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The IPCC on Risk, Part 5: Leaving no Room for Doubt

At the end of Part 4 in this series, I speculated that the authors of AR5, Chapter 2 may have dropped the ball when developing the manifesto for the declaration of a climate emergency. Having argued forcibly that the public perception of climate change risk is based upon unreliable intuitive thinking, the IPCC went on to describe a number of supposedly deliberative tools for decision making that would help avoid the pitfalls of intuition. However, despite highlighting the evaluation of weather events as an area particularly prone to intuitive error, the IPCC failed to mention that D&A is a deliberative approach available to address that problem. Instead, the authors of section 2.5 of AR5 Chapter 2 seemed satisfied in further promoting a precautionary approach (which they mistakenly characterised as ‘robust’) and emphasising the role played by scenarios, climate model ensemble output and structured expert judgement. This led me to speculate upon the possibility that, whilst the readers all knew where the document was headed, its authors did not.

The failure of section 2.5 to mention the formal methods of extreme weather attribution certainly comes across as an oversight, particularly since the section overlooks so many other important decision-making methodologies. However, it is important to point out that nowhere within AR5 is there a narrative of imminent climate catastrophe, or any calls for declaring a ‘climate emergency’. Yes, urgency was called for by the IPCC, but only because of the accumulative and non-linear impacts of greenhouse gas emissions; it wasn’t because there were already unacceptable damages arising from extreme weather caused by climate change. Having claimed that the intuitive decision makers’ fixation upon weather is an example of flawed thinking, and in the absence of a narrative of imminent catastrophe, even the authors of AR5, Chapter 2 couldn’t bring themselves to include, in section 2.5, the very same fixation amongst their deliberative methods. But it didn’t stop them returning to the value of co-opting availability bias when, in section 2.6, they describe their so-called ‘prescriptive analysis’ of climate change policy-making.

The Birth of a New Narrative

As a guideline for developing climate change policies, section 2.6 covers a lot of ground, most of which does not bear directly upon the question as to whether or not climate change is already evident in extreme weather. For example, much of it is concerned with the use of Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) in support of long-term social planning. As such, uncertainties appertaining to scenario development are discussed (e.g. questions regarding the linearity of damage functions, irreversibility and thresholds). Difficulties in forming national and international agreements are also covered, as are the uncertainties associated with technological developments and the likely responses to the implementation of climate change policy. All of this is very interesting, but the real nub of the issue, as far as my thesis is concerned, is not covered until section 2.6.6, ‘Public support and opposition to climate policy’. It is there that one is finally left in no doubt were the IPCC’s interests lie:

“In this section, we review what is known about public support or opposition to climate policy, climate-related infrastructure, and climate science. In all three cases, a critical issue is the role that perceptions of risks and uncertainties play in shaping support or opposition.”  

And if there were any doubts whether the IPCC understood the importance of tapping into emotion and exploiting intuitive responses born of personal experience, they are dispelled with:

“There is substantial empirical evidence that people’s support or opposition to proposed climate policy measures is determined primarily by emotional factors and their past experience rather than explicit calculations as to whether the personal benefits outweigh the personal costs.”

The relevant emotion, of course, is fear of a present or imminent danger. It is that emotion that needs to be triggered. It is at this point that the IPCC explicitly declares an interest in factors that can ‘influence concern’:

“One of the major determinants of popular support for climate policy is whether people have an underlying belief that climate change is dangerous. This concern can be influenced by both cultural factors and the methods of communication (Smith, 2005; Pidgeon and Fischhoff, 2011).”

Such emotions can be played upon through judicious language but, once again, consideration of immediate and local impact is deemed key:

“The use of language used to describe climate change — such as the distinction between ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ — play a role in influencing perceptions of risk, as well as considerations of immediate and local impacts (Lorenzoni et al., 2006).”

Thus, the reporting of immediate disaster is deemed paramount. It turns out that when it comes to getting people on board the climate alarm bandwagon, immediate and local impact (weather) is more influential than abstract arguments about climate trends. The availability heuristic can be the IPCC’s friend after all. Despite all of this, some concerns were expressed by the IPCC as to whether invoking disaster scenarios might be counterproductive:

“An important question related to climate change communication is whether the popular reporting of climate change through disaster scenarios has the effect of energizing people to support aggressive policy intervention, or to become dismissive of the problem.”

Fortunately, they were able to find encouragement, at least within certain groups:

“Other studies found interactive effects: those with a low awareness of climate change became concerned about being exposed to disaster scenarios…”

So what did the IPCC propose as the best way forward in order to engender the emotions conducive to accepting climate change policy? The answer to that question is provided in section 2.7 of AR5, Chapter 2. It lurks within a list of actions proposed to fill ‘gaps in knowledge and data’:

“Characterize the likelihood of extreme events and examine their impact on the design of climate change policies.”

And with that, a whole new narrative was born; for ‘characterize’ just read ‘demonstrate’. Once demonstrating the likelihood of extreme events became a major factor in enabling climate change policy, it was only a matter of time before it would become a political and media obsession.

No Need for Conspiracy

I’ve taken some time over the last five articles to convince the reader that the increasing media and political interest in extreme weather event attribution represents a key change of direction in the formulation and acceptance of climate change policy and that the roots can be found in the IPCC’s AR5, Chapter 2. It’s a strategy that plays upon the intuitive thinking within which we all engage and taps into the emotions we all share. I took my time because I felt it was important to set the story within a broader framework in which the IPCC had become increasingly concerned that cognitive biases, such as availability heuristics and loss aversion, were acting against policy acceptance – and yet, with the ‘right’ perception of risk, such biases could be re-employed in the service of climate change policy.

This new position wasn’t enabled by recent advances in cognitive psychology any more than it was inspired by new developments in causal reasoning. All it required was an IPCC that had realised that the presentation of a future risk was too abstract to inspire the majority of people. So much better to engage your audience with salient tales of natural disaster. A single news story telling of a storm, a flood, or a bushfire, accompanied by a journalist delivering a finger-wagging piece to camera, would be ten times more effective than a set of graphs purportedly implying an uncertain future disaster. Once such a portrayal of climate change as a present danger had captured the public’s imagination, it was a small step to invoke the concept of a climate emergency. And with an emergency to contend with, all manner of new order is enabled, as has been abundantly demonstrated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

You might think this a conspiracy theory but there was nothing conspiratorial about what the IPCC did. I trust that I have demonstrated that the evidence of the IPCC’s thinking is laid out in full view for anyone who is interested. All you need to do is read the IPCC’s AR5, Chapter 2 and preen away the smoke and mirrors.

Where do We Go From Here?

This has not been an attack on the field of Detection and Attribution. D&A is a legitimate attempt to apply our current understanding of the factors that determine climate change in order to discern the anthropogenic contribution. It is relevant to this series of articles because it has been used to determine the extent to which such contributions can be said to be the cause of extreme weather events. As such it is an attempt to apply the precepts of causal analysis, done so in pursuance of a question of importance to those who would wish to insure against the ravages of disaster or even determine culpability. It should be remembered, of course, that any such calculation is based upon comparison of model outputs, and so it inherits the structural and parametric uncertainties from which these models suffer. However, I have previously highlighted this problem in a Cliscep article and so it is not the main subject of concern here.

The need to determine the extent to which anthropogenic contributions increase extreme weather event risk was not fabricated by the IPCC in AR5. However, insofar as the IPCC had become increasingly concerned with the perception of risk and how that could be manipulated to facilitate acceptance of climate change policies, there can be no doubt that D&A represents a deliberative approach to decision making that conveniently plays to the intuitive thinking of the vast majority. D&A is not an example of the availability bias in action, but its results can be exploited for that purpose – and it is clear that the IPCC understood that from the outset.

It has to be acknowledged that there is nothing in AR5 Chapter 2 that explicitly calls for the exploitation of the emergency paradigm in order to clear the way forward for climate change policies. For example, there is no mention of the concept of declaring an emergency as a pretext for implementing legislation that takes away personal choices that the IPCC would consider sub-optimal. Indeed, there was no narrative of impending climate catastrophe at all. Instead, the narrative in AR5 was of a future demise that may be too abstract for the intuitive thinker to appreciate. Nevertheless, when one reads AR5, Chapter 2, and sees how strong was the desire to exploit cognitive biases, one cannot be in the least bit surprised to see that the crisis catastrophe storyline, fuelled by notions of present-day damage has now taken hold across the world. The name of the game, as far as the IPCC was concerned, was to use ‘instruments’ for policy implementation because, after all, ‘The choice of climate policies can thus be viewed as an exercise in risk management’.

As long as risks to our future wellbeing are evaluated within the all-encompassing risk framework of detrimental climate change, then the range of instruments that are deemed legitimate in the pursuit of climate policy is bound to be very wide. Psychological manipulation? Yes. Removal of civil liberty? Yes. The misrepresentation of uncertainty as risk? Yes. All of these things and more are deemed both necessary and desirable. And it’s all done earnestly and with the best possible motives. That’s how these things always work.

This series of articles has been published on the eve of the publication of the IPCC’s sixth annual review (AR6). A lot has happened since AR5, and it will be interesting to see just how much of it is assimilated within the pages of AR6. One can expect a greater emphasis on extreme weather events, with a lot of effort expended in demonstrating their novelty and frequency. In particular, I foresee considerable effort in attributing current economic damage to climate change, as a counter-argument to those who would point to the economic costs and risks associated with accelerated transition pathways. There will also be lot more regarding the economics of non-linear damage functions. I wouldn’t even be surprised if more is said regarding the successes of ‘social amplification of risk’, in the guise of climate assemblies and similar political stunts. One thing for sure is that the days of arguing for action now, in order to avert a distant, though uncertain, catastrophe are long gone. And none of this transformation is the result of advances in science.

43 thoughts on “The IPCC on Risk, Part 5: Leaving no Room for Doubt

  1. The treatment of uncertainty is incoherent from the very beginning of chapter 2. In paragraph 2 of chap 2.1, uncertainty is defined as “a cognitive state of incomplete knowledge that results from a lack of information and/or from disagreement about what is known or even knowable.” In other words, uncertainty is to be used in a way that refers only to states of mind. Then in the very next paragraph, “risk” is defined in reference to “… uncertain states of the world,” i.e. it is acknowledged that uncertainty can be “out there” in the real world and not merely a “cognitive state.”

    The words “uncertain”/ “uncertainty(ies)” are used 500 times in the chapter, in whichever usage the authors happen to fancy. Given that risk is defined in terms of uncertainty, which is given two quite different meanings, the authors are in the position of Humpty Dumpty of being able to make their statements mean whatever they like. And we all know what happened to him.

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  2. John, If your conclusions are correct and the purpose of chapter 2 was to inform those making decisions to make better ones and/or convince others that the best decisions were being made, using whatever evidence was available (increasing using extreme weather events attributable to climate change) then I wonder if the chapter was located in the correct space. Those making the decisions are termed policy makers, so why wasn’t the chapter in the publication reserved for them – Summary for Policymakers?

    Any comment on what was summarised in that publication?

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  3. I wonder how Attp is handling this apparent change of approach? I suppose it is like the way the Soviets reacted to the abrupt policy changes in the USSR in the 20s and 30s. The long term logic of history is subject to huge short term necessities

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  4. ALAN

    You can find the four summaries for policymakers for AR5 in their synthesis report here

    Click to access SYR_AR5_FINAL_full.pdf


    pp 2-26. The meat appears to be in SPM 3.1 which states:

    “Effective decision-making to limit climate change and its effects can be informed by a wide range of analytical approaches for evaluating expected risks and benefits, recognizing the importance of governance, ethical dimensions, equity, value judgments, economic assessments and diverse perceptions and responses to risk and uncertainty.”

    It’s fair to say that leaves nothing out. The message to policy makers seems to be: “Do it how you like.”

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  5. Geoff,

    Yes, I know. It is one of my main frustrations with the document. It talks a lot about making decisions under uncertainty but it never really gets to grips with the concept. It was written by a consortium and I’m not even convinced they got together beforehand to agree on their conceptual framework. I suppose we should blame the coordinating lead authors.

    Alan,

    I haven’t really looked at the summary for policy makers to see whether it is consistent in this area. I’ve no reason to believe it would be.

    Miab,

    If Ken Rice decides to comment, then we may get the opportunity to ask that question. I hesitate to put words in his mouth but there are a number of scientists who appear to go along with the IPCC ploy, i.e. even if the science for impending or present catastrophe is weak, we should still play that card with the public if it is necessary to inculcate the correct sense of urgency.

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  6. Geoff,

    Oh, I see now that you have responded to Alan’s question to me. Thanks.

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  7. JOHN

    It was written by a consortium and I’m not even convinced they got together beforehand to agree on their conceptual framework.

    They do seem to get together quite a lot. See the report on progress for AR6. Before the virus sent them on-line, the draft outline was agreed in Addis Ababa, The WG1 short-lived climate forcers group (about 85 of them – I counted) met in Geneva, and the regional assessment group met in Trieste. The first lead author meeting for WG2 was in Durban, the second in Katmandu, the third in Dublin and Lanzhou, and the fourth in Kazan. WG3 lead authors have met in Edinburgh and New Delhi. That’s a lot of air miles to not come up with a coherent definition of what they’re talking about.

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  8. John, thank you for a beautiful, step-by-step, insightful and deeply logical way of leading the humble reader by the hand, through the labyrinth, to the inevitable conclusion that AR5 has precious little to do with science and everything to do with propagating an agenda.

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  9. Thanks for your reports on this, John R. A bit over my head but I think I’ve got the gist:

    According to the AR5 WGIII Chap2 team, System 1 was useful but a bit stinky, System 2 was useful but a bit wonky, so both* approaches should be used when evaluating uncertainties, but science said that it’d be best if System 1s were disguised as Systems 2s.

    Maybe I’ll get more gist manana.

    ===
    *Michael Grubb suggested that they add a System 3. See the top Grubb comment here:

    https://archive.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/utilities/comments.php?r=23&c=105&t=1&q=intuitive&p=UK

    **Lost footnote: While googling about the IPCC’s attitude towards risk and uncertainy I kept bumping into a new (to me) bit of bafflegab: ‘cut-crossing issues’. I first encountered it in a PDF called ‘Annex A: Comparison of AR4 and AR5 Approaches’, which said this:

    Consistent treatment and communication of uncertainty across the Working Groups is a key cross-cutting issue for the IPCC and goal for the AR5.

    As far as I can tell, the most usual definition of ‘cross-cutting issue’ is something like ‘an issue that is one of several issues that must be treated at the same time or everything will fail’, but that doesn’t really work for the Annex A quote above. Perhaps they meant ‘key mainstreaming issue’ rather than ‘key cross-cutting issue’.

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  10. @ John thanks for this series, which I still haven’t fully digested.

    It sounds very much as if my preferred approach to persuading people – respectful, reasoned argument – is going to be useless if the other side are intending to employ emotional short circuits instead. The evidence is firmly on the sceptic’s side regarding issues such as casualties caused by extreme weather. Nevertheless that does not stop abuse of the data for “the cause”. Remember the Institute for Public Policy Research’s absurd claim?

    “Since 2005, the number of floods across the world has increased by 15 times, extreme temperature events by 20 times and wildfires seven-fold.”

    As reported on the gold-standard, most trusted source of info for the country and maybe the world, the BBC.

    Multiple outlets reported that Hurricane Florence was made much worse thanks to climate change. The initial attribution study, rushed out before Flo had even struck land, said there would be 50% more rain thanks to good ol’ CO2. Months later the revised figure came out: there had been 5% more rain than expected, not 50% more. As far as I know, none of the outlets that reported the 50% worse figure reported the revised 5% figure.

    In December 2019 the beeb headlined a story with “Climate change: Oceans running out of oxygen as temperatures rise.” I complained on the website within 45 minutes of publication. Two days ago (yes, February 2021) I received my third letter from them apologising for the delay in responding to my complaint, and advising me not to contact them again until I hear from them.

    A couple of years ago I was with an acquaintance who happened to be an XR member. The subject of climate change came up, and I ventured that so far nothing demonstrably bad had happened, and that in fact humanity had never had it so good. But the assertion came back that the Arctic ice was melting fast. I knew that it was actually at a fairly typical cover for the time of year. “Yes,” came the reply, “but it’s rotten ice.”

    It seems like the rational and calm approach to things leads to XR in charge and a permanent state of emergency, curtailed freedoms and destroyed wealth.

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  11. @ DMA perhaps arguing that CO2 does not affect temperature might be a more effective counter to the alarmists than rational debate, but it isn’t true. You can calculate the approximate temperature of the Earth in the absence of greenhouse gases easily enough, and it is not the 288 K ish it is now.

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  12. Barry has pointed out before the grubby fingerprints of Adam Corner and his Climate Outreach and Information Network re. the ‘desirable communication’ of climate change to the public, which includes emphahsising extreme weather. This is from their ‘Effective Communication Handdbook’ aimed specifically at IPCC authors:

    “The link between weather and climate is a key example for applying effective communication
    around uncertainty. Extreme weather events can provide tangible evidence of climate change
    and offer an opportunity to discuss climate risks, but discussion of extreme weather needs to
    be handled with care: despite being confronted with the ‘evidence of their own eyes’, the same
    political polarisation that afflicts other areas of climate communication can apply to extreme
    weather events.

    This does not mean climate communicators should avoid talking about extreme weather events.
    They provide an opportunity to discuss the future risks and impacts of climate change. The
    question is, how to do it effectively and navigate this difficult and emotionally charged space.
    There is the added complication that not all extreme weather is affected by climate change in the
    same way, so answers tend to be far more complicated than the questions. But by taking a careful
    and considered approach, sticking to the science and avoiding overly technical language, talking
    about the known links with extreme weather can be an extremely powerful way to relate climate
    change to our everyday lives.

    Talking about extreme weather events

    Following the 2013/14 floods in the UK, Climate Outreach led a workshop with communication specialists to identify consensus on best practice in communicating flood risks in a changing climate. The points agreed included:

    Climate scientists are increasingly able to quantify the link between some extreme
    weather events and climate change. Communicating the growing confidence in
    ‘attribution’ is important (rather than starting from the position that ‘no single weather
    event is caused by climate change’, which used to be the standard response).

    Public audiences around the world increasingly understand the links between extreme
    weather and climate change – a recent survey of four European nations found a variety
    of impacts including storms and floods were viewed as signs of climate change, and
    there is a similar picture in many US states affected by drought.

    Where the science allows, talking about the link between weather and climate is crucial,
    though ideally before (rather than during or after) an extreme weather event occurs.
    This helps to normalise the idea and prevent communicators appearing opportunistic.

    Experience of extreme weather does not override the cultural and ideological filters
    through which people interpret the world – it remains important to understand the
    values of your audience and frame any discussion of extreme weather events using
    language that speaks to those values.”

    I would suggest that the change in tactics from AR3/AR4 to AR5 has a lot to do with pressure from climate activists and environmental groups wanting to more effectively communicate a sense of immediate threat to the public so that climate mitigation measures can be more easily justified and readily accepted.

    https://climateoutreach.org/reports/ipcc-communications-handbook/

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  13. JIT: “It sounds very much as if my preferred approach to persuading people – respectful, reasoned argument – is going to be useless if the other side are intending to employ emotional short circuits instead…”

    It’s much worse than that. The main reason for propagating emotional short-circuits, is that the propagators are emotionally short-circuited themselves. And there are millions of them. Cognitive capability and domain knowledge, can actually be in service to such short-circuits. If your preferred approach had dominant purchase, this would have been over decades ago.

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  14. Jaime,

    It would take me quite a while I think to properly unpick the history of the development of the weather porn narrative. I chose to highlight a genesis within the IPCC canon but, as Andy has said, this genesis is probably just as much a symptom as a cause. That said, I think it is worth pointing out that, with their 2018 pamphlet, the Climate Outreach crew were writing guidelines for IPCC authors who had already demonstrated some four years earlier that they did not really need them. I have previously observed (in my article ‘Experts, Texperts’) that these Outreach people are self-promoting, self-regarding individuals whose background falls well below that required to qualify them as experts. I’d like to think that would be enough for them to fail in their mission, but I am afraid that the current political climate makes success all too easy. My God, I wish I had their log to stand on.

    Thanks for the link, by the way. I’ll take a look at their handbook later. However, you’ve already provided enough quotes to suggest that it will be full of the same old patronizing rubbish they produced in their ‘Uncertainty Handbook’.

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  15. I’ve now read the Climate Outreach communications handbook for IPCC authors, but I don’t really want to spend too much time talking about it. It is basically a crash course in how to use well established methods of persuasion. There was this bit, however, that I think is worth focusing upon:

    “Communicating the growing confidence in ‘attribution’ is important (rather than starting from the position that ‘no single weather event is caused by climate change’, which used to be the standard response).”

    Unfortunately, what attribution experts are increasingly confident about is that ‘no single weather event is caused by climate change’. So the authors are talking rubbish.

    It’s this sort of garbage statement that troubles me about the Outreach crew. As soon as they go anywhere near talking about the science, they show themselves up. In their case, it isn’t so much Climate Outreach as Climate Overreach.

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  16. Today’s WUWT:

    You may recall a 2009 Obama EPA memo, obtained for CEI in the “Richard Windsor” FOIA litigation, laying out the intended reframing of the climate campaign — the “shift from making this about the polar caps [to] about our neighbor with respiratory illness…”, acknowledged by the Obama EPA as necessary due to “climate change in the abstract [being] an increasingly – and consistently – unpersuasive argument to make.” This suit is a continuation of that.

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/02/23/the-return-of-sue-and-settle/

    Alas the article does not fill in enough blanks for a casual reader to understand what the hell is going on, but the excerpt above had familiar components.

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  17. John – Climate Outreach are a bunch of activists, always have been – Their founder is the original creator of Deniers Halls of Shame – and a whose who or ‘deniers’ – New Statesman – and fossil fuel funded smears – over 20 years ago. He is even credited with the ‘the phrase climate denier’ – (George Marshall – also co founder of Earth First UK! – Rising Tide and Rainforests action groups, and ex Greenpeace director and Campaign against Climate change for years)
    https://www.climate-resistance.org/2012/04/how-to-talk-like-an-oily-dishonest-creep.html

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  18. George Marshall: “…our response often is utterly disconnected with the information we have…”

    Actually, very true!

    “…their are psychological explanations for that…”

    Also true. But the social psychological explanations are rooted in cultural belief, which his avid belief likely wouldn’t allow him to countenance.

    “…its not information alone that produces change, but it’s information in a way that engages with our emotions…”

    Golly, he’s on a roll. So if publics aren’t buying into an urgent dramatic change because the information doesn’t appear to warrant this, but then the information becomes saturated with emotion, then some of them at least will indeed end up buying it after all.

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  19. The logic appears to be as follows:

    1. The science says that immediate action is required to prevent damaging climate change.

    2. The science is right. There is no point in questioning it.

    3. Some do question it. They must be doing this because they fail to understand the science (unlike us) and their values and beliefs are being challenged. They are also emotionally unconnected.

    4. To overcome this, we need to communicate the science in a way that taps into their emotions and does not threaten their values.

    5. This can be done without misrepresenting the science.

    The upshot is that people like Marshall think they are doing nothing wrong; in fact, they see themselves as doing an excellent and essential job. It would be nice to think that one could make a counterargument that would impress his ilk but there are so many levels of self-protection built into the above logic that it would be futile trying. He speaks of the values and beliefs of others being threatened. He needs to think about his own values and beliefs and consider to what extent they are inviolate. Let’s start with his understanding of causal theory…

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  20. John: “The upshot is that people like Marshall think they are doing nothing wrong…”

    Absolutely, I think this is bang on. He’s not lying, but believing. In the full sense of the latter such as an avid belief in God, which bypasses rationality. But it went wrong at your step 1). Although I would replace ‘damaging’ with ‘catastrophic’, the former not being strong enough to invoke mass emotive response at the level currently seem, and indeed the narrative of ‘certain imminent catastrophe’ emerging in the public domain through a process of emotive selection. But even the mainstream science says nothing of the sort, let alone anything sceptical. 2) reflects how strong cultural consensuses are always policed, whether they originally arose from science or not. 3) happens in religions too, if you just replace ‘the science’ with ‘the word of god’ or whatever. 4) is essentially back-justification for propagating emotive memes that, given adherents are themselves under the spell, they are going to propagate anyhow. 5) is impossible to do, but belief blinds them to this fact.

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  21. When did The Science ever say anything? You can misinterpret the science perhaps even more easily as you can interpret it correctly. What is unusual is this sudden(?) switch to doom and gloom with evidence for disasters suddenly appearing or being now interpreted as such. Attenborough, in particular, has transformed into a red-faced prophet of doom.

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  22. Marshall marshals all the persuasive powers of the un-Enlightenment to make the case for blithely accepting a non-evidence based scientific ‘truth’ handed down by an unimpeachable hierarchy of ‘experts’, who in days gone by would be the clergy – the priests, the bishops, the arch bishops. Realising that the Enlightenment itself is not perfectly reversible, that there will always be a certain amount of resistance in the form of ‘hysteresis loss’ from a population still trained to value facts, data and empirical evidence above religious belief, he comes up with a cunning Baldric-like plan to communicate non-empirical ‘science’ and evidence as genuine science, using emotional triggers to do so and sleight of hand con tricks as well. The problem we have is that this dishonest communication strategy is itself becoming less necessary as people substitute cult-like belief and superstition for a former reliance upon facts and data. The Enlightenment is reversing itself seemingly perfectly now and Marshall’s con tricks are becoming redundant. The public increasingly just need to be told that something is true by the high priests of science and they believe automatically that it must be true, because they saw it on a ‘science’ program on the BBC or read it in the paper.

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  23. Jaime: “…an unimpeachable hierarchy of ‘experts’, who in days gone by would be the clergy – the priests, the bishops, the arch bishops.”

    Absolutely. Below is how even an *orthodox* climate scientist sees this, i.e. one who considering his statements about the likely range of temperature change and impacts, is still firmly within the dangerous warming category. The climate scientist is Hans von Storch, and the quotes are from a book he published with his cultural scientist pal back in 2013. Note ‘weather-wizards’, ‘shamans’ and ‘prophets’. The whole commentary comes from NoTricksZone here: http://notrickszone.com/2013/01/28/new-book-by-hans-von-storch-climate-scientists-took-on-role-of-prophets-completely-in-over-their-heads/ .

    —————————————–
    The authors reveal how they feel about alarmist scientists. Since the early 2000s they felt “something was amiss”.

    “Was the climate apocalypse really at our doorstep as we could read in the media? Or were they exaggerating in their depiction of the results coming from climate science? […]

    The climate scientist [von Storch] had the suspicion that climate science was dragging around a ‘cultural rucksack’ that was influencing the interpretation of the data. The cultural scientist [Krauss], with regards to the appearances by some climate scientists in the media and the roles they were readily assigned, was reminded of weather-wizards and shamans of foreign cultures.”

    In the book, the authors even describe climate science as a ‘tribe of scientists’ and how some began behaving like prophets:

    Some climate scientists were regular interview-partners and talkshow guests – and thus self-confidence became bigger, to the point that they knew the truth about climate change and thus became convinced that policy-making and society should follow the deeper insight of science.”

    Without really being aware of it, climate scientists had taken over the role of prophets: They predicted the imminent end-of-the-world if society did not fundamentally change soon, reduced its emissions, and behaved more sustainably with the environment. The problem was not only the message, but also that they were were often completely way in over their heads with the role as mediator between nature and society.”
    —————————————-

    Storch and Krauss, with their ‘cultural rucksack’, ‘tribe’ and description of a self-confidence and conviction getter stronger and stronger, hit very close to the mechanisms of how such phenomena as catastrophic climate-change culture emerge. The orthodox folks didn’t take much notice of them.

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  24. Andy,

    I only said ‘damaging’ because that is the term used in the Outreach handbook. I think we are on the same page generally. However, I do feel it is also important to point out that George isn’t even getting his science right. It isn’t so much a case of misrepresenting it so much as him not understanding it in the first place! Concentrating upon the probability of necessity whilst disregarding the probability of sufficiency is a common error. He is trying to treat this neglect as if it were some sort of advancement in understanding.

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  25. John, I agree with all you say above. With the addition that the main reason he gets everything so wrong being that his biases from avid belief are so strong that he could never possibly get anything within this domain right anyhow (and even if he’s amazingly intelligent plus also amazingly correct within other unrelated domains). And further, regarding your ‘advancement of understanding’, the biases from avid / emotive belief are so strong that pretty much anything could be called into play for justification, no matter that it may defy or even reverse the hard-won rational knowledge that humanity has accumulated over millennia. In the case of Lewandowsky for instance, he has essentially turned even his own prior work upside down in order to fit the cultural narrative.

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  26. @ Alan I get the feeling that you watched Attenborough’s performance yesterday. I forced myself to watch it, despite knowing that it would throw me off an even keel. (It did.) To my shame, my first thought was of Le Voyage dans la Lune.

    In the spirit of Geoff I have transcribed the 2m30s below. It is so bad as to be embarrassing. But how was it received? As a friend once said, describing a tale by one we knew to be a serial liar, “the bull**** was coming thick and fast, and we were lapping it up.”

    Sir David Attenborough to the UN Security Council 23rd Feb 2021 via BBC:

    If we continue on our current path we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security. Food production. Access to fresh water. Habitable ambient temperature. And ocean food chains. And if the natural world can no longer support the most basic of our needs then much of the rest of civilisation will quickly break down. Please make no mistake: climate change is the biggest threat to security that modern humans have ever faced. I don’t envy you the responsibility that this places on all of you and your governments.
    Some of these threats will assuredly become reality within a few short years. Others could, in the lifetime of today’s young people, destroy entire cities and societies, even altering the stability of the entire world.
    Perhaps the most significant lesson brought by these last twelve months has been that we are no longer separate nations, each best served by looking after its own needs and security. We are a single, truly global species, whose greatest threats are shared and whose security must ultimately come from acting together, in the interests of us all.
    I do believe that if we act fast enough we can reach a new stable state. It will compel us to question our economic models and where we place value; invent entirely new industries; recognise the moral responsibility that wealthy nations have to the rest of the world and put a value on nature that goes far beyond money. And through global cooperation, we may achieve far more than tackling climate change. We may finally create a stable, healthy world where resources are equally shared. We may for the first time in the entire history of humanity, come to know what it feels like to be secure.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. JIT:

    Yuk. And usual list of emotive meme variants: ‘hope and fear’ cocktail, tick. Incredible urgency, tick. The fear as existential as one can imagine, tick. But amazingly the hoped for / touted salvation can still be complete, tick. And indeed ‘better’! tick (finally reach nirvana). Anxiety for children, tick (one of the strongest instincts emotive memes can leverage). Agenda incorporation, tick (single world government, change all economies, plus ‘equally shared’ – which usually ends up being by blunt force not equal opportunity). (Ultimate) moral association, tick. The completely impossible, tick. (No species, including our own, can ever be fully secure. Evolution nor the universe isn’t like that. And nor can species evolved for the real world cope with it’s artificial [temporary] suspension for too long, plus when reality inevitably crashes back, it will come back big!)

    Liked by 2 people

  28. George’s Research director of the last 10 years or so (Dr Adam Corner) – who has just left Climate Outreach

    Adam had a blog 100monthsandcounting a very long time ago, I guess George met Adam at Climate Camp and took him under his wing/influence.

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  29. A complete Attenborough transcript is available here (along with one from BoJo):

    https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-boris-johnsons-address-to-the-un-security-council-on-climate-and-security-23-february-2021

    That capitalises Attenborough’s mention of a great war:

    …you hold the key to preventing a repetition of that global catastrophe, the Great War, that took place during my youth and transformed a whole generation…

    So do reports in various newspapers.

    Attenborough is clearly a bit muddle-headed when it comes to climate science but I don’t think he’s so generally gaga that he thinks the Great War happened during his youth. (He was born in 1926.) He was prolly talking about WW2.

    …you hold the key to preventing a repetition of that global catastrophe, the great war that took place during my youth and transformed a whole generation…

    Or is that being too fair to the nagging old misanthrope?

    Liked by 2 people

  30. @John – thanks for wading thru IPCC AR5 for this helpful/insightful series.

    bit o/t but relevant – just watched BBC weather at 6:30 – big red extreme heat “anomaly” over UK & Europe

    from the web – “BBC Weather: Europe bakes in ‘unusual warmth’ as temperatures skyrocket across continent”

    how do these people sleep at night? do they all take a “forget last week” pill!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  31. Sir David has apparently been transformed into Wormtongue….
    Who is his Saruman?

    Like

  32. Barry Woods

    Is there a more boring person in the climatosphere than George Marshall? He reminds me of (and even looks like) the most forgettable priest whose sermons I had to sit through as a catholic school kid in the 60’s. I trashed his book on Amazon:

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3SZK6G9U4D4H0?ref=pf_ov_at_pdctrvw_srp

    For reasons I can’t fathom, Judith Curry liked it:

    https://judithcurry.com/2014/11/04/jcs-book-shelf/

    To me, George Marshall is Father McKenzie personified from the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby

    Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
    No one comes near
    Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
    what does he care?

    Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
    No one was saved

    :

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  33. At the risk of turning this thread into a lockdown sceptic’s talking point (which I do not want to do), I think it is perhaps illuminating to observe the parallels between the tactics proposed in AR5 Chapter 2 (to encourage compliance with climate change policy) and those proposed by SAGE at the outset of the pandemic. Referring to a document written under the SAGE aegis, The Telegraph writes:

    “Dated March 22, the paper written by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) stated: ‘A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened; it could be that they are reassured by the low death rate in their demographic group, although levels of concern may be rising … the perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging. To be effective this must also empower people by making clear the actions they can take to reduce the threat’.

    The same document presented a grid of 14 options for increasing compliance which included ‘use media to increase sense of personal threat’, a tactic which was seen as having a ‘high’ effectiveness though spill-over effects ‘could be negative’.”

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/04/02/state-fear-ministers-used-covert-tactics-keep-scared-public/

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