Friday, November 29, 2019

NEWS TIP FROM Dan Bloom, founder of the The Cli-Fi Report, WITH FEEDBACK RSVP wanted. -- Dan

Update. Read this link first:

and then:

NEWS TIP FROM Dan Bloom, founder of the The Cli-Fi Report, WITH FEEDBACK RSVP wanted. -- Dan

You won’t be reading about my newly-launched 10-year Hollywood cli-fi movies initiative in most Hollywood trade publications because they usually don’t cover cli-fi, .....but in 10 years they might.

Undettered and full of confidence, I’ve launched the first-ever ''cli-fi movies initiative'' to try to get the “cli-fi” term into the ears, eyes and minds of major Hollywood players in the 2020s. My long-term goal: to make cli-fi a genre term that everyone in Hollywood knows by the year 2030.

As you can see, I’m a patient man. I look at the big picture, in the long term.

Cli-fi has already caught on in the book publishing world and among literary critics worldwide for novels and short story collections — as literary term. This literary effort has been successfully ongoing since 2011 and got a huge boost in 2013 when NPR did a 5-minute radio broadcast titled “It’s so hot now, it’s time for a new literary genre!.”

Beginning now my focus for the next 10 years will be on Hollywood, and with the help of many writers and reporters, cli-fi will catch on as cinema term among Hollywood producers, PR people, directors, actors, scriptwriters, talent agents, journalists and film critics.

A few years ago, I was talking on the phone to veteran TV producer and social activist in Hollywood, Sonny Fox, and I was asking him how scriptwriters and directors and producers in Los Angeles and other TV and film capitals around the world can make better use of their expertise and people to turn out more feature shows about climate change themes. Real movies, real TV serial dramas, written by people like Margaret Atwood and Aaron Sorkin and produced by people like Marshall Herskovitz, Steve Tisch and Leonardo DiCaprio.

While Sonny is retired now at 94, he remains active as a passionate and concerned observer of where the world is headed, and he knows that runaway global warming is a serious issue.

 And he knows that TV and movie producers have the means to address it.

“It’s just a question of getting the right people together and setting up some organizations to work on this issue in Hollywood,” the Brooklyn-born Fox told the San Diego Jewish World in an earlier email. And he’s been around the block a couple of times, many times, in Hollywood and New York. He knows what the game is all about.

Could we use serial cli-fi dramas -- narrative TV shows -- for the primary purpose of entertainment that also inspires and educates people about climate change themes?

 Sonny said we can. And we should.

“It’s important to get TV and movie people involved in climate change discussions,” he says. “And to goad them into making TV shows and movies that go right to the heart of the matter: how will future generations fare in a world beset by dire climate situations worldwide -- droughts, floods, wildfires, sea level rise, heat waves.”

There's also Marshall Herskovitz, the TV and movie producer and writer, a Brandeis alum, and a major Hollywood climate movie activist. Alongside his career in the TV and film industry, Herskovitz has devoted years to thinking about our society’s climate change problems.

“I first got into this more than 20 years ago, just by reading the science and getting really terrified. There was a big dividing line before and after ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ Before ‘Inconvenient Truth’ the issue really was that people were not aware of climate change. After ‘Inconvenient Truth,’ it became more complicated because people were aware of it, but it became much more politicized,” he told an interviewer at the ”City Atlas” website in 2015.

When asked if he thinks that Hollywood can create the narratives that needed to prod people to take action, Herskovitz said: ”Yes, we have the professionals who could do it. We have the professionals who could create the stories. Absolutely.”

So if all goes according to plan, the cli-fi term will be on the lips of every producer in Hollywood in ten years and directors will be turning out cli-fi movies by the dozens for the international market, China, too.
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Sunday, November 17, 2019

A review of the distorted science in Michael Crichton’s 2004 cli-fi novel ''State of Fear''


A review of the distorted science in Michael

Crichton’s 2004 cli-fi novel ''State of Fear''

By on February 2, 2005

State of Fear
by Michael Crichton,
HarperCollins Publishers,
624 pgs., 2004.

Michael Crichton’s new cli-fi novel State of Fear is about global-warming hysteria ginned up by a self-important NGO on behalf of evil eco-terrorists … or by evil eco-terrorists on behalf of a self-important NGO. It’s not quite clear. Regardless, the message of the book is that global warming is a non-problem. A lesson for our times? Sadly, no.
In between car chases, shoot-outs, cannibalistic rites, and other assorted derring-doo-doo, the novel addresses scientific issues, but is selective (and occasionally mistaken) about the basic science involved. Some of the issues Crichton raises are real and already well-appreciated, while others are red herrings used to confuse rather than enlighten.
The fictional champion of Crichton’s climate skepticism is John Kenner, an MIT academic-turned-undercover operative who runs intellectual rings around two other characters — the actor (a rather dim-witted chap) and the lawyer (a duped innocent), neither of whom know much about science.
So, for the benefit of actors and lawyers everywhere, I will try to help out.

Forcings Majeure

Early on in State of Fear, a skeptical character points out that while carbon dioxide was rising between 1940 and 1970, the globe was cooling. What, then, makes us so certain rising CO2 is behind recent warming?
Good question. Northern-hemisphere mean temperatures do appear to have fallen over that 30-year period, despite a concurrent rise in CO2, which if all else had been equal should have led to warming. But were all things equal? Actually, no.
In the real world, climate is affected both by internal variability (natural internal processes within the climate system) and forcings (external forces, either natural or human-induced, acting on the climate system). Some forcings — sulfate and nitrate aerosols, land-use changes, solar irradiance, and volcanic aerosols, for instance — can cause cooling.
Matching up what really happened with what we might have expected to happen requires taking into consideration all the forcings, as best as we can. Even then, any discrepancy might be due to internal variability (related principally to the ocean on multi-decadal time scales). Our current “best guess” is that the global mean changes in temperature, including the 1940-1970 cooling, are quite closely related to the forcings. Regional patterns of change appear to be linked more closely to internal variability, particularly during the 1930s.
No model that does not include a sharp rise in greenhouse gases (GHGs), principally CO2, is able to match up with recent warming. Thus the conclusion that GHGs are driving warming.
The book also shows, through the selective use of weather-station data, a number of single-station records with long-term cooling trends. In particular, characters visit Punta Arenas, at the tip of South America, where the station record posted on the wall shows a long-term cooling trend (though slight warming since the 1970s). “There’s your global warming,” one of Crichton’s good guys declares dismissively.
Well, not exactly. Global warming is defined by the global mean surface temperature. No one has or would claim that the whole globe is warming uniformly. Had the characters visited the nearby station of Santa Cruz Aeropuerto, the poster on the wall would have shown a positive trend. Would that have been proof of global warming? No. Only by amalgamating all available records can we have an idea what the regional, hemispheric, or global means are doing. That’s why they call it global warming.

Tall, Dark, and Hansen

Even more troubling is some misleading commentary regarding climate-science pioneer (and my boss) James Hansen’s testimony to Congress in 1988. “Dr. Hansen overestimated [global warming] by 300 percent,” says our hero Kenner.
Hansen’s testimony did indeed spread awareness of global warming, but not because he exaggerated the problem by 300 percent. In a paper published soon after that testimony, Hansen and colleagues presented three model simulations, each following a different scenario for the growth in CO2 and other trace gases and forcings. Scenario A had exponentially increasing CO2, scenario B had a more modest business-as-usual assumption, and scenario C had no further increase in CO2 after the year 2000. Both B and C assumed a large volcanic eruption in 1995.
Rightly, the authors did not assume they knew what path CO2 emissions would take, and presented a spectrum of possibilities. The scenario that turned out to be closest to the real path of forcings growth was scenario B, with the difference that Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, not 1995. The temperature change for the ’90s predicted under this scenario was very close to the actual 0.11 degree-Celsius change observed.
Climate chart.

James Hansen’s three climate scenarios, as presented in 1998.

So, given a good estimate of the forcings, the model did a reasonable job. In fact, in his congressional testimony Hansen only showed results from scenario B, and stated clearly that it was the most probable scenario.
The claim of a “300 percent” error comes from noted climate skeptic Patrick Michaels, who in testimony before Congress in 1998 deleted scenarios B and C from the chart he used in order to give the impression that the models were unreliable. Thus a significant success for climate modeling was presented as a complete failure — a willful distortion that Crichton adopts uncritically.
The well-known and exhaustively studied “urban heat island effect” — the tendency for cities to be warmer than the surrounding countryside due to the built-up surroundings and intensive energy use — is also raised several times in the book. Most recently, a study by David Parker published last year in the journal Nature found no residual effect in the surface temperature record once corrections were made for this undisputed phenomenon. Though Crichton makes much of it, there’s no there there.

Authorial Inattention

At the end of the book, Crichton offers a somber author’s note. In it, he reiterates the main points of his thesis: that there are some who push claims beyond what is scientifically supported in order to drum up support (and I have some sympathy with this), and that because we don’t know everything, we actually know nothing (here, I beg to differ).
He gives us his back-of-a-napkin estimate for the global warming that will occur over the next century — an increase of approximately 0.8 degrees Celsius — and claims that his guess is as good as any model’s. He suggests that most of the warming will be due to land-use changes — extremely unlikely, as globally speaking, land-use change has a cooling effect. As his faulty assumptions painfully demonstrate, simulations based on physics are better than just guessing.
Finally, in an appendix, Crichton uses a rather curious train of logic to compare global warming to the 19th century eugenics movement. Eugenics, he notes, was studied in prestigious universities and supported by charitable foundations. Today, global warming is studied in prestigious universities and supported by charitable foundations. Aha!
Presumably Crichton doesn’t actually believe that foundation-supported academic research is ipso facto misguided, even evil, but that is certainly the impression left by this peculiar linkage.
In summary, I am disappointed, not least because while researching his book, Crichton visited our lab at the NASA Goddard Institute and discussed some of these issues with me and a few of my colleagues. I suppose we didn’t do a very good job of explaining matters. Judging from his bibliography, the rather dry prose of reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did not stir his senses quite like some of the racier contrarian texts. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Crichton picked fiction over fact.
Scientifically curious readers can find a more detailed version of this review on

Cli-Fi Rising: When Scientific Charts and Stats Are not Enough to ''Emotionalize'' Climate Change

Cli-Fi Rising: When Scientific Charts and Stats Are not Enough to ''Emotionalize'' Climate Change

It's time to learn to dissect climate change through the lens of humanities, one that bridges together the scientific facts and storytelling.

You have gained a lot of insight into the intersection of literature and environmental issues that ultimately led you to conclude that using scientific methods to mitigate climate change is not enough.

Therefore: cli-fi is here!

Cli-fi gives readers a broader, more interdisciplinary look at environmental engagement and action, in order to introduce and encourage different paradigms of thinking when addressing environmental issues, such as through cl-fi novels and movies.

If you just read scientific papers, you will not learn how to think across space and time, connecting the dots between material facts and abstract values and ideas. Being able to do both is vital for dealing with the wicked problems of climate change. Thus: cli-fi.

Cli-fi stories let us think about time in a continuous framework, rather than in periods that are partitioned.

Cli-fi stories serve as time and place machines and provide a complex view of things we think are only happening now.

Such cli-fi novels and movies will allow us to view environmental degradation, climate change and natural disasters as things that have occurred in the past and could happen in the future.

Very few of us are professionally trained in data literacy. Among the broader public, even fewer are equipped to translate data into the realities of their everyday lives and project its implications into our common future. But cli-fi stories give a certain shape to scientific evidence, lending it depth of field and breadth of perspective, allowing people to position and imagine themselves vis-à-vis material changes in the world around them.

Right now, right here, we are looking at significant forces on the planet right now that we have so successfully managed to partition off into a terrifying yet distant future. Cli-fi stories bring them into the ongoing present, forcing us to collectively engage in future thinking.

So as you can see, singular cli-fi narratives function as pieces of a bigger puzzle. They shed light on climate change history, because we have to understand the past to fix the future.

We need a different kind of fiction, one that is not narcissistically-obsessed with human thinking and human feeling. Cli-fi novels andn movies offer an ideal bridge to climate change storytelling because its heroes are the things we dismiss as the background of realist fiction: landscapes, machines, infrastructures, ruins.

Start your engines, cli-fi writers of the world. The time to write is now!