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Politics and Knowledge: What to Do ? (1)

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 4:16 AM GMT on August 24, 2010

Politics and Knowledge: What to Do ? (1)

A few months ago a Republican candidate for State Office came to my office to talk about climate change. At the end of the hour he asked me how I thought we could advance beyond the current political state which is publicly characterized by, my word, tribalism – do you or do you not “believe” in climate change? Since I had recently posted an article on the subject (here), I had some semblance of an answer queued up. At one level the answer is “time,” but I will get back to that.

At the top of strategy was the realization by scientists that climate change was, now, a political issue, and that within the realm of the political culture, knowledge based “education” was not, first and foremost, the way forward. In fact, in many cases, the exposure of more knowledge, more “science,” was likely to have a negative effect, fueling the political turmoil, and damaging, more, the body of scientific knowledge. Nuance of the scientific literature adds to uncertainty, and all uncertainty can be used to build doubt, which is the goal of the political argument.

Climate change has been a political issue for many years, but the relative weight between “political issue” and “scientific issue” has changed. The fact that a political candidate came to my office is, perhaps, a measure of how political it has become. But there are more thorough and, do I dare, more scientific measures. As mentioned in an earlier blog, Anthony Leiserowitz and colleagues have been investigating how the public perceives climate change. Table 31 in this June 2010 presentation shows that Democrats are in a very small minority of those who are “Doubtful” or “Dismissive” of climate change. Republicans are in a slightly less distinct minority of those “Alarmed” or “Concerned” about climate change. The group who identified themselves as “Concerned” was the largest of six groups.

The majority of people who were “Alarmed” and “Concerned” about climate change identified themselves as Democrats. In the categories of “Doubtful” and “Dismissive” the largest group of people identified themselves as Republican, with a large percentage identifying themselves as Independent.

This quantifiable information supports the identification of climate change as a political issue and aligns climate change with the values associated with political affiliation. Hence, policy (and de facto commercial) interests and political values of taxation, regulation, energy, environment, conservation, etc. enter into how people think about climate change. For example, climate change means we have to change our reliance on fossil fuels, and if I make my living on fossil fuels, then I will likely be inclined to embrace the doubt that is the product of the political argument.

Once accepting that climate change is, publicly, a political issue more than a scientific issue, it is important to realize that this challenge to science-based motivation of policy and societal change is not unique to climate change. In a paper I have referred to many times before Liisa Antilla states in her conclusions (I refer you to the original paper for the references):

“The attack on climate science, observed Pollack (2003), replicates previous assaults on science, such as by the pesticide industry (DDT), coal-burning electric utilities (acid rain), and the chemical industry (effect of CFCs on stratospheric ozone). Furthermore, Nissani (1999, p. 37) stressed that the ‘phoney’ controversy surrounding anthropogenic climate change has been preceded by controversies on such issues as slavery, child labour, and civil rights. There have always been experts willing to back up a ‘profitably mistaken viewpoint’; there have always been efforts ‘to cover the issue in a thick fog of sophistry and uncertainty’ and to ‘unearth yet one more reason why the status quo is best for us’ (Nissani, 1999, p. 37–38).”

It is important to appreciate that the politicization of climate change is not unique because it means that there is not some piece of magic, something that we have being saying wrong, that if we say it correctly, more convincingly, with a preponderance of knowledge and rationality – if we say it correctly, then we can move forward. Also realizing that the climate change is not unique in its politicization allows us to depersonalize the attacks, which are sometimes highly personal (a tried and true political tactic).

The use of the heavy weight of scientific investigation in such a political argument, I assert, serves just as much to maintain the politically useful perception of the arrogance of scientists and elitism of education as it does to correct misconceptions. This continual flow of knowledge and education from scientists engaged in this political game fuels the words of those making the argument that there is a conspiracy to deny personal choice - forced vegetarianism, a breathing tax, small dangerous cars …

Never mind the fact, the evidence, that small cars are not distinguished by excess danger, this is not a game of knowledge, of facts. Though not specifically focused on climate change a recent paper by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler study The Persistence of Political Misconceptions. They find through case studies of a set of recent cases that the correction of incorrect information in polarized political issues did not lead to a rationalization of factual knowledge. In fact, they found that the correction of factually incorrect information could backfire, leading to more polarization. Quoting from their conclusions:

“As a result, the corrections fail to reduce misperceptions for the most committed participants. Even worse, they actually strengthen misperceptions among ideological subgroups in several cases.”

The realization and acceptance of climate change as a political issue that has a significant element of political values or ideology in how climate change is perceived has a profound influence on how we advance beyond the current political state. Notions that the way forward is simply a matter of communication are naïve. Yes, there is a subset of people that such information might influence; however, it will not convince those who have taken an explicit anti-climate change position. It will likely fuel them, amplify their message, with that also influencing those in middle ground open to influence. Not a simple case. The next articles will explore more aspects of the strategies for advancing the issues of climate change - What to do? What to do?


Pakistan: I am certain to maintain an interest in Pakistan far longer than the average disaster attention span. My youngest sister Elizabeth is in Peshawar so I keep an eye on the news. We remain at the start of this flood, and we are just beginning to realize the consequences. Attention to the Pakistan flood is a moral imperative, a humanitarian imperative, and a security imperative. (Pakistan Flooding: A Climate Disaster)

Here are some places that my sister has recommended for the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan. Organizations she sees.

Doctors Without Borders

The International Red Cross

MERLIN medical relief charity

U.S. State Department Recommended Charities

The mobile giving service mGive allows one to text the word "SWAT" to 50555. The text will result in a $10 donation to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Pakistan Flood Relief Effort.

Portlight Disaster Relief at Wunderground.com

Elizabeth says that it is better to send money to the organizations doing the relief work than to try to organize shipments of goods.

Figure 1. MODIS Image of Indus River on August 11, 2010 from NASA Earth Observatory. Follow the link to NASA sight for more images, including a pre-flood image of the same scene.

And here is

Faceted Search of Blogs at climateknowledge.org

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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110. crucilandia
11:02 PM GMT on August 31, 2010
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
108. crucilandia
10:53 PM GMT on August 31, 2010
cut paste google
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
106. crucilandia
9:45 PM GMT on August 31, 2010

the numbers are in the publications I mentioned. They were published in peer-reviewed journals. Get the numbers for youself and check the story.

I stated facts, with references, not given any opinion

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
104. crucilandia
8:10 PM GMT on August 31, 2010
regarding Michael's citation on arogonite

that paper shows explicitly that the acidification was due to melt water and much less due to co2 exchange

"the undersaturation of surface waters is a direct consequence of the recent and substantial increase in admixture of meltwater into the surface layer"

and secondly

it has been shown that the CO2 uptake capacity of the arctic ocean is limited and has almost reached its limitations. therefore, the ph effect due to co2 is also limited and will not proceed forward in time

Decrease in the CO2 Uptake Capacity in an Ice-Free Arctic Ocean Basin.

W.-J. Cai, L. Chen, B. Chen, Z. Gao, S. H. Lee, J. Chen, D. Pierrot, K. Sullivan, Y. Wang, X. Hu, et al. (2010)

Science 329, 556-559
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
103. sirmaelstrom
7:14 PM GMT on August 31, 2010
№ 98,101

Quoting MichaelSTL:
Oh, speaking of satellite temperatures, I calculate that August so far has an anomaly of +0.613, higher than the anomaly for July; this anomaly is corrected to the RSS anomaly, in other words, I averaged the daily anomalies for July and determined the difference from RSS, then used this same correction to get the August value, using the data here (the base period I used is 1998-2010, as that is what the data covers, which of course gets lower anomalies than 1979-1998). Also interesting is that the warming trend is +0.366°C per decade - yes, since 1998!

MichaelSTL is still using the Ch.4 temperatures from the UAH Discover site. As I noted in № 65, this data is flawed because of orbital drift of the NOAA-15 satellite. This is explained in the link below:

Daily Global Temperature Updates on the Discover Website: An Updated Tutorial

Again, here is an excerpt from the link:

The bottom line is this: You can rely ONLY upon two channels at the Discover “Temperature Trends” page:

(1) the “Aqua ch.5 v2” channel for global-average mid-tropospheric temperatures, from the AMSU on NASA’s Aqua satellite, and

(2) the “Sea Surface” temperatures, which are averaged over the global ice-free oceans (60N to 60S), from the AMSR-E instrument on Aqua.

Do not trust any of the other channels for temperature trend monitoring. This is because, while the Aqua satellite equatorial crossing time is kept very near 1:30 am and pm with periodic orbit maneuvers, the rest of the channels come from the NOAA-15 satellite whose equatorial crossing time has now drifted from its original 7:30 am/pm value in late 1998 to about 4:30 am/pm now.

This orbital drift makes the NOAA-15 channels (4 and 6) unusually warm, and is why those of you who have been monitoring channel 4 and 6 at the Discover site are seeing such warm temperatures.

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
100. martinitony
6:38 PM GMT on August 31, 2010
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:

Crucilandia the part I bolded in your statement is completely false. PH does NOT vary in the oceans as a whole by 0.2 points every day. That would require a net flux of half a trillion tons of CO2 in and out of the oceans every day!

Your statement is as dishonest as the Arctic ice volume graph you falsified and posted last June.

I'm thinking that Crucilandia was not suggesting what you are saying. Could it be that ph can vary dramatically in an area of the ocean day to day much as temperature could even though average global temperatures or average oceanic ph readings might not? Duh?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
99. crucilandia
5:41 PM GMT on August 31, 2010
Diurnal pH oscillations in surface waters of the Atlantic Ocean
C. D. McQuaid and K. H. Schütte

Naturwissenschaften Volume 71, Number 9, 475-476,
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
96. crucilandia
5:11 PM GMT on August 31, 2010

nothing important regarding the ph change and co2. The 0.2 ph untis decrease is nothing to the biota and ocean chemistry at the aloha region. ph varies in that range in a daily basis due to oscillation between photosynthesis and respiration.

where is the source of the graph? was it published? can't find it
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
93. martinitony
9:36 AM GMT on August 31, 2010
Joe's Hurricane predictions for 2010
I saw this back a few months ago. How's he doing so far?
Take a look at last paragraph.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
89. vince1
6:48 AM GMT on August 31, 2010
Quoting MichaelSTL:
America the Ignorant
Silly Things We Believe About Witches, Obama, and More

(they left out global warming though)

What a load of liberal tripe. The first 2 are already valid positions. You can believe mankind evolved from an ape that emanated from a primordial soup thanks to eons of years that have passed but don't expect that leap of faith from all of us. And Barry Soetoro has lied about so much...one only need to look at his Indonesian school registration to see what he was taught as a child. If you can find actual evidence where he has rescinded those beliefs, I would love to see it. A so-called "Christian" would not poke fun at the bible as he has done (the video evidence is on Youtube, as he disparages the Sermon on the Mount), nor would he mistakenly vacillate about his "Muslim faith" in an interview with Stephanopolus if it didn't exist. Finally, the healthcare "reform" necessarily creates a state of euthanasia by pulling away funding and giving it to the young. Less Medicare funding means decisions regarding quality of life will necessarily be made (i.e. denial of expensive surgery) by HHS (panels, if you will) with no recourse since Big Govt. will eventually hold the monopoly on insurance. So-called intellectuals are so ready to piss away liberty when Big Brother offers yet another expensive entitlement that promises comfort and safety...to hell with the mandate and a "reform" bill America can't afford.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
87. barfkoswill
12:19 AM GMT on August 31, 2010
And now some facts and real scientific evidence instead of conjecture......Link
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
85. martinitony
5:55 PM GMT on August 30, 2010
Is It the Sun?
This article addresses the notion that global warming is or isn't responsible for recent weather catastrophes. It does not suggest that global warming is or isn't caused by man or even the extent to which global warming exists.
It is written in layman's terms.
One thought that crossed my mind as I read it was related to the idea that some suggest that global warming is responsible for extreme weather events, colder snowier winters, hotter dryer summers and now the flooding that has taken place. I think the math doesn't work.
I am not the expert, as some of you and Professor Rood are, but I took a decent amount of math in college. I learned about continuous functions in some of those courses and I would suggest to you that whatever causes weather and therefore determines climate relates to weather as a continuous function. I can't prove it and wouldn't know where to begin. If I am correct, it would be hard to attribute such varied events to one cause, global warming.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

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Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.