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…tell the people who are confused.

This post was inspired by the thought-provoking response to a comment I made, by Inel, on her blog. My thanks to you, Inel, for the inspiration. Other ideas came from various dialogues in the globalchange group discussion on Google, and other bloggers listed in the sidebar.

Coby Beck has an excellent and well-publicised resource on How to talk to a climate sceptic.

I’ll be honest, when I first started using it, some of the answers were still a bit confusing; I felt that, at times, they begged the question. But this is nitpicking; it is a very useful place to start if you have friends/colleagues/posters who try to peddle the standard ‘sceptic’ lines.

The Royal Society (if you don’t know, that’s the UK’s national academy of science), has recently updated it’s pages on ‘Climate Change controversies; a simple guide‘. This is a good effort to keep it simple, at least by reducing the number of ‘misleading statements’, but the answers still take a bit of getting through for the ‘average Joe’.

Let’s be honest, though, have you ever come across a genuine climate sceptic who has changed their mind? Experience will tell most of us that the average sceptic is already decided on the subject and, whatever the reason, isn’t about to admit he/she was wrong, even if you can ever get him/her to imagine that this is possible.

The recent polls which have been discussed here and elsewhere seem to suggest that, at most, only about 15-25% of the population falls into this category. Amongst climate scientists, the number is no doubt smaller still. Here is the first contentious suggestion: if a sceptic ‘has a go’, stick to the standard line patiently and hope they’ll get bored and go away. Most of them are snarkers and bullies who thrive on confrontation and aggression. Tell them to go away. Block their irritating jibes. Answer the ones who appear to be polite and maybe just misled.

This is not a call to censorship or limit freedom of speech, nor is it a denial of an ‘alternative’ point of view. It is a value-judgement of the worth or merit of a comment or an argument. A huge proportion of sceptical comments on blogs are not worthy of response. If you are lucky, you’ll be found by a genuine sceptic, with genuine misunderstandings and questions. Cherish these people and encourage them to go with you on a journey of discovery.

The key audience that climate science, science blogs, climate bloggers, whomsoever, needs to address is the rather larger group of people who don’t really understand science very well, have been confused by the mixed messages and contradictions which appear in the mass media, and are unclear about whether what they are being told about ‘saving energy’ and ‘reducing emissions’ is a political ploy or a genuine global problem. These people are unwilling to trust politicians, are sometimes sceptical about ‘scare stories’ in the media, and will not wade through technical-sounding, jargony arguments. Tomorrow, I’m going to have a go at ‘how to talk to someone who is confused about climate change’.

Be loved.

Whilst browsing the journal pages, as one does, some unexpected papers appear which seem to receive little or no publicity. There’s probably good reason, in many cases, why this is so, but a couple of publications caught my eye, so I thought we could share them.

How could one resist:

Suggestive correlations between the brightness of Neptune, solar variability, and Earth’s temperature

H. B. Hammel

Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado, USA

G. W. Lockwood

Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

Abstract

Long-term photometric measurements of Neptune show variations of brightness over half a century. Seasonal change in Neptune’s atmosphere may partially explain a general rise in the long-term light curve, but cannot explain its detailed variations. This leads us to consider the possibility of solar-driven changes, i.e., changes incurred by innate solar variability perhaps coupled with changing seasonal insolation. Although correlations between Neptune’s brightness and Earth’s temperature anomaly—and between Neptune and two models of solar variability—are visually compelling, at this time they are not statistically significant due to the limited degrees of freedom of the various time series. Nevertheless, the striking similarity of the temporal patterns of variation should not be ignored simply because of low formal statistical significance. If changing brightnesses and temperatures of two different planets are correlated, then some planetary climate changes may be due to variations in the solar system environment.

http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2007/2006GL028764.shtml

Well, we already know that some climate change is due to variations in the solar system environment, but it’s kinda fun thinking that we may be able to more accurately assess the solar impact on earth by comparing it to measures of brightness of other planets.

On a slightly more serious note:

GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 34, L05701, doi:10.1029/2006GL028275, 2007

Effect of air-sea coupling in the assessment of CO2-induced intensification of tropical cyclone activity

Akira Hasegawa

Center for Global Environmental Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba, Japan

Seita Emori

Center for Global Environmental Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba, Japan
Frontier Research Center for Global Change, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokohama, Japan
Center for Climate System Research, University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Japan

Abstract

We compared the CCSR/NIES/FRCGC coupled general circulation model (GCM) with the atmospheric GCM under control and future warmed conditions to investigate the effects of air-sea coupling on tropical cyclone properties, such as intensity and precipitation. Air-sea coupling suppresses tropical cyclone activity, because water vapor supply is reduced by sea surface temperature (SST) decrease due to the cold wakes under the tropical cyclones. Air-sea coupling tends to suppress tropical cyclone activity to a greater extent in a warmer world, because of the higher base SST and a larger decrease in SST due to the enhanced thermal stratification of the upper ocean. The overestimation of tropical cyclone activity in atmospheric models is more significant for extreme variables such as maximum precipitation than for averaged variables. Therefore, changes in tropical cyclone activity due to global warming based on atmosphere-only models may be overestimated, especially for extreme events.

There has been plenty of discussion on the difficult problem of understanding the relationship between climate change and tropical cyclones, but I hadn’t noticed this particular paper come up (yet). Perhaps a reader can point us to some comment elsewhere. The last sentence is, of course, the critical one: changes in activity derived from AGCMs (rather than AOGCMs) may be overestimated, especially for extreme events.

I have no idea how this might effect some of the other findings which have recently been published. I suspect that most work has been done on the AOGCMs, and that this phenomenon is known and considered in the production and analysis of model runs, but, just in case it isn’t, I thought it was worth bringing to the attention of a (slightly) larger audience.

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