Wednesday, July 2, 2014


SUMMARY: What America believes about global warming, with Edward Maibach of George Mason U. Alex Smith on global threats with John Betz, KOPN radio. New climate song from 70's hit-maker Bunny Sigler.

Welcome to the holiday edition of Radio Ecoshock where we celebrate the right to speak freely about the dangers posed by our own civilization.

We start with a look at who believes we are changing the climate and who doesn't. Then a sample of an interview I did, about Radio Ecoshock and the state of the world, on KOPN radio in the central American state of Missouri. I'll top that off with a surprising new climate change song from an old hit-maker. As always, there's no time to waste.

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Just a couple of quick notes on hot news in climate change. No doubt you've heard the sobering fact that May 2014 was the hottest month of May ever recorded, since we learned how to capture temperature information in the 1800's. Where are all cranks telling us the ice age is coming, or the Earth hasn't warmed, or a cold winter in New York means global warming has stopped? It's getting to the point we should all keep a list of the thought-leaders who denied climate science, who helped sooth the masses into inaction, until it was too late. Will we erect a wall of shame for them, or forget them as fools gone by?

I remember reading several years ago, in Joe Romm's blog called Climate Progress, how most of the extra heat we create was being absorbed by the oceans. About 90% of the heating has gone into the seas. Now in 2014 the gigantic thermal mass of the world's oceans, far larger than the area of land on this planet, has gone up on average about 1 degree compared to the recent period between 1979 to 2000. That's greater than the rise of global average air temperatures.

It's worst in the Arctic, exactly where we least want to see extra heat. We read in the blog of former Radio Ecoshock guest Robert Scribbler, quote:

"For encircling the Arctic from the West Coast of Greenland, to Iceland, to Svalbard, to the Barents and Kara Seas, to the Chukchi and on to the Beaufort we see surface water temperatures ranging from 2.25 to 4 C or more above average. And just west of Svalbard, we have water temperatures ranging in a zone exceeding a terrifying 8 C above average. When a sea surface temperature departure of 0.5 to 1 C above average is considered significant, these values represent extremes that are far outside what was once considered normal."

That is where the sea ice is heading into a possible further record retreat, where the Greenland glaciers are being melted at the edges, and where billions of tons of super-heating methane lies waiting on shallow sea beds, ready to melt into the atmosphere.

As I speak, more extreme rainfall events have struck in North America, and they will continue to flash by in the news around the world for the rest of our lives. The warmer atmosphere is overloaded with extra moisture, extra energy, and a burden of industrial particulates. It's a recipe for getting a month's worth of rain in a day, or an hour.

These are serious times. I'll be watching all this over the summer, plotting the new season of Radio Ecoshock, considering how to report what has never been seen before. And how to spark the action we need to stop troubled times from becoming a long period of catastrophe. If you have suggestions for what I should cover, sources we all need to know about - feel free to write me. The address is radio //at// You may not get a reply, as I will supposedly be on holidays for a few weeks, but I will read all emails and appreciate your input.

Well, scratch that a bit. There are so many serious developments on climate science, and social responses, that I'm compelled to delay my holiday and do at least one more new program. Next week I'll be covering horrible news, that it will not be safe for our children to go outside for more than an hour, in many parts of America and the world. Plus, from the strangest corners, business leaders have finally recognized the penultimate risk climate change poses even to the richest oligarchs. Be prepared for a surprise!


The idea that the climate can shift radically is still fairly new. We hardly know what to call it. It started out as "global warming" until others suggested "climate change" was more accurate. Obama science advisor John Holdren said "climate disruption" would be better.

Does it matter what we call it? A new study conducted jointly by Yale and George Mason University says the name matters, if we want the public to act. The title of the new study is: “What’s In A Name? Global Warming Versus Climate Change”. Google that, you can read the full report online, or download it as a .pdf here.

Here to explain is Professor Edward Maibach, the Director of the Center for Climate Change Communication, at George Mason University in Virginia.

They say: "This report is based on findings from a bi-annual series of nationally representative survey studies – Climate Change in the American Mind – conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. The research was funded by the Energy Foundation, the 11th Hour Project, the Grantham Foundation, and the V.K. Rasmussen Foundation."

Edward Maiback was one of the "principal investigators."

Here from the Executive Summary are some of the key findings - you'll have to read the full report to get even more.

"This report provides results from three studies that collectively find that global warming and climate change are often not synonymous—they mean different things to different people—and activate different sets of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, as well as different degrees of urgency about the need to respond.

1) An analysis of public information seeking via Google searches from 2004 to 2014 found that Americans have historically used global warming as a search term much more frequently than climate change.

2) A nationally representative survey (Survey Study 1) in January 2014 found that while Americans are equally familiar with the two terms, they are 4 times more likely to say they hear the term global warming in public discourse than climate change. Likewise, Americans are 2 times more likely to say they personally use the term global warming than climate change in their own conversations.

3) A separate nationally representative survey (Survey Study 2) in November-December 2013 found that almost without exception, global warming is more engaging than climate change. Compared to climate change, the term global warming generates:

* Stronger ratings of negative affect (i.e., bad feelings), especially among women, Generation Y, the Greatest Generation, African-Americans, Hispanics, Democrats, Independents, Moderates, conservatives, and evangelicals.

* Different top of mind associations and stronger negative affect, especially among political moderates:

* Overall, global warming generates significantly more top of mind associations to Icemelt (e.g., “melting glaciers”), Alarm (e.g., “world catastrophe”), Flood (e.g., “coastal flooding”), and Ozone (e.g., “the ozone hole”) categories. Climate change generates significantly more associations to Weather (e.g., “storms”) and Global Warming (e.g., “global warming”) categories.

* Within the Weather category, global warming generates a higher percentage of associations to “extreme weather"...

Essentially most Americans see "global warming" as a more immediate threat, thinking of extreme weather and so on. They are more likely to say that the government should act to stop global warming, than climate change - even if they are not sure humans are causing the shift.

The fact that so many people still think scientists are debating whether global warming is real is no accident. I've interviewed scientists who compare the strategy by big fossil fuel companies to the ploy used by big tobacco, when their PR agencies created doubt about smoking and cancer.

It seems crazy to me that anyone who calls themselves "Conservative", with the root meaning wanting to "conserve" things, could knowingly threaten not only our natural support base, but the future economy as well, not to mention our kids. Is there any way to overcome this, to get the political war out of the way? Maibach says "yes" and explains how.

Part of their answer is to get scientists to say very clearly that there is practically no debate about whether humans are modifying the climate. As soon as the public hears that about 97% of scientists know climate change is real, and we are the cause - the public estimation of the threat moves up quickly, by as much as 20 percentage points.

The American Academy for the Advancement of Science has released an unequivocal campaign affirming human-induced climate change called "What We Know". Other National Academies of Science around the world are doing the same. But the real message hasn't reached the public yet, over the doubts being sowed by the Koch Brothers, and the dunderheads on Fox News and on the Internet. We have a way to go, and little time to save ourselves and our descendants.

Unfortunately, Edward Maibach tells us, the majority of Americans still think global warming will happen in the distant future, and to people in other parts of the world, like Africa or something. This despite recent reports showing climate change is costing the US big bucks right now. It's now, and right in America.

This wasn't part of the study, but I've found when searching You tube, if I use "global warming" I'm more likely to get climate denier information. But if I search for "climate change" I'm more likely to get scientific talks and official materials. By the way listeners, that's a useful tip for you.

My objection to making that switch in terms is simple: there is so much more to this climate shift than just warming. I think it's a bad way to measure things like extreme precipitation events, rising seas, and the myriad of changes involved.

I can almost hear a Broadway show or opera in all this, where two choirs chant "global warming" and "climate change" across the stage. Hopefully we won't get stuck on the name, while we do nothing to save ourselves... is this a false debate or a useful one?

You can find a good write-up on this report, and what it means, here in the Guardian newspaper.


You get a behind-the-scenes look at Radio Ecoshock, and the issues I think top the charts for global threats. This is a shorter version of an almost hour-long interview done by radio host John Betz for the program "Skeptical Eye" on KOPN, in central Missouri USA, one of the oldest community-owned radio stations in the country.

KOPN Radio Host and Broadcaster John Betz

You can download or listen to the full 48 minute interview here.

In addition to revealing a little more about myself, I cover the major issues we face, plus a little of the good news that holds promise we might avoid the worst.


Join Radio Ecoshock on Soundcloud, or download any or all of our past programs as free .mp3s, at the web site, Soon we'll be heading into the best of Radio Ecoshock during the summer holidays. But don't miss my summer heat broadcast next week!

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Meanwhile, we finish up this program with a remarkable new climate change song, with the full classic work-up by 70's hit-maker Bunny Sigler. Bunny developed the "Philly sound" and worked with too many famous Philadelphia artists to mention. "Tossin' and Turnin'", "Love Train", "Let the Good Times Roll" - Sigler ruled the air-waves. Thanks for coming back out Bunny, to speak out on climate change!

Watch Bunny perform this song on You tube here.

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