Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

Presentation at AGU Meeting

with 12 comments

Dr. John Abraham and I will be speaking at the 2010 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting. The abstract appears below. We hope to see you there.

ID# PA43A-07
Location: 3005 (Moscone West)
Time of Presentation:  Dec 16 3:10 PM – 3:25 PM
An Emerging Ethic of Responsibility: A Case Study for Engaging the Public
S. A. Mandia1, 2; J. A. Abraham3
1. Physical Sciences, Suffolk County Comm. College, Selden, NY, United States.
2. Education Project Advisory Board, Center for Communicating Science, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY, United States.
3. School of Engineering, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN, United States.

Recent trends in the public’s understanding of climate change have diverged from the broad, and well-documented consensus held by scientists. While the level of consensus regarding climate change among scientists is very high, the public remains deeply divided. Furthermore, a large percentage of the general public perceives that a serious debate exists within the science community on the basic theory of anthropogenic climate change. This disconnect between the scientific community and the general public should motivate scientists to take a more active role in public outreach.

Recent stories in the media have increased the public’s resistance to climate change. Included here are Climategate, mistakes in the IPCC regarding Himalayan glacial melt, and other reports (inaccurately reported) about IPCC errors related to the sensitivity of the Amazon rainforest to a changing climate. Along with these stories, there has been a well-documented increase in activism by “skeptical scientists” and by “skeptical non-scientists” to engage the public with a goal of promoting the perception of a serious debate within the science community.Also during the past few years, a number of scientists who have taken an active role in educating the general public have come under political, scientific, and personal pressure. The resistance exerted on scientists who become public educators has caused many scientists to avoid outreach efforts.

Here, the authors present a case study for a successful effort to engage the public on the issue of climate change. We utilized a number of media methods to cause a significant impact on the public discussion of global warming. In addition, the effort has begun to affect legislative processes within the United States and abroad. The authors present this case study to provide a roadmap to colleagues who wish to participate in public outreach.


Written by Scott Mandia

December 12, 2010 at 5:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

12 Responses

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  1. It would be good for scientists to start engaging the public through open debate with skeptics, rather than pretending there are no scientific grounds for debate. Whenever the two sides have debated–I can think of several cases–the skeptical side has won, that is, it has persuaded more listeners or viewers of its case than the AGW side. This is perhaps why AGW believers are so reluctant to debate. That said, I and other skeptics look forward to, finally, having this open debate, and may the better side win.

    Mandia: There is no debate about AGW. Humans are the primary drivers of global warming and that is as well-established as just about any scientific hypothesis. The magnitude of future change, the impacts, and the policy decisions that need to be made are debatable. Debating whether or not humans are causing global warming is like debating whether or not smoking is linked to lung cancer.

    Paul MacRae

    December 12, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    • Paul MacRae, on what evidence do you base your view that debate is a helpful format for the public to learn about science? Can you think of any conditions under which this format would *not* work well?

      Anna Haynes

      December 12, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    • “It would be good for scientists to start engaging the public through open debate with skeptics, rather than pretending there are no scientific grounds for debate.”

      That turns science into a contest of rhetorical skills. The real debate is in the peer reviewed literature.

      J Bowers

      December 13, 2010 at 7:01 am

      • I know that, you know that; I was wondering if Paul MacRae knew that.
        Now you’ve gone and given him the answer…

        Anna Haynes

        December 13, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    • Paul MacRae, a proper skeptic would know that a debate is a popularity contest, where facts are less important than the framing. We all like to hear what we like to hear. We most certainly do not like to hear that we are wrecking our own habitat. That by itself should make any proper skeptic shy away from drawing conclusions about debates with a non-knowledgable audience.

      Heck, take the majority of evolution vs creation debates: ‘won’ by the creationists. I guess this means evolution is wrong, creationism is right.

      But your last sentence already tells it all: you want the “better side” to win. We, scientists, want the FACTS to win.


      December 14, 2010 at 1:06 pm

  2. i’ll be there!


    December 13, 2010 at 3:05 am

  3. Scott, for my book on sea level rise, I need a brief up-to-day description how the American public views global warming these days. Any idea where I can find this info?

    Hunt Janin

    December 13, 2010 at 5:15 am

  4. Here we go again. When I entered these “wars” a few years back I thought I was just trying to learn more and share common interests. I thought it a shame to waste the time and work of top thinkers with expertise in relevant disciplines answering the same tired and debunked articles hundreds of times. Some advised DNFTT – starve the fake skeptics with silence – and I thought that was wise advice. But since I rather enjoy argumentation and writing I entered the fray and looked up the sources for those making counterpoints.

    Not once was there anything but a long trail of careful legerdemain to support inaction and and keep the power in the hands of those who already have it in the energy business, the polluters and emitters, toxic spills and all. I was surprised, I kept thinking there might be some substance to it. But no – really really nothing there! However, it was all so carefully concealed, so oilily polite with sneers and kindly parental advice, that a normal person with a life would just take it as read.

    There is no point you can make that will not be turned on its head and made to represent the organized “merchants of doubt” (per Frank Luntz, all that is needed is doubt). For example, they recently adopted the “first they came for …. and then they came for me” and turned it around!

    All too often, people measure others by what they know of themselves. Those who are serious and spend their lives trying to understand and help cannot absorb that more and better explanation requires a minimum level of goodwill and openness in the auditor/audience to succeed. That is a commodity in very short supply with the organized opposition and their dupes and wannabes.

    Susan Anderson

    December 16, 2010 at 11:01 am

  5. For several years I have been commenting online at the Globe and Mail and CBC websites on issues of sustainability, energy efficiency and climate change. I’m the favoured lightning rod for the always-present contrarians and denialists, the delivery boys for the “Merchants of Doubt”. Because of the limitations of those media, I designed my own website as a repository for related objective and verifiable studies. I’ve just recently migrated it to and I invite you to visit.

    I also write for Frontline Security magazine on the related security and public safety issues (3 articles so far and another coming in a couple of months). The target audience there is executives in business, government and NGOs. I am convinced that there is more leverage there than in the mainstream media because they can see the benefit of migrating to sustainable energy resources and mitigating the impact of climate change.


    January 6, 2011 at 8:22 am

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