Don’t Call Them “Climate Deniers.” Call them “Climate Optimists.”—By Will Oremus | Fri Jul. 11, 2014 3:43 PM EDT


The new rhetoric being peddled out at the annual right wing denial circus.

This story originally appeared in Slate and is republished here as part of theClimate Desk collaboration.

Las Vegas is parched. A 14-year drought has left Lake Mead, the local water source, dangerously low. It has dropped 100 feet in the past decade. If it drops 12 more feet, federal water rationing rules will kick in. Some climate scientists predict that will happen in the next year. And most believe the situation will only worsen over time.

The view from inside Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, however, is considerably rosier. That’s where scientists, activists, and bloggers have assembled this week for the Heartland Institute’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change, which I’ve been following via live stream. It’s the world’s largest gathering of “climate skeptics”—people who believe, for one reason or another, that the climate change crisis is overblown.

It’s tempting to find irony in the spectacle of hundreds of climate change deniers staging their convention amid a drought of historic proportions. But, as the conference organizers are quick to tell you, they aren’t actually climate change deniers. The majority of this year’s speakers readily acknowledge that the climate is changing. Some­ will even concede that human emissions are playing a role. They just think the solutions are likely to be far worse than the problem.

“I don’t think anybody in this room denies climate change,” the Heartland Institute’s James M. Taylor said in his opening remarks Monday. “We recognize it, but we’re looking more at the causes, and more importantly, the consequences.” Those consequences, Taylor and his colleagues are convinced, are unlikely to be catastrophic—and they might even turn out to be beneficial.

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http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/07/climate-optimists-not-climate-deniers-heartland-institute-conference

This Is Why You Have No Business Challenging Scientific Experts – —By Chris Mooney | Fri May 30, 2014 6:00 AM EDT`


Harry Collins, a founder of the field of “science studies,” explains why we should listen to scientists on climate change, vaccines, and HIV-AIDS.

Jenny McCarthy, who once remarked that she began her autism research at the “University of Google” Scott Roth/Invision/AP

Remember “Climategate“? It was the 2009 nonscandal scandal in which a trove of climate scientists’ emails, pilfered from the University of East Anglia in the UK, were used to call all of modern climate research into question. Why? Largely because a cursory reading of those emails—showing, for example, climate scientists frankly discussing how to respond to burdensome data requests and attacks on their work—revealed a side of researchers that most people aren’t really used to seeing. Suddenly, these “experts” looked more like ordinary human beings who speak their minds, who sometimes have emotions and rivalries with one another, and (shocker) don’t really like people who question the validity of their knowledge.

In other words, Climategate demonstrated something that sociologists of science have know for some time—that scientists are mortals, just like all the rest of us. “What was being exposed was not something special and local but ‘business as usual’ across the whole scientific world,” writes Cardiff University scholar Harry Collins, one of the original founders of the field of “science studies,” in his masterful new book, Are We All Scientific Experts Now? But that means that Climategate didn’t undermine the case for human-caused global warming at all, says Collins. Rather, it demonstrated why it is so hard for ordinary citizens to understand what is going on inside the scientific community—much less to snipe and criticize it from the outside. They simply don’t grasp how researchers work on a day-to-day basis, or what kind of shared knowledge exists within the group.

That’s a case that Collins makes not only about the climate issue, but also to rebut vaccine deniers, HIV-AIDS skeptics, and all manner of scientific cranks and mavericks. All of them, he argues, are failing to understand what’s so important and powerful about a group of experts coming to a scientific consensus. “If we devalue scientific attitudes and scientific values, we’re going to find ourselves living in an unpleasant society,” explains Collins on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast.

Defenses of scientific expertise have been published before—but the source of this particular defense is what is likely to surprise a lot of people. There was a time, after all, when people like Collins—sociologists, anthropologists, historians, and other scholars studying science itself—were deemed to be researchers’ worst enemies, rather than their staunchest defenders. The so-called “science wars” between these two camps peaked with the 1996 “Sokal Hoax,” in which one New York University physicist, Alan Sokal, got so fed up with so-called “postmodern” critics of scientific knowledge that he spoofed them by submitting a gibberish-laden article, entitled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” to one of their own journals. The paper got published, to Sokal’s delight.

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This Interactive Map Shows Exactly How Hot Your Hometown Will Get —By Tim McDonnell | Mon Dec. 16, 2013 3:00 AM GMT


sweaty guy

ollyy/Shutterstock

Climate scientists are fond of global models that try to answer how much the whole planet is going to warm up in a given time period. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t do much for a mayor or city planner trying to prepare for the future in her own city. But a new map from the US Geological Survey (screenshot below) combines a group of the top climate models and matches them with high-resolution NASA climate data to project exactly how much hotter your county will be by the end of the century.

The map shows how temperature and precipitation will change based on your selection of a timescale (in a few years, a few decades, or by century’s end) and a future emissions scenario (higher or lower emissions). You can see averages for the whole country, individual states (minus Alaska and Hawaii… sorry y’all), and individual counties. My home of Pima County, Arizona, for example, will see a rise of 8.8 degrees Fahrenheit in maximum temperature but no change in precipitation in the longest-term, high emissions projection. The map shows some of the biggest changes are in store for the upper Midwest. Northern Minnesota’s Kittson County, for example, is in for a 10.6 degree F rise under this same scenario. (Because the map was made by scientists, all the temperatures are in Celsius; if you want to convert to Fahrenheit, remember that change in temperature uses a different equation than simply converting between units. There’s a good calculator here).

map

USGS

Temperatures like that won’t just make you sweatier: Climate policymakers at the UN have long agreed on 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) as the maximum threshold for avoiding the worst global impacts of climate change, including droughts and extreme storms. Steve Hosteler, the USGS scientist who designed the map, says that local officials could use the statistics to plan for future electricity use (hotter days means more A/C) and water drainage infrastructure (if more rain is the forecast).

While working to compile climate data on the US, he said, “it became pretty apparent that there was a need to take this data out of the modeling realm and make it useful for other people.”

If you have a favorite climate model (Anyone? Bueller?) you can toggle between 30 different ones developed by scientists across the globe, or simply look at the average of all 30. (The data I quoted above is from the multi-model average.) Other tabs allow you to see how quickly the temperature will rise between now and then, and even to see how much hotter each month of the year will be. And if you want to bring home the bad news to share with your folks over the holidays, you can download a PDF version of the map’s data. Happy exploring!

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/12/exactly-how-much-warmer-will-climate-change-make-your-hometown

Why Some Meteorologists Still Deny Global Warming —By Chris Mooney | Wed Dec. 4, 2013 3:00 AM GMT


Meteorologist Joe Bastardi, a prominent climate skeptic, on Fox News.

Meteorologist Joe Bastardi, a prominent climate skeptic, on Fox Business Screenshot: Media Matters/Fox News

Just before Thanksgiving, many conservatives seized on a new study examining the climate views of members of the American Meteorological Society. It’s no secret that there’s a schism between climate scientists and weather forecasters over climate change, and the study captured this, to skeptics’ delight. The fact that a sizable percentage of AMS members disagree with mainstream climate science represented “the latest in a long line of evidence indicating the often asserted global warming consensus does not exist,” according to Forbes blogger and Heartland Institute fellow James Taylor.

Yet a closer look at the study—conducted by researchers at George Mason University, Yale, and the AMS itself—shows that its main punch line is quite different. The research was chiefly focused on trying to understand why the meteorological community as a whole (the AMS includes climate scientists, academic meteorologists, forecast meteorologists, and general atmospheric scientists, among others) features such disparate views on global warming. And one of its principal findings is that AMS members who publish less peer-reviewed climate research, or less peer-reviewed research in general, are more likely to be climate skeptics.

Far from undermining the scientific consensus on climate change, then, the new study could be said to strengthen it, by defining who’s a relevant expert in the first place. “You listen to the scientists who really know the field in question,” says George Mason’s Neil Stenhouse, a Ph.D. student and the study’s lead author. “And previous studies show that if you ask the scientists who really know climate change, there is high consensus on human causation.”

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http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/12/why-some-meteorologists-still-deny-climate-science