Green Blob Gravy Train at Pidcock Corner

At last! The Climate Outreach Communications Handbook for IPCC Scientists (lead author Dr Adam Corner) is out, packed full of information for tongue-tied scientists who’ve never mentioned climate change to a non-scientist before and don’t know how to. It was commissioned by the IPCC Working Group 1 Technical Support Unit and has an introduction by Dr Roz Pidcock, IPCC WG1’s head of communication. 

Dr Roz starts off by listing the problems that beset climate communication:

Climate science is filled with uncertainties, a notorious stumbling block for communicating with non-scientists.

It’s a well-known fact that people have difficulty understanding the concept of uncertainty. For instance, if you say to them: “We expect the storms to die down on Thursday” or: “We haven’t got any in stock, but we hope to have a delivery tomorrow” or: “I think I left it on the table, but I’m not sure”, people start to panic, get confused, and may burst into tears. So don’t do uncertainty. Do certainty.

She continues:

That our worldviews, values and social norms dictate how we receive information and apply it to our own lives is well understood.

For example, Dr Roz’s worldviews are expressed in the articles she writes at Carbon Brief, Truth-out, Resilience, Sciencemag, Climateandcapitalism, Responsiblebusiness, Countercurrents, Reneweconomy, Eco-business, Thinklab, etc. They dictate how she receives information, where she receives it from, and how she dictates it back to you and me. That’s another reason she doesn’t do uncertainty. It’s not one of her values or social norms.

It has also long been recognised that the messenger is at least as important, if not more so, than the message itself. Scientists are trusted in society and there are a wealth of opportunities to engage the public around key moments in the climate change calendar, such as the release of IPCC reports.

Hang on. We’re facing vanishing island states, murderous heatwaves, wars, and invasions by hundreds of thousands of climate refugees, and Dr Roz’s idea of a “key moment in the climate change calendar” is the release of a report? It’s once every five years for Gaia’s sake. Science communicators are going to have time on their hands.

I’m going to settle down in the garden and read the rest of it now. But I know already that author Dr Corner is not worried by scepticism. The word only comes up once in the seventeen page document:

most people in most countries surveyed accept that climate change is a reality and is at least in part caused by humans, and are concerned about it to some extent. So there is no need to worry unduly about widespread scepticism towards climate change.

So that’s alright then.

There’s a nice photo on the back page of two renewable energy experts perched on a solar power array. The description from the German photo agency reads:

Cleaning the photovoltaic facility on roof of Federal Ministry of Labour and the Environment, installed with 100 kilowatts peak output kwp by Solon AG, Berlin, Germany, August 5, 2004.

It shows two chaps on a rather complicated looking sloping sliding ladder affair; one brushing the dust out from between the panels with a broom, the other cleaning them with a mop and a bucket.

I read somewhere that to produce a decent amount of solar energy you’d need to cover an area the size of Berkshire with panels. And then presumably employ a workforce the size of the population of Berkshire to keep them looking nice. Do we have enough environmental studies graduates to do the job? Do we have enough mops and brooms?

The photo dates from 2004. In 2011, Solon AG, the manufacturers of the solar panels in the photo, filed for bankruptcy. The remains of the company were taken over by the Indian company Microsol and in 2014 the company was moved to the United Arab Emirates.


  1. I love your take on the climatocracy’s special pleading about uncertainty. +10


  2. Dr Adam Corner in the Guardian:

    “There will no doubt be a small group of hardliners who object to the very idea of scientists being more effective communicators, or including social science research in the assessment reports. But their argument that scientists should refrain from speaking about the societal implications of their vital research is an outmoded and increasingly discredited position.”

    now I’m pretty sure he is referring to climate scientist, that are cynical about social scientist talking sci-comms (think Doug Mcneall – Naomi Oreskes twitter exchange, and Peter Torne elsewhere)
    not sceptics.

    back to the science you atmospheric physicists the social scientist are – in the (comms) house now. yes that means Corner, Cook, Orekes and Lewandowsky.. and many more jumping on the bandwagon.. Climate Outreach is flush with grants now, and recruiting.


  3. Barry:

    Climate Outreach is flush with grants now, and recruiting.

    Yet President Trump doesn’t mention climate in his SOTU, nor does his official rebuker from the Democrats. Which is more important?

    From the time George Bush senior, between Jan 1989 and Jan 1993, raised from about $200m to circa $2bn per year the amount the US spent on climate research, which soon, inevitably, became defined far too loosely, the western world has had a problem with self-perpetuating climate overspend. It was bound to produce silliness like this. And more dangerous, poisonous silliness like the recent Mann/Lew stuff. That’s not sceptics losing, it just behoves us to be realistic.

    I don’t think we are losing. There is the danger some young extremists will take this stuff seriously and try to usher in totalitarianism to head off the hobgoblin, as HL Mencken might put it. There’s the peril that some older cynics will use this to pursue ultimate power or, failing that, massive amounts of filthy, crony lucre. But Trump has surely burst their bubble.

    Dr Lew was in Parliament. Then the Don was in Congress. Spot any differences?


  4. In their 90 second video:

    “Let’s face it, climate change doesn’t communicate itself”

    Oh, but, I thought . . . . . don’t you have to just look out the bloody window? Wasn’t that what they said, or am I wrong?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. From the handbook:

    “By synthesising evidence and recommendations from primary school science research, and existing communication ‘guides’ and resources, this Handbook sets out a series of principles for effective communication and public engagement, tailored specifically for IPCC authors.”

    Oops, sorry, read that wrong: substitute ‘school’ with ‘social’. Understandable error.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It is instructive to compare this handbook with that produced by JoNova. Both apparently have similar aims; this new effort is for climate scientists to communicate with non scientists, JoNova’s was designed to allow sceptics to communicate effectively with supporters of AGW. Which communicates best with their audience. Well, JoNova concentrates on the task at hand, uses simple language and concise messages, and simple but effective illustrations. The new guide doesn’t.

    I used much of JoNova’s guidebook in my undergraduate teaching (much to the disgust of the Climategate Mafia). I predict that the IPPC sponsored guide will gather dust, if it is ever printed out.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. to produce a decent amount of solar energy you’d need to cover an area the size of Berkshire with panels

    And get the Sun to face Berkshire 24/7, preferably under cloudless skies. Alternatively, face reality.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve skipped through the Climate Communications Handbook. It’s incredibly tedious, meme-filled, boring nonsense but if I was to sum it up in one simple statement, it would be this:

    ‘Talk about things which matter to people – politics, religion, gardening, pets, wellington boots vs. waders – but whatever you do, don’t talk about climate change science, except extreme weather; you can talk about that because people can relate to it and you can spin the lie about how the ‘increase’ in floods and droughts and heatwaves etc. can be ‘scientifically’ attributed to global warming. That’s it. Get out there and give ’em hell. We need converts.’


  9. Climate Outreach’s Climate Visuals website (mentioned by Barry Woods in another thread) gets quite a few plugs in the new Climate Outreach IPCC handbook.

    What’s it like?


    Of twenty photos on the first page of its gallery for ‘Climate Impacts’, ten show things that are not climate change impacts in any way at all (e.g. a woman in a mermaid costume swimming in a lake whose eelgrass has been depleted by agricultural runoff); four are generically useful for selling climate change in that they show things like droughts and floods, which climate change is expected to make worse in various parts of the world, but whose photographed specifics haven’t been attributed to climate change by boffins; five are both generically and specifically useful – boffins reckon climate change played a part in what the photos show; and one is specifically but not generically useful – its supposed subject is something that boffins think is largely down to anthropogenic climate change but what the photo actually shows is that such things have always happened. (The Columbia Glacier photo. If you want to sell the notion that today’s uniquely destructive human activities are making glaciers melt, why would you use a photo showing bands of sediment deposited during previous melts?)

    Which makes me wonder, yet again, how much the prolific and somewhat grand psycho-wafflers of COINClimate Outreach actually know about climate change. Climactivist NGOs have often conflated the effects of air pollution with those of climate change, but agricultural runoff as a climate impact? That’s a new low, no?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. An icon of CWAG communication appears to be moving on-

    Another icon may be moving on as well:

    “California Academy of Sciences Executive Director, Jon Foley, explains why he doesn’t think Bill Nye, Al Gore or Leonardo DiCaprio are the best messengers on getting the word out about climate change.”

    A couple Steve Miller band tunes come to mind-
    Take the money and run
    The Joker


  11. Vinny Burgoo

    I’ll take a close look at the photo of a woman in a mermaid costume in a moment. But while we’re on the subject of visual material, I thought I’d have a look at the cover photo of the report. (As I pointed out in the post, the photo on the back cover is fourteen years old and shows the employees of a solar power company which went bankrupt seven years ago. Unless they’re the employees of the German Government, which is the customer? If you buy your energy in the normal way, you’re not expected to clean up the energy source yourself, so I think we ought to know. Are the chaps with the broom and the mop civil servants, or examples of new cutting edge technology jobs created by the renewable energy revolution?)

    The cover photo also dates from 2004. It shows:

    The Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments (GLORIA) at Mount Schrankogl, Austria. They are laying out one meter quadrats to see the change from 10 years ago which was documented by photographs. The researchers have shown that grasses move upslope and many native wildflowers which only grow on the summits are threatened with extinction. This expert at work is documenting changes to grass and flower growth on mountain summits. The photo adds a human face to climate research, and tells a new story.

    Botanists, please correct me if I’m wrong, but a native wildflower which only grow on the summits and is threatened with extinction can presumably be saved. My local garden centre has a section for alpine plants equipped with air conditioning. Is the guy I the red anorak and the bobble hat on the cover engaged in an activity which “applies to our own lives [and] is well understood”? Does it “connect to what matters to your audience”? Is it “relevant to their lives and experiences”?

    I once had a series of civilised conversations with Dr Corner. I didn’t get the impression of someone who was that bothered about wild grasses creeping up a mountain in response to a temperature rise of 1°C per century. “Think of the grandchildren” doesn’t really apply. So why the photo?


  12. Oh gosh, here’s the mermaid Vinny Burgoo mentioned.

    According to the text provided by Climate Outreach, “The altered landscape behind this mermaid tells a new story of climate change. The show has been going on since 1947…Today with elevated nitrate levels algae grows on the bottom.”

    Climate Outreach is apparently claiming that elevated nitrate levels are due to climate change. Should a publicly funded organisation run by a university scientist be allowed to get away with such blatant fake news?

    On the other hand, one sympathises with the mermaid. Trapped in that tight and frankly unconvincing costume since 1947, and with algae growing on the bottom, I think she deserves a raise, or rise, to the surface. And a descaling.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Betcha eelgrass loss due to wasting disease and nothing to do with climate change or nitrate levels. Wasting disease appeared in 1930s and devastated sea grass fields on both sides of the Atlantic. It still does.


    I’m sorry to hear about that wasting disease affecting eelgrass. Could that affect our mermaid and the algae growing on the bottom? Adam Corner and his European Union sponsored Climate Impact Images only have a limited number of photos to offer. I’ve just googled “mermaid” + “algae growing on the bottom” and you’d be surprised at the competition out there.

    What I took from the short Climate Outreach video is the fact that it’s important to use an orchestral score with a staccato string section. And some black faces, to emphasise the link between global warming hysteria and such other traditional British activities as the Bacup Coconut dancers

    Liked by 1 person

  15. MiaB. Do you mean Lenora? Could there be any link between her absence and that giant multicoloured moon?

    Geoff. What links the Bacup Coconut dancers to climate change? I have spent all of a whole two minutes desperately searching a connection. For a good thirty seven seconds I thought they might be wearing red temperature graphs but abandoned that idea when I failed to discern any homogenization.


  16. Haven’t had time to read it, but does she explain anywhere that a scientific “consensus” is a general agreement on something for which there is no evidence?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. That image collection is remarkable. If it is representative of the insight produced by academic psychologists, I see no basis for psychology being a degree subject.

    This appears under the heading ‘how to use these images’…

    As a general rule, try to couple fear or distress-inducing images of climate impacts with another image (or text) that shows a clear constructive response to the problem being depicted.

    Third from the top on the left is an elderly man sitting on a park bench with some kind of industrial plant behind the park, on the horizon. The image has the caption…

    This image shows how communities living near petrochemical factories can be affected. Telling a human story: a powerful way to illustrate the negative impacts of a widespread fossil-fuel technology.

    WHAT IT SHOWS: Horace Smith outside his home in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Corpus Christi, Texas with the CITCO Refinery in the background. Horace has severe respiratory problems and must has {sic} oxygen 24-7.

    You would have to be pretty stupid to take at face value the claim that the photograph ‘couples’ the operations at the refinery with the man’s alleged lung disease. You would have to be even more stupid to think other people are as stupid as you, so as to take it at face value.

    What this shows in fact is how climate change elevates mediocre academics — and photographers, for that matter — well beyond their abilities.

    Here’s a video of a psychiatrist I found, over a decade ago, wondering aloud about how to evoke distress to effect political action on climate change.


  18. benpile,
    The thing I keep wondering is why so many in the social/ mental health areas of the academy are so willing to 100% go for the climate crisis paradigm, and why so few are willing to wonder if prior science driven social movements fell apart or were later to fall into disrepute. And what parallels the climate crisis paradigm has with them.
    Instead like the creep in your Clockwork Green video, far too many wish to impose brain washing of vulnerable people, and demean/dehumanize those who decline to go along.


  19. Hunter, here is my half-formulated answer, formed while wondering what all these climate shrinks were doing, over the last decade.

    Further back in time, the cognitive sciences and related fields have made huge claims about what their science would one day reveal. (As have other sciences, including the not-unrelated field of ecology, but those are other stories). The appeal of the promise of understanding and unlocking the human mind, to rid it of its darkest impulses, and so on, is obvious.

    Long story short, I don’t believe that psychologists have made much progress towards their ambition of understanding human behaviour or ways to intervene in it positively. Consider that corner’s prosaic insight seems to have required a PhD to produce, but which is precisely that: prosaic… Show an upsetting picture and capture the mind with some appealing narrative. Our other favourite climate psychologist can be found (if you look hard enough) making candid apologies for the weakness of the statistical effects he claimed to have identified: they are good enough for behavioural science, he said. It was later that he forgoes the apologies and really doubles down on the trick of using exotic statistical methods — sophistry — to torture data into confessing deniers’ secrets. He then hides behind the walls of the academy to defend himself from criticism.

    As others have discovered, psychology is a field that is dominated by a particular political persuasion, and the consequence of this has been the question arising over the reproducability of experiments written up in many journal articles. It is a very poor science. And it is hard not to see it as bound up in its own crisis.

    Nonetheless, the political utility of psychology has not diminished. The latest innovations have been Sunstein’s “nudge” and “behavioural economics”. Very fashionable in wonkish circles. But have they been gimmicks, or revealed insights? They have attracted huge amounts of public money. They are useful to politicians because they seem to be experiencing a very similar crisis, owed to a very similar inability to understand people. Especially people who simply won’t obey ‘communications’.

    Climate change rescues all sorts of people in positions of authority from existential crises that would otherwise be terminal to their careers and ambitions. In other words, it rewards obedience. How else to account for the elevation of, at best, a mediocre academic, to consultant to a global agency tasked with saving the planet? I don’t say it to be insulting, I say it’s a phenomenon: professional climateers are, to a man (and woman) unremarkable people, their science and institutions are ditto, at best, mediocre, presented as superheroic organisations on which our lives depend. This goes further than saying it’s about grant-seeking. It’s existence-seeking.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. This from a box on page 7 Being aware of public opinion

    Research suggests there is widespread concern about climate change and support for climate policy in both the US and Europe. For example, a recent survey found public support for renewables – such as solar, onshore and offshore wind and hydroelectric power – exceeded 70% in France, Germany, Norway and the UK. In general, most people in most countries surveyed accept that climate change is a reality and is at least in part caused by humans, and are concerned about it to some extent. So there is no need to worry unduly about widespread scepticism towards climate change.
    However, on other policy options there is less agreement. In the same survey, 40% of
    respondents in the UK had positive views on nuclear power, whereas only 14-23% did
    in Germany, Norway and France. Hydraulic fracturing was perceived positively by 7% of
    respondents in Norway, 8% in France, 16% in Germany and 19% in the UK.

    This is all centred on Western Europe and the USA, where less than one-tenth of the global population live and have less than a quarter of global emissions. Other examples are from USA and UK. Yet the plan is to reduce global emissions by at least 20% in a little more than a decade. The outreach must be far more inclusive and must go into China, India, SE Asia and Africa. Those countries which are increasing their emissions. Also, to fulfill the plan, around 75% of proven reserves of fossil fuels (and any future reserves) need to be left in the ground. In a letter to Nature, McGlade and Ekins 2015 (The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C) estimate that the proven global reserves of oil, gas and coal would produce about 2900 GtCO2e. They further estimate that the “non-reserve resources” of fossil fuels represent a further 8000 GtCO2e of emissions. This compares to less than 1000 GtCO2e to reach 2°C. I took that 2900 GtCO2e from coal, gas and oil, and apportioned by major countries using figures by the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016.

    Climate mitigation aims will not work if you cannot persuade Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and other Gulf states, along with Russia, China, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Indonesia and Venezuela. This is where the biggest dividends are to be had from a properly inclusive and global outreach programme. Personally, I think Donald Trump will be somewhat more receptive to outreach overtures, especially as for many of these countries leaving fossil fuels in the ground would be economic suicide, and would jeopardize the very lives of those currently in power.


  21. Manic:

    This is all centred on Western Europe and the USA, where less than one-tenth of the global population live and have less than a quarter of global emissions. Other examples are from USA and UK. Yet the plan is to reduce global emissions by at least 20% in a little more than a decade.

    The proven reserves are of course highly skewed to where it’s been feasible and judged economic to do exploration. But the numbers you provide are enough to show the futility. Behind all these movements in the West is a tacit imperialism regarding what the poorest countries, many in Africa, will be allowed, while China gets a completely free hand. Suicide, homicide and appeasement. Charity – but not as St Paul conceived it.

    Liked by 1 person

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