Bill Maher on Climate Change

Start watching at about 2:00 and enjoy a good laugh. I envy Maher’s ability to communicate complex political subjects in a concise and public-friendly way.

Does anyone know if Inhofe is actually coming to Copenhagen with Obama? I haven’t read that anywhere else, and I remember hearing something about each government only being allowed two representatives (the president/PM and an advisor, usually an environment minister). Has Congress seriously chosen Inhofe as their advisor?

Update (6/10/09): Several of you have pointed out in the comments that Maher is not the most reliable source, and even approaches extremist media in some respects. With full honesty, I’d never seen Bill Maher before this clip (which someone else sent me), so I wasn’t aware of his opinion on issues other than climate change. I just think that he does a great, public-friendly communication of the sentiment that Inhofe’s accusations are ridiculous, and that we should stop paying attention to skeptics while formulating policy. I see now that his words probably aren’t useful for anything more than entertainment. In future, I’ll be sure to check out the other work that a source has done before I appear to advocate it.

A Course for Beginners

This summer, I’ve spent so much time corresponding with people who know more than I do about climate change – like many of our regular commenters – that it’s always sort of strange to talk to people who are new to this topic. When they don’t know about the Milankovitch cycles, the concept of radiative forcing, or the water vapour feedback, it’s sort of hard to know where to begin.

The purpose of this blog has never been to report on advanced scientific topics. I’d say that I created ClimateSight to explore the discrepancies between scientific knowledge and public knowledge on climate change, and to provide readers with tools and strategies to gain accurate scientific information on the topic.

In the almost-two-years since I became interested in climate change, I’ve read a lot of books, watched a lot of documentaries, and visited a lot of websites. I’ve come across far too many sources which are absolute garbage, a lot which are okay but oversimplified, and a fair few which are absolute gems.

So, if you’re totally new to the topic of climate change, or know a little but want to know more, or know a lot but are always on the lookout for good sources, behold: Kate’s Climate Change Reading List.

The very first place I would start is by reading the book What’s the Worst That Could Happen? High school science teacher Greg Craven discusses the nature of science, credibility, objectivity, and risk managment – all framed around climate change. It’s designed to help the reader make a decision about whether or not climate change is a problem, without having to do any of the science themselves. This book can be ordered from pretty much any major bookstore. I wrote a review of it here.

For those who are interested in how climate science works, the next place to look is Environment Canada’s Frequently Asked Questions about the Science of Climate Change. This PDF document is incredibly thorough, covering every question from “What is climate and how does it differ from weather?” to “Could changes in cosmic radiation from outer space have caused global warming?”, all in a very easy-to-read format using relatively simple language.

Once you’ve read and understood that document, you’re probably ready for the most recent IPCC report. This report, which is a compilation of current scientific knowledge on climate change, is widely considered to be the most credible source of information on the topic. The best place to start is with the Summary for Policymakers, which is much less technical (and much more concise!), but if you want more information on any of the subjects discussed, it’s very easy to choose the appropriate chapter and find what you’re looking for.

By this point, you’ll probably have realized that there are a lot of people out there who are working very hard to prove the idea of human-caused climate change wrong. Many, if not most, of their arguments have no scientific backing. Journalist Peter Sinclair, in his YouTube series Climate Denial Crock of the Week, debunks the most common of these claims, from “it’s the sun” to “global warming stopped in 1998”, all in an incredibly logical and entertaining fashion.

Less visually appealing, and without the background music, but much more comprehensive, is Coby Beck’s series of articles entitled How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic. It’s pretty hard to find an argument against human-caused climate change that isn’t covered here, and you don’t need a lot of scientific training to understand what he’s talking about.

If you liked Greg Craven’s book, by this point you’ll love his video series How it All Ends. It’s directed at a more knowledgable audience than his book did, and contains a lot more to think about and really sink your teeth into, plus some goofy hats, entertaining subtitles, and occasional explosions.

If you feel like you basically understand the mechanisms of climate change, but want to stay on top of current developments, I subscribe to a long (and growing) list of climate change blogs written by scientists. Only In It For The Gold, Island of Doubt, A Few Things Ill Considered, Deltoid, More Grumbine Science, and Tamino are my favourites (commenters are more than welcome to suggest additions to this list).

Enjoy. This is a complex and politically charged subject, but definitely one worth investigating.

Denial Depot

Over at A Few Things Ill Considered, I was introduced to this site.

I’m almost positive that it’s satire. What do you think?

Whatever it is, it’s hilarious. Here are some of my favourite excerpts:

“It’s Friday afternoon at the IPCC climate lab. Dozens of government funded climate scientists are hunched around a big computer frantically feeding in dodgy punch cards. They’ve had it easy the rest of the year, not even wearing their lab coats most of the time, but this week is different. The IPCC report is due out on Monday and they must get those warming projections as high as possible before release.”

But worse we find out these satellites are using microwaves to measure ice! As an experiment I took a glass of ice and put it in a microwave oven…….I did observe the microwaves melting ice. So is in fact arctic ice decline being caused by sustained subjection of arctic ice by microwave radiation emitted from NASA satellites?”

“As well grounded climate skeptic bloggers we immediately become suspicious of this record because it shows a warming trend. We know that the surface record shows only Urban Heat Island bias and AC Unit Warming bias in this period. Yet neither of these effects will be picked up by satellites, so why do the satellites still show warming? Something is wrong. The #1 tool of the avid skeptic is imagination. So lets put our imagination to use and gather together some seeds of doubt. With luck some of these seeds will survive to grow into full blown talking points.”

“Why are the so-called experts silent about all the snow that is everywhere? Well it’s most likely because they are all shut indoors all day with their climate models. That’s right, they are so busy playing Climate Tron that they haven’t the foggiest idea what is going on outside anymore.”

Also check out the great lesson in exponentials.

Have fun!

A Story Worth Hearing

I found a great article on one of the blogs I read a few days ago. It was the first time I’d heard of the story, and it made me so mad that I knew I had to share it on ClimateSight. But this article was so well-written that I doubted I could come up with anything better.

In a nutshell… old paper that didn’t pass through the peer-review process of the EPA contained all sorts of climate-denial “evidence” which has been proven wrong countless times. The peer-review panel wasn’t trying to suppress contradictory evidence – in fact, publishing contradictory evidence would be great for the journal and the advancement of science – the paper was just utter nonsense!

But the Republicans threw a fit when they discovered that a paper questioning anthropogenic climate change was deliberately suppressed so the EPA could begin a communist takeover….or something like that. They want a criminal investigation. As David from Through a Green Lens writes,

“The irony is that these people watched calmly as the Bush-Cheney Administration suppressed global warming science.  Now, the party that supposedly promotes “fiscal responsibility” would like to spend millions of dollars on an investigation into why faulty science was not included in an EPA decision.”

Read the rest of his post here.

PS: A number of you have brought it to my attention that the ever-narrowing nested comments get very hard to read. I went to go check it out (I usually view comments from my WordPress dashboard) and my goodness, one word per line… wonder you were complaining!

I played around with the discussion settings, and I think I’ve fixed it as much as I can. Replies to comments will no longer appear indented below the original comment, but I’ve placed the oldest first, instead of the newest first, so that it makes more chronological sense. Unless there’s multiple discussions going on at once, I think it’s okay.

Let me know what you think, and if you have any more suggestions.

Paul Krugman Says it Best

“[Climate change deniers] don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it — and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.

Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.

Yet Mr. Broun’s declaration was met with applause.”

Paul Krugman, New York Times

Why Credibility Matters: An Example

Has anyone ever referred you to the documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle for “the other side of the story”?

As we can see from our credibility spectrum, documentaries shouldn’t be taken too seriously – their directors are, at best, professional individuals. A documentary should never be treated like a scientific report. Just because you saw it on TV, doesn’t mean it’s true, or even the prevailing scientific view.

The Great Global Warming Swindle is an example of why documentaries should not be blindly trusted. Take a look at this video, by the ever-more-popular Peter Sinclair, to see why.