Where are the rock stars of climatology?

There’s an advertising feature in the latest GQ that champions 17 “Rock Stars of Science.” Each ad includes a genuine rock music star alongside three or four genuine scientists, some Nobel laureates among them. The idea is to make science sexy.

i-7ba544e0ad05e5cfedcf0ec83db4f730-RSOSad.jpgWill it work? Chris Mooney, co-author of Unscientific America, is one of the minds behind the campaign. if you want to know more about it, head on over to his Intersection blog, where he writes about the risks of the project:

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What to do with the climate denial zombies

My first reaction to the papier du jour among climate communications activists was “meh.” It’s not that Chris Mooney’s latest ruminations on the gap between what the public thinks about scientific issues and what scientists have to say isn’t worth reading. It’s just that we’ve been down this road so many times now, the standards of what passes for new and remarkable are getting rather high.

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The credibility factor

ResearchBlogging.orgThe more peer-reviewed papers a climatologist has published and the more often those papers are cited, the more likely it is that the researcher supports the science underpinning anthropogenic climate change (ACC). That’s the conclusion of a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This comes as absolutely no surprise to anyone working in or following the field. But scientists like to put numbers to things, and the paper, “Expert credibility in climate change” does a pretty good job of doing just that.
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Oops. The Sunday Times apologizes

Few stories about climatology generated as much attention, positive and negative as one by Jonathan Leake in London’s Sunday Times back in January. “UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim” claimed that references to threats to the Amazon rainforest from global warming were “based on an unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners who had little scientific expertise.” As pretty much anyone without an ulterior motive who bothered to look into the matter quickly discovered, that wasn’t true. Now, more than five months later, the Times has apologized for the story.

Joe at Climate Progress and Gavin at Real Climate have all the details.

The most interesting part of the apology, from my perspective as a former editor, is this:

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Obama’s speech

The most intelligent thing I’ve read so far about Obama’s speech Tuesday night, the one that included not a single mention of climate change, comes from Ezra Klein at the Washington Post. He’s talking about the assumption that fear doesn’t motivation people, only inspiration does.

But that strikes me as depressing evidence of how unlikely we are to succeed. I simply don’t believe you could’ve passed health care if you couldn’t have talked about covering the uninsured, and I don’t think stimulus would’ve worked without the spur of the unemployed. It’s not that people wanted to hear about either subject all day, but they got both problems on a visceral enough level that the action being taken at least made a sort of sense.

Making climate change visceral to the U.S. public is the challenge, to be sure.

The climate consensus: How to take a quote out of context

In a desperate bid to help staunch the propagation of a particularly insidious meme, I offer this attempt to help clear up any confusion:

Mike Hulme and Martin Mahony of the School of Environmental Sciences University at East Anglia have a paper forthcoming in Progress in Physical Geography that explores the IPCC, “its origins and mandate; its disciplinary and geographical expertise; its governance and organisational learning; consensus and its representation of uncertainty; and its wider impact and influence on knowledge production, public discourse and policy development.”

The paper does not say that only a few dozen scientists support the idea that humans are warming the planet, no matter what blogger claims. Thanks to a certain columnist at Canada’s National Post, the notion that a leading climatologist would say just that in a peer-reviewed paper is making the rounds.

Here’s what it does say:
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Beyond Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and Mirrors:
Climate Change and Energy in the 21st Century

By Burton Richter
Cambridge University Press, 218 pages.

Do we really another book summarizing the science of climate change and the available response options? Sure. Why not? What’s the harm? In this era of hyperfractionated audiences and echo-chambers, there’s no such thing as too many arrows in our collective quiver. This one, by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Burton Richter, doesn’t contribute anything new. But at this point in the conversation, there’s not much new to contribute, just novel approaches to making the argument that we can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing for much longer without trashing the planet.

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The (not-so) Great Beeville Science Fair Hoax

There’s a small community of bloggers and activists who spent the weekend scratching their collective heads in hopes of figuring out what was behind a story that came out of a little place called Beeville, Texas. Last week word came from a local paper than a fourth-grader had won a “National Science Fair” prize by “Disproving Global Warming.”

The story immediately drew skeptical analysis, as there hasn’t been a “National Science Fair” for some time. More curious was the notion that a fourth-grader could manage to do what thousands of climatologists who make their living trying to find holes in each other’s research couldn’t.

Well, thanks to the diligence of “In it for the Gold’ blogger Michael Tobis, we are starting to get an idea what happened. As suspected the notion that Earth is not warming did not beat out “50,000 other projects submitted by students from all over the U.S.”

Believe it or not, it looks like someone faked a National Science Foundation letter, plaque, medal and trophy and sent them to the young student’s family, who then alerted the principal at their daughter’s school. The principal called the Beeville Bee-Picayune (yes, that’s the paper’s name), which assigned a rookie reporter to cover the news.

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Same old same old in the denialsphere

ResearchBlogging.orgMuch has been written of late about the nature of denialism. New Scientist a couple of issues back produced a special report on the subject, for example, and the New Humanist explores the idea of “unreasonable doubt.”

There’s plenty more out there. The most provocative I’ve come across (thanks to Joss Garman via DeSmog Blog’s Brendan DeMelle) is a 2009 paper in the journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics by Jeroen van Dongen of the Institute for History and Foundations of Science at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. His thesis is ideologically based denialism of science has a long pedigree, and he begins his paper with this quote from Albert Einstein:

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Matt Ridley and the Holocene Optimum

If the title of Matt Ridley’s new book, The Rational Optimist, sounds a little familiar, that’s because it borrows heavily from the world view of one Bjorn “The Skeptical Environmentalist” Lomborg. Both contrarians dismiss global warming as nothing to worry about, although Ridley seems even less convinced that the planet is actually experiencing anthropogenic global warming. I don’t have time to read it — but I did manage to take a look at the kind of thinking that Ridley uses at his blog.

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