[ RadSafe ] "overwhelming" number of scientists andclimatechange

Karen Street Karen_Street at sbcglobal.net
Fri Jul 27 18:22:27 CDT 2012

In any group, there is always a challenge when someone attacks science and scientists. In a group that considers itself science-based, the challenge may be greater. In my presentations, although not in the blog post (http://theenergycollective.com/karenstreet/96306/using-insights-social-science-presentations-climate-change), I observe that people on both the right and the left attack UN science organizations because they don't like what scientists say. (Many on the right attack Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and some on the left attack International Atomic Energy Agency and World Health Organization.) Calling scientists in climatology and related fields self-absorbed, claiming that they are jumping to conclusions... We have all heard claims from both the right and the left and every other political viewpoint that scientists lack the integrity of the speaker, the intelligence, the thoughtfulness, the morality. Social scientists describe this as people establishing that they are good and trustworthy members of the group. However, in a group like this list, you may want to reconsider.

The public discussion is irrelevant to me in understanding science. I have yet to see one member of the public give his (so far it's about 24 males and 2 females who describe themselves as skeptics/deniers who have written to me or responded in various ways) understanding of how fast Earth is heating, and what could be the mechanism beyond "natural" (except for one person who talked about regional effects). There are problems among those who accept the scientific consensus as well, but a great many have the ability to articulate a scenario. I go to neither group for my understanding. Why do so many bring it up? Is it because of the appeal of the Heartland argument, that because Manson believes in climate change, gravity, and evolution, none of these are possible? 

Someone wrote me to say essentially that climate change is a Democratic position, and that there was a bad movie (The Day After Tomorrow) so he doesn't accept scientific consensus. Kerry Emanuel (http://www.pointofinquiry.org/kerry_emanuel_conservative_for_climate_science/), a Republican for decades, doesn't see science as a Democratic position, and he's not the only one. 

Another wrote to say that scientists are going with their prejudices (and he apparently is not). Yet scientists for the most part do not belong to the same cultural worldview as those belonging to Greenpeace. And national security types, who now list climate change as one of the three most important national security issues, definitely do not belong to the Greenpeace worldview. Yet both these groups have been persuaded by the evidence that their knee-jerk reaction was wrong.

There are fields of science that have problems, eg medicine. For example, there was one field of medicine in which none of 50 peer-reviewed papers made it past the 2nd layer of review. In the field of biodiversity loss, it was my sense that by the 1990s, everyone in the field predicted large-scale species die-off this century, yet it was a decade+ before these predictions got past the review of scientists from outside the field and began appearing at higher levels of peer review. 

Dan, I am curious about a number of your statements. I have been paying attention to climate change since 1995, and it has never been my sense that the public discussion begins to rival the scientific discussion in either quantity or intensity. Can you tell me why you believe the discussion is being driven by politics and the media? What do you mean by politics? It is my sense that politicians are ignoring the subject. Actually, it's everyone's sense.

You say that grants for research are controlled by political forces, an accusation that arose during the Bush Administration and struck most of us as improbable at best. Could you explain what you mean?

You begin with a knee-jerk response. Well, don't we all (eg, see culturalcognition.net or Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind or...). What is interesting to me is that you haven't explored whether your first response is accurate. Social scientists say few people do, we mostly use motivated reasoning, confirming with like-minded people the "truth" of our gut reaction, and find sources that agree. We can see this in the quality of the argument coming from skeptics/deniers in that they do not even bother to create a description of what is happening (Is Earth warming, and at what rate? What are the mechanisms?), but use arguments that work only for like-minded people. It seems to me that scientists working with IPCC, about 900 pages on each of the science (Working Group 1) and the impacts (WG2), and another 800 pages on mitigation (WG3), have put some time and effort into explaining what is known, and how well, and what remains poorly understood. You attack those who begin the debate not with scientists but with the public, although, so far as I know, the only ones doing that are skeptics/deniers publishing in places like the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page.

I intend to drink some tea, I really am sick of peppermint (and this cold, ugh) and love Irish tea, but I am so puzzled by all of your message except the tea recommendation. What do you A) mean that the "body of work" has become possibly jaded, and B) do you have any evidence beyond your knee-jerk response? Is it your sense that the many hundreds of pages in each of WG1 and WG2 don't have huge amounts of physics (back to the mid-19th century for greenhouse gases), geology, chemistry, paleoclimatology, etc, etc, etc behind them? And of course I don't have any idea how much longer you expect to live, but so far as the body of scientists is concerned, the basics are solved, and we are seeing climate change, with the clear fingerprint of greenhouse gases (in the greater warming in the night and winter, for example, and changes in the tropopause).

To those who have written your support, or who have written your understanding to me without attacking scientists or anyone else, thank you.

Re the "of course Greenland melts in the summer" group of emails, um, NASA scientists are aware that Greenland melts in the summer. What is unprecedented is the extent, 97% of the surface melting during one hot spell. 

On Jul 27, 2012, at 1:25 PM, <franz.schoenhofer at chello.at> wrote:

> Grant and RADSAFErs,, 
> .I wholeheartedly share your opinion!
> I do not know or remember how long you have been on RADSAFE. If you have been long enough you sure have recognized, that Dan is one of the most knowleagable persons on the list, combining scientific knowledge with excellent skills to explain even complicated topics. His knowledge is extremely widespread, which is confirmed by his many different activities. He is obviously a person who - as we say in German - is "standing with both feet on the ground" - notice his love for horses and hunting. 
> However there is one thing I deeply regret, namely that we never met personally when he was working at the IAEA in Vienna. Such is life! As somebody who fell in love with the US South West decades ago and visited several, rather many times the US South West I would not mind to visit him in Los Alamos, but my right knee should be repaired by replacing it with an artificial one in the near future.
> So I had to cancel my intended participation in an interesting conference in Colorado in fall this year. 
> BTW, Dan has not bribed me for this "hymn"! If we ever make it to meet I hope that we share some beers together!
> I prefer RASAFE with a human touch.
> Franz
> ---- Grant Wilton <grw1955 at yahoo.com> schrieb:
>> This is the most intelligent assessment of the "climate change" debate to be into words!
> Grant R. Wilton
> Science Person
> ________________________________
> From: Dan McCarn <hotgreenchile at gmail.com>
> To: Karen Street <Karen_Street at sbcglobal.net>; The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List <radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu> 
> Sent: Friday, July 27, 2012 1:03 PM
> Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] "overwhelming" number of scientists andclimatechange
> Hi Karen:
> Whenever an issue is primarily driven by politics & media, I become
> distrustful of all statements.  Since the "climate change" debate started,
> it has been far less about science and more in convincing the masses via
> the media. If I had to do geology that way, I would have chosen a different
> career path.  I'm pretty good with a horse & rope and handling cattle...
> perhaps I would have been a better cowboy.
> Because of the politics, the open exchange of scientific information in the
> subject of climate change has been strangely altered.  Grants for research
> are in part controlled by political forces, and so the "body of work" has
> become possibly jaded.  No wonder that the debate is so vociferous and
> journalists & politicians seem to write & say more than bona fide "good
> faith" scientists.
> Science doesn't lend itself well to media "Sound Bites".
> My first, knee-jerk response is skepticism to absolutist statements,
> especially about the aggregate opinions of a bunch of self-absorbed
> scientists.  It only takes one scientist to be right. In that, "science" as
> a discipline is replete with examples of "jumping to conclusions" followed
> by the more skeptical, bona fide research of those interested in the data
> and facts, when their voices are allowed.  These scientists face a dual
> audience these days - but instead of their peers being the first line of
> argument, it is now a debate first with non-peers, that of the media, with
> journalists & politicians who have no training in that specialty, but are
> full of strangely arrogant opinions.
> Karen, it is very hard to prognosticate or guess at future events
> especially in complex systems.  Perhaps we will know more conclusively in
> our lifetimes, but, in my opinion, likely not.  I believe that this is one
> of those debates that only time will reveal what truth there is in the
> various arguments.
> Try a good, strong Irish Tea... Those ginger-haired Irish know a good tea!
> Best regards,
> Dan ii
> On Wed, Jul 25, 2012 at 5:56 PM, Karen Street <Karen_Street at sbcglobal.net>wrote:
>> Troll? OK, this is continuing, so with Jeff's indulgence....
>> Note: I use the term scientist in its most narrow sense, for people with
>> PhDs who do research that results in peer review publication in the field
>> being discussed.
>> I came on this list because I had questions about things nuclear after
>> Fukushima. I became pro-nuclear in 1995 while writing a paper for a writing
>> class, after losing a lot of my hearing so I could no longer teach physics.
>> (I now have cochlear implants.) I thought nuclear and coal probably equally
>> bad, and was unconcerned about climate change, but am grateful that I never
>> made public announcements, never said, "it's the sun" until after I began
>> reading. The sources of web information on nuclear power at that time were
>> environmental types, and physicists. I never encountered anyone who was
>> pro-nuclear who was not an academic type until much later. The pro-nuclear
>> scientists I read said that much more important than air pollution was
>> climate change. I read much more about both.
>> I began presenting on and writing about nuclear power as I went
>> increasingly deaf, and then began to do even more as I began to hear again
>> after becoming bionic. I learned very quickly that for perhaps 3/4 of the
>> audience, the facts don't matter. Many have no way to communicate their
>> opposition to nuclear power, they often aren't articulate (eg, many say,
>> what about nuclear waste? and I ask, what about nuclear waste? and most
>> can't answer). And the facts really don't matter.
>> I do presentations on climate change and nuclear power. I provided this
>> group a link to a blog post that describes how effective inclusion of what
>> social scientists say about why we don't listen to the facts is to helping
>> people listen to the facts, at least in these two presentations. Since
>> frustration is frequently expressed on this list about people who get the
>> facts wrong, I thought that this process might be of interest to some on
>> the list.
>> It immediately degenerated into, "climate change isn't happening and the
>> causes are natural". I've seen similar posts a number of times in the year
>> or so I've been on the list. Social scientists say that most people use
>> reasoning on controversial social issues to show that they are good and
>> trustworthy members of the group, much more often than to explore the
>> issues. Like so many lists, the set of acceptable topics expands (beyond
>> radiation safety in this case)—this list has allowed gratuitous attacks on
>> scientists and their work in a field that none of you, so far as I know,
>> have studied. (Yes, knowledge of geology and physics and such gives us the
>> background to understand some of the more complicated arguments, but that's
>> not a PhD and peer review work in climatology, and few of us have tested
>> our understanding with those in the field.) The overwhelming majority of
>> climate scientists have a number of agreements about what is understood and
>> how well after many decades of hard work, beginning during the US Civil
>> War, seeing what has survived serious and multiple challenges (
>> http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107). The attacks
>> came from people on this list with experience talking to like-minded
>> people. BTW, the PNAS paper was written after frequent and vicious attacks
>> on science and scientists.
>> I am curious what people believe about controversial social issues, in
>> part because I am genuinely interested in how people think, and I do change
>> my mind even on issues which I've thought about some and for which I have a
>> preferred answer. I don't expect to learn anything from anyone who
>> denies/is skeptical of scientific consensus, as I began with skepticism and
>> so read extensively and am now convinced, and because I am rarely impressed
>> by arguments which necessarily include the idea that scientists aren't as
>> intelligent, thoughtful, moral as ... When people on this list began their
>> attacks on scientists, I asked some very simple questions to see if they
>> could explain to me what they believed beyond, "the people in that group
>> are not moral, intelligent...." I heard from some of you on list, and 3
>> people contacted me off list, and I have now one partial answer. I don't
>> know, I can't recall the numbers, scientists don't/can't possibly
>> understand, the solutions cost too much, I don't like the kind of people
>> who believe in climate change, those who disagree with me are unwilling to
>> examine the issues—these aren't answers to the questions, OK, what is
>> happening then? and, What are the causes?
>> Franz, I hope that your sore threat improves and that the glass of wine at
>> ambient temperature helps/doesn't impair the process. I have a sore throat,
>> and am wondering if I too should open a bottle of wine..... I'm getting
>> sick of peppermint tea.
>>> RADSAFErs,
>>> Please forgive me!!!! I have no sour throat, but a sore one....... I
>> helped myself in the meantime with a glass of Spanish redwine at ambient
>> temperature. Good night!
>>> Franz
>>> ---- franz.schoenhofer at chello.at schrieb:
>>>> Jerry, Terry, Karen,
>>> I wondered the last days, whether I was on the right list - climate
>> change, global warming and the like instead of radiation protection,
>> nuclear energy (and the like). Karen seems to be a (polite) troll, because
>> she changes (again politely) the subject away from radiation protection.
>> She uses a lot of psychological tricks, like "I am curious what you believe
>> on global warming" and similar. If you really want to know my "opinion",
>> which does not count at all: I have no opinion, because I have (except
>> common sense) no knowledge about climatology nor paleoclimatology. Do you
>> or anybody else on this list believe that the climate will behave as  being
>> determined by an opinion poll????????This is absurd!!!!!!
>>> Jerry, as for your belief on having another beer: This is a very clever
>> decision and I would like to join  you, but unfortunatély I have in spite
>> of the high temperatur in Vienna a sour throat and this means I should not
>> drink any cold liquid - and a warm beer is the worst drink I can think
>> of!!!!!!!
>>> Cheers,
>>> Franz
>>> ---- Jerry Cohen <jjc105 at yahoo.com> schrieb:
>>>> Karen,, I am curious--how do we determine what the overwhelming number
>> of
>>> scientists believe  or not believe. Of the 100 or so scientisst who I
>> might
>>> personally know, almost all of them believe that concern over global
>> warming is
>>> nonsense. Of course, the number of scientisists who I might personally
>> know is a
>>> small frection of the total number, but I suspect it might be a
>> representative
>>> sample. Has anyone done a statistically valid survey on the subject?
>>> As to what do I believe-----
>>>     I believe I'll have another beer.
>>> ________________________________
>>> From: Karen Street <Karen_Street at sbcglobal.net>
>>> To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List
>>> <radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu>
>>> Sent: Tue, July 24, 2012 12:12:54 PM
>>> Subject: [ RadSafe ] since we're talking about climate change
>>> In the past and just now, people on this list who don't accept climate
>> change
>>> have posted that they don't accept climate change.
>>> I am curious as to what you do believe.
>>> Please avoid explaining that the overwhelming number of scientists are
>> wrong or
>>> read this or that this great scientist thinks other scientists are wrong.
>>> • Is Earth warming, and at what rate (in °C/decade)?
>>> • What is the cause? Don't use the word natural, but give particular
>> mechanisms,
>>> such as Earth is moving closer to the sun.
>>> When I ask climate skeptics/deniers these questions, it feels like
>> pulling teeth
>>> to get answers other than, "you're wrong, you child of Satan." Or the
>> ones about
>>> natural or scientists are just wrong or here is my scientist (inject
>> name of
>>> novelist or journalist) who disagrees.
>>> I really am curious.
> -- 
> Dan ii
> Dan W McCarn, Geologist

Best wishes, 
Karen Street
Friends Energy Project
blog http://pathsoflight.us/musing/index.php

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