On Engaging with Climate 'Skeptics'

Changing the Cultural Climate … on Climate Culture

A respected climate scientist, in the aftermath of an ‘ugly’ billboard posting campaign, reflects on the merits of … and need for … continued efforts to engage climate ‘skeptics’ in order to seek-out approaches to what he labels ‘one of the great themes of human history in the Third Millennium.’

In 2010 and again in 2011, I was a solitary speaker for the scientific consensus at the Heartland Institute’s International Conference on Climate Change.

More recently, I’ve been shocked and deeply disappointed by Heartland’s ugly “Unabomber” billboard campaign. Nevertheless I would consider attending the meeting again, and want here to consider the merits of rhetorical engagement with people who attend these meetings. [Editor's Note:  Denning says he was invited to speak again this year, at the meeting in Chicago next week, but that a scheduling conflict prevents him from doing so.]

Having spoken at two Heartland Institute International Climate Change Conferences, in 2010 and again in 2011, I’ve often felt that I stumbled into a classic Monty Python comedy sketch from my youth.

In the sketch memorialized on YouTube, Michael Palin pays to have a five-minute argument with John Cleese. Despite his protests, all he gets for his money is rapid-fire contradction. Visibly agitated, he complains that he is dissatisfied.

PALIN: An argument’s not the same as contradiction. An argument is a collected series of statements to establish a definite proposition.

CLEESE: No it isn’t.

PALIN: Yes it is! Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just an automatic gainsaying of anything the other person said.

CLEESE: No it isn’t.

Like Cleese, many climate “contrarians” have no overall argument. Rather, they offer a series of inconsistent contradictions to specific statements, projecting an overall sense of umbrage instead of a reasoned critique. They claim that the observations are junk, and in the next breath that the observations disprove the models. They claim that temperatures aren’t rising, then that warming is caused by the Sun, or that the non-existent warming is good for us. They remind us that arguments from authority are unscientific, then ask us to respect the authority of retired NASA managers.

Nobody (even at Heartland, it seems) disputes that CO2 molecules emit measurable heat, or that heat warms things up. But when contrarians assert that burning vast amounts of coal to power new industrial societies of billions of people won’t warm the climate, the onus is on them to provide a mechanism, a reason Earth’s climate should not warm when heat is applied though our everyday experience and common sense screams that it will.

Overwhelming Scientific Consensus … but Huge Public Debate

Some climatology colleagues have suggested that rhetorical engagement with contrarians is counterproductive, that it merely reinforces their contention that “there’s still a debate.” I respectfully disagree.

Let’s be clear: there is in fact an overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. No peer-reviewed science disputes the expectation that rising CO2 levels will cause major climate change in the coming decades. Survey data have shown more than 97 percent agreement among professional climate scientists (Anderegg et al, 2010, PNAS), and every major professional society has issued supporting statements.

But it is equally clear that there is a huge debate in the larger culture about climate change. This debate is far from settled, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

Climate science has no political or cultural constituency. There are at most a few thousand professional climate scientists in the U.S., quite probably fewer than the number of trans-sexual Yemeni-American Hindu Republicans. Yet tens of millions of people have strong opinions about climate change. Reasonable people differ on the severity of the climate threat, the socioeconomic implications, and especially on the best ways to respond to a changing climate.

Anthony Leiserowitz at Yale, Ed Maibach at George Mason University, and their colleagues, in their “Six Americas” surveys of the larger culture, have found a wide spectrum of beliefs even with climate change as polarizing as it seems to be in the media and blogosphere. A substantial majority lives in the “persuadable middle” of this spectrum, and it’s these people I’m trying to talk with, not the wild-eyed conspiracy theorists on the left and right.

Scott Denning photo
Scott Denning

At the Heartland conferences, I doubt even my sparkling sincerity changed the minds of Joseph Bast, Christopher Monckton, or Willie Soon. But literally dozens of people approached me in the hotel hallways and elevators, in the bar, and at dinner to say “Thank you so much for coming! I had never heard this other side of the story.” I suspect that there are millions and millions of people who feel this way. In this age of self-selected media, it’s quite common for people to make up their minds based on strongly filtered information.

Predisposed to Doubt … but ‘Reachable’ and ‘Not Evil’

Besides the Heartland conferences, I do a lot of public presentations on climate change, and I particularly enjoy engaging with hostile audiences. My experience has been that a lot of pleasant, decent people are predisposed to doubt the science. They’re not evil. They care deeply about their children’s and grand children’s’ futures, and genuinely want to do what’s right. These people are reachable, there are thousands of times more of them than there are climate scientists, and a lot of them vote. Not surprisingly, they often find unpersuasive an arrogant attitude that dismisses them as anti-intellectual fools.

National Academy of Sciences President Ralph Cicerone points out that “Scientists are necessary, but not sufficient to solve the climate problem.” Scientists in fact have done a great job of understanding this problem, but the larger culture cannot be expected to do just what scientists tell them to do, nor are earth scientists especially qualified to recommend solutions. Rather than write off millions of caring people as a result of the offensive billboards of a few, I’d rather bring them into the conversation about sollutions.

Climate Change as Third Millennium Great Emerging Theme

Climate change is almost certain to emerge as one of the great themes of human history in the Third Millennium, much as feudalism, religious wars, imperialism, democracy, and the rise of global capitalism defined the Second. This simply is not a problem to be solved by scientists, but through the vigorous engagement of every human culture.

Reasonable people differ about what to do in the face of difficult problems. Are Europe’s fiscal problems best addressed through relentless austerity, or through stimulus policies? Fools posing as “skeptics” might rather claim that there is no fiscal problem in the Euro zone. Is the threat of a nuclear-armed regime in Iran best dealt with by carefully-coordinated sanctions, or by military strikes? Would talk-show hosts give equal time to self-styled “skeptics” who prefer to claim there are no such things as nuclear weapons? Is this really the best that the political right can offer in the face of one of history’s greatest challenges?

Surely there is a case to be made by the right that effective solutions can be crafted to provide energy for billions of emerging consumers without quadrupling atmospheric CO2? At the cost of 200 years of global GDP, our ancestors replaced an energy and economic system based on manual labor and water power with all that we see around us. Who paid that cost? We did, the consumers who also produced the goods and services required. Have those on the political right grown so timid that they fear the future, rather than embracing its opportunities?

It is appropriate that in considering solutions to our carbon, climate, and energy challenges, we must consider ideas from across spectrum of ideology and culture. Regrettably, a large and powerful set of voices in the cultural conversation over climate solutions has been lost as a result of its ridiculous political posturing. Just when we need to hear about smart solutions based on free markets, contrarians have instead adopted a strategy of “argument” right out of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Some have argued that modern culture is a house of cards built on the multiplied value of extracted fossil energy, and that when we stop burning coal we’ll freeze in the dark. This kind of nihilism underlies jeremiads from both the left and the right. But history is long, and people have proven remarkably resilient under horrendous circumstances in the past.

Let’s understand instead that modern culture is built on brilliant ideas, creativity, hard work, and thousands of years of experimentation. A case of Enlightenment naïveté? Perhaps, but all the world’s cultures deserve a voice in how humanity responds to climate change.

AUTHOR
Scott Denning, Ph.D., is Monfort Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, where he leads a large research group using satellite observations to understand the global carbon cycle. He also serves as Director of Education of the Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes. A former Editor of the Journal of Climate, he was founding Science Chair of the North American Carbon Program.

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65 Responses to Changing the Cultural Climate … on Climate Culture

  1. Doug Struck says:

    I salute your willingness to go forth into battle. Very noble.
    However, you will be, I predict, soon contacted by YAHU, the Yemeni-American Hindu Union (Republican branch)…

    • Jan Freed says:

      I, too, salute you. I write climate change blogs, and I aspire to your level of a positive willingness to engage, freedom from rancor, and humor. Good job!

    • Martin Lack says:

      Given that Yemen is a Muslim country in which trans-sexuals and/or Hindu converts – and their extended families – would likely be the victims of honour killings, I should be very interested to know if Scott is aware of even a single “trans-sexual Yemeni-American Hindu Republican”?

      On a more serious note, I accept that the vast majority of climate sceptics are not stupid, evil, or anti-intellectual. However, all the evidence suggests that they are being misled by an organised campaign to deny, downplay or dismiss the genuine scientific consensus that we have an urgent problem that requires urgent mitigation of a kind not yet attempted.

      Therefore, I should also like to know whether Scott accepts the conclusion reached by James Hansen that the runaway greenhouse effect is a “dead certainty” if we allow our politicians to continue with BAU and burn all the Earth’s fossil fuels?

      • Scott Denning says:

        Martin Lack,

        As a matter of fact no, I don’t accept the idea that a “runaway greenhouse” effect is likely at all, let alone a “dead certainty.” This is a technical issue best left to journals rather than blogs.

        On the other hand, “burning ALL the fossil fuel” would be a disaster in any case! Estimates of proven reserves vary, and have increased dramatically in the past few years with the advent of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Nevertheless, at the very least there is an additional 6000 gigatons of carbon (GtC) in fossil fuel still available to burn. If our descendants “burn it all,” atmospheric CO2 would reach a peak concentration of over 2500 ppm (nearly 10 times preindustrial), and would remain over 1000 ppm for tens of thousands of years after the fuel was gone. This would allow plenty of time for all of the ice on Earth to melt, and of course would result in the loss of all the world’s coastal cities.

        Personally, I don’t believe that our descendants will choose self-annihilation like this. It would be far easier and almost infinitely cheaper to innovate and develop better ways of making a living. I’m an optimist. I expect the nihilists to lose this “debate,” and I’m counting on our descendants to be as courageous as our ancestors were in terms of choosing a new way of life.

        Respectfully,
        Scott Denning

  2. Barry Woods says:

    The Anderegg survey had rather a lot of criticism…..an example..

    http://www.examiner.com/article/global-warming-the-blacklist-paper-violates-every-ethical-standard

    And I’ve yet to see a consensus, whether, which climate policies are a good idea or not, this is perhaps where most ‘sceptics’ get started.. Ie Energy Policy

    And of course the Doran survey was worse, actually that is the Doran paper, which cites Doran’s student’s MSc thesis, the fedback within the thesis itself about the survey, and climate change, is rather sceptical…

    Here:
    http://www.lulu.com/shop/m-r-k-zimmerman/the-consensus-on-the-consensus/ebook/product-17391505.html

    Additinally, if you only talk to USA sceptics/Heartland or Lord Monckton you may have a very skewed viewpoint..
    Monckton is a politician first (not a very succesful one in the UK, A bit of a joke party), in it for Monckton, sceptics second.

    May I ask, if you have read ‘The Hockey Stick Illusion’ A W Montford, for example..
    aks the Bishop Hill blog.

  3. RW says:

    Scott,

    With all due respect, you fundamentally misrepresent the skeptic/denier point of view. It’s the magnitude of the net effect that is disputed – not the basic physics of GHG absorption. I contend that CO2 is not a pollutant, but a precious natural resource – fuel for the biosphere and agriculture. I would not sequester it even at zero cost. The real ‘crisis’ will come when we no longer have an abundance of fossil fuels to burn and CO2 levels drop back down to pre-industrial levels.

    • Bruce says:

      This “misrepresentation” happens so frequently that I no longer believe it is unintentional. It’s always easier to win an argument if you can frame the opposition’s case for them.

      Unbelievably, even this far into the climate debate, I regularly have green friends still insisting that sceptics are just the mouthpieces for Big Oil, the Koch brothers or any other suitable bogeyman. They cannot or will not allow themselves to believe that sceptics believe what they do after serious study of the topic.

      Scott is no different. He believes he is right and that anyone who holds a different view only does so because they lack his advanced understanding. Although Scott comes across as a reasonable guy – and I’m sure he is a very nice person – there is, nevertheless, an underlying condescension in what he has written that he very probably cannot even see.

      It’s an unpleasant characteristic of the left (I’m not applying this to Scott here) that they cannot allow people to hold an opposing view without labelling them as stupid, uninformed or evil.

    • Scott Denning says:

      RW,

      Thanks for your reply. Rather than “misrepresenting” it, I contend that there IS no “skeptic/denier point of view.” It’s generous of you to accept the “basic physics” of absorption, but of course many who call themselves skeptics simply deny that as well. Your specific issue is about the “net effect,” but in the next sentence worry about a CO2 shortage.

      Here’s the problem: CO2 is chemically nonreactive in air. So whether now or in 100 or 500 years, our descendants will have to provide energy a different way. The issue is not whether this is so. The issue is how. This is fundamentally a political question, not a scientific question.

      What I’m saying is that it’s truly silly (in the Monty Python sense) to pretend that we have some kind of formal scientific argument, when in fact we need to have a very legitimate and profound political argument.

      The political left is arguing that we need to abandon capitalism and consumption to solve this problem! What’s missing is a set of careful and reasoned market-based solutions from the right. Instead we get vacuous statements that there is no problem to be solved.

      I believe in capitalism and markets. Am I the only one left?

      Scott Denning

      • Barry Woods says:

        Why does their need to be a monolithic ‘approved’ sceptic point of view? This is irrelevant.

        But I do agree it is about politics..

        BUT scientists are lobbying for policies, the ‘right’ might just say, well lets have nuclear, gas replacing coal, and just wait and see, because China and India are just going to burn coal. Yet this is not enough for the ‘scared’ voices of environmentalism, who want total decarbonisation, within decades.. which is just an engineering fantasy

        with respect to chemically non-reactive in air.. again so what, it is also part of the carbon lifecycle, and their are biological systems at work (my first degree was chemistry)

        Any individual, can and will criticise any particular part of what is claimed.. they do not need to have an alternative theory, just point out issues with any particular aspect..

        Ie Mcintyres issues with ‘hockey sticks’, doesn’t mean he has no credibility because he says nothing about a dozen other issues, or a dozen others have concerns about a number of other claims made.

        See my later comment, ref claims of ‘climate deaths’ or ‘glacial water scares’ or ‘extreme weather claims’.

        May I ask, Again.. if you have read ‘The Hockey Stick Illusion’ – A W Montford, that details Mcintyres (climate Audit) role in his investigations of various paleo work and thescientists actions.

  4. Scott Denning says:

    Barry Woods:

    My point is in fact that the scientific consensus is nearly irrelevant to the much broader debate in the larger culture. After all, there are many millions of people with strong opinions about climate change, and only a few thousand experts in all the world.

    It seems to me that the larger debate has been ridiculously superficial: where are the voices calling for free-market solutions to a problem that appears much too big for government to solve? Can it really be that a society that replaced horses and waterwheels with commercial aviation, 500 exaJoules/year of energy, and global e-commerce can’t produce a better climate solution than tax subsidies for the Chevy Volt?

    Scientists have neither the right nor the obligation to prescribe solutions to this problem. Our ancestors spent 100% of global GDP over two centuries producing the system we enjoy today, yet so-called “skeptics” claim our descendants will be forced to live in yurts if they can’t burn coal? What ever happened to ingenuity?

    Seems to me the right has been Absent Without Leave on these questions. Do you have a solution to propose?

    Scott Denning

    • Barry Woods says:

      I’m not American and I’m in no place to comment about politics in the USA.

      The issue is whether we even need a climate solution, or more accurately which one is more appropriate, ie very different solutions required (and costs) for a 1-2C world vs 2-4C or a 4-6C, or higher world.

      Personally, the jury is still out whether the 21st century will warm more than about a 1C or so, and any impacts may even be beneficial, observed trends do seem seem to rule out the higher worse case scenarios (and of course I may be wrong, and many would say I’m in ‘denial’ !)

      BUT lets put that aside,

      many people are sceptical of climate policies (not climate science) and the way climate science is misused and presented to them inthe media (and the scientists unfairly getthe the fallout).

      Whether you or I consider a 1C, 3C or a Al Gore 6C future to be likely or preparing as a precaution for, the policies make no sense. ie Carbon taxes, Carbon Offsets, Energy policy (wind), etc,etc

      Especially in a global political/economic context, where countries like China and India, have now made it absolutley clear they are not going to put their economies at risk, and their future growth is locked into coal.

      This was what course Copenhagen to fail politically, realisation that these countires were never going to go beyond Kyoto (ie under which they do nothing). Climategate made no impact on this, and is often used as an excuse to ignore this political reality.

      Mark Lynas, who I know/correspond with (I had lunch with him, and Prof J Jones at Brasenose college, Oxford Uni, a few weeks ago) was in the room when the talks failed, and unequivocally explained why.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/22/copenhagen-climate-change-mark-lynas

      20-30% emission cuts (ie increased energy costs) will be a hard sell to the public in the EU, when China’s per capita co2 emission goes ahead of the EU average. In ten years China has gone from 2.8 tonnes er capita, to 6.9, and this trajectory is rising for decades (2010 figures, France is 5.8, Italy, 6.8, UK 8.1, China projected to go above this, this year)

      But of course that is politics not science.

      The reason I pick up on the 97% consensus figure, is that I would answer yes to the Doran survey questions, yet all to often a ’97% of scientists say soundbite, is used to justify policies, etc and no criticsm or even questions allowed.

      With respect to the science, when the public see actual climate science hyped up into an alarmist media/lobbyist version of climate science, they become sceptical. LIttle realising that the underlying science is sound.

      There is also the problem of a few scientists that go too far, and have become advocates, are scientists happy with Hansens alarmist pronouncements.. NOAA extreme weather expert calls out to Hansen that facts do matter, a comment from the Revkin blog.

      http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/11/another-view-on-extreme-weather-in-a-warming-climate/?comments#comments

      Another ‘small’ example of hype is the often cited 300,000 climate change deaths each year are happening now, we must take action NOW. Greenpeace cite this, media, lobbyists and some scientists cite this. Yet it is whole based on a very dodgy GHF report, yet this goes unchallenged.

      I eventually personally persuaded Dr Katie Hayhoe to drop the 300,000 climate change deaths slide, from her climate change sides (she said just cited it, check with GHF) because I could show to her it was not based on rigourous science. Professor Richard Betts, Met Office Head of Climate Impact, AR4, AR5 lead author helped me oon this, advising her best not to cite it, linking to reasons why. (see pg 17)

      http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/foresight/docs/migration/science-reviews/11-1121-sr3-changing-variability-in-climates-year-to-year.pdf

      BUT why did she not do this in first place.

      As those slides were alarmist, not based on rigourous science. Just to convey a message?, doesn’t matter if it is accurate?

      My prime minister Gordon Brown, spoke of flat-earther, anti-science climate deniers at Copenhagnen, and warned of a 3/4 of billion people depending on glacier water that would disapear in 20 year..

      This was always scientifically rubbish (not just the IPCC glacier error).. As Peter Glieck and a number of scientists complained about the hyperbole of it, in Sci American.

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=research-casts-doubt-doomsday-water-shortage-predictions

      It got a brief write up somewhere sceptical ;-)
      http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/10/25/another-climate-fail-new-research-casts-doubt-on-doomsday-himalayan-water-shortage-predictions/

      (and I’m not exactly on Peter Gleick’s Christmas card list )

      http://www.realclimategate.org/2012/02/clarifications-and-how-better-to-communicate-science/

      Am I not to question these inaccurate messages, used to push for policies, no questions about policies allowed, because ’97% of scientists say’ so. Especially if I get called all sorts of names for pointing out the the actual science does not back this up!

      • Scott Denning says:

        Barry Woods, thanks for your extensive comments. It’s ironic that you don’t feel qualified to weigh in on politics or policy, only on the science.

        What I’ve tried to argue is that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion on the politics. It seems truly bizarre that the only place these supposedly “scientific” objections are being aired is in a web forum on media.

        If you have serious scientific points this is absolutely the wrong place to publish them: rather, they should be submitted to peer-reviewed journals. On the other hand, if you have opinions on communication or what to do about climate, you’re in the right place!

        The science part is easy: CO2 emits heat, heat warms things up, CO2 in unreactive. The policy is much harder and more contentious.

        Best regards,
        Scott

        • Barry Woods says:

          CO2 is ‘unreactive’ – in a pure physical chemistry sense, however the carbon cycle is a little more complicated that.

          Most of my comment was about politics and and or communication of science (especially political reality regarding China), have you had a chance to read Mark Lynas’s article in the Guardain. Mark was the Maldives climate Change advisor, at Copenhagen, he was in the room with Obamam when the talks failed – China.

          My points were about politics. I was pointing out the politics and lobbyists were wrong (not the science) and I was refering to the actual science (not challenging it) to correct the politicians, so referring me to criticise politicians and communicators, in the peer reviewed science journals seems odd…

          So, I would appear to be in the correct place, expressing my opinions on those that communicate climate science (some do it badly, especially politicians)

          When the criticism is directed at those communicating ‘incorrect science’ – the correct response is to communicate to those people, and bring to their attention the correct science..

    • Bruce says:

      Seems to me you’re saying here that the left gets the credit for identifying a problem and the right takes the flak for failing to provide the solution. That’s fair how exactly?

      The argument all boils down to energy. We need huge amounts of the stuff to maintain our present lifestyle. Wind and solar farms, as is becoming increasingly clear from experiences in the US, Germany and Spain, just can’t cut it. Nuclear plants built on geologically stable land can. We don’t need any extra ingenuity for this: the technology is well-proven. The overly-influential green/environmental/Marxist movement opposes this which creates a needless energy shortfall. In effect, the green lefties have created the problem and their activism is preventing the implementation of the solution.

      • Scott Denning says:

        Bruce,

        Thanks so much for your helpful comments! I think you’re exactly on the right track here: your complaint is with energy policy, not climate science. What’s more, if we delete the insulting characterization of your political opponents, you actually propose a practical solution: you want to build enough nuclear power plants to supply 3 billion people in China and India with electricity.

        This is precisely the kind of response I was hoping for. Our descendants will have to be as brave and ambitious as our ancestors. Simply pretending that all is well is not a solution.

        Congratulations,
        Scott Denning

        • Bruce says:

          Thanks. I think. ;-)

        • Bob Carlson says:

          i like the idea of “micronukes,” written up in Discover magazine a couple of years ago. but satellites collecting solar and beaming it down as microwaves has been talked about since the ’70s, and i wonder why we aren’t doing it yet.

  5. Scott Denning has provided a service to humanity by reframing the “debate” and calling for more engagement by multiple cultures in creating our collective future.

    Let’s do a thought experiment:
    Imagine a transparent learning and information platform that begins at the top with 20 – 25 critical objective areas. These are “bubbles” in a Strategy Map [S-maps], focused at any of 4 levels: 1 global, 2 regional/national, 3 organizational, 4 urban/community/local. Templates for these S-maps can be viewed at http://www.globalisr.com .

    Imagine each of Denning’s “cultures” getting a group together to examine the 20 – 25 critical goal areas suggested by the templates, and then choosing what are their 20 – 25 most important areas. After that decision, each group clarifies in writing what is their directional objective for each area, i.e. what do they want to move toward for the future?

    Having done that, rather than next considering HOW they will measure their progress, what if instead they consider what will they DO to move toward that directional objective? What project(s) or Strategic Initiatives do they wish to support and promote and monitor, to help their cultural group move toward the strategic objectives they have identified in their S-map? [it's not about the measures, it's about the actions taken, eh?]

    Outcome measures are relevant and important, such as jobs, GHG emissions, CO2e, as well as food, water, energy and habitat/shelter security, etc. The strategic initiatives provide an organized way to attempt progress.

    REPORTING on progress, or the lack of it, with both metrics and observational / anecdotal reports enables LEARNING that can be applied to improve progress toward the specified directional objectives. That learning can be COLLECTIVE if it is reported in a transparent learning platform. Such a learning platform can also report the objectives chosen, the strategic initiatives supported, and the results obtained.

    This enables movement toward best practices that will emerge as we meander toward our own collective future, cultural group by cultural group.

    This methodology is well established in both developed economies and the emerging economy of China, in the commercial sector. It is offered at http://www.globalisr.com pro bono for the common good.

  6. Strategy- Part 2 in response to Scott Denning’s article:
    The whole paradigm needs to change from one of debate about climate change to one of where do we want to go, i.e. what are our individual and collective GOALS, better called DIRECTIONAL OBJECTIVES. What direction do we want to go?

    As soon as we get pulled into debate about whether climate is changing and why, we lose sight of what the whole exercise is about, if you consider a hierarchy of needs and wants. Survival comes first and up the chain of needs, however we individually and collectively choose to define them, other needs and wants arise. Needs come first, by definition. Food, water, energy, shelter, security. Well-being is a physical, health and socio-psychological need.

    Strategy maps [ see http://www.globalisr.com ] are simply tools for identifying what is important. As soon as we identify what is important, and the direction we want to move for that important area, we can then discuss, analyze and decide HOW we think it is best to get there, given the resources [people, time, funding, equipment, etc] we can make available for use.

    The ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL POINT about this is that it kicks us into a mode in which we can bypass much of the “debate” that has arisen because we have, possibly, formed into camps that argue about whether to turn left or right, or whether we should turn at all, rather than where do we want to go? and how to do we want to get there?

    Do we want jobs? Yes. Do we want food, energy, water, shelter and habitat? Yes. Who would argue against that?

    The debate arises in the details. Will food be supplied by agribusiness on a global scale or will it be provided locally? Will energy be supplied by fossil fuels [including tar sands] or will it be provided by renewables? Will shelter be energy efficienty, or not? Will habitats for diverse species be protected, or not?

    What if, instead, we can collectively agree, across cultures, that we want to increase the supply and health benefits of food? And then we explore the different ways that can be accomplished, with various measures of results, figuring out what works best for different cultural groups.

    What if, instead, we can collectively agree, across cultures, that we want to increase the supply and efficiency of energy available for use? And then we explore the different ways that can be accomplished, with various measures of results, figure out what works best for different cultural groups.

    The key element of this is agreement on DIRECTIONAL OBJECTIVES, with transparent reporting of what is working and what isn’t working, RATHER THAN AGREEMENT on TARGETS!

    The agreement on targets may seem necessary, but if that approach isn’t working for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that it is taking too long to agree on targets if it can ever be achieved, then possibly a different approach may be useful.

    We need to begin moving in a more desirable direction. I submit that an alternative approach in which we collectively work on agreement of directional objectives is a first step in a more desirable direction, for all cultures and groups, regardless of left or right, liberal or conservative, or any other insufficient label we might apply to any particular group.

    It is in the alignment of interests that synergies can be achieved, and serendipity arises, for the strong and the weak, the powerful and the helpless, the practical and the visionary.

    We are on the same path in the same ship, traveling the same direction.

    We would do well to at least agree on the direction, eh?

  7. Foxgoose says:

    Until I read this piece, I had thought that Scott Denning was one of the more open minded scientists on the CAGW side of the argument.

    Sadly, this science free mishmash of straw man arguments and desperate appeals to fake authority seems to put him firmly back in the Mike Mann school of climate change evangelists.

    The tired argument that sceptics aren’t credible because they bring up a whole range of different objections is clearly spurious. It simply exposes that the CAGW hypothesis is weak because there are multiple weaknesses in the strands of evidence put forward for it.

    The observational measurements are poor because of inadequate siting, lack of attention to urban heat island effects and a curious history of post de facto historic adjustments – that always move the record in a warming direction.

    The fact that the models have poor correlation with a poor observational record does nothing to improve confidence in either plank of the CAGW thesis.

    The statement “They claim that temperatures aren’t rising, then that warming is caused by the Sun” is equally fatuous. The point sceptics make is that past warming phases could be partly due to solar effects and the current plateau in warming could fit that cyclic pattern.

    Denning seems not to understand that a to disprove a hypothesis – it only needs to be falsified in a single aspect. Critics don’t need to fully prove an alternative theory.

    The argument that a warmer climate is beneficial to humanity is also well supported – a recent paper by IPCC scientist Richard Tol showed that the net effect of warming up to 2 deg C is an overall economic benefit. Warming higher than that figure relies on totally unproven theoretical feedback attempts.

    Finally, the attempted appeal to authority by referring to the discredited Anderegg paper is beyond parody – as Barry Woods has observed above. Inspection of the methodology of this entirely political document shows that it’s basis is acceptance by less than 80 individuals (out of thousands surveyed) of two completely uncontroversial assertions – neither of which prove or disprove sceptical arguments.

    All in all, a shallow piece of strawmen knockabout – followed by a lot of nebulous political waffle like Climate change is almost certain to emerge as one of the great themes of human history in the Third Millennium, much as feudalism, religious wars, imperialism, democracy, and the rise of global capitalism defined the Second. This simply is not a problem to be solved by scientists, but through the vigorous engagement of every human culture.

    Is there any branch of real science where its practitioners allow themselves to stray into this sort of grandiose, self-important verbiage?

    What Denning does prove beyond doubt is that his “climate science” is primarily a political movement.

    • Scott Denning says:

      Foxgoose,

      Thanks for your comments. I agree with you 100% that this is not a scientific disagreement. In fact that was precisely the point of my piece. If you want to argue about science, take it to the peer-reviewed literature where it belongs. This is a blog about communications and media, so that’s what we’re discussing here.

      My thesis is not about science. It’s about rhetoric. There is an inexcusable silence from the political right about how to provide energy for 10 times as many people as we do today (almost all in China and India), without quadrupling CO2 for thousands of years to come. Listening to the public conversation, it seems the best our culture can come up with are cap-and-trade systems or ineffective industrial subsidies.

      Where is the intellectual right? Where are Heritage or American Enterprise, or real economists or political scientists? If free-market thinkers restrict themselves to unpublishable blog posts on science, they leave the policy debate to the left.

      As somebody who believes the next industrial revolution will be easier if we repeat the success of the last one, I find the total silence of the right to be inexcusable.

      Respectfully yours,
      Scott Denning

      • Barry Woods says:

        Hang on…

        you just said providing energy for TEN times as many people as today – 70+ billion? are you serious ! ?

        even the UN thinks population will peak at around 9 billion by 2050, and then decline..

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2055188/Seven-billion-day-Why-soon-fretting-population-world-shrinking.html

        If policies are being made on totally wrong information, no wonder people are sceptical….

        If we are to have a serious discussion, we ned to keep it in the realms of reality – 70 BILLION?

        And as I am from the UK, framing the debate in the polarised politics of the USA, makes the conversation a little isolated and difficult aswell

        India and China are locked into an increasing use of coal for the next few decades, they will also expolit any shale gas that is recoverable with current technologies..

        And the USA will exploit these resources that are avaialble in the USA, as and when the economics of energy dictate.

        To be positive.. A new Manhatten style project for say thorium nuclear technology would be good, or to be really ambitious a similar project, with serious funding for fusion.

        But we need to talk about credible population projections…….

        • Bud Ward says:

          Barry: I don’t read Scott Denning’s comment as implying a 70-billion global population. He didn’t say energy needed for 10 times the current global population, but rather the need to “provide energy for 10 times as many people as we do today.” That’s a big difference.

        • Scott Denning says:

          Barry Woods,

          I apologize for ranting just a bit there.

          There are about 300 million people in the US using energy at a prodigious rate. Perhaps twice that many in Europe and east Asia use half as much per capita.

          During the 21st Century, world population will likely peak around 9 billion. That’s roughly ten times the number of people using energy the way “we” in the developed world use it today.

          It used to be that the political right championed the idea of economic growth. If world GDP grows at 3% per year and energy efficiency remains the same, the world will use 1.03^100 = 19 times today’s energy in 100 years.

          Yet when serious people are asked about how this will come about, the left has a long list of answers. And from the right we have: vacuous drivel about mythical feedbacks that will magically provide.

          This is shocking and historically irresponsible. A movement that once led the world toward progress and freedom is now paralyzed with fear of the future.

          This argument is not about science. It’s about the abdication of intellectual effort by a once-great ideological group.

          Scott Denning

          • Barry Woods says:

            Hi Scott .. only just seen this, thanks for the clarification.

            But I think you need to look outside of US politics, (ie China, India growing, non Kyoto countries) longer answer further down.

      • Seems like “misunderstanding Scott” is today’s preferred sport and I must have been participating too.

        It is still unclear why the silence on a non-problem would be deemed as “inexcusable”? If everyone on the “political right” is “entitled to his or her opinion on the politics”, then all more the reason to excuse them having an opinion completely different from yours.

      • And one could turn the argument around…as long as leftist thinkers hijack the contemporary science of climate change to argue for their age-old preferred policies, of course no-one on the right will consider entering that debate.

        • Scott Denning says:

          Maurizio Morabito, Thanks for this.

          What I honestly find to be appalling is that the left feels free to offer political solutions, while the right offers intellectually vacuous critiques of basic physics that are flat out contradicted by common sense and measurement.

          The political right has in the past offered brave and inspiring solutions, facing the future with optimistic belief in the power of markets. Yet in the face of a very serious threat to those markets offers nothing but embarrassing denial of simple facts.

          This just won’t do!

          Scott Denning

          • Let’s see.

            What I honestly find to be appalling is that the left feels free to proffer unremitting, intellectually vacuous personal and political attacks against anybody who questions the certainty of future climate catastrophe on the basis of common sense and measurement, while the right is steadfast in refusing to agree on renouncing democracy and freedom of speech.

            The political left has in the past bravely embraced progress and inspiring solutions, facing the future with optimistic belief in the power of mankind.

            Yet in the face of a very serious threat to mankind it offers nothing but embarrassing denial of simple facts.

            This just won’t do!

      • Foxgoose says:

        Scott

        Thank you for responding to my comment.

        I must confess to being puzzled though; if you wanted a conversation about communicating climate issues – why start with a crude, hamfisted attack on your strawman versions of sceptical scientific arguments?

        It failed lamentably on science content – and succeeded in shutting off any possible reasonable discussion on the topic you say you wanted to address.

        On the energy issue, I think you have failed to grasp one of the main reasons why sophisticated and technically educated people are sceptical of your Malthusian predictions. There has never been a time in history when humans have been able to predict the speed or direction of technical progress.

        When you try and map out the future for population growth, energy demand or the technology which might supply it – you’re wasting your time looking beyond a couple of decades. I spent most of my career in the silicon chip business, from working on single point contact transistors through to megabit DRAMS, and never met anyone who could predict the direction the technology would take more than a few years ahead. No one in the computer industry was able to predict the dominance or ubiquity of the PC – which is why IBM let Gates takeover the operating system.

        The prognostications of climate scientists are like John Harrison in the 18th century worrying about whether mankind would be able to find enough copper & zinc to make the brass for all the marine chronometers we might need in the 21st – oblivious of the fact we’d be using GPS sets made from plastic & silicon.

        I’m sorry if it seems rude, but I really believe that once “climate science” steps beyond the basic “hard sciences” of meteorology and geophysics – it stops being science at all and becomes political activism.

        I think the correct response for the political right is to follow the nostrum of one of it’s most successful practitioners, Ronald Reagan, and “don’t just do something – stand there” – while your elaborately and expensively fabricated doom movement runs its course and fades away – like all the others before it.

        • Foxgoose, I went to China a couple of months ago, and visited Shanghai for work. 23 million live in Shagnhai, with 10 million in each small suburb as well.

          Click here to see two photos taken from the same spot 20 years apart (since 1990). By 2025, China will build new cities, from scratch, to house 350 million people, including more energy infrastructure than the entire US. That’s right: energy infrastructure that took the US 120 years to build, and they will do it in 13.

          These are not “prognostications of climate scientists.” These things are happening, today, in the real world. The political left thinks they have the answers: “halt development!” “Stop consuming!”

          From the political right, all we hear is “some kind of magical something I can’t explain will somehow erase 10^23 Joules of heat each year forever.” Huh?

          Try this experiment: put a pot of water on the stove. Turn on the burner. Measure what happens to the temperature. Physics predicts the temperature will increase. You don’t need a PhD to do this. Ronald Reagan is dead, but he would have obtained precisely the same results as you will.

          Cheers,
          Scott Denning

          • Barry Woods says:

            You left out the greens and environmentalists that think windpower and solar will provide all future energy needs.
            (Windpower and wishes?)

            When environmentalists like Mark Lynas and George Monbiot get called Chernobyl Death Deniers’

            (Ie trusting science, not eco-warrior claims of a million chernobyl deaths), for thinking nuclear energy needs to be part of the solution, I think the greater problem with energy lies with those green/environmentalists.

            http://www.marklynas.org/2011/04/time-for-the-green-party-and-guardian-ditch-nuclear-quackery/

            Mark Lynas:
            “Yesterday I was an environmentalist. Today, according to tweets from prominent greens, and an op-ed response piece in the Guardian, I’m a “Chernobyl death denier”. My crime has been to stick to the peer-reviewed consensus scientific reports on the health impacts of the Chernobyl disaster, rather than – as is apparently necessary to remain politically correct as a ‘green’ – cleaving instead to self-published reports from pseudo scientists who have spent a lifetime hyping the purported dangers of radiation.”
            ————————-

            another example is Germany’s totally irrational decision to close down ALL nuclear power stations in Geramy, under Green political pressure, after Fukishima.. The end result being more coal powered generation in Germany and more CO2 (brown coal at that)

  8. Paul Matthews says:

    Scott Denning needs to be more careful if he and his fellow climate scientists are to be taken seriously by scientists from other fields such as myself. He loses credibility by referring to the ridiculous Anderegg et al study, in which the authors put scientists into two different pigeon-holes. Worse still, he misrepresents the claims of that paper (he implies the 97% believe CO2 will cause major climate change in the coming decades, while Anderegg et al say 97% agree that most of the warming of the 20thC was very likely due to man-made greenhouse gases – two very different statements).

    His engagement with skeptics is to be welcomed, and he shows greater awareness than most of his colleagues in the field, for example his comment about not treating skeptics as fools. Unfortunately he goes on to do exactly that a couple of paragraphs later by concocting analogies of fools who say there is no problem in the eurozone or that nuclear weapons don’t exist.

    While climate scientists continue to make the mistake of underestimating them, the skeptics will continue to have an easy ride and it is likely that public concern over climate change will continue to fall. And whoever turns out to be right in the long term, the science will be better if its claims are constantly questioned.

    • Scott Denning says:

      Paul Matthews,

      Thanks for your comments. If you have serious scientific objections to make, this is clearly the wrong forum for you. This is a communications blog, not a science journal.

      There are lots of people like me who believe in the power of markets and the link between consumers and producers to be the most powerful force for positive change. If none of us are willing to talk solutions, but rather resort to denying science on the internet, then the left will be unchecked in prescribing policy.

      What a waste of intellectual capital! Can it really be true that nobody on the right is willing to weigh in on this issue? That’s truly pathetic.

      Respectfully,
      Scott Denning

      • Barry Woods says:

        Scott, is it not entirely possible that no-one from the ‘right’ in the USA is actually even aware of this blog article.

        So calling them pathetic (pre-conceptions?), is rather a bit silly, if they do not know this article exists….

        Paul Matthews (Reader of Mathematics, Nottingham University) is also not from the USA, he probably came across this article because I retweeted it. ie I only read Yale, because Keith Kloor writes here quite a lot and I follow his blog.

        Surely, if it is all about politics as you say… then we can express concerns about science driving those policies… and the scientists driving those policies if there are serious scientific objections or the facts preseneted do not appear to be correct, or might be considered misleading (ie (10 times population, you mention above!) , the politicians need to be aware of this.

        All this is also very much about communication, which is a two way process, feedback, if there is disagreement on what is being communicated..

        So your response to Paul might be considered avoiding addressing his thoughts he communicated back to you.

        • Scott Denning says:

          Barry Woods,

          Never mind who reads or comments on a blog. Nobody from a tradition that was once called Liberal has arisen anywhere to champion rational solutions for the future.

          From the left we have calls to abandon consumerism and impose draconian reductions in energy use.

          From the right we have nothing but silence on this. It’s as if half the intellectual world simply dried up and blew away.

          There are words in our language for people who expect magic solutions to appear, even though they can’t explain them or plan for them. What is truly astonishing is that our modern media label these people “skeptics!”

          Scott Denning

          • Martin is right, Scott. Stop engaging with sceptics. You’ll never convince them to abandon the Scientific Method and embrace Post-Normal science. It’s just a waste of time trying.

        • Martin Lack says:

          OMG Barry – you are trying out your homespun psychology (i.e. “no-one cares what you or I think or say”) on Scott too?

          Scott, I would just recommend you ignore Barry; this is clearly a tactic he uses to try and demoralise anyone whose arguments he cannot falsify. For example, see him at it here on my blog:
          http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/lindzengate-an-update-report/#comment-2266

    • Martin Lack says:

      I see only one real problem within your comments, Paul, and that is that you are simply wrong – Public concern cannot “continue to fall” because it is rising:
      http://environment.yale.edu/climate/

      • Paul Matthews says:

        Martin, the survey you cite shows that 46% think GW is caused by humans, down 4% since last year.

        A recent Stanford survey showed declining concern from 2010-2012
        http://woods.stanford.edu/docs/surveys/GW-Policy-Trend-2010-2012-1.pdf

        A DFT report in January found that “The proportion of respondents who were at least ‘fairly concerned’ about climate change has fallen from 81% in 2006 and 70% in 2010 to 65% in 2011.”

        And there’s a recently published paper “Declining public concern about climate change: Can we blame the great recession?”

  9. Gillian says:

    Thanks Scott. I find your thinking clear and coherent. And I respect your willingness to engage in public debate across the spectrum.

    I’d like to add that the vitriolic debate about climate change policy (to the point of denying the problem) is mostly confined to countries like the US, Canada and Australia that have large fossil fuel deposits. In other countries, policies to decarbonise have more bi-partisan support.

    What will help those on the right side of the spectrum engage more fruitfully in the debates we need to have?

    Maybe Heartland’s recent experience of dabbling in far-right communication via their ‘murders, tyrants and madmen’ Unabomber billboard will show the futility of pretending there is no problem. It has cost them $millions in sponsorship, staff, board members, affiliated experts and reputational damage.

    Or maybe we need more bad weather?

    Thanks Scott! I’m disseminating this through every channel I know… facebook, twitter, pinterest, and blog.

  10. RW says:

    Moderator, can you edit some errors in my post above and then delete this one?

    I should be:

    “Scott,

    The problem is the fundamental premise behind your position. There are far more reasons to think additional CO2 will be good – both for the earth and humans, than there are reasons to think it will be bad. Moreover, in a system as chaotic and dynamic as the climate, doing something in it and not doing something in it, CO2 or otherwise, is equally unpredictable.

    The climate will continue to change as it always has, and those changes will have consequences – some good and some bad. Climate and weather related catastrophes will continue to occur just as they always have, causing property damage and loss of life.

    Besides, the case for net positive feedback – let alone net positive feedback of 300% or more, coming from the two most dynamic components of the whole atmosphere (water vapor and clouds) is spectacularly flawed.”

    • Scott Denning says:

      RW, I appreciate your sincerity, but let’s leave experimental physics to the real science journals and stop pretending that molecular spectroscopy is determined by blog posts.

      This is quite obviously a political argument, not an argument about thermodynamics. If you feel smug betting the future of liberty and markets on some kind of physical mechanism you can’t even name that will magically erase 10^23 Joules of heat each year, I’ll leave that to you.

      I’m not complaining here about the science crackpots. Rather the real tragedy is the absolute, stunning silence of the intellectual right. Not here on this forum, out there in the real world. An intellectual movement with deep roots in reason and enlightenment values has collapsed. Where are people with the courage of their convictions about liberty and markets? Have they ALL decided to stake the future of the free world on childish contradiction of reality?

      Scott Denning

      • Bruce says:

        Scott,

        Can you give me a reference please for the 10^23 Joules of additional heat each year.

        Not doubting: just want to read more.

        • Scott Denning says:

          Hi Bruce,

          Each doubling of CO2 adds 4 Watts to every square meter of the Earth’s surface. (1 Watt = 1 Joule/second).

          4 W/m2 * (31536000 seconds/year) * (5.1e14 m2) = 6.4e22 Joules per year

          But if China and India (10 times the population of the US) industrialize with coal CO2 will quadruple, not double.

          Scott

          • Bruce says:

            China and India will industrialise with whatever is cheapest and available. They will not halt their economic rise because alarmists don’t approve. Thinking otherwise is the height of naivity. Given that, would you agree that ANYTHING the “west” does is bound to have virtually no impact on global temperatures? And further, since alarmists like to blame the lack of warming over the last 15 years on China’s aerosol emissions, wouldn’t their industrialisation conveniently negate any CO2-induced warming?

  11. gws says:

    Scott,
    I am a scientist too and applaud your efforts (and your science). As a European working in the US I can echo Gillian’s notion that this is a US et al. centered problem. What bothers me most is that people like us cannot ever go public or on (any) forums such as these without immediately facing ad hominems (see above) from self-assigned “skeptics” who will pick our every word apart (as you pointed out, they DO NOT use scientific forums/literature), often with little or no regard for the scientific method, or logic. We are trained and used to scientific criticism, and to respond scientifically; but we are not trained to deal with the same old long debunked “arguments” (e.g. “climate sensitivity is low”, “the biosphere will fix it”, see above) as you pointed out via the Monty Python video (thanks, I shall use it in class!). Those who deny the science HAVE TO forward such logical fallacies, e.g. red herrings, to maintain their position, call it a classic psychological phenomenon akin to the denial in an alcohol addict or similar. It is my personal opinion that it will be impossible to get these people to react until something truly “major” happens. Thankfully, the deniers have developed their own wording for that, “C”AGW ;)
    Sarcasm aside, we need to reach (out to) the vast middle to develop solutions for the energy crisis, solutions that are based more on science, and solutions that will be supported by a majority. Undoubtedly, this will not be a one-size-fits-all solution advocated by few, but often highlighted by critics as the one that scientists allegedly advocate for. So, if anything, your post has hopefully helped to dispel that ad hominem.
    So how do we best communicate to that middle then, a middle that is constantly bombarded with what we know is nonsense, but in a very effective way? In most of Europe they are reached through the public media, which have a mandate to report accurately and impassionately. Not an option here … As some recent poll pointed out, people in the US tend to follow leadership opinions on this issue (forgot where I saw that). So would it not be prudent to take our outreach there instead?
    I have come to realize through conversations with colleagues and own experience that public outreach is fine, but that it is mostly a waste of time to go to forums online as the denier community is so vigilant and outspoken. I hold those maintaining debunking blogs in high regard but I am beginning to doubt their effectiveness. Your opinion?

    • Barry Woods says:

      oh dear.. Paul MAtthews above, corrects Scotts misrepresenation of the Anderegg paper, and somehow Paul is the ‘denier’….

      (ie, he is a Reader of Mathematics at Nottingham University)

      I correct, Scotts claims of a future populations TEN times current…

      When the UN and the scientific consensus, actually states that population will peak at about 9 billion by 2050, and then decline…

      who exactly is ‘denying’ science here?

      I refer to claims made by climate science communicators, that are demonstrateably false (ie Dr Katie Hayhoe, citing 300,000k climate change deaths), presumably to persuade the public/politicians of the ‘urgency’.

      In doing so I refer to a established climate scientists work (Prof Richard Betts, Met Office, IPCC Ar4, AR5 lead author) and somehow I get labelled the ‘so-called sceptic’ or even a ‘denier’.. denyig ‘science’

      Very sad.

      • gws says:

        What is your point Barry?
        I neither named nor called either you or Paul a denier. However, in cherry picking my comment you did exactly what I talked about, namely picking every word apart without seeing the actual point. How exactly are your complaints related to the post or my comment? What or how does it matter if the people you criticize get some of the details wrong in such a conversation? Do you think the climate cares whether a (climate) scientist makes a mistake of the kind you cite above? Do you think it is helpful to the question of how best to communicate reality to a broader audience when you or others cherry-pick like that?
        The big difference between scientists making the kind of mistakes you point to, and the people denying the science (in whichever way) is that scientists see the larger picture, acknowledge mistakes, correct them or go back to the drawing board and improve their hypothesis or theory.
        Deniers do not do that.
        Why is it that the bar for “correctness” is so much higher for scientists vs. those who only “criticize” but do not contribute anything else?
        You thought about that when you voiced your opinion while criticizing the science, right?
        It is fair to point out errors, and they should be corrected. But is it also fair to infer from those errors that those scientists who made them are somehow sinisterly trying to influence politics in their favor?

      • Scott Denning says:

        Dear Barry,

        Why do you insist that this is about science? Do you deny that there is such a thing in the world as public policy or politics?

        You don’t have to be interested in public policy. If your only interest is science, then by all means take your debate back to the laboratory where it belongs.

        But if you want to talk about how to provide a modern standard of living to 10 times as many people as now enjoy it, then stop trying to pretend these problems don’t exist.

        What’s truly sad is that only half of the western ideological spectrum is even engaged in this debate. How can a centuries-old intellectual tradition once proudly called “Liberal” be completely silent on the biggest historical phenomenon of our time?

        Scott Denning

        • Barry Woods says:

          Scott we seem to be talking cross purposes a little..

          Yes a concern of mine is science being misrepresented and or hyped up to drive policies, yet my man point which you are not addressing is the economics and politics..

          The early part of this century depends not on the USA or the actions of those in the WEST.

          As I have said, we in the West, could start a new Manhatten style project on a quest for fusion energy. This is something surely that the USA could and would want to take a lead in (ie the potential of energy security and clean energy) but not without its risk or challenges. There is also a solution (if we must have one) of alternate nuclear technologies, different types of reactor design, fast breeder, etc or the path of thorium nuclear energy, I understand the Chinese are taking a lead in. Why not America?

          And of course the economics of shale gas, and forcing the replacement of old coal power stations, with gas powered one, almost accidentally reducing CO2 emission, because this is because of the economics of the fuel, not by intent.

          All of the above has the potential to sustain Western living standards (and reduce CO2 if that is your desire)

          But the main point is, lets not pretend that you or I, or more importantly the American government has ANY influence on the energy path that China/India and the developing world will take.

          China is locked into coal, as is India (renewables will be a tiny fraction of their energy for he next few decade) World emission are and will go up for the next few decades whatever USA/EU do. And I think they will do nothing, as even most politicians will not want energy intensive industries) simplu closed down because of energy costs and shipped off to coal burning China..

          How will USA politicians explain jobs losses with no world NET CO2 reduction? it will not happen.

          Communication, is also a 2 way dialogue usually, yet, you ask questions about me, and I have answered them I think.. but I’m afraid that you have not answered any of mine?

          Have you read Mark Lynas analysis about WHY Copenhagen, Kyoto and any replacement of it failed? (he was in the room with Obama when it failed!) This gets to the root of my argument.. what is your opinion on the politcal/economic realities of China. (the non Annex 1 Kyoto countries) What are your thoughts, is he correct, etc

          With respect to China (India and othe developing countries) and Coal use. Fred Pearce makes the case clear, writing this at the Yale environment 360 forum.

          http://e360.yale.edu/feature/the_triumph_of_king_coal_hardening_our_coal_addiction/2458/

          An extract:

          “China may be the world’s largest producer of wind turbines and solar panels, but its coal consumption has doubled in the past eight years. In 2010, an amazing 48 percent of all the coal burned in the world was burned in China. The country’s roads are clogged with coal trucks headed from mines to power stations. Earlier this month, there was a 40-mile traffic backup out of the major coal-mining region in Shaanxi province. Trucks were taking a week to get down the main highway, which carries 160 million tons of coal a year. Last year, 10,000 vehicles were stuck for days on another coal road, out of Inner Mongolia.

          Meanwhile, India’s coal consumption has doubled in 12 years. It is expected to have three times as many coal-burning power stations by the end of the decade. India, like China, has huge coal reserves of its own. But its economy is growing so fast that its miners cannot dig the stuff out of the ground quickly enough, causing a surge in imports. South Africa’s Richards Bay is a major supplier, along with Australia and Indonesia, which is likely to become the world’s top coal exporter before the decade is out.”
          ——————

          And, may I ask (if I’m allowed one science related question. Have you read ‘The Hockey Stick Illusion’ it changed Prof Fritz Varhenholts mind with respect to the work of some climate scientists and the IPCC and it may give you an insight or 2 into why so many sceptics are sceptical.

          May I also suggest you read this interview. He is an environmentalist, green and an expert in the reneweable energy industry, who writes that when he was involved in the IPCC renewables energy report he was shocked at the sloppyness and how his concerens were ignored.

          http://www.europeanenergyreview.eu/site/pagina.php?id_mailing=272&toegang=7a614fd06c325499f1680b9896beedeb&id=3681

          But, Perhaps we could focus on what we agree on, energy? I would hope America would take a lead on the tecnologies I mention above, what are your thoughts?

          • gws says:

            Barry,
            You are making a series of valid points regarding current (fossil) energy (use) reality. But your continued, troll-like, referral to the “hockey stick illusion”, and now Vahrenholt, only undermines your argument. If you accept the science of global warming, why do you not accept the overwhelming evidence of hockey-stick type climate reconstructions? I am sure you are well aware you are beating a dead horse.
            Now Vahrenholt as an argument? Even a well-informed journalist at the German political magazine “Der Spiegel” challenged his strange views (http://www.desmogblog.com/fritz-vahrenholt). So can you. BTW, he was never an “environmentalist”. Although he may have earned respect from those in the past, he now has joined the denialist camp.

            You do not need these pseudo-arguments, which are usually only forwarded by those who deny the scientific reality.
            All you need is the fact that fossil fuel supplies eventually must end, and that starting the use of alternatives better sooner than later is both an economical and ecological mandate.
            And in that respect, I strongly disagree with your notion: we should not put our heads in the sand about lack of leadership from China and India … instead we should lead by example (again). After all, they are only copying now what the western world did already: burning fossil fuels to grow prosperity while negatively affecting public health and the environment.

      • Martin Lack says:

        Dear Barry,

        This time last year the UN published a range of projections that included continuous linear growth in population well into next century and a most-likely scenario of almost stabilising at just over 10 billion.

        As Scott says below, the problem with your position is that you appear to be denying the reality that the Earth is already struggling to cope with the waste products of 7 billion humans.

    • Bruce says:

      Why do premature cli-maxers have an issue with “CAGW”? Are you saying that catastrophes will not follow from the type of warming your climate models predict, sorry, project? If not, then we’re in agreement!

  12. Dr. Denning,

    Thank you so much for going into the conference and for taking on the challenging task of science, and climate science, communication. I had long believed that the only representative from CSU at Heartland’s annual get together was William Gray. It’s good to know that you were there as well.

    Efforts by the Marshall Institute, Heartland, and similar “think tanks” to cast doubt on the science have worked far too well. The point that people seem to miss is the science really isn’t in question. Heck, even Patrick Michaels admits that is happening and that humans are contributing to it. The doubt is about policy, and perceived economic impacts.

    Folks like myself, who work to spread accurate information as widely as we can, truly appreciate efforts like yours. Please don’t stop.

    Kind regards,

    Larry Oliver

    p.s. I hope you’re not impacted by the Hewlett fire, I keep getting puffs of smoke from it down here, and you’re probably much closer in Fort Collins :)

  13. Martin Lack says:

    Dear Scott,

    Given that you seem to be in the market for responding to comments, would you care to respond to mine (albiet posted with a response to Doug Struck’s initial comment)?
    http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2012/05/changing-the-cultural-climate-on-climate-change/#comment-81990

  14. Bud Ward says:

    British climate skeptic Christopher Monckton rejects much of what climate scientist Scott Denning presented in his Yale Forum posting calling for a change in the culture of climate change dialogues.

    Monckton wrote and submitted to The Yale Forum a 10-page 4,547-word essay countering many of Dennings’ points. Given the length of that response, vastly exceeding the length of all but a few previous posts, it will not be posted either as a comment or as a stand-alone feature, but the full Monckton commentary is available at http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/dl/Monckton_Denning.pdf . For a brief overview of Monckton’s points, see http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2012/05/christopher-monckton-challenges-scott-denning-posting/ .

    • gws says:

      Congratulations to Scott, and to this forum!
      When Monckton honors you with his overwhelming attention you know you must have said something important …

      Sorry again for the sarcasm, keeps me sane.

      I am amazed that he can still enjoy being called a “skeptic” after having been shown to be a nutcase for so many times, latest by this video series. Watch and enjoy.

    • Bruce says:

      Bud,

      If a “few previous posts” have been longer than Monckton’s and they were published then why wont you publish his? Can you tell me what the earlier longer posts were as it raises the suspicion, rightly or wrongly, that they were publshed because they fit in with the global warming meme of this website. I’m happy for you to prove me wrong on this point or at least explain why longer posts than Monckton’s have been published in the past but, somehow, excessive length is now a disqualifying factor.

  15. Christine says:

    “Viscount” Monckton appears, fleshing out the earlier Monty Python reference.

    Yawn.

  16. Bud Ward says:

    THE COMMENTS PERIOD ON THIS THREAD IS CLOSED.

  17. roberts says:

    Views of a sceptic :
    On the subject of global warming I like to reduce things down to the simplest form.
    I ask the question what is global warming and the greenhouse effect.
    From what I can tell the term “greenhouse” must have originated in England when they found they could grow plants all year around in a cubby house built with four walls and a roof all made of glass which kept the heat in especially in the cold winter months.Then by adding CO2 they found that this accelerated the plant growth even more.
    It is quite obvious that the walls and the ceiling kept the sun’s heat in for longer.
    Now when I see a hot air balloon rising I ask myself why is that so.
    Of course any person with a bit of common sense should be able to tell that hot air rises because it is less dense than the relatively cooler air around it so it gets pushed up.
    But how far does it get pushed up? Of course the obvious answer is until the hot air loses it’s heat either to the surrounding cooler air or to outer space.
    Now re the argument about global warming and this where it gets very stupid so stupid that it can only be some kind of socialist conspiracy to gain control of the sheeple that follow them.
    Any warming the sun creates on the surface of this planet is lost to outer space when the planet turns away from the sun.
    There is no glass ceiling to trap it.
    And the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is so minuscule as to be refered to as a trace gas.
    I don’t think it possible for that trace gas to keep on heating up after it’s source of heat ( the sun ) is taken away for 12 hours at a time.
    The temperature in Space is -270 c.
    Now let me see if I can get this right.
    At night the air which is warm will rise into outer space ( theoretically ) but there is lesser and lesser warm air replacing it because the sun has stopped shining for 12 hours.
    Come daylight and the cycle starts all over again.
    Silly me for thinking how can the heat be retained with no glass ceiling.
    And here is another activity that the media perform from time to time although I notice not as much lately here in Australia.
    When it’s winter downunder and the northern hemisphere is having their usual isolated heat waves it’s Global warming.
    See the futility of the argument. We are freezing our backsides downunder and it’s called global. Please spare me the idiocy of that argument.