2011-05-25 15:33:44Alan Jones takes on climate scientist David Karoly in *very* hostile interview
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
58.166.133.186

Alan Jones, arch-climate denier, takes on David Karoly:

http://www.2gb.com/index2.php?option=com_newsmanager&task=view&id=8984

Rams hard his "CO2 is a tiny %" argument, seems to be his pet argument.

2011-05-25 17:23:41
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

Well simply Alan Jones is in complete control at the start of that interview (haven't listened to the whole thing yet). He is leading it. But having listened to talk show hosts, don't they all do that?

In which case, I wonder whether it is worth engaging them.

Unfortunately Karoly responded with his high level language, he should have responded with a very simple answer about the physics and the proportions.

eg. Karoly "Well without going into the details of the science, CO2 has a bigger impact on warming because the gases that make up greater proportions such as Oxygen and Nitrogen are transparent to the warming radiation, hence Alan you are oversimplifying the issue. In fact of the warming gases, CO2 represents about 9% of the warming gases in the atmosphere. If we double the amount of CO2 it will be closer to 20% of warming gases"

You have to think at their logic level, but introduce a little science. Once you have rebutted their poor science, they will be forced to change the subject or ask more details about the science, at which point you elaborate more.

2011-05-25 17:38:01
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

Actually another point is Jones is well prepared with questions and Karoly hasn't a clue what will be asked. So Karoly is at a disadvantage unless he has done research about Jones before hand, in which case he wouldn't have been so disadvataged, but Jones would still have a slight edge.

2011-05-25 18:13:27Not knowing what questions you'll get
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
58.166.133.186

In one sense, that is the most terrifying part of going into a radio interview - the unknown. It's like going into an exam, not knowing what question you'll be asked, except it's worse - it's in front of a huge audience and you don't get a moment to collect your thoughts or compose an answer. Forget about getting to rewrite or correct your answer. You get one shot and you have to be clear, articulate, confident and correct.

On the other hand, my experience has been the same questions over and over again at all the interviews I've done. Especially "climate's changed before" which comes up all the time. So I'm finding as I'm forced to repeat the same answers, I get more confident and fluent in my answers.

I would've picked up Jones' error that human emissions are 3% of natural emissions - Karoly does come back to it later when he points out that 97% of natural emissions are balanced by natural absorptions but he had the opportunity to stop Jones in his tracks early in his diatribe by pointing out that 3% figure is wrong. Human emissions are more like 200% of natural emissions and in the opposite direction - we emit 30 Gt of CO2, nature absorbs around half that much.

But overall, David was calm, composed in a hostile interview - did very well, I thought.

2011-05-25 18:27:23
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.138.248

I think the interviewer did more talking than the interviewee. Karoly was only there as a straw man for Jones to rant at. Karoly didn’t get much time to decide which points to make; he had to say something before Jones interrupted him again.

Though at the start when Jones was going through his script leading to the 0.008% or whatever, Karoly should probably have stopped him and explained the context of those factoids. By the time they get to the end it sounds like Jones has scored a debating point, and listeners are no longer interested in the logic he used to get there. Once you start following your opponent’s script they’ve already won by default.

2011-05-25 21:52:53
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.92.112.9

John, I can certainly hear that you're getting more fluent, and more composed during your interviews. Well done, must be hard adjusting to the limelight.

Not a geat job by Karoly, should have leapt on that natural/human emissions thing straight away, and the CO2 is a tiny percentage thing too. Nealstradamus' voting analogy would have been useful here, and very damn easy for the average layman to grasp, or being in Australia, his kangaroo hunters analogy would have been even better.

As for the whole carbon cycle thing Karoly could have used something like his bathtub analogy, and said: "No Alan, you have that completely wrong, for the benefit of your listeners, it needs to be understood we are talking about the carbon cycle, in other words carbon that is stored in surface reservoirs, the air, land, plants and ocean. They are like the water in a water feature, or fountain that is being constantly recycled. The carbon cycle is similar, it's an exchange of carbon between living things, the land and the ocean. Over time it is very stable, like the water in the fountain its absolute amount changes very little."

"Fossils fuels, such as coal and oil, are the remains of living things that died hundreds of millions of years ago, and contain carbon which has been safely locked away from the carbon cycle. What humans are doing to the carbon cycle, by burning fossil fuels, is like adding a little bit more water to that fountain or water feature, until eventually it overflows. We expect that, in time, nature will overflow too, mopping up less of the excess carbon dioxide in the air that humans are adding. Atmospheric carbon dioxide will climb even more rapidly than now, which will make the Earth warm even further" 

The CO2 in the ocean thing, Karoly should have used the fizzy-drink analogy to explain Henry's Law. 

I think that workshops for some of the climate scientists on public speaking would be invaluable. The benefit of being able to use analogies (such as Neal's, which is a beaut) or longer versions similar to mine, is that it chews up valuable air time, and limits the amount of gish-galloping space. Better to have a few climate science fundamentals well understood by the public, than lots of fundamentals that aren't. It also wrests control of the interview from the interviewer, which is bound to piss them off. Which is nice.

2011-05-25 21:55:05
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

Listened to a bit more and noticed that Jones said a little bit of warming isn't a bad thing.

Well here in the UK today, the Independents 'i' newspaper has a double page article about Koala bears unable to survive above 37 degrees C. They become dehydrated and desperately seek water. Also apparently eucalyptus leaves become less nutritious as atmospheric CO2 increases.

2011-05-25 21:58:19
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.92.112.9

"It isn't bad" - is probably my pet hate argument. I added about 400+ papers to rebutt that in the peer-reviewed database. I want to get around to addressing that argument one day, it'll be a colossal list of badness!

2011-05-25 22:05:42
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.92.112.9

Oh, and practising a bit, prior to interview wouldn't be a bad thing either. 

2011-05-25 22:14:21
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

Koala article:

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/up-a-gum-tree-are-koalas-slipping-to-extinction-2288575.html

2011-05-26 03:58:00
Alex C

coultera@umich...
64.88.86.200

While I agree Karoli should have jumped on Jones before he had a chance to complete his "math" *vomits,* the suggestions so far are completely wrong as to the responses he should have given, for one reason: length.  A whole paragraph to explain where he went wrong?  Jones barely allowed Karoli to say individual sentences, let alone paragraphs.  Where Jones was completely out of line with his "math" was conflating the atmosphere with CO2.  "No Jones, that's change in the mass of the atmosphere, which doesn't matter one bit.  We're talking about CO2 change."  That's it.  And cut him off when he tries to establish that number again, and tell him it's the change in CO2 that matters, not the change in the atmospheric mass.  And do it again, heck throw in a BAC analogy or similar, until he gives up or realizes his mistake, because once he's got his "math" out, all he has to do is go right back to that false number and shout down Karoli.  Which he did.

Not to channel my anger toward you guys, listening to that interview was horrible for me.  I have not yet listened to the end, but the position that Jones put himself in was, from a debating point of view, absolutely perfect, and it was such crap.  It only made it worse that Jones led into it with "Good, glad we agree on this."  As soon as that key "0.04% of atmosphere" figure came out, that should have been a red flag that nothing that followed would have been something to agree to.

I think that's something that has to be remembered for anyone being interviewed: irrelevant numbers must be addressed immediately.  So must a repressive interviewer - "I'm sorry, didn't you invite me to talk on your show, and shouldn't I get a chance to speak?"

>>>I think that workshops for some of the climate scientists on public speaking would be invaluable.

Maybe, but being interviewed is a bit different than public speaking.  Public speaking is, in my mind, about informing large amounts of people concisely and at the same time comprehensively.  Interviews can easily become combative though, which is a whole other problem to practice against.

I'll listen to the end, hopefully it will get better for Karoli.

2011-05-26 09:50:35Borrowing this from Michael Ashley
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
58.166.133.186

Michael suggests this way of responding to the "CO2 is tiny" argument which I thought useful:

Rather than try to use analogies such as arsenic, iron, etc, why not try to explain the actual science involved? E.g., I would say something like "yes Alan you are right, CO2 is only a tiny fraction of the atmosphere. But do you think that climate scientists have somehow missed that fact? There are two crucial points that you need to consider. Firstly, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has skyrocketed by 44% since the industrial evolution [270ppmv --> 390ppmv], and all of this is due to humans; we are currently adding x billion tonnes of CO2 per day to the atmosphere; it is naive to think that such a quantity will have a small impact. Secondly, as we were taught in school, most of the atmosphere is nitrogen and oxygen, but these two molecules are quite transparent to infrared radiation. CO2 is critically different: its structure makes it very effective at absorbing infrared. So without CO2 the atmosphere is transparent at many infrared wavelengths, but if you add just a couple of hundred parts per million of CO2, the atmosphere becomes opaque. So a tiny amount of CO2 can have a very large effect on the earth. This science has been established for over 100 years.

2011-05-26 10:00:37Cute way to respond to '0.4% is too tiny to make a difference'
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
58.166.133.186

he ought to be willing to prove it though in a demonstration, say by entering into a chamber containing <0.4% of, say, Hydrogen Sulfide. It can't possibly be dangerous!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highly_toxic_gases
2011-05-26 10:57:58
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.8.194

While I agree Karoli should have jumped on Jones before he had a chance to complete his "math" *vomits,* the suggestions so far are completely wrong as to the responses he should have given, for one reason: length.

Alex, as stated above, better to have a few climate science fundamentals understood well, than many not understood at all. Scientists continually underestimate the ability of the public to follow these things. Seriously, how many new concepts do you think a layperson can take onboard? That is our target audience, not regular climate bloggers.

Secondly, again as pointed out above, it wrests control of the interview from the interviewer, the gish-galloper will be wanting to move things along in order to upchuck more confusion. By calmly and diligently explaining the fundamentals you achieve both things at the same time. 

We've seen the old approach doesn't work, it mystifyes me why scientists don't subject their own media interviews to the cold hard light of analysis. Why continue with something if it doesn't work? Are they Homer Simpson?

Listening to that Karoly interview, I'm sorry but Jones opened up a can of 'whoopass' on him. He needs to improve, and quickly if he's going to be a spokeperson on this. 

John, as far as the 'CO2 is a tiny amount' thing I reckon the ideal comback would be Neal's analogy and then a discussion of the actual effect, but in simplified language, as if one were a teacher talking to a student at school. Also, practice having someone in your face (roleplaying) so that one doesn't come off as combative in the interview. Learn to keep ones cool, smile or chuckle, when the interviewer says something stupid, like Jones was prone to. Obviously that will depend on whether the interview is audio only, or with a watching audience. The confidence thing is key to having your message understood.

 

 

2011-05-26 11:09:38Another analogy for CO2 is tiny
Glenn Tamblyn

glenn@thefoodgallery.com...
138.217.125.202

I have used this analogy at times.

 

A glass of water is completely clear but just a few drops of ink make it cloudy. How can this be with so little ink. Because water is clear while ink is very opaque. So to Nitrogen and Oxygen in the atmosphere are clear while the GH gases are opaque.

2011-05-26 11:18:39
Alex C

coultera@umich...
67.149.101.148

Rob, I think we might have a misunderstanding here: I'm not worried about the public understanding these things.  I agree that detailed explanation is necessary to communicate the idea to them, preferred too, but I was referring to the fact that Karoly was being limited by Jones to very short statements.  I don't think that Jones would have let him get away with such a full explanation, that's my point.

As to wrestling control from the interviewer, two things on that: 1) if Karoly can shout down Jones when he tries to interrupt, then more power to him and make it as detailed as he wants; 2) if Jones has the power to turn down the power of his interviewee's mike (or, turn down the volume), then there's an issue with attempting to take control.  John alluded to this in the thread discussing John Abraham's interview, a problem which I think precludes detailed explanations, as they're just not viable (for reasons unrelated to the public).

(And gosh, had I really typed "Karoli" that often?)

2011-05-26 12:00:12
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
121.79.14.98

John, it’s 0.04%, not 0.4%.

2011-05-26 12:16:18Another response to the trace gas argument
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
121.79.14.98

“It’s 0.04, and the people out there driving as they’re listening to their radios know that if their Blood Alcohol Concentration goes over 0.05, they’re over the legal limit. In the same way, scientists estimate there is a safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and at 0.04 we are over the limit.”

2011-05-26 12:38:18
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.8.194

Not worried about the public understanding these things? Alex, what is the point of the interview then? I thought the idea was debunk these skeptic arguments. In my personal experience, the greatest issue for the public is that they don't even realize there is a problem, and that is solely down to the concerted campaign to mislead, with the media particularly complicit.

Sure, countering skeptic garbage won't solve the problem by itself, we also have to make it a moral issue in the way the abolition of slavery, women being able to vote, segregation and apartheid and gay rights are/were moral issues. But man, we'd better get a move on, because it's already too late for some. 

2011-05-26 13:00:35
Alex C

coultera@umich...
67.149.101.148

I had based my response to you Rob off of your statement "Scientists continually underestimate the ability of the public to follow these things."  Did you mean overestimate?  Or something else by "these things" than more-than-basic climatic principles?  My mistake if I misinterpreted what you meant.

Let me be clearer than what I was: in general, I think the average layman has the capability to understand these points if he's not being fogged by the denial machine or by his own ideology, though I also agree with you when you say that it's best to try to solidify a few fundamentals - one in the hand better than two in the bush, I guess we can think of it.  And yes, that is why we have these interviews, to educate people.  I don't think Jones was allowing an environment, though, conducive to this, so detailed explanations would not be viable responses as Jones would just interject before the whole point could be made.  I think one-liners, with interviewers like Jones, would be best.  Or, a more authoritative mien, whichever gets the point across better.

2011-05-26 13:02:19The point of the interview
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
58.166.133.186

I would venture the point of the interview is to replace Alan Jones' climate narrative with our own narrative. So it's not primarily about explaining the science - it's about telling a story. It so happens that you tell the story by explaining the science.

Example - the narrative could be "genuine skeptics consider all the evidence, deniers deny any inconvenient evidence". Then when Alan Jones says "human emissions are 3% of natural emissions", respond with "ah but you're not considering the full picture. While nature emits 700 billion tonnes of CO2, it also absorbs around 700 billion tonnes of CO2. So nature is balanced and we're upsetting the balance. When people tell you human emissions are tiny compared to nature, they're not giving you the full picture". So science explained and narrative given.

2011-05-26 13:19:50
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.8.194

Alex, whoops meant overestimate. My bad. Just a personal observation in speaking to people on climate change. These people aren't stupid, they just lack the background expertise or experience, to tell scientific fact from fiction. 

I wonder, would no interview with Jones have been better?

2011-05-26 13:28:09
Alex C

coultera@umich...
67.149.101.148

I would tend to think that interviews with people like Jones, people who want to "gun you down" as Shelby put it here, have a very large potential to be more detrimental than helpful.  I actually agree with Shelby about such interviewers in general, and think that yes, no interview would have been the better route.

As was said too, one would have a better target audience with more reporter-like interviewers than ideological ones like Jones, anyways.

2011-05-26 18:58:29Hob Nail Boots
Glenn Tamblyn

glenn@thefoodgallery.com...
138.217.125.202

Interesting comparing Karoly & Abraham. Abraham didn't have to deal with an interviewer riding over the top of him so aggresively. But equally Abraham took it back to his opponents. David, unfortunately is out of his depth in this sort of environment Too gentile, too academic. Wish we could live in a world where the DK's gentle, gentile, scholarship would win. The gentle giants should win, But they won't. It is the ratbag, arse-kickers who will win. DK shouldn't have agreed to this interview. Admittedly, this won't change the views of the ratbags, But you don't go onto Allen Jones unless your intention is to rip his throat out. In some ways people here at SkS are better qualified to take on an Alen Jones than DK.

2011-05-27 08:30:12Another kernel of goodness on addressing the trace gas argument
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
58.166.133.186

From David Jones (not the store chain, the Aussie scientist):

Can't help but think the best response is to state up front that greenhouse gases are in tiny proportions but warm the earth's surface by 33C. Every scientists know this - and if you don't believe it, take a flight to the moon and measure the temperature in the sun and in the shade. Hey - I'll even offer to pay your ticket if I'm wrong ;-)