Scientists losing war of words over climate change

In the conservative world of science, conclusions are couched in caveats and statements are chosen carefully to not seem overwrought. And in the world of climate science that’s no different. For example, in their 2007 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a series of defined levels of certainty about their conclusions that looked like this:

• “Virtually certain” (considered more than 99% likely to be correct)

• “Very likely” (more than 90%)

• “Likely” (more than 66%)

• “More likely than not” (more than 50%)

• “Unlikely” (less than 33%)

• “Very unlikely” (less than 10%)

• “Exceptionally unlikely” (less than 5%)

So in the IPCC’s final report they made statements like, “Global climate change is “very likely” to have a human cause.”

According to a recent article in New Scientist this use of language may be one of the reasons the public is not sharing the same level of urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that scientists have:

David Budescu of the psychology department at Fordham University in New York and colleagues asked 223 volunteers to read sentences from the IPCC reports that used these expressions. For example: “It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.”

They then asked participants to estimate on a scale of 0 to 1 the probability conveyed by each sentence.

Participants tended to underestimate the certainty of the sentences. Three quarters of respondents thought “very likely” meant less than 90% certain, and nearly half thought “very likely” meant less than 66% certain. Public understanding of climate change was slightly better if the readers were given a legend to refer to.

This month we’re giving away FREE copies Nobel Laureate Dr. Andrew Weaver’s new book Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World.

Go here to find out more details about DeSmogBlog’s monthly book give-away.


But where is the science, a campaign of words forecasting doom, all prefaced with words such as may or very likely implying its possible (or not) falls short of…its going to happen and we can prove it “Science”. Also for AWG proponents and this site specificaly devotes its efforts to damaging the credibility of bright honest people searching for answers speaks volumes to those of us listening to a debate you falsely claimed was over.

Its cold.

Reality and computer models continue to diverge, the borahah at least has caused us to explore what drives the climate, thats good.

its going to happen and we can prove it” because science doesn’t do “we can prove it.”

Those that think it does clearly don’t understand science and what it does do.

Its cold.”

Thanks for the weather report for where you live, but it is winter, after all.

And just keep in mind that it is not unusually cold where everyone lives, not even in the northern hemisphere.

do you think is necessary than “considered more than 99% likely to be correct” by the most highly qualified people in the world on the subject? 

Something like 110% certainty will be enough, I’d think.

Or maybe 111%.


Ray, I think you’ll find that, scientifically, gravity is “virtually certain” to exist. That’s the terminology of science, live with it.

BTW, bright honest people searched for answers. They found them. We call the answer AGW.

Someone in PR able to follow up on this excellent suggestion?

“… the Exxon association that I blogged about previously is going ahead the form of a two-day course for students. I’m not sure that the Exxon approach to science is really to be recommended to students. Perhaps the climate division should produce some slick advertisements highlighting Exxon’s sceptical activities with the slogan: They call it statistics, we call it lies.

(That’s an excerpt from a comment posted by blogger James Annan)