Thursday, January 5, 2012

Stephen Schneider ~ an unauthorized transcript of “Science and Distortion"

“Science and Distortion - Stephen Schneider”

Produced by Stephen Thomson and Plomomedia


The following comes from a tribute to the late Stanford University climatologist Stephen Schneider.

It is an unauthorized transcript {though I have asked for and received Stephen Thomson's after the fact blessing} of a video montage featuring clips of Stephen Schneider speaking at  Climate One including interview clips of a young Dr. Schneider explaining the contemporary "consensus." 

As Rob Honeycutt over at SkepticalScience said: “Not only is this an excellently produced video but it is a wonderful and balanced encapsulation of the reality of the climate situation and public debate.”

I myself am so impressed with what Dr. Schneider said that I’ve decide to transcribe the audio of this video (including time signatures).
I do this for my own edification since the process allows me to truly digest the message and I'm posting it here because I hope it might be of use to someone else.

Please feel free to copy and share the following but, please remember to acknowledge Stephen Thomson and Plomomedia as the producers of this excellent video ~ for a link to view the video include: http://www.skepticalscience.com/science-and-distortion-stephen-schneider.html


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In memory of Professor Stephen Schneider
1945 - 2010
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Stanford University climatologist Stephen Schneider speaking:

00:15...  “How did we know in the 1970s pretty much what would happen?  It was theory then.  And since then nature has been cooperating with theory but we kind of knew what would happen.  You couldn’t add 4 watts of extra heat over every square meter and have nothing happen."

[ cut to young Stephen Schneider ] 
0:30...  “Scientific consensus that co2 will build up and be a potential problem is very large.  But a scientific conscious on precisely how influential it will be in ten years, in twenty, in what areas climates will get better and what would be worse this is where the controversy comes in."
[ end clip ]

0:50... “We also knew that you had to stop using the atmosphere as an unpriced sewer to dump your smoke stack and tail pipe waste and your land-use change interactions.  All of that was known. It was not just in the club of a hundred left brained people.

1:05... "We testified to congress, we talked to ministers, there were national and international meetings, it was out there.”


[ cut to old news clips “... some of the things we are doing ourselves are accelerating the process... our burning of fossil fuels, etc. . . is a very big contributor to the greenhouse effect etc. ]

1:35... “So why didn’t we succeed? What happened?”

“Science is Never Settled”

1:40... “Climate science is a system science.  It’s like trying to understand your body.  Or trying to figure out something with cancer, or how the educational system is going to work most effectively, how are we going to do security?  Everyone of these complex systems problems has multiple components and when you break them down what you find out is (2:00) rarely do we know everything and rarely do we know nothing.  So, we have to break system science into the well established components, which are settled.  I’ll tell you a few.  Into competing explanations where our work has been able to get us to winnow it down to two or three possibilities.


[ graph of model results per the IPCC ]

2:15... “Here’s where the disconnect comes along.  Special interests will grab
[cut to - “American Chemistry Council” ad and parade of talking heads.]
what’s convenient for the ideology, or their position, so what you end up with, is you end up with a cacophony, typically of people selecting stuff out of context.  Then you end up with the end of the world versus good for you.


[ cut to Bachmann Singer, Leighton Steward, Singer... CO2 is natural....vs. malaria extreme... drought catastrophe, enviro refugees, global catastrophe,  +8°etc. ]

3:30... “I’ll confess my prejudice, the ‘end of the world’ and ‘good for you’ are the two loosest probability outcomes.

 “System Science” 

“What we are looking at is a multiple range of potential outcomes and what system scientists do is they winnow out the relative likelihood of these multiple outcomes.

"So if you try to cover it as a yes our no and you go out there and you take a 200 scientist report like the IPCC, it goes through three years of writing, two rounds of reviews and a thousand review comments on every chapter.

4:00... "And then two petroleum geologists, you know who are special interest in finding oil paid by you know which oil company because they have PhDs are given equal status on story or television and you see we get a little mad about that and we call that utter distortion.  And they say “oh no, that’s balance.”  It is not balance, it is utter distortion because they are not reporting the relative creditability of the multiple positions.   And it means that you’re leaving it to the public and political world to figure that out for themselves.  Their capable of it, but they rarely do it.”

[ 4:30 cut - ad co2 good for you, write congress, lobby against carbon dioxide controls ... ]

 “Value judgement”

5:00... “Supposing you got a spot on your lung from a chest x-ray which you did for a different purpose than looking for cancer.  Well it could be a healed lesion or it could be the beginning of an actual tumor.  And I actually know two examples where this really happened.  So they were asked what to do.  Well what should we do doc?  Well do a biopsy, well it’s hard to get to, we have to do surgery, surgery has rises, it’s expensive, it’s painful.

"In other words there’s a price for a false positive.  If you believe that could be cancer and you try to take it out you will pay a price.  So OK we don’t want to pay the price, so let’s wait and see, what can we do.  And the doc says we can wait and if it grows be better take it out, and of course this patient said: but what’s the chance that if I wait and it grows that it becomes metastatic and therefore it will be too late and I’ll be dead whereas if I take it out now in a precautionary mode pay the price for the surgery I might not need I’ll have a lower likelihood of being dead.  Now what’s the right answer to that?  There is no right answer.  That’s your value judgement.

 “Risk Management”

6:05... "How many people in this place, in this fire prone California have had a house fire? (show of hands)  A few of you  Typically it’s one to two percent.  How many of you have fire insurance?  We already are very risk adverse, when we have consequences that matter.  We do not need 95% certainty.  Here is where again (6:30) people frame this problem by looking for exceptions to the conventional wisdom and claim until the exceptions are resolved it isn’t proved and it’s premature to act, yet we’re acting on our 1% risk and paying insurance.  And here were talking about 50% risk to the planetary life support system and they’re telling us that’s not certain enough."

[ cut to Strassel and his parade of discredited denialist talking points, blaming: “.... or other things we just don’t understand.”
{The patent lie here is that scientists do understand those aspects of our climate to a high degree of realist certainty.} ]

7:15... "It’s not lost on some of you that that’s special interest blabber.  We heard that from the American Tobacco Institute for years.  Remember, “three studies are equivocal about whether smoking causes cancer.”

[ cut to - Tobacco Institute Ad, questioning the evidence ]

8:00... “And, and they correctly said and still to this day we do not know biophysically the precise links between smoking and cancer.

"So they give you a “therefore”, when there’s no therefore there, therefore it’s premature to act.  That’s personal value judgement of risk management.  Of course they want to protect market share.  Whereas the data are so overwhelming epidemiologically, you know the statistics, that you’d have to crazy not to control this even though you don’t understand every detail of the mechanisms.

8:30... "So this is again where we have to do risk management.  Which is how do you want to deal with a preponderance of evidence not an absolute certainty in every detail."

[ cut to - republicans debate, not settled, not a crisis, carbon myth ]

9:00... "Let’s talk about tipping points.  So what about Greenland, how could Greenland be a tipping point.  Right now it’s melting at an unprecedented rate.  The water is rolling down, nobody knows if the water is freezing on the way down or reaching the bottom.  If the water makes it all the way to the bottom, then it’s going to heat the bottom and lubricate it.  Once you start melting it, it creates a self fulfilling prophecy where you could move towards 5 meters of sea rise and there’d be no way to stop it.

"What we don’t know is, does it need one more degree before that happens, two or three, all I can say with high degree of confidence is the more we keep adding unprecedented levels of warming to the system the more the number of tipping points that are going to be crossed.  We know for sure that they’re there.  We don’t know for sure where they are.

9:55... “This is not just an academic exercise, this is something we’ve got to have people deeply engaged in.  Because we’re talking about the sustainability for their children, their grand-children and the rest of nature... our behavior.

“What’s the worst thing about tipping points like Greenland, we will probably not know when we’ve crossed it for fifty years.  So our behavior in the next generation could precondition a sustainability issue for a millennium or ten, based upon the convenience of one species for one generation.  I find that a very morally daunting prospect.

[ clip to young Schneider ]
10:35... “What we are really doing is insulting our global environment at a faster rate than we are understanding it.  And the best we can do in all honesty is say lookout there’s a change of potentially irreversible change at a global scale based upon the benefits of use of energy and it’s very tough for us to know whether those benefits of energy today are worth the potential risks of environmental change for our children.”
[ end clip ]

11:05... “How are we going to deal with this problem and others like it if it requires public understanding so they can send the right value signals to our representatives when their completely knocked off their pins by this cacophonous fraudulent debate were all parties are given equal credibility where they don’t deserve it.  And we have got to take back the air waves in a way and make certain that what’s out there is more credible not just simply following some formulaic ballets.

"Thanks very much.”

Stephen finishes and leaves the stage.

But he has left us a legacy to cherish, learn from and build upon.



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For further information visit the folks over at SkepticalScience.com:





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