What are your favorite climate and energy soundbites?

Cover image of Joe Romm's book, Straight Up: America's Fiercest Climate Blogger Takes on the Status Quo Media, Politicians, and Clean Energy SolutionsI will be testifying in front of Congress this week.  And my book, Straight Up, is coming out the following week (click here to buy it).

That means I’ll be doing a lot of media and trying to hone a simple, effective message for a far broader audience than Climate Progress readers.  I have my own favorite phrases but I’d like to hear from you what you think works both in terms of sound-bites and overall framing.

Note:  I’m not trying to persuade the unpersuadable.  And the energy message is, I think pretty well understood (see “Messaging 101: ‘Green’ jobs are out, ‘clean energy’ jobs are in“).

You might take a look at this new messaging report, Climate Communications and Behavior Change:  A Guide for Practitioners just out from The Climate Leadership Initiative.   I don’t agree with everything in it, but it is pretty good, much better than those efforts to try to get people to stop talking about global warming (see EcoAmerica’s phrase ‘our deteriorating atmosphere’ isn’t going to replace ‘global warming’ “” and that’s a good thing.)

We’ve already had a big CP discussion about what is the best phrase to use, given the flaws in both “global warming” and “climate change” (see Is “Global Weirding” here?).  This report floats:

  1. “Rapid climate shift”
  2. “Climate disruption”
  3. “Climate shock”
  4. “Climate breakdown”
  5. “Climate failure”

Let’s drop the last two, but #1 and #3 have merit.  I’ll probably stick with using many different phrases, including GW and CC.  The report does have some good suggestions for how to phrase basic talking points:

Carbon dioxide and other pollutants collect in the atmosphere like a thickening blanket, trapping the sun’s heat and causing the planet to warm up.

What are you thoughts for sound-bites and framing?

Related Posts:


142 Responses to What are your favorite climate and energy soundbites?

  1. Jim Shewan says:

    I think you should attack some of the denialists most treasured bits of misinformation that seem at first glance to be common sense. Eg,Co2 is just a trace gas which is present in minute amounts and cannot have any affect.
    Explain in terms ordinary people can understand how it compares with water vapour.
    5.9kg’s of c02 per square meter as against around 25kg’s sqr mtr. (hope I’ve got my facts right)

  2. Jim says:

    Find a way to *make it personal.*

    If another nation had destroyed the city of New Orleans; if a small group of terrorists had destroyed about 1000 vehicles in the state of Rhode Island; or if a conspiracy was revealed of a plan to starve and make homeless any Americans (immersing Florida, 60% reductions in soil moisture in Indiana) — if any of those things occurred the nation would be as galvanized and on a war footing as it was after Pearl Harbor. Then, as now, there were apologists for the enemy; major industrialists opposed entering the war; etc. But vast popular support flowed from a clear sense of personal violation, personal attack.

    Make it personal for the polluters and their protectors. When all the fish in the stream system die after a coal ash spill, people understand the connection. Yet when vast rivers of coal ash are dumped into the atmosphere, spinmeisters refer to the consequences as a “natural cycle.”

  3. Kota says:

    Climate turbulence
    Climate turmoil

    (kind of partial to turmoil because it has ‘oil’ in the word along with meaning chaos)

  4. If you’re talking about sound-bytes for the press, then you may want to avoid using numbers: anything that smacks of mathematics (and, of course, mentioning a few percentages barely gets above the level of arithmetic) then the “listening audience” will, by and large, tune you out.

    Clearly the congressional testimony merits greater substance. But for the press and their consumers you’ll want something visceral. Facts can be brought to bear to back it up later.

  5. Joe1347 says:

    Avoid using the phrase ‘very likely’

  6. Wit's End says:

    Recently I have been thinking about targeting mothers (against cimate but I think it would be a very useful approach for you or any parent.

    Parents today are very concerned about their children’s heath and wellbeing. They send them to the best schools they can afford, they worry about their diet, they make them wear helmets to ride bikes and wash their hands.

    Remind parents that all this isn’t going to be worth much if the air is toxic to breathe, and their are no more fish in the sea.

    Include ocean acidification. It may not be your specialty but it’s easier for most nonscientists to understand and the effects of a collapse of life in the oceans is profound enough to get even the most dedicated ignorer to pay attention.

    Which is why deniers won’t discuss it, at all.

  7. Joe,

    On the solutions side, the concept of learning by doing is a critical one. There are a few paragraphs in the working group 3 report of the IPCC that talk about how incorporating learning effects substantially reduces costs of action, and I can dig out those page #s if you want.

    Those who argue for delaying action often say “let’s just do R&D and see what happens”. But cost reductions come from R&D AND learning effects (and the learning effects are probably more important in most cases). So a nice sound bite might be “learning by doing can substantially lower costs of reducing emissions, but we only learn if we DO, so let’s get started”.

    As an aside, these learning effects are by assumption excluded from the CGE models that economists use, even though they have a huge effect on the potential costs of future scenarios (Economists assume constant or decreasing returns to scale, not increasing returns). This choice was made for computational convenience, not because it accurately describes the world. For more details, see Arthur, W. Brian. 1990. “Positive Feedbacks in the Economy.” In Scientific American. February. pp. 92-99. The following article shows that incorporating learning effects can result in scenarios in 2100 that have a factor of three difference in emissions but with the same economic costs: Gritsevskyi, Andrii, and Nebojsa Nakicenovic. 2000. “Modeling uncertainty of induced technological change.” Energy Policy. vol. 28, no. 13. November. pp. 907-921.

  8. Lou Grinzo says:

    “Climate chaos”.

    It’s short, alliterative, and accurate.

  9. Lou Grinzo says:

    Also, I would stress the water/energy/climate nexus (if not by that uber geeky name). I’ve been saying for a long time that water would be the primary vector for climate impacts, for all the reasons people who frequent this site knows all too well.

    For the newcomers checking in here: Warming means less water where and in the condition our entire economic infrastructure “expects”. Less water from melting glacier in the summer means less water for drinking, agriculture, hydro generation, cooling thermoelectric plants (coal, oil, NG, and nuclear), and industry. We’ve already seen instances of electricity generation curtailed because of reduced glacier runoff or river water being too warm to cool thermo plants. Rising sea levels means not just flooded coastal cities, as bad as that it, but salt poisoning of low-lying, coastal farmland.

  10. Bob Wallace says:

    “let’s just do R&D and see what happens” – the “wait and see” folks.

    Ask what’s the smart thing to do if your car’s oil light comes on – pull off the road and add some more oil. Or wait and see if your engine melts….

    i.e., try to keep the message extremely understandable. Remember, the reporters covering the event are as much as the audience as the folks behind the table. Assume they don’t understand the issues, so help them write their copy by getting the concepts across in terms that anyone can grasp.

    And take along some simple, but strong, statistics.

    For example, during the last ten years we’ve had x% more extreme weather events than we had in the previous ten years. And in that ten years we had more extreme weather events than in the ten years before that. Extreme weather events – storms killing citizens and ruining buildings.

  11. Matt says:

    Stick with global warming but emphasize the potential for extreme events, ocean acidification, etc. I’ve found phrases like global weirding or climate change leave lay people thinking that the climate will simply become more chaotic but won’t trend in any direction.

  12. Leif says:

    Because of the warming that has already occurred, the atmosphere holds ~4% more water vapor. That is equivalent to 1.5 times the volume of Lake Superior which in turn translates to more water for floods or even snow in the winter. What goes up, must come down. Future warming will exasperate that.

    (Have someone check the math.)

  13. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    “You can’t put back into the atmosphere all of the fossil fuel, all of the carbon that has accumulated for many millions of years, without producing a DIFFERENT PLANET.”

    – Dr. James Hansen on, of all things, the Lou Dobbs program in 2007

    I have the clip if you want it. See the second clip on this page. Strange_Brew/ Entries/ 2008/ 12/ 19_Lou_Dobbs_Promotes_Climate_Lies.html

  14. Ken_g6 says:

    “Climate Jolt” – can be used somewhat ironically, as in “Our use of coal to generate electricity has helped produce a climate jolt.”

    “Climate Upheaval” – I’d say this isn’t what we have now, but what’s coming in the business-as-usual scenario.

    I also like “Climate Turbulence” – “We’re entering a patch of climate turbulence; how bad it is depends on what course we take.”

  15. climate undergrad says:

    I like to point out that every national and international scientific body (list them) supports the conclusion that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal and primarily human-caused.” These are the true skeptical scientists; the opposite opinion is contrarian or denialist.

  16. Zan says:

    Extreme, wildly unpredictable weather of all kinds, not just simply hotter.

    My favorite image was Al Gore on the very tall elevator in Inconvenient Truth.

  17. ChicagoMike says:

    Instead of using a negative phrase like “stopping global warming” (or climate change or whatever), I think it’s more helpful to frame things positively, like “preserving a livable climate”.

    Good luck at the capital, Joe. If you get to respond to any questions from Inhofe or his ilk, give ’em hell (and high water) for us!!

  18. Sam says:

    I like good old Global Warming. It makes the point that the whole planet is warming and shows that it doesn’t matter what happens in any one place: It is global, and it is a warming trend.

  19. BobbyBob says:

    I don’t think trying to scare people into change is going to work. Anyone that doesn’t already accept AGW has heard all the horror stories, has heard all about how the scientists say this and that…they don’t care. They will just tell themselves “yeah right, we’ve heard all this before. I don’t believe it.”. They will do this because they know deep in their heart that if they accept it, then they have to do something about it; but they believe doing something about it will mean economic disaster, giving up their car, giving up their jobs…giving up their entire way of life.

    I think the only way we are going to move towards change is to show people that the “green” way is the BETTER way, the LESS stressful way, the SAFER way. I think what has to be done is START with the possibilities for change. Start with the facts about “alternative” energy, including concrete examples of success–show people that change is a GOOD thing. Then point out that the change is inevitable because fossil fuels are going to run out anyway, and making our children do it when we have no excuse is just evil. And only then go on to say why we need to do it so quickly. Then end on a positive note again, maybe with the cost factor; and maybe emphasize that if we do it right, it will be current generations that benefit, not some unknown future generation.

    But I think that to do what is normally done, to try to scare the sh*t out of people first, and then try to say it’ll be OK, is working against psychology. When advertisers try to sell toothpaste they don’t show pictures of rotting teeth, they put up positive benefits and equate it to sex. We are trying to SELL a new way of generating energy, not trying to scare people and make them pessimistic about an inevitable conclusion. We need to make windmills sexy, make fossil fuels seem un-cool, and push the fact that this is a “limited time offer”.

    I’m ranting, I hope this makes at least a bit of sense.

  20. Heraclitus says:

    Our response needs to be comparable to the mobilisation in WW2, so make it clear that we are entering a war but that we have a choice of enemies: we can unite globally against the climatic situation we have put ourselves in, but if we fail to do this then we will be fighting against each other for dwindling resources.

  21. Perhaps saying it in front of them is not a good idea, but I think someone needs to talk about the amazing scientific illiteracy of some of the members of the Senate and House. Inhofe and Bachman come to mind.
    Their statements about CO2 and the like indicate a complete and total ignorance of science and scientific method. These people need to be confronted. Called out.

    No matter what your political viewpoint, a Senator or Congressman should have a basic knowledge of science. It quite obvious that several of them do not.


  22. Tim R. says:

    If you care about kids, you care about climate.

  23. Tammy Skillings says:

    Sean Hannity hit #1 on the NYT paperback non-fiction list with Conservative Victory

    Nothing personal………

    [JR: Something personal: The post kinda reveals all one needs to know about you. You do know that he has an audience of over 2 million who actually believe the crap he says. And, of course, conservative book clubs buy in bulk, return as much as they want later.]

  24. RunawayRose says:

    I don’t really have any suggestions to add; just wanted to note that my copy of your book arrived at the local UPS terminal Saturday, so I should have it in my hands Monday evening.

  25. Ivy Bear says:

    How about “catastrophic climate disruption” as a catch phrase.

    On the so-called climate gate, I think a good analogy would be
    that climate science is not a house of cards, so that if you pull
    one fact out, the entire edifice falls. Rather, it is a 1000 piece
    puzzle in which we have filled in about 75-80%, and we see the big
    picture, and a lot of details. We know what the picture looks like.
    Having a couple of misplaced pieces doesn’t change the picture.

    Finally, tipping points is not self-evident. I like the phrase
    natural self-accelerating processes instead.

    When and where are you testifying? We can watch for you on CSPAN.

  26. LucAstro says:

    The century of energy quest

  27. substanti8 says:

    Joe, I tried to post two recommended web sites for you, but the message was blocked for some reason.

  28. burk says:

    Saying that we are going back in time by 20 million years or more (in CO2 terms) usually gets some attention.

  29. Steve Bloom says:

    Climate disruption (a shortening of “anthropogenic climate disruption” which I think originated with John Holdren) is pretty good, but it still fails to touch on important elements like human responsibility and the direction of the change. Disruption is also a bit of a fifty-cent word.

    Obviously no two- or even three-word phrase can be entirely descriptive, but we need a short slogan in addition to longer phrases. I agree that climate failure isn’t quite right, but what about just plain Climate FAIL? It’s makes use of a current popular construction while relating to the key concepts of human responsibility, the consequences of *current* inaction and a much-heightened sense of urgency.

    Climate FAIL also is appropriately stronger-sounding due to the brevity and capitalization, has some obvious graphical advantages over the alternatives I’ve seen, and doesn’t sound as much of some of the others as if it’s a contrived substitute for global warming.

    OTOH it’s such an obvious idea that I’m sure someone must have tried it, but according to my friend google, not so much, and hardly at all with the caps version.

    So OK, I think I’ve sold myself. Everyone else?

  30. substanti8 says:

    I forgot to add that a key part of learning is matching new information with what one already knows.  So I suggest using a metaphor that people can easily understand.  Tipping points are about the loss of control due to unstoppable inertia.

    I think the most widely understood object with massive uncontrolled inertia is a runaway train.

    At the least, I would use “runaway” in the explanations.

  31. Peter Sinclair says:

    weather – 10 throws of the dice. Unpredictable results. You could get a long run of sevens, or completely random.

    climate – a thousand throws of the dice. You’ll most likely get results conforming to statistical laws, and
    probably be able to predict pretty closely the results.

    Climate change – GHGs load the diced. No individual throw guaranteed, but will skew in a predictable
    direction the longer you keep rolling.

  32. Erik Ramberg says:

    The phrase ‘global warming’ is the most accurate description of what is happening. Trying to hide that behind another phrase is a mistake.

    I also agree with post #27 that it is effective talking about our world’s climate going back in time to Eocene conditions, with the tropics extending up into Canada.

    People have to learn what kind of world we will be leaving to our descendants.

  33. David B. Benson says:

    burk in comment #28 has the right of it.

    And your are welcome to use my prediction for the average temperature of the 2010s if you find it useful:

  34. ubrew12 says:

    You might try calling it ‘Carbon Catastrophe’ (which unfortunately, or fortunately?, initials out at ‘CC’, like Climate Change). This emphasizes that ocean acidification is an increasingly worrisome consequence of fossil fuel burning. Regarding the atmosphere, the scientifically correct term has always been ‘Global Heating’, but its too late for that.

    Definitely emphasize the non-cost of GW remediation, even over the economic, ecological, societal costs of non-remediation. This hits a powerful skeptic-opposition right where they live. I remember posting somewhere else that people are naturally suspicious of ‘doom and gloom’ talk, especially if their immediate situation is looking good. This makes it tough for GW advocates when they talk about consequences, but ironically the same phenomenon puts GW skeptics on the defensive when advocates talk about the cost of GW remediation. Because in that situation its the GW SKEPTICS that must resort to ‘doom and gloom’ talk (‘it’ll destroy the economy’, etc) and thus expose themselves to suspicion by the general public. People say they don’t believe in GW to make a brave face, but actually most people are concerned about it: there’s too much evidence in front of their eyes. The push should really now be to talk about costs of remediation, and let the skeptic opposition go purple explaining how the economy is going to come apart, and let them present ‘evidence’ full of holes about why they think so.

  35. fj2 says:

    re: “the best phrase”

    “Environmental crisis” is the most comprehensive description and describes this dire situation best.

    Climate is a major forcing. Major depletion of natural resources including those from the world’s oceans. Major water shortages. Brazilian rainforest may flip to savannah. Ice-free Arctic within foreseeable future. The world’s oceans may stop sequestering CO2. Pending massive extinctions. Known and unknown environmentally destructive accelerating feedback systems may be already coming online. Etc.

    It takes a certain amount of heat to boil a cup of water. Using that same amount of heat to boil a gallon it takes a lot longer; and much longer for a thousand gallons. Effects becoming apparent on a planetary scale is a good indication that there is a serious crisis.

    The rapid destruction of Eden necessary for civilization as we know it.

    Rapid acceleration of paving “Paradise and putting in parking lots”.

    There is a frightening history of grossly underestimating the crisis and an even more frightening history of extremely negligent inaction.

  36. fj2 says:

    Accelerating loss of arable land, food production, and inceasing mass starvation typical signs of the collapse of civilizations.

    — per Lester R. Brown, “Plan B 4.0” and recent Scientific American article

    — Jared Diamond’s “Collapse”

  37. substanti8 says:

    Changing the energy sources of modern civilization is like an overdue earthquake.  The longer we postpone it, the greater will be the magnitude of the shock.

  38. Adam Gotch says:

    “Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of anthropogenic greenhouse gases -more than all transport combined.” -UN FAO 2006 Report entitled, Livestock’s Long Shadow. Also, since over 70% of federal food production subsidies go to producing animal foods and the standard american diet includes far more meat and dairy than the federal nutrition recommendation, we can mitigate both the climate and health crises by moving federal subsidies away from meat and dairy and toward fruits, vegetables, and grains for humans.

  39. fj2 says:

    Early Spanish explorers in the Caribbean were so greedy for gold that they neglected to learn to live off the land and many died of starvation.

  40. Bob Wallace says:

    Tammy, do you have any clue why right wing extremist books often hit the best seller lists?

    Do you understand the concept of “buying bulk”?

    (Joe, are you actually Tammy and playing an extended April Fools joke on the site?)

  41. Jonah says:

    Global Climate Failure?

  42. Wit's End says:

    How about liken our gorging on carbon to the American binge on calories.

    Look at the dieting industry. Everybody KNOWS overeating leads to lethal health conditions. Even Oprah. It’s just about universally understood that our habit of overeating is killing us…not so slowly!

    Maybe likening our consumption of carbon as analogous to our overconsumption of Big Macs and Fries will be something Joe the Plumber can relate to when his doctor tells him he needs bypass surgery.

  43. fj2 says:

    The good news is that the intelligence, skills and actions required to successfully deal with the environmental crisis will greatly advance human civilization.

  44. Ryan T says:

    Somewhat along the lines of #13 and #21, it might be good to refer to fossil carbon or fossil CO2. There may be plenty of people who view carbon dioxide as innocuous and ubiquitous, like what’s in their breath or their beer. What we’re talking about is the accumulative stuff.

    Also, most people have yet to see much of a clear “shift” in their climate. So impending climate shift might be more accurate. Otherwise, for now it’s just an accelerating climate trend with regionally variable effects.

    Another thing that might be useful, if the issue of short-term fluctuation is raised, is the stock market analogy. The longer-term trends are real even if we can’t predict every up and down along the way. Just as over time stock markets have tended to rise with population and economic growth, despite significant jitter.

  45. Wit's End says:

    Ah yes Ryan, in the raging debate at the Coffee Party forum on climate change, I tried to make the same point:

    Can the CDC predict whether I will get cancer, and when? No. Not at all.

    Can the CDC predict with a fair degree of accuracy how many new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the next year? Yep!



  46. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #8: Lou, “chaos” is pretty good, and I like it because it’s short enough to serve as a slogan, but it’s a bit of a fifty-cent word and arguably is inaccurate in two critical ways. First, I don’t think we can describe the current climate as chaotic, and second, the new equilibrium climate state we are heading toward won’t be chaotic overall either. It’s the transition that’s going to hurt.

  47. Ben Lieberman says:

    Good luck. Of the terms, climate disruption is the weakest. A disruption is a momentary inconvenience that passes–not a shock or devastating cycle of crises without end.

    For example, there was a disruption of service that was addressed when worker examined the tracks–that’s not imho an effective message.

  48. Bruce says:

    Expanding on what #34 said. Someone needs to confront these people with the question “Even if global warming was a hoax, you would still need to find an alternative to oil, while you still have the oil. If you don’t shift away to renewable energy sources, posterity is screwed after some foreseeable future generation.”
    Any congressperson who has proclaimed that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme or that the Social Security Trust Fund is going bankrupt needs to have this point shoved in their face. How can they believe that worker productivity is limited but the oil is unlimited?

  49. Robert says:

    These aren’t soundbites, but there are a couple physical analogies I like to use in relation to common denier talking points, for example:

    “We can’t assume global warming will be harmful, etc”

    I say: “The biosphere, like the human body, is a highly complex, interdependent system. Random changes in such a system are much more likely to be harmful than helpful. Imagine your are touring a chemical plant, and you scoop up a big glass of something from a random vat and drink it. Is it equally likely to be nutritious and strengthening, or dangerous and carcinogenic?”

    “We don’t understand the climate well enough to take expensive measures to try and change it”

    I say first: “We are radically changing the climate by adding CO2 and other GHGs to the atmosphere. Our changes are radical; slowing them down is conservative.”

    I also say: The climate and the biosphere are complex and we don’t understand a lot of the system, especially its secondary effects. We also know that the earth is the life support system and if its ability to support us is compromised, millions of people will die. So what is our optimal strategy?

    “Imagine you are on an alien spacecraft and have blundered into the room with the life support system controls. The controls are complex and you do not understand them. What is your move? Is it to do whatever you feel like, because you don’t know what effects any of your actions will have?

    “Obviously not. The system is working now — you know that, because you are alive. Your move is to touch nothing, move nothing, back out of that room and never go in there again.

    “It’s the same with the climate and the biosphere it supports. The less we know, the greater the imperative to do nothing that will push the system one way or the other.”

  50. Mike says:

    David Archer in his book “The long thaw” described AWG as a “Climate Storm” that would last several centuries. A description I thought was quite good.

    Otherwise I think it’s important to emphasize the benefits of action that resonates with people. Energy independence, good health, American jobs etc.

    The green energy message is well understood? Good, keep hammering it.
    Renewable energy = energy independance

  51. Robert says:

    I also like to repurpose an analogy from James Gleick [Chaos]:

    Them: “You can’t predict long-term climate trends — you don’t even know what’s going to happen a week from now.”

    Me: “You can know about the long-term without necessarily knowing about the short-term. Take a cup of coffee from the microwave — I don’t know what its temperature is now, or what it will be five minutes from now. But I know in an hour it will be the same temperature as the room.”

  52. I believe it is important to emphasize “disruption” and the speed or rapidity the global climate will change due to the massive amount of CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere. This is not the slow change of a “natural” cycle, rather it is a fast change due to an unnatural, man-made increase in CO2 in the atmosphere.
    Also emphasize “risk.” We cannot afford to take the risks involved if we continue business as usual- floods, terrible storms, agricultural disruptions, species extinctions, disease, etc.

  53. ken levenson says:

    Climate Crisis.

    I like it because it is true and word is, folks respond to a crisis. Pretty easy to then elaborate on elements of crisis…not tied to hot or cold, this or that…we should be able to agree that what we are describing is a crisis and if so…then society should be persuadable.

  54. max says:

    How about some messaging around food security? And the narrow temperature window to which our major food crops are adapted? In the face of population expansion, food insecurity will grow due to climate disruption. See the paper in Science:

    Science 9 January 2009:
    Vol. 323. no. 5911, pp. 240 – 244
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1164363

    Historical Warnings of Future Food Insecurity with Unprecedented Seasonal Heat
    David. S. Battisti1 and Rosamond L. Naylor2

    Higher growing season temperatures can have dramatic impacts on agricultural productivity, farm incomes, and food security. We used observational data and output from 23 global climate models to show a high probability (>90%) that growing season temperatures in the tropics and subtropics by the end of the 21st century will exceed the most extreme seasonal temperatures recorded from 1900 to 2006. In temperate regions, the hottest seasons on record will represent the future norm in many locations. We used historical examples to illustrate the magnitude of damage to food systems caused by extreme seasonal heat and show that these short-run events could become long-term trends without sufficient investments in adaptation.

  55. Will Koroluk says:

    It’s old, but apt: To those who think a little global warming might be nice: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.”

  56. Jeff Huggins says:

    Character is destiny.
    – Heraclitus

    The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.
    – Albert Einstein

    If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.
    – Thomas Jefferson

    The wise man does at once what the fool does finally.
    – Machiavelli (a paraphrase, but an accurate one)

  57. Tim L. says:

    It makes no sense from us to borrow billions of dollars from China, which is on the way to becoming the world leader on clean energy technology, and then sending nearly half a trillion dollars a year to buy oil from countries that hate us and want to do us harm. Whether your concern is national security, economic competitiveness, or the climate crisis, investing big time in energy efficiency and renewable, non-carbon-based energy is the best way to meet each of those challenges.

  58. Lee says:

    Two sound bits from your previous post that I think are great.

    “We spend a billion dollars a day on foreign oil”

    “Strong carbon cap would cut Iran’s petrodollars by over $100 million a day”

    These two convey the financial cost of our oil use very clearly.

  59. Mike says:

    Yes, there is uncertainty in the climate projections. But, the certainty is in when not if these changes will happen.

    There is no harm in us starting to reduce CO2 emissions 20 years too soon, but we may already be 20 years too late.

  60. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Someone made a comment recently in one of your posts about “the planet hyperventilating.” That was very descriptive and got my attention.

  61. Jared says:

    Frame the issue from a risk management approach as well. Below is a link to a very succinct and compelling argument articulated from such a stance.

    Good Luck.

  62. Cugel says:

    I recommend “climate disruption” as the soundbite. People recognise “disruption”, and they don’t like it. Disruption of service. Disruptive children. “We apologise for the disruption of your journey …”.

    That’s the button to press, I reckon. Repeatedly.

  63. Greg says:


    The summary of 130,000 nuclear reactors of energy/year, was it? That starkly encapsulates the quantity of energy we’re adding to the earth
    s biosphere through our shifting of the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases. Opens up a great conversation about system dynamics. Where is all that energy going?!

  64. Dan Miller says:

    I prepared “talking points” for a friend who appeared on a conservative TV show opposite a denier. You can access the talking points here:

    I’ll call out one point. A story to be used when describing why we should be listening to climate scientists instead of the other so-called “experts”:

    “If your child has cancer, you’re going to take him or her to a pediatric oncologist, not a dentist or an ophthalmologist. And if the oncologist says your child needs treatment, you’re not going to withhold it because the doctor is only 95% certain of the diagnosis or the fact that the doctor will earn money from providing the treatment. The climate scientists are the experts that are telling us we need to take action now. To withhold treatment is to endanger the future of our children.”

  65. Dan Miller says:

    One more phrase, from a past Climate Progress comment section, I believe, that describes the current state of public knowledge about climate change:

    “Conventional Ignorance”

  66. Dan Miller says:

    Re: #19 and the use of fear vs. sending a positive message. While in the long run a positive message might work, we don’t have a long run. Look how (unjustifiable) fear was used to quickly get us to start a war with Iraq. #19 says that everyone has heard the horror stories about climate change and is ignoring them. Well, I go around giving talks on climate change and I have to say that most people don’t know the horror stories (the Hell and High Water) beyond vague generalizations. Remember the post in CP last month that showed how the press covers the story from between the denier point-of-view up to the IPCC report? Well, the press never (hardly ever) goes beyond the IPCC, which is a best-case scenario as far as I’m concerned. When I tell people about the Hell and High Water scenarios, most of them are shocked.

    So I believe we need to be honest with people and tell them the bad news and give them hope that the green way (and perhaps a bit of “climate intervention”) will help us avoid the really bad side of climate change. And think about it, will hiding the truth really help the situation?

  67. Gary says:

    My suggestion…..”if the military has concerns regarding climate change
    then congress members we need to mitigate the issue.” Patriotism and
    national security could box in congressional climate change deniers to
    accede some ground. Very tricky turf though…….

  68. Liane says:

    It’s “Weather 2.0.” It’s new, it’s unstable, and the customer service stinks. When DC is buried by “snowmageddon,” while Vermont ski areas struggle to cover the bare ground, and snow has to be imported for the Winter Olympics in Canada, we can all tell that something is wrong. When whole forests are decimated by insects that “can’t” live in such cold places (because they’re no longer cold) and Glacier National Park needs to hold a “name that park” contest for the day the glaciers are gone, we can tell that something is wrong. When Australia and California sear beneath record wildfires, we can tell that something is wrong. So do we wait to see how much more wrong “something” will become, or do we do what we can to stem the (flood) tide that threatens the futures of our children? With the USDA planting zones facing their second revision in less than a decade – because the zones are shifting, it becomes hard for farmers to know what and when to plant. Climate change isn’t just temperature, it’s everything that depends on temperature – our crops, our forests, our lakes, rivers, and streams. It’s the depth of our oceans and their ability to support the calcium-shelled creatures at the based of the food chain. It’s our homes, our homeowner’s insurance, and our national security. Climate change affects everything about our way of life. If we address it for real, right away, we can maintain the best of our way of life; but if we pretend it doesn’t exist, if we take that risk, then we condemn our children and grandchildren to life on increasingly barren land, scoured free of its fertile soil by massive killer storms, and surrounded by deep, acid oceans.

  69. Leif says:

    Greg, #63: Here is the link you are referring to:

    ~190,000 plus, nuclear plants! That is every second of every day! Where is that energy going? About 90% of that has heated the top 2,000 feet of all the worlds oceans about 0.5 C in the last 50 years. That number is and has been measured and independently confirmed in that the warmer water expands which raises the sea level. It is all there. That warmer water is added energy that can be visualized as a battery with extra charge. That energy thus raised everything that sits on the worlds oceans that few inches. Every ship that floats, every log, every thing. Potential Energy! That energy is also available to impart more energy to storms. That energy has evaporated ~4% more water vapor into the atmosphere. 4% is equivalent to 1.5 times the volume of Lake Superior. That energy is melting the worlds glaciers and ice packs. And on and on. And the kicker! We are adding about 10 new Nuclear power plants to that pile every day! The only way to get them off line is to take CO2 OUT of the air. Stopping just holds what we have currently.

    The other 10% has heated the air the ~0.8 C and everything the air touches.

  70. lizardo says:

    Testifying before Congress? I doubt that there would be much media coverage these days.

    Ponzi scheme analogies are good right now, and apt. (For year’s I’ve been trying to figure out where that bit came from in Kurt Vonnegut about the society that used Time as a fuel, and on major holidays had “patriotic bonfires” of Time. Oh Boy.)

    “Blanket” sounds way too cosy, even if this were August. It requires so much more explanation, but…

    And one of my favorite soundbites is my version of Hansen and you and others:

    “Coal in the ground is the carbon sequestration that makes possible the climate we have today (or had during the last x hundred or thousand or millions of years) … which also means the vegetation, the crops, and the population patterns and the nations we have today.”

    My favorite overall soundbite (which sadly for me I rarely hear) is:

    “If this projected global damage were instead from a strike from a meteor with a one in a million (or whatever) chance, we’d be mobilizing to prevent it, AND mobilizing to prevent the damage. We wouldn’t be waiting to see it with our own eyes. We’d accept the best estimate by the world’s best astronomers.”

    “But a meteor has no lobbyists, no pet Congressmen, and no pet columnists and media echo chamber.”

    (If you prefer alien invasion, then it gets complicated, like several seasons of Doctor Who.)

    Another favorite soundbite:

    “If you want your kids and grandkids to be able to eat vegetables, you’d better be planting a garden because California will be out of water and that’s where most US produce comes from.” (HT to Chu)


    “Can you imagine an America where the next great dustbowl is permanent, and the entire middle of the country becomes virtually empty?”

    Re the posted comments: I second all of Comment #2. And Yes re (#6) ocean acidification.

    And to grinch/Inhofe type questions about the difficulties of a rapid shift in energy generation, blah blah….

    “We are currently suffering from an infrastructure, both physical and economic, that was built in the 1900s. It’s like going to war with muskets because the musket makers have a monopoly on weapons supply.”

    It’s incredible that we are still generating electricity at large plants and running it over lines and into the ground. We don’t distribute water or petroleum by pouring into the ground whatever people don’t happen to scoop up.

    I think Climate Failure is better than Climate Fail, because it invokes Crop Failure, which it would cause.

    And fine to point out that Global Warming (ooh, cozy) is really going to be Global OVER Heating.

    “Environmental crisis” still means something not directly affecting humans to some people.

    “This is going to mean a global humanitarian crisis (as well), a global national security crisis, and a global economic crisis.”

    “The earth is littered with the ruins of collapsed civilizations, and we are going to be joining them.”

    We already know how to move from Climate Crisis to Climate Security.

  71. Peter Wood says:

    Frame it in terms of people’s children and grandchildren – especially in terms of a positive future for our children and grandchildren.

    Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, did a good job of this at Copenhagen, but unfortunately he has gone completely silent on the issue of climate change for the past few months, probably because he does not want it to be an election issue.

    His speech at Copenhagen is at

    This extract from his speech is an example of some of the framing that could be effective:

    “Before I left Australia, I was presented with a book of handwritten letters from a group of 6 year olds.

    One of the letters is from Gracie.

    Gracie is six – “Hi” she wrote. “My name is Gracie. How old are you?”

    Gracie continues “I am writing to you because I want you all to be strong in Copenhagen… Please listen to us as it is our future.”

    I fear that at this conference, we are on the verge of letting little Gracie down.

    And all of the little children across the world.”

  72. Bob Wallace says:

    “We’re in danger of a climate stampede. And if that happens we won’t be able to turn the herd before it runs over the cliff.”

    (Most of these folks are old enough to have grown up on Tom Mix and Tex Ritter westerns.)

  73. Anonymous says:

    keep it simple , keep it clear, keep it to the point.
    Stress the crisis.

    qiute useful

  74. Ron says:

    You face two problems.

    Firstly the public are getting ‘rhetoric fatigue’. If you introduce a new phrase people won’t know what it means. You explain it and they think “Oh, it’s global warming under another name.”

    Secondly we have been poorly served by the scientific community. To feed politicians’ need for sound bites, and their need for research grants, anything which could attributed to climate change has been and anything which could presage imminent disaster has been presented in that way. The predictions made a few years ago for current climate: more violent hurricanes, faster sea level rise, less arctic ice, have not come to pass. There is a need to determine the core message and strip away the peripheral doom-mongering and emphasis on regional impacts. Long-term global data such as we present on our site ( shows an inexorable, but not very dramatic, reduction in ice and snow, increase un hurricane energy and rising sea levels.

  75. Liz Aitken says:


    You could try referencing the Thneeds from the Truffula Trees… ie the Lorax and Dr Seuss!

  76. josh d says:

    Perhaps mention that a key indicator that humans are putting abnormally excessive quantities of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the higher proportion of carbon-12 (those released from fossil fuel combustion) to naturally occurring carbon-14 molecules. Carbon-12 is a surefire signature of AGW as it is, to my knowledge, only released when fossil fuels combust.

    Point to a study that presents these findings

  77. Richard Brenne says:

    “Peak Oil is the jab that breaks our nose, while Climate Change is the uppercut that can knock us out.”

    Perhaps you can demonstrate on Inhofe.

    The solution to both is of course renewable energy.

  78. fj2 says:

    70. Environmental crisis >> living systems crisis

    Still, “environmental crisis” is a good term especially under frameworks of distributed and hierarchical intelligence and close integration of living, and natural systems; which may require a rather fun and quite interesting public educational campaign.

  79. fj2 says:

    “Humanity was not meant to live the nightmares of much of the world’s cities. It was meant to live in the Garden.”

  80. Anne says:

    Is the most number of comments for any one post? (so far, anyway?) Great responses, some good ideas and references in here.

    As far as suggestions, I kind of like a quote (paraphrased) from Dr. Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator: “Climate change adversely affects the things that you and I care about.”

    You know, like food, dry (uninundated) land, available water, developed coastal areas, and primary ecosystems — the basics.

    I also like to talk about the fact that many infrastructure decisions are based on weather and climate data of the past — e.g. bridges, roads, etc. — and that we can no longer trust this data as reliable. Our future climate is likely to bear little or no resemblance to that of the past. So how are engineers to proceed? Everything will be more expensive as we will need to plan for “worst case” just as worst becomes worser and worser (ummm, not proper English but it gets the point across).

    When/where testifying?

  81. Prokaryote says:

    Major climate shift, which threatens the survival of the species.

  82. Ron says:

    Anne’s (#82) final point about infrastructure design is an important one. The problem is not so much the quality of the data as the fact that design is currently based on a statistical analysis of past weather. What climate change shows is that the fundamental assumption of the statistics, that the series are stationary (i.e. without underlying trend), is false. Although I have reservations about the quality of existing climate models they are important for the future.

  83. Wit's End says:

    Dan Miller, #66, I agree with you. Most people have no idea how bad the effects of climate change will be. The media don’t tell them, and unless they go out of their way to find out, there is no reason for them to recognize the dangers facing our ecosystem and our species.

    I never questioned the science but until not very long ago, I assumed climate change meant gradually rising sea levels, gradually warming temperatures, and gradual drying of dry areas and more precipitation in wet areas. I thought my home in New Jersey was going to fare just fine. It wasn’t until I noticed (summer of 2008) that all the trees are dying that I made the effort to educate myself, and learned just how dire the situation really is.

    Finding this website and others on the internet was the first step to enlightenment and next, reading books.

    Most people are not going to take the time and put themselves through the shock of finding out what amplifying feedbacks are inevitably going to mean for them and future generations.

    Scientists need to tell them, loudly and constantly, until they break through the media silence. It isn’t going to be enough to gently encourage people to transition to clean energy because clean energy is good for them.

    As I have said before, that’s like persuading an obese diabetic with heart disease to lose weight by offering them a platter of vegetables alongside their Big Mac and fries.

    Give them straight talk about Straight Up, JR, and good luck! All that dictation has given you the ability to talk nimbly, I have no doubt you will be impressive.

    We are all fortunate to have you as spokesman.

  84. Alex Carlin says:

    “Senator, LETS BE PATRIOTIC HERE. Are you aware that we need only a 100 mile by 100 mile installation of Solar Thermal mirrors to supply the entire US electric grid with clean American made power? If we burn coal past the year 2030 we will guarantee the destruction of South Florida by 2100 because of sea level rise. LETS BE PATRIOTIC HERE. Lets save the American Southwest from permanent dust bowls. Clean energy like Solar Thermal and Wind are PATRIOTIC….

    Solar Thermal, built in unused federal land, THIS can SAVE AMERICA. And don’t forget – green clean energy means JOBS JOBS JOBS. And by the way, the actual debate in SCIENCE FOR ADULTS is not ‘global warming exists or not’ – rather, it is ‘global warming will be either painfully disruptive or a nightmare of disaster’ LETS BE PATRIOTIC HERE. Thank you Senator.”

  85. PSU Grad says:

    I’m not a soundbite kind of guy, but I’ll add my voice to those who’d like a straightforward answer to “so what does it mean?” I’ll explain.

    I previously mentioned my discussions with someone who asks a lot of questions about global warming. Among them…”will we burn up?” That tells me that some people don’t really know what “global warming” really means, other than the obvious. So tell them what the science knows right now. What are the expected impacts? Don’t overdramatize it, most people see right through that. But don’t sugar coat it either. What does science tell us right now about the most likely scenario? Make it personal to people so they feel they can understand and it’s not just a bunch of “egghead talk”.

    On the other hand, not every weather event is a product of global warming. Sometimes stuff just happens for reasons totally unrelated to warming. Because if you tie everything to global warming, then people will be skeptical of that as well. Big snowstorms this year….global warming. Accident at 4th and Main….global warming. Kid got an A in gym….global warming.

    Because here’s what I think might happen….you have one side totally denying any harmful effects of the planet’s warming, and some who even deny that it’s warming at all. They’re like a broken record (to those old enough to know what that phrase means). Over and over and over again, the same shtick. But people are seeing effects, whether they know it or not. And that’s the key. Without going nuts, without being a broken record, talk calmly about the effects without being a drama queen. As usual, the truth is somewhere in the murky gray area, but the people who see everything as “black/white” can’t deduce that. Forget them. It’s those who know there are a million shades of gray in the real world that you need to reach. And I suspect they’re still the majority, though not necessarily the loudest. “Silent majority”, another oldie but goodie.

    I’m repeating myself, you get the idea.

  86. homunq says:

    We spend trillions on defense, not because we think Iran or Venezuela will attack the US, but in order to keep the world safe for a certain way of life. The spinoff technologies from all that spending have helped keep the US economy strong. We need the same level of focus, on a global level, to face a far greater threat, one which has already destroyed entire cities. And, unlike defense spending, we won’t be building things to blow them up, we’ll be creating lasting infrastructure within our borders.

    We spend trillions on Social Security, to ensure that someone who works hard now will not be eating cat food in the future. But if we don’t take care of our farms, our forests, and our coastlines, that investment will be in vain.

    How did the Great Depression end? With the transformation of the economy to a war footing. The greatest periods of prosperity in history have all been brought about by fundamental and disruptive economic transformations; it’s the only way to avoid the bubble-and-bust cycle that ate the last decade. Transformation to a green economy is exactly the challenge we need to make this generation great – and prosperous.

    (I like that last paragraph the best.)

  87. Meghan says:

    At what hearing will you be giving your testimony?

  88. homunq says:

    Revision, fronting the message:

    Green transformation is good for the economy. How did the Great Depression end? With the transformation of the economy to a war footing. The greatest, most sustained periods of prosperity in history have all been brought about by disruptive economic transformations; it’s the only way to avoid the bubble-and-bust cycle that ate the last decade. Transformation to a green economy is exactly the challenge we need to make this generation great – and prosperous.

  89. homunq says:

    The economy has to change, one way or the other. We can do it now, or we can wait until the oil runs out and Miami turns into Venice with hurricanes. Is America a leader, or a follower?

  90. Mike #22 says:

    IMHO, the messaging and framing which Hansen has done by including his granchildren in his talks has universal impact. Most of the problems of climate change are off in the future–in that same thought space where our hopes for our children and granchildren lives.

  91. homunq says:

    On the “clean” vs. “green” debate – “clean power jobs” is better than the tribal “green jobs”, but it doesn’t include efficiency. There’s just no positive word for efficiency that matches the punch of “waste”. So: “clean power jobs and jobs stopping waste.”

  92. homunq says:

    (Sorry for the multiple comments but…)

    The good thing about “stopping waste” instead of “efficiency” is that it gets across a true and important message: there’s a lot that we can do that would actually save money selfishly and in the short term. Economists don’t believe that’s possible – they think that if it were, people would already have done it. They’re wrong. People can be shortsighted.

    In 1983, Chevy and Toyota co-built the NUMMI plant in California, taking what had been one of the worst workforces in the US and turning it around to having the lowest defect rate in the US in under 3 months. They were building better cars for less. And it took 15-20 years for GM to really start applying those lessons elsewhere – too late, as it turned out.

    Stopping waste is the same kind of lesson. Dollar bills just lying on the ground, and people without the vision to see it.

  93. Steve H says:

    Non-negligible risk of catastrophic economic impact resulting from climate change should be the primary discussion point. From Krugman

    Do we stand a greater chance of nuclear catastrophe or climate catastrophe? Even an equal amount of federal attention would likely pay enormous dividends.

  94. SC says:

    I feel like adaptation is an issue that the more fence-sitting types can wrap their minds around, and doesn’t get brought up nearly enough considering its significance. I’d try to use a phrase like “maladaptive climate disruption.”

  95. lizardo says:

    Joe, excellent talking point is how much heat stored in ocean versus air.

    And for those insulated DC types, even the Potomac is heating up!
    (Science Daily 4/7/10)Rising Water Temperatures Found in US Streams and Rivers

  96. Robbert says:

    1. Ya can’t climb back from a tipping point; it’s all over … sorry! Few ponder the serious meaning of the term Tipping Point. You can’t find a new balancing point. Compounding factors guarantee the one truth that most people can’t or won’t grasp. IT’S TOO LATE but for the “weeping and gnashing of teeth!”

    2. A 2009 National Geographic has a great piece on Carbon Balance!

    3. Few make a strong point about how bankrupt the Denial/Annihilationist line is and the udder fraud [without evidence] campaign they engage in.

    4. Last week Secretary Chu made the [new to me] point of how Carbon 14 in the atmosphere proves how CO2 is MAN MADE! How simple can it be yet the Denialist will spin anything which only proves how bankrupt [without any basis of logic or merit] their line is!

    5. Climate Undergrad says [in comment 15] > “I like to point out that every national and international scientific body (list them) supports the conclusion that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” This idea is worth repeating here but the total number is certainly worth mentioning! The list should be submitted in written form!

    6. Have your 6 gun loaded with YOUR 10 bullets of undeniable [proven] truths [facts]. Tell Inhoffe for me, that he is entitled to his opinions but not even he can alter the facts as proven by science. He shouldn’t be allowed to get away with spinning the science. That alone should be a provable crime! When he quotes others he is not offering any scientific evidence he is relaying opinions. His ‘evidence’ can’t stand the light of day!

    7. The Crisis looms ever so closer yet we can’t see it because it is a trend that can’t be felt in its entirety because our oceans are storing the profound effect till the phase changes kicks it. ICE turns to water at the moment the temperature reaches the phase change point; water turns to vapor at another phase change point but little actual temperature rise is noted! The net effect will be noted and long endured as the net imbalance destroys life as we now know it.

    8. The insidious crime of allowing the Fossil Fuel industry to finance the Denier/liers must be called out for what it is; the buy-off of our ‘beloved’ congressional representatives. If ever a crime against the American people has been committed it is seen in the utter nonsensical position of those Repugnuts!

  97. Garry says:

    Climate Destabilisation sound good to me.

    Good luck.

  98. Chris Dudley says:

    Leave the coal in the hole, the gas in the grass and the oil in the soil.

  99. Daniel Ives says:

    Hey Joe,

    The posts above have some good discussion in them. Here are my thoughts:

    Climate Scientists are often criticized for “speaking science” when their audience might not be well versed in scientific terminology. For example, if the IPCC scientists would say “climate warming of X degrees by 2030 is 90% certain” instead of “very likely” it does a much better job of connecting with the public.

    I’m sure you will do well. Can you please post any videos of the testimony if they are recorded? That would be great!



  100. Greg F says:

    Too much for a soundbyte, but we need to get the public past accepting a few skeptic viewpoints so they don’t “believe” in global warming:

    This isn’t Stanta Clause or the Easter Bunny, you don’t “believe” in scientific theory, you can only:

    A) ACCEPT the conclusions of the thousands of climate scientists based on the evidence gathered.
    B) REGECT the theory, by proposing a theory that better expalains the evidence.
    or C) DON’T KNOW enough to make an informed decision. (I like using IGNORANT here, but comes across as condescending)

  101. john atcheson says:

    A little late — and certainly not a sound bite, but one of the most persuasive things about climate change theory is that we have over 20 years of records to compare predictions and forecasts to and the only thing we know is that what used to be worst case is now reality — it’s happening faster and it’s worse than predicted.

    So, maybe something like:

    When you put aside all the debates, we have 20 years of real data to rely on and this is what it’s telling us: Global warming is happening faster,it is more intense, and the consequences are more severe than any predictions we made. That’s reality.

    Also, a short phrase that gets everything in, such as:

    With a smart energy policy we can create jobs, build the industries of the future, cut oil imports, and prevent global catastrophe. The only thing standing between us and a prosperous future is ignorance.

  102. Chris Dudley says:

    In three hours, volunteers pulled 91 tons of trash from the Potomac River Watershed last Saturday. If that can be done in three hours, we can surely clean up the atmosphere in three decades.

  103. paulm says:

    Its more than a Climate Crisis.

    I think were at a Mass Extinction Event and people aught to start recognizing this.

  104. ubrew12 says:

    How about ‘Revenge of the Dinosaurs’?

  105. Sou says:

    Who do they care about most? City people won’t notice too much early on, except for being snowed in and the rising cost of food. How many of your audience have constituents / lobby groups of farmers? Those first and hardest hit will be the farmers, and that means food, which affects everyone.

    Extreme weather is the worst effect – heavy rain and floods, heat and drought. If unseasonal hail, floods or hurricanes wipe out crops, food costs more and is harder to get. Heat and dry means more bushfires – that hits city and country people.

    Down the track it’s the flooded cities, stateless people looking for a home (more immigrants, civil wars).

    I like the idea of throwing in the words Climate Shock, Climate Chaos every so often without overusing them.

  106. Ben Lieberman says:

    People may not like disruptions, but they think of them as short term events. The disruption to service is annoying but ends. This will not be the case with climate shocks and crises.

  107. paulina says:

    April 14, 2010

    Full Committee
    Hearing on Energy Tax Incentives Driving the Green Job Economy

    1100 Longworth House Office Building – at 10:00 AM


    The hearing will examine the effectiveness of current energy tax policy and identify additional steps that the Committee can take to ensure continued job growth in this area while at the same time advancing national energy policy focus on a discussion of current and proposed energy tax incentives.

    Panel 1
    The Honorable Michael Mundaca

    Matt Rogers

    Panel 2
    T. Boone Pickens

    Victor Abate

    Jeffrey Sachs Ph.D.

    Joseph Romm Ph.D.

    Karen Harbert

    Panel 3
    Stephanie Burns Ph.D.

    The Honorable Reed Hundt

    The Honorable Rod Dole

    Mark Bolinger

    The Honorable David Bohigian

  108. Chris Winter says:

    There’s a lot of good stuff here. I’ll also note one from the “Newsweek” thread — in post #7, by Alex Carlin: “Burn the coal, melt the pole.” That would make a good bumper sticker. (OK, I modified it a bit.)

    There must be something about that name Carlin that confers a way with words. ;-)

  109. G says:

    Below is my “elevator pitch” on climate change, I’d be interested in any critique to make it more effective. It may not be a sound byte, but I feel like there are a couple of things that communicators should frame differently, namely:

    – National Security. National Security. The Department of Defense is very worried about climate change and their concerns need to be explicitly cited. Red state ideologues have a hard time making generals and the military look like limp-wristed libs and thereby discrediting them.

    – Climate change is happening now (desertification, water shortages) and we could see mass disruptions of life as we know it by the end of this century… within the lifetimes of our children. The forecasts of approx. 10 degrees F increase by the end of the century are startling when you think about it.

    – It is much, much more than rising seas (everyone who reads CP knows this, but it seems like most people don’t understand this)

    – Instead of trying to make a point by only invoking the expertise of scientists, we should be be explaining that the mechanisms are long understood principles of physics. The models do not reveal the basic process, they try to measure severity and scale.

    – We face a triple threat of peak oil, climate change and ocean acidification. Any one of these should be a good reason to get off of oil, and the latter two, coal.

    So here’s the pitch:

    The climate temperature is affected by many factors. They include the tilt of the Earth, Earth’s orbit, solar activity, ocean currents and the jet streams. While all of these affect climate, their effects are small individually and they are cyclical. The gases in the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide and methane, also affect climate by retaining heat according to long established principles of physics.

    Industrial civilization has doubled atmospheric carbon dioxide in a geological instant to a degree where it is capable of overwhelming the natural cycles. We also face the risk of abrupt climate change as minor temperature increases trigger the release of vast stores of greenhouse gases locked away under polar ice and from the accelerated decomposition of tundra, forests and peatlands around the globe.

    Climate change has disastrous consequences in the form of drought and dustbowl conditions threatening food production, rising seas inundating coastal cities and towns, increasing frequency of violent “once in a century” storms, extreme heat making parts of the planet uninhabitable, civil unrest from populations displaced by drought and disappearing resources, water shortages, marine extinctions and increased disease affecting both people, plants and animals.

    Many of these things are happening right now at historically unprecedented rates and may reach crisis levels over the next decades, not centuries.

    NASA, NOAA and the NSF all recognize climate change as a threat to civilization, and the US Department of Defense sees it as a serious threat to national security. The latest research from MIT and NOAA finds that previous estimates of the rate of change were drastically underestimated and now forsee a hellish global temperature increase of about 10 degrees F (much more in some places) before the end of the century if we continue business as usual. However, one would never know this if they listened to misinformation from the fatally superficial and manipulated mass media or the willfully deceptive corporate PR from fossil fuel interests.

    While climate change affects some areas more than others, it will affect all of us as competition for global resources increases and populations move across borders. Our children face the prospect of a greatly reduced standard of living if we don’t face the future with our eyes wide open and act now. We need international agreements with effective emissions targets and national and regional efforts to make these a reality with green energy jobs here at home. Our congress hears from the fossil fuel lobby every day, but in the end, it is we the people who employ them. The media is clueless, they need to hear from their audience. Those who advertise on Fox News are funding a massive campaign of disastrous disinformation which will continue unless consumers let them know they’ve had enough.

    Make your voice heard. The laws of physics show us that climate change is a grave threat to humanity. It is also clear that the worst effects can be avoided if we make the most of this moment in history.

  110. Hank Roberts says:

    I thought this appropriate (it used to be available to the public, but now has been paywalled — you can get the full article from the library). It’s the strongest argument I know for tax rather than trade of carbon.

    once found at

    (It used to be available online in various versions at various sites.
    It was subsequently published and is now paywalled somewhere. Your library can find it for you)

    This is from one of the old archived copies no longer available:

    The Rhetoric and Reality of the American Dream: Securities Legislation and the Accounting Profession in the 1930s
    Barbara D. Merino Alan G. Mayper

    —–excerpt follows——–

    Frankfurter (November 16, 1934) to William O. Douglas:

    Where do you men get your great confidence in the effectiveness of piling on everything on the back of the federal government? Turn your attention away from federal incorporation to an instrument of control far more powerful–resourcefully and skillfully formulated devices of federal taxation, graduated according to size, as it were of the big corporations…. The same goes with direct control of capital issues, what gives you such firm hope that those will be wisely controlled, rather than the reverse–that you’ll put the whole prestige of the federal government behind financial transactions that are too complicated or supported by too much power to be stopped by the officials that would pass on them. It’s awfully easy to write these nice laws for control. I think your lawyer-banker friends would write them for you. He concluded, tax ’em, my boy, ‘tax em.

    ——end excerpt—–

    There’s no irony like history, eh?
    We’re still seeing “create more markets” as the only answer offered.
    That doesn’t mean it will work, or is what we need, or is all we can get.
    All it means is, that’s all they will _offer_.

  111. Peter Sergienko says:

    I think really powerful messages find a resonant “big picture” that encompasses a problem or issue as accurately and completely as possible. I view global warming as an unforeseen (before 1970s or so) problem or the petroleum or fossil fuel age. Given the current state of scientific knowledge, we’re (in the developed world) now all at least somewhat responsible for causing these problems and for finding solutions to them. Thus, while the climate change/global warming/climate disruption, etc. debate is interesting from a messaging standpoint, especially in terms of code words and how people respond to them, there’s a broader message we need to perfect and to communicate effectively as well.

    Kind of like the South African truth and reconciliation process, I think it’s time we came to terms with all aspects of our fossil fuel dependency. Unlike apartheid, there are many good things associated with fossil fuel, but it’s now apparent that the bad is starting to outweigh the good.

    Anyway, just off the top of my head (and on the soap box):

    We must end our reckless dependency on fossil fuels. While harnessing fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, and modern chemistry has made rapid advancements in human civilization possible, the problems of our dependency are now obvious and a clear and present danger to us and especially to our children and grandchildren. The good news is that we can solve our fossil fuel problems cost effectively, with no significant disruption to our economy, and with a light governmental hand as long as we choose to transition to a clean energy economy in an expeditious, deliberate and coherent manner.

    We can start to solve the following problems by using fossil fuels wisely and by transitioning to a clean energy economy:

    Global warming/Climate Disruption;
    Ocean Acidification;
    Air pollution (ozone, mercury, etc.);
    Water pollution (e.g., oil spills, Exxon Valdez, coal slurry ponds, etc.)
    Habitat destruction (e.g., mountaintop removal coal mining);
    Homeland security (eg., defense costs to secure oil supplies, climate refugees, etc.);
    Food security
    Peak Oil; and,
    Peak Coal.

    Americans are good stewards who long to leave a better world for their children and grandchildren. We need committed and visionary leadership to put us to work in a more just, efficient, and environmentally responsible economy based on clean, renewable energy.

  112. J.Hartman says:

    I don’t much like “Climate Turbulence” because turbulence is a term often associated with weather and can conflate the climate-weather distinction.

    “Climate chaos” will get attention, but chaos to many people indicates something more immediate, like right now.

    I rather prefer “Climate disruption” because disruption indicates some unpredictability in degree while at the same time conveying certainty of something happening.

  113. PurpleOzone says:

    Climate heating and winding is starting already: it gets worse:

    The first of four dreadful rainstorms this winter roared fearsomely outside my townhouse in New Hampshire. In the morning, I found about 5 pine trees ripped apart within a couple hundred feet in the patches of woods. (Fortunately none of the trees happened to hit a house.)

    The last storm blew over trees that were easy-picking due to the saturated ground. One man was killed 5 miles from here.

    There’s debris everywhere. They are still working on removing the trees that fell on houses, never mind yards. Other people are cleaning up after the floods.

    I’ve lost count of how many widespread floods due to rainstorms there have been in the past 4 years. NH used to have floods only due to rain on snow melt or hurricanes. Rainfall was relatively gentle. This is not normal weather.

    My homeowners’ insurance went up another 10% this year. I’m guessing it will be at least as much next year.

  114. Wit's End says:

    It’s not just floods and rains – the trees are weakened.

    from Charles Little, The Dying of the Trees, in 1995:

    “I have since learned to see a world of dying trees — dying because the trunks have been bored into and the leaves have been stripped by pests; dying because fungi are girdling their bases and branches and turning their leaves to black corpses; dying because their shrunken roots can no longer absorb enough nutrients and water to keep them alive; dying from the direct effects of too much ozone in the troposphere and not enough in the stratosphere; dying because neighboring trees have been clearcut, allowing cold, heat and drying winds into their precincts; dying because of being bathed too often in the sour gases of industry; dying because the weather patterns have changed and they cannot adapt quickly enough.”

    posted here with other quotes:

  115. Chris Winter says:

    How’s this for a sound bite?

    The climate is always changing. Lately we’ve learned that it’s changing because of us — because we’re burning oil and coal like there’s no tomorrow. These fuels produce vast amounts of carbon dioxide, a gas which traps heat in the atmosphere.

    Business as usual will keep that gas building up, making the Earth ever warmer. At some point, natural releases will take off. Then, control of warming is out of our hands.

    As of now we have it in our hands to turn this around. Carbon dioxide releases can be cut back. We can prevent the worst effects of global warming — unless we wait too long.

    What will it be, then: climate choice or climate chance?

  116. Roger Gram says:

    A sea level rise of 1 to 2 meters is predicted by the end of the century. If the rise is 1 meter, New Orleans will be 20 miles out to sea. If the rise is 2 meters, Miami will be 20 miles out to sea. Are the authorities in either state planning for this?

  117. Richard Brenne says:

    G (#112) does a great job with his elevator speech (I can’t think of improvements, which is amazing), and we each need to work on our own.

    My own elevator speech:

    Welcome! We’re taking the express elevator to the roof of this 100 story skyscraper!

    We’ve just past the 15th floor, which can symbolize that temperatures have risen 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century! Imagine all the impacts of increased heat, drought, rain, snow and wind storms that’s meant!

    But you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

    We’ve taken fossil fuels sequestered in the Earth’s crust for hundreds of millions of years and burned a good percentage of them in just a few hundred years! In fact within the last few decades we’ve burned more than in all human history before then!

    We have about 600 coal power plants in the U.S. and each burns about a mile-long train a day, so that’s a 600 mile-long train of coal we burn every day! The world burns a coal train over 3,600 miles long every day! We put the weight of the biggest cruise ship of CO2 into the atmosphere every two minutes!

    (At this point almost everyone on the elevator is trying to push the button of a floor to make the elevator and especially me stop, but I block them out like Charles Barkley – and I mean with his current physique.)

    All that CO2 in the atmosphere has to have an effect and it does! The oceans could become too acidic for plankton to survive and support the food chain! Sea level rise has been measured in inches but it could soon be measured in feet or if Americans ever understand the metric system, in meters! Say good-bye to much of what you see here in New York, and essentially all of South Florida and the entire Gulf Coast! The destructive 1.5 degree temperature rise we’ve seen over the last century could come in a decade or even less! It could easily raise temperatures 10 degrees or more just this century alone!

    That’s like going to the 100th floor, which we just past! Now let’s go out on the roof!

    Look down! Now imagine being blindfolded and so ignorant – I mean Sarah Palin-James Inhofe-Glenn Beck ignorant – that you don’t know that falling from a great height can hurt you! You might even find it exhilarating! That’s what we’re doing! And when we hit the ground, it will no longer be exhilarating! That’s the tipping point where the climate runs away toward that of Venus, which is 850 degrees!

    This is what Jim Hansen, the scientist who knows more about the atmospheres of Venus and Earth than anyone says he’s “Dead certain” will happen if we just keep doing what we’re doing and burning all fossil fuels!

    So stop it!

    (Thus concludes pretty much the worst elevator ride ever. I’ve never seen a group of people so eager to take a hundred flights of stairs – they actually beat the express elevator back down. My elevator operator job is now under serious review.)

  118. Wit's End says:

    Richard Brenne…
    There are so many worthy organizations and individuals that work so hard to save us and the rest of the biosphere from extinction.

    How can we consolidate our fragmented efforts to become more effective than the well-funde and well-coordinated and disciplined denier campaigns?

    I just started a new facebook and blog,

    Mothers Against Climate Change…

    but it’s just a suggestion.

    Want to start…

    Parents Against Climate Change???

    It’s something many people can relate to.

  119. Richard Brenne says:

    Gail –

    Great idea! I think consolidating our efforts is the key. I certainly support everything you’re doing, Bill McKibben is doing, Joe Romm is doing, etc.

    My dream is that somehow all movements become one movement. Mothers (and Parents) against Climate Change is a great idea that deserves to grow and grow and grow and have a meaningful impact as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers has had.

    One of the keys to me is to disagree in private and agree and speak with a unified voice in public.

    Whatever we do, you’re a key part of it. You’re great at understanding the science, communicating it, and making it relevant. Especially impressive is your deep concern for and connection to trees.

    I think you’re in New Jersey, right? Other Romm All-Star commenters like Leif, Jeff Huggins, Mike Roddy and others are up and down the West Coast – I think we should start getting together somehow as Leif and I are doing.

    Read about Peter Sinclair’s video (below) where Mike Roddy and I both offer help to Peter Sinclair if he wants it – that’s a perfect example.

    What you’re doing in Washington on Earth Day is another perfect example.
    (One of my goals is for us to re-name Earth – as Bill McKibben suggests in his current book. We talked about this back in September when I had him on a panel and he chose Eaarth and I had chosen – without knowledge of his book – Anthro-Earth. This is an example of my lobbying him on the name but working with him regardless.)

    My other dream is to see CP, 350 and others somehow unite. Focusing on communication, I could see these and other elements growing into something like a Huffington Post, but the goal should be to work in all media. Why not someday grow a media concern so that it’s larger than Fox (or at least a fox)?

    I forget if we’ve had e-mail contact but I’d love to know more about your fascinating background (a study showed that people tend to marry those within five IQ points of themselves and I can see how your first husband as the youngest member of the National Academy of Sciences would have been lucky to get within 5 IQ points of you), all you’re doing and you can e-mail me at

  120. Richard Brenne says:

    Roger Gram (#119) –

    That’s a brilliant and succinct sound bite, put better than I’ve ever seen it before. I’m a stickler for details and have geographers calculated what you’re saying? It sounds about right although it seems it might be reversed to me. At seven feet above sea level in the French Quarter might it take two meters for New Orleans to be 20 miles out to sea?

    Any geographers, cartographers, or Google Earth-hounds want to look at the topographic maps and report back to us? Or best of all site peer-reviewed studies that have?

    Getting this a bit nailed down (maybe it already has been), I’d like to see it added to the sound bite arsenal.

    Also: “A sea level rise of 1 to 2 meters is predicted by the end of the century” as you say is the best way I’ve seen this worded, better than some otherwise wonderful organizations who should adopt it.

  121. Dan B says:


    I see you’re on the Green Energy panel with Pickens & Sachs. It seems as though your role is to point towards outcomes, visions, and policies that would move us in that direction. Still it is important to state who you are / where you stand so the members of the panel feel you’re more than just a data source or spin master.

    1. You’ve got a child, family, friends, know people who do not agree with your viewpoint but who honor your feelings – fear for your child’s future, hope for a forceful change in direction.

    – I agree that people have rhetoric fatigue. They are also overwhelmed with fear about climate change – “because” they don’t see strong pro-active measures to reduce pollution and provide energy security. They’re hoping for an Apollo Project scale program, and bigger, as big as our transformation of the auto industry in WWII.

    2. You’ve been in contact with many climate scientists (non stop for how many years on CP?) You have been a consistent observer of the handful of experts who deny climate change compared to the thousands of credible scientists and institutions, including the Pentagon, who believe we must take rapid and forceful action. (counter the “sissy”, “silly”, frame-of-the-moment)

    3. You’ve spent as much time as anyone exploring rhetoric and spin and it’s intersection with policy. (Your father’s was a small-town newspaper editor. That’s gonna resonate with folks from rural areas and electeds who’re watching the polling.)

    4. If the others on the panel don’t mention: A. the rapid increase in investment by Europe and China in alternative energy projects, do so.

    B. Energy security – sending billions to the Middle East every day – perhaps a link to “patriotism” here.

    C. 19th Century’s fuels will not get us a 21st Century energy economy. They’re fossil fuels.

    D. Nuclear plants would be great for a transition but they’ll break the bank – most expensive potential energy source.

    On this last point you are the most persuasive expert. Apparently the “BIG” message inside the beltway for dealing with climate catastrophe is Nukes. If there’s any place where talking points / sound bites / branding would be of value in your testimony it’s regarding wasting billions on costly nuclear plants when we can get other alternatives, wind, solar, tidal, and others, up and running before ground is broken for the first cheap nuclear power plant in the US.

    I don’t believe you need many talking points for your testimony. Your target audience is elected officials and the people who will follow your testimony on CSPAN – an educated lot who will respond to simple narratives (comment on electeds…) and a few shocking bits of simple math on Nukes vs. “clean alternatives that pay off”.

  122. Dan B says:

    Richard Brenne;

    Where Miami and NO will be after sea level rise of 1 or 2 meters is dependent upon how far inland ocean and gulf waves erode the surrounding land. Both East Florida’s coast and the Gulf Coast are surrounded by low lying lands that will not require many intrusions of sea-water before existing vegetation is stripped. The exceptions will be salt marshes. Since these occur at current sea level they will remain after storm surges while vegetation inland will die. Once it rots or its roots no longer anchor the soil it will be subject to erosion during high rains and subsequent storm surges.

    The loss of coastal cities will not be by orderly slow increase of sea level. And in some cases the levies that we’ve relied upon to protect our farmland and cities from the sea will act as dams. They will impound seas that will prevent escape and saturate soils will salt.

    The aftermath will be like ancient wars when the victors salted the land and made it uninhabitable for millenia.

  123. Dan B says:


    My favorite sound bite, which I’ve posted before:

    We’re moving from a 19th Century fossil fuel economy to a 21st Century clean energy economy. The old interests are fighting the change. That’s what you’d expect. When they realize the games over they’ll be it’s biggest supporters or the biggest losers.

    Another way to say it more dramatically is:

    There are two numbers, only two: 19th & 21st. The first is dirty fossil fuels, coal and crude oil. The second is where we’re moving: Clean energy for the 21st Century… Anyone who rides the wave will prosper. Will the US ride the wave or lose out?

  124. Dan B says:

    Just remembered a visual frame from Tim Flannery.

    For people who can’t believe that we could affect the atmosphere by driving cars, heating our homes, and running our industries I point out that the entire atmosphere of the earth is like the peel on an apple. And we couldn’t breathe much more than where that peel touches the flesh of the apple.

    Another analogy is to point out a landmark 3 miles away. If we were able to walk three miles straight up we’d be halfway through the atmosphere. What would take us an hour to walk, if it were level, is all of the atmosphere that really matters to us on earth. The highest cities on earth, in Peru, are less than two miles up. The highest major city, Mexico City, is only a mile and a half up. (opportunity for next landmark, really close, here – is it the distance from the Capitol to the Washington Monument or Jefferson Memorial? – or closer?)

    The sky looks infinite but in reality there’s precious little of it.

    I suspect that 99% of Americans have no idea how small the atmosphere is.

  125. Leif says:

    The “Frankinstorm” that was parked off the west coast last January had a record low pressure over most of the west coast. The “soda straw effect” raised the predicted high water ~2 feet here on the north west tip of the Olympic Peninsula, hundreds of miles from the center of the low. Fortunately that effect was during a 1/4 phase moon. Had that storm been a week later and that 2 feet was added to an already high tide serious flooding would of been experienced along the whole west coast. Unlike most low pressures associated with hurricanes that last only a few hours, this storm’s low lasted for days and and would have affected at least two or three high tides. Put some wind on top of that and you will definitely get a lot of folk’s attention.

  126. J4zonian says:

    I use ‘climate catastrophe’ except when I specifically intend not to alarm people, then it’s ‘global warming’–or ‘climate change’ if what i’m talking about is just the physical effects, not including the effects on civilization.

    I think we have to be flexible, ready to use the phrase that meets the needs of the moment. Most of the suggestions have drawbacks–GW, CC, etc. are too passive and pleasant-sounding for most situations–like a day at the beach. But there are times they may work well to ease into the harsh reality. Climate disruption the same, (equally troubling to disruption of phone service) and most of the rest are not descriptive enough or too wierd–climate failure, climate FAIL (what do those even mean? Nothing’s failing that I can see), rapid climate shift (who cares?) …

    There are what I call creeping (or galloping) euphemisms, words we use for things with an indelibly unpleasant association (usually because of psychological projection)–words for toilet, eliminatory functions and products (!) African-Americans, etc. They are things whose names become saturated with the projections we put on them, so we have to abandon them and move on to new words constantly. Climate words are the same. The minor faults of whatever word we use for AGWCCCCCF… will be taken advantage of by those will say anything, do anything and harm anybody (even the whole world, obviously) for whatever twisted reason they do things for. We just to win the larger battle so the associations are the ones that will help us not hurt us. That’s a tough battle with the corporate-government-relgious forces arrayed against us; just talking about the science of climate catastrophe probably won’t be enough.

  127. riverat says:

    How about saying “Mother Nature has breast cancer and we need to cure it so she can keep feeding her children.”

  128. James says:

    All 5 of those we’re pretty bad, I don’t think the use of “Climate Change” should be altered since it p much sums up what’s happening.

    The messaging could definitely use a change, and I think it’s pretty simple.

    “It simply comes down to whether you want a better and brighter future for our kids. Whether you want them to live a better life than you lived.”

  129. sailrick says:

    ‘We can’t keep using our atmosphere, as a dumping ground.’

    Show them this from The Idiot Tracker

    Consider the warmest year in the 50s; 1958, +0.41C. Without even looking it up, you could guess it was an El Nino year, as indeed it was: the 1958 El Nino peaked at 1.7, compared to the current one which peaked at 1.8. At the time, it was tied for the warmest January on record, a record it held until 1981. How does it compare to temperatures in the last 10 years?

    How does it compare to temperatures in the last 10 years?

    2001: 48
    2002: 83
    2003: 77
    2004: 60
    2005: 87
    2006: 58
    2007: 108
    2008: 38
    2009: 67
    2010: 88

    Recall that the 50s record was 41. Nine out of ten of the last ten years beat the all-time warmest January from the 50s — a record that stood until 1981.

    A variation of what Hansen said in #13
    I have been explaining why the warming is not likely a natural phenomenon, by saying

    “you know what carbon capture for clean coal is? well, Mother Nature has been sequestering carbon for 65 million years in the form of coal, thus keeping it out of the carbon cycle. Its one of the things that has kept the cycle in a balance that has supported life as we know it. We are now putting it back into the atmosphere and the carbon cycle in a few hundred years, a few hundred thousand times faster than it was sequestered.”

    Be sure to teach them about your favorite renewable energy, solar thermal. Not enough people are even aware of it, from my experience talking to people. They can’t know what the right energy choices are if they don’t know what’s available. And the potential of CSP exceeds what most people think renewables are capable of.

    Tammy 23

    Has Sean Hannity ever told you that his favorite climate expert Steve Milloy is in fact a professional PR man, with no science background. Or did he divulge that Milloy is a registered and paid lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry? I can pretty much guarantee that nothing you hear on Fox about global warming is true or honest. Read “Climate Cover-Up” by James Hoggan. Unlike the absurd and imaginative and often paranoid conspiracy theories believed by so called skeptics, the real scam is well documented and factual.

  130. PeterB says:

    Human population has tripled in the last 40 years, in the blink of an eye. Even if humans produced zero greenhouse gases, the planet would be under enormous stress. But add climate change, and you can tip stress into crisis. That is the perilous point we’re at now.

    A soundbite that resonates for me isn’t alarmist, but gives a frame or context so I can draw a simple conclusion. The suggestion above is an attempt at that.

  131. Richard Brenne says:

    Dan B (#125 referring to my #123 and beginning with Roger Gram (#119):

    That’s very helpful, thanks – and all your other comments are great here as well.

    Given your additional knowledge (Are you a geographer or ecologist?), how would you amend Roger Gram’s original statement at #119? What would you say that was comparably succinct and punchy? If we can get this as accurate as possible it’s a great tool in our communication toolkit.

    Leif (#128) – Great stuff that people can really relate to! I brought this up with a Columbia River bar pilot who wasn’t too receptive and then I remembered that his entire career is about burning fossil fuels (on the pilot boat, ships and the cars and oil they’re often carrying). Still, a brave and skillful sailor dude, like yourself.

    Sailrick (#131) – Also great! Deniers focus like a laser on 2008 being .03 degrees C cooler than 1951! See, it’s getting cooler (they say, not really seeing the forest for the tree they’re banging their head into)!

  132. An important bottom line is the following:

    Uncertainty + inertia = danger

    Re the uncertainty part, point out that it cuts both ways: Things could turn out less bad or worse than we think.

    Re the inertia part:
    – It takes time to develop & build low emissions infrastructure
    – It takes time for the concentration to respond to a change in emissions
    – It takes time for the climate to respond to a change in concentration

    (the second is due to the long lifetime of excess CO2 in the atmosphere; the third is due in part to the vast ocean thermal storage. Based on presentation by David Keith)

    This means that from the moment we enact policies to the moment that the climate substantially responds we’re decades further in time. That means we have to act pro-actively; sooner rather than later. Waiting for things to become more certain is very dangerous.

    Al Gore said that even though he succeeded in raising awareness, he failed in getting across a sense of urgency. That sense of urgency is addressed by the ‘intertia’ frame.

  133. perhaps pointing out the parallel to arsenic: that arsenic is natural and deadly in small amounts. CO2 is deadly in a chronic way rather than a toxic way….

  134. Alex Carlin says:

    Hey Chris Winter (#111) – I like your modification – “BURN THE COAL, MELT THE POLE.” Shoot me an email at and we can collaborate more…

  135. Roger Gram says:

    Richard Brenne (123 and 134) and Dan B(125): The idea that Miami will be 20 miles out to sea after a 2 meter sea level rise comes from a map credited to Weiss and Overpack seen on a post from Dec 9, 2009:

    Joe Romm posted a similar map for Louisiana, but I couldn’t find it. I’m sure my post (119), if it has some validity, could be cast in a more precise way.

  136. John D. Wilson says:

    I like climate jolt, first new phrase that seems to really add meaning to the problem.

  137. Alain Miville de Chêne says:

    A short review with comments of various terms proposed in the responses:

    global warming: when you live in a cold country, what is wrong about warming? Techically very accurate but lacks the emotional overtones we need to associate with the consequences of the warming.

    (rapid) climate shift : what is bad about shifting? Nothing irrevocable there.
    climate disruption: maybe some perturbation, but maybe everything is OK afterwards.
    climate shock: surprise, but what of the outcome? Patient was in shock, but is feeling fine now.
    climate turbulence: we are all used to turbulence in an airplane. Not a big deal, everything back to normal in a few minutees.
    climate turmoil: no fun, but leaves open the possibility of a better ending.
    climate jolt: jolt is an energy drink.
    climate storm: storms come and go.
    climate fail: not proper english. Sounds like high school talk.
    climate destabilisation: might presume restabilisation afterwards with adaptation sufficient…
    climate upheaval: dire consequences here also. Not bad but still leaves the outcome possibly positive.

    catastrophic climate disruption: hold well together.
    climate breakdown: much more to the point. Breakdowns don’t suggest return to normal, nor adaptation.
    climate failure: also to the point. Failure to provide the conditions we have been used to during the last 12000 years. Not bad.
    climate chaos: nothing good will come of this. Pretty good….

    major climate shift, which threatens the peaceful survival of our civilization.

    environmental crisis: encompasses climate, the oceans, and all the other assaults we are perpetrating on living nature. Unfortunately dilutes the specific point of CO2 pollution of air and water.

    “very likely” (and other precise scientific qualifying terms) are inappropriate for general public communication. Fine among scientists.

  138. GC says:

    * Climate chaos is here – there’s no more time for wait-and-see, there’s no more time for evaluation.

    * Climate chaos is expensive. Our country can’t afford 10, 20, or 50 Katrina-scale catastrophes every year.

    * It’s not too late. I’m optimistic.

    * We can preserve a livable climate on this planet with aggressive government action. This problem can’t be solved by individual do-gooders changing to eco-friendly lightbulbs.

    * When your kids are having their own children, you don’t want them to be facing global food and water shortages. They’ll look at you and say “where were you in 2010? Why didn’t your generation step up to this responsbility?”

  139. wrb says:

    I would focus on things that will happen witin the next 50 years. I think the 100 year horizon is too far off for most people.

    However the real possibilities that we will see ocean death, desertification of the midwest and the central valley, forest die-off in the NW etc. within our lifetimes gets peoples’ attention.

    Also focus on the damage to the US economy and power.