My training as an elementary school conflict manger kicks in involuntarily sometimes. I have taken a graduate level paleocliamtology class and the teachers and students were unanomiusly in support of climate models with a high level of confidence. They are called climate alarmists. This experience and ones in undergraduate (although climate change wasn’t as big back in early 2000’s compared to now) gave me an opportunity to here one side of the story.
My experience with climate skeptics gave me a chance to hear their side of the story.
Many journalists don’t get a chance to hear any side of the story since they are just mouthpieces reading press releases.
Here is an example of me talking with a scientist in support of climate change.
As a journalist I’m just presenting both sides of the debate. Although as Boykoff said this balanced approach is a form of bias. He and all academic science communication professors think only the accepted climate paradigm as presented by the IPCC and many other US federal agencies should be mentioned or considered.
I have an opinion and I express it but I think it’s more important to increase understanding of climate change. This is an emerging subject it is dynamic. Whether the temperature goes up or down or stays the same we need to be prepared.
I think it’s quite possible to get climate skeptics and climate alarmists in favor of the same things. There is a lot of overlap although there are differences as well.
On the subject of parameterizations like those used to model clouds and other sub-gridscale effects: Weather and climate models are essentially the same in how they operate except that climate models need to run for longer and consider more feedbacks than weather models because things like atmospheric and oceanic chemistry are pretty much irrelevant at the time scales of weather, but become important to the evolution of a climate model. In addition, because a GCM has to run over the entire globe for decades or centuries, resolution needs to be lower or the simulations would never complete in time. The resolution of the climate models of today are about where weather models were in the 90’s because of increasing computer power. We make important decisions based on output from weather models every day, yet this output contains uncertainties due to the same fundamental modeling limitations. Should we instead not treat the roads for incoming snowstorms or evacuate people from the forecasted path of a hurricane because we’re not completely sure how much snow will fall or how high the storm surge will be? Because not every process can be resolved at the scales of the GCM’s scientists use something called parameterizations to resolve those processes. For example, single clouds are smaller than a grid cell so they are explicitly resolved with parameterizations rather than implicitly resolved with dynamical equations. The parameterizations are based on empirical observations and dynamical theory but they are imperfect and thus are without question a source of uncertainty. Because of this, multiple groups are always working to imprrove them and create new schemes. Each of the schemes is subjected to very rigorous testing to evaluate biases and situations where they do well and where they do poorly. Then, to make sure they capture the envelope of possibility, the models are run multiple different times with different parameterizations and different tuning. Each run will produce different results. These results are then back tested against available data to see how well they can reproduce past climate (or weather). By the time this process is done the output will provide a cloud (no pun intended) of possibility which should encapsulate truth. Now if there is absolutely no signal what-so-ever related to warming then the result should be a spread of outcomes centered around zero, where the spread represents the possible uncertainty due to model issues. But the reality in AGW studies is that all the models from all the institutions world-wide doing studies is that there is the expected uncertainty but it is not centered on zero. For the business as usual case (which is actually pretty conservative) it is centered on enough warming for disastrous consequences, with a low end at extremely severe effects for some countries (esp. equatorial and high latitude) and a high end at calamity. I’ve obviously over-simplified, but does that make sense? On the subject of scientific consensus: I don’t believe that just because somebody else says it, it must be true, even if the person saying it is the world’s most respected scientist in the particular field being discussed. No self-respecting scientist believes that. You don’t go in to science with that view – you just wouldn’t be very good at it if you did. The whole point is to question and to re-evaluate. However, there is a catch-22 here when it comes to any complex subject, particularly one with consequences as profound as climate change. To fully understand would take years of learning and work to reproducing research and it would be ridiculous to expect every person to hold themselves to that standard for every subject. Thus, we must have review bodies that can serve to vet the sciences and bring it together in a fashion that represents the body of opinion. That process is long and tedious, but it is done by entities like the IPCC, AGU and AMS. That’s why it’s so frustrating when deniers come along and think they’ve found a hole based on reading a paragraph in an IPCC report when the reality is the report is x thousand pages long and this para was science doing what science should do – considering all the possibilities. Here is an anecdotal example. Recently somebody on WUWT said that the IPCC said climate change would result in an increase in ice mass in Antarctica leading to a reduction in ocean mass as well as extra gravitational pull towards the poles. Their conclusion (WUWT not the IPCC)…CC causes sea-levels to fall. Somebody reading the WUWT article further concluded that the IPCC said that CC causes sea-level fall and thus scientists who believe sea-level will rise are alarmists and don’t know what they are talking about. Yes this is ironic, since many of the very same scientists they were talking about were involved in the creation or review of the IPCC report! The correct conclusion is that in a warming climate, precipitation at the poles increases, thus increasing mass at the poles thus CONTRIBUTING (mainly through gravity effects) to a decrease in sea-level. i.e. a negative feedback. BUT that is just one of many process. The rest of the chapter then describes all the other processes, the vast majority of which increased sea-level. Net result, significant increase. Why did the IPCC report the process that worked against their “agenda”? Because they don’t have an agenda other than being incredibly diligent and considering all the effects and effects of effects and effects of effects of effects ad nausium! The article you referred me to is similar and shows a continued due diligence by the community to make sure all the bases are covered. Here again the author is thoroughly on board with AGW being real and being a huge issue. But I think you initially interpreted the study as indicating that all the rest of the science was wrong. This is where the problem occurs. You’re clearly an intelligent, reasonable and thoughtful person, but you still went down that road to some degree. And you know what, sometimes I read articles and even with my background think, “Mmm, maybe the science is wrong”. Here’s why I think this happens: the consequences of AGW are so profound that we (me included) want to believe it isn’t real – that is why An Inconvenient Truth is so aptly named. If its real, it changes EVERYTHING. We have to make major sacrifices and it is generally easier just to bury our heads in the sand instead. So we’re ALL deniers to some extent. Healthy, well-reasoned, well-researched skepticism is absolutely necessary in climate science (and any other science), but there are far too many arm chair quarter backs. Atmospheric Science and Earth Systems are much more complex than sports but I’d never claim to be able to critique a coach’s strategy – especially not when the future of society depends on it.
end letter author withheld
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