2011-02-27 04:41:33An SkS FAQ Document?
John Hartz
John Hartz

While pursuing the Resource section of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team's website, I noticed the following:

Frequently Asked Questions About the Science of Climate Change 2008 Update - This FAQ by Atmospheric Science Assessment and Integration Section Science and Technology Branch of Environment Canada covers all the major climate change topics in a very easy to read, illustrated format.


Since this document is a tad dated and specific to Canada, the thought occurrred to me. "SkS should produce its own FAQ document."

What say you?

2011-02-27 05:34:40Hmmmm....
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
Wouldn't most of this be covered in the Newcomers, Start Here and/or the Big Picture posts?
2011-02-27 05:46:23Daniel Bailey
John Hartz
John Hartz

I suspect that just about everything that one might put into a FAQ has been addressed in some fashion or another in existing SkS posts. Therefore, an FAQ could be put together rather easliy by cutting & pasting.  

I believe that many people like to peruse the FAQ sections of websites. In addtion, an FAQ document could be the second stand-alone report issued by SkS.

The more ways information is packaged, the more ways it gets spread.       

2011-02-27 08:20:12
John Cook

I like the idea. It should be brief, simple and plain english with links to rebuttals. Questions could be about science or SkS (maybe have SkS questions on a separate page, keeping the science questions more prominent). For example, a question I get a lot:

Q: how is the ordering worked out on the top ten arguments?

A: Whenever we read an online skeptic article, we save it to a database (using the Firefox Add-on) recording which arguments they use. The Skeptic Arguments page merely counts the total number of occurrences of each argument and displays them in order of most used.

Please post any suggested questions here, preferably with the answer and links. Once there's a few, I'll set up the page and then continue to add to it as more content gets posted in this thread.

2011-02-27 08:33:29


How would you characterize the difference between the FAQ and the list of rebuttals?

Would a change in one necessitate a change in the other?

If there is substantial overlap between them, you might be making more work for yourself without increasing the value of the site. The site (or at least the way I view the site) is currently organized around the concept of rebuttal of frequently posed answers (R-FPA); if you introduce the FAQ element, you might create some confusion.

Just a thought.

2011-02-27 10:18:54nealjking
John Hartz
John Hartz

Right now, SkS contains both rebuttal articles and topical articles (blog posts). As a user of both, I can personally attest to the fact that there is quite a bit of overlap between, and even within, the two sets of materials.  

My proposal was to create an SkS version of the Canadian document, i.e., FAQs about Climate Science. This new resource would supplement what already exists on the SkS site. It could also be exported and printed as a stand-alone document.

John Cook suggests folding Q&A's about the SkS site into the FAQ. Perhaps a FAQ about SkS shouild be separate entitity?

2011-02-28 14:36:33Climate Change - The Summary for Citizens
Glenn Tamblyn


I have been thinking along the lines of something similar for some time. What I feel has been missing from the IPCC process is that it isn't aimed at the man in the street. The full report is basically to intimidating for Joe Mainstreet, and the Summary for Policymakers is just, that aimed at Policymakers, and assumes that said Policymakers will essentially accept the scientists report.

There is nothing aimed at educating and ultimately convincing the general populace, including the vast majority who simply aren't scientifically educated. So they are easy prey for the Merchants of Doubt.

What I have been imagining is a document that assumes no scientific knowledge on the part of its audience. It takes them through the case for AGW in a systematic way, starting with the most bsic things - what is the GH Effect. It starts with the big picture perspective first and works down to the smaller world view. Woven through it are descriptions of how all the parts fit together, how the science is consistent, how to look at things from the right perspective to avoid the traps of cherry-picking. And woven in also are rebuttals of the sceptic arguments, but not couched as rebuttals, rather simply along the lines of 'we might think X but this would be wrong because of Y'; by the time the reader has got through this they have already absorbed the rebuttal without quite realising it and has been 'innoculated' against the sceptic line.

This should all reference back to the science. And then be distributed as far and wide as possible.

Obviously any such document would be huge, a full book at least. Too big to distribute effectively. So what I have been thinking, a bit like the levels of arguments, is dividing it into 3 levels.

Lowest, most basic level would be a single document, devoting only a paragraph or two to each point. This forms the basic narrative, continually referencing how different points fit together. It needs to address the science, the seriousness & the urgency. But only in outline form But every single para would link to its section of the next level of detail.

2nd level would be an elaboration of each basic point. Background education on, for example, how UV, Visible and Infra-Red are all the same 'stuff' - most people don't understand this. More reasoning, some graphics, lots of analogies, describing the science but not directly referencing it. And pre-empting most of the sceptic arguments against it without trumpeting that fact.

Then the 3rd level would be a further elaboration of each point, now referencing the science directly. This would probably be pitched at the level of the intermediate/advanced rebuttals and blog posts. This anchors the lower levels in the fact that they aren't just someones opinion. But for the uneducated audience they don't need to go to that level if they aren't comfortable doing so.

But it is the overview document and the basic level articles that are the meat of the project. The narrative & polemic, drawing on the sort communicating science research John has already started compiling here. Giving people a framework for understanding what might be put in front of them and sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Think of it this way. Its about dear departed Rummy and his unknown unknowns. For most people, most of the science of climate change is an unknown unknown. They don't know how big the gaps in their knowledge are. So when the professional denialists stay on their chozen narrow topics, most people don't realise all the thing they aren't saying. How often will you see the Lindzens & Carters leading with the radiative physics, or Carbon Isotope ratios. Not just because it is too technical. It is also their weak area and they know it. Better to show pictures of thermometers next to Air Conditioners

Imagine then if someone hears a seemingly reasonable argument from Lindzen and their reaction is 'well, maybe, but you didn't mention this, this or this'. It frames their reaction to the sceptic in a totally different way, raising their suspicions that they are being bullshitted to.

You can't spot a cherry-pick if you don't know how big a cherry tree is.

And the overview document would highlight several other key points.

- The question of AGW is one of the most serious questions before us today. Whatever your views about this, don't you have a responsibility to your children to be as well informed about it as you can possibly be before you form an opinion - its their future we are talking about.

- If the science is correct, not only is the problem serious, action on it is also terribly urgent; what we are doing today may have consequences for generations to come.

- This problem requires the actions of everyone; only all of us working together can solve it. And none of us can escape the problem. We all live on the same planet.

- This is an all volunteer project, done in our own time, unfunded by anyone. We all simply think this is too important to leave communicating it to governments, business or the unreliability of the Internet Echo Chamber.

- We don't presume to tell you what to think. We just want to make sure you have enough information so that you can't be mislead by gossip, rumour, willful blindness and deceit. You are entitled to your opinion. But please be as informed as you can possibly be before you form that opinion.

Then this overview document would be released, much like the Skeptical Guide was. We send it out everywhere we can with the message, 'Please pass this on, copy it as much as you want, distribute this to every dining room table in every household in the world. Every church, synagogue, mosque and temple. Every club, organisation and association. And send it to all your elected representatives. And if you find the contents useful or intriguing or even disturbing, please follow the links. There is much, much more detail. Please read and learn, discuss and debate. And get involved. Please'.

Now imagine the Simpsons. Lisa gets this and becomes passionate about it. She hounds Marge until she reads it. Then Marge makes Homer's life a misery until he reads it - queue to image of a jiggling epiglotis here.

Such a project would be a big undertaking, and it couldn't be released piecemeal. But all the rebuttals & posts here at SkS are a precious resource that can be used far more widely. Let alone the resources of the Forum. Consider: There are more people here at the forum than there are staff at the IPCC.

So back to Badger's original Post, I think an FAQ would be an excellent idea as another string to the bow. SkS provides rebuttals of sceptic arguments and an FAQ would provide a separate resource to answer non-rebuttal questions. But both of these rely on people coming here with an itch they need to scratch. What we need is to douse the world in itching powder.

Let me set an ambitious target. Come November 2012, the only congress-persons and presidents that have a chance of being elected in the USA must support strong action on AGW or the people won't vote for them. Otherwise it will be 2016 before there is another chance. And only with the USA strogly behind it is there any chance of engaging with China, India etc to go further quicker.

2011-03-02 05:32:55
Rob Painting

Hear, hear Glenn!. Actually it would be great if the "Newcomers start here" page had a collection of graphics/animation & links explaining things such as the Greenhouse Effect, Milankovitch cycles, the structure of the atmosphere etc, etc in common language. For a casual reader, the "bar" here is probably set too high. I would imagine to a lot of people the arguments taking place here pass completely over their heads.

Yes, like your book, a veritable shitload of work!.