The Kardashians And Climate Change: Interview With Judith Curry

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by James Stafford via,

Climate change continues to drive energy policy, despite the fact that there is no way to reconcile eradicating energy poverty in much of the world with reducing carbon dioxide emissions. This is one of the many conundrums of the climate change debate—a debate that has been taken over by social media and propaganda, while scientists struggle to get back into the game and engage the public.

Judith Curry is an American climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, as well as the co-author of over 140 scientific papers. Her prolific writings offer a rational view of the climate change debate. You can find more of Judith’s work at her blog:

In an exclusive interview with, Curry discusses:

•    The Koch-funded climate denial machine
•    Why the public is losing trust in scientists
•    How alarmist propaganda has skewed the climate debate
•    How climate change has contributed to a new literary genre
•    The impact of social media and the ‘Kardashian Factor’
•    Climate and the ‘clash of values’
•    Global warming or global cooling?
•    The Polar Vortex and ‘global warming’
•    Extreme weather hysteria
•    Why climate change should not drive energy policy You've talked a lot about the role of communication and public relations in the climate change debate. Where do scientists fail in this respect?

Judith Curry: Climate science communication hasn’t been very effective in my opinion.  The dominant paradigm seems to be that a science knowledge deficit of the public and policy makers exists, which is exacerbated by the Koch-funded climate denial machine.  This knowledge deficit then results in the public failing to act with the urgency that is urged by climate scientists.

This strategy hasn’t worked for a lot of reasons. The chief one that concerns me as a scientist is that strident advocacy and alarmism is causing the public to lose trust in scientists. What is the balance between engagement with the public on this issue and propaganda?

Judith Curry: There are two growing trends in climate science communications – engagement and propaganda. Engagement involves listening and recognizes that communication is a two-way street. It involves collaboration between scientists, the public and policy makers, and recognizes that the public and policy makers don’t want to be told what to do by scientists. The other trend has been propaganda. The failure of the traditional model of climate science communication has resulted in more exaggeration and alarmism, appeals to authority, appeals to fear, appeals to prejudice, demonizing those that disagree, name-calling, oversimplification, etc.

There is a burgeoning field of social science research related to science communications.  Hopefully this will spur more engagement and less propaganda. You've also talked about the climate change debate creating a new literary genre. How is this 'Cli-Fi' phenomenon contributing to the intellectual level of the public debate and where do you see this going?

Judith Curry: I am very intrigued by Cli-Fi as a way to illuminate complex aspects of the climate debate. There are several sub-genres emerging in Cli-Fi – the dominant one seems to be dystopian (e.g. scorched earth). I am personally very interested in novels that involve climate scientists dealing with dilemmas, and also in how different cultures relate to nature and the climate. I think that Cli-Fi is a rich vein to be tapped for fictional writing. How would you describe the current intellectual level of the climate change debate?

Judith Curry: Well, the climate change debate seems to be diversifying, as sociologists, philosophers, engineers and scientists from other fields enter the fray. There is a growing realization that the UNFCCC/IPCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change/Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has oversimplified both the problem and its solution. The wicked climate problem is growing increasingly wicked as more and more dimensions come into play. The diversification helps with the confirmation bias and ‘groupthink’ problem.

Hopefully this diversification will lead to greater understanding and policies that are more robust to the deep uncertainties surrounding the climate change problem. You've also talked about the "Kardashian Factor" ... Can you expand on this?

Judith Curry: The Kardashian Factor relates to a scientist’s impact in social media.  There is a growing disconnect between scientists who impact within the ivory tower, as measured by publications and citations, versus those scientists that are tweeting and blogging. While some of the smartest people on the planet are university professors, most of them simply don’t matter in today’s great debates. The use of the term ‘Kardashian Factor’ is designed to marginalize social media impact as shallow popularity.

Social media is changing the world, and academia hasn’t quite figured out what to do about it. On issues relevant to public debate, social media is rivaling published academic research in its impact. Social media is leveling the playing field and democratizing science. The skills required to be successful in social media include good writing/communication skills and the abilities to synthesize, integrate, and provide context. Those who are most successful at social media also have a sense of humor and can connect to broader cultural issues – they also develop a trustworthy persona. These are non-trivial skills, and they are general traits of people that have impact.  

So, why do I do spend a lot of my time engaging with the public via social media? I’m interested in exploring social media as a tool for engaging with the public, group learning, exploring the science-policy interface, and pondering the many dimensions of the wicked climate problem. I would like to contribute to the public debate and support policy deliberations, I would like to educate a broader and larger group of people, and finally I would like to learn from people outside the group of my academic peers (and social media is a great way to network). I am trying to provoke people to think outside the box of their own comfort zone on the complex subject of climate change. Does the current debate seem to lack 'layers' that get lost in the politics and socio-economics?

Judith Curry: The debate is polarized in a black-white yes-no sort of way, which is a consequence of oversimplifying the problem and its solution. Although you wouldn’t think so by listening to the Obama administration on the topic of climate change, the debate is becoming more complex and nuanced. Drivers for the growing number of layers in the climate debate are the implications of the 21st century hiatus in warming, the growing economic realities of attempting to transition away from fossil fuels, and a growing understanding of the clash of values involved. How does the climate change debate differ, in your experience, in varying cultures; for instance, from the United States to Western Europe, or Canada?

Judith Curry: The U.S. is more skeptical of the idea of dangerous anthropogenic global warming than is Western Europe. In the U.S., skepticism is generally associated with conservatives/libertarians/Republicans, whereas in Western Europe there is no simple division along the lines of political parties. In the developed world, it is not unreasonable to think ahead 100 or even 300 years in terms of potential impacts of policies, whereas the developing world is more focused on short-term survivability and economic development. How significant are cultural elements to this debate?

Judith Curry: The cultural elements of this debate are probably quite substantial, but arguably poorly understood. A key issue is regional vulnerability, which is a complex mix of natural resources, infrastructure, governance, institutions, social forces and cultural values. Are we in a period of global warming or global cooling?

Judith Curry: The Earth’s surface temperature has been generally increasing since the end of the Little Ice Age, in the mid 19th century. Since then, the rate of warming has not been uniform – there was strong warming from 1910-1940 and 1975-2000. Since 1998, there have been periods exceeding a decade when there has been no statistically significant warming.

Continually increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse act to warm the planet, so why hasn’t the surface temperature been increasing? This seems to be caused primarily by a change in the circulation patterns in the Pacific Ocean, although solar cooling is also contributing to an extent that is uncertain. What is the 'polar vortex' and what does it have to do with global warming?

Judith Curry: The polar vortex is a circulation pattern in the upper atmosphere that influences surface weather. Ideas linking changes in the polar vortex to global warming are not supported by any evidence that I find convincing. How does the media take advantage of every major -- or even semi-major -- weather event to make dire climate forecasts or support one or another polarized side of this debate? Can you give us some recent examples?

Judith Curry: The impact of extreme weather events in raising concern about global warming became apparent following Hurricane Katrina. The psychology of immediate and visible loss is far more salient than hypothetical problems in the next century. Hence extreme weather events have been effectively used in propaganda efforts. This is in spite of the assessment of the IPCC that doesn’t find much evidence linking extreme weather events to global warming, other than heat waves. Where should energy fit into the climate change debate, and how much of a concern to the climate is the energy resources drive? Does anyone really know?

Judith Curry: It has never made sense to me for climate change to be the primary driver for energy policy. Even if we believe the climate models, nothing that we do in terms of emissions reductions will have much of an impact on climate until the late 21st century.  Energy poverty is a huge issue in much of the world, and there is no obvious way to reconcile reducing CO2 emissions with eradicating energy poverty. Again, this conundrum is evidence of the wickedness of the climate change problem. You can see our first interview with Judith here: The IPCC May Have Outlived its Usefulness - An Interview with Judith Curry

Polar bear


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logicalman's picture

95% of the population of the so-called developed world are scientifically illiterate - not by accident.

95% of the population want someone else to do the thinking for them.

We're fucked.

zaphod's picture

"The other trend has been propaganda. The failure of the traditional model of climate science communication has resulted in more exaggeration and alarmism, appeals to authority, appeals to fear, appeals to prejudice, demonizing those that disagree, name-calling, oversimplification, etc."

But her first bullet point is "Koch-funded climate deinal machine" 

Do these people even listen to themselves?!? I guess everyone else has figured out to not listen to them, so they don't need to listen to themselves either.

cougar_w's picture

Curry is a crank. Got herself into hot water over some stupid stuff she said, and then rather than say "okay my bad" she went on a campaign to destroy her peers. Real mature. Getting rich on the denialist talk circuit though, so I guess it's worked for her.

0b1knob's picture

Anybody who admires the Kardashian's influence can't be that bright.

James_Cole's picture

In the U.S., skepticism is generally associated with conservatives/libertarians/Republicans, whereas in Western Europe there is no simple division along the lines of political parties.

...yeah and I just found out 20% of americans think the moon landing was faked. So who cares what these goofs think.

Addressing AGW is a complex multilayered problem but the science seems to be going along just fine. And if people don't understand it, so what? Most tech is a big ole' mystery: computers, tvs, phones - but people are happy to use 'em.

Way too much time is wasted on trying to drag along the lowest common denominator. Develop good alternatives to fossil fuel related products (including agri) and people will use those instead. 

As long as the people who matter (i.e. the people developing shit) understand the science properly that's probably enough.  

cougar_w's picture

People denying AGW understand the science fine. I was shocked to learn that. What they don't like are the implications of the science, so they attack the science as a proxy for undesird lifestyle changes.

I'm sure you understand the distiniction. If it were just an education problem then we could solve it via painless education. Since it's a matter of not wanting to deal with something unsavory, there is not much you can actually do.

Nature is going to win this one. But people will absolutely know what hit them.

James_Cole's picture


People denying AGW understand the science fine. I was shocked to learn that. What they don't like are the implications of the science, so they attack the science as a proxy for undesired lifestyle changes.

Sure, people will tend to disbelieve things which would impact their lifestyle, confirmation bias.

Non-controversial: "my doc says we should have sex more to improve my health. Gotta go with what the doc says!" Controversial: "my doc says I should cut down on eating shitloads of lard and salt to imrpove my health. What does he know anyway??" Non-controversial: "just learned earth orbits the sun! Wow cool!" Controversial: "I just learned organisms evolve, what a load of bullshit!!"

That said, there's a lot of super ignorant people out there. People post childishly wrong stuff on here with regularity and then argue about it. Not as bad as saudi arabia (still execute people for sorcery over there) but it's not great. 



cougar_w's picture

"(still execute people for sorcery over there)"

Suddenly I feel so much better about myself.

detached.amusement's picture

the modelers are the ones with the trouble accepting the "implications of science" - the entire usefulness of a model is in its predictive capability - but the IPCC keeps telling us "these arent predictions" 'em go!  I mean its only their research grant money on the table, what could go wrong if its learned that its not necessary to throw grant money at any "study" that mentions "global warming" or "climate" in some fashion.



take all these idiot modelers and put 'em on a real environmental task and have 'em clean up the big plastic heap in the middle of the pacific, then they'll be doing something useful.

MisterMousePotato's picture

Oh, yeah? Well, my doctor (actually, I saw him on TV) says that in order to have inner peace in our lives, we should always finish things that we start. Simple as that.

So, since I certainly could use a little more peace in my life, I looked around my house to find things I’d started and hadn’t finished.

I finished a bottle of Merlot, a bottle of Chardonnay, a bodle of Baileys, a butle of wum, tha mainder of Valiuminun scriptins, an a box a choclutz. Yu has no idr how fablus I feel rite now.

Sned this to all urfrenz who need inner piss. An telum u luvum.

MalteseFalcon's picture

1.  The climate changes naturally.

2.  Man cannot stop natural climate change.

3.  Man's activities contribute little, if anything, to the process.

4.  To the extent that man's activities do contribute to climate change, the 'offending' activities are completely under the control of states and corporations.

5.  The individual has no control over the activities, but all proposed solutions put most of the onus on the individual in terms of taxes, costs and loss of freedom.

6.  Scientists are for sale and exhibit the herd mentality of lemmings.

7.  The 'issue' does not die a well-deserved death, because large amounts of financial and political capital have been invested.

8.  The 'investors' believe that carbon taxes, etc. are necessary to continue western and banking hegemony.

James_Cole's picture

yawn... yeah yeah we know. 

Majestic12's picture

Totally...I came here to talk about Kim' ass....I don't get it....

Ionic Equilibria's picture

Great sarcasm but perhaps you should tag it as such because a lot of ZHers actually believe this rubbish.

MalteseFalcon's picture

Ha, ha.  Nice try.  It's the truth.

btdt's picture

What is unsavory is having to watch a new generation of useless idiots buying into the same old bankster scams. Paint it green and that works for the new crop of fools.

Climate science has been captured and is now just another bankster platform, just llike the -isms of the last century.

And like before, there is an arm of overly eager self righteous young true believers and they will be the zombie shock troops for the banksters.

And when nature does what nature is going to do, we will be left with even richer banksters and a lot of 3rd world people impoverished by the green agenda.

The true belivers never in the last century owned up for their role in the death and destruction in their pursuit of utopia. neither will the warmists troops in this century


funny thing. you come here to ZH for a skeptical (and cynical) view of how power works and yet you are a conventional naive conformist when it comes to the color green.




Majestic12's picture

"zombie shock troops for the banksters"

agreed.  And, by the way, a really cool name for a band!

Abbie Normal's picture

NASA said the moon buggy fit inside two carry-on size suitcases when disassembled.  Until someone can show that a ladder-frame (pick-up truck based) vehicle with four disc wheels, electric drivetrain, steering, seats, etc. can fit into an overhead luggage compartment of a passenger plane, let alone inside the ultra-cramped lunar module, let's just say all of the other claims are questionable too.

Majestic12's picture

The fascinating feats of Hollywood abound!  When you mix propagandist banskters with Stanly Kubrick amazing "science" just happens....

Matt's picture

The Lunar Rover cost something like $1 million in 1969 dollars, so maybe $10 million today. You really want a $10 million go-cart that goes 3 miles per hour? Send me the money, and I'll get right on it for you. Half up front, half on delivery.

Matt's picture

"Develop good alternatives to fossil fuel related products (including agri) and people will use those instead."

That's the key. There is no magical 100:1 EROEI alternative to develop. There are only slight improvements to be made to renewables, and massive reductions in consumption, and some decent gains in efficiency.

Particularly with agriculture where so much water and fertilizers are just leeching through the soil off into the ocean creating huge algae blumes and oxygen-less dead zones.

logicalman's picture

As I don't have a TV, I sometimes find myself a bit 'out of the loop'

The word Kardashians kept cropping up in overheard conversations.

I thought they were some new alien species on Star Trek of something, until one day I was in a long line-up at the grocery check-out.

Majestic12's picture

"Kardashian" is synonymous with the term "hot, round ass" a "MILF" of course...all living-room, wholesome family topics....we have to give credit to the sage seeds of "Entertainment Tonight", that spawned the USA "selfie" mindset...good times.

Matt's picture

I think its a good counter to the standards of beauty indoctrinated into society via photoshopped images of size zero models. At least they have porportions that indicate greater health and fertility.

Stuck on Zero's picture

She says that politics takes too large a role in the debate.  Therefore she has entered politics to set everyone straight.


zerozulu's picture

Very complicated topic to understand. Does it mean increase in earth temperature is causing ass to grow?

logicalman's picture

More likely the other way around.

Majestic12's picture

"increase in earth temperature is causing ass to grow"

Finally, someone who understands the significance of "Kardashian theory"!

I "roundly" suggest, that the current "hot" temperatures may lead to a greenhouse "wetness" that will "plunge" the world into a "deep, dark hole" of challenge.....

...bring it! :)

Lumberjack's picture

Start with Enron now go to Santander.

detached.amusement's picture

nono that's inconvenient...."money" only means private money donated to realist causes, not government gravy doled out to academics so they can pontificate all year long on their moral and intellectual superiority and tax write offs for big companies that wish to....PLAY BALL!



why do you think it is that they're "able to show so much money given to skeptic causes"


simple, count what you wish to present, just like any other government statistic...just like yamal and the hockey stick...

Democratic koolaid's picture

The 1000 million hormone fed cattle that fed Ms. Kardashian's round der·ri·ère are the cause of global warming.

Follow the farts and you'll find the cows drinking water in california.

btdt's picture

Curry is not a crank. She is highly respected across many disciplines invovling climate science.

Quit making crap up in areas you don't follow in enough detail to talk about intelligently.

Majestic12's picture

oh, child....did mommy let you try to "think" again?  Remember, she will always be proud of what you say...not matter how naive....

There, there....[pat, pat...]

detached.amusement's picture

It is amusing watching her talk out both sides of her mouth though - she talks like a normal person on WUWT, but get her in warmista land and she's mentioning that evil koch money...she reads like two entirely different people depending on her audience. 

NoDebt's picture

You're supposed to do as they say, not as they do.

When I was a kid in grade school back in the early 70s it was all about "the coming ice-age".  We were alll going to freeze to death and/or starve to death as glaciers slowly overran the plains states and choked off our food supply.

The current crop of global warming (er, um, climate change) science hippies will have to forgive me if I'm less than impressed with their new/current "truth" about the world's climate and where it's headed. 

Besides, I thought humans were supposed to have the ability to adapt to their environments.  I guess not.  Rhetoric is the only thing that can change, apparently.

Majestic12's picture

You had me until "science hippies"....

Stop lumping anything altruistic into a clusterfuck of millineal naivete....

They are Agenda 21 99% of America....

But hey, let's keep arguing about the "shiny object"...maybe argue about race...gender...the Mexicans trying to steal our scraps....instead of lining up the 1% bansters in the crosshairs....

detached.amusement's picture

I thought science hippies was the best part.  How else can one describe the "science" that Hansen "performs"...when one feels the world should operate a certain way, invent science to back it up...all morals and flowers and sasving the earth and shit.  (except the statistics...are shit...)

NOTW777's picture

"While some of the smartest people on the planet are university professors" LOL

yes, when your "science" is proved a fraud blame the Koch brothers or GWB

KickIce's picture

Who receiver their funding from the government, so once again it becomes a simple case of following the fiat.

Majestic12's picture

As if the Koch bros or GWB are not part of the NWO Agenda 21 crowd?

As if you are part of the "in group"?  Billionaires love you?

ElvisDog's picture

Here's all you need to know about "Climate Change" - it doesn't matter if it is real or not. Mankind is going to burn every barrel of oil it can get its hands on, because countries that use oil and natural gas have a huge advantage over those who don't. Climate Changeologists can pass whatever treaties they want. China and India at least won't go along and half the other countries will cheat so they can still burn oil.

Majestic12's picture

"Here's all you need to know about "Climate Change""

ED, so why?  Explain why the petrodollar throttle-fest is "inevitable" in your opinion?

Is your answer "what else is there"? ...then "they" have won....

"Zero-hedge" needs to talk more about "zero-point" energy....and who has control over it..."now".

Then all of these "cornfusing" headlines will begin to make sense.....

Hint: Try looking for their boss's bosses....

Matt's picture

1. The Aether does not exist

2. if humans had unlimited energy, they would certainly destroy the planet.

holmes's picture

She lost me at  The Koch-funded climate denial machine.

"Her prolific writings offer a rational view of the climate change debate." Really?

Just another fool who doesn't understand that the climate changes:

 it gets hotter, then colder, hotter, colder. Deal with it.

DaveyJones's picture

ice cores and the rate of change

so man can not affect his environment?

and the earth is not one big environment

if man can not affect his planet, why is he the first species to get off it and visit the moon?

Just because there are elected idiots and evil companies making money off both sides of a large issue does not mean there is a large issue 

Theta_Burn's picture

Man does effect the planet, in a big way.

The #1 way is pollution, fossil fuels, deforestation (a big 1), the collective breath of 9bil people and the cows needed to support them, and lately Fukashima.

Volcanic eruptions add huge amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere.

Yet all this is just a speck of dust when it comes to the sun, and its effect on our planet.

Get yourself into this series, it really is worth the watch



Majestic12's picture


OMG...a rational thinker....stop now or the website will go supernova!