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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 04/13/2009

Climate Extreme Reporting Presents Challenges

By Andrew Freedman

Linking global warming and weather a sticky issue

* Increasing Clouds, Rain Tonight: Full Forecast | NatCast *

Two recent extreme events - record flooding in Fargo, North Dakota, and deadly drought-related wildfires in southern Australia - have again highlighted the question of how journalists should portray the relationship between extreme weather and climate events and global climate change. The changing characteristics of extreme events is one of the trickiest parts of the climate change story to tell, since on the one hand many scientists say that extreme events are increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change, but on the other it is impossible to attribute any single event to global climate change.

When an extreme event occurs, a reporter is often caught in a quandary. If we overplay the causal link between climate change and the event, then we can rightly be accused of being alarmist. A glaring example of this occurred in 2005, when veteran journalist Ross Gelbspan wrote in an op-ed in the Boston Globe in 2005 that global warming essentially caused Hurricane Katrina's devastation, which was contrary to scientific evidence. "The hurricane that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming," he stated.

Keep reading for more on the challenges of reporting on climate extremes and global warming...

Yet, if journalists ignore the scientific studies that show that some types of extreme events are consistent with what is expected due to climate change, then we may be guilty of a sin of omission. Striking a balance between the two can be difficult, and as coverage of the events in North Dakota and Australia demonstrate, U.S. media outlets may be approaching this with more hesitation than their international counterparts.

With the flooding in the Upper Midwest last month, the media did make some mention of possible connections to global warming-related increases in extreme precipitation events, but such coverage did not dominate the storyline. This was despite the 2008 federal report on climate change and extreme events which demonstrated that extreme precipitation events have already become more frequent in the U.S. due to a warming climate.

Most of the google news hits for "North Dakota flooding AND global warming" related to a statement President Obama made on the subject on March 23, which generated a brief flurry of coverage that then died down. By contrast, Australia has seen a surge of global warming-related stories on the country's drought and wildfire situation since the fires were finally extinguished last month, after claiming the lives of 173 people. The U.S. media has started to take note of the Australian situation, with a Los Angeles Times headline last week stating, "What will global warming look like? Scientists point to Australia."

As indicated here on February 10, while the fires in their country were still burning, Aussie journalists sought out experts to discuss possible links between the conditions that caused the fires and global climate change. They didn't have to look far, considering that studies indicated that increasingly drier and more fire-prone conditions were likely in parts of Australia due to climate change.

Some advocates who favor swift reductions to global warming pollution argue that American journalists should take a cue from our Australian colleagues, and increasingly frame extreme events from within the context of climate change.

Joe Romm, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who writes the popular blog Climate Progress, has been prodding reporters to spell out the connections between extreme events and climate change. Romm served in the Clinton administration's Energy Department as acting assistant secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and has authored two books on climate change solutions.

For example, in response to an NBC Nightly News story last year on bark beetle infestations in the West that did not mention the role climate change may be playing in enabling the pest to spread, Romm wrote, "What's next for NBC -- a story on the obesity epidemic that doesn't talk about food?"

In an email interview with CWG, Romm said the scientific evidence linking climate change with certain extreme events is sufficient for reporters to raise the issue in many cases.

"The scientific literature is quite clear that 1) climate change has begun increasing the frequency and severity of some extreme weather events and 2) that it is projected to do so more in the future," he said.

According to Romm, his motivation to influence the coverage of extreme weather and climate events is "because it is scientifically accurate, not to impact public opinion." He continued, "That said, if the public has no idea that many of the extreme events we are facing today are precisely what scientists have predicted would occur from climate change, then obviously they are not being fully informed of the rising threat we face."

On the more cautious end of the spectrum is a blogger with whom Romm frequently spars, political scientist Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who writes the blog Prometheus. Pielke studies the impacts of natural disasters, and thinks the media should focus more on the need to reduce societal vulnerabilities to extreme events, rather than exploring what he sees as speculative ties to global warming.

"Making the link is not justified by the science. The caution of most every scientist on this topic occurs for a reason," Pielke told CWG.

Pielke said that attributing extreme events to climate change is typically a tactic to try to boost public support for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which may not limit climate change for several decades. Such coverage could backfire, he said, noting a recent opinion poll that showed an increasing number of Americans think the media coverage of global warming is "exaggerated."

Personally, I think the optimal way forward lies somewhere between Romm's championing of causal links, and Pielke's cautious approach. With each extreme event, journalists should ask whether there is sufficient scientific evidence to justify mentioning a climate change connection, and if so, how solid such a link may be.

It would of course be extremely helpful if scientists could provide the media with more definitive guidance regarding under what circumstances we should or shouldn't bring climate change into a story, but as Pielke told me, "A world without nuance is probably much easy[ier] to cover, but it is not our world."

* Last week's post on reporting and climate change: Will Misleads Readers on Climate Science - Again *

By Andrew Freedman  | April 13, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman, Media, News & Notes, Science  
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Comments

So you are of the opinion that middle of the road alarmism is the best choice. Have you considered any potential unintended consequences to any level of alarmism?

What happens if say, lawmakers decide that the "threat" is so dire that immediate action is necessary? What happens if they decide that a good course of action would be to pass legislation that would permit every eco activist and environmental extremist, and anyone who expects to suffer from "global warming" to sue private businesses and the federal government? Would that be a desirable or even acceptable consequence of the alarmism?

Let's consider the consequences of such a law before you answer that question. Can one reasonably expect to see hundreds of lawsuits against all domestic car manufacturers? I thinks so. You think GM and Chrysler are on their back now? Oh my! They would look back on this as the "good ol days" if a law like that passes.

And what would happen to all of those manufacturing jobs? Do you really think companies will quit making cars? No. The companies will simply move all of their manufacturing jobs outside of the United States. Voila! Problem solved. Unless of course you were an employee.

And I wonder what kind of havoc PETA could wreak upon cattle ranchers, and anyone in the livestock industry? Bankrupt them you say? No more domestic livestock industry? No more beef, pork, chicken, eggs, etc...?

And how about coal fired power plants? Oh, that would be ugly. Non-stop lawsuits. I wonder what that would do the price of electricity?

And imagine all of the lawsuits that would be brought against the federal government. No doubt some of you reading this are thinking, "GOOD". You don't realize that it is a government of the people. We fund the federal government. We will have to pay for the lawsuits.

That is just off the top of my head. I bet if I gave it a few minutes thought I could come with another dozen. Manufacturing companies like Intel, Caterpillar, HP, Dell, etc...

Homebuilders! They use wood. That requires cutting down a tree. Trees consume CO2. Must sue homebuilders.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | April 13, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Oh, that will never happen! Right? Guess again.

Henry Waxman has just so legislation working its way through Congress as I type this.

--begin quote--
Self-proclaimed victims of global warming or those who "expect to suffer" from it - from beachfront property owners to asthmatics - for the first time would be able to sue the federal government or private businesses over greenhouse gas emissions under a little-noticed provision slipped into the House climate bill.

Environmentalists say the measure was narrowly crafted to give citizens the unusual standing to sue the U.S. government as a way to force action on curbing emissions. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sees a new cottage industry for lawyers.
--end quote--

source of the above quote

Yea for just middle of the road alarmism! I shudder to think what unintended consequences we would see with full blown alarmism.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | April 13, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Think of the chain reaction just from the havoc that PETA will wreak with this law.

Anyone in the livestock business in the United States will be forced to close up shop. That will affect people in the livestock food business. Farmers will be hurt. That will also affect people in the veterinary field. Virtually all domestic meat packing plants will close up shop.

Meat will no longer be affordable for the average American. What will that do the fast food industry? What will that do to restaurants? What will that do to delicatessens?

And what about the people and businesses that depend upon the money that employees in those industries USED to spend?

They will all get "green" jobs, right?

Yeah, that's the ticket. They will be standing in line behind all of those former UAW members. And behind all of the other million plus other manufacturing employees that will be out of work.

Good luck with that.

And for what? A flawed hypothesis.

Just what our economy needs right now! Yea for middle of the road alarmism! ;)

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | April 13, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Is it really a reporter's duty to link extreme weather to global warming? How about the reporter just reporting the extreme weather?

If the reporter feels the need to do the link, said reporter will always be able to find a scientist who says the end is near. Then the reporter can "report" the scientist's opinion.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | April 13, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Aha! I guess we can now blame the rise in Somali piracy on "global warming".

Truth is that they have not had a functioning government in that region since 1991 or so, and those who are trying to set up one seem to be allied with the Al Qaeda gang that blew up the World Trade Center in 1991.

Nevertheless someone's going to tie the turmoil in Somalia to climate change. Same with Zimbabwe.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | April 13, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Correction:

That's 2001, so far as 9/11 is concerned.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | April 13, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Waterfront property: In my view, if scientists consider climate change to be part of the story for a particular extreme event, such as the recent drought-related wildfires in Australia, then yes, reporters should incorporate that into their work. Otherwise they are omitting a significant part of the story, and are leaving readers ill-informed about the possible consequences of a changing climate. However, as I made clear in my post, they must be careful not to overstate the case for attributing extreme events to climate change, and should not discuss climate change in every extreme weather story, but rather only in cases where scientific evidence exists to justify raising the subject.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | April 13, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Another good cirrostratus veil with halo this morning, now lowering to altostratus/altocumulus as the system to our west approaches.

I wonder if the severe weather currently in Georgia and the Florida Panhandle has any impact on our projected rainfall. If we get an inch and a half or more, we could cut our four-inch precipitation deficit in half.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | April 13, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

It seems that alarmism is only allowed on Mr. Q's side of the debate. Apparently my electric bill will go up $3000/month if they have to install CO2 controls.

Posted by: uprightCitizen | April 13, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Suppose the "alarmists" (other than the wing nuts) are correct, as the science indicates, i.e., there will be harsh consequences to continuing global warming, including more extreme weather events?? Simply denying ANY possibility is not a solution - it's a total cop out! Responsible policy makers must weigh the costs of taking some action to mitigate and/or adapt versus the costs of doing nothing should the worst actually occur. We spent trillions to avoid nuclear annihilation during the Cold War (let alone $$ for the current wars and bank bail outs). Isn't the environment we live in and depend upon for our existence equally important??

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | April 13, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

if a very large hurricane occurs and the Gulf of Mexico is warmer than usual, then it is reasonable and responsible to mention that, because it is clear that warmer water is implicated in large hurricanes.
If insects or other animals/plants are seen progressively further north and the temperatures/seasons seem to be getting warmer/shorter, then it is reasonable to mention it. If "100 year" weather events occur frequently, it is reasonable to mention that science predicts increasing frequency of extreme events with global warming.

Posted by: seesdifferent | April 13, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I usually don't respond to the climate change wars, but let's get real. Unless we can guarantee that nothing we are doing is having the slightest effect on climate, *and* that we have inexhaustible energy sources, *and* that the population is not going to grow, we are going to have to 1) develop low-impact technologies and policies, 2) look at minimizing impact on vulnerable areas (including by moving people and communities elsewhere), and 3) even in a recession, stop assuming that anyone who is employed now in a given industry has a RIGHT to continued employment in that industry, no matter what the financial or environmental cost. Help people, yes, but not necessarily by protecting the jobs they have now.

Those are, I believe, conclusions derivable from facts on the ground. My personal judgment based on these conclusions is that we had better start looking at 'enough', rather than "how much higher can we push our concept of the ideal standard of living?".

By the way, I do own waterfront property, and I don't expect anyone to buffer me from the potential costs or loss of value if there is a rise in sea level.

Sermon ended - I will go back to enjoying the Weather Gang's comprehensive inquiry and reporting.

Posted by: fsd50 | April 13, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, there is a fundamental human failing (or oversimplification) at work here, that drives journalists' confusion into whether, and how, to mention global warming when reporting on severe whether events. That is that while nature is actually a complex system with many continuous variables interacting simultaneously, some in subtle and others in more dominating ways, the average layperson desperately wants nature to be a simple black and white thing.

They want to be able to ask, "was this caused by global warming?" and have you give them a yes or no answer. The answer these days is probably ALWAYS "yes, to some extent". The issue then becomes, at what contribution level do I turn that relevance into a "yes" worthy of mentioning it in the article? And this is further complicated by the fact that that contribution level is pretty fuzzy to quantify. Climatologists do not spend a whole lot of time trying to quantify contribution of recent global climate changes to the degree that yesterday's storm became more devastating than it would have otherwise been. There is not a lot of payoff to trying to spend your time doing that when there are other more urgent pervasive long-term questions to work on.

Sorry, longwinded way of saying basically, science consists of continuous variables in complex systems, but the public wants them to be simple systems with discrete binary outputs. The public needs, I think, to be educated first into the greyness of science (while at the same time making it clear that that greyness does not mean it is untrustworthy - a tall task indeed, especially whe there are armies of politically-motivated obfuscators waiting to exploit unfortunate/inexact language to sow public doubt about things that are actually not so much in doubt).

Hope that made sense.

Posted by: B2O2 | April 13, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Please keep in mind that most extreme events referred to are ones having occurred in past 100 years or so. These may be negligeable compared with those having occurred over the past 10,000 years or more. Who knows???

In this context today's events may be normal. The difference is humans are around to be impacted and report on them.

Posted by: Jimbo77 | April 13, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Many prominent "Denialist" commentators would love to see "Alarmist" reporters, or scientists attempt to link specific events to Global Warming. Many would probably think or say, "go ahead, make my day"

Andrew's spotlight today is the North Dakota flooding and Australian wildfires.

Future National Headline reaction by prominent "Denialists" ???

Global Warming was also raging in 1871 when the Great Peshtigo Wildfire following severe drought dwarfed the loss of life in recent wildfires in Australia with the loss of an estimated 1,500 lives in Michigan and Wisconsin.

http://www.boisestate.edu/history/ncasner/hy210/peshtigo.htm

AGW was still out of control in 1927 when the most destructive river flooding in U.S. history cost the lives of 246 in 7 states.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mississippi_Flood

1936 witnessed tremendous flooding in the Mid Atlantic and New England resulting in the death of 150-200 people. AGW must have been at work again!

http://www.erh.noaa.gov/nerfc/historical/mar1936.htm

Now, back to reality, how would "Alarmist" reporters or scientists react if 1871,1927 or 1936 repeated in 2009?? After their reaction, how would the "Denialist" headliners counter attack???

One final question: How would millions of otherwise uninterested constituents react with e-mail or phone calls to opinion sensitive politicians if we entered into a "Headlining" National debate concerning a comparison of recent natural disasters or climatic events possibly related to Global Warming, to very similar or even worse occurances 100 or 1000 years ago, establishing a framework for mitigation attempts?? During this great debate it would certainly be revealed that mitigation pursuit would place substantial additional financial burdens on most of our society while very few would live long enough to witness any possible positive result.

How would they react??????


Posted by: AugustaJim | April 13, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

B2O2: You raised some interesting issues, which I think address some of the key problems that science reporters and others grapple with on a daily basis. In terms of covering extreme weather and climate events, it can be extremely difficult to balance the news peg with the broader scientific context. I agree with you that the public wants an answer to the question, "was this event caused by global warming?", which is what Gelbspan (who I happen to greatly admire for his book "The Heat is On") sought to do with his problematic Katrina op-ed. The problem with trying to give an answer to that question is that things are not so cut and dry, as you pointed out.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | April 13, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I received an email response earlier today from Roger Pielke Jr., and he gave his permission to post it here:

Just saw your post, which is interesting as far as it goes. What is missing is any discussion of the actual science of extremes, impacts, and attribution to GHGs. There is considerable research out there on
exactly these topics. Had you focused on the actual science I think you'd find that the evidence overwhelmingly supports one of the perspectives that you reported more than the other.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | April 13, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

AugustaJim: It's clear to me you're just going through the historical record, picking out deadly extreme events, and trying to argue that since there were deadly events in the past, then that somehow means that human activities are not affecting the extreme events now and into the future. That's not exactly a rigorous scientific approach, now is it?

What are your thoughts on the Climate Change Science Program's report, which is linked to in my post?

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | April 13, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Andrew:
I am not attempting to "argue" anything.

My personal feelings did not enter into the equation.

I am simply reflecting a likely reaction by influential "Denialists", if prominent reporters or scientists become a part of the headlines with frequent allegations of links between natural occurances and AGW.

This is a very slippery slope that"wisdom" would not tread on.

Public opinion is a very tricky and fragile element that is not always based on supreme knowledge or intelligence.

Posted by: AugustaJim | April 13, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Andrew Freedman wrote, "Joe Romm, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who writes the popular blog Climate Progress, ..."

What empirical evidence can you provide to substantiate your claim that Climate Progress is a "popular blog"?

And what is up with the link at the very bottom of the Climate Progress blog??? He links to "Center For American Progress Action Fund". They are, and I quote directly from their site, "The Center for American Progress Action Fund is a progressive think-tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action. We are creating a long-term, progressive vision for America—a vision that policy makers, thought-leaders and activists can use to shape the national debate and pass laws that make a difference.

Our mission is to transform progressive ideas into policy through rapid response communications, legislative action, grassroots organizing and advocacy, and partnerships with other progressive leaders throughout the country and the world."

They are a POLITICAL, progressive group!

I have to admit, I appreciate it when the pro-AGW activist are transparent and disclose their underlying POLITICAL AGENDA. I salute Mr. Romm.

Thank you for your honesty Mr. Romm. Thank you for letting everyone know that you have an agenda. Kudos to you!

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | April 13, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

@Mr. Q:

re: Climate Progress webstats, see:

http://climateprogress.org/2009/04/04/google-analytics-urchin-6-webstats-statistics-deniers-wattsupwiththat-anthony-watts/

"...March seems to have set a record in traffic, with more than 150,000 unique visitors and about 300,000 visits. I probably had some 1.4 million page views."

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | April 13, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | April 13, 2009 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Andrew....while you and I often disagree (sometimes strongly) on the whole buisness of climate warming/climate change and/or what may be causing it (if anything), I'm glad you realize how senseless Ross Gelbspan's analysis of Katrina was (I think you and I can both agree on that).

Gelbspan's Chicken-Little approach to hurricanes and global warming was followed, in 2006 and 2007, by two years of extremely low activity in the North Atlantic/Carribbean source-area. Granted, 2005's record tropical-storm activity....and Katrina......was noteworthy, but the following years clearly showed that it was not the start of a massive new era in tropical storms..

Posted by: MMCarhelp | April 13, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Whatever its signficance or not, any season that was still active with the development of a storm called "Olga" in December was not "extremely low" in activity.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | April 13, 2009 10:05 PM | Report abuse

ClimateProgress:
Authority 697
Rank 2,968

CapitalWeatherGang:
Authority 168
Rank 21,952

http://technorati.com/blogs/climateprogress.org
http://technorati.com/blogs/voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang

Posted by: CapitalClimate | April 13, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Roy Spencer and Anthony Watts are totally without agenda . . . NOT!

Posted by: CapitalClimate | April 13, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Andrew:
I always enjoy reading your comments for entertainment, but, let me break reality to you very gently.

Neither your opinion or mine is important to this issue.

Nothing you can say will make any significant difference. Neither you or I will have any real impact on the final resolution. CNN,ABC,FOX,CBS,NBC may have an impact but not you or I.


Don't waste time by asking my personal opinion on anything and I could not care less about yours. Neither your opinion or mine on anything crucial to this issue is important.

Rush Limbaugh or a few other private individuals may possibly have a measurable influence, because of the numbers, but don't make the mistake of including yourself in that league.

People quest for knowledge, but gratification is in the eye of the beholder.

You must understand that perceived knowledge has very little impact. A great percentage of Obama supporters had no knowledge of which political party controlled Congress during the final two years of the Bush administration.

The "Alarmist" view is losing support nationally according to latest polling data. This is no surprise considering the tactics of this group. I am an independent, but never cease to be amazed at how far removed from reality this bunch of malcontent "Alarmists" are. They have no respect or tolerance for any opinion or conclusion removed from their little corner of the world. They are smug and self righteous in their condemnation of opposing views.

Wisdom is often born from skepticism and dies from conceit.

The American people are very quick to react to complacency by either persuasion of a controversial issue.

Legislation may be adopted in the present environment, but where will the American people be 1,2,5 or 10 years from now, when the cold hard facts come home to roost??

Posted by: AugustaJim | April 13, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

This is a useful post. There is naturally concern that scientists are having trouble conveying to the broader population what climate change means for everybody's lives. Changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are one of the impacts that people are most likely to appreciate and respond to. That is why such events are now a major battleground in public debate and within the media for the hearts and minds of a public that has not yet come to terms with the causes and consequences of climate change.

The difficulty is that climate is represented through statistics about the weather, and no single weather event can be attributed to (or completely dissociated from) climate change. There is already evidence that climate change is affecting long-term trends in weather, such as global average temperatures. But it is still not possible to say with certainty that any particular day, or month or year is hotter because of climate change, since hot weather would occur even without climate change.

Extreme weather events are even more difficult to assess because by definition they are less frequent and therefore there are fewer data from which to detect any trends. That does not mean that the trends are not there, but it may take many decades before they become visible above the 'noise' of natural variability. In addition, there are other factors, such as land-use trends that affect the compilation of statistics about climate change (eg is the increase in hurricane damage along the east coast of the US due to coastal population growth, climate change impacts on Atlantic hurricanes, or both?).

Probably the best way of thinking about this is that no single extreme weather event can be attributed to climate change, but we know that climate change is loading the dice so that such events become more likely. When a single six is rolled, you can't tell whether the dice is loaded, but if it keeps happening again and again you soon work out that there is a trend.

Posted by: reward1 | April 14, 2009 5:02 AM | Report abuse

reward1

Excellent comment - right on!

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | April 14, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

There is an important issue of terminology here that I believe needs clarification - specifically, the difference between extreme weather, as being discussed above, and high impact weather. Extreme relates to the statistical probability ("climatology") of a weather phenomenon being very small - unlikely in relation to normal expectations. The question with regard to global warming is whether the odds of these otherwise unlikely events are increasing.

Hi Impact weather relates to the societal effects of weather events on life and property.

Extreme weather is not necessarily high impact weather. Hurricane Katrina was not an exceptionally extreme event, but certainly had dire consequences to the people and infrastructure that was in its bulls eye. On the other hand a CAT 5+ super storm would certainly be extreme, but have little, if any, impact if it remained over open ocean well removed from land.

So, extreme weather may or may not be high impact, and high impact weather may or may not be extreme - and it's important to be aware of the difference

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | April 14, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Steve- Thanks for that reminder in terminology, much appreciated.

reward1 - you summarize this issue very nicely. I once wrote a post comparing 'loading the dice' in favor of more frequent extreme events to steroid use in baseball (I can't find that post at the moment though :() Steroids might increase the likelihood that a slugger would hit a home run over the long term, but you cannot attribute an individual home run to steroid use. I think this is a key climate science communications challenge, so it's important to frame it using terms readers can relate to. I am not sure the baseball analogy is the best one, but it's a start.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | April 14, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

some see scientists' and realists' use of the term "climate change" as a weaselly "backing-off" from "global warming" - it's not. the question is no longer "whether" global warming, but "what" global warming will entail, i.e., "climate change".

it will probably be more than just moving the bread basket north and the coasts inland. this is where theory begins to be less certain. nonetheless, current theory is that "extreme" and "impactful" weather events might be part of climate change. it makes sense in principle - a hotter chemical system is generally more volatile...we'll see. climate change may involve wholesale reconfiguration of ecosystems. many species won't make it. since these are current theories, the media should report it this way, of course with a caveat that "the science is deveoloping and no one weather event...blah blah blah." media reports should reflect the REAL level of uncertainty in the scientific community - not present "equal time" to all theories.

so, while some will continue to nit-pick and pounce on the perfect time to cite an "ice anomaly" or a "cooling trend", scientists will continue fleshing out, revising and arguing about the "what" aspects of climate change.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | April 14, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

AugustaJim,

Let me start by saying I have always read your postings on the weather forecasts and the drought conditions in the mid-Atlantic, and more precisely, Virginia, with a great deal of enthusiasm and respect. You obviously have done your homework and have a great deal of knowledge in this respect. During the winter I am always looking forward to your postings on the impending snow storms.
However I have a couple of issues with your latest posting concerning global warming.

Number one: "You must understand that perceived knowledge has very little impact. A great percentage of Obama supporters had no knowledge of which political party controlled Congress during the final two years of the Bush administration."
It seems to me that they - the "great percentage of Obama supporters" had a very meaningful impact... they elected their candidate to the most powerful post in the free world.
That is number one, but number two is the one I take offense to:

"Neither your opinion or mine is important to this issue.
Nothing you can say will make any significant difference. Neither you or I will have any real impact on the final resolution. CNN,ABC,FOX,CBS,NBC may have an impact but not you or I.

Don't waste time by asking my personal opinion on anything and I could not care less about yours. Neither your opinion or mine on anything crucial to this issue is important.

Rush Limbaugh or a few other private individuals may possibly have a measurable influence, because of the numbers, but don't make the mistake of including yourself in that league."

I cannot speak for Andrew but I can speak for myself. I DO make a difference! I might be only one individual, yet I am one in a larger picture. I have influence over those who are close to me. I may not influence many thousands at one time, but I am willing to bet that my opinion, over time, can be an influence that will be dealt with. Just remember "think globally, act locally". I am but one pixel in a Hi-Def screen. One day I will influence enough of those to make a difference on that screen.

Posted by: pjdunn1 | April 14, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

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