Friday, November 22, 2013

New media and climate

The IPCC has released a video summarising the report of Working Group 1. It is up on YouTube and you can watch it above. To my knowledge the IPCC has not done this before, and efforts were made to get it done in a professional way. The production is technically sound and of high visual quality. There are beautiful pictures and sequences, even some interesting electronic chirpy sounds which makes it appear slightly arty, given the subject matter.

The question of course is, how well does this video communicate the central messages from WG1? What is the relation between pictures, sound, text and speech? And how well does it follow the IPCC's remit of being policy relevant but policy neutral?

I would like to see what readers of Klimazwiebel have to say after watching this.


  1. Four things struck me:
    1. high production values;
    2. wooden scientists;
    3. alarmist pictures; and
    4. it ends with "requires substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions" (which although strictly not policy prescriptive is of course designed to be misinterpreted as such)

  2. I was struck by the last sentence that Richard mentions (and which was spoken by Thomas Stocker, the c0-chair of WGI) as well and wondered if such a remark is also in the SPM.
    To me this sounds policy prescriptive.
    Also note that they don't say anything about the standstill/pause in global warming.
    And they didn't say anything about the fact that for the first time in 5 reports they were unable to give a best estimate for climate sensitivity, a decision that was only explained in a footnote in the SPM.
    So this video is clearly very promotional (just like the press conference in Stockholm was) and not an attempt to present a neutral picture of the state of the science.
    Marcel Crok

  3. Looks like the information is of much better quality as journalistic products which often focus on the fringes. That generates controversy and thus readers and ad views.

    I wonder who many climate ostriches there would be if they would get their information from scientists and not from journalists.

    This is not the first, but the 38th video of IPCCGeneva.

  4. Victor

    many thanks for the hint, I seem to have missed something!

    This will provide a nice corpus to be analysed by social scientists.

    What makes you think the above video was not a journalistic product? Do you mean the scientists were writing the script? If so, would we need to regard it as official extension of the WG1 report? An assessment report in another medium, so to speak?

  5. @Reiner, Victor
    This is clearly a product of key individuals in the IPCC. But as it has not been approved by the plenary, it is not an IPCC product.

    1. Yes, but they do provide a "we can have it both ways" disclaimer. One thing I noticed in the lengthy "credits", btw, was the conspicuous absence of any acknowledgement of the contributions of the "expert reviewers". Pls. see:

  6. The statement was "Limiting climate change requires substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions"

    Richard Tol, is that really controversial? Does that prescribe policy?

    I wonder why there are no complaints below the post of Lennart Bengtsson for making policy recommendations.

    Reiner Grundmann, I did not notice that I wrote that this video was not a journalistic product. Feel free to interpret that word broadly.

    I do find it ironic that Marcel Crok, who calls himself a journalist, complains about his video because it does not mention the controversial topic he likes, but limits itself to clear findings.

  7. @Victor
    If you listen carefully, it is not policy prescriptive .

    If you half-listen, Stocker says we should reduce emissions.

    Few people listen carefully.

  8. Seriously, what do people on this forum want from the IPCC (apart from less 'chirpy sounds', perhaps)?

  9. This video tells a myth of power and superiority, and it only uses climate change to illustrate it.

    Science: computers, technology, outer space, experts at work, educated, clean, active, conferences, white ice, sublime nature, responsible, concerned, global = will save the world

    Society: flooded houses, one child, of color, ethnic, cultural, helpless, uneducated, world in turmoil, dirty water, in danger, helpless, mute, passive, local = has to be saved.

  10. A layperson would interpret this video as clear message that we do not need any further IPCC reports. Everything is clearly understood, projections are accurate enough to inform policy makers, even at regional scales (!), and the paleoclimate connections between global temperature and CO2 are well established and understood. Anyone attending a real climate workshop nowadays and sees climate scientist discussing among themselves realizes that the list of unknowns is still very important and long.

    I think the IPCC shoots itself in the foot. Climate models are by far not as perfect as it is suggested in the video - in fact most climate models cannot even reproduce the observed annual global mean temperature - let alone provide accurate regional projections for the future. There are still substantial unknowns in essential processes such as cloud physics.
    That the planet is warming is clear. That we can predict any aspect of this warming with any accuracy relevant for policy prescription is much less clear, and the citizen should also be informed of this

  11. My comments here would certainly break house rules, and so I posted them at NTZ. Video is a bit frightening in that some of the scientists seem to think they have the powers of prophets.

  12. I found the video to be very strange indeed as a communication tool. Strange in that it mixes words and images that seem intended to stir the emotions of lay viewers, with quite a lot of scientific and bureaucratic gobbledygook largely unintelligible to lay viewers. Where exactly was it meant to be headed?

    Thus, at one point, the discussion is overlaid with images of what appears to be river or storm flooding. Since lay persons and scientists alike all know (or should know) already that people persistently put up buildings in places chosen with utter wanton stupidity, places that flood time and time again, those images cannot possibly convey anything new. One is left to suppose that they were simply a scare tactic aimed at lay viewers. Else why include them?

    On the other hand, we hear later on of a "quantitative view of the future", a "really comprehensive view of all the relevant processes for future climate change", and "Representative Concentration Pathways". Still later on, a superciliously robotic UN-translator voice tells us that climate models are "providing policy-relevant information on a regional level for the first time." Meanwhile, throughout, we are treated to unconnected factoids such as the 2C target, which, to anyone unfamiliar with the topic, appear by sheer magic. In this respect, the video does not seem intended to be intelligible to a lay viewer or average voter.

    Overall I'm left quite baffled as to just who might have been the intended audience.

  13. In general, people are being far too kind to this trashy video, albeit that it has "high production standards".

    The video is an unabashed propaganda exercise, and an insult to the intelligence of any informed, independent, expert scientist (who, of course, are not the persons at whom the video is aimed).

    It starts by asserting that the scientific evidence for human-caused dangerous warming is "better and stronger than ever".

    Anyone who is predisposed to believe such a nonsensical statement (given the weakness, or absence, of evidence after 25 years of focused research and the expenditure of breathtaking amounts of money) should consult the SPM for the recent NIPCC report (available at - this assesses the same corpus of research literature as the IPCC and comes to opposite conclusions, one of which is that the evidence for dangerous human warming is getting weaker and less convincing as time passes.

    The video is "built" around a number of IPCC myths which, if not direct lies, are at the very least strongly misleading interpretations of the available science.

    These include:

    1. Recent climate changes have been unusual or unprecedented (this is an outright lie).

    2. Each of the last 3 decades has been warmer than the previous decade (an argument so childish that it belongs in a kindergarten).

    3. CO2 levels are unusually high (compared with the last 800,000 years; i.e., compared with the Antarctic ice core record). Given that CO2 levels were 15 times the pre-industrial level during the Cambrian without any untoward warming, one can only marvel at what can only be the ignorance or duplicity of scientists who keep reciting this silly pseudo-fact.

    4. Warming of the oceans is unequivocal - which claim is based upon the graph of rising 20th century ocean temperature based on unreliable data, and completely ignores the fact that the ARGO data register no warming since 2003 despite a greater than 5% increase in carbon dioxide.

    5. The implication that sea-level rise during the 20th century was in some way unusual or human-forced (for which evidence is lacking), and that - shock, horror - it will continue to rise. Most likely it will for mostly natural reasons, so better get used to the idea.

    6. What are termed climate projections (a careful choice of term which implies a what-if type of experimentation, NOT accurate forecasting) can be used to indicate future temperature in quantitative fashion - given the demonstrable lack of skill of the ensemble of IPCC models, this is another breathtaking deception.

    7. The claim that regional climate modelling now has enhanced reliability - which will be news to those who have compared the projections of such models with reality as it actually transpired. (It is also interesting to contemplate how global models that are known to be invalid can spawn regional models that somehow become magically become accurate.)

    That this list of tired, inaccurate and untruthful arguments is the best that IPCC scientists (or their media advisers) can do to demonstrate a DAGW problem should be a matter for ridicule rather than the rapt reverance with which governments and the media (until recently) have treated their utterances.

    Those who wish to close the IPCC down need look no further than this video for the justification for implementing that action.

    Bob Carter

  14. John McLean (WGI Reviewer)November 26, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    This is a glossy piece of nonsense. Some brief observations:
    1 - Almost none of the key graphs have a labelled x-axis so it's not easy to figure out what period they refer to.

    2 - The expression "multiple lines of evidence" is repeated, probably in the hope that it will be remembered as applying to manmade warming, but it only refers to observational data being monitored by multiple methods.

    3 - Claims about the accuracy of climate models and the improved understanding of the influence of greenhouse gases is refuted by the IPCC 5AR WGI SPM in which we read that "some" models overestimate the influence of CO2. (von Storch and others recently showed that "some" to be about 97%!)

    4 - The Arctic is mentioned but not the Antarctic, where sea ice cover is growing.

    5 - On the whole, the only basis for the claim that the human influence is significant amounts to nothing more than (a) a vague correlation between temperature and CO2, which incidentally ignores that the theoretical warming is logarithmic, despite that correlation being very weak over the last 15 years and (b) a correlation between temperature and the output of models, which is dishonest because models are tuned to match historical temperatures.

    It's a slick production but one that's as dishonest as the IPCC.

  15. eduardo said...11
    “I think the IPCC shoots itself in the foot. Climate models are by far not as perfect as it is suggested in the video - in fact most climate models cannot even reproduce the observed annual global mean temperature - let alone provide accurate regional projections for the future. There are still substantial unknowns in essential processes such as cloud physics.
    That the planet is warming is clear. That we can predict any aspect of this warming with any accuracy relevant for policy prescription is much less clear, and the citizen should also be informed of this.”

    Sorry, but I think, it’s not only the IPCC, who has lacks in the transparency of the state of the art in climate science. There are a lot of reconstructions of hemisphere or global mean temperature out of samples showing periods of temperature anomalies on centennial to millennial time scales, so that they are able to study in times prior to the CO2 era. G. Bond has suggested in 2001 that there is a ‘Persistent Solar Influence on North Atlantic Climate during the Holocene’. But to my knowledge there was no visible activity in the climate science community to solve the physics of climate in the prior time range.
    If G. Bond was correct, persistent climate cycles over 10000 years gives the idea that the cycles in the range of centennial to millennial time scales are also can be used for prediction of climate in general.
    Please see my comment on the G. Bond et al. article from 2001, which includes a suggestion for solar cycles.

  16. So, to sum up the comments, it seems fair to say that this video, despite its professional appearance, is a communication disaster. It does not convey the essential points of the report of WG1. Instead, it uses alarmist imagery and tries to reinforce a pre-existing message.

    It gives the impression that the IPCC has achieved new levels of certainty and that this in itself justifies a call for certain political measures.

    From what I can see in the published IPCC material (WG1 SPM and draft report), there is more certainty with regard to observed temperature increases based on the instrumental record (i.e. 20th century) and the (lower) frequency and power of tropical cyclones.

    There is much less certainty about historical temperature reconstructions as there used to be.

    There is also less certainty with regard to attribution of observed warming to CO2 as the recent stagnation introduces an anomaly into the paradigm.