Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Advice From teh Communicators

An evergreen across science communication is that scientists don't know how to communicate science.  Eli has confronted this issue before at the cost of ticking (permanently) off a bunch of communicators

. . .  a whole lot of other people appear to think that scientists are lousy communicators, and indeed, a whole lot of scientists agree and there are workshops, meetings and even, shudder, blogs, devoted to self improvement, or not. This goes into the file under missing the point.

It's not that scientists are or are not lousy communicators (say that and Eli will lock you in a room with Richard Alley for example), but that journalists are lousy communicators. It's their fucking (emphasis added) job and they are screwing it up to a fare-thee-well. It ain't just climate either. What journalists produce often makes the average cut and paste student paper blush with modesty
Well that, of course points to the communicators, who are not just journalists, and indeed some journalists are doing a good job communicating science, others, of course, not so much.  The not so much camp is dominated by the opinion communicators like Bret Stephens, like Matt King Coal Ridley, like James Didn't Read the Literature Delingpole and others.  The perversity of this is the New York Times, which hired at the same time Bret Stephens and Brad Palmer Plumer and now Lisa Friedman in addition to the esteemed Justin Gillis.  Of course what happens is the trio of reporters best stories get stepped on by the Opinion (don't have anything to do with us boss) Section's know nothings, the public hears cacophony, rolls eyes, decides nothing is settled, climate change is just a side show and moves on.

Of course, there are not just reporters, there are communications experts, the various deficit modelers and the cultural cognition folk and more.  Most of these are simply trying to cut themselves a piece of the pie.  RPJr when he was in the business was a great one for pie slicing.

ATTP has a recent comment on this based on a talk Doug McNeil gave.  And sums it up as
The environment can be difficult and challenging; we should try to say interesting things but also be careful of what we say; it should be relevant but not too complex; we should know the audience, and we should repeat the message.
As fate would have the June 2017 copy of APSNews came across Eli's mailbox (the Heartland Institute never set the Bunny so much as a cross word) and on the back page was an essay by Bill Foster, a member of the US House of Representatives and a PhD physicist who sums up science communication with this gem of advice
On the campaign trail, I learned that there is a long list of neurons that you have to deaden to convert a scientist's brain in to a politician's.  When you speak with voters, you must lead with conclusions rather than complex analysis of underlying evidence -- something that is very unnatural to a scientist.  You also have to repeat your main campaign message over and over again, since you will be lucky if a typical voter will hear you speak for a few seconds -- and those few seconds have to include your campaign message.

66 comments:

Mal Adapted said...

It's interesting about the NYTimes. The false balance on the Opinion pages ought to be hard to sustain following the publication of How G.O.P. Leaders Came to View Climate Change as Fake Science in the Political news section:

Republican lawmakers were moved along by a campaign carefully crafted by fossil fuel industry players, most notably Charles D. and David H. Koch, the Kansas-based billionaires who run a chain of refineries (which can process 600,000 barrels of crude oil per day) as well as a subsidiary that owns or operates 4,000 miles of pipelines that move crude oil.

No false balance there, no sir. Now that the NYT has let the cat out of the bag regarding the "campaign carefully crafted by fossil fuel industry players" to make AGW denial a requirement for republican politicians, can the likes of Ross Douthat continue to defend them in the same pages?

Bernard J. said...

Brere Eli ploughs a field that I've furrowed again and again with my own colleagues in the staff tea room, so I won't belabour his point. I'll follow up on Mal's comment though...

Listening to a large amount of the 'balance' that comes out of the BBC and the Australian ABC, it's clear that in these countries at least the promulgated notion of balance has nothing to do with any actual balance of fact. These media - and the politicians and the vested interests that lean on them - balance only their panderings to the extremes of society, and not to any valid alternative propositions in science or fact.

It's Fake Balance. And people have fallen for the notion hook, line, sinker, and we're-gonna-need-a-bigger-boat.

Victor Venema said...

People who claim that climate change denial is due to scientists not communicating right should explain why climate change denial is mostly an American problem.

(I would go for deep systemic corruption in the USA as a reasonable explanation for the difference between the USA and Europe. Systemic corruption is the business model of the fossil fuel industry.)

Canman said...

"False balance" is a bogus concept. When you have a polarized debate, it means one side characterizing and excluding the other side so they can't defend themselves. There's something deeply unfair about that and I suspect the public recognizes this and that's what your "communication problem" is.

Old_salt said...

Canman:
If it is the scientists that are politicizing the debate, why does the US House science committee (https://science.house.gov/) avoid actually allowing climate scientists to testify? Instead, they reach out to the same 4 or 5 individuals whom they know give testimony that backs their political view.

Jim Eager said...

Oh yes, cutting off the peddling of deliberately fabricated bullshit at the knees is just so deeply unfair.
Cry us a river cupcake.

Fernando Leanme said...

The key is to pick a subject and pound on it as hard as you can. For example, I picked on RCP8.5 and its designation as "Business as Usual" several years ago. I bombed it until the rubble bounced, and by now 97 % of people who know agree with my position. It's really satisfying to see Spanish university professors, who used to think I was a nutty neo liberal who hated the Castro dictatorship, putting out slides discussing the coming oil peak. Swish!

E. Swanson said...

FL, we used to have lots of fun at TheOilDrum.com discussing Peak Oil, especially as the price for oil approached $150 a bbl back in 2008. Some of the climate denialist who ran the site decided there was too much talk about AGW, etc and closed it down in 2013. It's still out there as an archive, with links to the articles which were posted, but all the discussions would be hard to follow. Of course, with the price of oil north of $100 a bbl, people began to conserve and fracking boomed, thus the price fell to around $40-50 a bbl. Peak Oil hasn't gone away, it's just hiding behind the boom.

You might find Ron Patterson's site: Peak Oil Barrel of interest, if you aren't already participating. WARNING, he's a firm believer in the dieoff problem...

Mal Adapted said...

Canman: "False balance" is a bogus concept.

Canman, I've yet to see a non-bogus comment from you on RR.

Man-in-a-can: that's what your "communication problem" is.

You are the communication problem, ManInCan. You are a useful idiot for that carefully crafted disinformation campaign funded by fossil fuel interests, mentioned in that NYT news article.

Note: it's news, not opinion. You can be sure all factual claims were rigorously checked before publishing it. You'll want to verify them independently, of course. Knock yourself out. For my part, I'm confident you'll do no such thing.

Presumably that's because the skilled professional disinformers hired for the AGW-denial campaign have "communicated" to you the notion that AGW is a casus belli for culture war. Did it also give you the idea that "Liberty" entails the right to socialize the marginal climate-change costs of your lifestyle, or did you come up with that on your own?

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

Im afraid it's slightly more complicted, Eli:

https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2017/06/an-honest-broker-isnt-afraid-to-say.html

Steve Bloom said...

Poor Fernando never understood the RCPs. He didn't want to, of course. Neo-gusano if anything.

Tom said...

Mal Adapted, you made it through an entire comment without declaring imminent extinction. Somewhat at Canman's expense, but I'm sure he's willing to take a hit for the team.

Doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooomed! We're dooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooomed!

Tom said...

So, Steve Bloom, I guess Fernando isn't welcome at the Sierra Club either?

Sadly for those you bilk money from, it is you who doesn't understand the accounting fiction of the Representative Concentration Pathways. But then, in 10 years of watching you snark around the internet, I haven't seen much sign of you understanding anything.

Steve Bloom said...

Senility setting in early, Tom? You actually don't remember when I set you straight about RCP 8.5 a few months ago (maybe even here)? I've also told you I haven't been active with the Sierra Club for quite some time, ironically for the approximately 10 years you claim to have been paying attention to me, but whatevs. (For the record, I was quite active for some years prior to that.)

I'll summarize it for the bunnies:

The RCPs are modeling benchmarks, *not* projections. Each is a single realization of a way by which the specified amount of forcing could be reached by 2100. Such specific pathways are needed for model intercomparison and for that purpose *don't need to be valid*. So rather than engaging in the pointless exercise of showing that any or all of the RCPs are unrealistic (since all of them are to varying degrees), we should consider the important question of whether the range of forcings selected is realistic, and in particular whether 8.5 represents a plausible worst-case. Sadly it does, although even worse seems to be possible.

Tom then asks what can possibly substitute for for all that fossil fuel carbon in RCP 8.5. Carbon feedbacks. Particularly worrying is the loss of tundra permafrost by fire. This summarizes the issue nicely. "The amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from this fire is equivalent to the amount of carbon stored by the global tundra biome."

That was regarding the first big fire; a second one happened two years ago in the Yukon delta. All we need for a lot more are some longer, hotter summers in the Arctic, a trend we already observe.

Related, see DeConto & Pollard (2013), which pins the start of the PETM to rapid loss of Antarctic permafrost carbon. What could possibly go wrong?

Steve Bloom said...

Here's a bonus something for luckwarrmers like Tom to not read.

"What unwelcome messages do we have to convey?

"‘There is not a politician on earth wants to tell his or her constituents, "We've probably already blown our chance to avoid substantial suffering, but if we work really hard and devote our lives to the cause, we can somewhat reduce the even worse suffering that awaits our grandchildren." [crowd roars]’ (Roberts 2015a). In international climate policy, a rise of 2°C above pre-industrial global mean temperature is widely considered to constitute unacceptably dangerous climate change (Jordan et al. 2014, Randalls 2011, Shaw 2014). Unless climate sensitivity turns out to be at the lower end of the current range of estimates, however, exceedance of this threshold is highly likely in coming decades. Temperature data gathered globally from January to September suggest that 2015 is highly likely to be the warmest year on record, and the first to breach 1°C above pre-industrial (Met Office 2015). On current emission trends, it is also increasingly likely that warming would not stop at 2°C, but continue to 4°C or even beyond if positive feedbacks take effect. Even relatively conservative institutions such as the World Bank (2012), the International Energy Agency (IEA 2013) and the international accountancy firm PWC (2014) have begun to warn of the dangers of, and urgent need to act to avoid, a rise of 4°C. The impacts brought by such a temperature rise - severe drought, unprecedented heat waves, and major floods in many regions, with serious impacts on ecosystems and associated services - are considered beyond adaptation in many cases (Klein et al. 2014), and widely viewed as ‘incompatible with a global organised community’ (Anderson and Bows 2011). The higher global temperatures rise, the more impacts are likely to be pervasive, systemic, and irreversible (Field et al. 2014, Smith et al. 2009). Although physical impacts will vary from country to country, and some may find impacts within their own borders relatively limited or in some cases even benign, in a highly globalised economy impacts of climate change will spread, affecting interdependent supply chains and flows of people and investment (Moser and Finzi Hart 2015)."

I haven't looked at the communication advice itself, but maybe it's even useful.

Mal Adapted said...

Mal Adapted, you made it through an entire comment without declaring imminent extinction. Somewhat at Canman's expense, but I'm sure he's willing to take a hit for the team.

Doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooomed! We're dooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooomed!


You, OTOH, introduced 'Doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom'! Tell us, Tom, what would 'doom' look like to you? Would the loss of home, livelihood and life for millions of people be doom to you? What about "only" thousands of people? Would a 5% die-off of the global human population be doom? Would 99.99%? That would leave 700,000 people alive, more than enough to re-populate the globe.

Your logical fallacy is strawman, Tom. Lots of people think AGW will result in disutility short of human extinction.

Steve Bloom said...

Mal, I have the impression that Tom has taken to depositing his guano and then departing before he sees any responses.

Tom said...

Mistaken as usual, Bloom. Just waiting for either of you to write something intelligent.

Jim Eager said...

As if Tom would know what intelligent looks like.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

"Tom. Lots of people think AGW will result in disutility short of human extinction."

It has taken Mal an awfully long time to conclude that the end of the world isn't what it used to be.

Steve Bloom said...

C'mon, Tom, it's obvious to everyone you've just been shown to have misunderstood something fundamental, rather ironic for the co-author of a book on the climate "debate," don't you think? Like Fernando, you do not learn, so I expect this isn't the last time you'll repeat that bullshit.

Tom said...

Faded bloom, I am among those who believe AGW will result in disutility short of distinction. Which is why I have nothing but contempt for those who seek to discredit climate science by crying doom. Or Bloom, for that matter.

Jim Eager said...

"I am among those who believe AGW will result in disutility short of distinction."

Which is the very definition of a luckwarmer.

So humanity, do the rest of you, like Tom, feel lucky? Well, do you?

Tom said...

Ah, you are so... eager... to insult, combat, display your appalling ignorance...

Jim, my child, be well and happy. And be... gone.

Mal Adapted said...

Russell Seitz / WTF is Bright Water?: It has taken Mal an awfully long time to conclude that the end of the world isn't what it used to be.

Russell, perhaps dazzled by bright water, has apparently mistaken me for someone else. Presumably like most, in childhood I concluded that "the world" is a big and complicated place, with several billion people in it besides myself; that catastrophe is in the eyes of the beholder; and although everyone's world ends with their own deaths, less personal and final events may still feel catastrophic to them. Again, presumably like most, somewhat later in life I concluded that personal financial losses are almost always at least annoying, and may feel catastrophic above a subjective threshold. AFAICT none of that's changed while I've been alive, as awfully long a time as that feels 8^(.

Now, of all the methods human culture has evolved for projecting the future of our big and complicated world, only science is demonstrably more skillful than haruspicy. Thus, while human extinction during the 21st century CE is currently outside scientific confidence limits, one may expect that aggregate losses attributable to AGW will grow, within confidence limits, for at least the next several decades. Setting aside aggregate personal grief caused by the contingent death and dislocation, corporate and personal financial liability may confidently be expected to total hundreds of billions to trillions $US globally. Whether that's catastrophic or not depends largely on whose money it is.

Yet the aggregate losses of other people can never subjectively amount to catastrophe for the lukewarmer, as long as his own losses do not. With apologies to John Dunne: the lukewarmer is undiminished by the extinction of countless species or anyone's death but his own, because he is involved neither in the Biosphere nor in mankind; and therefore ever sends to know for whom the climate bell tolls, while denying it tolls for him. Until his house gets washed away, flood insurance or no flood insurance.

Yeah, I went there. So sue me ;^D!

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

Look and weep at what has become of popular opinion in the wake of teh Communicators:
https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2017/06/but-on-reflection.html

Steve Bloom said...

Tommy, that's bold talk from a guy who's so insecure he felt the need to embellish his brief naval enlisted career. It's also yet another transparent dodge.

Steve Bloom said...

Also, "distinction"? Drunk posting again, Tommy?

Steve Bloom said...

Eli, a version of the communications mantra I've heard, not sure but maybe from a talk radio context, is: Tell, tell them what you just told them, then tell them again. The idea seems to be that 3 times in necessary and sufficient, but more than that too much.

Tom said...

Bloom, can't you get anything right?

Tell them what you're going to tell them.

Tell them.

Tell them what you just told them.

You really are... deficient in some way, aren't you?

Jim Eager said...

Oh Tom, that was just precious.
Why will go right over your head, I'm sure, but thanks so much for playing.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

Mal is sounding decreasingly like John Donne and more like John Podesta, but it has been a depressing week for high R value insulation and Green Refrigerant salesmen in merry old England:

https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2017/06/green-fire.html

David B Benson said...

Teh!

Steve Bloom said...

Still waiting for you to attempt to defend your wrong understanding of the RCPs, Tommy. Any time. But keep dodging; I'm sure everyone will be impressed.

Bernard J. said...

You're an intelligent man Russell. Can you spot the logical fallacy?

Tom said...

Ah, Bloom rhymes with doom and broom, plume and zoom

Now class, for today's mathematics lesson, please construct intermediate inputs to your climate model showing progress to the following totals. Each of you will be given a different total, so don't bother copying from your fellow students.

As an extra exercise in creative writing, please write a story imagining how the planet could achieve the final total, hitting the intermediate inputs you have calculated along the way.

Get to work, class! The four best projects will be elevated to the writ of holy law.

Mal Adapted said...

Tom: Ah, Bloom rhymes with doom and broom, plume and zoom

thank the good topic.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

Yes, Bernard- it was standing next to the squirrel a minute ago.

Steve Bloom said...

As expected Tommy falls back on an argument from personal incredulity, suitable for all topics, good and bad. Pathetic.

Tom said...

As usual, Bloomers (late or underwear?) fail to see that recitals are not argument. Arguments would presume far too much about the other party.

BBD said...

But you don't *have* an argument, Tom. All you do is deny the majority of the scientific evidence that points to a moderately sensitive climate system so you can peddle luckwarmerism. This kind of selective evidence denial is so close to lying as to be all-but indistinguishable from it.

Bernard J. said...

What squirrel, Russell?

Hank Roberts said...

Who is this "Tom" ? Anybody we should know?

BBD said...

Tom Fuller, co-author, with Steven Mosher, of this tripe and an inveterate peddler of luckwarm bollocks.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

What logical fallacy? - I really can't tell if the thread order or the squirrel ate it.

Meanwhile , here's Watt's latest commuication from Oz radio

https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2017/06/curry-down-under.html

Tom said...

Hey, thanks for the plug, BBD. That book is still selling 7 years down the road.

What temperature should bollocks be sold at?

BBD said...

What temperature should bollocks be sold at?

Lukewarm.

Susan Anderson said...

Hank Roberts, Tom Fuller is a regular salesman for luckwarmer "let's all get rich and then we can solve the problem" nonsense. He says he's a Democrat, but his incuriosity about climate and willingness to spout the unskeptical "skeptic" party line is boring and repetitive.

Tom said...

Everbuddy luvs to tell everbuddy else who lukewarmers are and whatz wrong wid us.

Funny dey never geddit right. Funny dey doo stuff lak ol Susan, uzin da quote sines for stuff we never sez.

I don't like it when people try to put words in my mouth. If it's all boring and repetitive, why do you keep bringing it up? Oh, yeah--because the evidence coming in keeps making it more likely we're right.

They never forgive you for being right. Ever.

Canman said...

Well I for one don't think this luckwarmer "let's all get rich and then we can solve the problem" cornucopianism is nonsense. What's the alternative? "Let's all get poor and then we can solve the problem" malthusianism? Of course, it can't be "all get poor". As Orwell noted, some are more equal than others.

Tom said...

If we don't all get rich we won't emit the quantities of CO2 we're worried about. So there's that...

Bernard J. said...

Hey Russell, your squirrels are back, with nutbags full of fallacy. Two nutbags, at least.

Perhaps you could have a crack at these... Be nice though - both have been known to spook easily.

BBD said...

I don't like it when people try to put words in my mouth. If it's all boring and repetitive, why do you keep bringing it up? Oh, yeah--because the evidence coming in keeps making it more likely we're right.

They never forgive you for being right. Ever.


ORLY Tom? And what 'evidence' would that be?

I think you are making shit up again.

snarkrates said...

Tom Fuller--a man who could have been great...except that he wasn't very good.

Tom said...

Days when BBD and snarkrates are dispensing schoolyard insults are usually good days. Sun shining, birds singing. Life is good.

BBD said...

I asked you for evidence to back up your counterfactual luckwarmerism. I asked you because I know there isn't any which suggests that - once again - you are lying about this.

You come back with blah, demonstrating that you are making shit up again (aka 'lying').

Pointing out that you are lying - again - is just a statement of fact, not a 'schoolyard insult'.



Exusian Transplant said...

Relax BBD, Tom just feels compelled to come here and piss on the carpet every now and then to validate his self image. He really can't help himself.

Tom said...

Exusian Transplant, you're broadly correct, except about my motive (my self image is just fine, thank you.) However, incredibly, I am also improving the quality of discussion here.

Because it is not that scientists are lousy communicators. It's not that journalists are lousy communicators. It's you guys--and gals, referencing Susan.

You're really bad at this.

BBD said...

Because it is not that scientists are lousy communicators. It's not that journalists are lousy communicators. It's you guys--and gals, referencing Susan.

You're really bad at this.


Wow. Denial has basements and sub-basements. And all the carpets stink of piss.

snarkrates said...

And pointing out your mediocrity is an attempt to be helpful. You really are embarrassing yourself.

Tom said...

Thanks for trying to be helpful, snarkrates. Your generosity of spirit is an object lesson to us all.

Bernard J. said...

"You're really bad at this."

Says the troll who is constitutionally incapable of supporting any of his denialism with anything that resembles defensible science.

Tom said...

Oh, good. Troll and denier in the same sentence. Booga booga!

Mal Adapted said...

Tom: Exusian Transplant, you're broadly correct, except about my motive (my self image is just fine, thank you.) However, incredibly, I am also improving the quality of discussion here.
And there you have Tom's MO for validating his image of himself as a mocker of serious people. He pops up in any conversation about the socialized costs of AGW, redirects the topic to himself, and keeps it going until everyone else gets tired.

Tom said...

Are you so easily fatigued, MalAdapted? Ah, these kids today.

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