Surveying the (non)experts

A recent survey of over 400 television meteorologists provides some insight into the views of an important group. Many people think that television weather forecasters and climate scientists are basically the same thing, so meteorologists are viewed as experts on climate change. That can be problematic ( like Joe Bastardi, for example, whom I mentioned a while back), because the two groups are not at all as similar as the public suspects.

As the survey indicates, 34% of tv meteorologists have a bachelor’s degree in meteorology. 10% have a B.S. in another Earth science, and 9% have a master’s degree in either meteorology or another Earth science. That leaves 47% who have degrees in journalism, communication, or something else. While there’s some overlap between meteorology and climate science, they are fundamentally different fields. The vast majority of these people  just don’t have the background to really engage climate research. That’s not to say they’re incapable to making judgments, it just means they aren’t the experts the public perceives them to be. It’s not insulting to point out that a pharmacist is not a heart surgeon.

On to the interest results:
83% agree that the climate is warming, but 29% think the warming is “caused mostly by natural events”. We’ll come back to the 17% that don’t agree.

First, only 18% of those surveyed correctly recognize that >90% of climate scientists agree that warming is happening and caused by humans. Among meteorologists who agree warming is human-caused, 58% recognized this. Among those who believe warming is caused by natural events, only 10% recognize it.
A total of 23% think half or fewer of climate scientists agree that warming is human-caused.
Unfortunately, none of the rest of the questions asked of the “yes, the climate is warming” crowd are terribly interesting.

So back to the 17% who don’t agree that the climate is warming- 9% think the climate is NOT warming (the survey calls them the Unconvinced), and the other 8% don’t know (the Undecideds). Their reasoning is revealing…
The Unconvinced certainly don’t care for climate models much (what a shock!)- 87% say they are based on inadequate data, and 81% think they’re based on flawed assumptions.

But then we go down the rabbit hole…
Among the Undecideds, 41% believe claims of global warming are a “cover for a political agenda to increase government control of society”, and another 24% don’t know if that’s the case or not. Among the Unconvinced, a full 70% believe this is the case.
Similarly, only 13% of the Undecideds and 24% of the Unconvinced did not agree with the baffling idea that claims of global warming are a cover to ensure that researchers continue to receive grants.
72% of Undecideds and 90% of the Unconvinced say they distrust the motives of climate scientists. That’s pretty remarkable.

Only 6% of Undecideds and 3% of the Unconvinved correctly disagreed with the statement that “climate scientists have been caught changing their results to make climate change appear more certain than it is”, which refers primarily to the unimaginatively-named “climategate” scandal involving Penn State’s Michael Mann and researchers at the University of East Anglia. Those researchers have been cleared of any dishonesty or wrong-doing by NINE separate independent investigations now.

But perhaps this is the most incredible (and telling) result in the whole thing:
Only 56% of Undecideds and 47% of the Unconvinced were willing to disagree that “the belief that humans could influence the climate system is hubris- the Earth’s climate is in God’s hands.” That blows me away. They believe it is literally impossible to affect the climate system. It’s absolutely no wonder, then, that they are unimpressed by all the evidence that demonstrates we are doing exactly that…

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Now you sea ice, now you don’t

Last night I attended a talk about Arctic sea ice by Mark Serreze from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado. There are a few interesting items I can relate. First, within the next couple weeks we’ll hit the summer minimum of area covered by sea ice in the Arctic. We’re on track to possibly break the record for sea ice extent (it will be close) which was set in 2007.

Sea ice has been melting very rapidly– constantly exceeding predictions– and Mark is confident that we will see an Arctic ocean that is completely ice free in summer in 20 to 30 years. A lot of people are trying to figure just why it’s melting so fast, but we haven’t quite figured it out yet. Take a look at how climate models used in the last IPCC report projected sea ice (light colored lines- black line is the average) compared to what’s actually been going on (red line).

climatecrocks.com

Melting sea brings up a whole range of political issues- who will control shipping routes through the Arctic? Who will lay claim to the oil and gas reserves that will become available for drilling? Mark said the military is very interested in this. As one naval officer told him, “All I know is that there’s more blue water up there that I have to patrol.”

Besides those issues, Arctic sea ice loss is a pretty big deal climate-wise. When white sea ice is replaced by dark, open ocean, much more solar radiation is absorbed, heating up the sea surface (and the atmosphere above it) which, of course, causes more sea ice melting, and on it goes. The Arctic is the region of the world most susceptible to warming. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, one of the things that will happen as the Arctic warms is that the permafrost will thaw, releasing a massive amount of methane (a very potent greenhouse gas) to the atmosphere, and on it goes.

That thawing permafrost couldn’t be simulated with the models that went into the last IPCC report, adding another reason why the warming projections were likely too low. For the next IPCC report (which should be out in a couple years), many model projections will be able to simulate this feedback.

For a host of reasons, Arctic sea ice is something to keep a close eye on.

Joe the foe

Check out frequent FoxNews guest, meteorologist Joe Bastardi, proving that global warming is impossible in a single sentence!

[Video here: http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201108060002]

Did you catch that? He says global warming would violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics- that is, the conservation of energy. He’s basically saying you can’t change the temperature of the planet (at least without the sun changing). We’ve got, oh, about 4.5 billion years of climate data that would challenge that assertion. Furthermore, why is Venus so hot compared to the Earth when LESS sunlight makes it to the surface of Venus? The answer is greenhouse gases, which we’ve understood for over 100 years now. More greenhouse gases, more heat trapped. I can show you this in a classroom demo.

A high school physics student could point out the breath-taking flaws in his argument, yet he’s Fox’s go-to climate “expert”. I wonder why so many Americans think climate change is “controversial”…