Fed up with climate crackpots and contrarians, AAAS slams down on the table “What We Know ” report

From “What We Know” video

  When an august and generally circumspect scientific society pulls together a panel of 13 esteemed scholars for a consensus report, one does not tend to expect this sort of punchy, plain-as-nails writing:

Against this backdrop of natural variation, however, something different is happening. Greenhouse gases have supercharged the climate just as steroids supercharged hitting in Major League Baseball. Over the course of a baseball season in the steroid era, we witnessed more and longer homers, even though we cannot attribute any specific homer to steroids.

   That is just about as good as any explanation of specifics versus statistics I have ever read. Maybe the report writers cribbed it from somewhere? Dunno. [Update – Not original. See comments.] But it makes clear why it is inane to ask whether this storm or that drought or those icebergs are due to global warming. It is not as though other current weather events are on some regular, separate schedule that resumes after the global warming-labeled thing blows by. They all are, none are, who cares?  It is not single events but statistics on different runs of events that we need to watch. The steroids simile makes the message an easy swallow.

   This week the American Association for the Advancement of Science kicked off its "What We Know" campaign to highlight the high certainty and high worry felt among climate experts. The 20-page report, plus footnotes, has no surprises beyond that the AAAS decided to make such a blunt, well-publicized rebuke of the skeptic soldiers against so-called global warming alarmism. Many of us could have written its gist.  Of course, AAAS's report says that "As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do." Fat chance that this report will be taken as anything but transparent advice. And it will be a wonder if it changes any time soon the US's political paralysis when it comes doing anything drastic about it such as spending money or government telling private businesses what's what. But it might help. 

  I am a slave to a format I invented, so the links to the report itself and other material are down below in Grist. By the way, the report's title, What We Know, appears apt. There are no assertions here that tornadoes or hurricanes or storm surges are yet changing their pace due to global warming. What is settled science are such things are shrinking glaciers, summer Arctic sea ice, drought extent, number of hot days compared to cold days, etc. Also in here is a fine discussion of why the low-probability ends of climate futurology, such as the extremes of sea levels rise that might happen but probably won't, are still real threats. It's something like just because your house probably will never burn is no reason not to insure it, it says here.

   Before a roundup on news coverage, just one note about the rather punchy, direct style in many  of report's passages. They are professional science writing if not journalism. It sounds to be largely one voice. It was doubtful on first read that the panel members wrote it up in separate pieces and then knitted them together more or less as is, edited only for grammar and such IPCC style. Curious about the verbiage, I put the question of final composition to AAAS public affairs chief Ginger Pinholster. She answered:

Hi, Charlie, it really was a group effort. Hunter Cutting was the main science writer on the project. Rob Gould of Brodeur Partners was the architect of the “3Rs” framework. Of the scientific advisory panelists, James McCarthy played a real leadership role – truly Herculean, IMO – but most of the committee members actually made many important contributions.

Hmm. McCarthy, a well-known Harvard professor, is co-chair of the panel. Other names somewhat known to the public and certainly to many tracker readers include Mario Molina, Richard Alley, and Kerry Emanuel. The whole panel list is at the site in Grist below. The blue chip academicians get due credit for the underlying facts and themes but it is satisfying to learn that some non-academics got in on the writing of this report. Their names are not, far as I can see, in the report itself so thank you Ginger for the reply. Rob Gould is managing director of a big consulting group in DC and is an expert on marketing (the 3Rs are the report's "Reality, Risks, and Response" topic list). Hunter Cutting, although I don't recall meeting him, lives in San Francisco and is a real science writer even if it's not quite journalism. Mostly he too is a consultant. He blogs a lot for The Huffington Post. Here is a list of his Huffblogs and a short bio. One in particular is a further example that he writes smoothly and that he takes climate change seriously is this from a few months back: The No-Spin Zone on Climate Change.

News Stories:

And now for something different:

  • CATO Institute (blog) Patrick Michaels: AAAS's Guide to Climate Alarmism ; The report says, citing analysis of many studies publicized before, that 97 percent of scientists (in refereed journals, by experts etc.) agree that greenhouse gases are raising global temperatures. Michaels is among scientists in the other 3 percent. Which makes him either like Galileo, or like Lysenko, take your pick.
  • Watts Up With That? – Anthony Watts: To AAAS: What we know? Earth hasn't warmed significantly in over a decade, climate models failed to predict this ; sigh…Actually, Watts does not take much time on the report. He puts a plot of the recent. flatter temperature trend in the lower atmosphere above a copy of the AAAS press release. As though the contrast with his reality and AAAS's report will make his readers laugh.

Grist for the Mill: AAAS Press Release ;Report PDF "What We Know" site with multiple pages and background.

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