by Judith Curry
[W]e present key messages for every American about climate change. – AAAS
Excerpts from the blurb on the AAAS What We Know website:
The What We Know initiative is dedicated to ensuring that three “R’s” of climate change communicated to the public.
- The first is Reality — 97% of climate experts have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.
- The second is Risk — that the reality of climate change means that there are climate change impacts we can expect, but we also must consider what might happen, especially the small, but real, chance that we may face abrupt changes with massively disruptive impacts.
- The third R is Response — that there is much we can do and that the sooner we respond, the better off we will be.
It is not the purpose of this paper to explain why this disconnect between scientific knowledge and public perception has occurred. Nor are we seeking to provide yet another extensive review of the scientific evidence for climate change. Instead, we present key messages for every American about climate change:
- Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now.
- We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.
- The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.
As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do or must believe about the rising threat of climate change. But we consider it to be our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action.
The report is written by the AAAS Climate Science Panel, co-chaired by Mario Molina, James McCarthy and Diana Wall.
Reaction from Michaels and Knappenberger
Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger are not impressed, in an article entitled AAAS’ Guide to Climate Alarmism. Excerpts:
But despite promising to inform us as to “what the science is showing,” the AAAS report largely sidesteps the best and latest science that points to a much lowered risk of extreme climate change, choosing instead to inflate and then highlight what meager evidence exists for potential catastrophic outcomes—evidence that in many cases has been scientifically challenged (for example here and here).
Somehow in its haste to scare us, the AAAS seems to have missed (or ignored) the two hottest topics in climate change these days—1) that climate models have done remarkably poorly in replicating the evolution of global temperature during the past several decades , and 2) that high end climate change scenarios from the models are largely unsupported by observations.
Thus, “what the science is showing” completely undermines the AAAS contentions regarding alarming climate change.
Add this all up and you realize that the AAAS report is the epitome of climate alarmism—long in hype and short in fact and aimed squarely at influencing policymakers. We should expect better, but they drank the ethanol years ago.
Time reports on the AAAS document in an article Scientists sound the alarm on global warming but Americans sleep in. The title pretty much sums of the article, which provides this context:
Gallup released the results of a new poll on Americans’ opinions about climate change earlier this month. For those concerned about global warming, the data was not promising. On one hand, about two-thirds of Americans believed that global warming is happening or will happen during their lifetime—which, incidentally, happens to be the correct answer. But only about 36% of Americans said they believe that global warming will pose a “serious threat to their way of life” during their lifetimes. Climate change is also very low on the priority list for most Americans—51% of those surveyed said they worry about climate change very little or not at all. And 42% of Americans said they believe the seriousness of global warming is “generally exaggerated” in the news.
I am trying to understand the point of this document. The authors bypass any scientific explanations, and merely appeal to consensus. They then cite a bunch of catastrophic possibilities, many of which are very unlikely to occur on the timescale of the next century (as per the IPCC AR5), citing fat tail risks. Then they say that there is much that we can do to address the mitigation problem, without providing anything in the way of actual recommendations to accomplish this.
The members of the AAAS Climate Science Panel are a group of distinguished climate scientists, including one Nobel Laureate (Molina) and at least two members of the National Academy of Science. A hint to the rationale behind this document is this statement by co-chair James McCarthy:
“The real experts on this subject agree in a way that the public do not understand.”
Ok, I see, this committee somehow reflects the opinions of ‘real experts’? Well my main concern is that there are no experts represented on this committee related to risk management, economics and mitigation strategies, which is the topic of about 1/2 of the report. And these particular experts seem more alarmed than the expert authors of the IPCC report (well, the WG1 anyways), citing many very low probability events as something to be alarmed about.
So will another report from ‘real experts’ change the dynamic of ‘Americans sleep in’? I suspect not. A new article from Roger Pielke Jr entitled Technology was the key factor in saving the ozone layer. Pielke’s key points
- Public opinion not an important factor driving action
- Scientific uncertainty not an obstacle to driving action
- Technology enabled political action
When scientists become alarmists, I don’t think it helps public opinion. At this point, public opinion does not seem to be driving President Obama’s climate policy agenda.
Lets compare this document with the recent NAS/RS document and the document from the APS. For the population that has questions about climate change, the NAS/RS document was helpful in explaining the main scientific findings of the IPCC in an understandable and accessible way (although the uncertainty issue was not dealt with well IMO). For the educated public that follows the climate debate closely, the APS document provides a wealth of information, which was appreciated in this Quadrant article entitled Finally real climate science. Is the public interested in scientists appealing to consensus and making statements about risk and policy? I suspect they will continue to snooze.