Rachel Pike: The science behind a climate headline

Rachel Pike: The science behind a climate headline

I’d like to talk to you today
about the scale of the scientific effort that goes into making the headlines
you see in the paper. Headlines that look like this
when they have to do with climate change; and like this when they have to do
with air quality or smog. They’re two branches of the same field
of atmospheric science. Recently, the headlines looked like this when the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change, or IPCC, put out their report on the state of understanding
of the atmospheric system. That report was written
by 620 scientists from 40 countries. They wrote almost
1,000 pages on the topic, and all of those pages were reviewed by another 400-plus
scientists and reviewers from 113 countries. It’s a big community; such a big community, in fact, that our annual gathering is the largest
scientific meeting in the world. Over 15,000 scientists go
to San Francisco every year for that. Every one of those scientists
is in a research group, and every research group studies
a wide variety of topics. For us at Cambridge, it’s as varied
as the El Niño Oscillation, which affects weather and climate, to the assimilation of satellite data, to emissions from crops that produce
biofuels, which is what I study. And in each one of these research areas,
of which there are even more, there are PhD students, like me,
and we study incredibly narrow topics, things as narrow as a few processes
or a few molecules. And one of the molecules I study
is called isoprene, which is here. It’s a small organic molecule. You’ve probably never heard of it. The weight of a paper clip
is approximately equal to 900 zeta-illion — 10 to the 21st —
molecules of isoprene. But despite its very small weight, enough of it is emitted
into the atmosphere every year to equal the weight
of all the people on the planet. It’s a huge amount of stuff.
It’s equal to the weight of methane. And because it’s so much stuff, it’s really important
for the atmospheric system. Because it’s important
to the atmospheric system, we go to all lengths to study this thing. We blow it up and look at the pieces. This is the EUPHORE Smog Chamber in Spain. Atmospheric explosions,
or full combustion, takes about 15,000 times longer
than what happens in your car. But still, we look at the pieces. We run enormous models on supercomputers;
this is what I happen to do. Our models have hundreds
of thousands of grid boxes calculating hundreds of variables
each, on minute timescales. It takes weeks to perform
our integrations, and we perform dozens of integrations
in order to understand what’s happening. We also fly all over the world
looking for this thing. I recently joined a field campaign
in Malaysia — there are others. We found a global atmospheric
watchtower there in the middle of the rainforest, and hung hundreds of thousands
of dollars’ worth of scientific equipment off this tower, to look for isoprene and other things
while we were there. This is the tower in the middle
of the rainforest from above, and the tower from below. On part of that field campaign
we even brought an aircraft with us. And this plane, the model BAe-146,
which was run by FAAM, normally flies 120 to 130 people, so maybe you took a similar aircraft
to get here today. But we didn’t just fly it. We were flying at 100 meters
above the top of the canopy to measure this molecule —
incredibly dangerous stuff. We have to fly at a special incline
to make the measurements; we hire military and test pilots
to do the maneuvering; we need special flight clearance. As you come around the banks
in these valleys, the forces can get up to two Gs; the scientists must be
completely harnessed in in order to make measurements
while on board. So as you can imagine, the inside of the aircraft doesn’t look
like one you’d take on vacation. It’s a flying laboratory we took
to make measurements of this molecule. We do all this to understand
the chemistry of one molecule. And when one student like me
has some sort of inclination or understanding about that molecule, they write one scientific paper
on the subject. And out of that field campaign
we’ll probably get a few dozen papers on a few dozen processes or molecules. As a body of knowledge builds up,
it will form one subsection, or one sub-subsection, of an assessment like the IPCC,
although we have others. And each one of the 11 chapters
of the IPCC has six to ten subsections. So you can imagine
the scale of the effort. In each one of the assessments we write,
we always tag on a summary, and the summary is written
for a non-scientific audience. And we hand that summary
to journalists and policy makers in order to make headlines like these. Thank you very much. (Applause)


91 thoughts on “Rachel Pike: The science behind a climate headline”

  • Me, me, me, me, blah blah blah. I'm so impressed with this girl and the complexity and granularity of her subject and the danger she put herself in gathering her data, that in the end, I didn't even care that she took 6 minutes to make absolutely no point whatsoever.

  • can TED invent something called "THE BETTER MOSQUITO REPELLANT" OR "KILL ALL MOSQUITOS" they are the most annoying insects that should never exist!

    like jeez im getting drained by these mosquitos!

  • MainsOnTheOhmsRange says:

    With human knowledge doubling every 7 years and each human having only a limited capacity scientists have to specialize. The time of universal geniuses is over. Some topics have become too complex to be understood in depth and entirely by a single person, no matter how smart.

  • @beechgrovejoe

    The conclusions reached use the same methods as any other science. One of the purposes of the scientific method and the peer review process is to weed out any bias.

    There is no climate debate among scientists anymore. The only ones still debating are the public and our politicians.

  • @stratvic

    I'm sorry, but your idea that scientists are in it for money and free trips is absolutely ridiculous. Nobody becomes an academic for the money.

  • There is a limit to skepticism. Sooner or later you'll have to believe someone, bias or not. Unless, you want to study it yourself before you make an assumption? Or did you want to go over every single detail to make sure it stands before believing? Would you pay your own way in that case?

  • The global warming we are experiencing is also being experienced on Mercury,Venus and Mars. It is caused by sun spot activity. Don't be fooled by the propaganda discuised as science. The agenda is to impliment a global carbon tax, not to save the planet.

  • or….. the idea is not weak? The idea that 15000 very intelligent people thought it worthy to dedicate their entire life to understanding climate change makes it weak? really? I understand that sometimes science can be "trendy" ie. string theory. But when a large number of very smart people agree on something, why is that discarded as them all being biased? is it not simpler/more logical that the idea on which they agree is correct/has some merit? occams razor my friend.

  • So, the idea you present is that some secret global organization wants to make the public have less money (motive?). So they figure the best way to do this is to bribe thousands of the most intelligent people alive to conduct false research so that maybe, a new tax will result from it that they will some how benefit from. Got it.

  • Whatever happened to that ice age? Things have certainly warmed up since then haven't they? How much carbon dioxide and other gasses do the worlds volcanoes produce? Just curious.

  • Government politicians and bureaucrats want to gain power. People respect scientists. So the govt becomes the primary funding source for scientific research. This funding corrupts the scientists who need funding to do research. The funding is given for projects the govt wants.

    Power corrupts.
    Funding tends to corrupt.
    Science has been corrupted by the political process.

    All scientific research funding should come from private sources.

    We need a separation of science and state.

  • Well I wouldn't point that towards the global climate change. there's no money in globabl climate change except to shysters like Gore. Worse it pisses off big oil one of the major funders of gov. in the developed world. I will say government has altered corrupted politicised and censored science. For instance when Clinton fired the surgeon general for denouncing abstinence only sex as as useless and stating that marijuana is no worse than liquor or tabacco. or the DDT BS.

  • The global organisation is the united nations – they are not a secret organisation. Rather then spend my weekend debating climate change , I suggest that you watch the documentary " Fall of the republic" A respected Canadian climatologist / university professor explains how he and several THOUSAND of his collegues have been silenced and ridiculed by those with vested interests in convincing the world to impliment a global carbon tax. Then you maybe will get it!!

  • Science is not yet in? you're saying that these scientists have fake diplomas?

    The job thing is simply not true, with clean energies come jobs too, or do you think solar panels will magically be made, assembled and put on your roof?

  • to: themindminder
    Stating, "Yes, I do, do You?", is often what someone says when they have no idea what they're talking about. So I'll have to assume that you have no idea what the Carbon Tax which is correctly called the Carbon Credit really is. The fact that you call it a "Tax" lets those of us who know what it is – know that you do not. Instead of repeating what other idiots are saying, try looking up things on your own. You'll be so much smarter for it:)

  • To jasonlajoie.I can only dream of being as smart as you.Yes, I have no idea what I am talking about.I will now stop reading, researching and also stop teaching. I will also hand back my PHD.I will now just watch the videos in your favourites such as 'penis addictions' and 'moonwalk'. ThankYou for setting me staight.Also, the fact that it called carbon credit lets those of us who do know what it is(a global tax)know that you are a brainwashed zombie believing everything you are told to believe.

  • To jasonlajie, Thank You again. I was completely delusional about the 6 years I spent at LaTrobe University (Bundoora Campas) in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia between 1985 and 1991. Can you please inform the Australian education department to refund the AU$20,000 that my parents paid for my delusional education. Also, could you please inform the several hundred students that I have taught , tutored, mentored, that you have decided that based on a capital H, and not a little h,that I am a fraud.

  • It's cuckoo, not "cookoo". Do you really have to insist that you're a bright fellow in spite of all your shortcomings? The video you have named twice now, is one of the funniest on YouTube. Somehow I don't think you posses any sense of humor though, so I won't recommend it to you.

    You have been fun:)

  • Can we please stop referring to anthropomorphic global warming as "climate change?" It's akin to calling anti-abortion "pro life." Not only is it ridiculously vague and completely inaccurate (few people are anti-life, and few people would deny that the climate changes), it's obviously a label engineered to portray the argument as if it is more conclusive than it actually is.

    China recently used climate modification to induce the earliest snowfall in 23 years. So I guess that's that…

  • jasonlajoie (Again)
    1) The meaning of cookoo as explained in the urban dictionary is:
    Crazy ; or going crazy
    this was the pun that you missed.
    2) I am not a fellow, I am a woman
    3) If 'penis addictions is an indication of your sense of humour (humor???, I think you meant humour) then I thank you for not recomending it to me.

  • jasonlajoie
    please do not post a message like:
    'A smart fellow would know how to spell recomending,it is recommending. etc etc etc

  • No, I meant 'humor' as my English was learned in North America. I tend to mean what I write.

    I don't believe your "cookoo" story either, you're just trying to cover-up your stupidity once again with a lie.

    You must be one ugly, lonely woman to be trolling your stupidity here with such frequency. Go on believing you're the brightest mind on the internets and that global climate change is just a grand hoax to get us all enslaved with a carbon tax. You are clearly "crazy ; or going crazy".

  • jasonlajoie: Thank You for allowing me to have my own beliefs. Several years ago I was also called crazy by arrogant and ignorant people, like yourself, because my research and information I became aware of indicated that it was impossible that Iraq had WMDs, and that Saddam was in no way connected with 911. Hundreds of thousands of dead woman and children later, we are still paying the price for that mistake.This is not a game so please wake up and stop the personal attacks on me and my family!

  • No one attacked your family you crazy nut. Stop being retarded on the internets and no one will be able to call you out on it.

  • You make it seem like these scientists are struggling to make ends meet and the only way they could possibly get the money they desperately need is to create a hoax that is just not reality. Truth is not a majority i agree, but, it is reasonable to say that when a large number of people who have studied a subject tend to one conclusion that idea likely holds some water. If you read my comment, i refer to majority's of the people who study the field, not the general public as you portrayed.

  • Ok, yes scrutiny is important, and there is lots of that in the scientific community i am curious as to why you seem to think that global warming is exempt from the normal rigors of experimental science? Also, if you talk about chasing money as a bias, how many company's would lose tons of money if they were not allowed to damage the environment by their practices. I can guarantee you that this money is greater than the money spent on climate research. Thats the real bias.

  • There's lots of data, if you look for it tons actually. Also the vested interests you speak of are not equivalent, company's have orders of magnitudes more to lose than climatologists, if a scientists theory is proven wrong, but he still did good research, oh well, they move on it's not like science is running out of things to study. If a company realizes they have to totally change their ways and may lose tons of money, they're screwed. Who has more to lose? big business overwhelmingly so.

  • I can't post links here, so please google IPCC and check out their reports, is an easy to read accessible aggregation and review of climate research. How much percentage do you think a company doing incredibly pollutant oil mining in alberta would lose if strict regulations were in place? maybe…all of it? publicly chasing a bad idea does lead to less funding, so why are all the scientists doing it, according to you, with global warming? you contradicted yourself.

  • before i waste more time doing research that you seem unable or unwilling to do, will you change your mind if you see this raw data? "the company looses nothing" what? higher tax means less profit, there's a threshold to how expensive something can be before people go to alternatives, less demand and same supply means cheaper prices means even less profit. If you think that taxing a product will not effect the bottom line of the company than, i'm sorry, but thats very erroneous.

  • so, the people who have already done exactly what you want to do… you can do it better? oh wait, they're liars of course…. No commodity or product or anything is truly inelastic. you seem to have forgotten/not know this. If you tax a product, the total profit to be made from that product is decreased, less money for all involved in selling this product. I feel you do not have a solid understanding of the economics of the situation and how taxes affect supply and demand.

  • Well, there's a difference between reasonable doubt, and being stubborn. Personally all i can say is i've seen the raw data and the conclusions drawn from it I encourage you to look for it. People don't publsh tables of data however,

  • What they publish is a set of specific observations and then they draw conclusions from it. The individual papers published are often on a quite narrow topic, and there are a lot of them(10,000's). I encourage you to seek them out. As for your understanding of the economics of taxation, it is not entirely correct. I also encourage you to look into this field more, these applications are undergraduate stuff, and should be very understandable. That is all.

  • some economists did predict that eventually the mortgage derivative bubble would burst. But the market is a chaotic system, so determining when is impossible. Anyways, thats my two cents. You seem like a reasonable fellow, so keep up the civil discourse, there's too little of it nowadays.

  • Mysterion Amalgium says:

    Did Orwell predict tax on air back in the forties or fifties? Are we getting taxed to breathe? Call me insane when i say that I don't mean this sarcastically… What a wonderful world we live in, and a bright future we are facing…

  • And if different conclusions are reached, then it doesn't pass peer review. The purpose is to follow experiments to see if others can reach the SAME conclusion, so no, it is NOT a problem of the peer review process. It is NOT a popularity contest. The reason we have AGW articles in peer review is because others are following the experiments and data and coming to the SAME CONCLUSIONS.

    Whoever explained how peer review worked to you did a terrible job.

  • Average global mean doesn't vary anywhere near as drastically as local weather does. A single degree in the global mean is a huge amount, especially when considering a mere 5 degree increase can feedback into a devastating mass extinction.

    And we're NOT in a "cooler decade". We've been breaking records left right and center.

  • The medieval warm period is a fallacy. It was not warmer then than it is now. Quite the opposite.

    Higher CO2 does mean greater plant growth, but it also means higher survival for insects that devour them. Where I live, the north american pine beetle is a prime example of it.

  • The "theories" indeed have matched the measurements, and sometimes, the measurements actually show higher temps than the predictions.

    The area of the globe that has been warming the most is the upper northern hemisphere, especially around the pole, as well as the oceans. Concrete has nothing to do with it.

  • Like andsoccer16 said, look at the hockey stick graph. I've also made no such argument. The pine beetle example is not a second order effect. It is contingent on only a single factor: temperature.

  • She went too fast. The impact would have been greater had she slowed down and further illustrated the topic. Otherwise It was a good speech.

  • Since the leaked emails are proof of high level interference in the scientific peer review system. None of these comments that quote climate change statistics have any validity.

    The title of this talk should be changed to:
    'The politics behind a climate change headline'

  • It's NOT a second order efffect. There's a single contingent factor, regardless of how it's measured. The temperature itself may come from multiple variables, but the beetles surviving the winter is based on only ONE. Higher temp. I'm well aware of the science of it. Statistics have nothing to do with it. That's the fact, not a stat.

  • So, first my point was moot because it was a second order effect, but now, single factor arguments are dubious. I think we're done talking. You're now heading into that "nothing is good enough" route. You clearly have no real desire to debate it.

  • Responding to globalbankfraud

    1.They're not.
    2.What are you talking about? Major companies are funneling billions into alternative energy research. Ever heard about the hybrid?
    3. Screw Al Gore and his carbon tax.
    4. Not even remotely close.
    5. Bacon tastes amazing.
    6. There was no "Medieval Warm Period".
    7. Although the sun does play a large role in Earth's climate, solar activity hasn't been rapidly increasing, whereas temperature and carbon dioxide have.

    Hope that answers your questions :o)

  • fact is, ipcc is a scam. most scientist there do stufy stuff, yea they do, thats part of the scam. probably 95% of scientist like the woman on this video have been conned. they study stuff, very narrowly so they dont see the big picture.ipcc is just a tool for banks to create a communistis system on the planet and rule over everythng.

    ANd, when 95% of scientist study real stuff like on this video, then when someone says its all a scam, the 95% scientist respond: no its not! we study hard!

  • but truth is, scientist are only scientist, they arent politicians who use scientists to study narrow topics so they dont get the big picture.

    and why does paying a carbon tax to world bank help save polar bears? bullcrap. just listen to lord monckton and you get whats happening

  • road tolls in stockolm did nothing but remove few cars in the small city center. its not producing any money in 25 years and CO2 is a life giving gas thats not dangerous.. Its total bullshit.

  • DAILEYericCaryUSA says:

    "Follow the money" as they say. The AGW hoax is paying a lot of bills for these researchers. These people are careerists who know what happens to the skeptics and who gets the grants, invitations and tenure. For gods sake they gave Al Gore a Nobel prize.

    Grow the government, the bigger the better and the more power for a few at the top.
    The big banks are investing billions in the cap and trade scam.
    Follow the money.


    global warming is a scam and climatechange has gone on for the last 4.5 billion years !

  • I heard this clip on Alex Jones radioshow back last year in December when Alex Jones covered the myth of man made global warming.
    Did you know, UNFCCC/climate treaty would have cost 288 billion dollars per year, 2% of usa GDP. It would have also cost 2% on every bank transfer on every normal person who sends money for example to canada or england.

    That money would have gone to IMF and worldbank. They will try to male that ttreaty happen this year in COP16 in mexico, november.

  • he was covering the copenhagen summit. you can see a movie about it in my profile that i made. its comedy.

    HITLER WAS BEHIND GLOBAL WARMING. That movie contains mroe truth than any mainstream media garbage………………

  • well what is there to know about cliamte change.

    that its funded by rockefeller and rothschild? that they want a global tax with the global warming scam and 1 child policy and a total eco police state like the new audi car advertisement?

    i mean you can sum climate change in 3 words:


    thats all you need to know about climate change. 3 words. not hard to remember

  • actually exxon mobil, british petroleum and shell all fund climate change and they all supported copenhagen and they all wanted to get a climate treaty from it. climategate emails reveal how oil companies were in close friendship with the east anglia university and michael mann and other scammers.

    but what you are tingting is an 80 iq lie repeater

  • ZarlanTheGreen says:

    She explained what work is behind what the IPCC publishes.
    …what science, if any, is behind newspaper headlines however, is a completely different issue altogether.

    This talk gives the impression, that newspaper headlines about science can actually be trusted …which I wish were true.
    Check watch?v=beihglYP5KQ for a better view of the science behind headlines.
    …or potholer54's videos about climate change, for something more related.

  • so they put up towers in rainforests and fly around the world to test for some obscure molecule. Yeah, sounds like they are concerned about environmental impact.

  • That's nice, Rachel. Lots of scientists. Wow! Too many to count. But can you PLEASE share with us ANY evidence that climate change is anthropogenic? Pretty please?

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