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Creating a Climate of Chaos
Who are the contenders for creating the greatest confusion about how our climate works?


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Part One: The NIWA seminar on Abrupt Climate Change.

Part Two: The Non-Science of the  NIWA seminar.

"...And some smart kids are running the Flat Earth Award
( for the greatest climate change denier. (The nominees for this dubious honor are mega-popular author Michael Crichton, mega-loud radio personality Rush Limbaugh, and mega-persistent scientist Dr. S. Fred Singer.)”
So wrote Russell Brown in his "Hard News" column.

The web link is fascinating. It reveals the wide array of reactions of people to these commentators. And this is just the sample of those who are concerned about our impact on the climate. Capturing the reactions of fans of these commentators’ views would be even more revealing.

The kids may not be all that smart however. The award misses the point. The greatest obstacles to understanding how the climate works and our impact on it are not provided by these commentators. Nor are they provided by the fossil fuel sector and opponents of the Kyoto Protocols such as President Bush of the USA and Prime Minister Howard of Australia and their spin machines.

The three greatest contenders for producing the greatest obstacles may well be:
Nomination No 1:Climatologists and “Energy Experts”
Nomination No2: Environmental Educators in schools, NGOs and communities
Nomination No 3: Green Parties

Here is an example why these groups are the greatest contenders.

This week I attended a seminar at NIWA in Wellington

Abrupt climatic change:
are the Pentagon and Hollywood right?
Professor Stefan Rahmasdorf
Professor of Physics of the Oceans
University of Potsdam, Germany

Now before I start, I wish to make it clear I think it fantastic that our National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd opened the seminar up to the public and for free. I also think the Stefan’s presentation of the data drawn from ice sediment records and of the role of ocean currents is wonderful.

It is fascinating to see the rhythms of climate changes over eons. It is humbling to realise that 10°C rises in average temperature can occur within a decade.

I sense great beauty in the thermal balances of our oceans as he illustrates the “phase relationships” between temperatures in Nordic seas and the Antarctic. Stefan surmises that changes in the North trigger changes in the Southern Oceans rather than vice versa. I find this thought-provoking stuff as new forecasts posted on the Alternet today suggest the Arctic could be ice-free in summer by the end of this century.

Climate modelling has a clear role in revealing how our oceans and skies work to enable us but it can be easily dismissed as simply theoretical. Stefan’s work cannot be so easily dismissed. It is databased and is drawn directly out of the ice cores of Vostok. Of course, the sun’s level of activity varies over the eons too and the periods of higher sunspot activity can be seen in his illustrations of the changing rhythms revealed in the ice cores too. Changes in our climate since 1940 have to be seen against a context of relatively constant solar activity in this period.

Stefan suggests that in order to understand the impact of “anthropogenic” climate change, it is more promising to examine indirect measurements such as salinity decrease. “Global warming” as he calls it, destabilises thermohaline circulation.

Thermohaline circulation?  Well might you wonder what it is. It seems it has at least six definitions. A simple one is that it involves the circulation of temperature and salt and both circulations have to be separated. If you add sufficient freshwater you can slow the speed and scale of the circulation and this is what we may be doing with the Atlantic Circulation. If it were to stop, then the North Atlantic will rise a meter and the South Atlantic will lower something less than a meter. Europe would cool down also.

As an aside to SEF readers, a few weeks ago I noted the news at the VictoriaUniversity seminar is that the latest evidence is the stability of this Circulation is more robust than previously thought. Stefan put this into context and showed that this discussion is based on only a few years of data. He suggests the general evidence is that there is a freshening trend (saline reduction) that correlates with the warming up of some areas.

Stefan believes the most valuable measure of change is sea level changes and satellite measurements are now very accurate.

He personally canvassed the opinion of the top “climate change” experts and 50% of them pick a 10% risk of complete Atlantic Current “shutdown” if average global surface temperatures rise 3°C. He asks who would board a plane with that risk of crashing? The Current warms up the Nordic seas and enables much of the agriculture in northern Europe

In answer to a question about the ocean’s role in storing C02, Stefan says that “deep water formation” mainly occurs in the Atlantic and if its current slows, then uptake will be reduced.

The Antarctic? Stefan knows more about Arctic than Antarctic sensibility and suggests the UNIPCC may have underestimated the impact of a warmer surface climate on it because they failed to factor into current models in the impact of the removal of the barrier to movement formed by Ice Shelf. Its break up could result in more rapid “drawing off” of the land-based ice. I highlight this as usually the UNIPCC is condemned for being overzealous in its calculations.

Stefan suggests there is an increasing assumption that CO2 levels of 450 ppm or 450 parts per million in the atmosphere will result a warming up of 3°C with a 2.7 –5.1 meter rise in ocean levels.

Yes you are reading right. We are talking changes in parts per million of the atmosphere having the power to make these massive changes to our climate. Of course, there are other unknown factors at play such as the even more powerful trace gas, water vapour. Water in all its forms is a majority determinant of what happens to us.

In case you are wondering, Stefan suggests the rise in sea levels possible over the next century comes from thermal expansion of the oceans (0.4-0.9meters); Melting glaciers (0.4m); Greenland (0.9-1.8m); Antarctica (1-2m) = total 2.7-5.1m.

Stefan finishes by discussing the difficulty of communicating probabilities and risks to the public and policy makers. He points out that EU CO2 target of 500 parts per million, which many accept as inevitable, is quite incompatible with their target of limiting any temperature increase to 2°C.

All this means “added uncertainty for policy makers” and it is “difficult to get the point across… we cannot present politicians and public with a huge range of risks.”

This seems a very good point to start my reflections on the seminar again. This time I explore how scientific it really is. In the introduction to the seminar I note it is said “Debate has got to this level by high quality science”. How true is this of the public debate? I hypothesise that no one knows because there is no science in the communication.

When the seminar was advertised I got in touch with Dr Lionel Carter at NIWA to register my interest. We soon got into a discussion about the communication of climate issues and he said the evidence is the message is now getting through and he listed a series of recent publications to prove his point. I suggested that this is not scientific evidence of communication and mentioned my long and unsuccessful search to find evidence of any science in the communication. We agreed to differ.

Lionel introduces the seminar with slides of the movie The Day after Tomorrow, The NZ Listener’s GLOBAL MELTDOWN cover and the National Geographic feature, GLOBAL WARNING Bulletins from a Warmer World. He quotes these and the Dominion Post’s recent article, bill-boarded with the nonsensical


as evidence that the message is now getting through more. He also shows a slide of Michael Crichton’s new book State of Fear to show it is not all progress.

Stefan extends this introduction to the lecture by discussing the “leaked” Pentagon papers exploring “What If” scenarios of Climate Change and the impact of the movie. He says the film director knew his portrayal of Human-Induced Climate Change “is not accurate but knew exactly what he was doing… using artistic skills to reach the public”. Stefan reminds us. “It is after all a Hollywood movie.”

I know of no scientific evidence that the director “knows what he is doing”. Emmerich says the book was inspired by the book The coming Global Superstorm –Art bell and Whitley Strieber. Simon and Schuster.

Searching for research on the impact of the movie I learn that Harvard University professor Ubaldo Dbenedetto sued Emmerich in German court for plagarising Polar Day 9, a book he wrote in 1993.The court rejected the charges.

This is a hint that the science of making a quick buck is more the driver than the desire to communicate wonder and awe of our life sustaining atmosphere. Few would dispute the suggestion that the bottom line for Hollywood is the dollar and it is no secret or unique fact that for at least half a century it has played an intimate role in promoting State Department and Pentagon policy. 

In my search for research on the movie’s impact I spotted the following comment:

"Incredibly the Scandanavian scientist Bjorn Lomberg (who has in the past accused environmentalist concerns as being based on statistical misrepresentation, but whose own analysis has come under attack from both the lay greens and the science establishment for being out of context) himself attacked the film in a leading UK broadsheet (The Independent on Sunday). However others (such as in Nature v429, p347-8) say that the film raises awareness and that the vast majority of public are capable of telling a film from real life."

I am not rich enough to access Nature and so am not privey to their evidence. However I did find a snippet that may give a hint of the Lomberg interview:
"... special effects may cost the world $15 trillion Bjorn Lomborg says a new ... "

If this is accurate, then the probability is that both Nature and Bjorn are equally indulging in speculation. I predict neither school is based on science. I assume the Nature article defines awareness as intelligent, science-based knowledge. The film could also raise levels of awareness in the form of enhanced fear, indifference, confusion and ignorance. I will offer evidence of these latter impacts soon.

The court “ruled that there were no similarities to be established between the film and the book”. So we can believe Emmerich when he says he based it on The coming Global Superstorm, though the plot has similarities to Polar Day 9. The authors of Superstorm make it clear that there is no evidence a superstorm has occurred. They are attempting to remind us how human civilisations wax and wane with the weather and our present activities put us at real risk. I concluded, for a range of reasons, the book would fail its objectives.

When I learned a movie was being made based on book I wrote in May 2004:

"This leads me to hypothesise the impact of the movie. I predict that on balance it will be unhelpful.

At a primal level it will evoke the fear response that will make the public even more malleable to those who evoke this response to promote their short-term sector interests. In particular it will work to promote the interests of sectors such as the grid-based electricity* and nuclear sectors rather than promote a new awareness of how we can reduce risks by engaging community resources and using solar energy more directly.

Though the book attempts to introduce a little of the human narrative into the scenario it shallow and ineffective. Audiences will experience a fundamental sense of disconnection and disempowerment and hence sustainable changes in behaviour will not be generated.  In general, it will tend to work to confuse and reduce empathy with the atmosphere. All responses will be tempered by disbelief.

In short, the images will evoke fear based responses rather than inspirational awe-based responses."

*2005 Note: I use the term “Bulk-electricity sector” now to distinquish between grids based centralist Bulk-generation   and grids based on extensive distributed generation.

I also predicted on the Sustainable Energy Forum (Don’t worry, I know this forum has a most unhelpful name) that agencies such as Greenpeace, the New Zealand Green Party or teachers using the film to communicate climate issues would defeat their own objectives.

All the evidence I can find so far supports my hypotheses. I note, for instance, the large headline in this week’s Sunday Star Times Feb 27 2005:

–‘Hot potato” back on table as NZ Power chiefs seek ways to plug energy gap.

Stephen Barrett, chief executive of Contact Energy, the country’s largest energy generator and retailer, said he was not surprised to see nuclear power being debated in New Zealand. ….he also said interest had been renewed, with many other countries revisiting the nuclear option as economies around the world sought energy sources that emitted low amounts of greenhouse gases and ensured security of supply...

Nuclear power is the only large-scale energy supply option that is carbon emission-free…”

Car, truck and tractor imports have reached record highs and on nearly every level New Zealand is set to increase carbon dioxide emissions since the launch of the film. A recent calculation suggests they have risen 39.7% since 1990 and on present trends could rise 82% by 2012. The statement that “nuclear power.. is carbon emission-free” is untrue and reveals the state of ignorance that exists about gas emissions.

The only serious research I know of the impact of the movie was done in Germany. I do not find it by a web search. In fact the top link I am offered is

The film "The Day After Tomorrow" - comments by climatologist ...
"... In an interview, director Roland Emmerich also says ... After all - our knowledge of the climate system ... Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. ..."

Yes, it is Stefan’s reflections after previewing the movie in 2004. There is little evidence of any science in his commentary. For example:

“Obviously it is easy to dismiss much of this scenario as unrealistic and exaggerated…It is – and viewers will be in no doubt that they are watching a fictional disaster movie and not a documentary…. I think it would be a mistake and not do the film justice if scientists simply dismiss it as nonsense. For what it is, a blockbuster movie that has to earn back 120 M$ production cost, it is probably as good as you can get. For this type of movie for a very broad audience it is actually quite subversive and manages to slip in many thought-provoking things. I'm sure people will not confuse the film with reality, they are not stupid - they will know it is a work of fiction."

Judging from their general communications, I suspect the bulk of our climatologists would read this without raising a serious query. But is it “obvious” and, if so, why? Every symbol generated alters the collective awareness of humanity. We are myth driven. How can we be “sure” people will not be confused by the film?  My prediction that people will be confused by the movie is based on several hypotheses:

*** Evoking the fear response generates maladaptive activities i.e. generates junk joules. (Conversely, evoking the inspiration response generates more sustainable uses of energy i.e. generates bonus joules.)

*** People identify most with their most familiar experience. This is being human. Hence the most powerful generator of sustainable responses is the human example.

*** Science is the search for truth and sustains humanity. When science is reduced for any reason it tends to produce maladaptive behaviour.

*** The dominant symbols used by climatologists (and the media) to represent how the climate works are deeply flawed and work against the development of mitigating behaviour.

It turns out that Stefan’s own institute, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), did the only serious research I can find:

 Double Impact
The Climate Blockbuster
“The Day After Tomorrow”
And its impact on the
German Cinema Public.

Fritz Reusswis Julia schwazkopf Philip Pohlenz
Cofunded by the European Climate Forum (ECF) and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear safety (BMU).

The survey interviewed 1118 people in 6 cities before and after viewing the movie. 149 were interviewed by telephone 4 weeks after the experience. The sample can be described as a class of movie-goers in an industrialised country that has a reputation for climate awareness and investment in “energy efficient” technologies and who are prepared to experience multiple surveys.

The survey results and discussion are well laid out and accompanied by useful graphs. A layperson like myself can comprehend the study.

 In general, the research supports my hypotheses and does not support key hypotheses of the researchers. For instance the study concludes:

“Given these initial conditions, a very surprising result of our study is that watching The Day After Tomorrow seems to have weakened the subjective probability of a global climate change to happen. After having seen the film slightly more persons went from the camp of climate 'believers' to the camp of climate 'skeptics', and much more people moved from the very probable answer before to the rather probable answer afterwards, indicating an erosion of perceived probability of climate change.”

The authors point out contemporary research on German discourse of climate issues reveal growing acceptance of the probability human activity is altering climate balances in potentially castastrophic ways for humans. The movie reverses this trend and the phone survey indicates the reversal deepens with time. Starting a trend takes some power. Reversing a trend requires even more power.

The increased confusion of the issues of climate change and Human-induced Climate Change is revealed in the responses to another question:

The moviegoers give the responsibility to parts either to the humans alone or to both humans and nature. It is remarkable that after seeing the movie fewer people state that humans are responsible, which is a statistically tested significant difference, and that more people say that both are responsible.”

These results support my hypothesis about the impact of Bad Science. We are all scientists to some degree, often much more than we know. We can sense distortion of the dominant paradigms of our times, even if we cannot understand what it is. The authors attempt to explain the negative impact of the movie thus:

“… This public image, mostly nourished by mass media reports, was more or less the master scenario people had in their minds when they entered the cinemas. The film confronted them with a very different reality: climate change is a fast thing to happen (not a slow one), it occurs in the developed world (not far away), it leads to cold waves and a new ice age (instead of a greenhouse), and it is caused and executed by a highly complex, non-linear climate system (and not a linear, simple one). “

The  authors then go on to note in their summary conclusion

“…The film seems to have contributed to a much more positive image of science, especially in contrast to 'ignorant politicians', as many viewers have put it in their responses to an open question, very much in line with the main conflict between science and policy.

Putting aside the question whether this “more positive image” of climatologists and their grasp of science is justified, this survey result actually raises even more serious questions. I have difficulty making sense of the fact that the film works to increase the credibility of “scientists” while diminishing the credibility of their work. Until this contradiction is resolved, scientists, their work and the survey deserve large question marks. I experience increased confusion.

The authors then go on to note an even more serious consequence of the movie:

"A presumably more negative side effect of this science-policy image is the fact that the film seems to have triggered public policy responses much stronger than individual responses."

Readers will note this is precisely what I predicted after reading the book. The movie will disempower people. I predicted this on the basis that book has no credible human narrative. There was nothing in the movie to show them how extraordinary and beautiful the normal atmospheric processes are, how wonderful and trace our existence in it and how a human can live with this in a joyous, harmonious way.

My hypothesis suggests that the movie will promote the tendency to distance ourselves from our actions. This is manifest in our age-old tendency to blame others for our problems. Current examples are “The War on Terror” (A response to our use of oil and gas reserves.) and our “energy crises” (A response to the crises created by our use of energy in all its forms.) The survey does not explore this disassociating reaction in depth. However there are indications the movie enhanced our tendency to abandon responsibility for our activities by promoting the response that “weather” is the enemy.

Subjects were asked who should play how big a role when it comes to climate protection –individuals, NGOs, the economy and the Government. The already dominant tendency to ascribe the largest role to national institutions (Economy and Government) compared to the individual increased. This can be viewed as a disempowering process.

The study does take hope in the fact the movie increases acceptance of eco-taxes. It notes the general lack of popularity of such mechanisms. Surveying voting patterns is the best test for acceptance. Do people put their vote where their mouth is?

The other trend the authors take heart from are the results indicating people are more optimistic about our capacity to limit Climate Change risk:

“And, surprisingly enough for a film that does not sacrifice a second of its precious time for analyzing the causes of climate change or the possibilities to mitigate against it, The Day After Tomorrow has triggered mitigation reactions in its public.

….. People are more optimistic about our ability to mitigate against climate change than before, and the film does not lead to any changes in the amount of fear people have confronted with climate change.”

Again, this is best tested by surveys of people’s behaviour. This is because our response to any stimulus is extremely complex and mainly governed by primal factors. The Public Relations Industry understands this very well compared to the Formal Education Industry. It knows to bypass the intellectual aspect of our beings and focus research and investment on controlling the primal aspect. As a result it is now the major educator.

The impact of the use of a symbol is best measured by establishing the behavioural response, measuring what people do, not what they say. It’s the walk, not the talk that counts. It’s the vote in the ballot booth and in the supermarket that is the truer measure.

The Potsdam survey focuses on people’s opinions. This is not an accurate measure of the impact of the movie. I will use an example familiar to climatologists. Many climate experts travel by jet around the globe in jets. Often this is to promote discussion of their perception and concerns of the negative impact of human activities on the atmosphere. Jets are known to be a major contributor to this impact.

Compared to climatologists, the bulk of the world’s population does not indulge in such ‘high-risk activity’. Personally my understanding of how the atmosphere works and the vital role of oil in food production means I do not use jets, despite living beside an international airport and having access to subsidised travel that makes some trips 20% the cost of other (lower risk) non-subsidised means of travel. I consider my ideas no less and no more valuable that those of climatologists and am aware the greatest global influences in history are individuals who barely travelled. It is the narrative of their lives that promotes sustainable change.

My point is that the truer scientific measure of a person’s world- view and its impact on the environment is their actions. The Potsdam study fails to attempt to quantify any change in altered patterns of activity and thus is little more than hearsay. However it is probably of more value than the other attempts at research that I have viewed. These include the NZ Climate Change Office’s “extensive research” (Quote Marian Hobbs, Minister for the Environment) and Greenpeace research.

The research I am looking for investigates:

***The links between people’s expressed views and their activities;

***The links between the use of a symbol and the activities it stimulates;

 ***And the impact of a symbol for climate processes and its impact on mitigating behaviour. An example is the use of greenhouses symbols to portray climate processes on the communication of how insulation works in housing and clothing. And vice versa.

To my knowledge such research does not exist and I see this as the fundamental base of a science of the communication of Human Induced Climate Change. The Potsdam study is valuable in that it does indicate the complexity of our response systems. For instance:

Keeping the happenings taking place in the movie in mind, we do find it remarkable that after seeing the movie more people than before think that climate change can still be held up. But: these statements say nothing about which measures should be taken and about their acceptance.”

A common hypothesis would be that images of overwhelming global catastrophe occurring at almost tsunami speed generate a sense of powerlessness. What is going on when they generate the opposite response? This study can do little to make sense of the articulated response.

The study is also valuable for reminding us that research must be locally based to reflect culture and regional climate differences:

It has to be remembered though, that if there were a breakdown of THC this would mainly affect Europe and not the US. The actions of the film tend to wash away the awareness for dangers of climate change for Germany – this has to be kept in mind when creating environmental communication strategies.”

The profound confusion generated by the movie and the study is beautifully illustrated in the following quote:

“The task for environmental communication therefore is to make clear that there could actually be local colder spots with regard to scientific based climate change scenarios and that a global warming is not the only possible scenario. Clear statements are needed, because otherwise the important topic climate change could be seen as rather unreal and out of space.”

Where is the science in the use of the symbol global warming? It and the greenhouse symbol dominate and frame the discussion in the NZ Listener, the Dominion Post and the National Geographic (It was only when I went to type the cover title of the latter I realised it actually read Global Warning.) The use of the symbol also dominates Stefan’s NIWA address e.g. “Warning of global warming” “Could global warming trigger abrupt climate change?”  “Global warming destabilises thermohaline circulation”.

It dominates the Potsdam study. For instance, a scan of the table Assessment of Scientific Realism of the movie is dominated by the symbol. It is used in five consecutive boxes.

What is global warming? If it is a negative process of Anthropogenic or Human–Induced Climate Change as climatologists define it, then what do we call the positive daily process whereby the planet is subject to solar warming and life is enabled on Earth? What primal response does the symbol generate in people. To my knowledge no one has performed any research using neuroscience to detect brain responses to symbols like global warming and greenhouse and attempted to correlate the response with behavioural responses.

The study concludes:

The film has helped to establish a new film genre—global warming films—and has at the same time created much media awareness, not only towards the film itself, but also to the climate change issue in general, which might well be regarded as a positive result.”

Where is the science in this conclusion? The study’s main hypotheses were not supported. It is more correct to say the film established a new film sub-genre. It is part of a genre where a human, usually male, is faced by overwhelming odds but battles through to inevitable triumph over immense adversity.

The publicity processes generate a whole industry:
Broadsheet, magazine and TV discussion;
Posters and billboards of all sorts;
Direct advertising;
Political lobbying;
Websites, etc.

The study makes no attempt to identify and evaluate the impact of these forces. It is possible the lack of science in the movie offered so-called “climate change deniers” powerful leverage in their attempts to obscure the issues and discredit “climate change believers”. I have not had an opportunity to access the National Geographic article yet. Its impact on my perceptions is entirely formed by its cover page in newsstands across the city and in advertisements for it.

The use of the movie by institutions such as Greenpeace and the Green Partys suggests similar use of the movie in classrooms could undermine the scientific understanding of how our atmosphere works.

If the NZ Listener and the Dominion Post are shaped by the movie, then it is most questionable that results are positive. As mentioned, the latter’s bill board across the country in January 2005  was


The broadsheet only has a penetration of one in eight in its home city, Wellington. Many will register only the confusing title. Its Kyoto Day front-page article (Feb 16 2005) begins

“ New Zealand businesses hope to profit from Australia’s refusal to sign.
Kiwi businesses stand to benefit from their Australian counterparts, using New Zealand as a backdoor to trade carbon credits with signatories of the Kyoto protocol….”

The NZ Listener coverage promotes similar short-term considerations. Its cover features an iceberg and the text symbols:


The article establishes a consensus view that in 2035 ”its going to be a hot, wet and dry and stormy prosperous future for New Zealand” 

The article quotes Ministry for the Environment predictions that carbon fertilisation and “..warmer temperatures will produce staggering returns for the agricultural sector in 3035 – up 20%…These factors are perhaps why farmers spoken to by the Listener were privately looking forward to a warmer tomorrow of 2035 ‘Roll on climate change. All our competitors are much more vulnerable. We are sitting in a pool of cool water and every degree of climate change globally, we only get 0.6’. The reason for the anonymity of that quote is simple: no one wants to be seen dancing on graves.”

This article reaffirms the reality of the Government position. This is revealed in our key relevant national statistics of energy uses and gas emissions and in the Climate Change Office publicity to businesses and schools. In the latter case it has placed in all our schools illustrations of a green New Zealand in an oasis of cool blue set in a feverish red globe. I pointed out to the CCO that since 1820s New Zealanders have made perhaps the largest change to carbon balances in the atmosphere per head of population of any community on Earth. The illustration is fundamentally inaccurate. The CCO countered that was just my interpretation and they thought differently –“the cartoon just shows how lucky New Zealanders are- we wont be so badly affected as others.”

Personally I cannot think of one insight that I gained from the movie into how the atmosphere works. It reveals nothing of the trace gases that enable life. I have one recollection of learning something useful. This was when the “street dweller” showed how we could work with the atmosphere by stuffing our garments with crumpled newspapers to keep warm.

 The Listener article ends with a mention of Kyoto-linked carbon charges and a quote from Brookings Institute climate expert and NewRepublic senior editor, Gregg Easterbrook,
“I think you’ll find that people prove to be incredibly ingenious once they find there is money to be made.”

Enhanced vulnerability to climate change is just one of range of unique risks we 6.4 billion humans face. If the world follows the New Zealand example, and it was very influential in the creation of the Carbon Trading mechanism at Kyoto, then the movie could well be seen as part of a failed attempt of humans to adapt to their environment. Or in the words of the Potsdam study:

 The first real climate change disaster movie has in a way reversed this trend: climate change, having been a firm and eventually disastrous reality for many viewers, has left them more doubtful with regard to the probability of such a thing like climate change really to happen.

The Potsdam study in its conclusion also says:

“At the same time, the film has had a remarkable effect seen as a piece of public understanding of science, having stimulated a more complex and enriched view of the Earth system in general and the climate system in particular.”

The question can be asked is this true and even if there is some evidence that it is, how much more effective would a scientific approach to the communication of the nature of Earth’s surface energy system be? And putting aside the issue of potential Human-Induced Climate Change, is The Day After Tomorrow industry based on and supportive of science?

I will now use Stefan’s lecture to provide some simple examples of how discourse might be made more scientific.

He evokes greenhouse image of Earth’s surface climate throughout. Not once does he use the symbol trace as in trace gas. This symbol expresses the trace nature of the Kyoto designate gases and it eliminates the generation of rigid, human engineered constructs of how the climate works.

Stefan says in his introduction “Journalists don’t understand science and well funded think tanks confuse the issues … this is the reason any newspaper reader is totally confused.” He then goes to talk of how the global warming trend as “anthropogenic” and the need to communicate the issue: "Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas!"

I have discussed the lack of science in the use of the symbol global warming earlier. I have not room to discuss the origins and continuing use of the greenhouse symbol except to suggest science might reveal its use reflects an anthropocentric view of the world.

I suggest the main point to communicate in climate discussion is the fact that a subset of Earth’s trace gases is involved – those that act as the warmers of our planet’s surface. I believe science would reveal that the use of the symbol Warmer Trace Gas communicates the essence of the role of these gases more effectively than greenhouse gas.

Throughout the lecture Stefan uses the symbol warming and associates it with increases in temperature. Not once is the symbol up used. This is confusing. The addition of the symbol up clarifies the communication. Its omission devalues our ability to describe the warming process whereby we maintain a set temperature in a cooler environment.

The Potsdam study quotes other studies indicating the German public’s satisfaction of media coverage of environmental issues is low and has gone lower over the last several years. Certainly very powerful sector influences manipulate the media so it primarily serves their short-term interests. However the question still can be asked:

Is it possible that it is the lack of science in the communication of climate issues that is most fundamental to our inability to understand and adapt to our environment? We do know that the adoption of flawed images of the nature of energy have led to the collapse of large civilisations in the past.

Special acknowledgements to Stefan Rahmasdorf and NIWA for enabling this commentary. My deep respects to you. Readers may be interested in my simple proposals for promoting scientific discourse of climate issues and my alterative strategy for teaching best uses of air in schools.

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