The Intersection

i-7362b90da8d0feae82ef4f83ad386da3-CheckmateD.jpgKudos to our clever commentors… Well played!

You figured out my framing game… I’ve been sharing my perspective on the media with regard to science and politics over several months now and evidently readers have been paying attention. My post yesterday was an experiment of sorts to see if you’d notice when a seemingly reputable news source emphasized the alarmist spin and left out some details. [Note the heavy use of italicized quotes]. Instead of replying in the comments, I’m outing myself in this forum with hope to find out more about your initial reactions…

This is the kind of article that bothers me.

Exactly! I’m glad you’ve picked up on the problems with the way this story has been presented. Notice I didn’t attempt to validate the claim… just pointed to this report from CNN. The story just didn’t sit quite right with me, and I was curious to find out whether anyone would react and question the claims or accept them hook, line, and sinker. That said, I’m encouraged we’re collectively recognizing the need to think critically about the way science is relayed in the media.

I anticipated the end of the the third sentence: “Sure we’ll lose some of America’s cultural heritage, but on the upside,” we’ll lose Florida.

That’s an appropriate (albeit exaggerated) ending and you’re correct to point out Florida is most at risk. Unfortunately, despite the obvious trouble with the way the report was presented, sea level rise will likely be a very serious problem due to changing coastlines, displaced populations, increased storm damage and on. [The degree of elevation will not be uniform around the world – expect a post on the science behind rising seas coming soon]. In the US, insurance rates in some coastal states are already increasing rapidly as well in anticipation of stronger storms. Environmentally, socioeconomically, and politically, be prepared to feel the impacts of sea level rise.

Your post insults the reader’s intelligence at so many levels, that it really does a disservice to your cause.

A look at the last line and you’ll recognize the post was not to be taken literally, but rather winks at the irony of how science and politics are presented in the media. I’m tremendously pleased so many clearly recognize when a story may be spun to garner attention. That said, I strongly suspect Chris and I have some of the sharpest readers on the web here at The Intersection!


  1. #1 Wes Rolley
    September 26, 2007


    As you set up the framing issue, have you considered that part of your post may be taken out of context and used as even more evidence that the scientists are just a bunch of alarmists trying to justify their grant applications?

    While following up on information sources concerning the Water Crisis in California, I came across a reference from the Libertarian leaning Pacific Research Institute. Just this week, (Sept. 24, 2007) they released a new report entitled Hysteria’s History: Environmental Alarmism in Context. The primary author is Dr. Amy Kaleita, Ph. D. (assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University.)

    Apocalyptic stories about the irreparable, catastrophic damage that humans are doing to the natural environment have been around for a long time. These hysterics often have some basis in reality, but are blown up to illogical and ridiculous proportions. Part of the reason they’re so appealing is that they have the ring of plausibility along with the intrigue of a horror flick.

    Such a conclusion supports your idea of proper framing. However, the general tenor of this report will be used by every climate change denier as an excuse to continue to do what they have always done… nothing.

  2. #2 MartinC
    September 26, 2007

    Sorry Sheril, nice try at a comeback but its only marginally more believable than Miss South Carolina’s attempt. To speak in a language the ‘religious’ (whom we must, of course, always ‘respect’) might understand, those that live by the frame, die by the frame. Alarmist posts like yours, even if they are reporting a network’s story, only serve to confuse the real science of global warming with lowest common denominator stories that ultimately serve to desensitize the public to real issues.

  3. #3 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    September 26, 2007

    People have been taking me out of context (and misspelling my last name) since the first magazine covered my sea cucumber research:

    ‘Sea cucumbers are ugly and unappealing to most of us, but lately I’ve become rather excited about them’

    – words never spoken by yours truly

    It’s expected that on matters of great significance, we seek validation to affirm our stance. The strong desire for social reinforcement leads to an unfortunate habit of reading into phrasing and pulling out statements (intentionally or unconsciously) that support our side. In doing so, we misquote liberally to suit our own purpose or argument.

    Do I expect this? Perhaps. However, I see no reason to shy away from taking on the media’s frustrating habit of marketing on shock value and alarmism for ratings. Environmental issues are too important and we deserve the best science. Nothing less.

    That said, the climate change denial bandwagon ran out of fuel long ago.

  4. #4 kevin
    September 26, 2007

    Sorry Sheril, nice try at a comeback but its only marginally more believable than Miss South Carolina’s attempt.

    Agreed — am I disappointed. Sheril, many of your past posts have been nice. But that last one was a terrible mistake (whether I believe your new explanation for it or not). And this post doesn’t help. The problem with deceit is that now we don’t know when to believe you. Either you made a terrible mistake in posting a stupid story, now realize it, but are now lying about it instead of just admitting your error. Or you made a terrible mistake in trying to deceive your readers, still don’t yet realize it, and are now compounding the problem.

  5. #5 Fred Bortz
    September 26, 2007

    Well done, Sheril.

    But that was not an example of bad framing, but simply lousy journalism.

    Since web articles have a life of their own, I think you need to add a comment at the beginning of that post noting that it was a red herring to see what kind of responses you’d get. Otherwise, it will soon begin echoing through the blogosphere as a legitimate proposal.

    As for framing, I’m not sure I’m persuadable that the techniques described are anything other than standard approaches to good writing. My first consideration when I’m writing is “Who am I writing for?”

    If I am writing to persuade (i.e. opinion or criticism), then my approach is different than if I am simply trying to educate or inform. But no matter what, I can’t include everything, so I select supporting material carefully.

    The technique of selection and organization is the same. Whether that’s “spin” or “framing” or “honest, albeit biased, communication” depends on what kind of person I am.

    I hope people see me as the last of those.

  6. #6 Fred Bortz
    September 26, 2007

    Sheril: “That said, the climate change denial bandwagon ran out of fuel long ago.”

    Fuel yes — fools no.

    The latter provide rhetorical momentum, which enables it to roll on.

  7. #7 Paul
    September 26, 2007

    Are you guys kidding me? Sheril this is genius! I love that you don’t just report the science stories but actively engage readers and get us thinking.

    I did wonder at your story but indeed noticed your strange use of italics over your standard blocked quotes. Once I got to the end where you satirically suggest “Treason on the high seas” I knew you were up to something. Plus you are in habit of posting points in multiple parts.

    You have a very charming and extremely clever way of getting a message across. I’d even suggest you may be the best at Framing altogether in that you demonstrate your points rather than just doing them lip service.

    Any regular reader already understands the unpatriotic remark was terrific and classic satire hitting the mark!

    Furthermore, I implore you to keep up the tremendous writing you do here everyday. As for these guys ahead of me, I have a feeling they are just upset such a remarkably intelligent, funny, witty, and articulate woman has entered their Framing “cock fight.” Furthermore, they’re likely frightened it appears she may yet be the victor!

  8. #8 Coturnix
    September 26, 2007

    What Paul says.

  9. #9 Hank Roberts
    September 26, 2007

    I hope to see you go back and put a disclaimer on the “Treason” page with a link here.

    You know that if you don’t do that, over time, your “Treason” page will propagate on its own — through Google hits, and copies, and caches, and the Wayback Machine archive, and will be read entirely disconnected from today’s page.

    Now that you’ve let the “Treason” page stand for a day or two to find out who’s taken you seriously there, please, edit it with a pointer. Remember it’ll get read years from now entirely disconnected from today’s page.

  10. #10 Linda
    September 26, 2007

    Me too… what Paul and Coturnix say.

  11. #11 Lance
    September 26, 2007


    First as to misspelling your last name, I managed to misspell your first name recently so sorry about that.

    Second your “I meant to do that” explanation isn’t flying. You saw a nice “scary” piece that echoes the alarmist tone of this site and ran with it. Unfortunately much like running with scissors it proved to be painful.

    The world hasn’t been very “stormy” lately so you two have to drum up whatever alarmist pap that floats by on the media current. This one was especially smelly but hey it will have to do until another hurricane boils up. What a bummer that so few have appeared and the two big ones ran aground with out devastating a major population center. Better luck next time.

    As to the “denialist band wagon” running out of fuel I would have to turn that around on you. When you have to post stories that claim that Wall Street traders will soon need scuba gear you might want to check that gas gauge.

    You’re running on empty sweet heart.

  12. #12 A regular
    September 26, 2007

    I’m sure I represent many regular readers who think Lance’s insults are getting tiresome.

    Sheril, you don’t need me to defend you against such absurdities.

    Lance, please go away!

  13. #13 The Sweetest Heart
    September 26, 2007


    Thanks for eloquently pointing out the lack of ”steam” which this global warming debate has finally boiled down (uh, congealed?) to. It obviously is lacking such merit, you don’t even need to respond. Lucky us, shown the light by yourself, there is a truth hidden beneath all reporting of natural disasters. And, devouring the ‘alarmist’ strategy used in the cited article, bit by bit, you’ve shown us that it really is obsolete!

    So glad you highlighted that the readership here at the Intersection must interpret everything literally! Careful, careful, don’t encourage people to think for themselves, make judgements. I know, its far too threatening, I completely understand. I mean its obvious the whole tone at this blog is about “listen to me, I know everything about global warming.” You’ve really hit the nail on the head.

    Though, I must say, it is sad when someone of your superior intellect isn’t able to pick up on a clever, yet subtle, literary device. Maybe a little more literature, a little less blog reading? (I mean the people who write those are pretty much neatherthals anyway!) You could be dumbing yourself down just by your unhealthy habit of reading them! Stay in school.

    Hugs and kisses and snuggly teddy bears,
    Your Sweetheart

  14. #14 Steve Bloom
    September 26, 2007

    Sheril, could you be a little more precise about what you think was alarmist about the CNN article? A one meter sea level rise projection isn’t even faintly alarmist, rather (as the article pointed out) the only real question is how long it will take. I thought it was very appropriate for the article to put the error bars from one meter of SLR in terms of time rather than the more usual approach (as the IPCC) of placing error bars on a projection to 2100. Recall also that the AR4 *said* the 59 cm figure is too low since it doesn’t include projections for the accelerated ice sheet melt that is already being observed. See this recent Jim Hansen communique for links to current material on SLR due to ice sheet melt and for an example of an inappropriately non-alarmist press response (to Willerslev 2007).

    As for the treason remark, I suppose that was alarmist.

  15. #15 Neuro-conservative
    September 26, 2007

    Sheril — I understood your treason remark to be an attempt at “satire” of the perceived over-use of that term by conservatives (I will leave aside for now the relative merits of that perception). However, it strains credulity for you to now suggest you were lampooning the CNN article as “alarmist,” when it is of a piece with several other postings here. Moreover, only one of the four quotes from the CNN article is italicized — hardly what I would call “heavy use,” and certainly not enough to suggest a lampoon to any of the commenters of thread — two of the commenters on that post (Emily & Dunc), as well as one here (Steve Bloom), don’t even seem to perceive anything wrong with the “science” as presented by CNN. Finally, the fact that you have not added a disclaimer to yesterday’s post, as suggested by several commenters here, suggests a lack of respect for your readers, both present and future.

  16. #16 Eric the Leaf
    September 26, 2007

    Fred Bortz and Steve Bloom have made the most considered and relevant comments to this post. Fred correctly points out that the problem with the CNN article is not a question of framing, but of questionable reporting. Steve Bloom challenges Sheril on her objection, which contributes to the confusion over the intent of her original post.

    I would like to ask an additional question. What do the bloggers-in-chief feel about Thomas Friedman’s recent bitter editorial about green solutions to global warming, and this from a man who has been a great advocate in the media?

    I fear that this blog is in danger of losing its relevance. I have my own reasons for hoping otherwise.

  17. #17 Fred Bortz
    September 26, 2007

    Neuro writes: “only one of the four quotes from the CNN article is italicized”

    It may be your browser, Neuro. All four paragraphs are italicized when I read the article through Firefox on an eMac with OS-X.

  18. #18 Neuro-conservative
    September 26, 2007

    Fred — Thanks for the tip. I’m using IE7 on XP-SP2 (not exactly an unconventional configuration). My other points still stand. By the way, I think your reference to “fools” providing momentum to the “climate change denial bandwagon” is beneath you and hardly advances an enlightened discussion.

  19. #19 Steve Bloom
    September 27, 2007

    Actually this RealClimate article by Stefan Rahmstorf is probably the best source of information.

    Fred, I would appreciate it if you would describe exactly what you believe to have been the “lousy journalism.” I honestly don’t see it.

  20. #20 Neuro-conservative
    September 27, 2007

    Actually, Steve, I should think that this Science article and others like it are the best source of information. And such articles will tell you that projected sea level rise is measured in millimeters per year, and is unlikely to reach 1 meter in the next century even under worst-case assumptions. Therefore, measuring sea level rise in meters, and talking about wiping out this landmark or that city, is beyond alarmist. It is absolutely ridiculous.

    You will, of course, point out that nonlinear accelerated ice melt is excluded from these models. But so is the possibility that the pendulum will swing back, as it apparently did from the 1940’s to the 1970’s. That’s why making strong predictions, with concomitant mandated policy shifts, is so dicey in the realm of large-scale, multidecadal, nonlinear dynamical systems. It is also why the casual use of the term “denialist” is such a pathetic, anti-scientific rhetorical device.

  21. #21 Steve Bloom
    September 27, 2007

    I went back and read the article again, and noticed that the reference to one meter by 2100 can only refer to this recent Rahmstorf paper in Science. The CNN article seems to imply that the number comes from Overpeck, but the map material has no dates indicated and Overpeck has no relevant publication.

  22. #22 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    September 27, 2007

    I hope to see you go back and put a disclaimer on the “Treason” page with a link here.

    You know that if you don’t do that, over time, your “Treason” page will propagate on its own — through Google hits, and copies, and caches, and the Wayback Machine archive, and will be read entirely disconnected from today’s page.

    Hank, A good suggestion. Done.

    Sheril, could you be a little more precise about what you think was alarmist about the CNN article?

    Steve, My issue is in the way the article has been composed. And let me assure readers, sea level rise is a threat we must all take very seriously! That said, statements such as this don’t sit well with me:

    In about a century, some of the places that make America what it is may be slowly erased.

    It’s very vague. ‘Slowly erased’ for example, is both scary and open to interpretation and speculation. While most readers are capable of understanding what is implied, consider that the majority of online visitors skim without getting far down the page. The language used is extremely important. Sea level rise presents a very real and frightening global concern and when reporting projections, we must be careful in the way we present information.

  23. #23 Steve Bloom
    September 27, 2007

    Neuro-con, a studied ignorance is a poor substitute for an effort to understand science. Do you think I wasn’t aware of that paper? I’m quite confident that there are plenty you haven’t seen. To all appearances you just stop at the first one that supports whatever point you’re trying to make.

    Anyway, of course that Dyurgerov et al paper didn’t make use of any sort of dynamical ice sheet model or we would have heard a lot more about it. In fact, the results (discussed here) are basically consistent with the Rahmstorf projection I linked. You correctly note that a simple projection of present melt rates won’t reach a meter by 2100, which is why the IPCC came up with lower numbers (noting that the error bars of all three projections overlap). As you admit, the problem is that there is no basis for assuming that the ice will behave in a consistent manner as warming continues (see Hansen paper below). Did you notice the Arctic sea ice this summer? *Nobody* thought that such a sharp reduction was possible. The abrupt break-up of the Larsen B ice shelf a few years ago was a similar surprise.

    With regard to the ice sheets, swing back to what prior state? As this paper describes, it’s only very recently that they’ve gotten warm enough to make a meaningful (but still quite small) contribution to sea level.

    One might ask how the IPCC projections have been doing with respect to the real world. They’re a bit conservative, it turns out, especially with regard to sea level.

    This recent paper by Jim Hansen should be read for context. Key points: There are a lot of deeply worried glaciologists who aren’t willing to say much in public, and analysis of prior deglacial episodes has demonstrated that GHG-driven melting can proceed much more rapidly than the natural variety (which is constrained by Milankovitch cycles).

  24. #24 Steve Bloom
    September 27, 2007

    That’s it, Sheril? Seriously? I must say I think your reasoning is very weak. Look again at the hed and the first five paragraphs:

    “Scientists: Rising seas will flood historic sites

    “Ultimately, rising seas will likely swamp the first American settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, as well as the Florida launch pad that sent the first American into orbit, many climate scientists are predicting.

    “In about a century, some of the places that make America what it is may be slowly erased.

    “Global warming — through a combination of melting glaciers, disappearing ice sheets and warmer waters expanding — is expected to cause oceans to rise by one meter, or about 39 inches. It will happen regardless of any future actions to curb greenhouse gases, several leading scientists say. And it will reshape the nation.

    “Rising waters will lap at the foundations of old money Wall Street and the new money towers of Silicon Valley. They will swamp the locations of big city airports and major interstate highways.

    “Storm surges worsened by sea level rise will flood the waterfront getaways of rich politicians — the Bushes’ Kennebunkport and John Edwards’ place on the Outer Banks. And gone will be many of the beaches in Texas and Florida favored by budget-conscious students on Spring Break.”

    You know, they train journalists to do stuff like that in order to make the stories meaningful to as many people as possible.

    Can you point to a single factual misstatement? If not, then I don’t think it’s fair to call it “alarmist” (a term referring to overstating the risk). It *is* a frame (maybe imagery is a better term in this instance), but I think a good one. In fact, better than good. When I read it, I get a series of pretty specific mental pictures of the kinds of places that will be lost, and I suspect most other will as well. That’s really effective IMHO.

    Regarding the sentence you complain about, I think it is unlikely that readers will come away with an image of a giant No. 2 obliterating the coastline. I agree that it would have made for a very strange sentence in isolation, but it wasn’t in isolation.

  25. #25 Steve Bloom
    September 27, 2007

    Beating a dead horse: I figured I should be able to rush over to the Knight Science Journalism blog and find an example of admiration being expressed for a story written in a similar style, and sure enough the second post there filled the bill.

    KSJ said: “Sharon Begley has a knack, as in this column, for taking stories well-trodden by other reporters and knitting them up in novel ways sure to reach readers who usually skip the science pages. In the Oct. 1 Newsweek she explains in simple and clear language the first hints a decade ago that something was terribly wrong with cosmology’s notion of post big-bang expansion of the universe. She describes scientist’s sudden, desperate evocation of something called dark matter, and the continuing blotches it added to what was already a confounding, even ugly portrait of our universe. It’s ugly because it seems unable to reveal any simple, elegant, beautiful, naturally self-organizing rule book for its behavior. And what the hell is dark matter anyway? Scientists are busy, and blue too. But nothing inelegant about this piece.”

    OK, so this one’s up for a Pulitzer. And here’s the hed, subhed and first bit of the story:

    “In ‘Dark Energy,’ Cosmic Humility

    “The universe is accelerating. A mysterious energy is pushing apart space itself, like a crazed toddler blowing up the cosmic balloon.

    “To the ancients, exploding stars were bad news. To astronomer Adam Riess, poring over data from a telescope in Chile, it looked like supernovas were still cursed. He and his colleagues were measuring the brightness and distance of supernovas in order to figure out the little matter of whether the universe would end in fire or in ice. Would it halt its expansion and collapse back on itself in a gnab gib (that’s the reverse of the big bang, and passes for humor among astronomers) or expand forever, its light and warmth fading into eternal cold and darkness? But when Riess calculated how much mass the universe must have in order to account for the supernova data, he got a negative number. A nonsense answer — negative mass — ‘was the first hint that something was wrong,’ he says.”

    Well. I’d say the hed and subhed by themselves are way more than enough to prove my point.

  26. #26 Fred Bortz
    September 27, 2007

    Responding to two comments.

    Neuro, a bad pun — are there any good ones? — is never “beneath” me. (See for a full display of my punning. I’m also into limericks in some of my reviews as in )

    So I played on “fuel” and “fools.” But I actually had a point. Sheril said the denialist bandwagon is running out of fuel, but I continue to see it rolling on barely abated despite growing evidence that what they are denying is real.

    I wish the people who add momentum to that bandwagon with their statements were merely fools; but they appear to be deliberately muddying the waters for their own advantage. If the consequences of global warming weren’t so concerning for civilization, I could excuse their actions as “just business.” But given the serious risks that they are denying, I see their actions as dangerous and possibly criminal (though we won’t be able to judge that for decades). Calling them fools lets them off easy.

    Steve, I probably overstated the case by calling it “lousy.” To echo Sheril, I am concerned about the vagueness and “the way the article has been composed.” There is an undercurrent in its tone that can be viewed as — dare I say it — alarmist framing. “Be afraid–be very afraid!” seems to be the message.

    I don’t see that approach as necessary to make the article’s important point. If they want to talk about the unstoppable rise, they ought to talk about the IPCC consensus prediction of 59(?) cm +/-20(?) cm for the rest of this century. (Anyone care to fill in the correct numbers if I’m wrong?) I haven’t seen any consensus of an inevitable one-meter rise, yet the article implies that is also part of the scientific consensus.

    Business as usual approaches will certainly lead to the one-meter rise they describe, but policies that limit CO2 production might also limit sea-level rise, right? In that regard, the article is inaccurate at worst, misleading at best, and plays into the hands of those who cry “alarmism” at every opportunity.

    An that’s why I found it bothersome.

  27. #27 Neuro-conservative
    September 27, 2007

    Fred — Do you consider me a “denialist?” In what way do I “muddy the waters” for my own “advantage?” To the extent my “actions” (blogging?) may be “criminal,” what penalty should I endure? Please be specific.

    If your goal is a meaningful discussion of science, this sort of language is clearly counterproductive. If your goal is simply to stifle dissent and enforce a party line, on the other hand…

  28. #28 Fred Bortz
    September 27, 2007


    I have always found your remarks respectful of the science. You are in no way a denialist. Your disagreements are, as I recall, about policy matters and the tendency of some people to overstate the consequences of anthropogenic global warming, not about AGW itself.

    I have regularly stated that the policy debate can draw wisdom from people of all political persuasions, and I have agreed with you that overstating the consequences without scientific support does a disservice to the efforts to solve the problem.

    Do you deny that there are denialists out there who distort the facts? If so, you may be a denialist denialist, but not a climate-change denialist. 🙂

    I think it is perfectly reasonable to talk about climate-change denialists, and my view is that they are very much like the tobacco-cancer link denialists of the past–and even more dangerous.

  29. #29 Lance
    September 27, 2007


    Glad you took the sweet heart comment in the light hearted playful way it was intended. I must admit that my reading list hasn’t included much classical literature lately. Any suggestions? I recommend you read a little Orwell, “The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.”

    Fred and Steve Bloom,

    You both rushed to the highest end of the worst case scenario of the IPCC FAR. They give six different scenarios starting at 7 inches. You unbiased clear thinking gents jumped right to, and over, the high end of the highest projection of 59 cm (still less than 2 feet not the 1 meter reported in the article).

    Not content with this level of overstatement Steve Bloom links to James Hansen’s unsupported conjecture about “tipping points” to justify his illogical catastrophic drivel. Funny that the IPCC is holy writ until it isn’t “scary” enough to support the ever growing need to up the alarmist ante.

    Perhaps as Fred suggests I am a fool, for I see no empirical evidence to support CO2 catastrophism. As Mr. Orwell might reply, “There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them.”

  30. #30 Fred Bortz
    September 27, 2007

    Lance, I did not call you a fool, and I do not call you a denialist. I think you understate the case when you call yourself a skeptic, but that’s as far as I will go with this.

    Furthermore, why do you say “You both rushed to the highest end of the worst case scenario of the IPCC FAR” when I was specifically noting that was the wrong thing to do.

    Re-read this comment above in particular:

    As I noted in some earlier posts, I have decided to reply to you only when you attack me personally or mis-state what I have said. This reply falls into the latter category.

  31. #31 Fred Bortz
    September 27, 2007

    To follow up my most recent comment, I take the article to task about going beyond the science in the second half of

    In the first half, I am following a doctrine of Dick Cheney that it is foolish to deny or ignore the worst-case scenarios, even if the risk is only 1%.

  32. #32 Lance
    September 27, 2007


    I don’t believe I misstated your remarks. In your referenced post you state, “…they ought to talk about the IPCC consensus prediction of 59(?) cm +/-20(?) cm for the rest of this century.” I believe, as I stated earlier, this is the highest end of the highest of the six scenarios “projected” by the IPCC FAR.

    I never said that you claimed a 1 meter sea level rise. Steve Bloom on the other hand seems intent on perpetuating doomsday claims of looming multiple meter sea level rise.

  33. #33 Norman Doering
    September 27, 2007

    Maybe instead of trying to frame the problem, we should start framing the solution.

    Instead of trying to predict the effects of increasing CO2 and other greenhouse gases (the CO2 we can confirm, the future effects we can’t be entirely sure of and all predictions will always be open to debate and difficult to make without better computer models) we should focus on how different steps taken to curb CO2 (who’s going to claim curbing CO2 is bad? Lance?) can have other positive effects. A carbon tax, for example, that replaces all income taxes below 35 thousand a year can also help get us off Arab oil, boost technological innovation, start making wind, solar and other new methods “free market” viable.

  34. #34 Steve Bloom
    September 27, 2007

    Fred and Lance: I guess somehow I wasn’t clear, but the relevant experts are in consensus (or very close to it) that the AR4 sea level numbers are wrong. That is why the author of the article was able to find *19 out of 22* experts who agree to it (and BTW I’ve never seen a reporter do anything close to that degree of confirmation for a story like this). Although one meter in 150 years is consistent with the higher-end AR4 scenarios, I think it’s clear that the reporter was asking about a central estimate. As the article reflected, the only real argument is over the timing. Even under the very optimistic 80% GHG reduction by 2050 scenario, we are committed to at least the one meter.

    Bear in mind that the AR4 was nine months out of date at the time it was released, so any area of the science that’s moving really quickly is going to have this problem. By the time of the AR5 (in 2013), much more will be out of date.

    BTW, this paper (which I didn’t link last night since the site was down) is a nearly up-to-date snapshot of what the glaciologists are willing to say about ice sheet mass balance. Lance will note that Hansen’s name comes up in the first sentence. Also note that within a few months this paper will cease to be public access.

    The paper comes from the International Glaciological Society site (the link is to the Journal page, but see also the Annals), which is a great way to keep up with the field since the contents of both publications are public-access for at least six months (until the hard copy is published). There’s also the new EGU “The Cryosphere” journal, which is permanently public-access. It has very few papers on it as yet, but based on what I’ve seen of similar EGU efforts it should become a good resource very soon.

  35. #35 Fred Bortz
    September 27, 2007

    Thanks, Steve, for the clarification.

    The article did not make clear where the one-meter sea-level rise figure came from. Since I was familiar with the IPCC consensus, it would have been very valuable to point out why this number is different.

    I think the writer or editor blew a chance to discuss the limits on the IPCC consensus and why a large number of experts are willing to go on record with this larger number so soon after the report.

    To me, that’s the big story here, and it was lost because of the tone. It came across as alarmist to me, and that wasn’t necessary. In fact, that’s potentially counterproductive.

    I’ll let Lance speak for himself here, though I think we all know what his reaction will be.

  36. #36 Steve Bloom
    September 27, 2007

    Fred, I think there’s a good chance that the material you mention fell victim to length concerns. As it was, the story was pretty long for AP. As a practical matter, being confused about the apparent AR4 conflict requires that someone know about the AR4 projections but not know about the present view of the field. That’s an awfully small subset of potential readers, and of course a blog like this one selects for such people. But I return to the point that the reporter did do that survey of experts. That those same experts thought differently as recently as a couple of years ago is interesting to some, but arguably not critical information.

    But anyway, I’m curious enough about this to email the reporter and ask. I’ll also email Jim Overpeck and Andy Weaver to ask them what they thought of the story.

  37. #37 Steve Bloom
    September 27, 2007

    Correction: Jonathan Overpeck

  38. #38 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    September 28, 2007


    Glad you took the sweet heart comment in the light hearted playful way it was intended.

    The reply wasn’t me, but sounds like you hit a nerve with a female reader somewhere.

    I recommend you read a little Orwell..

    I adore Orwell!

  39. #39 The Sweetest Heart
    September 28, 2007


    No, I am not Sheril. But I do think your “playful, lighthearted” comment was pretty much as condescending as it gets. I was offended for her. Don’t try to pass off your comment as anything more than a patronizing, childish jab. And I won’t deny that I simply gave you a taste of your own medicine. Because everyone loves a smart, insecure person. One of the best qualities consistent throughout academia!

    If you are as familiar with her writing, you’d see that I do have a different, albiet less sophisticated, style.

    Sorry if I hurt your lil’ ol’ feelings, but don’t be such a patronizing person, and I’ll refrain from responding, allowing you to rip apart climate change science to your hearts’ desire!

    hugs and kisses and snuggly teddy bears,
    -your sweetheart

  40. #40 Lance
    September 28, 2007


    The paper you link to only makes the rather mundane claim that the ice sheets “…appear to be loosing mass, at least partly in response to recent warming” and are “…more likely than not” to loose ice mass over the next century, while also noting that some glaciologists think they will increase.

    It makes no claims as to sea level increases being greater than IPCC projections. In fact the authors go on in some length about the inherent difficulties in even assigning meaningful error to any predicted sea level rise due to ice mass loss.

    Honestly, why are you intent on exaggerating the evidence?


    Please stop sniping me with passive aggressive little asides. I’m happy to respond to any direct question or remark. Please have the courtesy to make any remarks critical of me directly to me.


    While I wouldn’t say that curbing CO2 emissions was “bad”, I might question the rational basis for doing so. While energy independence is a worthwhile goal, and peak oil may loom, I see no credible evidence that anthropogenic CO2 will cause disastrous future consequences with any high degree of certainty. I am aware that you are of a different opinion.

  41. #41 Lance
    September 28, 2007

    Sweetest Heart,

    Absent the admittedly condescending (but in a genuinely affectionate way) and perhaps sexist “sweet heart” at the end of the post I fail to see anything but mild sarcasm in my post.

    Sorry if that word hit a nerve. Maybe you can hype up societal scorn and have it declared the new “s” word.

    As for you reply, I rather enjoyed it, although more so when I thought it was from Sheril. People need to lighten up around here. We are almost exclusively writing to each other. Outside of a few intertwined blogs no one is paying attention to our little scuffles and pronouncements. Anyone that thinks we are influencing a wider audience is seriously delusional.

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