Carving up the climate communication landscape

My guest post on Warren Pearce’s new blog Making Climate Social is now live. That blog is linked to Warren’s research project on the climate debate as viewed through social media. I took part in an interesting ‘Discovery Day’ with a variety of colleagues earlier this year, coordinated by designer and technologist Mathew Trivett, who describes the day here.

Taking inspiration from a typology of public participation in policy-making developed by Rikki Dean, I try to classify four ways in which individuals participate in discussions about climate change. These four ways of participating are characterised by their positions on ‘negotiability’ and ‘sociality’ dimensions (see Figure 1), and each has its own conventions and etiquette. Recognising and celebrating these different types of participation may(!) contribute to more constructive climate discussions.

Figure 1. A typology of climate communication (adapted from Dean, R.J. 2016. ‘Beyond radicalism and resignation: the competing logics for public participation in policy decisions’ Policy & Politics (early online view))

Read more on Making Climate Social… (and feel free to comment there, or here, if you have any thoughts on this!)

My Review of Nicholas Stern’s Book ‘Why Are We Waiting?’

Earlier this year I was invited to review Nicholas Stern’s new book, Why Are We Waiting? The Logic, Urgency, and Promise of Tackling Climate Change (MIT Press, 2015), for the Journal of Economic Psychology.

The published version of my book review is here (you can email me for a pdf), and a manuscript version is here.

In Why Are We Waiting? (a follow-up to his well known Review of 2006), Nicholas Stern assembles scientific, moral and economic arguments that rapid and radical reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are needed to limit global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures, and wonders why progress is so slow.

Stern book cover

In my review, as I summarise in this post, I criticise Stern’s book for selective use of evidence, over-optimism regarding the co-benefits of climate policy (for instance for public health), and no discussion of the risks of climate policy (as opposed to the risks of climate change itself). Continue reading

DECC as a Parrot?

My prediction is that the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will not survive to the end of the forthcoming 5-year parliament.

The people most upset by yesterday’s election result – at least according to my Twitter feed – were the professional pollsters and forecasters – not least many prominent academic political scientists – who universally predicted that the election result would be far closer than it eventually turned out.

Roger Pielke Jr counselled humility

Continue reading

Commentary in Psychological Science

This is a joint post by Ruth Dixon and Jonathan Jones about our Commentary entitled ‘Conspiracist Ideation as a Predictor of Climate Science Rejection: An Alternative Analysis.’. [The link is now to the version of record, published in May 2015].

After nearly a year, two journals, and four rounds of review, our Commentary on two studies by Stephan Lewandowsky was published in Psychological Science on 26 March 2015. This post describes our findings in more detail than the tight word-limit in Psychological Science allowed.

In two papers published in 2013, Stephan Lewandowsky and his colleagues Gilles Gignac and Klaus Oberauer suggested that ‘conspiracist ideation’ (the tendency to believe in conspiracy theories) predicted scepticism about anthropogenic climate change. In our reanalyses of the data from both studies, we found that there was a curved relationship between these variables. Both climate-change sceptics and the ‘climate-convinced’ tended to disbelieve in conspiracy theories. The linear models used by Lewandowsky and colleagues were therefore not appropriate descriptions of the data. Both datasets show this effect, although they resulted from very different survey types (the first surveyed readers of ‘climate blogs’ (LOG13-blogs, published in Psychological Science) and the second surveyed a panel representative of the US population (LGO13-panel, published in PLoS)), so we are confident that our findings are robust.

As we describe in more detail later in this post, our main finding was that there is a curved relationship between belief in anthropogenic climate change (CLIM) and belief in conspiracy theories (CY). This curvilinear relationship is most clearly seen in the LGO13-panel dataset (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The curved relationship between belief in anthropogenic climate change (CLIM) and in conspiracy theories (CY) (Loess plot, 95% confidence intervals). Higher values correspond to higher levels of belief or endorsement.

Figure 1. The curved relationship between belief in anthropogenic climate change (CLIM) and in conspiracy theories (CY) (Loess plot, 95% confidence intervals). Higher values correspond to higher levels of belief or endorsement.

As we argue below, all this really shows is that people who are undecided about one fairly technical matter (conspiracy theories) also have no firm opinion about another (climate change). The complex statistical models used by Lewandowsky et al. mask this rather obvious and uninteresting finding.

Continue reading

Met Office Report Says Sea Levels Likely to Rise 11-16 cm by 2030?

Update 11 Feb 2014: Met Office says Oh, you thought we meant from now? No, from 1990! See comment from Richard Betts, below and the updated Met Office report.

13 Feb: A further comment from Richard confirms that the Met Office projections for UK sea level rise are 5 to 7 cm between now and 2030.

This is an edited version of a comment I made on Bishop Hill on 9 Feb:

In February 2014 the Met Office and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) published a report called “The Recent Storms and Floods in the UK”. (pdf of original version here). The report makes an interesting prediction about sea level rise by 2030 on p.21 (the same figures are also given on p.2):

Sea level along the English Channel has already risen by about 12cm in the last 100 years. With the warming we are already committed to over the next few decades, a further 11-16cm of sea level rise is likely by 2030. This equates to 23-27cm of total sea level rise since 1900. We are very confident that sea level will continue to rise over coming decades as the planet continues to warm. These numbers represent our current best estimate for the UK.

That implies that the rate of sea level rise (SLR) in the English Channel will more than double in the next 16 years to 7 to 10 mm per year (on average) from the current 3 mm per year. And assuming that the rate of SLR does not leap to the new level in the first year, a linear increase from the current rate implies a rate of about 15 mm per year by 2030.

Is there something special about the English Channel? It’s hard to reconcile this with the IPCC projections in AR5 Chapter 13.

No citations are given for this statement in an otherwise well-referenced document. I’ll update this post if I find out more.

Update: Tim Channon has plotted a graph of how this prediction compares to past SLR at Newlyn, Cornwall (the national sea level monitoring station)

Update 2: Richard Betts is on the case…

Update 3: I think Tim Channon may have nailed the problem (2030 should be 2100?). Although, this would mean that the Met Office is expecting no acceleration of SLR over a century, while the IPCC expects it to at least double by 2080-2100. We’ll see what the Met Office comes up with.

This doesn’t turn out to be the Met Office’s error, but you can see his original graph at

Update 4: The Met Office have ‘clarified’ their statement, which apparently relates to a 1990 baseline. See Richard Betts’ comment below. See also Tim Channon’s new post and graph: tchannon-image-356

Update 5: A few final thoughts from me in a comment below.

Update 6: Nic Lewis tackles the UKCP09 projections on Bishop Hill and Euan Mearns looks at the Met Office report as a whole on his blog.