Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Climate change: the language of framing....................... "Climate change hysteria is really a feeling."

In yesterday's posting on climate change:
Futures Forum: Climate change: the language of framing... "Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change"

... the author George Marshall warned about using 'religious' language - and to be careful about 'scientific prediction':

Let’s go back a step and say, what are the processes by which we form socially held beliefs. I’m aware, by the way, that that word ‘belief’ is a dangerous word... Let’s just say that the word belief is itself a frame, that when people say “I believe” or don’t believe, that this is a word that has an association with religious faith.
So let’s recognise that there is a process of belief that’s happening here but let’s call it conviction, that’s the word I prefer to use. We can say ”what is the process by which people form their convictions?” There are a lot of things that we know, but we’re not entirely convinced of them and we hold that information at bay.
Information’s a primary cause of that. Scientific information of course is a very important direction towards conviction, but really the convictions are formed by the people around us. Let’s just say that there is a truth that is an objective truth, which might be formed by the data, and then there is a social truth or a social fact. But we depend on both when we form our convictions, so we can say that it’s quite possible for people ... to accept the scientific fact but not to accept the social fact.
We need to put the two together. That means, therefore, that what makes it possible for people to accept these things is very clear evidence of a social fact, that’s to say that the people around, the people they know in their networks, their family, friends and community are actively seen to hold this attitude and conviction.


The thing we don’t know is what is actually going to happen with the climate. We really don’t know, and having spoken to a lot of the climate scientists on this, as you have, the overwhelming feeling is that they don’t really know what’s going to happen as the North Pole goes and that huge reflective ice mirror disappears. We don’t know. Some of what’s happened over this last winter really has people scratching their heads. They can see how it’s acting out but it’s not really how they thought that things would work.

George Marshall on communicating climate change following extreme weather events | Transition Network

In a way, this is reflected in an article from yesterday's Daily Telegraph in Sydney (no direct relation to the UK paper):

Climate change hysteria is really a feeling

SCIENTISTS and academics are typically seen as measured, sober types, diligently pursuing their interests in thoughtful, deliberate ways. This is one reason why climate change became such a big issue — because the subject was pushed by science-minded scholars.
It now emerges that these people are every bit as hysterical as your common global warming basket case at a coal seam gas protest.
Canberra student and “science communicator” Joe Duggan recently published a range of pieces from various science/academic identities describing their “feelings”.
They are hilarious.
“I feel a maelstrom of emotions,” wailed University of Queensland climate change ecologist Anthony J. Richardson. “I am exasperated … I am frustrated … I am anxious … I am perplexed … I am dumbfounded … I am distressed … I am upset … I am annoyed … I am angry … I am infuriated … but most of all I am apprehensive.”
Poor bloke. Monash University’s Dr Ailie Gallant also seems on the verge of a breakdown.
“I feel nervous. I get worried and anxious,” she wrote. “I often feel like shouting.” Go to an AFL game, Allie. You’ll fit right in.
“If climate change were not real, we would not have to be concerned about it,” moaned Melbourne University’s Kevin Walsh.
“We wouldn’t have to worry about the future of our water resources, already strained by overpopulation.”
Put those worries, away, friend. Sydney’s dam levels are currently running at nearly 83 per cent.
“She’s slipping away from us,” fretted The University of NSW’s Dr Sarah Perkins. “She’s been showing signs of acute illness for quite a while, but no one has really done anything. Her increased erratic behaviour is something I’ve especially noticed. Certain behaviours that were only rare occurrences are starting to occur more often, and with heightened anger.” I don’t know who Perkins is talking about, but it could well be one of her fellow climate academics.
“I am one of the few people who understand the magnitude of the consequences,” declared modest University of NSW Associate Professor Katrin Meissner, who shared this awesome vision: “I see a group of people sitting in a boat, happily waving, taking pictures on the way, not knowing that this boat is floating right into a powerful and deadly waterfall.”
Maybe global warming will dry up all the water. It’s our only hope.

Climate change hysteria is really a feeling | dailytelegraph.com.au

This certainly reflects a 'typical Australian tone', if not take, on such matters.

The attitudes DownUnder are somewhat dominated by 'climate scepticism':
Futures Forum: "Climate science has been dragged into the American-style culture wars that are turning British intellectual life into a battlefield."
Futures Forum: Flooding in the West Country... and climate change
Futures Forum: Climate Change: the film

Does it have anything to do with how the issue is 'framed' in their media?
Australia's Murdoch Newspapers Lying to Public About Climate Change, Says Study Author | DeSmogBlog
How Murdoch's Aussie Papers Cover Climate Change : NPR
Has Rupert Murdoch turned into a climate change sceptic? - Press - Media - The Independent
Big Australian media reject climate science

Going back to the interview with George Marshall, Rob Hopkins made this point:

I read recently, there’s a video I watched by Naomi Oreskes who wrote Merchants of Doubt, and she does an interview there with a guy called Nick Minchin who’s an Australian climate sceptic. She says to him:
“It makes me wonder if the reason you want to reject the science is that it has consequences. It has consequences for us about how we live our lives, how we run our economy, what our taxation policies are. I think what you don’t like are the implications, the political, social and economic implications. But what you’ve done along with a lot of other people is to say, let’s shift the debate, let’s argue about the science. Let’s keep the debate about the science going, because as long as we argue about the science we don’t get to the question of what that means for us politically, socially or economically.”
This time, how people have still gone back to arguing about the science just seems completely ridiculous. Is there any sense of how we input into that process to move it on more to the policy?
The problem we always had with the floods is that no scientist is going to be prepared to come out during the floods or any climate event immediately afterwards and say, “aha, that’s climate change”. Of course, they should be saying, well this is a pattern consistent with climate change. This sense of uncertainty tends to pervade the debate.
I’d go back again to what I was saying earlier about how there are scientific facts and socially held facts. If people in their own minds see that there is an association between an extreme weather event and climate change, that becomes the fact that they hold. Similarly, if people in their own minds come to think that all of the scientists are conspiring in order to get larger, fatter, government grants for their research, which of course is this outrageous and ludicrous lie which is paraded by some of these professional deniers, they will believe that. These views can become deeply entrenched and very immovable.
But of course the thing which moves them is not arguing directly with them about this not being true, or this is the evidence. It’s actually going back to this idea of socially constructed facts. What will shift a climate change denier, not the professional ones of course but the general public, is citing the evidence that people like themselves who share their values happen to believe in it and happen to accept it.
The big problem we have, I think, in terms of the issue is that Naomi is correct there. Many people, particularly of Conservative or free market values are deeply suspicious of the solutions. And of course the people who are keenest on the solutions and therefore the ones who hold climate change most readily are their sworn political enemies.
The entire thing becomes polarised around political lines. The way to shift this is to have more and more people of Conservative values being seen to openly hold on to the science and to say, yes, we want to be part of discussion and debate about what the solutions are, which I think might be a very useful debate.

George Marshall on communicating climate change following extreme weather events | Transition Network

A piece four years ago explored these issues:

In 2007, climate change was riding high in the public’s consciousness. In the Lowy Institute annual poll, Australians ranked climate change as their equal-highest foreign policy goal, with 75 per cent saying it was very important.1 
This year (2010), it ranked tenth, with a bare majority of 53 per cent saying it was a very important goal. A larger majority (72 per cent), however, agreed Australia should take action to reduce its carbon emissions before a global agreement is reached, but they weren’t prepared to invest much in achieving it.

ECOS Magazine - Towards A Sustainable Future
Science, 'sceptics' and spin: framing the climate change debate (Science Alert)

See also:
Media coverage of climate change - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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