Lonnie Thompson stands behind warning: Virtually all [climatologists] are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization

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"Lonnie Thompson stands behind warning: Virtually all [climatologists] are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization"

In December I wrote about a must-read paper, “Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options” by the great cryo-scientist Lonnie Thompson.  He explained:

… there is now a very clear pattern in the scientific evidence documenting that the earth is warming, that warming is due largely to human activity, that warming is causing important changes in climate, and that rapid and potentially catastrophic changes in the near future are very possible. This pattern emerges not, as is so often suggested, simply from computer simulations, but from the weight and balance of the empirical evidence as well.

While this statement about the science is true — see A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice — it was of course widely attacked by the pro-pollution, anti-science crowd.

The Ohio State Alumni Association has published a long follow-up story, “Climate change: Clear and present danger,” that I repost with permission.

Climate change: Clear and present danger

Earle Holland

Glaciologist Lonnie Thompson says his latest paper on global climate change was anything but groundbreaking.

“There was nothing in that paper”¨that I have not already said a thousand times in talks and lectures across the country and around the world,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t about the analysis of a new ice core or some new findings about ancient climate.

“I just wanted to put all the facts and arguments down in one place so that anyone would be able to go and look at the evidence and understand. I think it amounts to a good assessment of where we are in understanding the changing climate.”

Thompson is one of the most respected international scholars in the field. He has published hundreds of papers, including those in the most prestigious science journals: Science, Nature, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The latest paper, though, appeared in the journal Behavior Analyst””and the uproar that followed its publication last Novem-ber contrasts substantially with Thompson’s matter-of-fact opinion.

What set the piece apart was not only where it appeared””a journal of behavioral studies””but its message. “Virtually all [climatologists] are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization,” Thompson wrote.

He continued: “There is now a very clear pattern in the scientific evidence documenting that the earth is warming, that warming is due largely to human activity, that warming is causing important changes in climate, and that rapid and potentially catastrophic changes in the near future are very possible.”

Adopt and adapt
“As human beings, we need to carefully consider our options,” Thompson said. “We can mitigate, that is, do something about [the changing climate]. Or, if you believe mitigation is impossible, you adopt strategies to adapt to “¨a changing world. But you can “¨only adapt so much, and what you can’t adapt to will inevitably lead to suffering.

“To me this is just pure logic.Laying it out in this paper really doesn’t advocate anything,” he “¨said.

Many others saw it differently. Scientific papers, as a rule, pre-sent findings based on evidence or experiments, new information upon which new science can Ҭgrow. Rarely do authors raise Ҭquestions or discuss alternatives for action.

Dozens of news stories reported that Thompson’s paper included opinion as well as evidence, therefore suggesting a shift in his stance on the politically volatile issue.

Climate change skeptics in the blogosphere went even further, declaring that by arguing for specific actions, Thompson had slipped over into the world of advocacy. It’s a position often seen as highly risky for researchers who zealously safeguard their independence based on their expertise.

“I’m no advocate,” Thompson said. “If I were out organizing protests against the next coal-burning power plant, then that, to me, would be advocacy””going out and working to change or stop us from going in some direction.

“As a scientist, it isn’t my job to determine the policies that we adopt to deal with the potential impacts that climate science tells us we are likely to experience. But it certainly is my job to assess and bring forward as best I can what we know about the climate system.

“There is a lot about climate that we don’t know. But we know enough””and there is certainly sufficient evidence now””to conclude that we may be in trouble, and that trouble may come much sooner than later,” he said.

“If we don’t carefully consider what our options may be, and we haven’t really embraced dealing with some of these issues, then maybe we deserve what we get.”

‘A serious warning cry’
Over the last three decades, Thompson, working with his wife and research partner, Ellen Mosley-Thompson, has led 57 expeditions to some of the most remote locations in the world”””¨ice fields and glaciers atop mountain ranges across five continents. He and his team drill through the ice to retrieve cores that contain the history of climate in the regions for hundreds and thousands of years.

The literal miles of ice core segments stored at the Byrd Polar Research Center on west campus comprise the world’s best “library” of ancient climate.

Thompson, a University Dis-tinguished Professor of Earth Sciences, has spent more time Ҭat altitudes above 18,000 feet than any other human being, an accomplishment made even more extraordinary by his long battle with asthma. His efforts have resulted in numerous discoveries (see sidebar, page 8) and worldwide recognition.

In 2007, he received the National Medal of Science, the highest honor the United States bestows on an American scientist.

At the time, former vice president Al Gore said of Thompson: “His tenacity through the years in countering disbelievers, coupled with the quality of his team’s research from the very beginning, has shown us dramatically the effects we can expect in the near future.

“His work is the most serious warning cry yet that it is time to change our ways,” Gore said.

Gore’s praise aside, Thompson and his colleagues have avoided taking a public stand on the policy arguments surrounding climate change. The publication of the “¨latest paper didn’t change that, they say.

“It isn’t the facts that are at issue here. It’s how we as humans assimilate those facts and then how we react to them,” Thompson said. “To me, that’s a lot more complicated than the science. Certainly, climate science is complicated, but human behavior is almost a chaotic system.”

Short-term thinking
Before he attempted to write for Behavior Analyst, Thompson reviewed the literature of the field in order to better understand what researchers who study human behavior know.

“A half century ago, there was a general belief that if you studied anything in enough detail, you could come up with a logical relationship between input information and a response””what caused people to act the way they did,” he said. After decades of work, scholars agreed that it couldn’t be done with humans, that there were too many variables.

“I found that enlightening, if not discouraging,” Thompson said.

“I think one of the consequences of our modern, complex, global society is that we no longer take a longer view of things. We think very short term. If you are a student or a company, it is often along the lines of ‘What can I do today that will make a difference at the end of this quarter,’ not ‘Am I getting a good education’ or ‘Will “¨I be in business 10 years from “¨now.’ The things that we do today don’t promote long-term thinking.”

Therein lies the dilemma, Thompson said.

“The problem with the climate”¨change issue is that there is a 20-”¨to 30-year lag between what we are experiencing now and the climate change we have already built into the system. If we were to suddenly have a new energy source and stop producing carbon dioxide, the climate is going to continue to change for decades,” he said. “We are still going to have to be prepared for those changes.”

Thompson worries about people in underdeveloped parts of the world, “people living right on the edge of sustainability today. They don’t have any cushion, no bank accounts. They’re living hand-to-mouth. These people are in real trouble, and the problem isn’t “¨going away.”

Everybody talks about the weather
Few policy issues have polarized the public the way global climate change has. While 59 percent of Americans acknowledge that the planet is warming, according to a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center, they differ over whether humans have played a major role in rising global temperatures. About half of the population agrees that carbon dioxide, a byproduct of humankind’s reliance on fossil fuels, is enhancing the planet’s greenhouse effect, locking in solar radiation that might otherwise be emitted back into space.

And the recorded loss in ice covering the north polar regions in recent years has reduced the reflectivity of that part of the globe. Ocean water is darker than ice and snow cover, allowing the oceans to absorb more heat. Thus, more solar radiation is absorbed by the Earth system.

Reports in early January confirmed that on a global basis, 2010 was the wettest year in more than a century and that it tied with 2005 as the warmest since 1880. The New York Times reported that “nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of 2001,” based on research by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“But the problem is that many people’s minds are already made up. And with them, nobody is going to win that argument because their contentions aren’t based on the facts,” Thompson said.

“I think, unfortunately, that the public is just very fickle about nearly everything, but especially about the climate. All you need is one very cold winter for people to believe Earth is not warming. Last winter was unusually cold for North America and across northern Europe and Siberia, but the rest of the world was unusually warm.

“But people don’t see that. They see how much ice they have to scrape off their car windows in “¨the morning. But that’s weather””not climate. Climate is the 30-year average of the weather, and people simply don’t think about that.

“The problem is that climate isn’t a belief system at all,” Thompson said. “The climate is based on physics and chemistry, and we can follow that. Sure, there is a lot of ‘noise’ in the climate system, but the trends are very persistent. But the trends don’t seem to change people’s opinions.”

Confounding the issue is confusion over the effects that climate models predict. The public sees a colder-than-normal December and discounts the idea of warming. But in reality, the climate models predict an increase in the severity of the norms””storms will be harsher, winters colder, and summers warmer.

“Thirty years ago, Ohioans only had thunderstorms in the summer. Now we have them in nearly every month of the year,” Thompson said. “These are subtle changes. But if you’re a young person””like the students in my classes””you don’t have that long-term view and don’t see the changes.”

Fact vs. opinion
In the latter half of the last century, scientists generally avoided the public eye, content to do their research and report their findings to peers and the small slice of the population whose interest in science rivals baseball fans’ lust for RBI statistics. Now, researchers are being called on to be more visible to the public and more active in policy involving science.

It’s a two-edged sword. Certainly, the knowledge that scientists can bring to a large, global question can enlighten the populace. But scientists’ aloofness, their desire “¨to avoid playing a role in such”¨disputes, is precisely what won them respect from the public in “¨the past.

And few scientists are eager to jeopardize their air of authority and be labeled as advocates.

“I really don’t worry about my reputation,” Thompson said. “People can say whatever they want. I think I have paid my dues.

“I think you have to earn the right to speak out, but we live in a world where most people have not. Some of the most outspoken people on the climate change issue lack basic grounding in the mechanisms and background of climate change. They simply don’t know; they haven’t even done the most basic research.”

The people who shout the loudest have the greatest impact, whether or not they are qualified, Thompson said. “I think that is extremely dangerous.
“We do value intelligent people who have paid their dues and who are qualified to speak on the climate change issue,” he said. “¨”But on the other hand, we don’t want to deny anyone the right to speak their opinion, whatever it may be.

“However, it is important for “¨the public to distinguish between scientifically based information and opinion. There is a great need”¨for qualified people to speak regarding issues on which they “¨are professionally qualified to “¨comment.”

The truth about consequences
In the end, Thompson and his colleagues are more acquiescent than agitated over the public turmoil concerning climate change. They continue their work on ice cores (the latest ones are from a rapidly disappearing field in Indonesia), reconstructing histories of past climate in hopes of gaining insight to our future.

“Whether we like it or not, the human race is conducting an experiment. We are changing the composition of our atmosphere, and there will be consequences for that,” Thompson said. “We’re deciding to just let the climate system do its thing. And it will. I have no doubt that the climate system will take care of the problem.

“But I don’t think we’re going to like the way it does it.”

– Earle Holland

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24 Responses to Lonnie Thompson stands behind warning: Virtually all [climatologists] are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization

  1. S. Majumder says:

    I often wonder how someone can deny climate change. I think they themselves don’t believe what they say.

    Nice post. Liked the line: “I have no doubt that the climate system will take care of the problem”. I think eventually the climate system will just shudder off the energy imbalance with a violent display of her might. Civilization will probably won’t see the end.

  2. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    It’s remarkable to recall that our friends over at the “NOVA Science Now” program at WGBH/PBS, who unfortunately are so strapped for cash that they must accept Koch Bros. money and display their name at the beginning of every show, did an entire profile piece on Lonnie Thompson, glacier melt, and never once mentioned the anthropogenic source of the whole thing. Ever. You’ve never seen such editorial dancing. The episode is for purchase around, like in iTunes, but here is the transcript.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/profile-thompson.html

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    It is indeed a mystery why so many apparently intelligent people ignore evidence, and form obstinate and very dangerous opinions about global warming. Part of it is mental inertia, part is bad information from media, but other aspects of it are poorly understood.

    Thompson was on the right track in choosing to publish in a behavioral journal. My own experience of these kinds of studies in academia was not encouraging, however. One psychology professor cut up the more intelligent salamanders’ brains and fed them to the new generation to determine if this made them smarter (it did). Other academics drifted into statistical analysis and culturally driven behavior patterns in an effort to divine thought processes.

    Guys in lab coats won’t help us here. Now is the time for artists, historians, and novelists to delve into global warming denial, and tell us what they’ve learned. The money will ignore their findings, but we need enlightenment as well as quality data.

  4. S. Majumder says:

    Another SHOCKING news, although not unexpected, King Crabs Invading Antarctica :

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/king_crabs_invade_antarctica/2011/03/01/ABCyN52_story.html?wprss=rss_homepage

    Expected to wreak havoc in food chain.

  5. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Yes. I agree with you Lonnie Thompson. While Global warming is the cause,Climate change is the effect.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  6. tst says:

    It’s pretty simple, Mike. Most of the denier/ skeptics fall into one of two camps. Either their skepticism is predicated on their paycheck, or their personal cosmology dismisses the possibility of anthropogenic warming. With the second group, we’re asking them to accept a concept that may well invalidate the rest of their beliefs and leave them intellectually adrift.

    Take conservatives who don’t believe in positive government intervention. If they accept the reality of climate change, they’ll be forced to admit that there are some situations that the market just isn’t equipped to handle. When your entire focus is on free market fundamentalism, and you believe that private enterprise is the only solution and governments can’t be trusted, climate change morphs into something akin to heresy. If they accept the idea of climate change, they’ll be forced to examine their other core beliefs. And they’re just not willing to go there.

  7. Jeffrey Davis says:

    It would be funnier if …

    One of the great changes that AGW will bring about will be, as Majumber mentions in #4, the expansion of habitats. Pine bark beetles crawl further up the slopes in the mountains. Aedes aegypti (and dengue fever) expands out of the tropics. It’s Wordsworth’s “sportive wood run wild.” (If you torque Wordsworth only slightly, he’s scarier than Poe.) No doubt there are thousands of species massed to enter more temperate zones. (Certain politicians and political movements only seem paranoid about 1.) Uncounted species of microbes, plants, fungi, insects, and rodents. AGW is an “olly-olly-oxen free” to the tropics.

  8. caerbannog says:

    FYI for those who live in the San Diego area: Dr. Thompson will be speaking at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on May 9 (linky http://www.aquarium.ucsd.edu/Education/Public_Programs/Adult_Programs/Lectures/ )

    The lecture is free for Scripps-Birch Aquarium members; for the general public, admission is about $8.

    Monday, May 9
    Second Annual Keeling Lecture
    Please join us for the second annual Keeling Lecture. In memory of distinguished Scripps Oceanography professor Charles David Keeling’s life and invaluable contributions to climate science and Scripps, Birch Aquarium at Scripps will host the second in an annual series of speakers on topics related to our changing planet. This year we are honored to host Dr. Lonnie Thompson, distinguished professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University, National Medal of Science awardee, and recipient of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement along with Keeling.

  9. Richard Brenne says:

    I’m a huge Lonnie Thompson fan because his scientific work is legendary and most experts believed he and his wife’s health would so suffer from the acute and cumulative high-altitude impacts that it would not have allowed all the incredibly hard and dangerous work they’ve done decades ago. In addition to his incredible contributions to climate science he is communicating well and boldly also.

    But no work is ever perfect, and heroism aside I have a few nits to pick, starting with his apparent criticism of my biggest hero among climate scientists and living humans, Jim Hansen of NASA, the only scientist to speak out so clearly and with such conscience that he’s also the only working climate scientist I know of who has protested and been arrested at coal power plants.

    Thompson says “I’m no advocate. If I were out organizing protests against the next coal-burning power plant, then that, to me, would be advocacy. . . .As a scientist, it isn’t my job. . .”

    No, but as a human being it is.

  10. Lou Grinzo says:

    The whole issue of why some people can’t or won’t understand the plain facts of ACC really does boil down to one of prior belief and politics, as other have said above. This is why I keep saying over and over that it’s a gigantic mistake for those of us in the reality camp to think this is a purely scientific debate or that we can sway people with facts. It just ain’t gonna happen, even if you assume, as I do, that the hard core deniers are beyond reach and we’re focused solely on the vast number of people who are not yet engaged on the issue.

    The most maddening thing about the Market Fundamentalists is how blind they are to their own degree of dependence on (gasp!) government intervention in the “free” market. Ask one of them how they would feel about living in a world with absolutely no government regulation of medicine, food, motor vehicles, financial markets, and consumer products in general. Would they like to live in a world where the powerful could chew up and spit out the average consumer to a much, much greater degree than we see today? Do they even realize that zero government intervention is not Nirvana, it’s brutal economic anarchy? Trust me — many of them don’t understand that, and I’ve had this discussion numerous times with such people. They think we live in a magical universe that loves and coddles us, and all we need to do is let everyone pursue their own pleasures like an unmonitored 14-year old boy on the Internet and everything will automagically turn out just peachy.

    They’re even more shocked when I tell them that the level of government intervention that will be needed to address CC will be orders of magnitude beyond what they would prefer, and that they themselves are ensuring that turn of events, and making it much worse by fighting action to combat CC now.

    The ultimate kicker is when I tell them that many people on “my side” hate that level of government intrusion as much as they do, but we realize it’s a choice between that and catastrophic impacts.

    Yes, my wife often acts like she doesn’t know me at social gatherings. Why do you ask…?

  11. Michael Tucker says:

    “I’m no advocate,” says Dr Thompson but he believes people should just be convinced by the facts. If they are not convinced what should we do? Should we force them to consider the ‘long view’? What if they reject the vision of the future with business as usual?

    After all: “…we don’t want to deny anyone the right to speak [or vote] their opinion, whatever it may be.”

    Right?

    Dr Thompson, If you think people would have a different opinion if you could just explain the facts better, or more clearly, or more convincingly, then you are an advocate for a specific conclusion. That is ok by me!

    Be an advocate Dr Thompson! You don’t like the direction we are headed and, as a well respected expert with many years of research, you have earned your right to speak and be taken seriously! So what if some of your colleagues might take offense! So what if the denier machine gets upset!

    Be an advocate and let the chips fall where they may. If you really believe “…that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.” YOU HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO SPEAK OUT!

  12. sault says:

    Yes, climate change denial comes from various soruces like tst said. I would also add a few other catagories:

    1. Religious Fundamentalists that believe only God can change the Earth and take most of the Bible literally. They look to a few archane passages and the way things unfold in the Old Testament to come to this conclusion. These people are more likely (but not necessarily) to think the Theory of Evolution is wrong as well and that the Earth is 6000 years old. They generally distrust anything scientists say since it’s all just a plot to turn people away from God.

    2. Partisan knee-jerk reactionaries that think anything Democrats say/do is part of a plot to make the USA socialist. Since Socialists are also atheists for some reason, this overlaps with #1 above as the plots get intertwined in the minds of some Partisans. The primary target for these people is Al Gore and his supposedly energy-intensive lifestyle that leads to charges of hypocracy.

    3. Cynical hacks that like to beat up on anybody that offers a better vision of the future since they’re so miserable in their own lives. These people are the most receptive to picking up talking points and repeating them ad nauseum on the internet, although they probably don’t really care about the climate issue generally.

  13. Richard Brenne says:

    Thompson speaks generically and accurately about how the world’s poorest subsistence farmers will suffer first and most from climate change. This is an excellent point. I’m taking great license here, inventing quotes and situations for someone I’ve never met just to prove the point that improved communication includes details and human stories, which always capture the attentions of fellow humans most.

    My fake quote for Thompson: “On each of our dozens of expeditions we’ve hired and befriended hundreds of the people living on the approaches to the mountains where we gather our ice cores. Many of the farmers and porters we’ve become friends with over the years are one bad crop away from starving to death with their families, friends and entire villages. In some cases climate change has already brought that bad crop, in others it will come before we can visit them next. As we approach the villages of old friends after being away for years the trepidation, worry and hope for their safety takes our breath away even more than the altitude will later.

    Multiply the thousand farmers we know by at least a million and you can see the concern about climate change for all the world’s poorest farmers.”

  14. James Newberry says:

    RE: tst, #6

    “Take conservatives who don’t believe in positive government intervention. If they accept the reality of climate change, they’ll be forced to admit that there are some situations that the market just isn’t equipped to handle. When your entire focus is on free market fundamentalism, and you believe that private enterprise is the only solution . . .”

    You seem to be completely unaware of the historic $trillion of direct, indirect and externalized subsidies provided to “conventional” energy. The reason we are dependent on uranium and hydrocarbon materials for energy service is precisely due to massive governmental distortion of “free market” economics. Your limited understanding of the term “conservative” seems to be confusing your analysis. On the other hand, there is little that is conservative in The Atomic Age.

  15. Richard Brenne says:

    When speaking about who is qualified to speak about climate change, Thompson says “I think I have paid my dues” then continues that “I think you have to earn the right to speak out” and later “There is a great need for qualified people to speak regarding issues on which they are professionally qualified to comment.”

    These are accurate statements, but incomplete and easily misunderstood.

    Again at the risk of being presumptuous (something I can’t seem to help), maybe these made-up quotes would help clarify:

    “We need those doing the best science, and those communicating that science most clearly to the largest possible audiences. In the cases of Jim Hansen, Kevin Trenberth, Richard Alley, Michael Mann, Ben Santer, Susan Solomon and I hope myself you have people who are able to do both.

    All the communication needs to be based on the most accurate representation of the latest and best science, which is of course always evolving.

    In addition to specialists, we need generalists who can understand the big picture, tie many different disciplines together and communicate what they know. Each of the scientists I mention above is able to do this as well.

    Then we need the best communicators to communicate this also. It is not enough just to do the science, or to try to let the facts speak for themselves. This is the approach we’ve mostly tried and it hasn’t worked. We could do great science and communicate the facts but if we’re not great communicators this and our entire species can come to naught.

    Great communication includes great story-telling, the ability to connect with people, great passion, advocacy and caring, together with rare talents like using metaphor and humor. Most scientists do not have this ability. The reason Carl Sagan is the gold standard of scientific communication is that nobody else has combined his scientific understanding with his passion, deep caring and ability to communicate.

    Scientists need to develop these abilities the best they can, and then they need to work with those who do have those abilities. The relationship between Jim Hansen and Bill McKibben is a perfect example of this. Jim has done his best to communicate, he’s passionate, and he gets the big picture as well or better than anyone. Bill is extremely bright and able to get the science (for over 22 years), then he is a brilliant communicator.

    We need all the Bill McKibbens, Joe Romms, Elizabeth Kortens and Al Gores we can get, and more. They can take a 10,000 word scientific paper and have the public understand it in 1000 words. (And nobody does this better than Joe Romm). The next step is to get the John Stewarts, Stephen Colberts, David Lettermans and Chris Rocks to give the essence in 100 words, and in some cases even 10, or in Letterman’s case the two “We’re screwed.”

    All of this communication needs to be accurate, in line and consistent with the best and latest scientific understanding as Letterman’s quote is. If someone either willfully or ignorantly is not communicating the best and latest science, everyone in the chain of communication I’m mentioning starting with the most accomplished scientists need to point this out immediately, loudly and as often as it takes in every medium they can. Joe Romm is doing this more and better than almost everyone else on Earth put together. We each need to summon our inner Joe Romm on this (though this has nothing to do with that scene in Alien).

    And we need to stop speaking in code to each other, but bluntly to everyone. Look at the last line of the article above where I say ‘But I don’t think we’re going to like the way it does it.’ Why won’t we like it? Because we’ll all be dead. That’s the kind of bluntness I’m talking about.” (End misquote, or non-quote, or made-up quotes written only by Richard Brenne.)

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A number of the contributors have it correct, in my opinion. Climate change denialism is an ideological crusade by Rightwing zealots. The character traits of this type include a high degree of submissiveness to authority, in the case of market capitalist economy, that is the ruling elite of rich plutocrats who control society. Then there is authoritarian aggressiveness, directed at deviants and outsiders who do not accept the prevailing orthodoxy, in this case the despised ‘Greens’, socialists and, now, climate scientists, all of whom have been labeled liars and frauds. And social conventionalism or conformism, where the norms of society (those of the ruling elites) are seen as unimpeachable and unquestionable. The authoritarian is also driven to assert power over others, by feelings of (well-merited!) inadequacy and insignificance (the Dunning Kruger rabble). Their worldview is paranoid, bereft of empathy and resolutely rejecting of co-operative behaviour or sacrificing one’s own immediate interests to that of others, even their own descendants. In sort these are psychologically sick creatures, most intellectually insufficient and resolutely immune to learning or admitting error. And they all have a vote and they all, seemingly, have access to the internet.

  17. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I have interviewed and discussed CC with some hard core deniers and now believe there is no point in arguing with them or presenting them with facts. The primary system in people is the emotional system and it is the basis of our motivations. It appears to be almost infinitely adaptable. Any emotion can become attached to any belief or behaviour.

    Most of the people here I would guess were brought up in families that valued education, science and ‘facts’ and so developed a positive emotion around them. But some didn’t.

    The fence-sitters are OK though. Many of them are just mystified and many do not even know the most basic mechanisms of the GHGs. They keep hearing about how the science is so complex and the latest findings but they have a blank in the middle of their ability to understand the connection between carbon and CC. You lose them entirely. I know that from the perspective of a climatologist, it is extremely complex but that is not the point.

    When climate scientists want to talk to lay people, it would help if they started by saying the basic science is really simple, explain the actions of GHGs and then make the connection to the latest results. When people understand why the more GHGs you put up, the hotter it gets, more of them might listen, ME

  18. tst says:

    James Newberry – I’m afraid you missed my point. You might want to go back and read my comment again. Hopefully it will make more sense the second time around. If not, let me know and I’ll see if I can’t simplify it for you. I’m happy to walk you through it step by step if it turns out that it still isn’t clear.

  19. CW says:

    Thompson is yet another great source telling us like it is. But then, apparently we’re communitarians and egalitarians. Yale University prof Dan Kahan thinks, if I understand correctly, that we need more of the “unusual suspects” telling the climate facts so that the hierarchical-individualists at least listen, if not accept. Check it out:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928043.300-how-not-to-change-a-climate-sceptics-mind.html

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1017189

    We need the Lonnie Thompson’s of the world for sure, but we apparently need the religious, business and military types in on the scene even more right now.

  20. Paulm says:

    #6 tsp. So true.

  21. Paulm says:

    #6 same for many Avoiders, they don’t want to give up their rosy oil driven comfortable standard of living.

    Accepting and addressing gw means tough and painful choices. It also now means accepting guilt for their woeful ignorance.

  22. Denial is one of the stages of grieving. Part of the process we go through in order to accept the loss. And it is a huge loss particularly to those who subscribe to the free market system.

    The next stage is self-pity… “Why did this have to happen to ME”.

  23. On the point of scientists sticking to their objectivity and staying out of politics — what the public sees is:

    “If the scientists believe they are right why arn’t they out there politically. If the dangers are as serious as they say, they would be active in politics, wouldn’t they? Therefore, it must not be as clear as they say, there must still be debate on the science.”

    I think this is right, if it is so serious, the scientists should be out there, because they are concerned for their own future. Those in the know cannot stand by and pretend it is someone else’s responsibility to make a stand.

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Richi #22, I’m afraid that in the process of mourning, denial is followed, not by self-pity, but by anger, and that’s a sobering thought.