Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Scientists losing debate over climate

Film-maker and former scientist Randy Olson [right, sitting on stage after today's talk]  laid out four things that have led to a sharp drop in concern about climate change and an increase in denials:
1. the Al Gore move "An Inconvenient Truth" ineffectively hyped an imminent apocalypse
2. we have not experienced more hurricanes like Katrina and summers have not been that hot lately
3. the economic downturn, and
4. public distrust of scientists resulting from "Climategate", the stolen emails from climate scientists.

Randy spoke at the Arizona State History Museum next to UA to a standing-room only crowd as part of Earth Week.

He spoke extensively about the reasons the Academy Award winning movie with Al Gore did not really improve awareness or create a sense of urgency among its viewers, then laid out the four elements of successful communications about science that he talks about in his popular book, "Don't Be Such A Scientist."

He's also speaking tonight following the Tucson premiere of his latest movie, "Sizzle, A Global Warming Comedy" at the Loft Cinema.   We tried to get in but it was completely sold out and they were turning away scores of people.


  1. One of the big problems of informing the public about climate change is, in my view, that climatologist will always yield to the media's demand for very specific scenarios, even though the models just aren't good enough for solid precasts of specific changes. On the other hand, you can't raise anyone out of their inertia by saying "CO2 levels _are_ going up, and even though we can only speculate about the exact consequences for each locale, we can be darn sure they'll be more than significant". Quite a conundrum ...

  2. Anonymous7:35 PM

    Us yokels (e.g. like me, Ph.D. Physics) are mighty hard to convince. Them scientists, they sur can whoop up a load of excuses for our lords & masters the politicians to tax us and regulate us can't they now? Too bad the data is a mess and the models little more than hyper-complicated toys that leave out the most inportant details. But, the grants keep flowing, the articles keep getting published, the regulations get written, the laws passed and the taxes raised. Eisenhower was wrong to warn us about the military-industrial complex - he should have warned about the scientific - government complex.

    Exit note: before you have people living in caves without fire they are going to wake up to this con game, and when they do the grants will stop flowing - sadly for a lot of good science too, maybe even for REAL science about climate and environmental sustainability. If humanity does experience an environmental catastrophe, it will be due to public cynicism resulting from the craven political exploitation of bad science.