Sunday Puzzle: Tease out the MisSpeaks in this CBS Climate Spot

February 19, 2017

Language is very important in communicating something as complex as climate change – and science reporting most often suffers because it over-simplifies, or misses important nuances in making the case. This CBS report is case in point.

Overall, it’s affirming of science, but several glaring errors and misspeaks mar this message.

Surprising in that physicist Michio Kaku is the one mis-speaking. I am sure he would correct if he reviewed.

So, rather than me writing this all out, I’m asking the Climate Crocks very-well-prepared readers to write it for me.
Get out your pens and count the errors!

Economize language, eschew jargon – you are all budding climate communicators – get me some succinct, just-the-fact bullets.
Pretend I’m Donald Trump getting an intel briefing – except in my case, OK to name sources.

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24 Responses to “Sunday Puzzle: Tease out the MisSpeaks in this CBS Climate Spot”

  1. Remco van Ek Says:

    Why is he interviewed as an expert? Did he publish anything on sea level rise in academic literature? I did not find any… http://mkaku.org/home/articles/

  2. Paul Whyte Says:

    Mr. President,

    It turns out we have a problem. When we were saying Global warming was a hoax …. yes hoax is the issue but unfortunately, it’s real and the hoax is the denial of CO2’s role in Global Warming. You see it was our wealth creation efforts that began in the 1970’s that were a large part of the cause of why it’s got so bad.

    When you say you want America to be great again. Well, we have a problem. The problem is that the super rich are contributing to about 30 % of the CO2 that is driving rising seas, weather extremes, droughts, floods, pollution and a possible end of the possibility of civilization. If we can get the super rich to give up 2,500 times the CO2 emissions than the average in the EU we get to keep civilization long term and get the planet onto a path towards 1.5 C total global warming.

    When you say the department of Environmental is killing us. Well, actually those regulations have been keeping American’s safe from pollution. As you can see with California’s example there is no need to cut regulations to have growth or profit.

    When you say you want to get those jobs back that were lost to Mexico and China, well we have a problem, sir. You see sir we can’t get them back without putting even more Americans out of work by bringing on a global recession.

    When you say ‘It will be great” “You will be sick of so much success” well sick is what will happen to a lot more American’s if what you say is what we do. You see sir, America is still great but needs to change it’s course away from fossil fuels not towards them. I’m sorry sir to use the ‘c’ word without warning but “change”, sorry again sir, is needed. It would be better sooner than later.

    Sorry in advance sir, but the scientists have been understating the problem not over saying it. Sorry sir for the “S” word but they have been right all along. Yes, sir I know I’m fired. Sorry for interrupting you sir. I’ll close the door on the way out.


  3. Well he said a few times that water was going to end up in somebody’s living room, but failed to say who.

    The guy is just a tease. Everyone is dying to know who’s living room this water is going to end up in.

    If it turns out to be a living room somewhere in New Zealand, it wont matter so much. Most people are used to drinking their beer in gumboots anyway.

    • lesliegraham1 Says:

      Not any more. 2016 was officially the hottest year in modern New Zealand history and right now there are droughts all over the place.
      In any case we all drink pints of Pinot Noir these days.


      • Jan Wright, Commissioner of the Environment, released a report in 2015 showing thousands of Napier homes being inundated with water on a laughably modest sea level rise out to 2040. Napier (region) is also prone to droughts.

        I reckon Michio Kaku was definitely talking about a living room in Napier. Only in New Zealand are you ever going to see a sheep in gumboots watching TV in a flooded living room drinking Pinot Noir in the middle of a severe drought.

  4. Jason Says:

    Oh come on, he was fine. You can quibble about some technical details like whether or not Santa lives on the literal North Pole and a few other things, but they are quibbles.

    It’d be a shame to spend precious time criticising someone who has done a mostly good job for not doing a perfect job. And where there’s room for clarifying some technical details or scientific concept – hey, that’s a teaching opportunity…

  5. ocalicreek Says:

    The most powerful thing he said – “I used to be a skeptic”. That opens the door for anyone else who wants to be a former skeptic. They can point to that “sciencey guy” as an example. We need more former skeptics to speak out so that the folks who need a crowd to belong to in order to speak out can do so.

  6. Peter Smith Says:

    Thanks for the Sunday, now Tuesday, entertainment. That was some mixed up science, or at least wrong terminology. I counted 10 definite errors, one possible error (not main mechanism), and one inconsistency. I am sure I could have found others if I had nit-picked every word.

    Michio Kaku started with sea level rise and mentioned thermal expansion from warming as one of two mechanisms. So far so good.

    Then his second reason for sea level is a “new study” about ice melting. (error 1 – that has been obvious for a long time).

    He says polar “cap” regions are shrinking (error 2 – cap is ambiguous) “to the tune of twice the size of alaska”. (error 3 – he is referring to an area, not a volume). Evidently he referring to sea ice, which does not raise sea levels. Then he starts talking about ice caps melting and cracking. (incoinsistency? – is he now talking about land ice?)

    The reporter then starts talking about sea ice at the poles being 1.5M square miles less than the 1981-2010 average. Did it disappear suddenly?

    To which Kaku starts talking about submarine observation of ice extent (error 4 – sea ice again, which does not cause sea level rise) and the fact that satellites show no North Polar ice, so there is no longer a North Pole for Santa to Live. (error 5 – North pole is defined by the earth’s axis, not ice)

    The reporter then talks about skeptics saying that the South Pole is not warming as much as the North Pole and asks Kaku why.

    Kaku said that the southern polar vortex, which is like a hurricane (error 6 – not really) is responsible for extra cooling at the south pole because it prevents warm air from getting in. (error 7? – I have never heard of this. I have read that it is because the Antarctic ice sheet is much higher in elevation and also because of upwelling cold ocean currents around the periphery.)

    Ferocity of storms could be five times what it has been historically. (error 8 – ferocity is undefined. Is it wind speed, energy, frequency?)

    Kaku said he used to be a skeptic and asked himself, how could humans affect the weather? (error 9 – should be climate)

    He looked at many different indicators such as lenght of summer and mosquitoes and said they were all going “northward.” (error 10 – northward is undefined)

    From these effects Kaku concluded that humans must be causing climate change. (error 11 – he is confusing cause and effect. He stated no information about cause.)

    • Roger Walker Says:

      Thank you for taking the time to write down your thoughts and encouraging me to do the same.

      “Sea levels are gonna start to rise…” Wrong. Sea level is rising and, as far as I can see, exponentially.

      “Polar cap” – what the fuck does that mean?

      “That water has to go some place” – sea ice?

      “In the coming decades… 3’… 10’…” IPCC worst case scenario 3’ but… AR5 did not take ice sheet melt into account. Hansen mentions “multi-meter” sea level rise by the middle of the century.

      Yeah, go crack a South Pole!

      Exchange about the extent of sea ice: the question is OK but the language he uses is that of someone who hasn’t mastered the facts, the kind of language I strive to avoid on my own blog.

      South polar hurricane – “literally” a hurricane! BS

      “…over the north pole and the south pole”… he hasn’t identified the nature and the importance of the jet stream

      “…just as we would expect” – fails to point out that “we” have been expecting polar regions to heat more quickly – for the last 60yrs FFS!

      More severe storms from south pole ice melt? BS. See Hansen’s paper on the AMOC. This guy doesn’t know his south from his north.

      “…literally throw water”? I suppose he’s talking about sea surge.

      “overflow” – What? Is he talking about seal level or sea surge?

      “Is any of this alarming to you or just something that scientists have been talking about for a long time?” Only a journalist could ask a fucking stupid question like that?

      “How can humans change the weather?” OK so he’s trying to “communicate” but – shocking confusion weather/climate

      “mosquitos are going north” – again inexact. Certain species of mosquitos…

  7. Jason Says:

    “error 3 – he is referring to an area, not a volume”
    Area is relevant with sea ice because albedo & thermal expansion.

    “error 4 – sea ice again, which does not cause sea level rise”
    Reduced sea ice contributes to thermal expansion which causes sea level rise.

    “error 5 – North pole is defined by the earth’s axis, not ice”
    Santa lives in Lapland damnit. Call yourself a science buff… pah!

    “Kaku said that the southern polar vortex is responsible for extra cooling at the south pole because it prevents warm air from getting in (error 7? – I have never heard of this…)”

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25547-antarctic-wind-vortex-is-strongest-for-1000-years/

    “error 9 – should be climate”
    You’re assuming that climate skepticism requires being good at differentiating betwixt weather and climate. You should consider that might not always be the case 😉

    “error 11 – he is confusing cause and effect. He stated no information about cause.”
    Perhaps, but if his former skepticism was founded on the idea that human influences on climate were too puny to cause readily observable/measurable changes in the biosphere that might demand a policy response rather than doubting, say the green house gas mechanism, then witnessing measurable changes might be reasonable grounds for a rethink.

    • Peter Smith Says:

      “Area is relevant with sea ice because albedo & thermal expansion.”

      He was identifying reasons for sea level rise and he was referring to melting ice. In that respect, area is irrelevant. Only volume from melting land ice is relevant in context. The fact that there is an albedo feedback is irrelevant in context. That is not what Kaku was talking about.

      “Reduced sea ice contributes to thermal expansion which causes sea level rise.”

      That is not what Kaku was talking about. He was talking about two components, thermal expansion and ice melt. The fact that one affects the other is not what he was talking about.

      “You’re assuming that climate skepticism requires being good at differentiating betwixt weather and climate. You should consider that might not always be the case ”

      Kaku was a speaking as a scientist defending global warming, not as a skeptic. He did not differentiate between climate and weather. Being unclear about this was his error.

      “his former skepticism was founded on the idea that human influences on climate were too puny to cause readily observable/measurable changes in the biosphere that might demand a policy response”

      I don’t know how you can know this. Even if true, Kaku did not distinguish cause from effect. His statement that observed effects prove a cause is still wrong. Many deniers acknowlege effects and state incorrect causes such as “it’s the sun” or “climate always changes.” One must be clear to avoid confusion.


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