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Science and Distortion - Stephen Schneider

Posted on 1 January 2012 by Rob Honeycutt

This is a new video out produced by Stephen Thomson of Plomomedia that was first aired at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on December 6, 2011.  It was an introduction piece for an event honoring the late Stephen Schneider and awarding Dr Richard Alley with the first Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Communication.

Not only is this an excellently produced video but it is a wonderful and balanced encapsulation of the reality of the climate situation and public debate.  If you have friends who are just starting to become interested in the climate change issue, this would be an excellent place to point them for an introduction.

For further debunking of the myths that pop up in this video see:

CO2 is Plant Food

Renewable Energy kills jobs

CO2 is plant food? If only it were so simple.

Is the Science Settled?

It's not Bad.

For more information on Stephen Thomson and Plomomedia you can check out his website here.

Stephen also has a video from earlier this year which has received over 300,000 views where he puts a Bill McKibben OpEd piece to video with great success.

For more information on Climate One their site is here.

I think we can all agree that between Peter Sinclair, Peter Hadfield and Stephen Thomson we have a group of very talented video artists helping to effectively and compellingly communicate the science of climate change.  

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 52:

  1. This short but compelling video is an excellent retrospective of how a great and passionate climate science communicator lived his live – not afraid to take the hard issues head on. I remember well his close encounter with a TV studio full of climate “skeptics”, and their myths.

    The video also shows the comparatively level-headed approach Stephen Schneider took to the issue of greenhouse gas forced climate change. This is encapsulated in his own words:

    “The end of the world and what’s good for you are the two lowest probability outcomes”.

    But he had no doubts about the urgency and depth of response required because things are only relative; the end of our world would be having our day-to-day support systems severely disrupted, and that’s what a few degrees increase in global temperatures would do.

    You can be absolutely certain a rapidly warming world will not be good for us, or the earth’s relatively stable ecosystems.

    Thanks Stephen, and may your life’s work progress apace.
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  2. Rob Painting is strongly critical of this video, at Deltoid: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/12/keith_kloors_thinking_on_clima.php#comment-6203064

    On balance I think I would agree with him - does it not go against much of the advice given in the Debunking Handbook?

    For many people, all they are looking for is enough doubt to carry on living their lives as they are. Repeating some common myths, and even showing them in the same manipulative ways they are propogated, without quashing them explicitly and emphatically seems to risk providing that hint of doubt.
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    Moderator Response: [Rob P] Whoops, vented my spleen a bit there. SkS is a collective effort and, in regard to screening this video, I was on the side outvoted. In hindsight I should have kept my opinions private instead of taking umbrage over at Deltoid.

    Regardless of the merits of the video, Steve Schneider was a 'bit of a legend' as we say here downunder.
  3. There's a saying in football, when the coach's message begins to lose credibility with the players, they say he has "lost the locker room".
    For me that point was reached in the video when he started talking about 5 meter sea level rise and runaway global warming.
    The answer to overcoming skepticism and regaining control of the dialogue is not more over-the-top catastrophic predictions! This has been proven time and again over the years. While this video may be comfortable and reassuring for some, it will not win over the casual fence-sitters in the crowd. And those are people we should be trying to bring to the table now.
    H.
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  4. I think anyone tempted to believe any of the climate change myths on the video ought to realize that those myths are based on keeping a blind eye on the data, careful cherry picking and in some cases out right lies. It is, in Schneider's words:

    "... people selecting things out of context, and then you end up with the end of the world versus its good for you."

    (2:30 in the video)

    It would be as sensible to believe "its good for you" as it would to believe "end of the world" scenarios such as claims that the Earth will enter a Venus style runaway green house effect, with the Oceans boiling, and all life on Earth ending. As Schneider says,

    "The end of the world and what’s good for you are the two lowest probability outcomes"

    (3:30 in the video)

    The should also recognize that some of the "cacophony of conflicting voices" are paid by industry, a point brought home by the funding of one of the denier messages on the video by "by Exxon Mobil, Shell Oil, Hunt Oil, Lyco Energy Corporation, and Five States Energy Corporation."

    I strongly recommend anyone with inquiries about the various myths mentioned in the video read the appropriate posts as linked above, and then comment there. Of the "end of the world myths" this might be an appropriate page to start.
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  5. Hank @3, it would help if you provided the time index of claims so that people can find them easily to discuss the issues. In this case, I believe the claim you are discussing starts at 9 minutes and 5 seconds.

    As it happens the last time the Earth was 1-2 degrees Celsius warmer than its current level for sustained periods (the Eemian) global sea levels were 5-7 meters higher than current levels. Business as usual will make us 3 to 4 degrees C warmer than current levels by 2100 and sustain higher temperature for hundreds if not thousands of years. The last time CO2 concentrations equaled their current levels, sea levels where about 25 meters above current levels.

    Five meters of sea level rise is highly unlikely in this century, but if we do not take action, five meters of sea level rise or more is inevitable. That is simply what the science says.

    I think the "coach" lost you simply because you never wanted to play.
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  6. Hank @ 3... You would have to be working very hard to avoid Schneider's message if "5m of sea level rise" was your take-away.

    He clearly states that... "End of the world and good for you are the two least likely outcomes." But the issue with sea level rise is in relation to tipping points. He states that we know that those tipping points are there, yet we don't know where they are. We might not know when we've crossed one of those tipping points for 50 years. He's talking about the world we are bequeathing to later generations.
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  7. I don't understand this 'fence-sitter' issue at all. Either you think, believe or know that ice will melt at temperatures of over 32F (0C) or you don't. In the latter case you either deny the existence of agreed temperature scales, physical reality, or the conservation of mass in regular thermodynamics, mechanics or chemistry. Maybe this is too bluntly said, so feel free to delete this if it's outside the policy here.
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  8. It's even bizarre to me that a person can completely gloss over the "cacophony of conflicting voice" backed by fossil fuel interests and instead land on "5m sea level rise."
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  9. The inertia or time lag or whatever you want to call it for heating a whole planet and we are just measuring it now is something that really scares me. The final equilibrium will be far worse than we can even predict. It is sad that small minds grasp the tiniest straw to boost their false beliefs. The fence sitters have been conned by very dark forces. It is impossible to have a reasonable conversation about Global Warming with people who wake up in the morning and it is 15C and by lunchtime it gets to 37C. The glazed eyes are the give away. Bert
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  10. Sorry for stirring things up there Rob (P).

    I've deliberately only watched this through once and whilst I thought the video was spot on, for me, I am left with two strong impressions from it - one is the 'CO2 is good for you' advert and the other the is that there are two equally wrong extremes in the climate debate, catastrophe and 'good for you'. I can see how these could be the two messages that someone who hasn't previously engaged with the debate could take away from watching it.

    We all know that advertising works at some level, I don't like cola but when I'm hot and thirsty and see a cold can of coke I still hear a little animal part of my brain saying "buy it".

    I also think the "The end of the world and what’s good for you are the two lowest probability outcomes" message is the wrong one, it sets up a false equivalence. For a start, whilst they may be equally probable they shouldn't have equal impacts on our decision making. Even if there is only a minute chance of truly catastrophic outcomes this is still significant, whilst a tiny chance that we will see some improvement in our lives cannot balance out the risks of serious impacts. But I also think it doesn't fairly reflect the significance given to the two extremes. On the one hand we have people standing up in congress saying increased CO2 will be beneficial, but you have to dig up obscure video footage of a known controversialist to hear the other extreme.
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  11. I think what struck me was the calm way he pointed out that:

    "The end of the world and what’s good for you are the two lowest probability outcomes"

    That's very true, makes sense (particularly in the fire-insurance context in which it was used), but i can just see some of those who claim to be "Skeptics" latching onto this comment as:

    "Reputable Scientist Recants and Refutes CAGW!!"

    with the quote re-written as:

    "The end of the world, lowest probability outcome"

    All in all i think the vid is a fine piece and a good attempt at communicating where the issue is, broadly, at the moment.
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  12. I should say straight off that I'm a film-maker myself of 40 years experience.

    I found the second half of the film to be much more effective than the first half. I don't believe it's right to give airtime to deniers claiming 'the debate is not over' and the like; except in the context of smoking, where it was very powerful to show those clearly ridiculous presenters holding cigarettes claiming that there are scientific papers denying the link between inhaling tobacco smoke and cancer.

    I don't like the use of fantastical, graphically-enhanced 'scare' composites showing -- for example -- barefooted children standing on parched, cracked mud with smoke rolling over them in an orange landscape.

    I do like the use of real documentary footage of melting glaciers, deforested river valleys, flooded towns and drought-ravaged crops.

    I do not support the use of text-based documents as cutaways where one's attention is split between what is read and what is being said: the viewer takes in neither. VO should always repeat exactly what is being shown as text so that it emphasises the text rather than fighting it.

    Emotive music should be used sparingly for emphasis -- not as wallpaper. Less is more.

    Generally I found this film to be a good tribute to a great man; Stephen Schneider. Do I think it could have made better use of the material it contained? Yes. I would have cut around 2 minutes out of it, tightened it and made it more factual and less emotive in places. I would have looked for more very short clips of politicians and presenters in denial clearly making obviously ideological personal attacks and avoided anything that could sound reasonable to the ignorant. The phrase "the debate is not over", should be avoided at all costs. It just sounds too bloody reasonable to those with no understanding of the subject.

    I would have cut out all references to Schneider's quote about the two extreme views and their improbability; especially as it was juxtaposed alongside some apocalyptic graphics -- like the one with the child -- that seem to contradict his statement. Keep the message clear and simple. It always works best.

    Hope that helps.
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  13. "The end of the world and what’s good for you are the two lowest probability outcomes"

    I dont think that there is sufficient evidence for anyone to say that the 'end of the world' probability outcome is low. We just dont know. And it actually at least to me looks high and getting more probable. And as commented above the risk factors need to be taken into account.

    It seems to me it is more and more likely that we are going to get >3C which is basically the end of the world for humans. I subscribe to the belief that a 2C warming means the end, more of less of, modern society.

    Currently we havent even reached 1C and basically if the current rate of extreme weather events continue at the level of 2010/11 we will have a collapse. But hey, guess what, they are going to get worse - more intense, more frequent, larger areas.
    So I think a collapse is inevitable.

    Not good. All the best for 2012 and good luck.
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  14. @ Paul Magnus
    "I dont think that there is sufficient evidence for anyone to say that the 'end of the world' probability outcome is low."
    Having the probability of such an outcome being a non-zero sum should be terrifying enough for any sane person.
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  15. Paul Magnus @13, I believe there is some confusion about Stephen Schneider's comment about "end of the world" is a low probability outcome. A decade ago it was considered a real possibility by at least some commentators that global warming could result in a runaway greenhouse effect. Such an eventuality would result in the oceans boiling away and the Earth becoming a second Venus, and consequently the death of all life on Earth. Since at least 2002 it has been known that that sort of runaway greenhouse effect is impossible on Earth. (There remains a slight epistemic possibility that it could happen in the sense that the science that shows it is impossible could be wrong.) That is the end of the world scenario that Schneider considered one of the two lowest probability outcomes.

    At 6:45 in the video, Schneider says,

    "... here we talk about 50% risks and the planetary life support system..."


    Clearly the high probability scenario Schneider is considering is very grim. It involves mass extinctions. Given other concurrent human pressures on the environment, it is likely to at least equal the end Eocene extinction and has a low but significant probability of exceeding the End Permian Extinction (at 250 million years before present on the chart below):



    In the more extreme scenarios with significant probability the ocean will become anoxic (without oxygen), a possibility that is distinctly more probable than "it is good for you".

    So, what we are talking about in the middle of the range is something in the range of great depression plus Spanish Flu simultaneously for a century or so to Great Depression plus black death plus mongol invasion for a century or so. That is on business as usual.

    If we do nothing it will not be the end of the world. It will not result in the extinction of the human species (with high probability) but it will be grim, and may be the end of our civilization (which would winnow the human population down to between half and a billion people). That is your 33 to 66% range.

    Having said that, I believe Paul Magnus is being overly pessimistic. Two degrees C represents a significant (around 50%) possibility of the loss of major reef systems around the world including the Great Barrier Reef, but not of the loss of coral reefs altogether. That level of impact will place a large strain on our civilization, but we will cope. We have coped with far larger strains (including, but not limited to the Black Death and WWII).
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  16. John at (12) I agree with you. Keeping the conversation simple is best. Trying to share my knowledge over time has taught me to relate the effects of climate change to something they understand. They get effects such as dirtier air making it harder to breathe, power and water rationing, or an explosion of bugs devouring their gardens and trees. Trying to convey the concept of AGW, which most are unaware of or ignore, is counterproductive. People want to know how their choices are going to impact them but not what it is called. They want us to keep it simple!
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  17. My two cents:

    Since Dr, Schneider gave that talk, we've learned that we have already passed the tipping point for a big chunk of the WAIS. Pine Island Glacier has retreated passed the choke point, and loss is accelerating.

    I'd side with Rob P and John Russel on this one. Dr. Schneider's speech is excellent, but the take-away is muddled.
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  18. Re: Tom C's post (#15),
    Several years ago I overlaid the geologic record of cooler/warmer temps with the mass extinction record. Just eye-balling it, the mass extinctions seemed not to be associated with cooler or warmer per se, but with changes in slope of the temperature graph.

    Which is basically another way of looking at the "warmer is fine" versus "it's the rate of change that matters" debates that frequently pop up.



    It involved a flip and a stretch; sorry, looks like I lost the work, but the link is where I started from.

    P.S. I'm having some trouble with the tips on posting images. href and src are both

    "Description of page you're linking to"

    and that seems not correct.
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Chris, Wiki pages can be a little tricky to use a source for hosted graphics. In the following html string:

    Click to enlarge

    The first url would be the location of the hosting Wiki page. The second URL would be the location of the graphic on the Wiki page. The way to find that second location would be to right-click on the desired graphic/image on the Wiki page and select either "View Image" or "Copy Image Location" to find out the URL you need.

    If you need additional posting tips, follow this link.

  19. >>I don't like the use of fantastical, graphically-enhanced 'scare' composites showing -- for example -- barefooted children standing on parched, cracked mud with smoke rolling over them in an orange landscape.

    Thanks for your comments, John. I think the graphic showing the girl was meant to show the extremes that Schneider doesn't agree with: look at how ridiculous that extreme is! Though, the confusion underscores your point that the clip isn't always as clear as you think it should be.

    Interestingly, I thought this clip was excellent compared to many others I have seen. It seemed less polemical and more likely to convince those not already convinced.
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  20. Chris G @18, you are absolutely correct that it is the rate of change of temperature rather than the absolute temperature (within limits) that determines extinction rates and the relative harm to human society. The reason is that life, and human's adapt. Life adapts on a million year timescale, with restoration of the full range of biodiversity and productivity of ecosystems taking up to 10 million years after a major extinction event. In human terms, that means any loss of biodiversity is effectively for ever.

    Humans also adapt, and much faster so that a thousand years from now even in the worst case of the reasonably probable scenarios global warming will have little impact on the standard of living. But our response now makes a large difference to the effect over the next 100 to 200 years.
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  21. Tom @15. Thanks for cheering me up a bit....
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  22. ChrisG#17: "the take-away is muddled."

    No, its straight-forward. The section around 4 minutes in deals with a multiple range of possible outcomes: what science does is try to winnow out the relative probabilities of possible outcomes, if you try to cover it as a yes or no you are distorting and yes, we get a little mad about that. There's the key message. One who gets distracted by '5 ft of sea level rise' or 'catastrophic change' or 'end of the world' is missing the point.

    And isn't that the ultimate goal of propaganda? To manipulate your thought process so that you miss the point?

    Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group.

    So we hear about 'balance,' we hear an endless succession of false equivalences and a blizzard of 'it can't be true' spin stories. Schneider is very clear on this point: Feeding people the yes/no message when there are a range of alternatives is still propaganda. Hyping the supposed 'uncertainty' when there are factors that are well-understood is still propaganda.
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  23. Other than some unfortunately unqualified language ("...we keep adding unprecedented levels of warming to the system..." 9:38) and that there is more advocacy here than I'm used to for SkS, I enjoyed the presentation. Schneider outlines the issues that matter very clearly and concisely. After the science comes the policy. Schneider's lecture is the bridge between.
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  24. Muon,
    I think the information is straightforward, particularly for those already familiar with the topic. It is like taking a seldom used path in a familiar garden. I think the overview of the point the creator is trying to make is not as clear as it could/should be if the target audience is not already familiar with the topic. The transitions are a bit abrupt, and the audience could get lost at a crossing.

    Human memory is faulty; a naive audience is just as likely to remember Geraldo's forceful assertion that the science is not settled as they are to remember Stephen's least-probable-outcomes dichotomy. Example: My wife and I when we were putting things on our wedding present registry needed dishes and were adding some to the list, there was a particular pattern at the local store that we did not like, and everything else would be great. So, we put on the list "no ducks". Twenty years later, half of our dishes still have ducks on them. It was like the average person who saw the list remembered "ducks" and forgot the negation. Honestly, we would have been better off having said nothing and taken our chances. So, no, I have little confidence that the average person will get the intended primary meaning on the first pass though that video.

    I don't think you can wait until 4 minutes into a video to tell the audience the main point you are trying to make. The video works if you are preaching to the choir; otherwise, it is open to incorrect interpretation.

    DB,
    Thanks, but that tip is actually what I'm complaining about. Compare the tip for links where "http://url" clearly means a URL and "Description of page you're linking to" is whatever text you use to describe the contents of the link, with the next tip where, I've learned, the text "Description of page you're linking to" actually has two meanings, "URL of the linked page" and "URL of the image within that page". In the first, it is a description, and in the second it is two different URLs. It would be a more helpful tip if the it indicated that the contents between the quotes were URLs.
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  25. barry @23 - that’s pretty well the way I saw it too and a lot of people I know, as well.

    And a bit of advocacy helps motivate people and Stephen Schneider excelled at it.
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  26. Well made point, Chris G. #24

    As a film maker (but excluding those just making 'art') the first and most important thing is to be aware of the audience you're creating your film for. Everything Steven Schneider says is spot on, but I don't think he was aiming at the lowest common denominator. The film maker has made this film following Schneider's death and when watching it, it's clear that he has aimed for a different audience to that which Schneider was addressing. So, to be clear, the producer has taken disparate sound bites of what Schneider said over the years and woven them together to tell a story that Schneider never told -- or at least not in those words. He's also laid over Schneider's words images which both support and possibly, to some degree, modify what Schneider says. So we're all arguing about two different things: what Schneider was saying and what the film maker is saying.

    It is my contention that the film will work with a sophisticated audience who understand and sympathise with the message. I question whether it will be understandable to an unsophisticated, uninformed or cynical audience (i.e., think a typical GOP politician or someone who might vote for them).

    As a tribute to Schneider it works with people who remember and agree with him. To the uninformed it's not a persuasive piece of work that will bring them on side.

    What's frustrating to me is that if I had rights to use the right footage, I could do this. Unfortunately as a professional working in this area I could not just use footage without the necessary permissions. This film, for instance, contains scenes shot for the feature film 'The Road' and I'm pretty certain they didn't receive any permission to use it. If this film was as high-quality and effective as we'd like it to be, the copyright owners of the material would take the producers to court and take a lot of money off them -- or, more likely, have the film destroyed.
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  27. John Russell @26, the filmmaker's target audience SFAIK was the audience of the presentation of the inaugural Stephen Schneider Climate Communication Award to Richard Alley. The video was intended as a tribute to Stephen Schneider at that presentation.

    I will point out that endlessly discussing whether or not the video is effective at communicating its message does not aid in communicating that message. Perhaps we could return comments to the message rather than the technical value of the video.
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  28. @Tom #27 writes: "I will point out that endlessly discussing whether or not the video is effective at communicating its message does not aid in communicating that message."

    I only respond to what other commenters have written and they seem to want to talk about how effective the message is, Tom; and the moderators have not offered any steer away from that. Also is this website not about communicating climate science?

    I find your sentence above very strange, in that one learns how to communicate by analysing and learning from what others have done before. Is there a better way?
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  29. John Russell @28, you don't communicate a message by talking about the best way to communicate a message. This site is about communicating science, not about communicating the best way to communicate science.
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  30. Tom Curtis, to be fair Rob Honeycutt wrote "If you have friends who are just starting to become interested in the climate change issue, this would be an excellent place to point them for an introduction." It seems fair to question whether this is an effective piece of communication.

    I would show this video selectively. There are some people I would trust to be reflective enough to see and remember the genuine message in the video, but if the Debunking Handbook is correct then I suspect this would not be an effective communicator for everyone.

    What I think the introspection here illustrates is the fundamental difference between selling doubt and communicating confidence. Those selling doubt can afford to chirn out anything they like, it only takes one of those messages to hit the mark for them to succeed.
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  31. ...churn...
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  32. OPatrick @30, what ever the merits of your view, it still remains the case that the video has been released to the general public. That being the case, the best way to ensure viewers take away the main points and not some of the denier fluff included is to discuss those main points. Continuous discussion of the merits of the video only distract further from the key points that:

    1) There is a scientific consensus on key aspects of climate science;

    2) That consensus shows that very optimistic views and very pessimistic views both have low probability (ie, that life itself is threatened);

    3) That special interests try to distract from that key consensus with "blather";

    4) That a proper response involves realistic risk assessment;

    5) That a realistic risk assessment recognizes that the center of the probability estimates suggests significant damage to the planetary life support system; and

    6) There are tipping points which make a controlled response much more difficult if it is a delayed response.
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  33. My profession is communications, not science, and those who are concerned about the video's content are, IMHO, correct. I work on mythbusting daily, and to the best of my ability, I don't even mention the myth I'm responding to, let alone repeat it or give free air time to it (e.g., the short ad on the benefits of CO2 that is included). Tom Curtis in #32 is right about one thing: the video is done. That being the case, my advice is: find another video and use that instead--there's plenty of other good stuff out there, like the Climate Denial Crock of the Week series. This one is excellent as a motivational tool for a group of climate scientists who know the score (like those assembled at the AGU). It is almost useless as an introduction to the problem or as a persuasive piece for the average person who is wondering what's up. I say that with a great deal of regret, because I had high hopes when I sat down to watch it.
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  34. Tom C#32:

    Isn't 'released to the general public' a bit of an overstatement? The video is linked here, on Climate One and a few environmental sites; it is also on plomomedia's youtube channel, where it has all of 3600 views.

    Isn't it also a major goal of SkS to discuss communication of climate science and issues? Not only do we have books highlighted in the upper right panel of the site; we show the Eureka Award for "excellence in the fields of scientific research & innovation, science leadership, school science and science journalism & communication."

    Your key points are all vital; however, we must face the fact that we are not exactly winning the battle for 'hearts and minds.' If there are valid points to be made by professional communicators, why not listen and learn?
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  35. climatehawk1#33-While I share some of your reservations about mentioning the myths in a video aimed at dispelling them,I would point out that the excellent Climate Crock series that you cited,also includes small snippets of denialist propaganda in it's videos as well.
    It's a tough call between showing blatant distortions as examples of what denialsts are up to,and giving their myths 'air time',(regardless of how small).
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  36. OPatrick @ 30... My point in saying people new to climate science should watch the video is I think it presents an accurate portrait of the issue which is greatly lacking in general. Who else have you ever heard make the statement that "good for you and end of the world are the two lowest probability outcomes?" And who else ever quite clearly lays out the case that the problem is fossil fuel industry special interests? (Other than Naomi Oreskes.) These are two extremely important take-aways that are rarely if ever heard by the general public.
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  37. First, I suggest that the links to myths be moved below the embedded video. Possibly as the last thing in the article.

    I don't think this video is intended to dispell particular myths, but it does speak to multiple audiences. I think it does an excellent job of framing climate change as a wicked problem and of illustrating key tactics used by those who don't want the public to take action on it. It is honest in its recognition that there are distortions at both ends of the spectrum (I assume, an acknowledgement of Dr. Schneider's famous quote that is so often misrepresented)

    I think it should arm laypersons with some honest skepticism to help distinguish between those who are part the cacophony and those who are real musicians.

    Overall, very little time is given to repeating the myths. The video is bookended with several perfect sound bites, starting with "You couldn't add 4 Watts of energy over every square metre and have nothing happen!"

    For me, the strongest soundbite was:

    "So our behaviour in the next generation could precondition a sustainability issue for a millenium - or ten - based upon the convenience of one species for one generation. I find that a very morally daunting prospect."

    Dr. Schneider's passing was a great loss, and if this video inspires more climate scientists to 'take back the airwaves', then it is worth its weight in gold. And if this video doesn't do so, then perhaps the 'climate scientists rap' video would :)
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  38. tmac57 - #35 - You're right, Climate Denial Crock does mention the myth, at least sometimes. An excellent example is the "Myth of the Mini Ice Age," just posted today. Compare it with the Schneider video, and the difference is quite striking--it mentions the myth once or twice, but it cuts off the non-scientist gentleman from the fossil-fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute after a single sentence and then goes into straight debunking. The ratio of debunking to myth is far higher.

    Rob Honeycutt - #36 - You know, you should just show it to a couple of focus groups and see what they tell you. I think you will be amazed at how little average folks know and how easily they are confused. Only when the video gets about 2/3 of the way through and shows the cigarette spokesman (or reporter, whichever it was) does it really become clear what is being shown.

    EOttawa - #37 - I agree, excellent motivator for scientists who know the score. For ordinary people as an intro? Sorry, won't work. I can just see one saying, "What, 4 watts? That's tiny! I have a bunch of 100-watt light bulbs in my own house! ... "

    No disrespect to Dr. Schneider intended here--I agree he was a giant in the field. But setting that aside, this is simply not a suitable or effective tool for communicating climate science to a general audience.
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  39. Interesting to be discussing climate change PR on a website nominally dedicated to an objective explanation of the science. It seems just a tad off-key - not that there should be a bar on such discussion, but a first time visitor reading this thread would likely get the impression that this is an advocacy site. Which it is, but almost always only by implication. The committed contrarian might read this thread as an unwitting expose on the motivations of the regulars, commenters and contributors alike. "See, they're ideologues"

    (Message for contrarians - they're not ideologues)
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  40. climatehawk1 @38, you are quite right about some ordinary people and mention of 4 Watts. What should be recognized is that it is 4 Watts per square meter over the approximately 510 trillion square meters of the Earth's surface, or 2040 trillion Watts. That represents more than 150 times the total human primary production of energy in 2008 (EIA figures), including renewable energy. Primary production includes energy lost as waste heat as well as that actively used. That should place the ordinary persons 100 Watt bulb into perspective.
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  41. barry @39, indeed, not ideologues at all.

    Our purpose is to enable people to access the evidence as determined by the consensus of climate scientists based on the overwhelming body of evidence, rather than the message from fossil fuel funded think tanks based on cherry picked data which gets 50% of the time in mainstream media, and 100% in Fox News.

    As Stephen Schneider indicates, when 97% of relevant scientists agree on something, and less than 1% of relevant scientists plus a few non-qualified people only in the debate for ideological reasons and accorded a position of expertise they demonstrably do not warrant get the same amount of the time on mainstream media to get their idea out as to the 97%, with no reporting of the relevant qualifications credibility of the two position, that "...is not balance, it is utter distortion!" (3:40 fwd).

    What we are trying to do here is to restore the balance by reporting the science.
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  42. Well, put Tom (@41). The point that needs to be made, and I think rarely does (and what I love about what Schneider is saying), is that the act of giving equal time to two sides of the debate distorts the perception of the reality of climate science. In fact, it's worse than that. You rarely ever see the "screaming hairy conniption fit" (Richard Alley's term) AGW side of the story, whereas you DO almost constantly get the "screaming hairy conniption fit" on the denier side. Even from main stream "skeptics" you get this. Never mind folks like Monckton, just reading Richard Lindzen's NYT OpEd this past year the term that pops into your head is "wow, what a screaming hairy conniption fit he's on!"

    What you get from the actual climate science community is generally very careful nuanced responses that do little to counteract the conniptions on the other side. The actual debate in climate science takes place within a fairly narrow range of potential forcing responses. But it sure is hard to sell main stream news on that kind of story.
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  43. @Tom #40

    You're quite right with everything you said after "What should be recognized...". You know it; I know it; and so will everyone who arrives at this point in this website. However...

    The point that climatehawk1 was making -- and he's dead right -- is that a large majority of the population (I'm guessing over 70%) will not understand a word of what you said in the remainder of your comment. All they hear is '4 watts' and think 'that's not much'. And these are the people we need to get to.

    The denial community is way ahead of us when it comes to influencing 'the man in the street'.
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  44. Tom@20 "Humans also adapt, and much faster so that a thousand years from now even in the worst case of the reasonably probable scenarios global warming will have little impact on the standard of living."

    You have a rosier future view than I do. Assuming we continue on our current trajectory, and I see no evidence of a likelihood that we will change soon or much, are we not looking at millennial changes? Melting poles, increased desertification, mass extinctions, population collapse, sea level rise and associated human migrations, with concomitant wars ... need I go on? When our high-tech, greed-fuelled society hits AGW reality, I cannot imagine the results will be business as usual. Standards of living must surely fall and I have little hope that quality of life will be anything like what we enjoy now.

    So, what is your projection based on? Please tell me why I am being pessimistic - I could do with the reassurance.
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  45. Dear SKS community,
    I wanted to thank you for posting my video and for your feedback and critique. Some of you may think this video hurts the cause, and i'm a little surprised about that; after all, I don't feel i've obscured Stephen Schneider's message; it was his oratory that originally spoke volumes to inspire me, and which I trust will speak volumes to the general public (whom I do believe, contrary to some of you, are smarter than a bar of clay). I understand that it may not follow the debunking bible to a t, but then it wasn't necessarily made for denialists or for debunking. It was my intention simply to shed more light on an inspiring man for an audience normally unwilling to sit through hour-long lectures (and SS himself knew the importance of multiple formats of conveyance). I also happen to believe that no matter which side or set of information is being used to proselytize, 'force-feeding' sometimes doesn't go over all that well. Schneider's monologue was one of repose and of ominous calm, and it was that tone I attempted to garnish without obstructing; hence, no volley between myth and busting.

    Time will tell if my attempt here was successful or not in furthering environmentalism and attention to climate policy. I respect this community for taking on the denialists head on, and I hope all our work does some good.

    cheers
    stephen
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  46. 45, Stephen,

    Thanks for providing the video. Overall I think most people love it (which is why it was posted here). The general complaint only focuses around the fact, I think, that the "CO2 is plant food" advertisement runs for so long that one forgets that it is an example of malicious advertising and not actually part of the case being made.

    But the video is very well done and gratefully welcomed.

    By the way, you might choose to click on your name at the left just below the thermometer (where it says "You are logged in as stephenthomson"), click "Update Profile" and add your website. This will let users get to your website by clicking on your name in any comment.
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  47. Stephen... Thanks a ton for stopping in to comment. Everyone really likes the video. It's a wonderful tribute to Stephen Schneider and reminds us all of what a great loss his passing was.

    With respect to the critiques, pretty much everyone here is heavily invested in learning how to effectively communicate climate science. Most of us spend many too many hours on other sites trying to battle people's misinterpretations and misrepresentations of climate science. We are, as Schneider puts it, trying to "take back the airwaves" from those who wish to cause confusion. One of the key points that John Cook discovered was a study showing that sometimes repeating a myth in the course of debunking it can actually reinforce that myth. That's where the concern about the CO2isGreen ad comes in.

    You're right, the video you created was targeted at a more sophisticated audience who understands the science. For a newbie the video has the potential to actually lodge the myth into a person's mind and make it harder to replace the myth with accurate information. My own interpretation is that the CO2isGreen ad ends up looking like a modern version of the 1960's cigarette ad. And ultimately history will see it exactly that way.

    In the meantime there are several great take home messages in Schneider's talk that inspire us all. Your video does a great job of capturing that in a compelling and digestible format.
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  48. I fully agree with Rob Honeycutt: “Not only is this an excellently produced video but it is a wonderful and balanced encapsulation of the reality of the climate situation and public debate.”

    I myself was so impressed with what Dr. Schneider said that I’ve decide to transcribe the audio of this video (including time signatures).

    I do this for my own edification since the process allows me to truly digest the message and I'm posting it because I hope it might be of use to some others.

    http://citizenschallenge.blogspot.com/2012/01/stephen-schneider-unauthorized.html
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  49. citizenschallenge, thanks for posting that transcript; I have very limited access to video.
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  50. @ sphaerica 46 and rob 47,
    re: the c02 ad, it's true that that ad is uncomfortable.
    that might be why I included it, particularly after SS says "[people and politicians] are capable of [figuring it out], but they rarely do it."

    The ad is not entirely untrue. Although I find it laughably non-sequitur and frustratingly slick, it is true in both cases that branding C02 as a pollutant probably WOULD cost jobs (the kind we dont want to keep around anyway - I'm reminded of Bill Maher's "F%#$ your jobs!" - while creating new jobs in a better sector) and that C02 is not a pollutant anyway, in the traditional sense. It's not as easy as saying 'C02 is good or bad' - as we know, it's a matter of balance on a macro scale, not of a molecule's inherent goodness or badness.

    The ad is a culminating example of a flawed public dialogue. it's gold (for me).

    The difference of opinion we share about showing this ad illustrates the fact that you, the SKS community, are directing your work towards denialists - whom you see as having to be kept on a strict diet of information - while I'm directing my work towards you: scientific community, media journalism, policymakers, and the general critical thinker who can recognize fallacy and fluff when they see it.

    As to the wisdom of posting it here on this site, I leave that to you to judge, as you know best your clientele. I do thank you once again, though, for the exposure.

    @citizenschallenge 48, great idea!
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