Climate scientists are as mad as hell (and high water) — but are they going to take it any more?

Douglas Martinson, Antarctic Researcher, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory: “It just drives me crazy . . . It is so frustrating. We have known for decades “” no question “” that global warming was started by anthropogenic increases of CO2,” Martinson said, adding that the evidence is overwhelming. “The straws that broke the camel’s back are so thick now you can’t even see the camel. . .. People’s opinions being dictated by talk show hosts “” it’s just not right. Get your information from a scientist, not a talk show host.”

Climate scientists are starting to get angry that they are losing the single most important science messaging effort in human history to the most insidiously successful disinformation campaign in human history.  Who wouldn’t be mad as hell and high water in a world seemingly dominated by anti-science, pro-pollution media, politicians and disinformers who insist we put our foot on the accelerator when all the scientific evidence increasingly makes clear how close to the precipice we are?

What follows are some quotable quotes by climate scientists in two recent articles. These are from Brad Johnson’s post, Colorado Climate Scientists Tell Ken Buck: Global Warming Is Not A ‘Hoax’:

Scott Denning, Climatologist, Colorado State University: “There’s really no question at all that CO2 molecules emit heat. It seems like the onus is on them to explain how you can add heat to the surface without warming it up. The basic science of the effect of human-produced CO2 on climate change is 150 years old. It was first measured in 1863. The first estimates of the effect were published in 1896. It piles up and the more stuff you put up there, the more heat you’re going to get.”

Dennis Ojima, Chair, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University: “Quite simply, there is no hoax in studying climate change. It is an important research concern, the same as studying cancer or the economic growth. There is no controversy about the role human actions have made to alter the climate system through the emissions of greenhouse gases over the past 150 years. The fundamental physics associated with the impact of this change in atmospheric concentrations of these gases is not disputed. The manner in which these gases react in the atmosphere is one of the fundamental properties of the climate system. The science at the fundamental level related to greenhouse gases and climate are as solid and as important as the finding that germs are responsible for illnesses and that there are specific strategies to reduce germs in the environment we live in.”

Caspar Amman, Scientist, Climate And Global Dynamics Division, National Center For Atmospheric Research: “Climate science is not at all a hoax….  The magnitude [of expected warming], even on a geologic perspective, is a substantial change, far larger than anything human civilization has ever seen.”

Christian Shorey, Geology And Geologic Engineering Faculty, Colorado School Of Mines: “Though it is impossible for a scientist to speak of natural phenomena in terms of absolute certainty, I would have to say that the present state of our knowledge leaves little possibility that human induced greenhouse gas accumulation in our atmosphere is not causing an increase in average global surface temperatures….  Proper policy will have to take a long term view of the problem, and as such our politicians will need to have a proper respect for the results of well researched science.”

Like the quote that opens this post, the following quotes come from an article in The Antarctic Sun, “Winter of discontent:  USAP researchers frustrated by backlash against climate science,” which notes, “For researchers involved in the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) External U.S. government site, the recent backlash against science can be summed up in one word: frustrating.”

Richard Alley, Professor Of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University: “The fact that important people in Washington don’t know that is our failure,” he said. “This is not policy prescriptive, saying there is a greenhouse effect and we’re increasing it. It’s in no way a political statement. Saying there is not a greenhouse effect is a political statement because there’s no scientific basis for it.”

Don Voigt, Antarctic Researcher, Pennsylvania State University: “We’re just making observations here and trying to tell people what’s going on. Being attacked for an observation is kind of strange “” it’s beyond comprehension in a lot of ways,” Voigt said. “At some point you keep doing what you’re doing because you know it’s the right thing to do.”

Leigh Stearns, Department Of Geology, University Of Kansas: “It’s such a pervasive change, in the Arctic in particular, and parts of the Antarctic. We need to be better activists of our science. We need to get the word out in a more succinct matter,” Stearns said. “It’s not political. It’s our environment,” she added.

So they are frustrated.  But are they going to take it any more?


27 Responses to Climate scientists are as mad as hell (and high water) — but are they going to take it any more?

  1. cervantes says:

    What they don’t seem to realize is that they are up against psychopathic billionaires who will do whatever they must to prevent the slightest nick to their obscene wealth. Climate denial doesn’t just happen, it is organized and paid for, with very big bucks. It seems to me that these guys are basically naive about what’s going on around them.

  2. with the doves says:

    The scientists have a lot on their plates – they need to do their work, and they also need to maintain a public presence on this issue and deal with a lot of nonsense.

  3. I think there needs to be an organized campaign to flood the congressional offices with informed scientists. Every senator and representative should have a face to face meeting with scientists. If they disagree with the science, they should be asked to explain why, and then they should be informed accordingly. To be honest, we could even bring literature from SkepticalScience – things are very nicely worded there.

    At the very least, there should an organized event that brings scientists to D.C. as a show of force. Let’s all put on white lab coats (because we all wear them all the time, of course) and storm the mall. Let’s go!

  4. The deniers are laughable… so why not laugh? At them!

  5. It seems useful to recall that the percentage of people in the US who don’t believe in global warming is pretty close to the percentage who don’t believe in evolution.

    Good that some climate scientists are expressing their frustatiom and anger. It might help.

    But the continuing cultural shift we need here is up to everyone, individually and in communities.

    We all need to do more, and more, and more, to the extent we are able, until our existential environmental crises are solved. There’s really no reasonable alternative.

  6. Leif says:

    This weekend would be a good opportunity to practice civil disobedience and/or public awareness. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are having a joint rally in DC. “Keep Fear Alive” and “Rally to Restore Sanity”. Also if I have my days right President Obama will be on Jon Stewart’s program tonight. Washington DC too far, do something in your neighborhood.

  7. Mike Roddy says:

    Nice to hear scientists turning up the volume, and they need to do it even more. As Cervantes said, maybe the fact that denial is orchestrated by greedy and evil people may help motivate them.

    Beam me Up is right, too- to anyone who has taken the time to learn the science, the denier oeuvre is both ridiculous and funny.

    I really like Alden Griffith’s suggestion- let’s see a show of force in DC and elsewhere by scientists in their lab coats, challenging the likes of Beck and Will to try to twist the facts while they are there to monitor them. The idea of developing a strategy for making sure that all Congressmen hear them out is a good one, too. This could be organized by NAS, with press releases, and will have a lot more influence than their position statements.

    If they manage to get meetings in Congressional offices- and not just with junior staff- they need to start by saying that everything they have been told by oil lobbyists and Fox News on this subject is bullshit. This would offend them, and drive action in a sane world. And who knows, maybe there are enough humans left in those Congressional office buildings. For the Congressmen who decline meetings, and order staffers to get rid of the scientists at their doors, a team from Michael Moore’s organization (or someone less incendiary) could record this as well.

  8. Jeff Huggins says:

    Aristotle and Donald Brown and Others

    Not to confuse the two, but …

    Aristotle said something like this, long ago: It is easy to get angry, but getting angry over the right thing, at the right persons, for the right reasons, in the right way, at the right time, that is harder and an admirable thing.

    It is WAY BEYOND TIME to be angry about the fact that society is not facing and addressing climate change, AND to be angry at those organizations and folks who are selfishly denying the problem and confusing the public. We should (at this point) have a great deal MORE of that anger, and we should be expressing our anger, in responsible and effective ways, a great deal MORE than we are presently doing.

    The immorality of continuing to contribute to climate change, and of not facing and addressing the problem, is MORE THAN CLEAR.

    We need to take our “self-imposed handcuffs” OFF and begin expressing ourselves, clearly and loudly and persistently, or else nothing is going to change — and especially not sufficiently — and we are all going to look back and regret that we didn’t live up to our basic human responsibilities.

    I strongly suggest that people read, periodically, Donald Brown’s comments on Climate Ethics.

    Ooodles of moral philosophers, environmental ethicists, responsible humanitarians, and others have made the moral case for change in a variety of ways but also in consistent and overlapping ways. We are in danger of “hesitating ourselves into perpetual infamy and disrepute”, not to mention pain and death, if we don’t begin to take actions and insist that actions be taken.

    Scientists (and others) should be screaming the “mad as hell” scream, starting now, and we should have started doing it ten years ago, if not more. This is no joke. I’m not saying this on a “whim”.

    Pick up The Cry!


  9. Colorado Bob says:

    Strongest storm ever recorded in the Midwest smashes all-time pressure records

    The Big Fork record beat the record set at Phoenix in January by a full inch of mercury.

  10. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Excellent article by Nate Silver today on There is still an outside chance that dems could hold both houses. Don’t bet the family farm on it, but worth maintaining some hope.

    Also, if you have a lot of facebook friends it’s well worth doing this DNC “commit to vote” site. A lot of my facebook friends responded.

  11. caerbannog says:

    What scientists and the American public need is more hard-hitting pro-science commentary like this:


    Rattling the Cage: American Psychos


    Next Tuesday, a uniquely deranged political party is going to take over the most powerful country on earth.

    The key word here is “unique.” The Republican Party in 2010 is the only major political party in the Western world, the only one shooting for national leadership, that has been supercharged by crackpots with crackpot ideas – i.e. Tea Partiers, the generic name for America’s xenophobic, libertarian, right-wing Christian conspiracy freaks.


    American exceptionalism, you betcha. What other country has a Sarah Palin – a defiant ignoramus with so much political power and influence, with such a good chance of becoming head of state?

    You don’t have to be paranoid to think Obama’s a bad president; there are plenty of rational claims to be made against him from Right, Left or center. But the alternative to him and the Democrats – the Tea Party GOP; rabid radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh (who calls the president “Imam Hussein Obama”); countless conspiracy-fixated bloggers; Gingrich, Palin and Beck – these people aren’t rational. These people are nuts. There’s no grand-scale political movement on earth remotely like theirs. And it appears that on Tuesday, they’re taking over.

    I used to dread the idea that China would one day replace America as the world’s most powerful nation. Now, the way things are going, I think I’d be relieved.

    It’s high-time for the press to start framing the GOP leadership as the dangerous loons that they are. Is there anyone out there in the US mainstream media with the backbone to do this?

  12. Sundance says:

    People need to see scientists put their money where their mouth is, to have skin in the game so to speak. If you want people to sacrifice you need to lead by example. One way would be for the climate science community to request a huge reduction in climate funding say 80% of 1990 funding. That savings could be deployed to reduce emissions of CO2. The science is unequivocal so we really don’t need to be spending the money on things we already know, and we are on the precipice so it’s time for a bold move. It’s like the end of the cold war where we stopped spending money on field intelligence and started using satellites. This type of bold action would make the statement needed to show the seriousness of commitment by the climate science community that would gain massive support for climate change action. If you want others to man the oars you need to start rowing first.

  13. Dan B says:

    Climate scientists have been frustrated for a decade. Now they’re finally starting to speak out. My family is full of scientists and I was headed that direction before I responded to architecture’s (and then landscape architecture’s) siren call.

    So, how should climate scientists respond to the attacks on their credibility?

    Let’s start with a few basic facts:

    It’s a media campaign and a communication strategy designed by people who don’t like government. Anything that proposes regulation of fossil fuels by “the government” is “the enemy”. Has the climate science community’s media campaign been successful in gaining any credibility? (Is there a media campaign by the climate science community, or any allied scientific community?…)

    Answer: There seems to be no coordinated robust media campaign and no simple clear message.

    Have all the research papers gained a toehold in either mainstream media or new media?

    Answer: Barely a toehold. That frightening feeling of vertigo is just before your last toe is pushed over the edge. There will be “minders” for climate scientists like Joe McCarthy if the GOP takes over.

    Are there experts in mass communication who could assist us? Can they bring climate scientists who are skeptical of marketing and mass communication up to speed?

    Answer: Yes, and climate scientists must tell their skeptical (of communication) colleagues that being a brilliant scientist does not make you a brilliant communicator, especially in mass media.

    I feel the main reasons that climate science has failed to hold its own in mass media are several. Here are some general formulas for success:

    1. The messages must be very simple and clear, especially to people who failed at science and math. NO NUMBERS! NO ACRONYMS! NO BIG WORDS! (I know what “anthropogenic” means. My neighbors, and most of my friends, are baffled. Once they’re confused by a big word I’ve lost them for longer than it takes to explain the word.)

    2. The messages must have an emotional hook. Facts have never launched a thousand ships or rallied people to change. If humans were truly rational we would eat hamburgers no more than once a month and steer clear of most sugar. Ask MacDonalds how their business is going. Ask the AMA how obesity is going.

    3. Messages must be “newsy”. “Newsy” is: different, a story about some transformation, usually personal, with a visceral grab. Again, “facts” are not news.

    4. How to make “facts” newsy – connect the dots. For example, when I read about the biggest storm in the upper Midwest I feel panic. I know there have been many big storms in places that have not experienced them before. It seems that our climate is resetting into another pattern. The process will be destructive and the new pattern may be violent. It may be just around the corner. The “news” is the violence is as likely to be this decade, not just by the end of the century.

    5. Include solutions, always include solutions, with your “newsy”. Even skeptics get engaged when the discussion is about solutions, and who better than scientists to be up on the cool new technologies?

    And congratulations that you’re getting upset! Keep it up and in a few years we may have turned the corner.

  14. TomG says:

    That is some really bizarre logic Sundance @12.
    With man made global warming we have a major problem that is developing into something that could, at the very extreme, end our species and you want cut back the funding to the front line scientists in order to fight it??
    The Cold War was purely political.
    The only political part of this so-called Climate War are the oil and coal bought politicans and their minions, who if elected and remain in power for too long are going to destroy us.

  15. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Sundance… So, your solution is start by aggressively learning less?

  16. caerbannog says:

    Sundance… So, your solution is start by aggressively learning less?

    That’s the “tea party” approach!!

  17. Sundance says:

    TomG @#14
    Tom let’s approach my bizarre logic another way. You suggest “…we have a major problem that is developing…” which may be true but it is not what was stated by nor supported by Douglas Martinson. Martinson is past the “a problem is developing” point and he is mad as hell. To him the evidence is already overwhelming and so much so that, “The straws that broke the camel’s back are so thick now you can’t even see the camel. . ..”. My logic is built from Martinson’s view and that is why spending money to buy more straw seems foolish to me. I find it very logical not continue spending money on a climate diagnosis, but rather to spend it on a cure. To me it’s like continuing to spending money on studying how malaria spreads in Africa, which we already know, rather than spending money on preventing the spread of malaria in Africa. My logic is to spend most of the the money on stopping the spread of malaria.

    Rob @#15 How much more straw do you want to buy before you agree the camel’s back is broken? Money is not an infinite resource and knowledge on CO2 is not immune to the law of diminishing returns. Time to spend our government resources on the cure IMO.

  18. TomG says:

    If you are going to quote something I wrote do not take it out of context!
    I did not say we have a major problem that is developing….
    I said: “With man made global warming we have a major problem that is developing INTO SOMETHING THAT COULD, AT THE VERY EXTREME, END OUR SPECIES and you want to cut back the funding to the front line scientists in order to fight it??”
    What part of that do you not understand?
    You are a quote cherry picker and I find that incredibly dishonest.

  19. Richard Brenne says:

    Every idea here is brilliant except one. Sorry, Sundance (#12) but I don’t see how becoming more ignorant of the science and making scientists unemployed and powerless will help anything. If your suggestion was sincere, it is 180 degrees off. If it is not sincere, then you can take your suggestion and stick it where the sun’s shining explains Earth’s warming, like Watt’s Up With That. . .

    Gee, I could list about a million areas where we could save infinitely more money than cutting 80 per cent of all climate science (which will be exactly the GOP’s proposal): Unnecessary trips, including mindless pleasure-seeking on private jets, the use of all RVs, SUVs, ATVs, jet-skis, power boats, etc as mere high-cost, low-value ego transporters, and so on and on.

    But nice try. . .

  20. Some European says:

    At times I get so nervous. We really are in the kind of situation we see in Hollywood disaster movies like Armageddon. Only, in Hollywood you can be 100% certain of a happy ending.

    typo in second paragraph: Climate scientists are starting to get angry that they are losing the single most important science messaging effort in human history to the most insidiously successful disinformation campaign in human history. Who wouldn’t be *MADE* as hell and high water…
    I guess that should be just ‘mad’.

  21. Cinnamon Girl says:

    From a purely American-centric point of view, this sequence about the Grand Old Petrol view puzzles me.

    1. They “appear to” take the jingo view that preserving things “American” (or Ameri-religion) is a high priority;

    2. Most of the oil is not in America, and our reliance on oil is detrimental to America;

    3. Fighting tooth and nail to preserve reliance on oil (with oil go coal and natural gas) appears to be fighting for foreign interests and against American interests (which they do routinely with policy that exports jobs). Isn’t that a bit like having cancer, and then cheering for the cancer to win?;

    Soooo, is it: the delusion that we own/control the oil; the idea that it is profits, not the underlying commodity, that matters, and America controls the petro-profits (do we really?), so preserving that imagined profit interest is worth the fight; a belief that all things new are bad, and progression cannot be seen to win; a unified refusal to accept the concept that a dependence on fossil fuel is detrimental; they are dependent on the petro-Spice (money) and will do whatever the Spice merchants tell them to do as long as the Spice flows; the fear that renewable energy won’t work, so any anti-fossil fuel approach is an attempt to put America out of business; only Commies distrust oil; something else; or, most likely, a combination? Man, individual Alzheimer’s is hard to handle, but how do we deal with Continental Alzheimer’s?

  22. caerbannog says:

    If James Hansen hadn’t lost most of his hair to male pattern baldness, he probably would have torn it all out anyway.

    Check this out (Linky ):

    (“Climate zombie” GOP candidate John Loughlin)
    “I’m not a scientist but I did work for NASA and when I was at NASA we had a scientist who I actually did some of the press release work for by the name of Dr. James Hansen at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Dr. Hansen released a peer-reviewed paper in the ’70s that talked about global cooling. And then it’s only later that he’s kind of gotten a conversion to global warming.”

    (Jim Hansen’s reply)
    “I never had any global cooling paper or talk or comment,” he wrote back to us. “The change of carbon dioxide, the increase year to year is entirely human-made. There is an up-and-down flux caused by vegetation growing (sucking carbon dioxide from the air) and decaying in the winter (releasing carbon dioxide), which is large — this fluctuation is natural and does not alter the annual mean increase due to humans. He is speaking nonsense.”

    [JR: Hope to have a post up on this by day’s end.]

  23. Professor Fil Joans says:

    CO2 molecules emit heat. It seems like the onus is on them to explain how you can add heat to the surface without warming it up.

    yeh. is rite. my mate sed if you boil is hundred degrees. if you turn up heet is still hundred degrees. idiot. sciens sez add heet makes it hotter.

    you so rite. the global is warming. deniers is idiot.

  24. James Newberry says:

    A question for science.

    If all physical phenomena on Earth can be described as either Matter or Energy (agree?), in which category do we place the three phases of matter represented by the phrase fossil “fuel?” As “energy resources,” or as comprising the materials of the planet. Think about your message. Is petroleum truly an “energy resource?” Is it stored matter, or stored “energy” as everyone seems to think?

    The phrase “What were they thinking” comes to mind.

    It is time for battle. Everything you love in the world is at stake, and there is now only a chance we can save them.

    In revolution about the sun,

    James Newberry
    Sustainable Energy Consultant

  25. Chris Winter says:

    The folks at JPL held a public outreach session last weekend. It looks like some very interesting discussion took place.

    Presenters’ slides and a streaming video are available.

  26. Marc Hudson says:

    In the original TV show “V” from the 1980s, don’t the aliens get everyone to hate the scientists? Not that the denialists are repulsive planet-killing reptiles thinly disguised as bipeds or anything.

  27. Tobias Barkley says:

    If you haven’t seen it already, Michael Tomasky in the New York review of books has some interesting things to say about why the Democrats’ rhetoric and messaging is so bad.

    I know this isn’t the most relevant post to put this comment but I couldn’t find any recent posts about political messaging.