Post by Dr. Ryan N. Maue
Dr. Trenberth delivered his highly-anticipated presentation at the American Meteorological Society 91st Annual Meeting in Seattle on Wednesday. The talk was titled “Promoting climate information and communication of climate change“, and an overflowing crowd of several hundred listened for about 20-minutes, then scattered. Those that read the preprint online (version 3 now) and expected Trenberth to back off on his rhetoric were sorely disappointed. Dr. Trenberth
- vigorously defended himself against the out-of-context slanderous claims from ClimateGate emails
- cheerfully promoted the science of the IPCC regardless of silly errors [like the Himalayan Glaciers — Telegraph Jan 27 news article]
- threw Phil Jones under the bus for being naive about “keeping papers out”
- doubled-down on the denier vitriol
- trashed the media for insufficiently sympathetic and woefully inaccurate climate change coverage
- attributed a dozen recent extreme weather events to global warming including the Queensland flooding
- and finally suggested that the “null hypothesis” concerning AGW attribution be turned on its head.
All in all, it was the stemwinder that everyone expected from the preprint preview/fiasco. Details from the talk follow…
I sat in the rear-most row of the conference room and took some notes on my laptop during the proceedings. I have quotes that can be confirmed when the AMS publishes their presentations online likely in the next month or so. Otherwise, I am paraphrasing the slides that were presented.
The presentation was dedicated to Dr. Stephen Schneider who passed away last July. Trenberth described the ClimateGate incident as an “illegal email hacking” that spawned viral attacks on scientists. The emails were used to “damn the IPCC and many of us”, and included conversations that were clearly not for
human public consumption. The term “ClimateGate” should have been replaced by “swiftboating”. Trenberth himself was not embarrassed per se, just dismayed about the viral nature of the coverage. He went on to explain the “can’t find the heat / travesty” email, and said he was not particularly upset with what was put out in the public domain in terms of his email correspondence. According to him, ClimateGate simply proved that scientists were human. There was “some evidence of a lack of openness” but all following reviews/inquiries found no problems with the science.
Trenberth then discussed the small errors in the IPCC report (Himalayan glaciers), but there were no major changes to the overall IPCC conclusions. He admitted that the IPCC handled the “errors” rather poorly and left some scientists “hung out to dry”. Trenberth had not seen the Phil Jones email (Trenberth was not cc’ed) that said “we are gonna keep these papers out of the IPCC”, but blamed Jones for being naive about the process. Regardless, the papers, which Trenberth snidely commented “weren’t very good anyways” were indeed not excluded. (The system worked.) The “It’s a Travesty” is still accurate, but Trenberth believes that the missing heat is somewhere in the oceans, maybe below 300 – 700 meters depth. It was just a cherry-picked email anyways.
Deniers: in the AMS preprint, which Trenberth described as garnering plenty of “nasty email responses” the term is heavily used. Trenberth defined it in the talk as someone that simply rejects basic information about climate science. There is a difference between skeptics and deniers, though it was not explicitly delved into. Trenberth lamented exasperation with the deniers and suggested that he and everyone else simply not debate nor grant them visibility or a platform by engaging with them. Good advice — with the obligatory quote from Daniel Patrick Moynihan about having your own set of facts. Indeed, on the distinction between deniers and skeptics, he said “if the shoe fits, wear it”. The audience chuckled.
Media: same as preprint. Trenberth lamented the trend that blogs and media contaminate the discourse with an increasing trend of uninformed opinions. He has seen his colleagues get burned when they engage with the media often through misquotation or slanted coverage. He suggested that a scientist feed the media a story and exclusively promote your own stuff in order to tell a story or generate news. Some quotes from Thomas Friedman on a Meet the Press from Sept 6, 2009 were read, but I didn’t jot them all down because he reminds me of Paul Krugman.
Nature of climate change: It’s winter he declared, that’s why it is cold and snowy. The audience laughed loudly at that quip. Natural variability is ongoing and when the natural warmth and AGW are in the same direction, as with the recently waned El Nino, then “records will be broken”. He showed the obligatory shifting of the bell-curve to demonstrate changes in extreme events with global warming by moving the entire distribution to the right.
The null hypothesis has been (prove at 95% confidence level) that “there is no human influence on climate” which required folks to prove otherwise. However, with the IPCC declaration of “unequivocal warming due to humans”, Trenberth implored that we change the null hypothesis to put the onus of proof on the deniers: “There is a human influence on climate.” Therefore, the following events would not have happened or as bad or something (not clear what he meant/implied) without the human influence on climate:
Flooding in Pakistan, Russian drought, heat wave, and wildfires, flooding in the US including the rainstorm in Nashville, the active Atlantic hurricane season, and Snowmageddon.
The key is the 4% increase in moisture or water vapor over the past 4-decades shown in anomalous SSTs. The Queensland flooding is also due to SST increases and “indeed global warming” related, but he also mentioned La Nina. He suggested that we use these events (disasters) as teachable moments to “straighten out the media”, “inform the public and politicians”, and resolve renewed US leadership in climate science.
The two audience questions were brief and ancillary to Trenberth’s thesis.
This talk is one of the opening salvos in a well-coordinated broadside initiative to redeem and repackage climate science, climate scientists, and climate policy in the eyes of the public. This “re-education” campaign needs a brand name. Together We Thrive and Win the Future are taken