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MusicScienceGuy

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An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« on: April 08, 2015, 10:09:19 PM »
Hello everyone, I've lurked in the background too long.

Recently a call went forth for super-brief "elevator pitches" about global warming. I've followed the science, events and drama for about 30 years, but haven't had much to say because everyone usually has more expertise than I. However, I think I do have one skill, developed over many years as a computer systems analyst:  pulling out critical details, summarizing them and presenting them to lay-persons (usually my bosses and clients) in a form that we could all understand. Here goes my shot at doing this for AGW; I hope you can help me with it:


Global warming is often called "the greenhouse effect", but it is difficult (for me anyway) to visualize the Earth's atmosphere as a humongous greenhouse. Perhaps a more accurate picture is Earth's warming blanket rapidly getting much thicker. It's already nearly twice as thick as a century ago. 

The atmosphere we live in seems wispy, but is actually pretty substantial. If all this air was turned to a liquid, it would be about 32 feet, 10 meters, thick. Our air also contains a crucial but thin mix of heat-trapping gases, this special mix may be dilute (about 1 part per thousand), but it acts as a very effective blanket that warms our planet up by 33 °C. Without this warming our Earth would average a chilly -18 °C.

Why do I call this trapping effect a blanket? Because the warming mechanism is very similar: on a bed you supply the heat, which then must percolate through the blanket's fluff to the top of the covers and escape to the air. Similarly, on the Earth, sunlight warms the ground and ocean, and this heat has to slowly worm its way up ten kilometers, to the top of the atmosphere before it can escape to space.

Now we know (because lots of teams have measured)  that we've added a whole whack of heat-trapping gasses to the air.  As best we can tell, over the last 100 years we've nearly doubled up Earth's heat-trapping blanket, and are firmly on our way to tripling it.

Luckily, the added blanket (or two) won't double-up the heating: we'd all be pretty sunk if the Earth were heading for average temperatures above +40 °C. With blankets one naturally gets diminishing returns; the first one gives the most warming, the second one, not so much. When all the numbers are crunched and really, really carefully checked, they predict Earth on average will warm by at least 2 - 3 °C (with the gasses added to date) and perhaps eventually hit 6 °C when the third blanket goes on.
 
Earth's warming blanket is thick and getting thicker. We either make it thinner or very soon will start sweating.



And that is my "elevator pitch". 
Remember: you can't use big words, and must relate to a lay-person's experience.

Ken Rushton

viddaloo

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2015, 11:03:51 PM »
Hi, Ken!

Welcome to the forum :)
Blanket is good! However, 2°C warming 'when all the numbers are crunched' and 'really carefully checked' is extremely conservative and sounds like you wish to put your lay–person to sleep in that escalator.

With certain scientists expecting an Earth uninhabitable for human beings — and most other carbon–based life — there should be a metaphorical 'bed is burning' twist to your elevator pitch. Something that kills the sleeper. Would adding another blanket or 7 kill the person sleeping in your bed?

Maybe kindling fire in your fireplace could be a better metaphor? As long as you keep the fire to the installed fireplace, you should be OK. But maybe you're celebrating or partying and want some more action in your living–room? You expand the fire to the very edge by putting on more logs, removing each and any piece of fire–protection that wants to be a party–spoiler for you and your friends, and you're still reasonably safe.

Yet after the vine is empty and you've snorted most of the coke everyone brought, you say ef–it and make the fire 5 times as big and covering half your living–room floor. You throw in some chairs and tables — they burn! — and everyone's having a cracking good party!

In the metaphor, you and your super–duper party friends could always leave the burning house if you don't fall asleep or pass out from the deadly fumes. Not so much in the real world.
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wili

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2015, 11:33:43 PM »
Or throw a small child under the blanket.

Most people are instinctively protective of children, and recognize that a kid can get smothered and overheat under too many blankets. And of course the future IS our kids. Further, it puts just a few degrees F into context. A kid with a few degrees F temperature will soon be a dead kid.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

viddaloo

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2015, 11:45:16 PM »
I'd have to agree with wili here. The baby twist is pure genius.
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MusicScienceGuy

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2015, 03:37:38 AM »
The baby twist is pure genius.
Hmmm - pretty good idea. I may use it. .  . But most people have lots of experience with a bed and blankets. Which creates the best, most intense image?

The fireplace idea - although a good image, does not AFIK match what is causing AGW. I think a blanket does.

On inspection, the phrase "The atmosphere we live in seems wispy, but is actually pretty substantial. If all this air was turned to a liquid, it would be about 32 feet, 10 meters, thick."  seems unneeded.
Do you agree?

Ok, I'll take out the really really carefully checked - is there a better way to put it?

Ken.

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2015, 10:35:58 AM »
The baby twist is pure genius.
Hmmm - pretty good idea. I may use it. .  . But most people have lots of experience with a bed and blankets. Which creates the best, most intense image?

The fireplace idea - although a good image, does not AFIK match what is causing AGW. I think a blanket does.

On inspection, the phrase "The atmosphere we live in seems wispy, but is actually pretty substantial. If all this air was turned to a liquid, it would be about 32 feet, 10 meters, thick."  seems unneeded.
Do you agree?

Ok, I'll take out the really really carefully checked - is there a better way to put it?

Ken.

I agree it is unneeded.
And I agree the blanket analogy is much better than fire, especially as this is a slow process of overheating. If it behaved like fire, everybody would have recognized it and fought it already.

Maybe you can use the example of a mountain where the temps are colder due to less atmosphere above you, a thinner blanket. Everybody is familiar with cold temps at heights.

MusicScienceGuy

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2015, 05:47:35 PM »
The mountain top idea is good.  ;D

I'm thinking of the analogy of being cozy in a bed, then having some crazy person throw an extra blanket on you and getting ready to through on more.

Ken.

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2015, 06:07:03 PM »
With certain scientists expecting an Earth uninhabitable for human beings — and most other carbon–based life
Really?  Can you elaborate on this?

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2015, 06:13:17 PM »
With certain scientists expecting an Earth uninhabitable for human beings — and most other carbon–based life
Really?  Can you elaborate on this?
Yes.
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viddaloo

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2015, 10:49:44 PM »
I'm thinking the extended fireplace & cocaine metaphor is a better fit with reality than the blankets.
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jbatteen

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2015, 10:50:28 PM »
It repopulated though, with...  carbon-based life.  The new climate regime's unsuitability to the previous life forms had absolutely nothing to do with their carbon-based construction.  They were just poorly adapted to the new conditions.  In fact, the new climate regime proved quite suitable for life, which, surprise surprise, continued to be based on carbon.  The Triassic period that followed resulted in the evolution of most of the forms of life we have on earth today (and some that didn't make it), such as mammals and dinosaurs.  Carbon-based life forms (I don't know why I keep saying carbon-based, is anyone aware of any other forms of life?) can survive in such extreme environments as volcanic vents in the Mariana trench, Death Valley, and Antarctica.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to fear the climate transformation ahead.  Blowing it out of proportion and misrepresenting it entirely just gives more fuel to the denialists.

http://paleobiology.si.edu/geotime/main/htmlversion/triassic2.html
Quote
Extinction and Recovery
The first third of the Triassic was a recovery period from the end-Permian extinction. This greatest extinction in Earth’s history, eliminating approximately 70% of the species of land vertebrates and 90% of marine animal species, sharply reduced the number of different ways in which plants and animals made a living. During the Triassic life re-evolved many strategies for living, and added new ones not seen during the Paleozoic. Newly evolved scleractinian corals formed small reefs, beginning the recovery of reef ecosystems. Mollusks such as ammonoids (relatives of the modern chambered nautilus) were severely reduced in diversity by the extinction but evolved rapidly afterward to become more diverse than ever before and to dominate the open-ocean marine invertebrate world.

Recovery from extinction was far from uniform among the surviving groups. Echinoderms had been nearly wiped out, and brachiopods had been severely reduced in diversity; but while brachiopods never fully recovered, echinoderms flourished in the Triassic. Two new types of echinoderms, echinoids (e.g., sea urchins) and asteroids (e.g., starfish), appeared for the first time. All major groups of land plants survived the end-Permian extinction, but families, genera, and species of plants in the Triassic were generally distinct from their Permian relatives. Globally, many Early Triassic floras were dominated by club mosses (Pleuromeia) or mosses. The glossopterids (a type of seed fern), which had been dominant plants in the Permian of the Southern Hemisphere, never recovered their former abundance or diversity; Triassic floras of this area were characterized by a different type of seed fern called Dicroidium. In the tropical regions of Euramerica the Early Triassic was a time of low-diversity vegetation. Conifers, which had been dominants in the Late Permian, were rare or absent for millions of years in the Early Triassic until new families of conifers diversified in the Middle Triassic. Bennettitaleans and cycads also diversified in the Triassic and became important components of the terrestrial vegetation.

New types of animals and plants continued to evolve throughout the Triassic. The first mammals and dinosaurs originated almost simultaneously, in the late Middle or early Late Triassic. The oldest known fossil of an amniote egg is from the Early Triassic. In the seas, ichthyosaurs (dolphin-shaped reptiles), nothosaurs, and placodonts (mollusk-eating reptiles) appeared and thrived. Some ichthyosaurs reached lengths of 23 meters (75 feet). Turtles, crocodyliforms, and pterosaurs all made their debuts, along with frogs and sphenodontians. In fact, by the end of the Triassic, many of the animal groups we see today had made their first appearances on Earth.

viddaloo

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2015, 11:15:30 PM »
I'm thinking the gravity of our situation could be kept at a distance for a little longer if hairs are split instead of the bigger picture seen. I think it's a great plan.
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Neven

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2015, 12:01:21 AM »
Recently a call went forth for super-brief "elevator pitches" about global warming.

Ken Rushton

Hi Ken, I suppose you refer to these videos made by John Cook and Peter Sinclair? I really liked the one with Simon Donner.

Why not imitate those?
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MusicScienceGuy

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2015, 05:51:19 AM »
Neven, excellent question. In fact that's what I'm trying to do, in little steps.  :)

I looked at the elevator pitches - a great idea BTW - and thought: "a good start; but can we do better?".

In my eyes, if one is going to say something (or do a video saying it) one must have something pithy and yet memorable to say. This a very tough requirement; advertizing companies get paid jillions to do this.

I also think it should be accurate - and accuracy is very challenging when one is trying to be short and concise!  My hope is that by getting some peer review, I could improve the accuracy and get better ways to express this single concept. We only need the one. 

Hmmm. Let me condense it down to my real beef: the argument (the ball) seems to be owned by the skeptics:  "Prove that warming, caused by the "Greenhouse Effect" (whatever that is) is happening".

I'd like the Ball to be switched to the other team:  "We've thrown an extra blanket on the Earth. Prove that it won't warm us up: how is the blanket's warming being counteracted".

Ken
« Last Edit: April 10, 2015, 05:56:43 AM by MusicScienceGuy »

Neven

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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2015, 10:31:27 AM »
Hmmm. Let me condense it down to my real beef: the argument (the ball) seems to be owned by the skeptics:  "Prove that warming, caused by the "Greenhouse Effect" (whatever that is) is happening".

They've moved the goalposts (although occasionally switching back, of course) to: "Prove that it will be catastrophic. You can't, there's a 0% chance that AGW will have serious consequences."

That 0% is their Achilles' heel. As soon as they admit it can't possible be 0% (I thought you were a skeptic), they enter the realm of risk management, and that's where they lose. But luckily they have propaganda and a goal-justifies-the-means mentality.

So basically I would boil down an elevator pitch to: We know it's warming, we know why it's warming, we don't know what could happen, but bad things could very well happen, better safe than sorry. Something like that.

But I suck at communication.  ;D
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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2015, 01:05:57 PM »
As Dr. Katharine Hayhoe has suggested, our Elevator Pitches need to connect with the actual person we are speaking to.  A white rural religious fundamentalist California farmer is unlikely be touched by the same pitch that a black rural religious fundamentalist Mississippi farmer 'hears'.  Therefore, we need lots of intros (to get a variety of persons interested in actually listening) and several concise descriptions of fact or similes, and memorable conclusions (I think old TV cigarette jingles that still rumble in my head.)

I hope to see this thread fill up with Elevator Pitches. I guess I need to craft a few myself!
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Re: An "Elevator Pitch" on AGW
« Reply #16 on: April 10, 2015, 07:52:35 PM »
Thanks for the feedbacks.

Re:  "Prove that it will be catastrophic" that's not the question in the minds of most people I've talked to. Rather (even as recently as last night), the question has been "is it happening". I found with the person last night that the blanket analogy was clear and understandable. Better yet, it was convincing, and I'm sure it will be passed on.

RE: talking about risks. As soon as my generic "Doubling Earth's blanket" pitch is refined to an essential core, I'll move to the risks, as a separate set of elevator pitches. It was interesting (and eye-opening) to review the recent evidence that has been piling up and compare it to the current memes.

Ken.