People increasingly don’t trust official institutions. Or rather, normal people don’t, now that the “Question authority” views of 1960s-era academia have been replaced among our elites by “Only believe the government” a half-century later. Meanwhile on campus the realization that the public is increasingly inclined to ignore what the professorial elite thinks is a source of deep irritation and concern. Which does not, of course, lead to introspection and self-criticism, instead even more bouts of self-absorption and mutual high-fives. Such as a new study in which a group of researchers have looked at how well researchers are communicating climate research meant to stampede the public into panic over sea level rise. As Anthony Watts put it, “Scientists Decide that Scientists are Getting Better at Communicating Scary Climate Stories”. As they would, to everyone’s detriment.
The actual study Watts mocks begins “Future sea-level change is characterized by both quantifiable and unquantifiable uncertainties.” And if anyone thinks researchers have done well at alerting the public, and journalists, to the fact that the science around sea-level change is deeply uncertain, they must live on a remote island somewhere. Possibly under water.
The press release that went out about the study had a different focus, rather breaking the fourth wall with its opening statement, a communication about communicating about communication:
“Scientists have long struggled to find the best way to present crucial facts about future sea level rise, but are getting better at communicating more clearly, according to an international group of climate scientists, including a leading Rutgers expert.”
Out of curiosity, how would you measure such a thing? Well, presumably since the goal of clear communication is to get people to see things clearly, you’d measure public understanding. Or news stories. Or politicians’ pronouncements. Ah but nay:
“Writing in Nature Climate Change, the scientists review the language and graphics used in climate ‘assessment’ reports between 1990 and 2021 by members of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”
And of course the whole point here is to drive home that there is no real uncertainty, that Gaia is going to drown us all if we do not repent and mend our ways:
“The consequences of improving communications are enormous, the scientists said, as civic leaders actively incorporate climate scientists’ risk assessments into major planning efforts to counter some of the effects of rising seas.”
Are you sure we face such drastic effects? Why yes. And the target audience is not the public, it seems. It’s public authorities:
“The analysis shows aspects of sea level rise where the level of risk could be quantified have been presented accurately, informing public bodies effectively. But when conveying sea level uncertainties that have been and remain difficult to quantify, the language in the reports often has fallen short, either oversimplifying projections or conveying the information in a confusing manner, according to the analysis.”
If that’s an improvement, we’d hate to see the old way. And the idea that because researchers say researchers say well, we should shut up and do as we’re told is unlikely to impress that small slice of the public who becomes aware of it. Especially if they also notice that 15 of the 17 co-authors of this piece (yes, the stampeding herd of independent minds again) are involved with the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report whose excellence they find so excellent.
This new attitude toward authority among those who think they have it is remarkable. Thus in a very recent statement that would cause panic among the publishers of the “Pentagon Papers“, the New York Times just complained in what would once have been called a “news” story that:
“A federal judge in Louisiana on Tuesday restricted the Biden administration from communicating with social media platforms about broad swaths of content online, a ruling that could curtail efforts to combat false and misleading narratives about the coronavirus pandemic and other issues.”
It would take considerable imagination, or familiarity with the background, to know that the issue was increasing evidence that major social media platforms had worked hand-in-glove with a (liberal Democratic) American executive branch to control what people could say and read online.
Now this particular item isn’t about climate. Though the appearance of COVID-19 gives you a pretty good idea who’s working hand-in-glove with whom here. But Google has worked with the UN on climate change “misinformation” and you can be sure that Biden’s people mentioned it as well.
It’s not working. On the contrary, there is no question that the excessive pressure to toe the official line on COVID actually made people, even Canadians, less rather than more willing to go along with something just because the government said to. Particularly when “the science” was invoked to justify some piece of state bullying.
Another Blacklock’s Reporter story said that a recent report for Canada’s Public Health Agency tried to address this issue but flopped:
“‘Relying solely on traditional top-down approaches that aim to regulate content are insufficient at limiting the immediate dangers of misinformation,’ wrote researchers. ‘Innovative policy-making tools such as behavioural science can help provide immediate and long term solutions to misinformation.’”
Behavioural science? What ever happened to rational persuasion?
Well, that was back before the elites decided the public were too stupid to think for themselves. Which of course they pretty much always thought, except in the Anglosphere where such bedrocks of liberty as Magna Carta said even if they thought it they couldn’t act on it.
Thus the New York Times “Climate Forward” complains that:
“The floods and fires exacerbated by climate change will push an increasing number of people out of their homes. It turns out, though, that many people who’ve already had to move out of harm’s way haven’t gone very far. At least not in the United States, according to a new study by researchers at Rice University who focused on floods. And race appears to be a factor in how and where they move.”
Too dumb, and oppressed, to flee a tidal wave. Don’t look up. Basket of deplorables. Blah blah blah. And it’s worse than author Manuela Andreoni thinks because, Roy Spencer observes, while all the right people are yelling at us from their California mansions that heat is a nightmare, “Some of us might claim to be concerned about global warming, but we increasingly choose to live where it’s warmer.”
Mind you HeatMap concedes that while middle-aged men telling insensitive dad jokes while drinking bad beer (Coors now, not Bud Light, of course) are also clods on climate, “Although recent surveys have shown that men across all ideological lines are less concerned about climate change than women, having children seems to sharpen their focus.”
Still, if they’re basically too dumb, and mean, to know what’s good for them or anyone else, you can still feel self-righteous.