6.4 which deals with the reliability of the projections.It concludes:

"Moreover it is not yet clear which tests are critical for constraining the future projections,consequently a set of model metrics that might be used to narrow the range of plausible climate change feedbacks and climate sensitivity has yet to be developed"

What could be clearer. The IPCC science section WG1 says that we dont even know what metrics to put into the models to test their reliability.- ie we don't know what future temperatures will be and we can't calculate the climate sensitivity to CO2.This also begs a further question of what mere assumptions went into the "plausible" models to be tested anyway.
Nobody ever seems to read or quote the WG1 report- certainly not the compiler of the Summary. In spite of the WG1 8.6.4. conclusion the Summary says:

"The understanding of anthropogenic warming and cooling influences on climate has improved sincethe TAR, leading to very high confidence that the global average net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming, with a radiative forcing of +1.6 [+0.6 to +2.4] W mâ2 "
This statement is fraudulent on its face when compared to 8.6.4.

Those interested in objective science reporting rather than in left wing political propaganda should try to see that the 8.6.4 conclusion gets as much exposure as possible. It deserves to be on the front page of the NY Times, The Guardian, quoted by the BBC and read into the Congressional record in the USA.

Dr Page is being rather deceptive with his quotes from the IPCC report. Section 8.6 discusses the ongoing research in improving climate models and the factors involved in better predicting future change. It does not in any way imply that present models are completely unreliable. And it does not bring into doubt the findings of how the climate has warmed over the last 250 years.
Instead of just looking at one sentence from section 8.6.4,look at all of 8.6 and then section 10 (which gives actual numbers for the various model predictions). These confirm that the present models are more accurate (surprise!)than the TAR results from 2001, and at the same time confirm the general results of the TAR.

There is nothing deceptive in my earlier post.Section WG1 8 is titled Climate models and their Evaluation. There is nothing in section 8.10 which challenges the 8.6.1 conclusion. No one doubts that earth warmed during the 20th century. How it warmed is another matter 8.6.4 implies we can't yet calculate the anthropgenic contribution with any accuracy. I recently summarised what in my opinion we "know" as follows:
1. The quality of the basic temperature data base is not very good.
2 . In the 20th century temperatures rose from 1900 - 1940. dropped from 1940 - 70 and rose from 1970 to a peak about 2003. There was about 0.8 degrees warming in total.
3. Temperatures have entered a downtrend since then.
4. These general trends are perturbed by El Nino - La Nina and volcanic events
5. CO2 rose steadily during this period but the CO2 trend is not correlative with the temperature trend.
6. Ice core data shows that CO2 follows temperature not vice versa.
7. CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
8. Anthropogenic CO2 has contributed some ,probably small, amount to 20th century warming.
9.Until we know the forcings and feedbacks of the natural system we can't calculate with any accuracy the contribution of anthropogenic CO2 to the temperature.
10.In any event the temperature - CO2 equation is logarithmic so that any future increase in emitted CO2 has progressivley smaller effect.
11. Warm periods with higher CO2 are good for mankind and food production in general.
12. Abundant geologic data and gelogic history show very clearly that the sun is the main climate driver.
13 Our investigation of the Sun - climate system is really only just starting but Milankovich orbital cycles are well documented as are solar activity cycles of various lengths which interact with each other in complex ways.
14. Total Solar Irradiance is only one measure if solar activity . The Svensmark solar magnetism - GCR - cloud cover hypothesis is supported by a lot of evidence and is probably true.
15.Based on current solar activity and the current negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscilation we are more likely than not to have 20 - 30 years of cooling with maybe a Dalton or even a Maunder minimum. Solar magnetic field strength has dropped precipitously over the last 5 years .
16. One or two degrees of cooling might well produce occasional serious crop failures in the worlds chief growing areas. This would be much more dangerous to the population than a warmer world with more CO2.
17. Government efforts would be better directed towards preparing for cooling rather than warming. eg building grain and cattlefeed stockpiles.
18. The IPCC Summary for Policy makers should be abandoned as a guide to future climate trends because our knowledge is insufficient to predict temperatures 100 years out with any accuracy at all.. This is the scientific conclusion of the IPCC itself . The WG1 ( science) section on climate forcings and climate sensitvity concludes (8.6.4)

"Moreover it is not yet clear which tests are critical for constraining the future projections,consequently a set of model metrics that might be used to narrow the range of plausible climate change feedbacks and climate sensitivity has yet to be developed"

What could be clearer. The IPCC says that we dont even know what metrics to put into the models to test their reliability.- ie we don't know what future temperatures will be and we can't calculate the climate sensitivity to CO2 with any certainty.This also begs a further question of what mere assumptions went into the "plausible" models to be tested anyway.Nobody ever seems to read or quote the AR4 - WG1 report- certainly not the compiler of the Summary or the AGW faithful.
19. The chief threat to the environment and humanity is the expected population increase.
20. The best way to control that is to increase as quickly as possible living standards throughout the world and at the same time raise the status and education of women.This latter will also require changing cultural behaviour in large groups of populations.
21. The world needs to get energy to the developing world as cheaply and as quickly as possible.Fossil fuels are the cheapest energy source for the forseeable future and should be extracted and used in as environmentally friendly way as possible while remembering that CO2 is an effecint fertiliser and not a pollutant and does not need to be controlled.

Unless Dr Page is a PhD in some field related to climate science, the honorific is meaningless self-aggrandizement. The drivel he chooses to present as argument is a clue.

Jim is rather missing Dr. Page's point. There is little disagreement amongst skeptics regarding the warming that has occurred over the past 250 years. The question is what will be the warming over the next 100 years, will it be catastrophic and what impact is man having. The IPCC would have us believe that it will indeed be catastrophic and it's largely man made. Dr. Page points out there is very little confidence within the IPCC to support that future projection.

I am prepared to agree with Jim that the models have improved since the TAR, but there is still a vast gap in that improvement and where we need to be to confirm AGW.

Your question "Should Panelists Dismissive of Climate Change Be Included at Campus Forums?" is both spurious and loaded. There are elements of Climate Change science that are indeed settled. The earth has warmed in the past 250 years. The greenhouse effect is real. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. If you want to exclude opinions from people who disagree with that then we're on the same page. I agree, however, with Dr. Page that the MSM and universities in subject areas outside of science have not done their homework.

There is much that is in doubt about the theories of catastrophic global warming and there are many who are qualified to argue those positions. As has already been pointed out within the IPCC WG1 section 8.6.4 which speaks to the science of warming there is a very low level of confidence in our ability to both attribute causation and predict future climate behaviour.

With respect to climate change, I fear that the political objective too often sets the agenda beyond what the science can deliver. The general response to this is to conclude the debate and dismiss the contrarians as reactionary.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 04 Mar 2010 #permalink

dcotler @4 I agree that titles don't mean much and I usually prefer not to use it. ( I'm a geologist )Unfortunately the MSM and many of the chattering classes prefer to quote authorities rather than do their own homework on issues and they usually pay a bit more attention to posts if a title is used.
To counter arguments by calling them "drivel" doesn't provide much enlightenment and indicates a lack of information or logical counterpoints.

Well i am a sceptic and i doubt the warming because at tenths of degree it is impossible to measure outside noise. 100 years ago how many stations we had? China, Soviet Union, Africa were not part of Earth? Sea 70% of Earth surface are not part of earth? A station that accounts for temperature in a radius of 2000km is something valid or it is a scientific farse if we want to measure differences of tenth's of degree?
Worse i contest the big meaning of measuring "temperature" as median of max and minimum. Yes it has some meaning but should not be overplayed and should not be called "earth temperature".

So even for hypothesis considering it valid, tenths of degree are withing a margin of error when we even in XXI century can't cover the whole earth. If you doubt go check how many stations are in Pacific, Now.

I am not an english speaking person so i apologise for any mistake.

"Dr Page":

It's ironic that you come here complaining about "fradulence" while yourself lying about the conclusions found in the IPCC report.

The SPM gives a range of radiative forcings. Section 8.6.4 is talking about feedbacks, not forcings. The SPM does not contradict anything in Section 8.6.4.

Furthermore, Section 8.6.4 does not say "we dont [sic] even know what metrics to put into the models to test their reliability", nor does it say "we don't know what future temperatures will be and we can't calculate the climate sensitivity to CO2".

Section 8.6.4 says that there is a range of uncertainty about climate sensitivity and therefore future temperatures. That's why the IPCC gives a range of projections and not a single number. There is nothing controversial about this. Section 8.6.4 does not imply that we know nothing about climate sensitivity and future temperature, merely that (as is the case in all science) there are error bars on its statements.

Section 8.6.4 also does not say that we don't know how to test the reliability of models. It says that we need to develop new metrics to further reduce uncertainties to smaller than the current uncertainties quantifiable using existing metric. Those are very different statements.

I should also note that in your subsequent list of things that we "know" about the climate, almost all of the items are either false, unlikely, or misleading.

By Ambitwistor (not verified) on 05 Mar 2010 #permalink

@9 Ambitwistor
@1 put in quotation marks the exact text from the conclusions of 8.6.4 - the following paragraph was obviously my interpretation of the implications of those conclusions. Everyone is entitled to draw their own conclusions from the direct quote.
Actually the bit about the "plausible" feedbacks is more important because it is there that the modellers prejudge the outcome of their models by their choice of inputs.
As to the rest, @3 you will note that I put "know" in inverted comma's to indicate uncertainty . Which particular items fall into your three categories and on what evidence or basis?

Modelers don't prejudge the outcome of their models by their choice of inputs. The plausibility of particular feedbacks is evaluated both on observational evidence related those feedbacks (e.g., atmospheric water vapor content) and on the outcome of models with those feedbacks compared to observations.

As for the rest of your points:

1. subjective weasel words; it is good enough to establish point 2, as well as detailed spatial-temporal patterns of temperature change over most of the Earth's surface (polar amplification, ENSO, PDO, teleconnection patterns, etc.) ... would be nice - but not necessary to evaluate the validity of your folllowing claims - if the record were longer
2. true
3. misleading
4. true
5. false
6. misleading
7. true
8. very unlikely (referring to "probably small")
9. more subjective weasel words; we can't calculate anything exactly, but the question is whether we can calculate it to within the stated IPCC uncertainty range, which is likely yes
10. misleading
11. misleading
12. false
13. true
14. true for the first part, very unlikely for the second
15. unlikely for the first part, true (as far as I know, haven't been following the most recent data) for the second
16. irrelevant
17. false
18. false

By Ambitwistor (not verified) on 07 Mar 2010 #permalink