The Best Cartoons Ever

Over the past year, I have seen far too many political cartoons on the editorial pages of newspapers accusing climate scientists of fraud. It amazes me what is allowed to be published without evidence in respected media publications.

However, there are still some great cartoons about climate change, sans libel. Here are two of my favourite, that I haven’t seen featured on any other blogs.

From Lee Judge of Cartoonist Group:

From Nick Anderson of the Houston Chronicle:

Please comment with your thoughts on these cartoons, and include your favourites! If you would like them embedded directly in the comment (img tags require administrator rights, as Colin Reynolds discovered) include the link and I’ll embed it for you.

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How We Should Communicate

I really enjoyed this post by Andrew Freedman on the Washington Post blog Capital Weather Gang. I think it is written at the perfect level – basic enough for new readers to catch up on current events, while including enough creative insights to keep the interest of climate science enthusiasts.

The article covers the attempts of Dr Andrew Weaver, a top Canadian climate modeler, to fight back at the misinformation that has been willingly spread by top media outlets throughout the past few months. Here is an excerpt:

In late April Weaver filed suit against the National Post, a Canadian newspaper that has run numerous articles extremely critical of Weaver’s work and those of his colleagues. For example, according to Wihbey, the Post has called Weaver “Canada’s warmist spinner in chief,” and “generally impute[ed] to Weaver various views that he claims he doesn’t have.” (Weaver’s requests that the newspaper correct the record by issuing retractions/corrections were unsuccessful).

In the lawsuit, Weaver, who was a lead author of one of the IPCC’s working groups for its 2007 report, claims the articles include “grossly irresponsible falsehoods that have gone viral on the Internet.” Among those claims is that Weaver has turned against the IPCC and its conclusions, as trumpeted in this story in late January.

“If I sit back and do nothing to clear my name, these libels will stay on the Internet forever,” Weaver stated. “They’ll poison the factual record, misleading people who are looking for reliable scientific information about global warming.”

I am impressed at Dr Weaver’s courage and persistence to improve the accuracy of science journalism. For an issue that has potential consequences of an unprecedented scale in human history, we should be able to trust what the media tells us.

Something else I enjoyed was a sketch by Mitchell and Webb, a British comedy duo, making fun of how politicians pretend to promise action on climate change. Enjoy.

The Best Satire Ever

A few days ago we covered analogies, and Dan Olner pointed me to a great one that has sparked this post.

It was written as an April Fools’ on RealClimate, and reads in part:

A “consensus view” amongst climate scientists holds that the Northern Hemisphere will be warming this month, as spring is coming. This is thought to be due to the Earth’s orbit around the sun and the inclination of the Earth’s axis, tilting the Northern Hemisphere progressively towards the sun throughout March and April and increasing the amount of solar radiation received at northern latitudes.

In a new novel, State of Euphoria, bestselling author Michael Crikey uncovers major flaws in this theory and warns against false hopes for the arrival of spring.

This is not merely fiction: Crikey underpins his thesis with numerous scientific diagrams. He presents measurements from over a dozen weather stations in the Northern Hemisphere where temperatures show a cooling trend in March. He further cites scientific results which show that in some places, snow and ice have increased in the past weeks, counter to climatologists’ claims that they should be melting away in the spring sun. He further argues that even the average temperature of the Northern Hemisphere has not increased steadily; during one week of March, it showed a slight cooling despite the increase in solar radiation.

“This casts a grave shadow of doubt on the theory of the seasons”, says Crikey. “Consensus science is not good science.” He says we should not trust computer models projecting that June will be much warmer than March in most of the Northern Hemisphere. “These models cannot even predict the weather in two weeks time – why should we believe what they say about temperatures in two months?” He also says that only six months ago, scientists were predicting a cooling.

This wasn’t the only time that RC wrote a satirical post for April Fools’ Day. One of their most popular posts is the Sheep Albedo Feedback:

The hypothesis begins with the simple observation that most sheep are white, and therefore have a higher albedo than the land on which they typically graze. This effect is confirmed by the recent Sheep Radiation Budget Experiment. The next step in the chain of logic is to note that the sheep population of New Zealand has plummeted in recent years. The resulting decrease in albedo leads to an increase in absorbed Solar radiation, thus warming the planet…..There is in fact an important destabilizing feedback in the system: as climate gets warmer, there is less demand for wool sweaters and wooly underwear. Hence the sheep population tends to drop, leading to even more warming. In an extreme form, this can lead to a “runaway sheep-albedo feedback.”

The Christian Science Monitor did an April Fools’ article of its own, which never fails to cheer me up, unless I make the mistake of reading the comments below it. Anyway, it begins:

In an unprecedented move Wednesday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee rescinded the Peace Prize it awarded in 2007 to former US vice president Al Gore and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, amid overwhelming evidence that global warming is an elaborate hoax cooked up by Mr. Gore.

A press release from the committee quotes a chagrined Rajendra Pachauri, the UN climate panel’s chair, who claims that he was the victim of a “cunning deception spanning decades”:

“I am deeply ashamed for having unwittingly perpetuated such a massive fraud on the governments of the world,” said Mr. Pachauri.

“It turns out that all that data from satellites and radiosondes, surface temperature readings, borehole analysis, measurements of rising sea levels, melting glaciers and permafrost, phenological data, and proxy reconstructions of paleoclimatic conditions were all fabricated out of thin air by my former friend, Al Gore. Now that I think about it, I suppose that we should have instituted some sort of peer-review process before publishing such alarming conclusions. Once again, I’m very sorry.”

If we’re going to talk about satire, we can’t forget DenialDepot, a great example of Poe’s Law. The “About” tab on the home page reads:

I believe that one day all science will be done on blogs because we bloggers are natural skeptics, disbelieving the mainstream and accepting the possibility of any alternative idea.

We stand unimpressed by “textbooks”, “peer review journals” and so-called “facts”. There are no facts, just dissenting opinion. We are infinitely small compared to nature and can’t grasp anything as certain as a fact.

Nothing is settled and we should question everything. The debate is NOT over Gore! When so-called “experts” in their “peer reviewed journals” say one thing, we dare the impossible and find imaginative ways to believe something else entirely.

Be sure to check out the posts on snowstorms, exponentials, the Oregon Petition, and the new theory of climate.

Anything I’ve left out? Share your favourite climate change satire in the comments below.

Now We’re Talking!

Another batch of private emails from climate scientists has been leaked/hacked/stolen/whatever. These ones, though, are very different than the last.

It’s a thread of emails from the NAS, and these guys are mad. They are mad about vested interests skewing the discussion. They are mad that journalists have sat and lapped it right up without checking their facts. They are mad that the public is suddenly more confused than ever about a field of science that is more united than ever.

They want to get hundreds of scientists to sign a declaration that yes, the anthropogenic combustion of fossil fuels is still causing the Earth to warm, and print it in newspapers like the New York Times, using only NAS money. They want to start a prime time science program on PBS. They want to have dozens of public lectures communicating climate science. They want a concise assessment report by the NAS written in layman’s terms. They want a nonprofit group to bridge communication between scientists and the public. They want “nothing short of a massive publicity campaign to educate the citizenry about what our best science is saying and why.”

“We will need funds to make something happen,” says Paul Falkowski, and by February 27th, about 15 NAS scientists had pledged $1000 each, out of their own pockets.

“How can we sit back while many of our colleagues and science as a whole is under attack?” writes Paul Ehrlich.

William Jury describes public presentations he’s given since the CRU hack, and how a common question is, “If the recent charges by anti-warming people aren’t true, why is nobody coming forth to prove it to us?”

And why not? All of us here have done our part, but it’s still not enough. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s felt pretty powerless over the past few months. It’s incredibly obvious, to those who have all the context, that the theory of AGW is as rock-solid as ever. But truth is not enough, not when we’re up against the most effective spin machine in history. I feel like no matter how much work I put into the communication of real science, this machine will always be ten steps ahead.

Reading this string of emails gave me the most hope I’ve felt in months that we might actually be able to steer public opinion in a more accurate direction, so that we can get to work on fixing this problem. It was exhilarating to read that so many scientists are ready and willing to mobilize public communication when we need it the most. I wanted to jump up from the computer and wave my arms around and shout in joy. If I hadn’t been in the school library, I probably would have.

There has long been a stigma against communication in science – for example, Stephen Schneider faced demeaning remarks from his colleagues in the 70s for even speaking to the newspapers about his work. Couple this with the big difference between these two sides fighting for public opinion: one academic, the other political/industrial. When our academic institutions get money, they’ll spend it on research, not on public communication……while the lobby groups and oil companies are hard at work on advertising like this. (Worth a watch, it’s hilarious.)

The amount of public communication and education proposed by the NAS scientists is enormous, but it’s never been more justified than now.

How to Prove Global Warming Wrong

Over the past twenty years, vested interests and political lobby groups have done a fantastic job confusing the public about anthropogenic climate change. To many, they seem to have proven the whole theory wrong.

But how could you actually prove global warming wrong – not just in the minds of the public, but through the established scientific process? What scientific discoveries – if they held up through peer-review, further criticism, and replication – would render climate change a non-problem?

One of the surest ways to stop all this cap-and-trade discussion would be to disprove the greenhouse effect itself – the mechanism by which the Earth absorbs and emits the same energy multiple times, due to the presence of greenhouse gas molecules that “bounce it back”. This keeps the Earth substantially warmer than it would be otherwise. Additionally, if the concentrations of greenhouse gases increase, so will the temperature of the Earth. This process was first hypothesized by Joseph Fourier in 1824, and was experimentally confirmed by John Tyndall in 1856. The first prediction of eventual man-made global warming came from Svante Arrhenius, in 1896. It wasn’t a theory as much as a logical result of a theory, one that was deeply rooted in physics and chemistry.

Unless our understanding of entire fields of physical science is totally off base, we can be sure that our greenhouse gas emissions will cause climate change eventually. But hey, if you could overturn all of thermodynamics, you wouldn’t have to worry about carbon taxes.

  • Cheap-out option: Svante Arrhenius was Swedish, but his name sounds sort of Russian, and 1896 wasn’t very long before the Russian Revolution. Therefore, Arrhenius was a Communist, and none of his scientific work can be trusted.

Knowing that something is sure to happen eventually, though, is different from knowing that it is happening right now with substantial speed. We know that the Earth is warming – even if you found some statistical way to disprove three separate temperature records, the physical and biological systems of our planet still stand: 90% of observed changes in the natural world, like the blooming of flowers, the peak flows of rivers, and the spawning of fish, are in the direction expected with warming (Rosenzweig et al, 2008).

But how do we know that the warming is caused by us? Climate change has been caused many times in the past by factors unrelated to greenhouse gases – like solar influences, whether they’re direct (a change in solar output) or indirect (a change in the Earth’s orbit). How do we know that’s not happening now?

If the warming was caused by the sun, the atmosphere would warm uniformly at all levels. However, if the Earth was warming from greenhouse gases, the troposphere (the layer of the atmosphere closest to the planet) would warm while the stratosphere (the next level up) would cool. This is because more heat is getting bounced back to the surface by greenhouse gases, and is subsequently prevented from reaching the stratosphere.

A cooling stratosphere has been described as the “fingerprint” evidence of greenhouse-induced warming. And, in fact, the stratosphere has been cooling over the past 30 years (Randel et al, 2009). Therefore, if you could somehow show that something else was causing this pattern of a warming troposphere and a cooling stratosphere, and that the significant, anthropogenic rise in greenhouse gases was somehow not affecting it, you would have a case for global warming being natural.

Update (18/2/10): About half of this cooling can be attributed to ozone depletion, and the other half can be attributed to greenhouse gases (NOAA, 2006). The flat trend in stratospheric temperatures from 1995-2005 (see the Randel citation above) can be explained by the recovery of ozone, which is temporarily offsetting the greenhouse gases. Interesting how the temperature of the stratosphere has just as many factors as the temperature of the troposphere…..but in both cases, you can’t explain the temperature trends without including human activity. Scott Mandia has a great explanation here.

  • Cheap-out option: Omit the explanation of why greenhouse warming causes stratospheric cooling. Just point to the graph that goes down and say, “The atmosphere is cooling! Therefore, the IPCC is a hoax!”

Finally, even if you couldn’t disprove that global warming is expected, observed, and anthropogenic, you could still show that it isn’t very significant. The way to do this would be to show that climate sensitivity is less than 2 C. Climate sensitivity refers to the amount of warming that would result from a doubling of carbon dioxide equivalent, and 2 C is generally accepted as the maximum amount of warming that our society could endure without too much trouble. The current estimates for climate sensitivity, in contrast, average around 3 C (a range of 2-4.5), and it is very unlikely to be less than 1.5 C (IPCC AR4).

However, a climate sensitivity of less than 2 C only means that climate change isn’t a problem if our greenhouse gases stop at a doubling of carbon dioxide equivalent from pre-industrial levels. Even without taking methane and other greenhouse gases into account, this brings us to a CO2 concentration of 560 ppm, which we are well on track to surpass, even with cap-and-trade. So you’d have to argue for a climate sensitivity of even less. Seeing as we’ve already warmed 0.8 C, it doesn’t leave you with a lot of wiggle room.

  • Cheap-out option: Build a climate model that does what you want it to, without any regard for the laws of physics. ExxonMobil will probably sponsor the supercomputers. Widely publicize the results and avoid peer-review at all costs.

Daunting tasks, certainly. But if you really believe that global warming is natural/nonexistent/a global conspiracy, this is the way to prove it. If you managed to prove it, and change the collective mind of the scientific community (not just the public), you’d probably win a Nobel Prize. So it’s certainly worth your time and effort.

ClimateSight/CCC Movies!

Here is a re-upload of some public education videos (aimed at students) I created in the summer, in association with Climate Change Connection.

Read the citations, and take the survey if you’re feeling brave.

Enjoy!

Loose Ends

A couple of stories that couldn’t be elaborated into an entire post:

I met Elizabeth May (the leader of the Canadian Green Party) not long ago when she came to my local university. We had a chat about their emission reduction plans – a 30% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020, and 90% by 2050. (However, they couple this with a “say no to nuclear” plan, so I’m not sure how plausible it is).

Then she said, “So are you a student here, or a professor?” And I was like, “Umm, I’m still in high school…..”

Then, today, someone asked me what I wanted to do after high school. I said that I wanted to study climate change, and followed that with, “Maybe modelling.”

Then I suddenly realized that perhaps not everyone automatically associates the word “modelling” with climate modelling like I do. Perhaps I gave her the impression that I was choosing between a career in climatology and a career as a fashion model. Definitely not my style. I tried to talk my way out of that, fairly unsuccessfully.

And finally – I will have six climate change videos posted within the next few weeks. They were a public education project that I worked on this summer, with an organization named Climate Change Connection. They’ll be posted on YouTube and then I’ll embed them here. Keep your eyes open!