With science journalism “basically going out of existence,” how should climate scientists deal with well-funded, anti-science disinformation campaign?

The central lesson of Climategate is not that climate science is corrupt. The leaked e-mails do nothing to disprove the scientific consensus on global warming. Instead, the controversy highlights that in a world of blogs, cable news and talk radio, scientists are poorly equipped to communicate their knowledge and, especially, to respond when science comes under attack.

A few scientists answered the Climategate charges almost instantly. Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, whose e-mails were among those made public, made a number of television and radio appearances. A blog to which Mann contributes,, also launched a quick response showing that the e-mails had been taken out of context. But they were largely alone. “I haven’t had all that many other scientists helping in that effort,” Mann told me recently.

So writes Chris Mooney in his must-read op-ed opinion piece in the Washington Post, “On issues like global warming and evolution, scientists need to speak up.”  It looks like the Post is feeling just a tad guilty over the travesty of the Sarah Palin op-ed, having now published three responses, though only one was on the op-ed page.  Mooney is on the second page of the Outlook section, which probably gets much fewer readers than the op-ed page now residing in the paper’s front section.

I certainly can’t disagree with Mooney’s core argument, since I have been making a similar point for a while (see Why scientists aren’t more persuasive, Part 1).  Indeed, Physics World published a piece of mine on this very subject last year (see “Publicize or perish: The scientific community is failing miserably in communicating the potential catastrophe of climate change).

I was so frustrated that scientists were not communicating with the media in a media-friendly way on Climategate/Swifthack that, after waiting several days for the scientific community to put together a media call, I did so myself (see Exclusive audio of press call today with Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt, and Michael Oppenheimer on “Climate Science: Setting the Record Straight”).  I was also very critical of the scientist at the center of the maelstrom for adopting the Tiger Woods approach to media relations (see “Phil Jones has today announced that he will stand aside as Director of the Climatic Research Unit until the completion of an independent Review”).  Jones’ failure to speak up, failure to make himself available to the press the way Mann did, helped this story blow up.

BUT I can’t really agree that scientists haven’t responded.  Here’s but a short list of the many leading scientific institutions and hundreds of scientists who have:

BUT such relatively passive outreach doesn’t work with a media that has been scaling back on science journalism, that needs a much more pro-active media outreach effort.

Yes, a few media outlets went to the trouble of reaching out to leading scientists themselves, notable the Associated Press — see Must read AP analysis of stolen emails: An “exhaustive review” shows “the exchanges don’t undercut the vast body of evidence showing the world is warming because of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

But with the cacophany of voices screaming to get media attention, simply issuing a statement is no way to get serious coverage these days.  Back to Mooney:

This isn’t a new problem. As far back as the late 1990s, before the news cycle hit such a frenetic pace, some science officials were lamenting that scientists had never been trained in how to talk to the public and were therefore hesitant to face the media.

“For 45 years or so, we didn’t suggest that it was very important,” Neal Lane, a former Clinton administration science adviser and Rice University physicist, told the authors of a landmark 1997 report on the gap between scientists and journalists. “. . . In fact, we said quite the other thing.”

The scientist’s job description had long been to conduct research and to teach, Lane noted; conveying findings to the public was largely left to science journalists. Unfortunately, despite a few innovations, that broad reality hasn’t changed much in the past decade.

Scientific training continues to turn out researchers who speak in careful nuances and with many caveats, in a language aimed at their peers, not at the media or the public. Many scientists can scarcely contemplate framing a simple media message for maximum impact; the very idea sounds unbecoming. And many of them don’t trust the public or the press: According to a recent Pew study, 85 percent of U.S. scientists say it’s a “major problem” that the public doesn’t know much about science, and 76 percent say the same about what they see as the media’s inability to distinguish between well-supported science and less-than-scientific claims. Rather than spurring greater efforts at communication, such mistrust and resignation have further motivated some scientists to avoid talking to reporters and going on television.

They no longer have that luxury. After all, global-warming skeptics suffer no such compunctions. What’s more, amid the current upheaval in the media industry, the traditional science journalists who have long sought to bridge the gap between scientists and the public are losing their jobs en masse. As New York Times science writer Natalie Angier recently observed, her profession is “basically going out of existence.” If scientists don’t take a central communications role, nobody else with the same expertise and credibility will do it for them.

Meanwhile, the task of translating science for the public is ever more difficult: Information sources are multiplying, partisan news outlets are replacing more objective media, and the news cycle is spinning ever faster.

NatalieYou can read the Angier interview here.  She makes some important points:

“It’s basically going out of existence,” said Angier of newspapers’ science coverage. She noted that the coverage tends to be more fragmented and less comprehensive than it once was. “There’s something about the human mind that wants to have a sustained story-line,” she said, “and we’re not getting that.”

Several mainstream news organizations in recent years have let go of their science reporters and done away with their science sections altogether. The science section of The New York Times, which is one of the few left in the country, features more health-related stories and fewer hard-science stories than it used to, said Angier, a Pulitzer Prize winner.

She believes part of this change is driven by readers’ interest in issues that they believe affect them directly and that they can have some control over.

Ironically, human-caused global warming will be the greatest sustained story-line of all this century — particularly if the anti-science crowd keeps winning the news cycle and succeeds in delaying the necessary action long enough to ensure the world is subjected to the very worst consequences aka Hell and High Water.  Even more ironic, readers do have some control over their fate — but only if we act swiftly and strongly.  If the media and scientific community let the public and policymakers snooze through one more decade, then our ability to control our own destiny will start to diminish rapidly (see “The coming climate panic?“)

Mooney ends on an optimistic note:

The precise ways in which scientists should change their communication strategies vary from issue to issue, but there are some common themes. Reticence is never a good thing, especially on a politically fraught topic such as global warming — it just cedes the debate to the other side. “If we come out of this with a more organized way of dealing with these attacks in the future, then it will have done some good,” Mann said of Climategate.

On other topics, including evolution, scientists must recognize that more than scientific matters are at stake, and either address the moral and ethical issues themselves, or pair with those who can (in the case of evolution, religious leaders and scientists such as Giberson and National Institutes of Health chief Francis Collins, who in 2006 wrote a book called “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief“).

All this will require universities to do a better job of training young scientists in media and communication. The good news is that this is beginning to happen: At the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California-San Diego, for instance, marine biologist Jeremy Jackson’s “Marine Biodiversity and Conservation” summer course introduces young scientists to the media, blogging and even filmmaking.

“Traditionally, scientists have been loathe to interact with the media,” Jackson said in a recent interview. But in his class, “the students understand that good science is only the beginning to solving environmental problems, and that nothing will be accomplished without more effective communication to the general public.” Scientists need not wait for former vice presidents to make hit movies to teach the public about their fields — they must act themselves.

And in another sign that the times may be changing, a syllabus for such classes is already here. A spate of recent books, from Randy Olson’s “Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style” to Cornelia Dean’s “Am I Making Myself Clear?: A Scientist’s Guide to Talking to the Public,” seem like perfect assigned reading.

I long to see an organized effort by the scientific community to respond to the anti-science disinformation campaign, which has been well funded by the fossil fuel community and right wing.  Educating the next generation of scientists to be better communicators is a terrific idea, but in the specific case of global warming, either this generation of scientists starts speaking much more directly and effectively to the public and policymakers — bypassing the soon-to-be-non-existent science media — or all the communications skills of the next generation of scientists will be all but irrelevant.

Oh, and communications jobs one for the current generation of climate scientists is getting meetings with each member of the U.S. Senate over the next few months — yes every last one of them, though the Swing Senators are where to start — to explain that human-caused global warming is all too real, that it is happening faster than most of the media has reported, and that the consequences of inaction would be unimaginably catastrophic for their constituents, the nation, and the world.


59 Responses to With science journalism “basically going out of existence,” how should climate scientists deal with well-funded, anti-science disinformation campaign?

  1. ken levenson says:

    Yes, a long term communications education program is great but no answer to our immediate needs.

    My suggestion:
    1. Obama via DOE/NOAA/NASA or some such, set up a “National Climate Change Information Clearinghouse Center”. (…just heard report on NPR about National Terrorism Center…)
    2. Put all data bases, info, reports etc… there.
    3. Put a wide range of top notch climate related scientists on as consultants to be given specific communications training and made available.
    4. Staff with very good COMMUNICATIONS PEOPLE.
    5. Institute and maintain a broad based proactive public awareness program – engaging all media, all ages, all, all…. – along the likes of 1950s atomic civil defense (minus the propaganda – keeping it on the science and not the politics) – including regular lectures, media programing and special news reports.
    6. The effort must be a continuous operation at volume 11.
    7. Finally, it needs a War Room, for rapid coordinated response.
    8. The Climate Change Center must have presidential and scientific prestige – able to command the attention of major media outlets and Joe Public.

    my 2 cents……

  2. Wit's End says:

    I think scientists need to make the direct link for people between toxic fossil and biofuel emissions and the food supply. A world-wide food shortage is something that will make people take notice and hopefully action.

    This is not an easy thing for trained professionals to do, because it requires collaboration between specialized fields, and it also means scientists as individuals be brave and strong enough to confront their own very human impulse to deny the dire implications of ecosystem collapse, which could include famine and the breakdown of civilized society.

    I don’t have a lot of sympathy for papers losing readers or science reporters becoming less popular. Perhaps it could be because they aren’t actually reporting the news.

    This is a staggering compendium of links to research on the rapidly accelerating global problem of our shrinking biosphere, which writers at The New York Times and other media ignore:

    There is also a wealth of international links to be found at desdemona despair dot blogspot dot com, about environmental and climate change catastrophes occurring NOW that are generally completely ignored by the US press. Maybe if Ms. Angier picked up on a couple of links like the one about polar bears eating their young because they are starving, or beaches covered with dead starfish, or all the counties quietly being declared disaster areas by the USDA from crop failure to be found at market skeptics dot com, there would be more public interest in science writing.

  3. robert says:

    Thank you Ken and Joe for your PRICELESS suggestions for a proactive response! Now … just maybe some one in the Government will act on your thoughts. The weight of DOE, NOAA, NASA and the EPA orchestrated though a ‘NCCIC’ [National Climate Change Information Clearinghouse] is clear headed thinking that i welcome. “Can Ya Hear Me Now” is a phrase that may have a deeper meaning! Oh what a shame it is when a people or the media shuts out the logic of science for the blatant political spin rooted in the ‘NO’ Party in support of OLD FOSSIL FUEL! Government has a duty to communicate the facts based in the science. Most people will welcome and demand a clear thoughtful report of the findings of its hard working scientists and the plans to mitigate the catastrophe the await us. CHANGE WE MUST or cry, we will! Conservatism should not be akin to the symbolic Ostrich metaphor wherein a people find contentment in ignoring a problem!

  4. Jim Torson says:

    Jeff Masters has posted another relevant thoughtful discussion:
    Don’t shoot the messenger

    The Wall Street Journal has long been at the forefront of the battle to discredit the science of climate change and the scientists involved, and last week they launched a major offensive, publishing multiple opinion pieces. I’ll critique one of these, a December 1 editorial by Bret Stephens which accuses climate scientists of having a vested interest in promoting alarmist views of the climate in order to get research funding. “All of them have been on the receiving end of climate change-related funding, so all of them must believe in the reality (and catastrophic imminence) of global warming just as a priest must believe in the existence of God”, Stephens wrote.

    The amazing editorial is a good description of what the WSJ (and a growing number of politicians and members of the public) really think about climate scientists.

  5. Tiny CO2 says:

    I don’t know why I’m writing this because AGW supporters don’t often allow stuff they don’t want to see posted, but I’ll have a go anyway because AGW theory IS important.

    How to deal with the well funded, anti science disinformation campaign?

    Stop pigeonholing your enemy. Take a step back and try to remember why you’re fighting with sceptics (to reduce CO2), and start to comprehend that your opposition comes from the vast majority of the World’s population, including the majority of those who say they believe in AGW theory, because each and every one of them is a CO2 emitter. Think Obama’s Hawaiian Christmas holiday.

    Ranged against you is far more money and far more man power than is available from all the oil and coal producers put together. Mankind. They may not all have sceptic blogs but they’ve all got an opinion and a lifestyle to protect.

    So how do you prevail?

    Start telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you have to exaggerate; or bully; or shout people down; or trick people; or create straw men; or hide a decline; or wrap stuff up in media spin, the case for AGW is not good enough. Right or wrong, you will lose the war.

    Sceptics will point out every flaw they find (and they should) and the public will listen. If AGW science doesn’t own up first, it makes people wonder what else is being hidden. AGW supporters have to beat the sceptics in dismissing those who bring the science and the policy into disrepute. You know who they are. Scepticism must be encouraged because the opposite is bias and once others recognise it, they stop taking you seriously.

    Of course, none of this going to happen so we can resign ourselves to doing nothing more than wasting increasing amounts of money and time on conferences and ineffective CO2 reducing activities.

    I hope for all our sakes that you’re wrong about CO2.

  6. Dano says:

    What Ken Levenson said.

    Except for the ‘volume at 11’ part. You don’t need volume:

    He who truly knows has no reason to shout

    And we don’t necessarily need the government to do this, just a group of people sufficiently motivated, galvanized, and organized. That’s it. It works every time, esp when you have the facts on your side.



  7. Leif says:

    Dano: And access to the podium!

  8. Dorothy says:

    Wit’s End is so right about the need for linking the effects of dangerous climate change with humanity and other living creatures. What I think may stir people the most is recognition of the growing climate refugee problem. Although this hasn’t yet hit the US and Canada as hard as it will in the very near future, it’s not too early to begin raising public awareness.

    Many people have seen “Slumdog Millionaire” and have some idea of living conditions for the poor in Bangladesh, and some know that the rising sea level is also threatening that country. But how many know of the 2500-mile guarded, barb-wired fence India has built to keep out “poachers” and “drug smugglers”? Might it not just be possible the people of climate-vulnerable, crowded Bangladesh are being left to die?

    Here, the US is building a “virtual fence” on its southern border to keep out “illegal immigrants,” although with the usual cost-overruns, it’s way behind India. However, by mid-century, this barrier may well be completed. At the same time, by mid-century, it will be nearly impossible for anyone to exist in Mexico because of drought and extreme heat. People of conscience in the “North” must not accept the term “illegal immigrants” to describe those who attempt to escape or revert to a “shoot ’em at the border” mentality. Basic human rights and science of climate change and are inextricably linked.

    We should all begin right now raise awareness of this looming problem and at the same time encourage a humanistic response to it. At the same time, in spite of the colossal failure at Copenhagen, we should even more loudly demand global action be taken to mitigate climate change. We have to get the excess CO2 down and out of the atmosphere. We can’t afford not to. See our post about this at “Lack of Water a Present and Future Crisis for Mexican People”

  9. Dan says:

    Joe, how do you feel about groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists? Are they inadequate (in speaking up) in your view? I think the problem is more than scientists, but “the academy” in general. It’s always been elitist, insular, and media-unfriendly.

    [JR: I think the UCS is great. Can they do more? Yes. So can we all, including me. The hardest part is learning how to push on a string, which the right-wing has mastered, but scientists have not.]

  10. Leif says:

    Joe, don’t you pull enough rank to get on John Stewart or Larry King, etc.? Your a smart guy with a loyal, (perhaps a bit eccentric) world wide following! That alone should match the fan base of any number of rappers or what ever. Your web site is growing exponentially? Certainly if you get to pick the “time frame” like those other guys. Hell, lets just take this puppy viral???

    [JR: Not quite that rank, but maybe when my book comes out and I do a bigger media push. That’s as much luck as anything.]

  11. Leif says:

    Roger: A lot less carbon foot print than a million people in DC.

  12. Leif says:

    If that ain’t enough eccentricity, just say the word and I will put on my white?, black?, GREEN!, robes and do a jig toward the morning sun, at least once! How weird is that folks!

  13. Leif says:

    Dast I say it? ELECTRONIC MEGA CHURCH! That ought to get some attention. After all we don’t even have to think rationally like those other guys, but we can if we want!

  14. gecko says:

    Joe, Very nice important comprehensive post.

    Natalie Angier as one the true heroes of science writing tends toward pessimism and the notion “It’s basically going out of existence,” likely speaks more of a personal psychological state, reevaluation, cycles of change than reality perhaps, not totally unlike John Horgan’s “End of Science,” which has been largely discounted.

    Quite gifted in a style of writing detailing the magical and anti magical complexity of existence and mind Natalie is human after all and perhaps the optimism of Scientific American editor Mariette DiChristina is a more suitable opinion in that same article from which you quote Angier.

    After all, science is optimistic entrenched with a wonderful positivity bias. Regarding style in numbers and mathematics the positive sign is normally understood. The negative sign must be explicit.

    That most people probably go to doctors with serious medical issues (that is, if they can afford it), clearly addresses the importance of good science and by association good science writing in the public’s mind; and, it is not totally unclear that climate change increasingly presents itself as a worsening condition rapidly requiring significant attention.

    A sophisticated empowered public with the skills, motivation, and habit to read about science and potential positive outcomes may be the more important issues in concert with leaders having these same attributes to provide a responsive environment for both bottom up and top down social change.

  15. Leif says:

    Lonesome cowboy singers and exhibition woman go viral, surely there is enough skills and brain power in your fan base to match that.

  16. Sidharth says:

    Joe, I am a great follower of yours and want to do a lot in this field of Climate Change before the Globe actually starts burning…

    It seems like the way we are exhaling to our atmosphere, the day is not far when it would not remain Global Warming but Global Burning…

    Let’s take some initiative in public to make people aware of very small things even:
    -Turning off their Vehicle at a Red Light crossing can save a lot…
    -Turning off the PCs while leaving office can do a lot…
    -Taking a 5 min shower instead a full bath can save a lot of water…

    and the list is endless….

    I guess on this planet Earth, you are one among the top whom lot of people follow and I think you would be the best to start off with…

    Please do include my name if I can be of any help to your team…


  17. Jeff Huggins says:

    Yes, AND …

    Bravo to Chris Mooney! Super!

    That said, I’d like to add a few comments that, for the most part, add to what he is saying, without disagreeing as far as I can tell.

    First, Chris’s piece is titled: “On issues like global warming and evolution, scientists need to speak up”.

    Notice the words “need to”.

    I’d like to go considerably farther than that, adding another dimension and imperative. I’ll say this: It is completely sound, supportable, justifiable, and genuine to use the word ‘SHOULD’, quite literally, in a moral sense, in that statement. In other words, the statement can read:

    “On issues like global warming and evolution, scientists SHOULD speak up, and not softly.”

    If you’d like to understand why this is the case, based on science and solid secular moral reasoning, let me know: that’s what I do.

    And, especially regarding global warming, you can find a very solid and compelling basis for the moral ‘SHOULD’ in the statement in the writings and comments of The Dalai Lama, in the Pope’s recent Encyclical on integral human development, in the writings of Confucius, and in all sorts of other sources.

    In other words, whatever secular and science-informed, OR religious, system you consider for your information about morality and the moral ‘ought’, or whatever combination of systems you consider, it is most likely that it would ultimately agree with a ‘SHOULD’ in the statement, as I’ve listed above. Put another way, scientists SHOULD be speaking out on these issues, period. Even if it is uncomfortable to do so. Even if there is some sacrifice in doing so. As we all know, “shoulds” are not always easy or convenient to respect.

    Second, although I agree that scientists SHOULD speak out, and NEED TO do so, and that they should ideally do so as well as possible, and perhaps gain some helpful training, that should NOT cause us to take other people off the hook to do THEIR JOBS and to live up to their responsibilities, moral and otherwise, to the public and to humankind. There is no free pass here: ALL humans share moral responsibilities to each other, and to the future generations of humankind, when it comes to issues such as climate change. That includes reporters, other journalists, media execs, media owners, the Boards of Directors of media companies, and so forth and so on.

    We all share a responsibility to face and address this matter, and appeals (explicit or otherwise) to journalistic convention, commercial pressures, false or misleading senses of “balance”, and so forth, do nothing – nothing – to excuse a person or media organization from that responsibility.

    And also, if one needs to remind oneself about the roles and immense responsibilities of journalism, to society, and about the supposed aims of excellent journalism, then one can find those reminders, clearly, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, Edward R. Murrow, John F. Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, and others.

    So, even as scientists should speak out, and do so as well as they can, we mustn’t accept, or “except”, a journalism community or news media that do anything less than live up to their responsibilities, too. Reporters have names. Media companies have names. Media companies have senior execs, who have names. And media companies have Boards of Directors, who have names. They all have responsibilities to society. We should hold them accountable to live up to those responsibilities, and we should name names when they don’t.

    And, I must say, I do NOT get the feeling (based on what I’ve seen) that the organizations and schools that are supposed to be keeping journalism TO its aims, improving it, and holding it accountable, are doing so with any real zest, understanding, or effectiveness. In my view, a good many of them seem to be dozing or seem to be more part of the problem than part of the solution. Indeed, it’s not clear whether many of them “get it” at all. For now, I’ll refrain from pointing out specifics.

    But, (although Chris Mooney’s piece is great, and I’m not referring to him in my criticism above), nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the piece that The Post ran places most of the burden on scientists to speak out and to get better at doing it. The responsibility is largely placed on the backs of scientists, rather than in the laps of media titans, reporters, and the press in general. If Chris had written a piece that was solely, loudly, and critically focused on the media’s responsibilities in these same areas, would the press even carry such an honest piece, critical of itself?? I doubt it, unless as merely a token gesture as the status quo continues.

    Imagine a reporter talking to Albert Einstein while he was trying to share his views, in the early days. Einstein had a strong accent, of course. He might well have used complex terms and some occasional caveats and clarifications. He might have taken more than seven seconds in his explanations. He might have left it to the end of a long conversation to mention that an atomic bomb would be possible, and also dangerous. If you consider the responsibilities and ideals of journalism, AND the moral responsibilities that we all share as humans, AND the fact that journalists are supposed to strive to understand vitally important stories and tell them clearly to the public, AND to serve the public good, and that scientists are naturally inquisitive about nature herself, whose responsibility is it really – even more so than the other person’s – to listen, to strive to understand, and to get the story correct?

    We mustn’t, and shouldn’t, let journalism and the news media organizations off the hook. Scientists should speak out, yes, AND journalists and media leaders should do their jobs and live up to their human responsibilities. Period. There are no sufficient excuses.

    Be Well,


  18. Leif says:

    Apologize for taking up the board there folks but I was on a roll.

    Thank you for the indulgence, Leif

  19. robert says:

    Dorthy [#8],

    I AGREE, the Population Bomb is the ever moving fulcrum of climate mitigation. The politicians dare not even broach that subject. When and if this reality becomes apparent to the masses, our ‘brave’ leaders will lead and that will mark the beginning of true mitigation. Now we are only toying with all the aspects of AGW. Terrorism supported by the lawless states is a symptom of world poverty and ignorance and it is a safe bet we haven’t seen anything yet! I agree, as necessary as a fence is, it will do little good to fence poverty out. It’s seems to me that any hope of success will have to be based in a holistically approach. There is a lot of work to do and little time to get it started! In closing, i believe it is doable but it is becoming doubtful it will get done! We need 10 Obamas!

  20. Bob Wright says:

    A glimmer of light: Charles J Hanley of AP did a well written concise report – “Climate’s Lost Decade Now Leads to Last Decade” that was published my local paper last Tuesday. It was refreshing as this newspaper mostly publishes stuff from Will, Thomas, Krauthamer…

  21. Leif says:

    Just think of the prospects here, Joe. Church Status!, no taxes and ability raise huge gobs of money tax free. That’s a good one. Or not. (We can be rational if we want.) A Seat at the table! How many does it take? a million , 10 million??? world wide? no problem if you go viral. Think Twitter? People are into the “religion” mode. There are lots of different choices, what is one more. We just happen to favor rational thinking most of the time, but hay, were a church so we don’t have to. How cool is that! We can rap on about numbers or concepts if you give us a chance and some have been known to give strange incantations before a fire and phallic symbol. We can invent?, elect?, buy?, appoint?, “saints”?, bishops?, EVEN THE BIG GUY?, all web based. We can have our own idles to “worship” an we can still be as rational as we like!.

  22. I’m not sure about scientists speaking up. I think somebody else needs to do the role formerly handled badly by science journalists.

    There are two separate roles: making the case and stating the evidence. If the same groups of people do both it makes people skeptical of the evidence, as we have all learned to be skeptical of anybody advocating anything.

    This should have been the role of science journalists. There have been a few important exceptions (Zimmer, Hrynyshyn, Fleck, Mims, Mason Inman who I’ve just discovered today). But on the whole science journalists just haven’t been doing a very good job.

    So the vaccuum presented by their failure may present an opportunity for new traditions in science reporting to emerge. I hope so. It’s clear though what the problems are. IPCC essentially is an effort to do this by a committee of practicing scientists. The result is a useful scientific review, but neither excellent communication nor an appropriate level of credibility have emerged.

  23. Leland Palmer says:

    Oh, the Post has run a grudging retraction, that will never reach as many people as the original stories, that shifts the blame for the incident to scientists not speaking up to defend themselves, not on the existence of a fossil fuel funded paid propaganda network, which ends up echoed in the corporate MSM.

    A cynic might speculate that such retractions were part of the plan all along, on the part of the paid propaganda network and even parts of the MSM.

    Create a huge stink based on quoting out of context, followed by quiet retractions shifting the blame to the victims, in order to maintain as much MSM credibility as possible.

    The planet will not miss us, if things continue as they are, IMO.

  24. glen says:

    JR writes: A few scientists answered the Climategate charges almost instantly… “I haven’t had all that many other scientists helping in that effort,” Mann told me recently.

    One scientist who spoke up is Darrell Kaufman;

    The following was published in the Arizona Republic(newspaper):

    Climate science not falsified
    by Darrell Kaufman – Dec. 12, 2009 12:00 AM
    Special for the Republic

    I’ve recently had first-hand experience with the tactics of those who oppose action on climate policy, tactics aimed at obscuring public understanding of climate change. My e-mails were among the many that were stolen from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.

    They were written to co-authors of an article published in Science magazine in September, and are now posted on the Internet. Apparently they didn’t contain anything that sounds juicy enough for widespread exposure, but a few bloggers did excerpt a sentence here and there as evidence of my group’s attempt to deliberately falsify data. Of course, there is no basis for such a claim, scientific or otherwise.

    When our article, “Recent warming reverses long-term Arctic cooling,” was published, I was shocked by the vicious reactions, including genuine hate mail. I was immediately cast as one of a “team” of corrupt scientists that fabricates data to perpetuate the “global-warming hoax,” with the goal of advancing its own research funding and the U.N.’s political agenda.

    I was accused of withholding and “cherry picking” data to validate predetermined conclusions. The study was “audited” by bloggers who found minor errors; they discredited me and pronounced the entire study “debunked.”

    As a scientist, I welcome input that improves my work, and when needed, I issue proper revisions.

    The findings of our study remain unchanged, namely: Thousands of years of Arctic cooling were reversed by unusually strong warming during the 20th century and the warming continued during the past decade.

    No formal rebuttal by those who had supposedly “debunked” the study has been submitted to the journal editors, the standard procedure for engaging authors in a measured discussion of a scientific study. Instead, accusations remain plastered across blogs, apparently for political rather than scientific purposes.

    The misrepresentation of the content and the significance of the hacked e-mails follow the same biased pattern of attack: identify any minor flaw, mantle it with accusations of malicious intent, then exaggerate the situation by asserting that the entire body of climate knowledge has been falsified.

    While I believe that the public is generally too smart to be swayed by such desperate ploys, I worry about the possible confusion they cause, just when we need clarity in our support of policy makers to lead the world toward a cleaner-energy future.

    The illegally obtained e-mails contain no information that undermines the scientific understanding of climate change. While nothing, including science, is flawless, a large body of openly reviewed and rigorously tested information has clearly documented the extent of recent climate change.

    Thousands of scientists with relevant training, along with hundreds of professional organizations and government agencies, all with reputations on the line, have carefully considered the role of human activity in influencing climate. Although many questions about the complicated climate system remain, our understanding of climate change is more than sufficient to justify quick and decisive action on climate policy.

    Darrell Kaufman is a professor in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, Northern Arizona University.

  25. Richard Miller says:

    Thanks for the Post Joe. It is very helpful. I think Ken’s suggestion is excellent. I suggest we all write the white house with this suggestion. Keep cranking out the letters to our leaders.

    I also think we should push Al Gore’s group to make a film on what a world will look like if we really do renewables. Cleaner air, water, better health, energy savings, energy independence, less mercury in our waters and thus in our fish from coal powerplants, solar providing development possibilities for the poor in the world, etc. People are as uninformed about the great potential of renewables as they are uninformed by the unimagninable risks we are running.

    There are two basic types of motivation for human beings: moving away from something and moving toward something. So far the movies, etc., have talked about the catastrophe of global warming, Gore’s movie for instance, and thus have appealed to our desire to move away from a problem, but, to my knowledge, no widely selling movie has appealed to our desire to move to an attractive possibility. Gore would be the one who could do this and could get his movie in a lot of theaters. I have not had a chance yet to read his new book, maybe he could base it on that. This would make a big impact. The movie could begin with a 30 minute update on how scientists have underestimated the problem of global warming.

    I also agree with Jeff’s comment. I have tried to find the New York Times’s mission statement, but have been unable to find it. I assume they have one and I assume it is more than “all the news that is fit to print.” If there mission is to educate people about the major issues of they day, I would say they have failed miserably on global warming. I am beginning not to trust them on other issues becabause they have done so badly on global warming.

  26. I think you underestimate the problem. This is a symptom of something larger. A form of de-civilization – a destruction of a system that has failed us.

    Carbon energy leaders are almost required by stockholders to say anything that promotes business. Courts protect that speech even if it is a blatant lie. Heavily funding opinion influencers is just a business tactic. States grant Corporate charters that define the business entity in ways that allow a contemptuous disregard for humans. This insures civil self-destruction. Government – mostly supported by these industry lobbyists – is not about to harm this business sector. News media controlled by business interests is just a cost of doing business.

  27. Leif says:

    #23 richard: So if corporations are structured to defend themselves against all threats with legal blessing, then what to do? (The robot that is programed to KILL! Just be cool about it.) The only avenues open are media and popular opinion. Media has shown it’s stripes quite clearly over the years. I do believe that at least a segment is vulnerable. That leaves one direction, IMO, public opinion to focus on.

  28. Bob Jacobson says:

    It’s extremely important that the US Supreme Court NOT rule in favor of corporate free speech to the extent that corporations are enabled to directly fund political candidates’ campaigns. If that happens, it’s a real disaster. And the Court is poised to do just that. We can’t miss the forest for the trees. Or there will be none of either.

  29. MimiK says:

    I am a storyteller, playwright and performer writing a book with the working title “The Tragedy and Comedy of Climate Change.”

    So much of what I read, in articles, blogs, and comments, about climate change is about the failure to grasp the “tragedy.”

    Human beings NEVER grasp a tragedy that is coming, and the culprit is the human brain. As many here probably know, cognitive brain science has discovered a blind spot in every single human brain that habitually and automatically underestimates a future tragic situation. We NEVER believe that we are headed into a tragedy. Tragedy, the ancient Greek dramatic form, is all about this “tragic flaw” in our brains. Over and over again, the great ancient dramatists dramatized the failure to see a tragedy on the way in time.

    That’s the bad news.
    The good news is that the human brain OVERESTIMATES a future happiness. We underestimate tragedy, but we overestimate ‘comedy.’ Our brains are ripe and ready and eager and designed to believe that a future happiness will be greater and more marvelous than it will turn out in reality.

    The communication solution, here, is to stop trying to get the tragedy through the human blind spot with more “facts,” and start feeding the human overestimation for a future joy with more visions of how fantastically happy living in a sustainable world will be. Futurist Jamais Cascio has said that “any vision of sustainability that does not include human happiness is bound to fail. From the perspective of cognitive brain science, he is absolutely right: We will go for the “comedy” of sustainability, but are fated and doomed — by our brains — to deny the “tragedy” of climate change.

    Starve the tragedy climate change and feed the comedy Sustainability. Think of the comedic, happy ending of creating a sustainable world as “Part Two” of the epic drama of climate change, the part of the sustained story line that we now need to tell.

  30. Bob Jacobson says:

    PS We should remember: overseas, climate scientists have been far more successful, promoting positive policy. As a nation and culture in decline, America is a special case. Ironically, it’s the “war” against climate change that could revitalize our nation, but the same Obama here being asked to attack the problem is spending our wealth in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Yemen (plus 750+ other bases around the world). It’s a terrible contradiction.

  31. Wit's End says:

    Ho hum, #5 Tim …or hide a decline…

    Why does no one pick up on this, from 2005??

    “Russians invented the study of soil science and through their help, a large step forward has been taken in measuring acid rain effects on soils and trees,” he said. “By providing the only preserved soil in the world collected before the acid rain era, the Russians helped our international team track tree growth for the first time with changes in soil from acid rain.”

    “This study, conducted near St. Petersburg, Russia, showed that, in about 50 years, acid rain had severely degraded a previously fertile soil to the point at which spruce trees could no longer maintain healthy growth rates. Poor growth rates such as these generally precede high mortality rates in the near future. The declining tree health has occurred despite a warmer and wetter climate in this region that would be expected to improve growth.”

    ho hum…

  32. Dan B says:

    I’m impressed with the threads common to several posts:

    Ken Levenson at 1. great concept. I’d add the points raised by Michael Tobin at 22 – keep “making the case” separate from providing “evidence”. The “clearing house” should stick to evidence.

    As for “making the case” Both Richard Miller at 25. and MimiK at 29. point out that we need a clear and emotionally engaging VISION. There’s compelling evidence to support this. Sightline Institute’s Flashcard #2 (search their sight) showed a clear way to engage skeptics. 1. Lead with Solutions – even skeptics become engaged. This underlies the very valid point that TinyCO2 makes at 5. Not only has the corporate denier campaign been successful but it adds to the simple fact – most people don’t understand science or math. They did poorly on both subjects in school, if they even had the privilege of attending school.

    There are literally thousands of ideas for clean energy and greener lives – exciting ideas and visions. Most of these are the future of our economy – one that conservatives will embrace, if the VISION I’d love to attend a visioning conference on

  33. Dan B says:

    One incorrect keystroke. Second try from “,if the VISION is clear, concrete, and simple. I’d love to attend a visioning conference on: 21st Century, the rise of the Clean Green economy, How we will move into the era of abundant clean energy.

    We could brainstorm this in the comments on Climate Progress, if Joe will provide a framework article.

  34. The Wonderer says:

    I am also skeptical about the will and ability for practicing scientists to fill the role formerly held by science journalists. I wonder if there is a way for a consortium of science journalists to be assembled, and to provide services to newspapers in the same manner as the AP. A collective of Universities, non-profits? I don’t really know, but I hope something emerges. Across the board, the state of affairs in journalism today is pathetic.

  35. Dean says:

    I think the biggest problem isn’t who is or isn’t speaking up but what they talk about. Those who take this issue seriously talk way too much about polar bears, glaciers, and remote pacific islands that most people have never heard up. Chu had it right when he spoke about agriculture in California. The LA Times article on ag in Australia also had the right focus. People need to hear about impacts that they can easily see impacting them. People might send a $20 check or support regulations on corporations to save polar bears, but it’s got to be much more personal when it affects their own lifestyle. A recent CNN show had 3 focuses: polar bears, Greenland, and pacific islands. It just seems much more abstract than the possibility that doing something about it might make your gas cost more.

  36. Dan B says:

    Dean at 35.

    Precisely! Make it personal and concrete. Abstract statistics “inform”. Stories that connect emotionally “motivate”.

    Deniers have tapped into people’s fears – world government, diabolical money-grubbing scientists, egg-heads trying to take away our trucks, killing the free-market golden goose, destroying our economy, etc.

    We know what their story lines are. Now we have to propose alternatives, not just more scaring. Some great story lines would include – American innovation, American Can-do, Americans rolling up our sleeves, Americans making a better country, etc. If you ever read Renewable Energy World you might wonder how these folks are flying under the denier radar. Deniers realize they don’t want any of their target audience to see the promising future that’s immediately apparent on these sites – “Renewable energy takes hit in downturn. Much less than other sectors. Recovery expected in 2010 despite continued troubles in overall economy.”

    It will also be vitally important to give people a few things they can personally accomplish – not, Write your representative… too abstract.. Solutions need to be tailored for small community effort – friends, neighborhood, and similar. Solutions for each individual leave us feeling emotionally unfulfilled.

    I’m putting some money into renewable energy for my house – to employ some local construction workers, to get them training and experience that is marketable, and to provide an example of saving on bills and the new energy economy.

    Every community can create their own – then get them into local media. The Corporate Fossil Fuel Denier industry can’t deal with thousands of initiatives, or discourage those who’ve seen the future up close and personal.

  37. Chad says:

    This is a really hard problem. At its core, it boils down to one issue that I am not certain that there is a resolution for: It is far easier to tell lies or make misleading statements than it is to refute them. As long as our media feels that “fair and balanced” means giving both “sides” equal space, regardless of the truth or professional opinion, the average citizen will be confused.

    It drives me nuts when I see even respectable news organizations such as CNN set up a short interview/debate between a skeptic and a mainstream scientist (such as the recent one with Christie and Schmidt). This is totally wrong. It should be Christie vs thirty people, each one given as much time as Christie had to speak.

  38. Roger says:

    Nice thread. (I’ve been taking a few blissful days off with the family–wanted to enjoy some old-fashioned, snow-centered winter fun while I still could–sled riding with the grandkids, XC skiing with the wife!)

    I really liked what Ken (1) and MimiK (29) said. (There’s often enough wisdom in a single day of CP comments to solve some major problems–too bad that no one seems to be acting on all the clues!)

    I want to also comment on Leif’s (#11) provocative comment, and will attempt to do so as soon as practicable. Finally, I want to thank Gail at Wit’s End (#2) for encouraging us to take a closer look at what’s happening to our trees–frightening rapid deterioration that’s easy to miss, even for those few of us that still get out to see them regularly.

    Ken(#1) is so right about our IMMEDIATE (Thx, Jeff) need for a climate comunications/education program–like 20 years ago would have been nice!

    Only issue I’d have with Ken’s enumerated suggestions is that it doesn’t need to be–and shouldn’t be–so complicated. Let’s not pull the punches here. At the rate things are ‘going south,’ we are facing a real climate emergency, especially given our rate of progress.

    It’s time for simple, straightforward, life-saving acts to save our climate for the kids and grandkids. We need to focus on what the EMTs are trained to do: some quick triage, followed by immediate first aid.

    Translation: We need BO on prime-time, national TV NOW, expaining to millions of misinformed Joe the Plumbers exactly what is going on with climate, and why we MUST do something about it NOW, if we want our kids and grandkids to have a life in the not-too-distant future!

    BO also needs to tell the weather people to do what weather folks do in Europe, to wit, mention and explain tidbits of climate change–as related to the weather–at every reasonable opportunity to do so. (I’d estimate this to be at least several times per week, especially if one briefly scans what’s going on around the world.) For more information, the viewer could easily be refered to any of a number of websites, such as the one their tax dollars have paid for at

    Joe, keep up the great work! Leif, I’ll try to get back to you soon…

  39. Roger says:

    Leif at 11: Thanks for the shout. But sometimes one needs to use carbon in order to achieve an objective, and this is one of those times!

  40. Roger says:

    So, briefly, here’s the carbon-intensive-yet-necessary plan: Everybody who wants BO and Congress to take bold action to preserve a livable climate, meet in front of the Capitol at 1 p.m. on Earth Day, April 22nd. Bring signs, etc.

  41. Leif says:

    Good to see you back roger. I am starting to get the error bars on melting aircraft carriers and H-Bombs popping off. Go to: “hottest decade ends…” , #50 + Impressive. A few more checks and we make a tweet out of it and see if we can bump Joe’s ratings.

  42. Leif says:

    Not trying to shoot you down roger, just being me.

  43. Doug Grandt says:

    Roger #40 … would you consider also meeting on 1 p.m. on Valentine’s Day and President’s Day (February 14 & 15) and bring valentines for President Obama and every Representative and Senator, with a loving positive note (thanks MimiK #29) to take bold action, especially those in the swing or denier columns? (We can arrange for them to be hand delivered on Tuesday.) Not suggesting that we abandon an Earth Day rally, but to start two months “Valentines to Earth Days” sustained level of activity with Letters to the Senators, a Veggan Lent, Climate Justice Fasting, April Climate Fools Day, and whatever else turns you on … and write about it in every media you have access to. Al Gore has called on Congress to complete legislation ready to be signed by Obama by Earth Day. The hard work will be done leading up to Earth Day 40 — the crescendo needs to build to a climax on Earth Day.

  44. Wit's End says:

    I plan to take the train to DC April 22.

  45. Leif says:

    Roger: I would love to go myself and Not sure that I will not be there but the thought occurred to me. Is there a way to take “proxies” that could be as obvious as people? Family members, friends that could not make it for one reason or another. Each “proxy” you bring lowers your CFP, (Carbon foot print) for the journey. Make a show for folks to present their “avatars” to be counted.

  46. Leland Palmer says:

    Those of us who care about the climate should also spend some time on the paid climate denier blogs like Watts Up With That, and other blogs that have been sucked into the climate denier viewpoint.

    The evidence for global warming is immense, and we do have access to Wikipedia and Google searches. It’s easy enough to simply Google the climate denier claims and post the mainstream scientific opinion on such blogs. The management of the blogs and many of the dupes will of course be upset, but so be it. The moderators will of course be unfair, but we need to just keep our cool, and continue posting.

    We can’t just sit back and allow such blogs to keep churning out the climate denier product without protesting.

    I know that many of us don’t like to argue, but we need to get over that, and take the fight to the blogs.

  47. Leif says:

    Roger: If I could bring 50 or a 100 extra “people” in my FIT and they would in fact be counted, mmmmmm???
    You would get your “MILLION” in a heart beat. It would be a good plan to “officially” count and “finger dip” so that a number can be stated for the media. There was a reason government quit estimating crowds.

  48. Leif says:

    Joe? Presently I spend many hours a day on this site and cannot keep up. So many good insights and people..
    The government pays me ~ $30/Day to “stay alive” so I can indulge. However many cannot. To that end. How about a short “introductory” one stop attention box?
    “Schrodinger’s Cat; Can civilization be alive and dead at the same time.”?
    “What goes up, must come down” ?
    “Now that we are done, there is lots to do”
    You get the picture. Links to interesting posts or comments? Eye catching facts with links? Tweet port hole? Is there even such a thing?

  49. Dano says:

    Leland @ 45: after you realize you are wasting your time with this idea, don’t get bitter and give up. Keep up the good work, just not on lost causes or on small minorities, nor on small populations unwilling to change and who are not part of the already-extant global majority that already wants change. The only thing in the way is big money, not small minorities unwilling to change.



  50. Dorothy says:

    Leland, we should all spend some time at, too. They do a great job exposing climate “contrarians.”

  51. How about making an effort to publicize the Encyclopedia of Earth and its Climate Literacy Handbook?

  52. Gail D says:

    Re: post #38….

    “We need BO on prime-time, national TV NOW, explaining to millions of misinformed Joe the Plumbers exactly what is going on with climate, and why we MUST do something about it NOW, if we want our kids and grandkids to have a life in the not-too-distant future!”

    I agree with Roger 100% on this. Every single one of the ideas that are mentioned on this CP post are critical and should most certainly be employed. However, keeping in mind that the climate chaos freight train is barreling down on us with ever-increasing speed, we need, as Roger comments, the “EMT response” of immediate triage, followed by extensive medical care and then an ongoing massive therapy program.

    What we need to keep the patient (all of us) alive is an immediate shot in the arm* in the form of bold leadership coming from Obama. (*please pardon the awkward medical analogies – as no medical training makes this tough!)

    I’m afraid that if we don’t have the immediate, ‘life-saving’ kind of response from the White House, that all the most advanced ‘medical techniques’ (ie: all of our efforts to move to clean energy & sustainability) that will still need to be employed, will end up being necessary…. but just too late.

    Yes, we need scientists speaking up, and yes we need media and journalists doing their job, and we need business-persons, and clergy and teachers and politicians…. all
    doing their part…(and I don’t want to marginalize their impact for a second), But this unique and dire threat, with it’s non-negotiating window of opportunity about to slam shut, demands immediate, unequivocal, LEADERSHIP!

    This kind of leadership is particularly tough in a society such as ours where democracy and social progress is slow and often times with good reason.
    But the red phone is ringing in the oval office and the science on the other end says that this is an EMERGENCY. We must act accordingly.

    I’d love to hear thoughts on what is keeping Obama from acting as decisively as is warranted, and how we might impact that. Is he and his cabinet really hearing what the science is saying? ….If so, one would only hope that business-as-usual politics would take a back seat to preserving life on the planet as we know it.

  53. Doug Grandt says:

    Gail #53, I think it will happen when Sasha and Malia say, “Daddy, we’re going to join a million kids on the Mall to ask you and Congress to ________ [fill in the blank].”

  54. Ray Sirois says:

    I think “We” are frustrated after seeing so much political posturing in the Senate on S.1733 leading up to Copenhagen, then seeing how difficult it was to get anywhere in Copenhagen. I see the amount of unrest among “We the People” to say and ACT: “Yes, I’d be glad to show up in the middle of winter on the Mall in DC and demand some action.” I think we gotta do it. We gotta take it to the plate down there… and there should be no waiting for warm weather either! Get er done! Let’s go!
    Harrison ME

  55. Ray Sirois says:

    My way of handling deniers:

    Yes, there is uncertainty in how much the natural environment is going to impact the built environment in the future. Yes, there is uncertainty in how much the built environment is impacting the natural environment. We know both ARE operative forces, its just a matter of “how much” is OK or sustainable for the long term. That is all up for debate.

    Our whole economy is built upon dealing with uncertainty. We all pay for seat belts in our cars, and expensive air bags, the largest majority of which will never be utilized to save a life. We have building codes which have been changed to make our buildings more sustainable for earthquakes which may never come. Most of us spend lots of money on car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, fire insurance, and most years go by with most of us paying a lot more in premiums than we ever submit claims for. Is that a waist of money? Most of us understand the concept of investing in something today that will give us better security tomorrow, or more security for our loved ones.

    We have a legal system with varying burdens of proof for criminal and civil court cases. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” vs. “Preponderance of evidence” when you don’t need to be quite so certain in order to decide a case. It is commonly understood, that one NEVER really knows with 100% certainty who is guilty and who is not. That lack of certainty does not stop us from taking action. By any burden of proof, the website on “The State of Knowledge” and the IPCC Reports, are telling us there is more than enough evidence to take strong action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. I AGREE that it is hard to imagine that we humans are capable of causing change to the climate. But, I have an intellect, and I am capable of putting my skepticism aside for a few minutes to explore the hard-to-believe possibility and evaluating it. As we end the last decade, the thing I think many of us Americans have forgotten is how to put our heart-felt beliefs aside for a few minutes to consider the other side of an argument, to use REASON in evaluating a decision or direction. We have become spectators. We have taken to politics like we have taken to sport. We bet money on the horse or team we think can win, and we cheer or complain at great length when what we thought or want doesn’t materialize. We totally don’t get it: we are participants in the process, not just spectators. WE need to take responsibility for what is happening! Get out of our arm chairs, stop browsing the blogs, and take ACTION for what we envision for the new decade. If we are as un-happy with things in 2020 as we are today looking back on the past decade, we will have no one but ourselves to hold accountable. Say this aloud: “The buck stops here, with ME.”

  56. Leif says:

    Ray: thank you for the post. A major problem that I see is that too many, (majority?) have been denied the time or resources to become complete. ( A-S folks salivating)For that oversight I blame again the powers that be to allow an economic system to develop that exploits the masses to the degree that is done. After having been poorly fed, educated, housed and brought up in poverty. DUH! Almost equally the world over. Testimony to the ubiquity of corporate power. With the capacity and resources to move money all but free and certainly instantly and humanity holding the bag. Always one step behind. What a deal! Who wrote the rules? Tell me again that that I am supposed to keep playing by those same rules because that is the way it has always been done! Can humanity have reached a point where no avenue of “justice” is available to them? Judicial? Media? (Quite!), Military? Surely you jest! Congressional? (Easy to se where that has gotten us.) Economic? (Nope, Gone!) Shit, that don’t leave us much. Water climate air? were working on it, Oh, look see the birdie! Grim as it looks, Judicial may be the last best hope. It would in fact be sad commentary if civilization collapsed because no one want to talk about it, or as the case would be, not talk to a significant segment of HUMANITY! What a head stone!

  57. Ray Sirois says:

    Dealing with Disinformation – Strategies #1:

    Find one line where you can AGREE with the denier. Give them credit for getting one sentence right. Here is an excerpt from an actual letter to the editor in my local town’s weekly paper where we have been going back and forth on the subject of climate change. It cites one sentence that I agreed with him on. I frequently look to find one thing I can call out to agree with, then “Pow” give a contrasting viewpoint.

    “I strongly agree with Richard Cross’s assertion in last week’s Bridgton News that, “We should be concentrating on things individuals can do to clean up our environment right here at home.”

    While I agree with that, I simply disagree that it STOPS there… its not just “individuals”, and its not just “right here at home”. I believe we in Maine need to be concerned about pollution coming into our state from midwest coal fired electricity generators, for example.
    Today have to be careful of eating our fresh water fish here in the Lakes Region because of mercury which comes from those plants, for example.

    If there is a CHANCE that something’s going on, even half a world away (e.g. pirates taking our tankers, atmospheric nuke tests, or greenhouse gas emissions) which is going to negatively impact us on this side of the planet, we need to know about it.

    As citizens in a country like ours, we need to be more than JUST knowledgeable about it, we need to be able to ACT. We need to make the right decisions not only for ourselves, but for our whole community, for our whole country, and not just for our immediate needs, but for what is best for future generations of Americans….”

    If we expect them to take an open minded look at our point of view, we need to show that we are actively looking for areas of common ground and able to to consider their viewpoint.

    Dealing with Disinformation – Strategies #2:

    Like Cribbage, be selective about what card you lead with if you are trying to reach deniers.

    Don’t lead with “We all need to become vegitarians.” A few in the choir will love you, but half the congregation will walk out.
    “Aviation will be severely curtailed within a couple of decades, as it is most unlikely that that form of transporation can continue sustainably.”

    While both may well come to be, it is a lot more palletable to sweeten the medicine with something like, “Pellet heat supports our local economy, not someone else’s on the other side of the world.” Why it is obvious why we should be heating with biofuels.


    Dealing with Disinformation – Strategies #3:

    First, we need to understand (and believe) that we need Deniers.
    Let’s be perfectly clear: We do need them. We need the whole world to engage CC, and the sooner the better. These deniers are important to us.
    We need to counter their disinformation, and engage.

    Like an adolescent kid who thinks (s)he knows it all, you just gotta love them even in their worst moments and make (her) him think outside their box… and it takes multiple tries. You gotta want to get through to them, and be creative in the process. Find something that will make them think.

    Dress up the message with a name even they can love!
    ACES = American Clean Energy & Security Act
    S.1733 = Clean Energy, Jobs, and American Power Act

    “Beef. It’s no longer what’s for dinner.” Will only buy you another decade of resistance. Those freshmen will figure that out on their own when they get to grad school.

    Dealing with Disinformation – Strategies #4:

    Credibility in message. One of my dear activist friends emails us on just about every issue imaginable. Those with good scientific basis, and those for which the jury is still out, scientifically speaking. (e.g. cell phones causing brain cancer, and cell towers disrupting bee populations.) Don’t be making noise about issues for which there is just no broad scientific consensus until there is. (( Dr. James E. Hansen of NASA, this advice does not go for you. Thank goodness you were willing to jump out there ahead of the pack! ))

  58. Ray Sirois says:

    Hi Leif,
    Nice line of boats on your website BTW! We love boating and yours are sweet.
    I presented to a Rotary Club two years ago… one vocal denier in the group really was struggling with the info I was presenting. He hates Al Gore, etc…. “Hey Gore is just the messenger. You gotta look past him as a person and fact check what he is saying, Man!” They asked me back last September to talk specifically about CC Adaptation & Public Works, something that I’ve been focusing on. This same guy had become the biggest energy efficiency geek in the whole group. (The great thing about Rotary Clubbers are they may be conservatives, they may not have been exposed to the science (yet). But, they do care about the world. So they can be reached especially if you talk about what things are likely to be like for their grandchildren. I bet you have a number of stories you can tell me of how YOU influenced someone in your circle. Contemplate those little victories. Let them dominate your memory and thought. They will repeat themselves again and again. The glass is half full, Man! Never forget it.
    Have any of your boats made it to New England yet? I’d love to see one!

  59. Ray Sirois says:

    Hellow again Leif,

    I think people trap themselves in their own box.
    I think we trap ourselves inside our own box.

    That is equally true of deniers.
    That is equally true of the empoverished people whom you describe as “denied the time or resources to become complete.”
    I think
    That is every bit as true of our Senators today. Yes! Bear with me. Let me explain.

    All these people are equally scared of change. None of them have the confidence to think outside their box.

    Our mission is to show them all that they always have a choice. The box they are stuck in is imaginary. They don’t have to be locked up in their old ways of thinking.

    Change is scary, sure. That is true of the poor AND the rich. FEAR is what is paralyzing the Senate right now. (…As well as investors waiting to see if CC legislation has legs!) They are all scared stiff of what S.1733 is going to “do” to the economy (while on their watch).

    Snowe, Graham, Collins, and Judd, (Rep “MODERATES”) backed the party line (lead by Inhoffe & Voinovich who boycotted of EPW Comm) asking for the EPA to do the economic modelling of what that bill would mean to the economy (Nov 4, 2009). ((Stalling their support until after Copenhagen)). These Senators are basically looking for outside information to comfort them that this is not going to screw up the economy worse than it already is. The fact is, no one really knows how these re-organization plans of the energy/economy (ACES+S.1733) is going to impact everyone. We just don’t know. We all “want” bi-partisan CC legislation in this Congress. But those four R-Senators just want this EPA economic modelling to be done for political cover.

    The fact is, the EPA knows that there are too many variables to be INPUT into economic models to realistically know what the real impact of S.1733 is really going to be. Choosing the variables is key. The EPA wants more legislators to participate in that modelling process! I was in Washington DC on Nov 3, and heard and saw a lot of all this testimony. Its all on YouTube. Basically everything is “stuck” down there. Everyone is looking for some “outside” information to make them confident in their processes and choices.

    It is impossible to factually “know” all of the ramifications of going “outside the box” with big decisions like S.1733. This is true of personal decisions and of NATIONAL decisions.

    My life’s experiences tell me that the answers to the most difficult choices in life do NOT come from “outside” information. Rather, they come from simply knowing in one’s gut what is right, and boldly going for it… choosing it… the choice which we simply know is right inside.
    Data are examples of “outside” information. Wisdom is “inside” information. In this information age, we’ve stopped trusting wisdom, and searched too hard, far and wide, for external data to support our decisions.

    “Information is incredibly helpful, but Wisdom is what we ultimately have to rely upon. It is absolutely essential.”

    Our leaders need to know what WE want!
    Don’t wait for THEM to lead. No, they are waiting for US to lead!!!
    They need to clearly see the wisdom of OUR thinking.
    We need to speak more clearly and loudly so they can hear US!
    We’ve been too patient and quiet too long.
    We need to take this to the Mall.
    We need to show them how to think outside the box they
    are all stuck inside of.

    I’m going to bed. But I’ll tell you, I think we have
    a lot more work to do. We’ve got to push harder so our
    elected officials (and all those deniers) get this loud and clear:
    We insist upon CC Action NOW.

    If you and me, the readers of this blog aren’t going to do it, then
    who the hell is?

    Ray Sirois
    Regular old guy, Harrison ME
    Member, (use ms internet explorer)