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Exclusive audio of press call today with Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt, and Michael Oppenheimer on “Climate Science: Setting the Record Straight”

By Joe Romm  

"Exclusive audio of press call today with Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt, and Michael Oppenheimer on “Climate Science: Setting the Record Straight”"

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Memo to Climate Science community:  When illegal email hackers give you lemons, make some lemonade.

In a Physics World article, “Publicize or perish,” I pointed out “The scientific community is failing miserably in communicating the potential catastrophe of climate change.“  Of course, that isn’t entirely the scientific community’s fault.  The media — especially senior editors who decide what stories to pursue — tend to take the view that they covered climate science back in 2007 with the IPCC report, so it’s been hard to get the media interested in another story on climate science.  Well, now they are very interested.

For that reason, I helped organize a press call today for with three leading climate scientists:

  • Professor Michael Mann, Director of the Penn State’s Earth Systems Science Center, author of more than 120 studies in professional journals and a new book, Dire Predictions.
  • Dr. Gavin Schmidt, climate modeler at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  He is the author of more than 60 studies, and author of Climate change: Picturing the Science.
  • Professor Michael Oppenheimer, Director of the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy  at Princeton.  He has authored more than 100 articles

You can listen to the full audio here:

Some excerpts below (transcript here):

Michael Mann:“Decades of research [has been conducted.] There is a very robust consensus that humans are warming the planet and changing the Earth’s climate.”

“There are a handful of people and organizations who have tried to cloud the debate”¦.  They have engaged in this 11th-hour smear campaign, where they have stolen personal emails from scientists, mined them for single words or phrases that can be taken out of context to twist their words, and I think this is rather telling”¦.  Those advocating inaction don’t have the science on their side, so they turn to this last minute smear campaign.”

Gavin Schmidt:

“When you add up what [humans] have done, and what impact that is likely to have, we end up with scenarios for climate change in the future that put our planet in a position it hasn’t been in for, maybe, million of years.”

Oppenheimer:

“From my point of view, the most important issue is whether anything has been added to or subtracted from the scientific picture of global warming. The answer is simple. Nothing has changed.  It remains true that the Earth has warmed more than a degree F over the past century, largely due to the human-made buildup of GHGs.  It remains true that global average sea level has risen about 7 inches over the past century, enough to erode and submerge about 60 feet of sand along the typical east coast beach.  It remains the case that both major ice sheets are losing ice at their peripheries rapidly, making a substantial and surprising contribution to sea level rise.  And it remains true that the ocean is more acidic than it used to be because of the build up of carbon dioxide.”

Q: Are there lessons that can be learned from the email hacking?

Mike Mann:

“In response to the accusations that we have something to side””which we don’t””the community has become much more forthcoming in providing as much information as anyone could possibly want.”

Schmidt: “Once all the gotcha stuff has worn out and the context has been established, there’s not going to be any scientific misconduct associated with this, there’s not going to be any fraud or any hoaxes.  What there will be is a record of how science is actually done.  Scientists talk to their colleagues, argue with their colleagues, being critical of each other’s papers, both directly and indirectly.  [People can see] how the process of putting together these assessments actually works.”

And from me:

“As NOAA’s climate monitoring chief pointed out in October, “the last ten years are the warmest ten year period in the modern record. Even if you analyze the trend during those years, the trend is positive, which means warming.” “

“These observations are unequivocal, and the question is, what will happen in our future, and that is still in our hands”¦  the latest science tells us one thing with high confidence: if we stay on our current emissions path, of more and more emissions, then greenhouse gases will stay on high levels.”

Serious impacts like ocean acidification are quite impervious to political rhetoric and can only be addressed by sharply and quickly reducing emissions.

The media is interested in talking to you.  So, talk to them!

And yes, a climate scientist or anyone talking to the media runs the risk of being misquoted or having their remarks taken out of context, but the alternative  is much worse.

As I wrote back in October, the fate of perhaps the next 100 billion people to walk the Earth rests with scientists (and those who understand the science) trying to communicate the dire nature of the climate problem (and the myriad solutions available now) as well as the ability of the media, the public, opinion-makers and political leaders to understand and deal with that science.

I believe that the major scientific bodies and leading scientists in the US must come together immediately to develop and quickly implement a serious communication strategy. We are again at the precipice. Indeed, it is, as the current Presidential Science Advisor and physicist John Holdren has said many times, too late to avoid dangerous anthropogenic warming of the planet. Now the only question is whether we can avoid unmitigated catastrophe.

And always, “To stop a climate catastrophe “¦ Scientists must stop sanitising their message,” as the UK Guardian put it earlier this year.

Related Posts:

‹ It’s the economy, stupid!

Watergate Redux: Break-ins Reported At Another Top Climate Research Center ›

28 Responses to Exclusive audio of press call today with Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt, and Michael Oppenheimer on “Climate Science: Setting the Record Straight”

  1. Eric says:

    Way to go, Joe, thanks.

  2. WAG says:

    Politicians besides Inhofe may also be funding the smear campaign at the 11th hour. I saw that Sen. Richard Shelby recently earmarked $1.8 million for John Christy and Roy Spencer’s research at UAH in the 2010 Energy & Water appropriations bill, so they can “examine and evaluate climate model simulations to determine the level of performance these models achieve… Given the tremendous burden that any climate change legislation would place on the U.S. economy.” Apparently you can still get research dollars even if you question the climate consensus.

    http://akwag.blogspot.com/2009/12/pork-barrel-spending-on-skeptical.html

    What i’m not sure about is if this is actually news. Obviously, UAH’s funding comes from the government – but is it common for Senators to specifically earmark funds for research like this? Especially since it seems like Shelby has a certain outcome in mind he’d like the research to show.

    The other interesting thing is that this project apparently was mentioned in one of the East Anglia emails – back in 2007 Christy was in contact with Jeff Salmon, a DOE official and former Director of the George C Marshall Institute, trying to get funding for a project to poke holes in climate models “as the congress starts considering energy reduction strategies which can have significant consequences on our
    economy.”

  3. richard pauli says:

    Joe, this is terrific. .. Wonderful.

    And I suspect this kind of press briefing is tremendously useful to journalists everywhere. I hope that you can do this on a regular basis… weekly? Monthly?

  4. Chris says:

    According to UAH satellite data, the delta rise (slope) between 1980 and 2009 is slightly less than 1 C per century. This is less than the temp increase in the 19th and 20th centuries. Is this supposed to be alarming, or related to CO2? Where’s the warming???

    Also, I saw no discussion on tipping points. Please crank up the discussion on tipping points – can’t have enough of them.

  5. Wit's End says:

    Excellent notion! Turn the denier’s plan to discredit scientists upside down, and seize the occasion to tell the real story to a (finally) attentive press and usually somnolent public. And don’t forget to thank the hacker and denialist community for presenting the opportunity.

  6. Dano says:

    Please tell me there was some press there and listening, and some of them had a brain and weren’t stenographers. And some PR people. This isn’t just going to sit there and no one will use it, I hope. Tell me something is being done to at least get a tiny whisper out there as the foaming shrill lying ululators scream and foam and repeat the lies given to them.

    Please tell me this will get disseminated over and over.

    Please, Joe.

    The sheer amount of spittle being expelled and the volume of the ululating will only get louder in the coming weeks. The Message Force Multipliers are energized by the Swift Boat campaign.

    Best,

    D

  7. Jim Bouldin says:

    Thank you for taking the initiative to do this Joe. I listened to it and it was well executed. The response to the question on “why CAP as host” by I think it was Mike, was very good–it could have been anyone, but CAP asked first.

  8. Will Koroluk says:

    Here’s a vote in support of Richard Pauli’s suggestion (in No. 3) that similar briefings be held regularly. I’d like to see them in other sciences, too, since scientists of many persuasions have important stories to tell. Meanwhile, there are signs that the message is being heard by our government here in Canada. Our environment minister did a bit of an about face yesterday, apparently deciding that absolute emission caps are necessary–not just the “intensity” caps they had proposed a couple of years ago. The story is at http://tinyurl.com/yf4y67x

  9. pete best says:

    Scientists do not crank up anything but tell the science. Ask other people to with vested interests to speak of doom when the reality is probably going to be very different so long as we get to grips with the carbon emissions and reduce them over the next 50 years by about 80%.

    The whole process is fraught with difficulty and no one knows if we will do it. LEgislation needs to penalise carbon in some way but its not likely to do anything but to incentivise low carbon energy sources somehow with knocking fossil fuels.

  10. PurpleOzone says:

    I heard Gavin Schmidt and others on the radio ~ 5 pm today. Snippets. I think on CNN, maybe Bloomberg. Very positive toward global warming.

  11. David B. Benson says:

    Chris — UAH attempts to give the air temperature in the “lower troposphere”, not on the ground. The surface temperatures have gone up, over the instrumental period, by about 0.7 K, which is lots less than 1 K per century. This divergence is an example of the succeses of GCMs, which predicted it.

    Yes, this warming is largely due to CO2 and yes, it is alarming; read Joe Romm’s “Hell and High Water”.

  12. Anna Haynes says:

    Question – What’s a good, intuitive way to convey to the public the self-correcting nature of science? That (as Peter Watts puts it (thx Greenfyre)), “Science is so powerful that it drags us kicking and screaming towards the truth despite our best efforts to avoid it. And it does that at least partly fueled by our pettiness and our rivalries. Science is alchemy…”

    Because the response I’m seeing locally to the emails thing is “scientists are human too” (therefore fallible, therefore it’s reasonable for us members-of-the-general-public to decide scientists don’t really know anything, thus we can disregard what a bunch of them tell us.)

    I thought about using Wikipedia as an analogy, but a) WP has failure modes and b) many people wouldn’t see WP as successful either. What other human self-correcting systems do we have, or is science pretty much it?
    (and are there nonhuman ones that’d make a better analogy?)

  13. Sam says:

    Yo Romm, You gotta post about Obama suddenly switching to the last day of Copenhagen. Throwing all his weight behind the treaty.

    This is great news.

  14. Thomas says:

    Anna,

    I think the problem you are going to run into is even in the self correcting examples (and science tends to be the strongest example of a field of knowledge\study were such happens) we a talking time scales of decades, if not centuries – generally longer then a single lifetime or career. A cursory glance of almost any true correction will show you that. You can look at things like plate tectonics, meteor impact and even the recent debate about dinosaurs & birds as recent examples of such.

    Knowledge is gained in fits and bounds with a lot of subtle work in between leading up to the recognition we don’t actually understand what we thought we did, at which point there is a “revolutionary” breakthrough (revolutionary often only to those who haven’t been working in the field, but from my studies in the past they generally always result from an increasing awareness that something in the current understanding isn’t working very well at explaining something else under study). We are also dealing with a substantially better educated populous then we like to pretend at times. Most have studied enough in at least one area to realize the above, and many simply have to think about their jobs\career fields and the difficulty in changing “corporate culture”… they will call BS if you over simplify. In some areas such is measured in centuries in fact. It’s taken over 100 years to get to where we are in climate understanding, and there are still large areas we are struggling with.

    I actually think the first mistake is to think they are overtly somehow easy to manipulate or to dim witted to understand things…

    While I’m no fan of Rush or Beck, I think they are successful not so much because they are manipulative, but rather because they understand how to take advantage of attitudes\thoughts that are already there and condense them into slogans and sound bites.

    So I think science is your best bet, but be careful about “dummying the message down”

  15. Dan R says:

    Chris (No. 4) “According to UAH satellite data, the delta rise (slope) between 1980 and 2009 is slightly less than 1 C per century. ”

    If you are discussing UAH’s lower troposphere (near surface) data set, then I have to say the data does not match this assertion. You can access UAH’s lower troposphere measurements at their official site:
    http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/public/msu/t2lt/tltglhmam_5.2

    Measurements begin in late 1978, and clearly show a global decadal rising trend of 0.127K (oC), as noted at the bottom of the page, in the ‘global’ column.

    The trend as measured from 1980, as mentioned in your post, is largely indistinguishable from the overall trend evidenced on their website. You can check this visually at this site, where I have plotted the data, the linear trend for all of the data, and the linear trend from 1980 onwards.
    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/uah/from:1975/to:2010/plot/uah/from:1975/to:2010/trend/plot/uah/from:1980/to:2010/trend

    The trend from 1980-current, according to the UAH lower troposphere data set, is very close to 0.127K per decade, or 1.27oC per century.

    Cheers.

  16. Dan R says:

    Apologies for double post – the second one includes the link. The first can be deleted.

  17. Raleigh Latham says:

    Amazing discussion, I listened to the whole thing and was particularly surprised at the clarity of your discussion, very easy to understand and very easy to understand the impacts of.

  18. Mark Shapiro says:

    Google news picked up coverage of your news conference in the SF Chronicle:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/12/05/MNRL1AV3Q1.DTL&tsp=1

    Good story; the comments include the usual doozies. It seems the deniers are the first to respond to any climate stories. It would be interesting to study the one who always has a “LMAO” in his denial.

  19. lizardo says:

    Teeny tiny point, but Joe can you fix typo in Mike Mann response after first question: “something to side” needs to be “something to hide”.

  20. dhogaza says:

    Please tell me there was some press there and listening, and some of them had a brain and weren’t stenographers.

    Dano, reporters from the NY Times, Newsweek, National Review, and NPR were there and asked questions. That’s my personal recollection having listened to it – there may’ve been more I’m forgetting. I’m assuming there were others who listened and questioned but didn’t get on the tape, or possibly listened but weren’t able to quesiton in the alloted time (the online audio ends abruptly, or at least did when I listened, with no “thank you for coming” etc clean ending to it, so I think it may’ve gone on longer)

  21. dhogaza says:

    Oh, of course the fact that reporters from those news sources were there doesn’t prove they have a brain, of course :)

  22. Laurie Dougherty says:

    Great discussion. A breath of fresh air after all the FUD being spewed about the stolen CRU files. I listened to the audio and would love to be able to refer back to the transcript but can’t open the pdf file on the CAP website. Almost as soon as it starts to open, it stops. Hope you’ll post it here and let us know when you do. Thanks.

  23. Dano says:

    dhogaza.

    I listened to it as well. Sure there were eight reporters that asked questions. How many total were on the call, and how many reported back to their editors and updated with ‘there’s no there there’ is what I to know. And how many are following up on the podcast to report the fact that nothing has been found yet, despite the ululating and rending of raiment in the denialosphere? The nutter conspiracy theorists are certainly raving and foaming louder in public lately, but this is loud and crazy even for the wingnutosphere.

    Best,

    D

    [JR: I believe there were over 40 major reporters on the call.]

  24. Jim Bouldin says:

    Also questions from CBS and Nature magazine as I recall, and another that I couldn’t make out.

  25. Dear Joe,

    The audio stops for me right about minute 14 when the CBS guy asks about cap and trade. Is there another link somewhere where I can hear all of it?

    Thanks,

    Tenney

    [JR: That's all I have. Do others have this problem?]

  26. Dano, I wish you wouldn’t be here preaching to the choir. If raypierre can stomach Dot Earth, can’t you? I admit that it has turned into an alternate universe a la WUWT and CA, but I am receiving messages from people I have never heard of, asking me to come back there.

    I guess it matters maybe more than we thought it did.

    Dano, I know it is whack-a-mole, but your grasp of the science in infinitely better than mine.

    Of all the questions Revkin could have asked, he asks one with blatant insinuations. Jeez!

    I am going over there to post a link to this audio — everyone of a mind, please to likewise — thanks!

    Tenney

  27. Dano says:

    Tenney, I understand your concern. There is only so much time in the day. The small minority of ululators has more energy than I do and a library of misinformation and lies at their ready disposal. However,

    There is, in my mind, minimal return there, and the gains to be made are in distribution channels that publish top-line information. Commenters with selection bias or not willing to wade thru the weeds that are knocked off in single digits isn’t going to do anything IMHO.

    Passing legislation will do something. And most decision-makers know the story, they know scientists are not part of a conspiracy, they are simply corrupted by lobbyists and cannot find the courage to do the right thing. One denialist or member of the reality-based community isn’t going to change the situation on the ground.

    Another thing that will do something is getting the prevaricators at the print reporter level out of there. But corporate media won’t allow that, as their revenue streams will suffer.

    Let us hope Joe’s 40 reporters can actually print the truth, not truthiness. I’m not convinced. In a decade or so, when all is clear and losses start to mount and migrations begin in earnest, we’ll get off the dime. Then we’ll be managing the landing, and whether it is a hard landing or a soft landing will depend on our society’/s ability to come together and get things done. Whether that means ignoring and excluding the ‘febrile nitwits’ that are the dimwitted naysaysers and opportunistic denialists depends on pointing out – today – their febrile nitwittedness.

    Best,

    D

    Best,

    D

  28. Jay Alt says:

    Joe -
    On page 11 of the transcript is an answer by Prof. Mann that is attributed to Michael Oppenheimer.