Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Communicating About Climate Change: One BITE at a time!

Image courtesy of
Over the past four years I have communicated about climate change, the most helpful website for me is In 2011, Tom Smerling and Don McCubbin created this website to offer metaphors, soundbites, quotes, humor, cartoons, stories and graphics for anyone looking to communicate more effectively about climate change.

As I wrote about in a previous blog, a mutual friend, Sundae Horn, introduced me to Tom Smerling in August, 2011. Tom and I then met in person in Washington, D.C. to figure out how I could collaborate on Climatebites. Tom challenged me on the spot to contribute writings to Climatebites. Gulp. I had very limited experience with writing. However, it did seem like it could be fun.

It took me a couple weeks, but I did post my first bite post on Climatebites on October 14, 2011, Would you argue with your doctor over a heart condition? Over the next two and years, I got hooked writing bites. I ended up writing about 154 bites. Some of my Climatebites were then re-posted on other websites, such as,, and 

For me, it felt like Climatebites filled a niche to provide helpful soundbite tools to climate change communicators and scientists struggling to explain the very complex science of climate change.

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This frustrating inability of how to best communicate the complicated science of climate change with good metaphors had long been a source of discussion. Greg Dalton, Founder of Climate One, brought up this topic when he interviewed the late Dr. Stephen Schneider, climate scientist from Stanford University, on November 3, 2009. Dalton asked:

“Can the scientific method with all of its caveats and doubts…how can that change in terms of better informing or scientists changing for better informing policy makers and the media who work in a world of soundbites and short simple plications? How is that going to be bridged?”

Stephen Schneider’s response: “What we have to do and what I advice my science colleagues to do and what I do myself: Yes, I have my soundbites, but I also have oped which are three sound bites. I also have my Scientific American articles and Atlantic Journal articles, which are a little more in depth. I have a 300 page website,, where you can find out where I really think in depth and then I write long books. And those long books not only have to tell the nuisances, but they also have to tell where you changed your mind, where the community was wrong and how it evolved. It is what I call a hierarchy of backup products.

I think that scientists can be responsible, even in the soundbite world if they try to have that hierarchy. The only sad part is that the soundbite is heard by 20 million, the op ed is read by, maybe if you are lucky, 2 million, The Scientific American by 200,000, the website by 20,000 and the book, I hope, by 20,000, and you keep dropping down, but what else can you do?...

Scientists have been part of the problem in their reluctance of not wanting to get out there and use simple metaphors because if they cannot put in full disclosure in their first paragraph they are somehow irresponsible, which means they will never get on the air."

It is ironic that this was an extremely long quote for Dr. Schneider, since he was a master of using soundbites to explain climate change when he talked to the media and general public. My first climate bite, Would you argue with your doctor over a heart condition?, was a Stephen Schneider quote. 

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It was a wonderful metaphor responding to the climate denial myth that we need absolute certainty before we can take action on climate change. 

Tom Smerling based Climatebites on making climate change messages "stick" in people's minds. Tom's inspiration was Chip & Dan Heath's guide to sticky messaging, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

I first heard Schneider's metaphor, 'Would you argue with you doctor over a heart condition?' while watching the 2006 HBO climate change documentary, Too Hot Not To Handle. It stuck in my mind to the extent that I grabbed it to use as my first Climatebite post five years later.

Here is the full quote from Schneider: 

"Some people say ‘When you are sure about climate change, then we will do something about it.’ 

Suppose your doctor says ‘Well, I am very concerned about your heart condition. I think you should be on a low cholesterol diet and exercise.’ Would anybody say to their doctor ‘If you can't tell me precisely when am I going to have the heart attack and how severe it will be.’ then why should I change my lifestyle?'

That is how absurd it is that when the political world tells us in the climate world: 'tell us exactly how bad it is going to be and when and when you are sure, come back and talk to us.' That is not the way it works in any other form of life. Not in business. Not in health. Not in security. We have pretty good ideas about what could happen. We do not have the detailed picture and we are not going to for several decades. What we are doing is taking a risk with the life support system of the earth and humans have to decide if we want to slow that down." then became an incredible creative outlet for me to share sticky climate change messages that had been bouncing around my head for years. Even more, it became a fun challenge to look for sticky climate change soundbites when I was reading or watching documentaries on climate change. 

Best of all, the biggest reward for me though for contributing to the website was developing a collection of now over 380 sticky soundbite responses to these denier myths.

These are some of my favorites:  

1. Myth: It's the sun

2. Myth: Climate has always changed.

3. Myth: Climate has always changed.
Climatebite: Forest fires occur naturally, so arson can't be real

4. Myth: Climate has always changed.
Climatebite: "Beavers felled trees before humans. So lumberjacks aren't real?

5. Myth: More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is good for us! 

6. Myth: Coal creates jobs

7. Myth: We can adapt to climate change.
Climatebite: We cannot adapt to chaos.

8. Myth: We can adapt to climate change
Climatebite: Our infrastructure may not be able to adapt. 

9. Myth: Climate change is not real.

10. Myth: Climate science is political.

11. Myth: The planet will be fine.

12. Myth: Climate change is a threat to my freedom

13. Myth: Climate change action will raise taxes
Climatebite: With Superstorm Sandy’s and the 2012 extreme US drought, Mother Nature is already imposing ‘an extreme weather tax.’

14. Myth: In the 1970s, climate scientists said the Earth was cooling
Climatebite: That idea is even more outdated than wearing those 1970s disco outfits.

15. Myth: China pollutes
Climatebite: Therefore, we should just keep polluting too?

16. Myth: China pollutes
Climatebite: "That is like saying ’We won’t protect free speech until China does.’"

17. Myth: China pollutes
Climatebite:  China is actually "eating our lunch" on clean energy

18. Myth: It's just weather
Climatebite:  "Climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get." — Mark Twain

19. Myth: It's the weather
Climatebite: Check your underwear drawer.
"Climate is percentage of long underwear vs. shorts in your closest. Weather is deciding to wear long underwear or shorts today."

20. Myth: It was cold last winter
Climatebite: April 15 was cooler than Apr 1. So spring is a hoax?

21. Myth: We just experienced a record snowstorm!
Climatebite: Yep. That is actually global warming. Warmer air holds more moisture.

22. Myth: Global warming paused since 1998
Climatebite: 'paws are for kittens & puppies. Global warming is still increasing.’ — Joshua Willis NASA Climate Scientist

23. Myth: No global warming since 1998
Climatebite: “Taking 1998 as the starting year is a joke. Why not 1997 or 1999? Anyone doing this gets an ‘F’ grade in introductory statistics.” — climate scientist Pieter Tans

24. Myth: Scientists still disagree
Climatebite:  'If 98 doctors say my son is ill and needs medication and two say, 'No, he doesn't, he is fine,' I will go with the ninety-eight. It's common sense - the same with global warming. We go with the majority, the large majority.' — former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

25. Myth: I am still skeptical
Climatebite: So am I! I am skeptical we can keep burning fossil fuels with a business as usual mentality without harming the planet.

26. Myth: Politicians won't respond
Climatebite: "politicians don’t create political will, they respond to it."

27. Myth: It's hopeless
Climatebite: "The fact that humans are causing climate change is good news. That means we can do something about it." — NASA scientist Robert Cahalan

28. Myth: It's hopeless
Climatebite:  "Action is the antidote for despair."— Joan Baez

29. Myth: It's hopeless
Climatebite: Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up

30. Myth: I cannot make a difference
Climatebite: Think Globally, Act Daily.
— Brian Ettling

"Each and every person can change the world. We do this by the way we vote, the products we buy, and the attitudes we share with each other." — Brian Ettling

All of those examples of climate bites and so many others have been incredible communication tools for me over the past four years.  I used them to talk with people who are hostile, unsure, or alarmed about climate change. They have given me the ability to speak with confidence. 

Unfortunately, the Climatebites website was hacked in June, 2014. Don McCubbin and Tom Smerling then had to take the site down for several months to try to restore it. It was a shame because the website was listed on and other places as a great resource to communicate about climate change. The hacking and months of offline maintenance seemed to drop Climatebites off people's radar.

Former Florida Governor
Charlie Crist
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Even worse, I fell off the routine of composting Bite posts, which had been such a productive outlet for me. While the site was down, I remember finding a couple of soundbites that I really wanted to turn into climate bites, such as: 

“I’m not a scientist either, but I can use my brain, and I can talk to one.”

That quote was former Florida Governor Charlie Crist (D) responding to Florida Governor Rick Scott during the 2014 Florida campaign for Governor. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) repeatedly used the line "I am not a scientist" to dodge questions about climate change during his re-election campaign. I still may turn this into a bite, but it would have been more relevant to have been able to post this during the 2014 mid-term campaign. If Republicans and conservatives continue to use that line to dodge questions about climate change, I may still turn the Crist quote into a bite.

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"The spreading sheet of sea ice around Antarctica could be viewed as a napkin being draped over a monstrous water pistol."

That was written by John Upton, a Senior Science Writer at Climate Central in his October 13, 2014 article, Expanding Antarctic Sea Ice is Flooding ‘Warning Bell.' Upton was making the point with that metaphor that research is now suggesting that the expansion of Antarctic sea ice in an indication of Antarctic ocean changes. These changes could acerbate ice sheet melting, by trapping heat beneath a layer of cold surface water, worsening flooding around the world.

That is still a very scary idea for me that I may still need to communicate on Climatebites or elsewhere. 

Basically, has had huge influence on me to try to speak and write on climate change using sticky picturesque metaphors and soundbites to effective communicate.

My hope is that somehow the blog post may spur and renewed interest in

It has been a very productive partnership with Tom Smerling and Don McCubblin over the past four years. Most Recently, Tom and Don showed their support for me by most recently giving me the title of Senior Contributing Author and including a brief bio of me on their About/Contact Us page.

I hope to be inspired once more to post Bites on there since the site has been so beneficial to me. 

Stay tuned...


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Slaying a Zombie Theory: 'Earth has not warmed since 1998'

Below is the text of a speech I gave at South County Toastmasters in St. Louis, Missouri on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

I am here tonight with my special sword to slay a zombie. In popular movies and TV shows, zombies are basically dead, decaying humans coming kill and eat you and me. Zombie very scary for me because they are so gross and hard to kill, except if you have a powerful sword like mine.

Even worse than zombies, I find this to be even scarier: CLIMATE CHANGE.

Since the industrial revolution 200 years ago, we mostly burn fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, for our energy needs.  When we burn these fuels, carbon dioxide is released. Since 1880, science tells us that we have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by 40%.  Basic physics tells us that carbon dioxide traps the Earth’s heat.  

Just like wearing Snuggy blankets traps body heat keeping my niece and nephew warm on a cold winter day. Increasing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by 40% is like throwing an extra blanket over our planet, just like I am doing with my niece and nephew in this picture.

Speaking of too many blankets, has anyone here ever waked up in the middle of the night feeling overheated from sleeping under too many blankets? This NASA video shows we are overheating the Earth putting too much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. I will pause while it shows the changes in global temperatures from 1884 to today.

In other words, precise global temperature measurements show that we have gone from this in 1884 to this today. 

Just like scary zombies coming after you and me, global temperatures have steadily increased over our lifetimes. Since 1970, this graph below from shows the average surface temperature of the planet has jumped up higher each decade.

Even more, since temperature records have been meticulously documented starting in 1880, 2013 tied with 2003 as the fourth warmest year globally. Currently, the warmest year on record is 2010, followed by 2005. Only one year during the 20th century—1998—was warmer than 2013.  What really jumps out at me looking at this picture below is that including 2013, 12 of the 13 warmest years on record occurred in the 21st century or since 1998

Yet, I have frequently heard my fellow Toastmasters tell me this zombie myth:
The Earth as not warmed since 1998.

Who has heard that argument before?

Unfortunately, after my last speech to the Club in April, another Toastmaster cornered me with this statement in a hostile way that made me feel like I was being attacked by a zombie. Sadly, I did not have my sword to defend myself against that Toastmaster.
However, Dr. Marshall Shepherd, climate scientist at the University of Georgia, has a wonderful tool to slay the 1998 zombie myth in his amazing 2013 TED Talk video, Slaying the Zombies of Climate Science.

In this video, Dr. Shepherd talks about zombie theories. What is a zombie theory?

According to Dr. Shepherd: “It is one of those theories that scientists have refuted or disproven time and time again, but it lives on like zombies in the blogs, radio stations, tweets, and I see and hear them all the time.”

Where does this idea originate that the planet has not warmed since 1998?
People who reject human-caused climate change will point to 1998 on a graph and say ‘See! The planet has not warmed up over the past 16 years.’

That looks logical to me looking at this graph. The problem is that climate scientists see the growth of a higher linear rate since 1970.  Even more, scientists look at long term global trends of at least 30 years to 100 years at least know if climate change is real.

Climate scientists use the term ‘cherry picking’ for those who point to the flatter warming since 1998. Cherry picking is defined as the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.

Who is this?

Stan Musial
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Example of cherry picking would be someone saying that St. Louis Cardinal great Stan Musial does not belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame because he had a mediocre .280 batting average for his last five seasons. However, you overlook his outstanding .331 average for his 22 year career. Nobody in St. Louis would be happy with someone cherry picking Stan Musial's stats. Neither should we do this with climate science.

According to Dr. Shepherd or numerous other climate scientists I have met, they will tell you that yes, the climate has changed before. However, they are worried about the current rate of change, especially over the last 11,000 years.

This graph below, e-mailed to me by Dr. Shepherd, shows a simplified representation around 10,000 years ago, the temperature rose about 1 degree over 1,800 years. It then reached a plateau for 4,000 years, then it dropped 1.3 degrees over 5,400 years, and it spiked 1.3 degrees over the past 100 years with the burning of fossil fuels. Scientists are troubled by the rate of warming happening now in decades in what used to take thousands of years. I calculated this rate of warming as currently 23 times faster than when the Earth naturally warmed a similar amount around 10,000 years ago.

Scientists are very worried about the rate of change happening with climate change, just like I am scared of zombies because they are GROSS, HARD TO KILL AND WANT TO EAT US.

Photo of Brian Ettling
However, I can now overcome this zombie fear by slaying them with this sword! Even more, I am so happy we can slay this 1998 climate zombie theory.

Besides the sword I brought here tonight, the best weapon I know slay this zombie theory is this Scientific American headline I saw last October while I was preparing this speech: 2014 On Track to Become Hottest Year on Record. 

With my sword, here is why we can slay this zombie myth that ‘There has been no warming since 1998.

1. 2010, 2005, and possibly 2014 are all warmer years than 1998.

2. Since the 1970s, the average surface temperature of the planet has jumped up higher each decade.

3. Isolating 1998 to 2014 is too short of a time period to say it is not warming. 

Climate is determined by compiled weather statistics over a 30 year period.
As we talked about earlier, no one in St. Louis would be happy with someone cherry picking Stan Musial’s stats. Neither should we do this with climate science, especially since climate scientists see a higher linear growth rate since 1970.

I may still have nightmares about these zombies.

However, with the help of climate scientist Dr. Marshall Shepherd with his Slaying the Zombies of Climate Science Ted Talk and my amazing sword, we can now victoriously slay the myth 'There has been no warming since 1998.'

Monday, March 24, 2014

Scientific Agreement is Vital: Just Ask 12 Angry Men

"People who say science is not about consensus, they do not understand science." - Dr. Barry Bickmore, Professor of Geologic sciences at Brigham Young University, from his YouTube lecture, "How to Avoid the Truth about Climate Change."

This Barry Bickmore quote is a vital to know and to be able to respond with quickly.  After I have given climate change presentations, I have actually had climate change contrarians challenge me with statements like "Scientific consensus does not matter."

Brian Ettling giving a climate change presentation
at the Shrine of the Ages Auditorium,
Grand Canyon National Park, May 7, 2013. 
Most vividly, a gentleman confronted me with that statement in Grand Canyon National Park after I gave a climate change presentation to over 200 park visitors at the Shine of the Ages Auditorium at South Rim Village on May 7, 2013.  Amazingly, he said this in front of a high school science teacher who teaches at the school at the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  The contrarian interrupted my pleasant conversation with the teacher to make his argument, even giving an example of Galileo.  The teacher and I rolled our eyes.  In my response to the visitor, I stuck to my guns insisting that scientific consensus does matter.

Because of  previous writings I wrote about Galileo, I debunked his Galileo argument.  From Dr. Barry Bickmore's video, I learned that Galileo was not rejecting the scientific consensus of his time, he was rejecting against a belief of the Catholic Church.  Unfortunately, this Grand Canyon visitor just stormed away because I would not capitulate to his thinking.  However, afterwards I wish I had responded to this contrarian, "Do you realize you are saying this in front of a science teacher?  If you were her student, she would probably flunk you  for making such a statement."

Why is scientific consensus vital to science?  

For non-scientists like me, it is crucial to know why scientific consensus is the gold standard for science.  As your will read later below, scientific consensus is just as important as being judged by a jury of your peers in a court of law.  

Dr. Barry Bickmore had this explanation on the importance of scientific consensus:

"We have always had (scientific) loners out there.  The brilliant loners who come up with some great idea. The problem is that they are often not perfect ideas.  It did not pick up any legs because it did not have what the modern scientific community has, which is the community itself.  Whenever a scientist presents an idea that is not perfect, there is going to be dozens of other scientists beating the crap out of it for an extended period.  They do this to work out all the kinks to make it better than before.  That is the difference the Greek philosophers and modern science: consensus."

Dr. Naomi Oreskes,
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Science historian Dr. Naomi Oreskes, professor at Harvard University, has this description of science in her book, Merchants of Doubt:

"For many of us the word 'science' does not actually conjure visions of science; it conjures visions of scientists.  We think of the great men of science - Galileo, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein - and imagine them as heroic individuals, often misunderstood, who had to fight against conventional wisdom or institutions to gain appreciation for their radical new ideas.  To be sure, brilliant individuals are important part of the history of science; men like Newton and Darwin deserve the place in history that they hold.  But if you asked a historian of science, When did modern science begin?  She would not cite the birth of Galileo or Copernicus.  Most likely, she would discuss the origins of scientific institutions."

Oreskes in the next paragraph then makes it clear that science is not about individuals, but institutions.

"From its earliest days, science has been associated with institutions - the Accademia del Lincei, founded in 1609, the Royal Society of Britian, founded in 1660, the Académie des Sciences in France, founded in 1666 - because scholars (savants and natural philosophers as they were variously called before the 19th century invention of the word "scientist") understood that to create new knowledge they needed a means to test each other's claims.  Medieval training had largely focused on study of ancient texts - the perservation of ancient wisdom and the appreciation of texts of revelation - but later scholars began to feel the world needed something more.  One needed to make room for new knowledge."

Scholars arriving after the Medieval Ages decided that new knowledge or science had to be accepted through institutions, according to Oreskes:

"Once the door was opened to the idea of new knowledge, however, there was no limit to the claims that might be put forth, so one needed a mechanism to vet them.  These were the origins of the institutional structures that we now take for granted in contemporary science journals, conferences, and peer review, so that claims could be reported clearly and subject to rigorous scrutiny.

Science has grown exponentially since the 1600s, but the basic idea has remained the same: scientific ideas must be supported by evidence, and subject to be accepted or rejected."

Okeskes tells us that science "does not provide proof.  It only provides the consensus of experts, based on organized accumlation and scrutiny of evidence."
12 Angry Men shows us the importance of scientific consensus

Dr. Jack Fishman
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In 2012, Dr. Jack Fishman, Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Director of the Center for Environmental Sciences at St. Louis University, shared with me a great story that illustrates the importance of scientific consensus.

A few years ago, Dr. Fishman took a Management Training Course in Virginia with a class of 24 other participants.  During the training, the entire class watched the 1957 movie, 12 Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda.

The film is a fictional story of a jury of 12 men as they deliberate the guilt or acquittal of a defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt.

After watching the film, Fishman and all the class participants then ranked individually on their own sheet of paper the jury numbers from 1 to 12, with Henry Fonda as #1.  The goal was to see if the participants could accurately rank how the individual jury members switched their votes from guilty to not guilty.  As individuals, none of them got the correct order.  The best that anyone did was miss only one in the sequence. Only one person of the 24 did that well.

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The class was then divided into 4 groups of 6 students to discuss the movie and reach a consensus.  Working as a cooperative team, the 4 groups did get it right, with three out of the four correctly ranking 100% of all 12 jurors.  Only one group had a small discrepancy, but it was still much better than the first individual rankings.

This shows evidence that groups of people working together as a committee solve a problem more effectively than an individuals.

Even more, this story shows the importance of consensus in science.

Yes, individuals like Galileo, Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein can make remarkable scientific discoveries.  However, when a group of scientists or scientific institution comes along afterwards and verifies the discovery, then we know we have gained new knowledge.  When the scientists conduct their own independent tests, try to replicate the experiment and results, looks for the weakness, and do what Barry Bickmore calls, 'beating the crap out of it,' then we know it is new scientific knowledge.

Climate Change has almost 100% Scientific Consensus

As science writer Graham Wayne wrote on, "Science achieves a consensus when scientists stop arguing."

The scientific community stopped arguing if climate change is real and predominantly caused currently by humans decades ago.  Numerous scientific studies show that at least 97% of climate scientists accept the idea that climate change is real, happening right now, it is bad, but we can limit it if we act fast.  In 2003, Dr. Naomi Oreskes wrote a published peer reviewed paper where she conducted a survey of 928 peer-reviewed writings on the subject 'global climate change' published between 1993 and 2003.  The result of her survey was that not a single paper rejected the consensus position that global warming is human caused.

Even more, Dr. James Lawrence Powell conducted a very broad comprehensive search of peer-reviewed scientific articles published between 1 January 1991 and 9 November 2012 that have the keyword phrases “global warming” or “global climate change.”  Powell identified 13,950 papers, but only 24 which argued that humans were not the primary cause of global warming.  In 2014, he updated his survey to include studies published from November 12, 2012 to December 21, 2013.  This time, he found only one study published during this time which argued that global warming was not caused by human activity.

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This consensus on climate change is actually very old news.

In 1997, when he was administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, D. James Baker stated, "There's a better scientific consensus on (climate change) than on any issue I know -- except maybe Newton's second law of dynamics."

In 2011, a scientist at Washington University in St. Louis told me that 'about the only thing scientists can agree upon is free beer.  Yet, almost all of them agree on that climate change is real, happening right now, and is predominantly caused by humans currently.'

Scientists love to argue when they are in conversations. However, they all agree on a few items, such as the earth is round, it revolves around the sun, gravity is real, dinosaurs once existed up to 65 million years ago, smoking causes cancer, and climate change is real.

In 2001, when Dr. Donald Kennedy was editor-in-chief of Science Magazine, he argued,
“Consensus as strong as the one that has developed around this topic [climate change] is rare in science."

Science is a dictatorship of the evidence

So why are almost 100% of climate scientists not arguing if climate change is real?

As Graham Wayne writes in  "Scientists just give up arguing because the sheer weight of consistent evidence is too compelling, the tide too strong to swim against any longer. Scientists change their minds on the basis of the evidence, and a consensus emerges over time. Not only do scientists stop arguing, they also start relying on each other's work."

Scientists stopped arguing decades ago because there is multiple lines of evidence pointing to the fact that climate change is real, happening right now and is caused primarily right now by humans.  The 2009 State of the Climate Report of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tells us that climate change is real because of rising surface air temperatures since 1880 over land and the ocean, ocean acidification, sea level rise, glaciers melting, rising specific humidity, ocean heat content increasing, sea ice retreating, glaciers diminishing, Northern Hemisphere snow cover decreasing, and so many other lines of evidence.

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Even more, how do we know that climate change is prominently influenced by humans currently?  The 2009 State of the Climate report gives these top indicators: humans emitted 30 billion tons of of CO2 into the atmosphere each year from the burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas), less oxygen in the air from the burning of fossil fuels, rising fossil fuel carbon in corals, nights warming faster than days, satellites show less of the earth's heat escaping into space, cooling of the stratosphere or upper atmosphere, warming of the troposphere or lower atmosphere, etc.

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If this was a CSI detective show, humans, especially the fossil fuel industry, would have been arrested long ago, thrown in jail, tried, and convicted of damaging our planet's life support system because of all the vast evidence of climate change.

As author John Reisman wrote, "Science is not a democracy. It is a dictatorship. It is the evidence that does the dictating."

The vast amount of scientific evidence shows us that climate change is real, happening right now, it is bad, but we can limit it if we act fast.

Like 12 Angry Men, let's weigh out the evidence, and form a strong consensus on climate change 

12 Angry Men, 1957 film by distributed by United Artists
Recently, I watched 12 Angry Men on YouTube.  My father first showed it to me in 1983.  I watched it again because of my conversation with Dr. Fishman and to write this blog post.

This is a great film to watch because of the story, the acting, the conflict between the characters, and most of all, the process of how they reached a consensus jury decision.  In the beginning of the movie, it appears to be an air tight case against the defendant. However, as the jury discusses the case, the evidence does not seem to be solid enough to reach a unanimous vote for guilty.

The movie starts with the almost all of the jury in an initial rush judgement to convict.  However, when the jury was forced to weigh the evidence, it leads each individual jury member making a different decision.

Now we are called to be like our protagonist, the character played by Henry Fonda, in 12 Angry Men. Science has presented us with an overwhelming amount of solid evidence that current climate change is real, caused primarily by us, it is real, it is bad, almost 100% of climate scientists agree with this science, and we can limit the impact of climate change if we choose.

Now it is up to you and me to convince our undecided peers, such as our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, that we must act fast to reduce the impact of climate change.

In his 2009 talk, "A Really Inconvenient Truth," Dan Miller, Managing Director of The Roda Group, a venture capital group focused on clean technology, had this quote about the urgency of climate change:

"We will see it, our kids will live it, and there's a question of whether our grandkids will make it through or not."

12 Angry Men shows us that persuading others is not an easy task.  However, convincing our peers that we must act NOW on climate change is crucial for us, our children, grandchildren, and future generations.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Growing Up in the 1970s: climate change and me!

I had a lot of fun growing up in the 1970s. I was blown away by the original Star Wars, Charlie’s Angels, and of course, disco!   As a kid, I listened to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack on this large 33 LP record.  Now, I listen to it on a tiny Ipod.  As a kid, I enjoyed dressing up in polyester suits.  I guess you can say that I still love doing the same thing today.

Does anyone else here remember having fun growing up or just enjoying life in the 1970s?

Besides me, something else also came of age in the 1970s.  Any guesses what that is?

Believe it or not, it is actually the science of human caused climate change.  However, the truth is climate science started way before the 1970s.    Many science historians think climate science really started in 1859. That’s when British scientist John Tyndall discovered the greenhouse effect.  He was the first to measure that certain gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor (H2O), trap heat in our atmosphere.   These "greenhouse gases" trap enough of earth’s heat to maintain the Earth's habitable climate of an average of 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit today, according to NASA.

Today, science tells us that we have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by 40% since 1880 by burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, for our energy needs.    Since carbon dioxide traps heat, it is like throwing extra blankets over our planet.

Today, NASA confirms what John Tyndall and other scientists discovered in the 1800s.  Releasing
carbon dioxide from humans burning fossil fuels has increased the average temperature of the planet by 1.4 Fahrenheit or .8 Celsius over the past 130 years.  In other words, precise global temperature measurements show that we have gone from this in 1881 to this today.

This leads us to the 1970s.  In many ways, that is when climate science really grew up, like me.  In 2008, Thomas C. Peterson, a research meteorologist at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, wrote a peer reviewed published paper that counted all the major 68 peer reviewed scientific published papers focusing on global climate from 1965 to 1979.  Of the 68 papers, the results showed that a large majority 42 scientific research papers, or 62%, predicted the Earth would warm as a consequence of humans increasing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, 19 papers or 28% were neutral or took no stance, and only 7 papers or about 10% predicted that the earth was cooling or going into an ice age.

By 1979, the evidence human carbon dioxide emissions were serious threat was strong enough that the National Academy of Sciences published Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment, with this statement, "A wait and see policy may mean waiting until it is too late."

The report continued to say, "If carbon dioxide continues to increase (from the burning of fossil fuels), the study group finds no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that changes will be negligible."

The report consensus was "increasing carbon dioxide will lead to a warmer earth with a different distribution of climate regimes."

Again, we know there was a strong agreement among the 1970s scientific peer reviewed papers that burning fossil fuels would trigger climate change, 62% papers said warming vs. 10% said cooling.  Yet, I must warn you there is a myth that persists to this day.

Has anyone ever heard this myth before:

Who has heard that myth before?  I have heard this myth by some of my fellow Toastmasters.  That is why I want to set the record straight here tonight.  I want to inspire you not believe this myth and challenge you to be more open to the real science of climate change.

Where does this myth originate?  People who reject the present human caused climate change point the April 28, 1975 Newsweek article, called A Cooling World and the Monday, June 24 1974 Time Magazine article, called Another Ice Age.  Two articles so obscure they did not even make the magazine cover!

There is just one problem with citing a Time Magazine and a Newsweek article. These are what are known as ‘Popular Media.’  They are trying to sell as many magazines as possible, such as Shirley MacLaine getting her kicks at age 50 from Time Magazine in 1984, and invention of the I-pod covered in Newsweek in 2004.  Neither magazines are scientific peer reviewed journals.

Yes, Time and Newsweek try to cover science, but they both need to cover what’s popular to sell their magazines, such as focusing on Ice Cream from 1981.  Hmmm…Get your licks!  (domestic) Cats also from 1981.  How cute!  Catalogs: Delivering a Gala of Goods in 1982!  Cocktails America's Favorite Drink from 1985!

Newsweek is not much better with having magazine covers like Fashion Designer in 1978, The Royal Family in 2011, and my personal favorite from 1979: Disco Takes Over!

Don’t get me wrong.  Newsweek and Time also cover important news stories, like 101 Best Places to Eat in the World from 2012.

However, do you really want to be getting your climate science from the same magazines promoting The Simpsons or the new X-Box?

Raise your hand if you think sometimes the popular media reports the news and even science incorrectly?

The best place I found that looks objectively at this 1970s cooling myth is this scientific peer reviewed paper, The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus by Thomas C. Peterson.  Peterson gives at least these reasons why the 1970s cooling myth is totally wrong:

1. No media or scientific agreement of global cooling.
The Time and Newsweek articles did quote a few individual climate scientists saying the earth was cooling.  However, according to Peterson, “a cursory review of the news media coverage reveals, just as there was no consensus at the time among, scientists, so was there also no consensus among journalists (of cooling idea).”

2. The story fell under what’s called “The tyranny of the news peg."

It is based on New York Times science writer Andrew Revkin’s idea that reporters need a “peg” to hang a news story.  As we all know, new and dramatic developments tend to draw the news media’s attention.  The handy peg for climate stories during the 1970s was cold weather.  Sound familiar?

As I showed you in a previous speech, snow and cold temperatures outside your window does not disprove global warming.  Nor, does a heat wave in the summer prove climate change.  You have look to the long term global trends of over at least a period of 30 years to know if climate change is real.

3. A minor aspect of 1970s climate change science literature.
Finally, only 7 scientific peer reviewed published papers or about 10% the scientific papers of the late 1960s and 1970s predicted that the earth would cool or go into an ice age.  On the other hand, 42 papers or about 62% of scientific papers of this same period predicted the earth would warm from human greenhouse gas emissions.  Therefore, this reveals that global cooling was little more than a minor aspect of 1970s climate change science literature.

Therefore, with a total reliance on popular media, using a small group of scientists backing up this claim, no media or scientific agreement, and pointing to cold winter weather in the 1970s as evidence, I hate to admit it, but even fellow Toastmasters member Howard Brandt would tell you this myth stinks even worse than disco.

I hope I inspired you to be more open to the real science of climate change.

As we now know, saying that in the 1970s all climate scientists believed an ice age was coming is about as ridiculous as wearing a disco outfit to a serious Toastmasters speech.