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“Neuroframing” the global warming issue won’t win converts

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Last week the Garrison Institute, a retreat center just a few miles down the Hudson River from my home, hosted an impressive symposium on “Climate, Mind and Behavior.” An organizer made the mistake of inviting me to the meeting’s wrap-up session Friday.

As a brochure put it, the symposium brought together 75 “thought leaders and practitioners from the fields of neuro, behavioral and evolutionary economics, psychology, policy, investing and social media to explore how to integrate emerging knowledge on the key drivers of behavior into solutions for solving the world’s most pressing problem: climate change.”

Basically, this was a brainstorming session on how to market “solutions” to global warming more effectively. The emphasis on packaging reminded me of the controversial proposal by journalist Chris Mooney and communication professor Matt Nisbet of American University that scientists need to become more adept at “framing” issues such as global warming to win the debate. The Garrison meeting explored whether neuroscience and other fields that probe the physiological underpinnings of human belief and behavior can help environmentalists frame issues more persuasively. Let’s call it “neuroframing.”

John Gowdy, an economist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, noted that “neuroeconomics” is challenging the conventional economics view of humans as “utility maximizers” who make choices based on self-interest and reason. MRI scans show that we assess risks and rewards with brain regions that underpin fear, suspicion, empathy and other emotions, Gowdy explained, and we make choices very differently depending on how they are framed.

The psychiatrist Daniel Siegel of UCLA proposed that we all possess two innate, brain-based “maps” for responding to the world. One is a “me-map” that underpins our obsession with our own interests, but we also have a “we-map” corresponding to our concern for others.

The implications of these presentations were spelled out over lunch for me and other journalists (including Scientific American’s David Biello) by Jonathan Rose, founder of the Garrison Institute and the meeting’s chief sponsor and organizer. Environmentalists must frame issues to appeal to peoples’ “we-maps,” asserted Rose, a green New York real-estate mogul.

I share the belief of Rose and others at the symposium that global warming is bad and we should do something about it. But I’ve always disliked “framing” as a strategy for influencing the global-warming debate. Framing is just spinning, and neuroframing is spinning plus brain scans.

First of all, we don’t need MRI studies to tell us that we’re emotional, complicated creatures. Moreover, many people already view environmentalists as self-righteous and manipulative. This is a framing problem that neuroframing may exacerbate. The message is that environmentalists will go to extraordinary lengths—seeking guidance from cutting-edge brain science!–to help the dim-witted public see the world in the same enlightened way that environmentalists do.

Not all global-warming skeptics are ignorant, irrational idiots. I teach at an engineering school, and about one third of my students identify themselves as global-warming skeptics. They tend to know more about global warming than students who accept it as a fact. Two sources at the Science Times section of the New York Times have told me that a majority of the section’s editorial staff doubts  that human-induced global warming represents a serious threat to humanity.

As naïve as this may sound, I believe environmentalists should try to influence public opinion by laying out the facts as clearly and honestly as possible and refraining from rhetorical trickery. Inconvenient Truth was a framing masterpiece, but Al Gore’s linkage of global warming to Katrina, however qualified, has made it easier for wackos to  claim that single weather events, like the big blizzards that struck Washington, D.C., this winter, contradict global warming. Climategate showed that some climatologists have become so obsessed with framing that they have harmed their credibility.

Environmentalists should forget about neuroframing. And that’s my we-map talking.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Horgan, a former Scientific American staff writer, directs the Center for Science Writings at Stevens Institute of Technology. (Photo courtesy of Skye Horgan.)

 

Image of Earth in frame: iStockphoto/eliandric

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Dougism 12:28 am 03/17/2010

    As a graduate student in political studies I am often jealous of the usefulness of what I read on Scientific American, but in the case of this article I believe I am a few steps ahead.

    ‘Framing’ is key to all political issues. For years American policies were framed by the Cold War, and now that framing had come back to bite health care reformers. How things are framed is probably more important than what those things actually are.

    I understand the concern that arises when science is being ‘sold.’ But the point isn’t to change the facts, the point is to translate them into a language people will understand. To make the objective reality of climate change something that they can subjectively comprehend and care about.

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  2. 2. lukelea 1:21 am 03/17/2010

    He wrote "doubt" not "deny." It is the ones who don’t doubt you need to worry about.

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  3. 3. lukelea 1:25 am 03/17/2010

    Dear NYT: He wrote "doubt" not "deny." It’s the ones who don’t doubt you need to worry about. Meanwhile, the grey lady might might take a more skeptical attitude herself.

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  4. 4. Bob Armstrong 3:59 am 03/17/2010

    Pathetic . You want to convince me , Show Me the Physics .

    How about framing the proof of catastrophic warming in equations ? They were pretty good at that a century ago and those equations show we are about 9c warmer than a gray ball in our orbit . Even the derivation of that simple fact is virtually impossible to find .

    And you see the frightening ignorance of a number on this list who so fear the molecule out of which , combined with H2O by sunlight , they and every living thing on the surface of the earth is constructed that they call it pollution .

    This article is just a further example that the alarmists will do anything but the hard science which weighs the parts-in-a-thousand effect on temperature of CO2′s minute change in our spectrum against the , to me , incredible lush green life promised by our returning to the biosphere carbon buried in previous lush epochs .

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  5. 5. MichaelC58 6:58 am 03/17/2010

    @quincykim: Global warming was actually the original term, and is the only possible effect of CO2 on climate. When warming slowed down or even stopped recently, AGW protagonists renamed it to Climate Change. This is brilliant neuroframing because it piggy backs controversial AGW on the back of undeniable natural climate change, thus making its challenge linguistically more difficult – witness sceptics having to first say – I believe in natural climate change but not AGW etc.

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  6. 6. MichaelC58 7:33 am 03/17/2010

    In communication, there is a point somewhere on the continuum of explanation, persuasion, manipulation and deception that crosses the ‘line’. Neuroframing sounds more subliminally manipulative than persuasive and thus on the undesirable if not unethical side of the line.
    But we may have surrendered on this issue already – in marketing and politics psychologists are already used to manipulate our perception and behavior. Its just that we have not yet come to see it what are claimed to be scientific issues.

    But of course, AGW is not really a scientific issue – but a self-confessed matter of ideology for the naive greens – gaia versus human greed, over-consumption, inequity and general pollution, and sadly pure opportunism for the green industry.

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  7. 7. dahawk 7:40 am 03/17/2010

    Dear Laura Chang,
    I am scratching my head over your post that everyone at the Times who covers climate "keeps an open mind about the evidence." While keeping an open mind about many things is a virtue, there are realms of science where knowledge is so extensive and alternative hypotheses are all found wanting that "keeping an open mind" is not a rational response if that term means harboring significant doubt about the way the world works in that realm. So it would be helpful to get some clarity about what keeping an 0pen mind means to you and which aspects of climate science the Science Desk of the Times believes are sufficiently unsettled that keeping an open mind is the appropriate stance. It is certainly correct that there is a range of plausible outcomes on future global temperatures and other climate-related impacts caused by human-driven climate change. But those uncertainties do not raise doubts about the evidence that emissions from human activities have and will produce changes in climate that have a significant probability of exceeding any that have occurred in the course of humans’ presence on earth. Is this a proposition with which the Science Desk disagrees?
    David Hawkins

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  8. 8. Theo 8:31 am 03/17/2010

    I always hear the word "believe" and "belief" bandied about when referenced to global warming and climate change. If these subjects are to have any credibility intelligent people should be correct in their choice of words. If one "regards to be true" or believes in a scenario of AGW this is relates directly to a matter of faith and not fact. Faith being in the realm of religion, surrounded by arcane, complicated and unprovable "belief" systems has no place in science, and therefore people who "believe in global warming, etc are dealing more in wishful thinking, hope and ignorance. The statment in the blog that many more climate sceptics seem to be better informed of the facts than the believers indicates or points to the truth of what I am saying.

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  9. 9. JamesDavis 8:32 am 03/17/2010

    DrPhysics, we all expect scientists, including you, to be open minded on all sicentific mattes, if you are not then the evidence stacks up against you as being a fake. Google and Yahoo proved that key words are the best way to get information and send information.

    Believers and nonbelievers in climate change use these key words to get their point across. I am a strong believer in climate warming because it has been going on for billions of years. For the same reason, I also believe in climate cooling.

    Believers in climate warming uses key words in trying to bring your attention to what is happening, or the damage we may be doing to our environment. Nonbelievers use different key words to try to convience people that we are not doing anything to the environment that the earth cannot handle, or given a little time, correct on its own. Both sides are correct. We are doing a great deal of damage to our environment, but the earth can handle it and in time, correct the damage we are doing. The question is: If we do not stop doing damage to the earth, can the earth correct what we are doing before what we are doing kills us? The answer to that depends on the key words you use to describe your views of our planet.

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  10. 10. andersm 10:33 am 03/17/2010

    As an engineer it frustrates me to see how much of anthropogenic global warming theory is not about the facts but about the emotion. The fear factor being pushed by the advocates makes rational discussion difficult if not downright impossible. I point directly at the media as one of the worst offenders among the panic merchants. They have pandered to climate alarmism not so much because of belief, but because it sells their products. Fear is a powerful inducer but after awhile, when the monster doesn’t show up at the door, the public gets fed up and turns away. And this is the point we’re at now. Rather than help the cause of climate change, the media have helped destroy the credibility of climate science itself by pushing the rhetoric to extreme and unsustainable levels.

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  11. 11. agenthucky 11:35 am 03/17/2010

    He makes quite a good point. At no point ever should scientists be making up details, assuming, or exagerating. But that is not what that meeting was about. The author gives no credit to how we as a race take information like that. I see people claiming that scientists should be straight and to the point. While that is true, we as a people don’t take facts and statistics to heart. MOST people either don’t know what to do with the facts, or just plain don’t care about facts and statistics. 3/4 of this nation leads their life through faith, and mixes that up with fact. If scientists could only speak straight and to the point, who would listen? We wouldn’t be able to get 7th graders interested in Chemistry.

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  12. 12. agenthucky 11:41 am 03/17/2010

    The whole issue is not just about CO2, it is about warming in general. Directly linking CO2 to the earth melting away isn’t at all what the GW debate is about, it is what corporate interest has made it about. Even if the CO2 melted a portion of the polar caps, and methane got out, are we going to have a whole seperate debate about methane? The debate is about sustainability, as the greatest force on the planet.

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  13. 13. agenthucky 11:42 am 03/17/2010

    I guess the author learned a thing or two from attending the conference.

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  14. 14. agenthucky 11:45 am 03/17/2010

    "The gig is up, the general population does not believe or trust scientists anymore and now equates them with politicians, what could be worse."

    This is a major problem with how people think for themselves these days. BELIEVE and TRUST do not belong anywhere near science, bring them back to your diety and we can all go back to doing our jobs.

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  15. 15. agenthucky 11:51 am 03/17/2010

    Cap and Trade currently only exists on sulfur output to hinder acid rain. It was quite successful in reducing the amount of acid rain, and I believe was put in by Regan, but I am not too sure about that one.

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  16. 16. RussCusick 12:29 pm 03/17/2010

    Very interesting, indeed! Thanks Mr. Horgan!

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  17. 17. alexismadrigal 12:32 pm 03/17/2010

    @genebeed: What is "From where I set, green is the new red" but neuroframing drawing on strange, old Cold War conceptions of what is important and scary? Sheesh.

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  18. 18. krabapple 12:49 pm 03/17/2010

    Fact is, all of us ‘believe and trust’ science every day.

    There is no way that anyone, including scientists, can investigate every scientific claim that they accept in their lives. So there is ALWAYS an appeal to authority involved, in practice.

    The Dunning-Kruger effect victims here (look it up) who bray about AGW being unsupported/a hoax/Al Gore’s pony and who insist that we ‘THINK FOR OURSELVES’ (code for ‘don’t believe this AGW thing’) imagine that everyone is intellectually well-equipped to evaluate the scientific literature. How pretty to think so. But science often isn’t easy. How many here even have a clue where to find the primary scientific literature on climate change? How many would be equipped to evaluate it?

    How many have even glanced at the Working Group I section — and know that it’s the ‘science section’ — of the last IPCC report?

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  19. 19. krabapple 12:52 pm 03/17/2010

    Fact is, all of us ‘believe and trust’ science every day.

    There is no way that anyone, including scientists, can investigate every scientific claim that they accept in their lives. So there is ALWAYS an appeal to authority involved, in practice.

    The Dunning-Kruger effect victims (look it up) who bray about AGW being unsupported/a hoax/Al Gore’s pony and who insist that we ‘THINK FOR OURSELVES’ (code for ‘don’t believe this AGW thing’) imagine that everyone is intellectually well-equipped to evaluate the scientific literature. How pretty to think so. But science often isn’t easy. How many here even have a clue where to find the primary scientific literature on climate change? How many would be equipped to evaluate it?

    Which begs to the question, do we leave the interpretation to ‘auditors’ and ‘skeptics’ who have been attacking climate science since the 1980s, or do we leave it to scientists who have been doing the actual data gathering since then?

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  20. 20. Earl_E 4:52 pm 03/17/2010

    Since we missed the opportunity to convert away from oil in 1973, anything is better than nothing at all.

    I’d promise republicans my vote for the rest of my life if they would just stop invading countries and stealing their oil. But that’s not gonna happen.

    How America could allow their government to hijack our soldiers for Exxon profits is beyond me, but then I broke a shoelace this morning.

    Hopefully the Chinese will increase their consumption so much that the price of gas will skyrocket forcing an alternative.

    Short of that, bring out the sandbaggers and prepare for more water. Maybe Rush and Beck could help out the Red River folks today.

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  21. 21. salustri 6:02 pm 03/17/2010

    This is a scientist’s perspective on the matter, which is fine, and has merit. I too am troubled by having to "market" climate change. But as a designer, I know the importance of problem-framing and how it relates to reaching consensus between client/users and designers. If we’re going to design solutions to climate change, we need some framing to reach the necessary consensus.

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  22. 22. Reasonsjester 7:44 pm 03/17/2010

    Let me help you "scientists" solve this conundrum. Anthropogenic global warming theory is a neomarxist agenda to put control of the industrial economy in the government’s hands. Am I climatologist? No. I’m a political scientist and if you want to know why people think you global warming fearmongers are crackpots, follow the green line of funding that runs through left-wing activist groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club that push the frame of a manmade global warming apocalypse like there’s no tomorrow.

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  23. 23. maccam94 1:01 am 03/18/2010

    @Michael F,
    I’m not a climate scientist, but I would assume we need enough data to track the full path of elements within the system. That means tracking the water cycle, CO2 cycle, the energy in the atmospheric systems, etc. Obviously 2 billion year old data isn’t going to be terribly useful in modeling today’s climate. The continents have moved, the surface of the continents has vastly changed, etc. It’s important to note that industrialization has had a huge effect on the climate. Individual cities have huge impacts. You’ve got all the pavement storing extra heat, the heat generated by the people and equipment in the cities, etc. Basically, very old data isn’t terribly important. What is important is being able to generate fairly accurate computer models of our current climate, and testing them under various conditions.

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  24. 24. duckbill 1:17 am 03/18/2010

    Because the standard of science reporting should be slightly above that of a report to a shareholders or boardroom meeting??

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  25. 25. gregS 2:20 am 03/18/2010

    There’s a word that describes people who choose the strategy you’re advocating, John. That word is "loser".

    Do you think the other side (you know – the one with far more money and media at its disposal) isn’t looking at these techniques? Do you think they’re just throwing facts out there "clearly" and hoping it all works out somehow?

    How completely unable you are to think about this issue is evidenced by your use of "Climategate" in a piece where you decry "framing". Did you ever bother to reflect on what sort of PR victory it might signal that you would use that choice of words – a choice that make mountains of out those email molehills?

    If you can’t see through the noise to lay out the facts clearly and honestly – if you are basically reduced to embracing the other side’s framing because your side hasn’t bothered to put one together that works, why would you expect the average person to do better?

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  26. 26. batpox 8:42 am 03/18/2010

    Great blog, and thanks to SciAm for posting it. I think an open discourse from a magazine that I used to love is long overdue. And Ms. Chang (SciEd of NYT?): it does not seem to me that the NYT has much of an open mind on this topic – just look at your headlines over the last few years. Less spin from both sides of the debate would certainly be a welcome change.

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  27. 27. batpox 8:43 am 03/18/2010

    Great blog, and thanks to SciAm for posting it. I think an open discourse from a magazine that I used to love is long overdue. And Ms. Chang (SciEd of NYT?): it does not seem to me that the NYT (or SciAm unfortunately) has much of an open mind on this topic – just look at your headlines over the last few years. Less spin from both sides of the debate would certainly be a welcome change.

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  28. 28. david_burress 9:27 am 03/18/2010

    A depressing amount of naivete being displayed on all sides–fortunately, most of it being pointed out by comments.
    Science reporters and climate skeptics who confuse a scientific approach with having an "open mind," much like a sieve that holds nothing.
    Scientists and skeptics who don’t understand the key role of authority in science.
    Scientists, reporters, and skeptics (perhaps ignorant of framing research) who get hung up over the ambiguous and context-dependent meanings of the word "belief".
    A skeptic who makes elementary logic errors–comparing one bad argument made by Gore to bad arguments made by wackos is not the same as calling Gore a wacko.
    Hard scientists who think careful and experimental thinking about how to communicate successfully is "manipulative" and a waste of time, or who confuse dishonest uses of framing with framing itself.
    A skeptic who is ignorant of the fact that the term"global warming" is being replaced partly because it gives the false impression that the models predict uniform warming all across the globe, which they don’t.
    Angry posts from skeptics who think an informal laundry list of claimed discrepancies can somehow rebut ten thousand publications in peer reviewed journals.
    Irascible posts from hard scientists who think informal opinion can somehow rebut a smaller but still substantial scientific literature on framing.

    David Burress
    President, Ad Astra Institute
    Lawrence KS

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  29. 29. Shoshin 10:21 am 03/18/2010

    Interesting article. A number of years ago a "neuro-framing" experiment was done in Canada. The separatist leaders of the province of Quebec were attempting to secede from Canada. When the people of Quebec were asked "Are you in favor of a sovereign Quebec?" The answer was "yes". But when they were asked "Are you in favor of giving up your Canadian citizenship and cut economic ties with Canada? The answer was a resounding "No".

    The solution as the leader of the separatist party determined, was that a "Winning Question" needed to be formulated. Apparently, asking people a clear, unambiguous question did not yield the desired result.

    The AGW spinmeisters need for a similar "Winning Question" merely exposes the underlying weakness of their theory. Nobody needed to formulate a "Winning Question" on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

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  30. 30. gregS 12:35 pm 03/18/2010

    "Nobody needed to formulate a "Winning Question" on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity."

    If the theory of relativity threatened a multi-trillion dollar industry you’d better believe it would have needed to pay attention to framing. Just look at the "battle" over evolution – which just threatens a few preconceptions :-)

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  31. 31. Shoshin 1:00 pm 03/18/2010

    Because the standard of science reporting should be slightly above that of a report to a shareholders or boardroom meeting?? – duckbill

    One of the problems is that an officer or director of a company can be held liable for false and misleading statements in a shareholders report. That same standard unfortunately, does not exist in science.

    The scientist is free to say "All that stuff I said?…Nevermind" and there are minimal consequences. Now this may not really be a bad thing as major consequences would stifle innovation and research, but all in, I’d think that the legal liability of their statements are more of a concern to CEO’s than scientists.

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  32. 32. Sisko 5:55 pm 03/18/2010

    David- Would you agree that there is the "science" of whether the world is warming, and there is "conjecture" (often by scientists and others) regarding the impact of that warming.

    The vast majority of "scientists" agree that the data shows the world is somewhat warmer, but there is wide debate regarding the degree of human impact that caused that warming. What is almost pure conjecture at this point is the negative/or positive impact upon humanity of a warmer planet.

    PLEASE, someone point to any highly reliable model that demonstrates the impact of a warmer planet to humans. I do not believe it exsists and that we are overreacting to the carbon issue.

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  33. 33. kcrichmond 7:58 pm 03/18/2010

    Let this skeptic offer an AGW explanation that we poorly beframed commoners might grasp.

    The earth, rotating on its axis, heats and cools every 24 hours. But why does it cool so little? That’s because greenhouse gases absorb infrared light (heat) from the sun and catch heat radiated from the earth’s surface. These greenhouse gases give up heat slowly enough that air temperatures drop only slightly in the few hours of darkness. The amount lost is gained back during the day, maintaining temperate climates year-round at lower latitudes. Without greenhouse gases, we would live in a cold, miserable place. Now lets say one greenhouse gas becomes more prevalent and rises 50% from 250 ppm to 375 ppm. This is, of course, what has happened with CO2. No doubt, the earth’s temperature would rise as the atmosphere retains more heat than it gives back at night.

    Simple enough? So here are some questions we commoners might ask.

    Q: How much has the earth warmed?
    A: A degree or so since 1870.
    Q: How do you know this?
    A: We compare measurements taken around the world.
    Q: How do you know they are accurate?
    A: We have tools and models for determining such things.
    Q: What would the earths temperature be if the atmosphere had no CO2?
    A: Without greenhouse gases, it would be colder by about 30 degrees Celsius. CO2 contributes between 9 and 26% of the "greenhouse effect."
    Q:. So why has a 50% increase in CO2 triggered only a 1 degree increase?
    A: Were not sure.
    Q: Could that be because the heat is already being absorbed by other gases?
    A: Yes. But even a small increase in temperature may trigger positive feedback mechanisms that will trigger runaway global warming.
    Q. Where would the heat come from if it is already being absorbed?
    A: More heat would be retained. The oceans would get warmer. The ice caps would melt and less light would be reflected, trapping more heat in the oceans and so forth. In turn, warmer water holds less CO2, thus making the air even more heat trapping.
    Q:. When air warms, it rises. Doesn’t that take the heat away from the ocean? How could rising air warm an ocean? Wouldnt that be a negative feedback mechanism?
    A: Perhaps, but we believe the negative feedback is too small to counteract the positive feedback mechanisms. These are complicated processes we do not quite understand.
    Q: Are the oceans getting warmer?
    A: We have found several warmer places.
    Q. How do you know that the era before thermometers was not equally warm?
    A: We use what is known as proxy data such as tree rings. Tree ring studies show it was colder.
    Q. Do the tree rings show that the earth is getting warmer now?
    A: Well, actually they suggest it is getting cooler.

    Gulp! The AGW crowd better stick with poorly framed science. They suffer from exposure.

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  34. 34. ValsSpeak 8:52 pm 03/18/2010

    Fossil fuel was not invented by greedy corporations but by homo erectus about 1.5 million years ago when he threw some dry branches on a fire whose source was probably a lightning strike on combustible vegetation in the wild. Today about 7 billion homo sapiens depend on energy supplied by a fossil fuel infrastructure tapping into petroleum, coal and natural gas. About 20 years ago, Climate Science took a bite from the apple plucked from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and discovered for the first time that our original species-specific sin consisted in nothing more than keeping the firewood comin’ all those years. If our survival depends on eradicating man made carbon emissions over the next decade or two; if the fossil fuel infrastructure that blankets the planet must be uprooted that we may live, then we are doomed. Gore have mercy upon us.

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  35. 35. ValsSpeak 9:06 pm 03/18/2010

    Fossil fuel was not invented by greedy corporations. It was invented about 1.5 million years ago by Homo erectus when he threw some dry branches on a fire whose source was probably a lightning strike on combustible vegetation. Today almost 7 billion Homo sapiens depend on energy from the fossil fuel infrastructure supplied by coal, petroleum and natural gas.

    About 20 years ago, Climate Science took a bite from the apple plucked from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and discovered that our species-specific original sin consisted in nothing more than keeping the firewood comin’ down through the ages. If our survival depends on eradicating carbon emissions; If we must uproot the fossil fuel infrastructure that blankets the planet over the next decade or two so that humankind may live, then we are doomed. Gore have mercy upon us.

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  36. 36. david_burress 12:55 am 03/19/2010

    Sisko-
    I generally refrain from direct discussion with people who do not disclose their real identities. Scientific authority depends deeply on reputation and accountability, which in turn depends on identifying yourself. Anonymous smoke bombers simply do not deserve the respect due to real scientists.

    David Burress

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  37. 37. ian hilliar 12:59 am 03/19/2010

    to Aaron Huertas,at the "Union of Concerned Scientists"-might I suggest you add "Silencing Science" ,by Steve Milloy and Mike Gough to your suggested reading list. Try reading it yourself, too. It has something your suggestions lack-a sense of humour.

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  38. 38. ian hilliar 1:21 am 03/19/2010

    to David Burress- another discrepancy for your laundry list-the Greenland GISP2 Ice Core shows the recent warming,coming out of the little ice age [which was the most protracted cold period in the last 10000 years,], as tiny, when compared to the much warmer MWP. The MWP ,of course, was not as warm as the Roman Warming, which in turn was not as warm as the Minoan warming 3500 ears ago.There were also 2 orther warm spikes at 7000 years ago and 8000 years ago,which were both as warm as the Minoan warm period.None of these sudden and "extreme"warming spikes led to any "tipping points", as we are all here. I firmly believe that ‘climate scientists’ should be physically forced to study history. In Australia,we are battening down for a federal election , and the Rudd govt is mobilizing its pet scientists to reframe the argument as they desperately need the tax revenue from cap and trade to pay off their ‘stimulus spending’. It is no longer about the science-this is politics.

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  39. 39. feralfriend 8:56 am 03/19/2010

    There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being a skeptic except when the skepticism holds back concerted action that could make the difference between human survival and extinction. The data may never be enough to convince certain skeptics. What is needed besides laying out the facts as clearly and honestly as possible is to instill the moral sensibility that moves an individual to err on the side of caution when it comes to the survival of human life and the other life forms that evolved with us over the eons. I would not play with the life and health of my child the way these skeptics approach the condition of the planet. The question is not so much about the right facts but the right state of mind. If caring were part of the mix, then erring on the side of caution would be a legitimate choice — for anyone. After all, the consequences of a massive switch global shift to renewable energy has no down side. All you get is energy independence, clean air and water and a sigh of relief. On the other hand, the consequences of doing nothing or business as usual, if the scenarios of computer modeling and climate action proponents are correct, are simply not an option. To a caring mind there is no choice but to act in the swiftest, most comprehensive way to avert this potential catastrophe. I say potential in the sense that we are in the midst of an explosion in slow motion. The climate crisis is bit by bit wiping out habitat for humans and other species. You can’t prove the climate crisis the way you can prove an atomic blast. You can only prove it in hindsight, and that prospect is unthinkable.

    The behavioral sciences have every reason now to be involved. Scientists such as Paul Ehrlich are dumbfounded as to why governments have not responded to the alarm the facts have been sounding for decades. It’s the most dangerous form of denial the Earth has ever known. Theologians politely call it moral blindness, although the new Pope is calling it Sin. I call it a lack of love, a kind of narcissism that hitches the fate of the Earth on one’s hallowed skepticism. Better get a heart, skeptics.

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  40. 40. Sisko 9:39 am 03/19/2010

    David– you response makes you appear to be a bit of a pompous "asx".
    The fact is no one who believes that a warmer planet is bad can point to any highly reliable model that demonstrates the impact of a warmer planet to humans. I do not believe it exsists and that we are overreacting to the carbon issue.

    Link to this
  41. 41. Sisko 12:17 pm 03/19/2010

    I am not doubting that the planet is currently somewhat warmer than in recent history. I also believe it reasonable that humans have had an impact on the climate although I do not think there is any agreement on the degree of human impact.

    What I do not understand is the rush to eliminate the release of carbon when there is virtually no reliable data that shows that a warmer planet is bad. If your primary concern is that sea levels will rise? Are you aware that current sea levels are near to their historical lows when looked at over a period of 500 M years? Sea levels WILL rise independent of human actions based upon a historical analysis. (please look up either the Hallam or Exxon sea level curves. Both highly respected sources for long term sea level data)

    So, since this potential sea level rise will happen over a period of many decades, will eventually happen in any case, and can actually be of a benefit to humanity overall…why the huge worry??? Do you believe that by some human action the we can maintain the environment as it is currently?

    Link to this
  42. 42. outsidethebox 12:41 pm 03/19/2010

    This discussion started out by noting a conference where people thought they had essentially a PR problem in selling AGW. Indeed they do, but once again they have misunderstood the nature of the problem.
    Americans used to look at scientists, as a class, sort of like scientists might look at say a mass spectrometer. Given proper maintenance and calibration they are going to believe results because the machine does not "have a point of view". The public used to believe that of scientists, but no longer does. If you can’t trust the people who bring you the data, believing in the data is not going to happen. That trust is as unlikely to return as $15 oil.

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  43. 43. ValsSpeak 3:05 pm 03/19/2010

    It may be helpful to clarify a clear distinction between two key variables driving the "Global Warming Debate." The distinction should be made between that of "understanding" and "belief." Most educated people "understand" the science of global warming whose principles and processes are easily grasped. The vast majority, however, do not "believe" that the long-term consequences will materialize on the catastrophic global scale predicted. Folks look out the window and see that not much has changed over the pat 20 years since these arcane warnings were first sounded. Sure, some hillside potato farmers in Peru have suffered crop failures, some distant ice sheets and glaciers have melted back but the wheat fields of Kansas and the Statue of Liberty in New York still abide in the beautiful light of a May morning. Who can become alarmed over vague prophecies that might come to pass 20, 40, 80 years in the future which, for the time being, seem to partake more of a quasi-religious, quasi-scientic squabble between environmentalists and heretical "deniers"- than anything to do with hard scientific fact.

    The time has come for scientists to stop redoubling their efforts to explain the science of global warming to the public. We get it already. Enough already. Instead, scientists should start developing carbon-neutral renewable energy resources that are efficient, affordable and effective on a global economy of scale. Solar photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, battery powered cars and scam-prone cap-and-trade programs together do not comprise a viable alternative to the fossil fuel infrastructure that currently supplies energy to most of the planet’s 7 billion inhabitants.

    Link to this
  44. 44. RxCowboy 5:46 pm 03/19/2010

    "Winning converts." Pretty much says it all.

    Link to this
  45. 45. garyonthenet 10:51 am 03/22/2010

    Because they are Scientists, not marketers.
    Their job is to inform, not sell.

    Link to this
  46. 46. sdcougar 1:40 pm 03/27/2010

    Part of the present ‘framing’ has been to label CO2 as "pollution." What scientist can agree with that?

    Now, if the eco-facists would only start worrying about real pollution, like this [instead of inventing frauds]:
    http://www.chinahush.com/2009/10/21/amazing-pictures-pollution-in-china/

    Link to this
  47. 47. sang_froid 2:00 pm 03/29/2010

    Saying climate change ‘skeptics’ are naive is a sort of name calling that doesn’t do anything other than to show your ignorance. Climate change and global warming are two entirely different ideas and most of us do not deny or agree that either is occurring. Perhaps they are and perhaps they are not. What the real debate is – if indeed it is occurring – is
    what is causing it? Man may- or may not – be causing a very small part in it but definitely not significantly so. Rather then propose ways to stop ‘global warming’ or stop ‘climate change’ – a feat that is far beyond our current technology to do so, we should be learning and developing ways to cope with it – something mankind has been doing for thousands of years – and believe it or not – has survived!

    I am not opposed to curbing the burning of coal or oil – but for different reasons. I prefer clean, unpolluted air to breathe and it is something the people can see, smell and feel – and understand.

    Get off your grandstanding podium and push for something we can accomplish for a real reason. Remember, a mere hiccup from the sun can incinerate this earth. Or, if mankind is wiped – due to its stupidity in not sensing the real problems – the earth will continue to evolve and new species will arrive and perhaps a smarter living specimen will learn to live on this earth!

    Link to this
  48. 48. ljmorris 10:43 pm 04/15/2010

    03/16/10
    In reply to Dr Physics, 03/16/10: With respect to your second paragraph "…a fair amount of evidence…." I would urge you to read:
    Ian Plimer, 2009: "Heaven & Earth", subtitled "Global Warming: The Missing Science", Connor Court Publishing, ISBN 9781921421198 (Hdbk) or &1943 (Pbk).

    It is not an easy read but there is a discussion of a large body of evidence that either demonstrates that CO2 is being wrongly targeted as the culprit for CT, or that at least the problem is as yet extremely poorly understood.

    I have the strongly-held view that whatever actions are taken by World Governments (either in concert or individually) as remedial must be practically and economically reversible; particularly any solution such as Cap & Trade (C&T) that appears will inevitably end up being run by Wall Street & it’s international counterparts. Once any such scheme gets established it will be irreversible, even by Governments (possibly excepting China).

    It seems probable that if CO2 ends up being innocent an established C&T scheme (or a carbon tax, or other arrangement where any powerful sector will become "addicted" to the revenue stream) will have exhausted the financial ability or the will of the population to change tack to address (say) solar variation.

    Link to this
  49. 49. ljmorris 10:57 pm 04/15/2010

    In reply to Dr Physics, 03/16/10:
    With respect to your second para "…while there is a fair amount of evidence…." I urge you to read:
    Ian Plimer, 2009: "Heaven & Earth", subtitled "Global Warming: The Missing Science", Connor Court Publishing, ISBN 9781921421198 (Hdbk) or …1943 (Pbk).
    It is not an easy read but there is a discussion of a large body of evidence that either demonstrates that CO2 is being wrongly targeted as the culprit for CT, or that at least the problem is as yet extremely poorly understood.
    I have the strongly-held view that whatever actions are taken by World Governments (either in concert or individually) as remedial must be practically and economically reversible; particularly any solution such as Cap & Trade (C&T) that appears will inevitably end up being run by Wall Street & it’s international counterparts. Once any such scheme gets established it will be irreversible, even by Governments (possibly excepting China).
    It seems probable that if CO2 ends up being innocent an established C&T scheme (or a carbon tax, or other arrangement where any powerful sector will become "addicted" to the revenue stream) will have exhausted the financial ability or the will of the population to change tack to address (say) solar variation.

    Link to this
  50. 50. ...sleeprunning... 7:14 pm 06/23/2010

    Here’s our understanding:
    - Global warming is a done deal. It was set in motion decades/centuries ago and is on autopilot. Deck chairs on the Titanic anyone.
    - Our minds have no ability to even describe the factors let alone effect a change. The operative word is "blowback" folks.
    - Continued warming will largely come from the billions, that’s plural, of brand new hungry consumers craving SUV’s and styrofoam coffee cups in China, India and assorted Muslim countries.

    Plus, we’ll all be dead "soon." And that’s the good news.

    Remember the Black Death in the Gulf is a SYMPTOM. Not the problem well their are innumerable. Soon to be 10B+++

    Link to this

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