“Hey America! Are you ready to get wonky on global warming? After a year that started with fallout from the “Climategate” e-mail release, saw the cap-and-trade bill die in Congress, and ended with a gang of Republican climate skeptics winning House and Senate seats, global warming experts are going back to basics.”
– Darren Samuelsohn, “Climate PR Effort Heats Up,” Politico, December 31, 2010.
And so we now know. “Environmentalists, scientists and lawmakers have renewed public relations efforts to put global warming plainly before Americans’ eyes and also rebut opponents who say nothing is happening.”
What? Nothing is happening? Who said that? Didn’t uber-alarmist James Hansen say the first rule of climate is that it changes–always has, always will. In his words:
“Climate is always changing. Climate would always fluctuate without any change of [man-made] climate forcing. The chaotic aspect of climate is an innate characteristic.” (1)
Things are happening–sure. A lot of nature is at work, probably more than we now know about or can really appreciate. And man’s influence on climate? We are trying to figure that out, but why does it have to be all bad? Is nature optimal? Didn’t more climate scientists than want to admit it (Steve Schneider, et al.) sound the global cooling alarm several decades back?
Why not chill and say that there is good and bad from man’s influence on climate, to whatever extent it is happening. But thank goodness it is in the direction of warmer and wetter, not colder and drier…. And thank goodness we have that incredible bread machine called Capitalism to help tame the uncertainties of the future. Julian Simon lives!
Let’s debate at the Rotary Clubs and at the universities and in all the public forums, Big Environmental. (Whether people show up is another matter, but this is your idea ….)
Let’s debate! That means having qualified persons on each side of the issue to debate the fundamental questions. How about this for a title: “The Human Influence on Climate: How Much (or Little), How Bad (or Good), and Politics.”
Let’s educate the public on the physical science, such as:
And on the economics:
And on the public policy/politics:
Big Environment, Big Science–are you still interested?
Do you really want to debate? Or do you want to just present the doom-and-gloom neo-Malthusian side and then try to sell wind and solar and pagan lifestyles as somehow good for us?
(1) Hansen, “How Sensitive is the World’s Climate? National Geographic Research & Exploration (9)2, 1993, p. 143.
Appendix: Politico Piece, “CLIMATE PR EFFORT HEATS UP,” Politico, December 31, 2010.
Hey America! Are you ready to get wonky on global warming? ….
Environmentalists, scientists and lawmakers have renewed public relations efforts to put global warming plainly before Americans’ eyes and also rebut opponents who say nothing is happening.
“Folks are enraged about this, rightly so, and are looking for ways to educate,” said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists….
Despite mounting evidence that the greenhouse gas buildup in the Earth’s atmosphere is causing runaway changes to the climate – NASA this month declared 2010 the hottest year on record – several pollsters say the American public isn’t listening.
In a recent survey, Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, found that the number of people in the United States who believe in global warming fell from 71 percent to 56 percent between 2008 and 2010. Just 34 percent of the public thinks there’s scientific agreement on climate change, down from 47 percent two years ago.
Enter the next phase of the climate education campaign.
Advocates recognize their chances for passing cap-and-trade legislation are dead for at least two years, maybe longer. But they want to make sure the public and policymakers don’t forget about the problem, especially with President Barack Obama insisting that he remains committed to lower-hanging fruit within the energy portfolio to try to get the job done.
Several key moments are ahead for inflection on climate science. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is pursuing emission reduction regulations hotly contested by industry and Republicans. A wide-open GOP presidential nomination campaign will test the political sway of conservative activists who say global warming is a scam. U.N.-led negotiations continue on whether to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will roll out its next assessment in 2013 and 2014, covering all the key bases from the physical science to adaptation and ways to reduce greenhouse gases.
Expecting a surge next year in Republican-led House hearings on global warming science, the Union of Concerned Scientists sent experts out earlier this month to Washington and New York for meetings with reporters from 60 Minutes, Time, USA Today, Reuters, Bloomberg, MSNBC and other news organizations. Frumhoff said the journalists “were keenly interested in understanding how casting doubt about mainstream scientific findings that upset powerful financial interests, from the health risks of tobacco to the reality and risks of global warming, is a tactic that has been used time and again to delay or avoid regulation.”
UCS has also been leading behind-the-scenes efforts to get its scientists on television, radio and in print stories, as well as in front of Rotary clubs and editorial boards.
Heidi Cullen, the CEO and director of communications at Climate Central, a non-profit media group, said she’s trying to explain the scientific fundamentals to the American public while pinpointing solutions reflective of the size of the problem. She’s also trying to avoid frightening language.
“I think we need to approach it as a solvable problem,” Cullen said. “There’s a way to talk about this in sort of a rational, decision-based framework that has people saying, ‘Oh, OK, I see the risks and what I can do about it’ without feeling overwhelmed.”
Cullen has produced stories explaining when it is appropriate to make connections between daily weather like heat waves, storms and cold snaps – things that the public takes much greater notice of – and long-term climate projections linked to global warming. She’s also focused on the costs if government doesn’t act, as well local links like the need for greater emergency management equipment to protect Miami-Dade County’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry from stronger hurricanes and sea-level rise.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), co-author of several unsuccessful climate bills over the last decade, said he agrees with the need to make more local connections for the public. Hitting home for him are studies showing lobster and winter flounder moving north out of Long Island Sound.
“It’s not the end of the world, and yet it suggests the world is changing,” Lieberman said. “It’s one small example. The world is full of them.”
Lieberman said he thinks there’s a need for more TV and radio commercials that capture the most eye-catching images. “Just show people what’s happening,” he said. “Show them satellite pictures of the ice caps.”
Princeton University climate researcher Michael Oppenheimer said advocates will be effective in raising public awareness with a campaign that focuses on specific opinion leaders.
“This is just one among many” hefty issues competing for Americans’ attention, alongside nuclear arms proliferation, health care and the federal deficit, he said. “And when the public is besieged by a plethora of complicated issues, they make their decisions not by looking granularly at the details, but mostly they look to people they trust.”
Cullen said Obama should eventually play an important role as the nation’s educator-in-chief. “I think it’s really critical,” she said. “It’s absolutely required. I don’t know when or if that can happen in the next two years. A lot of folks are feeling like it’s not the time.”
Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes said in an interview that the Obama administration is engaged on several levels in climate education by bringing the latest science to land, water and wildlife managers. He cited an 11-year old water shortage in the Colorado River Basin. “It’s one of the worst droughts in history,” Hayes said. “And we’re bringing the data to the table.”
The Senate’s leading global warming skeptic, Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe, said he’s not concerned about another blitz of information, whether from Obama or anyone else.
“No matter what they do, whether it means being more articulate or anything else, they’re fighting a losing battle because the science is cooked,” Inhofe told POLITICO. “The trouble is they’re not trying to educate the public. They’re trying to influence the public.”
Lawmakers say their efforts have been undermined by skeptics like Inhofe who create the appearance of scientific conflict. Several cited Bill Sammons, the FOX News managing editor in Washington who sent a memo to staff last December after the “Climategate” story broke urging them to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.”
“The problem is that we now have people create their own set of realities and then debate that,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.). “If I said the world is round, and there’s substantial evidence to believe that, and someone else said the world is flat, the report is there’s a dispute on the shape of the world. Well, there’s not a dispute at all.”
“It’s easier to discredit something than it is to build the case for it too often,” added Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “That’s why these guys are so good about lying about stuff.”
Jim Connaughton, President George W. Bush’s top White House environmental adviser and now an executive vice president at Baltimore-based Constellation Energy, said the next education campaign should focus on getting Americans up to speed on the shortcomings in delivering them their power.
“I think the public knows more about climate change science than they do about the major impediments to a really efficient well functioning electricity and natural gas system,” said Connaughton, who added that climate science should be considered settled.
Climate policy advocates also are looking for help in getting their message out from business leaders who can show the public why this hurts their corporate bottom line.
“The scientific community is not skeptical, you know,” Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson told Newsweek this month. “But let’s assume the odds were only 50/50. If you have a 50 percent chance of getting knocked over by a car crossing the road, you’re going to take out insurance, or you’re not going to cross the road.”