Monthly Archives: April 2014

UPDATE: Kampen defends himself—and you

The good news: the ClimateNuremberg community has—with only a few unedifying exceptions—read and responded to climate cognitologist C. R. R. Kampen’s comments (highlighted in this post) in exactly the nuanced and pro-science spirit we at CN hoped.

So we want to thank you, our readers!

The bad news: it seems one or more corners of the opposite, science-skeptical hemiclimatosphere have been rather less reasonable. Apparently, aspects of Kampen’s remarks have been mined, twisted and slandered by the usual ‘forces‘ (for whom human survival is evidently negotiable).

ClimateNuremberg was so impressed by Kampen’s dignity under fire, we had to share his reflections with you, our readers:

I use trolls sometimes to make points for others, and I wished to make a point yesterday. I quit direct response yesterday anyway.

At some point I sit back watching the troll undo himself during a rattle of increasing incoherent posts, my job done once more – I pull back the moment he needs me :)

“Is there a psychological label for those that ideate/hope for thousands of deaths for the greater good? other than arsehole [asshole —CN editors]/climate arsehole [asshole —CN editors]?”

Climate revisionist [denialist —CN editors].


I have no idea which of the usual suspects was the “troll” but it must have wished it had picked a different billy goat. You almost have to feel sorry for the scientist-doubting forces when someone of Kampen’s calibre finally snaps… and hits back.


[Edited for obsessional accuracy. —BK]

How Will Climate Change Affect People With Your First Name?

A climate-concerned friend told me about some neat research today.

An infographic summarising its main findings is freely available (the full paper is presumably paywalled somewhere).

Under the heading The Lasting Impacts Of Climate Change, the authors list:

5. Hundreds of species of marine life to die off because they’re too weak-willed and pathetic to handle a little ocean acidification.

6. Nation’s Brad population to begin going shirtless as early as March.

7. Constant warfare over earth’s dwindling resources not so bad once you get used to it.

What struck me, and will probably strike you, is the almost tongue-in-cheek, not-totally-literal approach the authors appear to have taken in communicating some of their conclusions.

(Then again, after studying the most deadly-serious, harrowing subject matter possible for 26 years straight, couldn’t climate scientists be forgiven for seeking a quantum of comic solace in the occasional in-joke or ironic wink at their colleagues?)

I wasn’t sure, initially, how credible the study was, so—in the spirit of actual skepticism, as opposed to “skepticism”—I sniffed around the parent site for a bit. I must admit I hadn’t heard of The Onion before, but they’re clearly a bona fide organisation and not something run out of a guy’s garage.

*cough* OISM petition *cough*

More importantly though, is nowhere to be seen in Sharman14, the authoritative map of the 171 known vectors of climate disinformation. (By the way, if you’re surfing the climatosphere without your own up-to-date copy of Sharman—at less than the cost of 10 cups of coffee—you’re practically asking to get scammed.)

Still, one can never be too skeptical, so I also wrote The Onion asking if they can confirm that the science behind this is, indeed, legit (albeit expressed in a somewhat droll style). I’ll keep you posted on their response.

Meanwhile, as a representative of “the Brad population,” I wanted to ask readers: do you belong to a minority that’s been specifically studied by climate science? What did the science say: the impacts your group can expect, its prognosis under various mitigation scenarios, things like that? How did this make you feel?

As a science communicator, I’ve long believed that demographically-targeted impacts research is an approach all climate scientists should consider taking. Again and again and again, people complain that the science doesn’t “speak to” them.

But you won’t hear me saying that.

Or any other Brad.

Communication Dilemmas #1: Wishing Death on People Without Losing Them

Part of being a science communicator is hoping a natural disaster kills as many members of the audience as possible, as soon as possible, with as much media exposure as possible. As a communicator myself, I’d like nothing better than for thousands of middle-class white people to die in an extreme weather event—preferably one with global warming’s fingerprints on it—live on cable news. Tomorrow.

The hardest thing about communicating the deadliness of the climate problem is that it isn’t killing anyone. And just between us, let’s be honest: the average member of the public is a bit (how can I put it politely?) of a moron. It’s all well and good for the science to tell us global warming is a bigger threat than Fascism was, but Joe Q. Flyover doesn’t understand science. He wants evidence.

So we’ve probably reached the limits of what science communication can achieve. At this point only nature herself can close the consensus gap—or the fear gap.

Cognitologist C. R. R. Kampen thinks the annihilation of a city of 150,000 people might just provide the teaching moment we need:

You see, consensus is so often only reached after a painful confrontation with evidence.

Knowing this, I hope against knowledge of her expected track that Cyclone Ita will wipe Cairns off the map. Because the sooner the lesson is learnt by early confrontation, the better one more population will be suited to anticipate and mitigate the vast weather and climate (+ related) disasters that lie in the immediate future and to lose all distractions on the way.

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An Act of Contrition, In Two Acts

When I was younger I rushed to judgement about a website of some importance:

But what a fool I was to tweet that gag, RW!

Things are… clearer these days. Don’t you find? There is a certain savage logic to your moderation after all—a bloody law men must begrudge, but not deny.

In remorse I penned 75 percent of a rubāʿī:

The Moving Finger, having twat,
Cannot untweet a jot
Of what it twot.

But what a fool I was, RW, to write that near-rubāʿī!

I’m older now, and more computer-twiterate.

There is a can of trash. A can I could not see, but now I can. Beside that can, an unseen hand hath writ: Delete!

One can detweet! But dare I, bother I delete?

No; though I grow old,

That be not how I roll.

The great alienator

Why doesn’t the public accept the science? This is the so-called Hard Question in the science-communication sciences.

The paradigm is straightforward enough:

A scientist and a non-scientist meet. This is a teaching moment: the non-scientist is ‘exposed’ to science. We logically expect this to translate (or ‘convert’) to an increase in his or her acceptance of the science.

But it doesn’t always happen.

We’ve studied hundreds of unsuccessful exposures—’failures to convert’ [FTC]—and asked participants what went wrong with the rapport between scientist and citizen.

The single biggest rapport-breaker?


Time and time again, scientists find the public arrogant.

Unless and until ordinary people show some humility and deference, the scientists will have little interest in helping them.

Nowhere is arrogance more of a turn-off than in the climate debate. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone complained, “Just because they’re climate scientists, it doesn’t mean they’re smarter than us.”

Yes it does. And until the general public gets over its self-importance, the scientists are just going to keep switching off.

An Anatomy of Denialism, Part 2

As you must remember from Part 1 (unless you’ve repressed it because you don’t like the lifestyle implications):

  • Denialists make up virtually the whole retired-white-male half of the Earth’s population.
  • To a very close approximation, everyone on the left is a believer, while everyone on the right isn’t. What better proof could there be that the climate issue is really about politics—not science—for deniers?
  • Our Conservative cousins are understandably, if not forgivably, less-than-eager to acknowledge any problem that can only be solved by abolishing national sovereignty, erecting an omnipotent United Nations and legislating the very act of organic metabolism.
  • Anti-scientists are continually pressing for a scientific debate.
  • That’s because they can’t debate the political reality: that climate change necessitates a new world order. They’re left with no choice but to attack the weakest link—the science—instead.
  • On “our side” we have credible sources like RealClimate, SkepticalScience and Deltoid.
  • What do deniers have? Blog science.
  • Unlike the mainstream half of the populace, deniers only trust experts they believe.
  • That’s why they don’t think (or know) the Earth has more and more heat all the time; it’s us; and it’s bad.
  • They say it’s paused, it’s the sun, it’s not the first time, it’s land use, or it’s not bad.
  • As you can see, they use short words.
  • A lot, *laugh out loud!* [Source: John Cook.] Which makes them sound like kids—just dumb kids.

Let’s resume our tireless struggle to understand—and maybe, just maybe, with time and luck, begin to see the basic humanity of—our enemies in the fiendishly-complex question of the likely thermal responses of the planet’s fluid envelope to a myriad of natural and supernatural signals.

McCright, A.M. & Dunlap, R.E. (2011). Cool dudes: The denial of cli­mate change among con­ser­vative white males in the United States. Global Environmental Change 21 (4) 1163–1172.

Gratuitous questioning

There’s nothing wrong with asking questions. Science welcomes questions!

But you have to ask them in good faith. This means, for example, you can’t demand information which has already been debunked.

Unfortunately, when a denier asks something, their faith tends to be questionable. Search long enough and you’ll often find their question has already been refuted somewhere on the Internet!


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Climate Myth of the Day: Scientists seek consensus

“Skeptics” believe the darnedest things. One of their favorite mythconceptions is that scientists are under pressure to agree.

Far from it. Science is all about overturning the consensus; there’s no glory in conformity. If the prevailing view never changed then all you’d have is “settled science,” and scientists have a word for that kind of thing: “religion.”

That’s why everyone who works in (say) climate science is driven by one goal: to be the next Michael Mann, the researcher who changed everything we thought we knew about the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age and the rest of the last 1000 years of climatic change. By proving the then-consensus view wrong, Mann won instant respect and credibility throughout the scientific world.

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