Science is not enough … Invitation to an “exceptional” AAAS live webcast

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is holding its Annual Meeting here in Vancouver.

From Conference Website

The theme this year is, evidently, “Flattening the World: Building a Global Knowledge Society”:

The focus of the 2012 meeting, then, is on using the power of electronic communications and information resources to tackle the complex problems of the 21st century on a global scale through international, multidisciplinary efforts. We have a model already in the scale and scope of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But that’s just the beginning. The interconnections among, for example, climate change, agriculture, and health are as yet poorly understood; predictive modeling is in its infancy.

The ability to approach global problems through global collaborations depends on an educated populace and on substantial scientific and technological sophistication throughout the world. Thus building the global knowledge society depends on advancing education and research, the engines of the knowledge society, everywhere. This task is facilitated, but not accomplished, by the existence of electronically accessible open educational resources. There remain limitations of language and culture, of poverty and access.

Oh, my … the IPCC as a “model”?! This does not bode well. However, a reader (MCS) has alerted me to the details of one particular session that will be held on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. PST. This will be a plenary panel, advertised on the conference site as:

An exceptional plenary panel will arm scientists, educators, and students with finely worded messages to influence public perceptions and debate about science-related global challenges. The panel will be moderated by Frank Sesno, an award-winning American journalist, former CNN correspondent, anchor and Washington bureau chief, and director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. [emphasis added -hro]

Just what the world needs now: more “finely worded messages”! It seems that the AAAS will share the insights of the speakers with the world via webcast and questions to the panel may be live-tweeted.

Panel participants are James Hansen, to whom I’m sure readers will need no introduction; but if you do AAAS offers one here, where one can also find intros to the other two panelists: the brilliant and enlightening Hans Rosling – whose perspective I first discovered two years ago – and Olivia Judson, Imperial College, London, whose next book is entitled Dinosaur Eggs for Breakfast.

One wonders what the panelists might think of the recent efforts containing some not-so-finely-worded messages from Great Persuaders such as the Vancouver-based PR outfit that runs the activist website DeSmogBlog – which might more accurately be named DeSmearBlog.

[Update 02/17/2012 04:52 PM PST An excellent example of DeSmearBlog in action is offered by The Atlantic's Megan McCardle McArdle in a follow-up to her analysis of their recent activities:

The high probability that the memo is fake makes this response from Desmogblog, one of the first places to post the memos, all the more disappointing:

After citing text found in this "response", McCardle McArdle observes:

The first two links are to my post, and they are an egregious misrepresentation of what I said [emphasis added -hro]

Yep! Egregious misrepresentation seems to be the forté of the great and grand “science” communicators at DeSmearBlog]

My mouse and I plan to participate and we might even tweet. How about you?!

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3 thoughts on “Science is not enough … Invitation to an “exceptional” AAAS live webcast

  1. The video of the webcast is now available and will watch it when I get a moment. Generally speaking, re the CAGW proponents and their “finely worded messages to influence public perceptions”, it’s a bit like watching a dog tussling with an awkward bone – unable either to get a proper grip on it or to let it go.

    I think they have only a few options, really:
    1) Alarm the public with scary headlines and soundbites – that’s been done, doesn’t work, the public switch off after a while.
    2) Emphasise the upside of the “low-carbon society” – works for a while, until the public learn that low-carbon actually means higher taxes, expensive energy, etc.
    3) “Communicate the science”, including uncertainties – doesn’t work well, because present factors like job insecurity, inflation, high fuel prices, etc. will always trump un-scary messages such as “there might be more floods in 2050 – or there might not”.

    They will have to keep trying because, for those who identify with – and stand to gain by – the CAGW narrative, there’s a lot riding on this. If the public aren’t on board, sooner or later people will start to ask why we are being asked to make sacrifices, given the lack of a credible catastrophe in the offing.

    I think they will tend to stick with variants of option 3), and it will be interesting to see how many ways they can tweak it – maybe this message will work, or that wording, or another campaign, or… etc., etc. Round and round and round it goes!

    • Thanks, Alex.

      The current link to the video is http://www.aaas.org/meetings/2012/program/plenaries/panel.shtml But please keep in mind that this is an edited version of the live plenary. I’m watching again – to see which parts they might have decided to omit!

      I had hoped to write a “review” of the session … but following l’affaire Gleick has taken somewhat more of my blogging time than I could possibly have imagined!

      FWIW, my overall impression is that Rosling and Judson far outshone Hansen. The latter struck me as being quite uncomfortable and very much out of his element – but he was granted the last word. And I’ll give you three guesses as to what Hansen’s final “message” might have been … the first two don’t count ;-)

      Moderator, Frank Sesno – a former CNN luminary – set the scene by bringing forward Santer’s claim that climate scientists are “in a street-fight”.

      Not sure how many participants there might have been at this plenary, but – assuming that Sesno was not exaggerating – he reported that a show of hands during his “warm-up” question – “How many of you are practicing scientists?” (OWTTE) – led him to conclude that most in the room considered themselves as such.

      Notwithstanding the fact that he did not pose the natural follow-up question, i.e. how many of you are climate scientists, the following “poll” question and results are somewhat telling:

      Poll results

      Rosling was definitely the star, IMHO. Certainly his words of wisdom, some of which I managed to capture in my own twitter notes to myself, would not have gone over well with the activist-advocacy crowd. Nor, in fact, would some of Judson’s. A few highlights (twilights?!):

      Rosling: we are at “peak child” … world average is 2.5 live births (audience was way off the mark in their “poll”)

      Rosling: we don’t talk advocacy; we just talk facts

      Rosling: ppl have to be knowledgeable, not scared! … decisions need to be taken rationally

      Rosling: “activists are ignorant … I have problem with them”

      Rosling: has 62,000 followers here; only tweets once a day otherwise ppl get bored [I can think of some tweeters who would be well advised to take this to heart -hro]

      Judson: ppl resent being talked down to!

      Judson: too much hype in press releases!

      Oh, yes … here’s a clue, from Hansen’s “first word”, to his “last word”:

      Hansen: “we have a planetary emergency and ppl don’t recognize this”

      You wrote:

      They will have to keep trying because, for those who identify with – and stand to gain by – the CAGW narrative, there’s a lot riding on this. If the public aren’t on board, sooner or later people will start to ask why we are being asked to make sacrifices, given the lack of a credible catastrophe in the offing.

      Agreed. And, no doubt, on the heels of the fallout from l’affaire Gleick, the skeptic sweep of the Bloggies tonight must be causing considerable consternation for those on the warm-side :-) [Edit] As I noted earlier at WUWT:

      The only question that remains is: will the virtual army of doom and gloom spinners ignore the results – or will they launch a “barrage of intergalactic ballistic missiles” [h/t, IPCC-nik, Andrew Weaver] designed to drown out the parade with torrents of fact-free whines!

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