Tag Archives: climate scientists

2013 among top 10 warmest years: a civilisational response is urgently required

WarmingCan you see a pause in the warming of the planet?

The World Meteorological Organisation have just released the following press release:

The year 2013 was among the top ten warmest years since modern records began in 1850, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It tied with 2007 as the sixth warmest year, with a global land and ocean surface temperature that was 0.50°C (0.90°F) above the 1961–1990 average and 0.03°C (0.05°F) higher than the most recent 2001–2010 decadal average. 

Thirteen of the 14 warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century. The warmest years on record are 2010 and 2005, with global temperatures about 0.55 °C above the long-term average, followed by 1998, which also had an exceptionally strong El Niño event.

At this point many commentators, scientists and bloggers will say “Well look at that. We told you the planet is warming.” Of course those that deny climate change will mutter about conspiracies, the “pause in warming” and such nonsense.

But let us move well beyond that conversation, cherry picking of facts and the finger-pointing that takes place every time a press release such as this comes out.

When I look at this graph I see a planetary and civilisational emergency. I see a looming catastrophe if we don’t begin advanced planning.

What I see is the urgent need to examine how we adapt to a changed climate.

Many hard decisions are before us.

Time to consider our options.

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Rapid warming unavoidable?: Hansen et.al presents on the state we’re in (must watch video)

The American Geophysical Union is currently holding a conference in San Francisco. Over 20,000 people are attending the conference. Fortunately for us, many of the presentations are being posted to YouTube and there is an amazing volume of science available on the site freely available.

James Hansen and others recently presented on the potentional for rapid warming in this 2011 video. It is an important video, and well worth watching:

In a nutshell: we can’t afford to keep burning fossil fuels and releasing them into the atmosphere.

Stephen Lewandowsky gives a good overview:

Science is debate, and the AGU meeting is the biggest annual debate of climate scientists in the world. It is a debate that extends over five days, each filled with 12 hours or more of non-stop science. 

There is, however, one issue that is not being debated: Nowhere is there a debate about the fundamental facts that the globe is rapidly warming and that human greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for that warming. 

That scientific debate ceased decades ago. 

It is only in the fantasy world of climate denial that ignorant chatter about those physical fundamentals continues, to the detriment of the public which would be better served without such distracting noise. 

Among the 20,000 geophysicists and scientists from other disciplines in attendance at the AGU meeting, there is no mention of the denialist troupe of cranks who do “science” by writing letters to the editor. 

With one exception. 

Dr. Jim Hansen, one of the world’s foremost climate scientists, who first alerted the world to the risks from climate change decades ago, gave a presentation on Tuesday night. A patrician figure, he was greeted with a standing ovation even though the message he had to deliver, based on the latest available science, was far from encouraging. Decades ago, Dr. Hansen predicted events such as Hurricane Sandy, and he has been warning about the implications of climate change ever since. 

Dr. Hansen expressed the view that the professional dis-informers who facilitate and encourage climate denial, and who obstruct and delay a solution to the problem at great cost in dollars and human lives in support of their own short-term greed or ideological agenda, ought to be tried for crimes against humanity.

Watch the video to see how science is really done.

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The 97%: when told scientists accept climate change, the public “gets the science is settled”

Welcome back readers!

I’ll be leading with an interesting article republished from The Conversation this week which discusses a recent paper in Nature Climate Change, and which in many respects goes right to the heart of the issue: how the denial movement has sought to mislead the public on the scientific consensus.

As many of you understand the vast majority scientists and all reputable scientific academies and associations accept the reality climate change.

This is problematical for climate sceptics as one of their key strategies is to push the myth – and it is just that – that no such consensus exists (see recent WtD article Here we go again: Watts up with that pushes the no consensus myth).

Indeed, the infamous Luntz Memo (see in WtD evidence library) written by an advisor to the George W. Bush administration made this one of the key strategies in fostering doubt:

The scientific debate remains open: Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming with the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.

The recent paper in Nature by Stephan Lewandowsky,Gilles E. Gignac and Samuel Vaughan titled The pivotal role of perceived scientific consensus in acceptance of science clearly demonstrates how this long running campaign to discredit the science can be defeated.

When told a scientific consensus exists, and that it is on the order of 97% of climate scientists, the vast majority of the public accept the science. As the article abstract notes:

Although most experts agree that CO2 emissions are causing anthropogenic global warming (AGW), public concern has been declining. One reason for this decline is the ‘manufacture of doubt’ by political and vested interests, which often challenge the existence of the scientific consensus. The role of perceived consensus in shaping public opinion is therefore of considerable interest: in particular, it is unknown whether consensus determines people’s beliefs causally. It is also unclear whether perception of consensus can override people’s ‘worldviews’, which are known to foster rejection of AGW. Study 1 shows that acceptance of several scientific propositions—from HIV/AIDS to AGW—is captured by a common factor that is correlated with another factor that captures perceived scientific consensus. Study 2 reveals a causal role of perceived consensus by showing that acceptance of AGW increases when consensus is highlighted. Consensus information also neutralizes the effect of worldview.

The last sentence is revealing: acceptance of the science “neutralizes the effect of worldview”.

Yes, even the most right-wing conservative free market fundamentalist can come to terms with the science. Those that don’t remain the committed to their scepticism” are mostly the conspiracy theorists and idealogues.

Scientific consensus shifts public opinion on climate change

By Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation

People are more likely to believe that humans cause global warming if they are told that 97% of publishing climate scientists agree that it does, a new study has found.

Despite overwhelming evidence showing that human activity is causing the planet to overheat, public concern is on the wane, said the study, titled The pivotal role of perceived scientific consensus in acceptance of science and published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Monday.

“One reason for this decline is the ‘manufacture of doubt’ by political and vested interests, which often challenge the existence of the scientific consensus. The role of perceived consensus in shaping public opinion is therefore of considerable interest,” the study’s authors said.

Overall, participants in the study greatly underestimated the level of scientific agreement on the issue, the study said.

Lead researcher Stephan Lewandowsky from the Cognitive Science Laboratories at the University of Western Australia said the study involved two surveys.

In the first, 200 Perth pedestrians were asked about their views on the scientific research linking human CO2 emissions to climate change as well as their thoughts on medical research linking smoking to lung cancer and HIV to AIDS.

The results showed that people who had faith in scientific or medical research in general were more likely to accept expert opinion on climate change.

“So some people just accept science as an endeavour and it doesn’t matter whether is the science is about climate or something else,” said Prof Lewandowsky.

The second study involved surveying 100 Perth pedestrians — half in a control group and half in a ‘consensus group’.

The control group was asked about their views on the causes of climate change but the consensus group, however, was first told that 97% of publishing climate scientists agree that global warming is a direct consequence of the burning of fossil fuels by humans.

People in the consensus group were much more likely to say that human activity caused climate change, even if their political views were otherwise broadly in line with free market ideologies that eschew the government regulation required to curb emissions.

“So providing the consensus information is boosting acceptance, particularly for those people who would otherwise reject the evidence based on their world view,” said Prof Lewandowsky.

“Telling them about this numeric fact about agreement in the scientific community does make a difference. That’s quite remarkable because few things work.”

Other studies have shown that presenting evidence alone does little to change minds and can even lead to people becoming more entrenched in their disbelief of human-caused climate change, he said.

The study showed it was important for scientific communicators and journalists to tell their audience that the vast majority of climate change experts believe that human activity is causing global warming.

“It is reaching even those people who would normally tune out when you tell them the evidence,” Prof Lewandowsky said, adding that journalists should not give denialists and climate change experts equal air time.

“The media is being irresponsible if they are pretending there is a scientific debate in light of this consensus.”

Will J Grant from the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University said it was an interesting and useful study.

“We can say people are convinced by the consensus but the big caveat is sceptics and climate change sceptics in particular are never going to be convinced by this,” he said. “They will say science doesn’t work by vote, it’s about facts.”

“Realistically, though, most of those sceptics are of an older generation. We are never going to convince them but they will be disappearing from the political discourse soon.”

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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