The IPCC lowballs likely impacts with its instantly out-of-date reports and is clearly clueless on messaging — should it be booted or just rebooted?

And should IPCC chief Pachauri stay or go?

I don’t know what value the IPCC now provides.  But then, I had the exact same concern back in December 2007 (see “Time to shut down the IPCC?“).

As I wrote back then, “I am a fan of what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has done “” and they certainly deserve the Nobel Prize.”  But even back then I didn’t see a lot of value in the IPCC going forward, as I wrote in long column at, “Desperate times, desperate scientists“:

I think that with the release of the recent synthesis report, the IPCC has reached the end of its usefulness. Anyone who isn’t persuaded by that document and the general desperation of international climate scientists is unlikely to be moved by yet another such assessment and more begging. In particular, skeptical Americans are unlikely to be convinced by another international report that focuses on international climate impacts.

That’s even more true today.

I could not agree more with our Nobel Prize winning energy Secretary that even combining the hacked emails and the IPCC revelations, “if you step back and dispassionately look at it, this is a little wart on the overall amount of information. It’s a little bump.”  I won’t use up space in this long post debunking the charges against the IPCC, most of which are quite bogus.  RealClimate has done a good job (click here).  So has the Union of Concerned Scientists (click here).

What the IPCC is supposed to do is laid out in its February 4, 2010 statement:

… assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.

My concern is that only the IPCC could so bungle its messaging that the media and the public are now left with the impression that it has OVERestimated the risks of climate change, when it has largely UNDERestimated them.  As Steven Chu says, they take “a somewhat conservative stand on many issues.”

If we lived in a world where the major media accurately and persistently communicated science to the public and policymakers, a world without an active disinformation campaign taken seriously by that media, then the IPCC might be effective as currently constructed.  But as I wrote in 2007:

The IPCC process is slow and unwieldy, and in the face of the rapid climate change we’re now seeing, the summaries are not merely understatements of the problem, they are out of date the moment they’re published.

The IPCC is not set up to provide intelligent messaging in the face of that rapid change or in the face of the rapid disinformation effort.  Quite the reverse:

Like Cassandra’s warning about the Trojan horse, the IPCC report has fallen on deaf ears, especially those of conservative politicians, even as its findings are the most grave to date.

Part of this is due to the IPCC’s own media naivet©. It doesn’t put a lot of thought into publicizing its reports; heck, it released this final synthesis on Nov. 17 — a Saturday! — in Valencia, Spain. Not exactly the best way to get attention from the most intransigent and important audience: Americans.

Last spring, the IPCC announced its next (fifth) assessment wouldn’t be finalized until 2014, which led me to ask at the time “Has the IPCC rendered itself irrelevant?

While glacial change may no longer be an apt term for what is actually happening to the world’s glaciers, it is an ironically apt term for what has happened to the IPCC.  Originally the assessments of the state of understanding of the science were going to be every 5 years, then that slid to every 6 years, and now we are apparently at 7 years between reports.

The Fourth Assessment should have been sufficient to jumpstart serious action.  But to update what I wrote last year, it ended up be out of date the minute the ink was dry for several reasons:

Indeed, the Fourth Assessment was out-of-date so quickly that the Bush Administration itself (!) issued a climate science report the very next year (which I’m told was held up for months by Bushies who didn’t want it to come out before the election) “” signed off on by Bush’s science advisor, Commerce Secretary and Energy Secretary that pointed out in detail how much of on underestimate it was (see US Geological Survey stunner: Sea-level rise in 2100 will likely “substantially exceed” IPCC projections, SW faces “permanent drying” by 2050).

The net result is that the disinformers actually (mis)quote the IPCC report on behalf of their do-nothing recommendations and that we already know things are almost certainly going to be much, much worse on our current emissions path than the IPCC said (see here).

Worse, the IPCC wastes a huge amount of time and effort modeling countless low emissions scenarios that have no basis in reality.  Why is that a problem?

There is some of uncertainty as to what is the impact of a doubling CO2 concentrations (to 550 ppm) from preindustrial levels will be on overall warming, the so-called “fast-feedbacks sensitivity” of the climate (excluding feedbacks like the defrosting of the tundra).

The literature, as summarized in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment says it is “likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C. Values substantially higher than 4.5°C cannot be excluded, but agreement of models with observations is not as good for those values.”  In short, The possibility we are greatly overestimating the sensitivity is very, very low, whereas the possibility we are greatly underestimating it “” and hence greatly underestimating the chances of catastrophic impacts “” is quite high.

sensitivity big

Now if you take a low sensitivity and multiply it by a low emissions scenario, you get a low total warming.  The anti-science crowd then gloms onto that low number as evidence global warming won’t have serious consequences.  But the IPCC has never clearly explained that all of the low emissions scenarios presuppose we ignore the anti-science crowd’s plea to do nothing and instead take very strong action to reduce emissions.

The IPCC has never simply stated that on our current emissions path, we are likely headed for very high levels of CO2 — a tripling or quadrupling this century.  And that’s why most of the media has never explained it to the public even when many other scientists have come forward to explain it (see U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: “Recent observations confirm “¦ the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised” “” 1000 ppm).

The scientific literature is increasingly clear that if we take no serious action, catastrophic change might best be considered business as usual = highly likely (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F and Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year “” and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!“).

But the media and opinionmakers and most economists have been led to believe those scenarios are the extreme worst case and very unlikely, when in fact they are simply what is projected to happen if we keep doing nothing.

The true plausible worst case is far, far worse “” see UK Met Office: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but “we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon.”

Back in 2007, I wrote:

I just don’t think that continuing the IPCC process will have any meaningful impact on American climate policy. And much of the rest of the industrialized world is ready to make the necessary commitments now.

Maybe the only reason for keeping the IPCC is if you think it will help persuade China and India to act (assuming we act), and I have my doubts that future IPCC reports will make much of a difference to them. The IPCC process is slow and unwieldy, and in the face of the rapid climate change we’re now seeing, the summaries are not merely understatements of the problem, they are out of date the moment they’re published.

We also need a more credible body to analyze climate solutions (i.e. mitigation strategies). I just don’t think the IPCC persuades anyone who isn’t already persuaded that mitigation is practical and affordable.

I still think that is all true.  I still don’t know what value the IPCC now provides.  And I’m pretty sure India and China are acting only on the basis of what their scientists conclude, especially now.

For this country, I’d task the the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to do full literature reviews every two years, and special reports on key subjects like sea level rise in between.

Now I fully recognize the world is unlikely to boot the IPCC, so the question is, can it be usefully rebooted?

Maybe, but only if drops the unwieldy process of the big reports, drops most of the scenarios, and focuses on very targeted scientific outputs.

The IPCC should issue a report every four years updating our understanding of observed warming and climate change, how we know humans are a primary cause, and the broad set of impacts that are likely to occur under two or at most three scenarios, focusing on what happens if we stabilize at or below 450 ppm and if we we stay anywhere near our current emissions path.

Every year it should pick one major impact and do a full assessment of what will happen if we stay on our current emissions path.  I’d start with sea level rise.  Then water availability — expansion of the subtropics (Dust-Bowlification) plus loss of the inland glaciers.  Then ocean acidification.  Those report should include the plausible worst-case scenario and not just business as usual.

All reports should rely primarily on the peer-reviewed scientific literature.  Major reports by large groups of scientists on key subjects could also be included.

I don’t see a lot of point for the IPCC to do mitigation analysis, as I’ve said.  The International Energy Agency is far more credible and has far better models.

The IPCC also needs a budget for information dissemination, for media outreach, and for timely response to all scientific issues.

This targeted effort should be led by a climate scientist.  It needs to be a paid full-time position.

I wouldn’t fire Rajendra Pachauri since I don’t believe he has committed a firing offense.  I would redesign the IPCC and eliminate the position he currently has.

What would you do?

[This post has been updated.]


49 Responses to The IPCC lowballs likely impacts with its instantly out-of-date reports and is clearly clueless on messaging — should it be booted or just rebooted?

  1. Seth Masia says:

    Joe, you’re right on this. IPCC needs to summarize more often, and publicize intelligently.

    Disbanding would be a PR disaster. The deniers would play it as admission of fraud.

  2. prokaryote says:

    Quick thought.
    A Subversion system or similar – up-to-date and peer reviewed – than certified officialy approved by IPCC body.

    Classy reports construct the overall scenario from all data on an anual basis.

  3. Doug Bostrom says:

    What would you do?

    I’d let the IPCC go forward with another report, even as a vehicle for authoritative investigation of mitigation was set up as you suggest. There’s a place for each.

    Increased focus on mitigation is both required and necessarily international in scope. Copenhagen would have been more useful if an agreed on mitigation assessment had been in place; many of the Copenhagen sticking points would have been addressed or at least delineated and better circumscribed by less partisan experts ahead of negotiations if such a mitigation report analogous to the IPCC assessment was available to participants.

    W/regard to the IPCC reports, leaving aside little “warts” there’s a lot to be said for longitudinal stability. Research into anthropogenic climate change is not finished, a wholesale upheaval or disappearance of the review method now used will make tracking the narrative of research progress more difficult for everybody. The undershoot you mention could be addressed by more emphasis on retrospective comparison with previous reports.

  4. joe1347 says:

    Agree that something different needs to be done. However, when almost half of the policy makers and population are anti-science, does the creation of yet another scientific body make the least bit of sense? No matter how dire the forecast, the anti-science crowd with never act on it today – let alone even believe it. You can just hear the anti science crowd responding to any new and even more dire global warming forecasts with something along the lines of “those scientists are always saying the world’s going to end just so they can get more Government grants and then help the United Nations take over America”.

    I’d like to think that there’s some way to reach a sizeable percentage of the anti science crowd. So, maybe if there is a way – then possibly that should be the follow on to the IPCC organization.

  5. GFW says:

    What Seth said. Indeed, you should expect quotes out of context from this very article to appear in the usual places. I.e. Morano will say “Even Joe Romm thinks the IPCC should be disbanded.”

    [JR: As we’ve seen, the disinformers make up crap, including phony quotes, so it’s hard to spend much time fretting over how they will misrepresent something else. In any case, I said this over 2 years ago. Still, I have decided to reword the post slightly to clarify what I mean.]

  6. prokaryote says:

    Joe, I think the answer is found in history. Scientist made a forecast – people did not listen. Forecast becomes reality – people listen. (ie, see thales of miletus)

    So what we need now is more catastrophic events.
    Even the most skeptic people will realize that nature went havoc, just depends on the individual experience with extreme weather occurances.

    Problems will be again human psyche, see history of climate change and war.
    We need tuff leadership and decision based on knowledge not short-term market values.

  7. Leif says:

    I know that this may sound counter intuitive but we need to look further out than 2100 and say 6 foot sea level rise. As if that were the end of sea level rise! Not so, the next century will have another 10 or 15 feet built in and more after that It will not stop unless we stop real close to now. We are talking of relocating almost all of the major cities of the world in less than 200 years folks. I guess you could call it “job security.”

  8. Jeff Huggins says:

    What Would I Do? Place the Expectations, Pressures, and Blame Where They Should Be Placed.

    I’m not an expert on the IPCC, and I’m not disagreeing with Joe on many of the problems he points out.

    But, I think there is a need to point out a larger problem, which is a paradigmatic one.

    In much of our thinking — whether it’s here, or in some of The New York Times, or on other blogs, or etc. — there is a paradigmatic thread (sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit) along these lines: “Because we live in a world where the media don’t do their jobs responsibly, and some companies are trying to fool us, and so forth, then it follows that …”.

    And then, as the story goes, everybody else has to pick up the slack. The IPCC must be extra careful. Some other people have to jump through hoops. Blogs have to find “just the right way” to explain matters. In other words, because the media are failing and because some companies and people are being downright misleading, the rest of us have to pull magic out of our hats.

    Phooey. Don’t buy it. There is a paradigmatic and disabling problem in that way of thinking.

    Here, I’m not saying that we don’t all have to work hard at it and do whatever we can. Nor am I disagreeing with Joe’s main points or trying to be critical.

    But I AM saying that there is a deep and problematic paradigm that we should identify, examine, and remedy.

    If the media are a huge part of the problem, then the media should be “disbanded”. I don’t mean, of course, that the buildings should be taken down brick by brick. And, there are a few — not many — exceptions. Instead, I mean that we should have higher expectations of the media and put more pressure on the media. If The New York Times’ coverage is not good, stop buying The New York Times. Period. If Fox is misleading people, then stop watching ANY Fox program, period. (How many people complain about Fox News but are unwilling to stop watching their favorite Fox TV program for entertainment?) If a civil demonstration is warranted, then how about a demonstration in front of The New York Times building and the News Corporation building?

    And name names. Where is CJR? Where is The Observatory? With the dismal state of affairs and the media failing us, what are CJR and The Observatory doing about it, really??

    And, what about those companies? How many times have I, or others, suggested a boycott. But, most of the time, the response is something along the lines that “boycotts don’t work”. Well, boycotts don’t work only because people don’t think they will work and so don’t do them. It’s a self-defeating thought.

    It astonishes me — ASTONISHES ME — (shall I say it again?) — that we accept as a “given” that major institutions won’t do what they are supposed to do, and that major companies will just lie to us, and that we leave that be, “live with it”, and put more pressure on others to fill the slack. If media organizations are failing, reject them and point them out. If some companies lie to you, don’t spend a penny on their products and appeal to other people to do the same.

    On these matters, what we will eventually get is what we will be willing to expect and to demand. If we have low expectations and buy the products anyhow, we’ll get what we deserve.

    Can that be any more clear?

    If I had a choice, I’d want to find a way to have Bill Keller fired, not a way to have Pachauri’s job eliminated.

    If I had a choice, I’d want to find a way to highlight the names of popular entertainers who are still performing for entertainment programs offered by News Corporation/Fox. Why are they doing that?

    If you are a cool popular entertainer these days, making millions of dollars for Fox, but appropriately concerned about climate change, CONNECT the DOTS for goodness sake! Quit and send a message. Does that mean taking a pay cut, from three million a year to one million, or less? Too bad. Get your actions in alignment with your values.

    There are about a hundred things I would do — and people I would critique — and changes I’d make — and products I’d stop buying — before talking about the elimination of Pachauri’s role.

    (Again, I’m not saying this to be critical of the points made in the post. Instead, I’m saying that we should change paradigms and put more REAL pressure on those institutions that are letting us down. Period.)

    Here is a question: Do people in the media have an immense responsibility to society, including to you and to me and to future generations?

    If so — and of course they DO — let’s not let the media get away with its poor, poor performance on covering these issues.

    I’m sorry, but I think we should change paradigms here. After all, if we have low expectations of the media, and let them get away with their poor coverage, and we have low expectations of those companies that lie to us, and let them get away with that, and still buy their products in many cases, and if we live with all of the other “status quo” aspects of things, the only people we will have to blame, in the end, are Joe and Bill McKibben and Al Gore and the IPCC.

    Can you imagine that? How Orwellian! “Al Gore and Bill McKibben and the IPCC and Joe and Climate Progress all failed us. They should have done much more. After all, it’s only common knowledge that we can’t expect much from the mainstream media, and it’s only common knowledge that many big corporations will deceive us, and it’s only common knowledge that lobbyists will do what lobbyists will do, and it’s only common knowledge that boycotts don’t work, and it’s unfair and unreasonable to ask me to stop watching my favorite TV program just because it’s produced by a subsidiary of NewsCorp, and blah blah blah. Yep, that proves it: With the world as it is, Al Gore and Bill McKibben and the IPCC and Joe and Climate Progress should have tried much harder. It’s their fault that we weren’t able to face and address climate change.”



  9. mike roddy says:

    What about giving IPCC a reduced and largely ceremonial role? As many of us here are aware, their reports are out of date and too timid. In forest carbon fluxes, my own area of knowledge, I learned that the country reports and the IPCC forestry conferences were riddled with timber industry influence. Ike Solem has written about commercially motivated IPCC distortions in other areas. These influences can become more pernicious and easily hidden in such a large body of work. It’s time for more nimble management, and I agree with Joe here.

    The best sources of information for people who are serious about learning about our climate future are good climate blogs and the sources they cite, either current peer reviewed publications or data found in NASA, NOAA, and Hadley. Maybe the leading research organizations such these and one or two others should rotate annual state of the global atmosphere reports. International cooperation in data collection will follow as a consequence of the quality of the work produced.

    When it comes to recommendations for clean power and better transportation, forestry and agricultural practices, these are separate but equally important tasks. They should be assigned to leading scientific membership organizations whose leadership is beyond reproach. Feasibility studies should be subcontracted to the appropriate engineering specialty.

    Mitigation reports, including cost projections, should be issued at least every two years. We shouldn’t have to depend on banks or state organizations for critical information on things such as power generation costs. By bringing in top scientists, likely future technological improvements can be factored in. International organizations are too cumbersome for this assignment.

    Conclusions may include cessation of industrial clearcut logging and beef production as currently practiced, as well as the obvious ones like fossil fuel electricity generation. If humans are going to maintain quality of life, many activities will have to be phased out and reengineered. The affected industries and their trolls will make a huge racket, of course, but it’s better to get the truth out there, in detail and with authority.

  10. J Bowers says:

    joe1347: “I’d like to think that there’s some way to reach a sizeable percentage of the anti science crowd.”

    I personally can’t see it with big oil and coal funding anti-science organisations expert at aggressively putting a message across, politicians looking for “campaign funds”, enough scientific “experts” willing to put their mouths where the money is, and a general population who find the projected scenarios too scary to contemplate as being possible even though they only hear BAU at the very worst.

    The denialsphere completely baffles me at times; desparate to cling to anything that means things won’t be so bad, in fact better, partly illustrated by Monckton’s popularity.

    Pulling the plug on the IPCC would be bad IMHO. The denialsphere would simply ride roughshod over any reasonable argument (even more than now) in an hysterical frenzy, with the demise of the IPCC as absolute proof that something was always amiss, they were right all along, calling for even more investigations and witch-hunts, and the media would be riding alongside them if not stoking the hysteria (Fox especially).

    The root of the problem (only in my opinion) is fossil fuel money and the greed of psycopathic corporations, otherwise known as ‘Judicial Persons’ (psycopathic in a clinical sense). Unless their shareholders’ homes are flooded by storm surges, or their childrens’ lungs filled with dust, it’s just a long and hard slog, but one worth continuing. Oops, did I just do an ‘Houghtonism’?

    “…“You’d really have to go digging into very old historical records and the scientific literature and extrapolate from what’s there to find that yes, there could be effects (leading to tsunamis) in Thailand,” says Phil Cummins, a seismologist who studies the region at Australia’s national geological agency. “But (Smith Dharmasaroja) was correct.”…”

  11. Leland Palmer says:

    I think that regardless of past actions, we are all in this together now, and should keep the IPCC essentially as it is. They should hire some permanent scientists, so that everyone is not a volunteer, though. And Robert Watson was a more effective spokesman, I think, who was popular with the scientists in the IPCC, before he was forced out of leadership by the Bush Administration, apparently.

    Pachauri is a weak leader, is kind of a “stuffed shirt” who has a hard time communicating with ordinary people, and cooperated in producing a very watered down report. He was also installed by the Bush Administration, apparently at the behest of ExxonMobil. A lobbyist with ties to ExxonMobil apparently wrote a memo to the Bush Administration urging the replacement of Watson, and the Bush Administration apparently then used its influence on the IPCC member governments to force Watson’s replacement:

    Watson Out as IPCC Chair Following ExxonMobil Memo to Bush

    Watson Loses Chair of Climate Panel

    GENEVA, Switzerland, April 19, 2002 (ENS) – Transatlantic divisions over climate change were reconfirmed today when Dr. Robert Watson, the outspoken chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), was ousted with American support but against European wishes.

    In a secret ballot of 125 governments, 61 percent voted against Dr. Watson and for Indian engineer economist Rajendra Pachauri, currently the IPCC’s vice chairman.

    The incumbent had fought to serve a second five year term, with support from European Union countries.

    Watson is credited with forging global scientific consensus on key issues within the IPPC. The IPCC in turn has played a strong role in galvanizing political support for policy responses to the threat of global warming.

    The IPCC is a joint project of the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization. The 2,500 researchers and other experts who are part of the panel have led international efforts to assess the science behind human and natural causes of climate change since it was formed in 1988.

    Watson, an atmospheric researcher and the chief scientist at the World Bank, is considered one of the world’s leading experts on climate change. He is a strong proponent of the idea that human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels are the primary forces behind the warming climate, and that efforts to combat global warming must focus on reducing human emissions of greenhouse gases.

    Environmental group Friends of the Earth alleged his expulsion was due to lobbying by the U.S. government and American energy businesses. Exxon is the group’s main target for anger, following a revelation that in 2001 it urged the U.S. government to replace him.

    A little Googling can actually uncover the ExxonMobil associated memo, which is still available online.

    Regardless, we are all in this together. If some of us have personality or communication problems, so be it. None of us are perfect, but we do share a common goal- preserving as much of possible of our biological heritage and stable climate for future generations.

    Pachauri has spoken out lately, and done so reasonably forcefully, and apparently honestly. If he was to step down to second under Robert Watson, who is a more effective spokesman, that might be a good idea.

    But we are all in this together, and Pachauri has held up under the pressure pretty well. Another solution would to bring Watson back into the fold, but have him serve under Pachauri, and do most of the talking. Still another solution would be to have the IPCC run by a council, including Pachauri, Chris Field, Robert Watson, and a few others.

    Chris Field, an IPCC group leader, doesn’t think he is a very effective spokesman, but he actually is. His honesty and integrity, and his basic shyness show through, and make him very difficult to demonize.

    I wish the IPCC the best, and hope that they can speed up the process, weed out members under the thumb of the fossil fuel corporations, and hire a full time staff to conduct fact checking investigations and so on.

    Certainly, disbanding them would be a disaster, and would denigrate their past good hard work.

    Our attitude toward the IPCC should be one of constructive criticism and support, IMO.

  12. Lou Grinzo says:

    Leif (#7) hits a key point: Our arbitrary focus on 2100 as a magic cutoff date is very harmful. As David Archer points out in his (excellent) book The Long Thaw, 40% of the warming from our emissions up to 2100 will only happen after that date. And that’s without invoking a massive release of CO2 and/or methane from hydrate deposits and permafrost.

    I’ve speculated over on my own site about why we’ve latched onto 2100 as “the” magic date, and have yet to hear a really solid explanation. My hunch is it’s partially tradition (we started talking about 2100 and it stuck), and partially that even very young children of people in this discussion today will likely die of old age within the next 90 years (so none of us have a direct stake in the outcome).

    No matter the origin of the 2100 cutoff date, it should be ditched.

  13. George Darroch says:

    know that this may sound counter intuitive but we need to look further out than 2100 and say 6 foot sea level rise. As if that were the end of sea level rise! Not so, the next century will have another 10 or 15 feet built in and more after that


    2100 is now within the lifetime of someone born today in a rich country. The focus on 2100 has been incredibly destructive, causing both laymen and decision makers to have the false impression that CO2 is a short-medium term process, rather than something that will continue to linger and have impacts for hundreds and thousands of years. I ask people how long they think CO2 stays in the air – very few know, most think simply a couple of years. As a result, people think that the moment we start cutting emissions the problem goes away. It’s an awful misunderstanding, but one that the climate-reality community has been promoting by accident.

    Every time I hear a scientist or environmentalist say 2100 (without adding further qualification) I want to lock them in a room and give them a firmly worded lecture on messaging.

  14. George Darroch says:

    Time to bring back Watson?

  15. Wit's End says:

    Guys, guys, guys.

    Yes, dump the 2100 already!

    Here is a comment I read at realclimate that should become routinely repeated:

    RE: 5 elliot says: 16 February 2010 at 11:47 PM
    “Dont make cataclysmic predictions the world will not end because of AGW and life (including human life) will go on. It just might be a bit warmer and for where I live that would be a good thing!”

    Elliot should try to think outside the box he lives in.

    Where we own property in Central Texas I’ve lived through three summers and more of “exceptional drought,” the worst it gets, and whole summer months of temperatures over 100º and almost no rain at all. I’ve very well seen that just the beginning of a barely discernable warming trend has had cataclysmic effects, whether the drought is merely coincident or not.

    By effects I mean the base of the food chain being wiped out.

    Flowering plants wilt and die. Thereby insects that depend on host plants don’t survive. Thereby birds and mammals depending on seeds and insects migrate away or die off.
    Hummingbirds become totally dependent on their human feeders then only to migrate on. Old oak and cedar elm trees dependent on certain levels of rainfall suddenly wilt and die. Creeks and rivers dry up so aquatic life dies out. The aquifers aren’t recharged so springs and seeps dry up and wells silt up and then go dry as well.

    With the grass short and sparse and brown the cattle industry goes belly up. With no rain the corn and cotton fields wilt away if they get started at all. In the cities, as the reservoirs dry up drought stage alerts make for water rationing. The heat makes summertime electric bills skyrocket and the poor suffer even more for that.

    Since the movement of the subtropical zone northward is forecast to be a consequence of global warming these tastes of drought are indicators of what’s to come, if it hasn’t already started. The whole American Southwest is subject to this, and it’s not just there.

    Believe me, desertification is a serious matter. The predictions of impending catastrophe need to be made loud and clear.

    Comment by Tim Jones — 17 February 2010 @ 10:33 AM

  16. Will Koroluk says:

    Jeff #8) makes some good points about the news media. There is a good piece by a Worldwatch Institute staffer about how the media cover climate change. It’s at
    I think changes could be made in the mass media’s approach to the subject, albeit slowly. It would mean writing letters–lots and lots of letters–every time the usual blather is spotted in a paper. There are a lot of us who think nothing of taking five or 10 minutes to post a message on one of these threads, but who rarely, if ever, take the same amount of time to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper. We all need to get directly involved, and encourage others to do the same. Maybe that way we could change some of the decisions being made in newsrooms.
    I don’t believe we could end the staff cut-backs, but if enough letters were sent to papers, maybe we could cause assignment editors to deploy their remaining reporters in a way that doesn’t harm science coverage in general, or climate change coverage in particular.
    If all this sounds like some sort of angry ramble, well, I guess it is. I’m furious with myself because I didn’t write a letter of protest to the Toronto Globe and Mail, which recently ran a really ignorant op-ed column by a writer who, a few years ago, lambasted the notion of climate change time after time, each time citing everyone’s friend, J. Fred Singer, as her authority.
    We all need to let papers know that the world needs more science coverage–informed science coverage.
    And Jeff, if you’re reading this, I understand the “sigh” with which you end many of your posts.


  17. PeterW says:

    Joe please, please think seriously about what Jeff Huggins just wrote. The problem isn’t the IPCC, it’s the spinners and their enablers (MEDIA). Money is warping the truth. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic isn’t going to make a damn bit of difference.

    P.S. Jeff I would also recommend people stop subscribing to satellite and cable tv.

  18. fj2 says:

    The best position right now is to be in that strange point of time as just before Pearl Harbor.

    That the people up top know we are in an emergency without precedent and must go into wartime mode.

    This is an extreme measure and they probably do not see their way clear on how to do it and are waiting for the right combination of circumstances just like Pearl Harbor. This is not the right strategy.

    It would be best if they are in the process of lining up their ducks.

    It would be best if things happen quickly.

    It would be best if they make the right move as soon as possible.

    Right now, immediately, is already very late.

    But, we should not sit idly by.

    The most capable powerful people must hear our voices and know what we know and raise their voices and do what must be done.

  19. James Crabb says:

    The IPCC spread it’s wings too far, by extending into areas covering future projections a substantial element of doubt has been introduced. In trying to create a compelling picture of Climate change, inadvertantly a muddied version has appeared. Since the IPCC was set up, the need for projections has somewhat dimminished as the last thirty years have provided empirical evidence of warming, ie increased Ocean heat content, decreased LWR etc. There is not as much need to create a future image of climate change as it is now a reality.

    All that is needed is definitive, irrefutable statements of-

    – The World is warming (not just the Atmosphere)
    – It is due to increased Greenhouse gasses
    – Humans have caused this increase

    Then irrefutable, fully researched effects of warming can be announced,

    – Decline of the Arctic
    – Increased decline of Glaciers
    – Increased Ocean heat content
    – Accelerating, rising sea levels.

    By limiting areas the IPCC covers in its reports a more compelling case is made.

    Research commisioned by the IPCC to minimise scientific uncertainty could create an even more water tight case.

    As Climate change is such a daunting and overwhelming prospect, I think there is a natural tendency to seize on any doubt as a way to allay fear and the need for change.

    People realise that the Climate is changing, through changing seasonal patterns, ie record heatwaves in Australia, all that needs to be done is to convince them that the Climate at large is changing due to GHG’s and people will connnect the dots to their local situation.

    No doubt there will always be Denialists, but the larger the ‘cracks’, the more there will be.

  20. Magnus W says:

    I think Hulme got one point right… regionalization of the work is important!

  21. BJ Douthwright says:

    The most telling thing I’ve noted in the thread of comments was the recounting of how Exxon managed to have Watson replaced by Pachauri! I think that that goes to the heart of how they won the messaging battle this round. ‘Intergovernmental Panel’, so, the panel’s commissioned mandate is to get the message across globally. Pachauri may be an ideal panel rep to India, but definitely as a spokesperson his position had to have been largely lost on the vast majority of Americans= If Gore took the prize with them then appoint him to the panel, Americans would then be far more likely to be ‘getting the message’. The scientific do-gooder community has to wake up to realizing what you’re factually up against (social science wise) in corporate bought media messaging spin… That’s how I see it just now…

  22. Rikki (Australia) says:

    I think there is a place for the IPCC. They form a substantive support base for further analysis.

    However, there needs to be a much quicker, authoritative process that will produce updates to the IPCC reports on an annual basis. There is just too much change in the science to settle for anything less frequent.

    I agree that funding to the IPCC would be a good place to start, set up the criteria for the scenarios and then have active re-running of the models when ever new studies show new information. 12monthly or even 6 monthly reports on the results. It is useless for the Met office or some such to make vague refrences to model outcomes, they are rarely listened to and mostly dont actually publish a report that helps decision makers.

    Governments are relying on the IPCC report from 2007 NOW. They need to understand that it is out of date and a yearly review could fill this role.

    My local government body has been TOLD by its State Govt. that it must ignore the latest science in favour of the State govt statements on impacts (which are largely based on the 2007 IPCC Report). This is clearly madness!

  23. Rikki (Australia) says:

    PS. 7 years is hopeless between IPCC reports. Please can we have them at 3 yearly intervals (at most)!

  24. Nick says:

    Pachauri should stay and see AR5 into print. This is his intention anyway,and there is no real pressure on him at all; it is simply dumbnialist blog/lazy media invention. The people who demand his resignation never respected the position he held or the panel,or their work. Their demands are as laughable as their conviction that their ignorance is sufficient to qualify them to have an opinion.

  25. jorleh says:

    IPCC is dead. We know the anti-science mob is using it for ever as an example of best and only climate science, because of it´s weakness, it´s ten -years-ago done papers, it´s underestimation of climate change because of governmental (oil producer states, dirty business) consensus, it´s “we don´t talk of feedbacks” attitude etc. etc.

    Would be better scientists united and attacked en mass the dirty mob in internet, casting day after day facts and more facts in the face of idiocy.

    Like Climate Progress, but in a WW II like style. All science into the net, not only to Nature or Science.

    Is this not our last war, anyway?

  26. Joe, I agree with your suggestions and it appears that most of us here believe that the largest problem is getting the public to buy in to the science. For the most part, it is the conservative side of the public that has the most doubts because mitigating climate change appears to fly in the face of their worldview.

    We therefore must make climate change personal and not global. Folks say that they care about the poor and the starving but they care more about their own bottom line. Show them how climate change hurts their bottom line and their core values.

    Mike Roddy asked a question on 2/6/10 (I missed this b/c I was away for two weeks then) in the thread:

    how do you talk to a conservative who is skeptical about climate change?

    I have a thread that suggests how to do so:

    Your comments are very welcomed.

  27. Icarus says:

    My understanding is that the IPCC’s primary purpose is to review the findings of the many hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers which deal with climate, some of which may disagree with each other, in order to get our best assessment of the state of the science. It seems to me that this is a very important task, and one which *must* be done. Therefore, if the IPCC don’t do it, someone else will have to do it, and in that case you might just as well have the IPCC do it. If there are issues with who actually carries out the assessment, whether or not they are paid, how often the reports come out, who influences the outcome and so on, then by all means let’s address those issues and make changes, but I don’t see any point in scrapping the IPCC and then setting up another body to do essentially the same job with the same kind of people in a slightly different way.

  28. J Bowers says:

    Can i recommend a read of Michael Tobis’ comment over at OIIFTG. I personally think it cuts to the core of at least the online blogosphere aspect to the entire debate.

    I highly recommend you read it:

    How many people actually know that the IPCC is comprised of ten staff in the Geneva WMO plus a few elsewhere, and the remaining thousands are unpaid volunteers with regular day jobs?

    Not quite the evil villain’s HQ from a James Bond film I suspect most on the other side of the climate fence has in its collective mind’s eye.

  29. Sou says:

    The IPCC is meant to be an inter-governmental panel on climate change. So far it has done a great job in providing a vast amount of information.

    It has not done such a great job of communicating that information widely. Maybe that’s not it’s mandate. If not, then either the mandate must be broadened or another body set up to communicate to the public throughout the world.

    I suggest expanding the mandate of the IPCC to include communication more broadly. That means providing a fully staffed and amply funded unit of science communicators and PR people to develop an awareness campaign. The campaign could include, for example:
    -media presentations – radio and television
    -regular press columns
    -annual short reports on the state of the climate
    -rolling updates on specific topics – probably quarterly
    -facilitating / arranging specialist speakers to media, forums, conferences etc from among the top scientists

    At the moment the work of the IPCC totally relies on the goodwill and donated volunteer time and effort of a huge number of scientists and must by it’s nature be taking them away from their main work – which is so critical to us and will become more so.

    It will continue to be important to have scientists write a major report – but do they need to be involved in the entire process? So time consuming. There are a lot of excellent science writers around who could do much of the editing based on drafts provided by scientists. If that’s logistically less efficient then keep doing the same thing. But in my experience (very minor doing some science writing) a process could be designed that takes the pressure off the scientists while maximising their contribution to the content. Value-add rather than distract scientists from their main mission.

    I agree with the thrust of Joe’s article, but a major rethink could make the process so much better and inform so many more people. A more pro-active approach is absolutely essential in my view. Governments of the world have to work together on this. It’s no longer a matter of the facts, as Joe points out. Now it’s a matter of communication and public relations.

    To sum up: we need a two-pronged approach:

    1. Communication, public relations and awareness – to influence and persuade and inform – with a fully-fledged program encompassing the points above.

    2. Continuing the in-depth information, once every three years (not six or seven years).

    Just my thoughts.
    Sou (previously Mim)

  30. Chris Dudley says:

    I think it is pretty pessimistic to assume that we’ll not be cutting emissions already when the next report comes out. If we need another report then we are in very deep trouble. In view of this, the IPCC will have a new role in future reports similar to what is done to monitor the effects of reduced CFC emissions. It will be a more difficult role since the climate signal is observed through greater variability than stratospheric ozone abundance and there is a larger set of inputs that are more difficult to monitor. But, this is the proper role for the IPCC or its successor body: understanding the impact of mitigation efforts and giving warning on what adaptation will be required under emissions reduction scenarios. The space for policy relevant information actually broadens once there are specific mitigation policies underway. For example, a scenario that includes a large biochar sequestration effort should be included in the next report and a 350 ppm CO2 stabilization scenario as well.

  31. mike roddy says:

    Scott Mandia, thanks for the link to your blog, I liked your points. I didn’t realize that the percentage of college educated conservatives who disputed global warming was that low. And I think that I and others have been too quick to dismiss them: there is a place for conservative ideas, and we can’t assume that they will remain this ignorant. Your kind of outreach is important.

    It was also interesting that if it’s framed as support for nuclear power, conservatives favor change. Sooner or later they will learn that the numbers don’t work for nuclear, and when they see the great promise of solar and wind, they could support it. Republicans need to get over their associations of solar with woo woo hippies, especially since many of the solar executives that I know are Republicans themselves!

    Sou, thanks- I agree that IPCC communication has been too academic and guarded. This apparent lack of belief in the data has hurt them. We sorely need better communicators- Joe here is excellent, but a lot more people and demographic sectors should be reached.

    Chris, I wish I shared your optimism that serious steps will be under way between now and the IPCC V report. The biggest one- commitment to clean power- just can’t keep getting postponed.

    As for private sector cap and trade, a lot of people smarter than me are in favor of it, but my intuition tells me that if the bankers are so well positioned to take billions of dollars off the top that it will fail. Emergency carbon taxes, while also politically difficult, just make a lot more sense, and is actually less opposed in public opinion polls than most people think.

  32. mike roddy says:

    And Jeff, keep the pressure up on the media. It doesn’t seem possible to shame them, but maybe if enough people wake up to their miserable performance on this issue that alternative media will become enabled. This may be happening anyway, due to future computer TV access. UTube has come a long way, and the next step may be something called “smart and courageous” news, minus the blowhards and the BS.

  33. Leif says:

    I do not recall the source of this quote but it is appropriate.

    “I do not know the weapons of WW III but WW IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

    I for one, hope that WW III will be fought with a Carbon Tax and humanity will be victorious.

    The Supreme Court has declared Corporations people but has not required them to be good neighbors. I my eyes corporations have become a “Robot” with a license to kill.


  34. CW says:

    Talk about blaming the victims… Holy S&*% that’s ridiculous! Put it in the hands of the NAS? How long before they then become ‘uncredible’ due to the effects of the capable and well-funded corporate and ideological propagandists?

    [JR: No victim blaming here. No ignoring reality either.]

    Huggins is right — call out the real culprits here! And, more importantly, disempower them.

    The focus of ALL activism right now, including this blog, should be supporting all action which reverses or negates the supreme court decision to let corporations finance US elections. This needs to be done in time for the mid-term elections which are NOT VERY FAR AWAY.

    When I type ALL activism, I mean on human rights, justice, fair trade, democracy, workers rights, etc. etc. and not just the climate or the environment.

    And I actually mean conservative activism too.

    That’s right, it is not just lefties who should be against this. When corporations are in charge you get big government. You get raised defecits and debt. Government becomes less transpartent and accountable. It picks winners and intervenes in the free market. It subsidises losers using your hard-earned tax dollars. It’s a kind of socialism, but to big companies only, not everyday schmucks. You get constrictions of freedom to speak, act, invest, purchase, have a holiday, and of course to know about stuff. Including whether there is a debate going on in science at all, let alone whether the consensus is credible or not.

    We all know this because it is *obviously* already happening. But this supreme court ruling unlocks the final door to complete control.

    So what to do? STOP writing about what to do with the IPCC and START supporting the cause that matters to everybody and is much more pressing. It’s THE main thing to do right now to advance progress, let alone progress on averting destabilisation of natural ecosystems.

  35. F White says:

    Reboot please.

    Granted the US and developed nations have the resources to look after themselves, but what of the developing world? Who will advocate on their behalf?

    Moreover, would disbanding the IPPC stop the manufactured dissent and disinformation campaign? This game of hardball is all about the politics of power and influence. Whether the IPCC is booted or rebooted, echo bloggers and news media with an ideological ax to grind will continue their unrelenting efforts to discredit legitimate climate science.

    They could care less about “the truth”. Not even a climate disaster in their own backyard is likely to stop them.

  36. Leif says:

    In my view, the only bridge for the Supreme Court, now that they have declared Corporations deserving of free speech is to also declare that Corporations are also charged with the well-being of the long term survival of Humanity first, just as you and I, and corporate responsibilities to the shareholders second. We need the Capitalistic system structured for the good of humanity not just the short sighted view of increasing GDP at all costs. Do that and I believe we can make it, without it humanity is toast.

  37. MapleLeaf says:

    First off Jeff Huggins @8, I share your thoughts and sentiments. This is a depressing situation. Also, I’m probably not the first spouse posting here who’s significant other has specifically had to ask them to stop lamenting about the sad state of affairs (i.e, assault on science and scientists). We humans, are oftentimes too myopic and selfish for our own good, and do not deal with hearing bad news well– hence all the denial about AGW.

    Anyhow, what do to with the IPCC:

    1) Pachauri stays, he has done nothing wrong. Is he the best person for the job? Not really, but he has done a pretty good job thus far. Those in denial are really just on a witch hunt and do not honestly care whether the IPCC is doing a good job or not, they just want it gone, and getting their first scalp (Pachauri) would be a slippery slope, and they know that all too well.

    2) The IPCC stays, but the format and focus need to change. In other words, it needs some upgrades if one wishes to use PC analogies. But thgus far it has served its purpose well, and IMO done a fantastic job of assembling the science, but a less than stellar job at communicating the science to the public.

    3) We (scientists and other concerned parties) need to firmly stand by the IPCC. The harassment and bullying that they are being subjected to is, for the most part, unreasonable and uncalled for. So let us not all start running for the hills, how we deal with AGW is too important to be intimidated by the rogue media and “skeptics” blogs.

    How do we address number 2 above (i.e., revamp the IPCC)? IMHO, here are some ideas:

    a) The IPCC should to appoint a dedicated (that would be their sole purpose) PR person and spokesperson who will be available to promptly address the stream of misinformation in the media and internet, and to proivide frequent updates. This person should have a firm understanding of what is going on both in terms of the science, as well as the IPCC in general and also be aware of what is going on at WUWT, for example. Joe, sounds like you….this person would need two teams–one team to help draft responses, develop press kits, to do background research, to speak to IPCC scientists about a story or media question etc. and the second team would be a team with experience with graphic design and in communications etc. Just look at the amazing products that MetEd and COMET have rolled out. The IPCC needs to invest some money in developing similar material for public education and ads, both onthe IPCC site and elsewhere on the net and print media and TV.

    b) The IPCC spokesperson should engage and meet with the press frequently and try develop a positive relationship– try and dispell the feeling that some people have that the IPCC is an “ivory tower”.

    c) The IPCC should produce an annual report, perhaps each spring, in which it details the state of the atmosphere, oceans and cryosphere, from the previous year and which also provides updates on the state of the science (e.g., new papers, new studies etc.). I think that the Copenhagen Diagnosis was an excellent template for this type of annual report! There could be two versions. One for policy makers and government scientists, the other for the public (less technical but elucidating the seminal points).

    d) The IPCC has to engage the public through advertisments. Yes, it may sound lame, but it is an effective way to reach hundreds of millions of people without spending a ridiculous amount of money. The ads would focus on education, making people aware of what is happening globally with the cryosphere etc. They should not focus on fear mongering! Just stating the facts– although those facts will probably not look to good or pretty, but scientists and doctors and not paid to paint a pretty picture and bury their heads in the sand. As A. Watts has demonstrated, a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, we need to turn that and use it to our advantage, but skillfully and appropriately.

    e) The review process for future reports needs to be tightened. The process before was open and well-structured. However, writers of chapters needs to be required to address reviewers’ concerns appropriately, just as if they were publishing a paper. The breakdown was evidenced by the Himalayan glacier flop– then the writers did not implement the changes that they said they would. Due dilligence needs to be exercised, otherwise the IPCC’s credibility is undermined. Will it eradicate all the errors? No. But those who want the IPCC gone demand perfection, thereby setting them up to “fail”. The IPCC should strive to give them as little fodder as possible.

    Anyhow, those are my thoughts. Joe, do you have the ear of anyone at the IPCC? I hope so. Some posters here have had excellent recommendations and these need to be passed on so that action might be taken.

  38. Richard Brenne says:

    Joe and All –

    Keep and improve IPCC. This is like total war and IPCC is like our standing, conventional army.

    Add to the infrastructure. Whether IPCC, a synthesis or something new, we need commandos in addition to the standing army. Joe’s quickness is the prime example of this.

    Keep rubbing your tummy, now add patting your head. Not literally, it meessus upp yyor typping. Keep the IPCC doing what it’s doing (with improvements), but add to it as Joe suggests.

    Combat conservatism in science and all communication. I like Joe’s idea of yearly assessment reports. What I’m working on (in the early stages, we can develop the methodology here!) with many scientists is creating a Bell Curve of probability for all these things.

    For instance sea level rise. At the low end of the IPCC is their 7 inches of sea level rise by 2100 that would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic, because we’ve had 8 inches in the last century and it’s only accelerating for a host of reasons. So that 7 inches is the extremely conservative outlier, with less than a 1 per cent chance of happening.

    If that’s at the conservative left end of the Bell Curve, the outlier at the extreme right end is Jim Hansen pointing out that some centuries have had 5 meters (over 16 feet) of sea level rise. Okay, because Ted Pfeffer and others have pointed out that the physics of melting probably don’t allow that this century (more detailed work needs to be done on this), that’s less than a 1 per cent chance too.

    Conrad Steffen, director of CIRES and Jim White, director of INSTAAR, have been telling me they expect a meter by 2100 for years now. NASA has picked this up in their literature now too. So if that’s most likely, maybe that’s a 40 to 50 per cent chance, with 2 meters a 20 per cent chance and half a meter a 20 per cent chance, etc. (I’d love to hear your educated guesses about this.)

    You try to get everyone involved in the process: IPCC, NASA, NOAA, NCAR, HADLEY, NAS, etc. Then you publicize the conclusions as much as you possibly can in all mediums. You’d need to update each year or so as new science comes in.

    Then you do this for CO2 levels, temperature levels, etc – then all scientists, science writers and climate change communicators are communicating the same thing. But it’s not just the IPCC all over again – it might not be as lightning quick as Joe and CP, but it’s as quick as you can make it.

    And all communication is by human beings to human beings – not science-speak, IPCC-speak or any other primary example of poor communication.

    And scientists and the rest of us have to learn to disagree in private –if vehemently, fine. If Hansen wants to fight for his 5 meters in a century (I think he’s saying this is possible in some century in the future) and some (credentialed) yahoo wants to fight for 7 inches, do it. We’ll set up the mechanism to do it. Get everything said in creating the Bell Curve in private, then speak with one voice in public.

  39. Leif says:

    It may of been mentioned but perhaps quarterly reports on segments of findings, drought, SLR, Ice loss, etc. To keep the topic in front of the public awareness.

  40. Richard Brenne says:

    And yes, Leif and many others, time and the future and climate change and all our other problems won’t stop in 2100, but it allows enough time for dramatic change while being somewhat understandable. Maybe 2050, 2100 and 2200 in combination are the best metrics.

    And then of course everything Jeff says in #8 has to be addressed also.

    We need a Rupert Murdoch of truth, honesty and science to create a network that focuses on these things but in an accessible and entertaining way – really the Anti-Fox. I think that Joe and CP could be the beginnings of a move in that direction.

    Tonight I’m going to hear and speak with singer James McMurtry (son of the author of the relentlessly cheerful novel “The Road,” I think about the hijinks of a traveling bubble-gum band) because he sings about Katrina and other human impacts of climate change.

    Similarly, Dana Lyons (Google Dana and his songs – especially “Cows With Guns”, “RV” and “Ride the Lawn”, hilarious and environmental songs) and I are planning performances of climate change comedy, with him singing and my comic timeline of how we got here (I only go back as far at the Big Bang, or in Sarah Palin’s universe, 6014 years.) We’re also working on writing climate change songs together, both comedic and heartfelt (he does both brilliantly).

    As I said in the comment above, this is like Total War (sorry peaceniks – and I’m with you – for that being such a helpful metaphor) that we need to fight on all fronts every moment of every day. If we don’t do anything there remains the potential for the greatest tragedy of all, my singing.

  41. Leif says:

    Richard: Every voice is beautiful if sung from the heart. Fear not.

  42. BobbyBob says:

    It doesn’t much matter what the IPCC does at this point. As was mentioned, if people don’t already believe, then no amount of science is going to convince them. The more often the updates come, the faster people will get tired of hearing it, and the more they will want to change the channel. It’s just human nature that we are fighting now: people don’t like depressing, scary stuff; they want, or maybe need, to think happy thoughts, and they will cling to any piece of hope they can get that allows them to not accept danger. You could come out with a study that proves without a shadow of a doubt that AGW is real (well, we already have essentially) and you could plaster that all over the TV 24/7…except for 30 mins on Fox and people will tune in to that 30 mins and turn the tv off the rest of the time.

    What the IPCC should do is just keep doing what they have been because any rocking of the boat will only offer another piece of doubt to cling to. But another large body should be developed that will counter the fear with hope. More headlines that tout the benefits of solar and wind and geo-thermal, etc.. We have to get out the message that all we need to do is use less fossil fuels…that’s really all saving the planet from CO2 is about, isn’t it? People are afraid they will have to give up their entire way of life, that we will go back to the stone age, that cap and trade is a form of government control that will lead to socialism, and all other irrational leaps of logic. We need to show that those things aren’t true.

    In other words, if people fear the solution they will NEVER believe the problem. People are not guided by logic: we are all animals avoiding fear and stress, and trying to get by the most enjoyable way possible (not necessarily the easiest). We need to make the path of least resistance to be Green. If the path of most resistance, the one full of fear and clamity, is Green, then few will follow it. The denier path allows people to change nothing and fear nothing…much more enticing. You can tell them that their path leads to destruction in 30 years (or less), but they can just say “no it won’t”. It is much more effective to show a path that is more enjoyable so they can say, “Ooh I like that better!”. You attract more flies with honey, as the saying goes.

  43. Sou says:

    Incidentally, I wonder when IPCC-fatigue will emerge? The IPCC is calling for authors right now. Will it get the numbers of people it needs? Who wants to stick their neck out just to get it clobbered by the amoral media? Gavin on mentioned that most of the 4000 or so volunteer authors/reviewers of the 2007 report were new to the IPCC. Given the amount of work and effort involved and the length of time of the commitment, I’d be surprised if the enthusiasm can be sustained. It’s a big ask for someone to devote their after-hours time for no pay for such a long time, given that six or seven years can easily span the time for job and career changes of an individual. Many scientists work in the field where it’s not easy to make the sort of sustained contribution that’s required by the IPCC process.

    This in itself calls for a re-think.
    1. Seven years is far too long a time.
    2. The time required of scientists in the preparation of the report can be used much more efficiently.

    And I repeat the call for broadening the role to public awareness – with a dedicated unit of full time staff amply funded for the purpose.

  44. Richard Brenne says:

    Bobby Bob (#42) –

    Well yes and no. All your points are well-taken but are also just one piece of the ultimate and most complex puzzle any species we know about has ever faced.

    In fact what we’re facing is systemic, that many species will grow their population beyond what the environment and resources of their habitat will allow, and then at that point their population plummets, which is about the least-pretty thing there is.

    And every truly great leader or person has led or followed a path that was difficult, not easy. Abraham Lincoln appealed to “The better angels of our natures” and Martin Luther King had a dream difficult to accomplish and neither easy nor simple.

    Fighting for the freedom and full rights, dignity and equality of millions was incredibly important and difficult (and must continue) but progress has been made, as Obama’s election shows us.

    The abolition of slavery, civil rights and overthrowing apartheid was more clear-cut than the caste system that still plagues India and in less obvious ways all nations, including ours.

    All the implications of Anthro-Earth including climate change is more complex still, with those suffering most including all future generations. In a way we’re practicing the generational genocide of billions instead of millions.

    I wish to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible as you suggest, but if we could wave a magic wand and make that happen tomorrow (later today would be difficult), we’d still have overpopulation and overconsumption leading to the depletion of freshwater (especially fossil water in aquifers), topsoil, trees, fish and virtually all metals, pollution of every other kind and resulting famine, disease and war over resources.

    Yes none of us asked to be in this position, as Lincoln, King and Mandela didn’t really ask to be in theirs – but we’re in it and need to have the courage to face this honestly and openly.

    There is merit to your argument and it should be practiced at various times and places by those most skilled at understanding and communicating that part of the message.

    But it also implies that people have no minds, hearts or souls. I think that each of us has these, and wish to appeal to them.

  45. Leif says:

    Hi Richard: I like the words “generational genocide.”

  46. BobbyBob says:

    Richard Brenne (#44)-

    Your points are exactly what I’m talking about: “Oh, I’d love to change, but we can’t, so….” YES WE DAMN WELL CAN!! And yes we have minds AND hearts and whatever you want to mean by souls…and that’s exactly what I’m saying, we have to take all three into consideration! But so far we’ve been apealing to only minds, while the deniers have been appealing to the other two!

  47. Irv Beiman says:

    The global requirements for humanity’s resilient sustainability
    must drive cities into focused and collaborative action
    for our collective survival and well-being.

    Joe has utterly defined the space that clarifies what is happening. The NEXT QUESTION is what do we do about it? Cities are a manageable entity. Start there with current cities, and build NEW Resilient Communities as well. A strategy for coping with what’s coming and mitigating it to some degree is offered below.

    go to google docs folder to see the strategic framework for resilient sustainability [2 published articles and 3 strategymaps, with PART 2 being written now]

    Irv Beiman, Ph.D.

  48. Irv Beiman says:

    Amidst the media created controversy about climate change, government officials face daunting practical realities that are rapidly accelerating onto the center of their varied radar screens. Huge strategic challenges are rocking national and local economies. Varied strategic issues include insufficient jobs, inadequate infrastructure, and uncertain longer term supplies of energy, food, water and shelter, to varying degrees across diverse geographies. There is no accepted approach for coping with current and future crises. Most solutions are deeply siloed and disconnected from each other. There is [as yet] no organizational body capable of coping with these challenges to the future of humanity. There is, however, a documented and replicable approach that is worthy of serious strategic consideration.

    Let’s put these issues and their solutions into one bucket, called resilient sustainability, defined as the capability of a city [or state or province or country] to meet and sustain inhabitant needs for food, energy, water and shelter, as well as income and/or employment. Meeting such needs enables the maintenance of social order, while failure to do so creates a real risk of disrupting civil society toward chaotic anarchy that might only be controlled by those wielding the most powerful force. Resilient sustainability includes the important capacity of a city to anticipate strategic risks to relevant systems, plan risk management strategies and effectively execute those strategies to reduce risk probability, and risk seriousness, if such risks do occur.

    This article series proposes resilient sustainability as a strategic framework and approach that can be integrated across three arenas of content, case experience and methodology: 1 strategy execution, 2 sustainability and 3 resilience. The previous introductory article on resilient sustainability, published in the immediately preceding Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Cost Management, provided a rationale for collective global action at the city level derived from this framework. That article posed and answered multiple critical questions, including: Why [do we need] a wake-up call? Why [should we] worry about warming of 2°C [3.6°F]? Why are changes happening faster than expected? Why is unrestrained growth a problem [for all of us]? What are the risks we collectively face? Why is alignment important? How can we mitigate and manage these risks?

    In that article, six principles were offered to clarify the rationale for using the Comprehensive Framework for Resilient Sustainability [CFRS]:
    1. We know more than enough to begin using CFRS immediately.
    2. CFRS creates intangible benefits of strategic clarity and focus that enable progress toward resilient sustainability.
    3. CFRS strategy maps enable: 1 agreement among leaders with diverse cultural backgrounds and political agendas, and 2 alignment across the varied players [and organizational units] responsible for action in the movement toward resilient sustainability.
    4. CFRS enables parallel action across multiple domains to accelerate movement toward resilient sustainability.
    5. The framework and methodology enable collaboration across organizational boundaries and geographic borders to achieve new synergies for resilient sustainability.
    6. Shared objectives and measures across organizational units drive improvements in ecosystem efficiency and effectiveness for resilient sustainability.

    The CFRS enables collaboration across geographic borders and the boundaries of organizational units for organizing and managing an effective strategic response to the multiple crises that are challenging the fate of humanity. The CFRS city level strategy map template illustrates critical areas of objective setting for clarifying city level strategy to improve resilient sustainability. An Office of Resilient Sustainability was proposed to drive progress on an array of strategic themes covering a multitude of strategic objectives: The beta version of proposed strategic themes for resilient sustainability includes:
    • a theme for intangible capital that includes human, information & organizational capital
    • an administrative theme for planning, investment & approvals
    • a technology theme for clean energy and resource efficiency
    • a resilience theme for strategic analysis, decision making & implementation
    • an economic theme for jobs and P&L
    • a critical risk management theme focused on the key strategic outcomes desired for infrastructure, food, energy, water & shelter.

    The CFRS brings enormous potential value to the challenges we face in our watershed species survival dance of this 21st century. The challenges are so diverse, complex and interconnected that it is truly difficult for one person or leadership team to fully grasp what is happening now, what is coming in the future and what can be done about it. Rather than enter the debate about whether climate change is truly threatening our very existence, the CFRS enables a smoother path toward a better future.

    By proposing objectives that might be universally accepted for their beneficial strategic direction, the CFRS enables alignment across divergent political agendas and systems. The strategy execution methodology embedded within the CFRS is familiar to many commercial executives and government leaders around the world, especially in the US and China. It rests on a systems level logic and rational practicality that is independent of opinion or belief. The CFRS enables an engineering of our collective future, by focusing on how to achieve universally desirable outcomes: a healthy economy, a resilient infrastructure, and sufficient enduring supplies of food, energy, water and shelter.

    These are goals that leaders of national and local governments, as well as commercial businesses, can universally embrace, for themselves, their progeny and for those who will follow in the groundbreaking path they must define over the next decade. The subsidiary routes for achieving these universally desired objectives will be tested and validated [or discarded] by organizational leaders of all types, at multiple levels of size and impact.

    This second article in the series on resilient sustainability clarifies how the CFRS might initially be deployed at the city level, and how it might be practically used as a governance system to enable a city to accelerate its movement toward resilient sustainability.

    the above is an article preview….. contact irv beiman at for a copy of the finished article, currently in process.

  49. Richard Brenne says:

    Bobby Bob (#46) – I like the cut of your jib (especially when we agree)!

    By souls I mean mostly vibram.