LOS ANGELES, CA — “After a winter like this, how can you believe in global warming?” … “Climate change? Earth’s climate has always changed. Temperatures go up, temperatures go down.” … “Doesn’t the sun have something to do with it getting hotter?”
You’ve heard it all before. The disconnect between climate science and what many Americans choose to believe is huge. With public understanding of science alarmingly low nationwide, what’s the answer?
The weather outside was — what else might one expect, it being Seattle in mid-January? — cloudy, overcast, with on and off showers.
The climate inside, by contrast, was bustling, somewhat frenetic, with American Meteorological Society (AMS) meeting attendants (a record 3,569) ceaselessly swarming from one concurrent session to the next, from one quick passing hand shake and “How ya been?” among long-time acquaintances … to the next.
And between the ground floor and the upper reaches of the Washington State Convention Center, there was a peaceful and low-key original art exhibit, a good place to think and reflect, to briefly get away from the bustle, the meeting and greeting. All donated for an 11-week exhibition, and all with a focus on subjects near and dear to the heart of the AMS annual meeting: “Forecast: Communicating Weather and Climate.”
The annual ritual of publishing global temperature reports has become something akin to climate change’s Super Bowl. Much anticipation. A series of numbers flashed on the scoreboard. Tons of press. Load roars (and choice words for the refs) issuing from the bleachers. And much post-game analysis.
Or perhaps the annual report on the global temperature of the year-just-ended can be compared to/contrasted with the annual February rite of reporting on one of Pennsylvania’s best-known residents, Punxsutawney Phil, whose shadow, or lack thereof, is, legend holds, the harbinger for a late or early spring, respectively.
In 1989, cartoonist Matt Groening told a reporter that his new television show, “The Simpsons,” would tackle the serious subjects in life.
“It always amazes me how few cartoonists in print or animation go after the bigger issues, the kinds of things that keep you lying awake in the middle of the night,” Groening said, as reported in “Planet Simpson: How A Cartoon Masterpiece Defined A Generation,” a 2004 book about the show by journalist Chris Turner.
All five of the major temperature indices — NASA’s GISTemp, National Climate Data Center (NCDC), Hadley Centre/UAE (HadCRUT3v), University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH), and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) — have published their estimates of 2010 global surface or close-to-surface temperatures.
Based on Interviewing 65 'Leaders'
Spend the equivalent of nearly two days on the phone interviewing a range of selected national, regional, and local “leaders” on climate change, and you’ll likely come up with some interesting insights.
That’s what Eugene, Oregon-based nonprofit leader and frequent public speaker and climate change columnist Bob Doppelt did in assembling his nonscientific qualitative analysis of “key themes” emerging from phone interviews with some 65 individuals representing a span of generally progressive interests.
Matt Nisbet's Post-Partisan 'BigThink' Idea
It may come across as being a bit pompous, the name “bigthink.”
But there’s no question that some of the climate communications notions spelled out by a respected American University communications expert fall smack into the category of big, and ambitious, thinking.