Friday, November 21, 2008

Resources for the perplexed, on global warming

(this is primarily for Nevada County residents)
Updates are in italics.

So, you listened to Robert C. Balling Jr. (a speaker recommended by what Real Climate calls "the notorious "Heartland Institute" that we have commented on previously") on KVMR Tuesday night, he sounded reasonable, and you're confused.

Who can you trust? Is he right, that the only trustworthy way to know the state of the science on climate change is to read the IPCC report?

um, no.
Sure, you can, but that's not how we acquire our (public) understanding of science in other areas, and it doesn't have to be how you do it here either. You're certainly welcome to delve into the science, the back-and-forth on evidence for this assertion and that (and I can suggest some sites to help you in doing so, e.g. Skeptical Science), but the highest return-on-investment, if you've got 5 minutes for learning about this topic, is (in my opinion) to pick the right "network of trust".

Free-market (anti-regulation) ideologues backed by coal interests, such as the Heartland Institute (for which Dr. Balling is a speaker) aren't going to give you an unbiased view of climate science. They're the national equivalent of CABPRO.

So who can you trust?
The issue is, what does the science tell us? And the best, cleanest, most untainted fastest way for you to find this out, is to go to the websites of prestigious science institutions, and see what *they* tell us. Fortunately, most of them do now have sections on their website devoted to climate change.

The Royal Society of London has been publishing for 150 years; their section on climate change is here.

Nature is the top ranking science journal; their section on climate change is here.

Scientific American has been publishing science for nonscientists, for decades; here's one article about climate from them (no general intro on their site, that I could see)

Science News has also been publishing science for nonscientists, for decades; their section on climate change is here (alas, it's not a general intro, it looks to be just a list of their latest climate-related articles).

UCSD Provost and historian of science Naomi Oreskes did a classic study of the climate science literature, finding a consensus - see this post about it from the climatologists' blog RealClimate.
(if you want climate science from the horses' mouths, RealClimate is the place to go - these guys are the real thing.)

And if you want to grasp the science for yourself, try her
The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change: How Do We Know We're Not Wrong? (PDF)

And - in case you're wondering why the public has been confused about the state of climate change science for the last 20 years - there has been a concerted effort, by the fossil fuel interests, to cloud this issue and manufacture doubt in your own mind, since doubt is paralyzing and delaying action is their goal. See Ross Gelbspan's Snowed and Mooney's Some Like It Hot; Sharon Begley in Newsweek has also covered this (The Truth About Denial), also other magazines.
(A book that'll open your eyes, btw, is Doubt is their Product, by David Michaels, documenting the "product defense industry" - where there's money to be made in delaying new regulations, there's a company-for-hire working to achieve that goal)

And keep your eyes open - if all goes well, NCTV will soon be airing a talk by Dr. Oreskes about the disinformation effort.

Climatologist Jim Hansen - who saw this coming 20 years ago, and has perhaps the best track record of anyone - has said that the most important lifestyle change you can make to fight global warming is to become politically active (on this issue) and hold the politicians accountable.

So - please consider that, whenever you put out your recycling.

and, in general, on all sorts of issues you can do surprisingly well at grasping the reality, *without* looking at the underlying data; you can make intelligent judgments based on higher-level factors. One of the best things I've ever read online is Daniel Davies' One Minute MBA - Avoiding Projects Pursued By Morons 101 ("business often feel like the most collossal waste of time and money, but they occasionally teach you the odd thing which is very useful indeed...")

you might also google
wonderingmind42 video
and see what Greg Craven has to say, about what we should choose to do. He's entertaining, he's humble, and he's clear.
(he's a high school science teacher)

And if you want to keep aware of climate news etc, there's, my blog aggregator for reputable commentary about climate change.

Another resource - - is a nexus for intelligent science commentary by scientists. is good site for more information, including lists of professional scientific organizations (i.e., not "think tanks", which are really PR shops) that have issued "consensus" statements about climate change, and the statements they've issued.

Hope this helps. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment, or else stop by and talk sometime - I'm in Java John's on Broad St, many mornings, and would love to discuss this.

Does it matter? Yes, it does -
"Climate scientists who grapple with this every day ... we see where it's headed. We understand it very well.

"I think the public needs to know, straight in their face, that you can give up on civilization as we know it. This is what I'm trying to get across in the book. Do we actually give a s--- for future generations?"


Steve Bloom said...

Anna, AAAS has a video (linked at the top of the EurekAlert page among other places).

Re the pine beetle business at CP, please see my comment. Thanks for your efforts with the NYT.

Anna Haynes said...

Thanks Steve!

The American Association for the Advancement of Science 'Climate' page; and from it, a link to the page for their Feb 2007 Town Hall meeting, "Communicating and Learning About Global Climate Change" - from which page is a link to the 12 min. video.
(am assuming it's the one Steve meant)

(for nonscience folks - the AAAS is *the* heavyweight scientific organization in the U.S.)

Steve Bloom said...

That's the one.

Yet another resource (useful, but not vetted): The new KQED climate blog, which AFAIK is as close as we have to a state-wide one. Little or no science, though.