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Book Review: Why Science Denialism Persists (Undark)

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Two new books explore what motivates people to reject science — and why it’s so hard to shake deep-seated beliefs.

By Elizabeth Svoboda – 05.22.2020

To hear some experts tell it, science denial is mostly a contemporary phenomenon, with climate change deniers and vaccine skeptics at the vanguard. Yet the story of Galileo Galilei reveals just how far back denial’s lineage stretches.

BOOK REVIEW “Galileo and the Science Deniers,” by Mario Livio (Simon & Schuster, 304 pages).

Years of astronomical sightings and calculations had convinced Galileo that the Earth, rather than sitting at the center of things, revolved around a larger body, the sun. But when he laid out his findings in widely shared texts, as astrophysicist Mario Livio writes in “Galileo and the Science Deniers,” the ossified Catholic Church leadership — heavily invested in older Earth-centric theories — aimed its ire in his direction.

Rather than revise their own maps of reality to include his discoveries, clerics labeled him a heretic and banned his writings. He spent the last years of his life under house arrest, hemmed in by his own insistence on the expansiveness of the cosmos.

Nearly 400 years later, the legacy of denial remains intact in some respects. Scientists who publish research about climate change or the safety of genetically modified crops still encounter the same kind of pushback from deniers that Galileo did. Yet denialism has also sprouted some distinctly modern features: As Alan Levinovitz points out in “Natural: How Faith in Nature’s Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science,” sometimes we ourselves can become unwitting purveyors of denial, falling prey to flawed or false beliefs we may not realize we’re holding.

Levinovitz passionately protests the common assumption that natural things are inherently better than unnatural ones. Not only do people automatically tend to conclude organic foods are healthier, many choose “natural” or “alternative” methods of cancer treatment over proven chemotherapy regimens. Medication-free childbirth, meanwhile, is now considered the gold standard in many societies, despite mixed evidence of its health benefits for mothers and babies.

BOOK REVIEW “Natural: How Faith in Nature’s Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science,” by Alan Levinovitz (Beacon Press, 264 pages).

“What someone calls ‘natural’ may be good,” writes Levinovitz, a religion professor at James Madison University, “but the association is by no means necessary, or even likely.” Weaving real-life examples with vivid retellings of ancient myths about nature’s power, he demonstrates that our pro-natural bias is so pervasive that we often lose the ability to see it — or to admit the legitimacy of science that contradicts it.

From this perspective, science denial starts to look like a stunted outgrowth of what we typically consider common sense. In Galileo’s time, people thought it perfectly sensible that the planet they inhabited was at the center of everything. Today, it might seem equally sensible that it’s always better to choose natural products over artificial ones, or that a plant burger ingredient called “soy leghemoglobin” is suspect because it’s genetically engineered and can’t be sourced in the wild. Yet in these cases, what we think of as common sense turns out to be humbug.

In exploring the past and present of anti-science bias, Livio and Levinovitz show how deniers’ basic toolbox has not changed much through the centuries. Practitioners marshal arguments that appeal to our tendency to think in dichotomies: wrong or right, saved or damned, pure or tainted. Food is either nourishing manna from the earth or processed, artificial junk. The Catholic Church touted its own supreme authority while casting Galileo as an unregenerate apostate.

In the realm of denialism, Levinovitz writes, “simplicity and homogeneity take precedence over diversity, complexity, and change. Righteous laws and rituals are universal. Disobedience is sacrilege.”

The very language of pro-nature, anti-science arguments, Levinovitz argues, is structured to play up this us-versus-them credo. Monikers like Frankenfood — often used to describe genetically-modified (GM) crops — frame the entire GM food industry as monstrous, a deviation from the supposed order of things. And in some circles, he writes, the word “unnatural” has come to be almost a synonym for “moral deficiency.” Not only is such black-and-white rhetoric seductive, it can give deniers the heady sense that they occupy the moral high ground.

Both pro-natural bias and the Church’s crusade against Galileo reflect the human penchant to fit new information into an existing framework. Rather than scrapping or changing that framework, we try to jerry-rig it to make it function. Some of the jerry-rigging examples the authors describe are more toxic than others: Opting for so-called natural foods despite dubious science on their benefits, for instance, is less harmful than denying evidence of a human-caused climate crisis.

What’s more, many people actually tend to cling harder to their beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence. Studies confirm that facts and reality aren’t likely to sway most people’s pre-existing views. This is as true now as it was at the close of the Renaissance, as shown by some extremists’ stubborn denial that the Covid-19 virus is dangerous.

In the realm of denialism, “simplicity and homogeneity take precedence over diversity, complexity, and change.”

In one of his book’s most compelling chapters, Livio takes us inside a panel of theologians that convened in 1616 to rule on whether the sun was at the center of things. None of Galileo’s incisive arguments swayed their thinking one iota. “This proposition is foolish and absurd in philosophy,” the theologians wrote, “and formally heretical, since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture.” Cardinal Bellarmino warned Galileo that if he did not renounce his heliocentric views, he could be thrown into prison.

Galileo’s discoveries threatened to topple a superstructure that the Church had spent hundreds of years buttressing. In making their case against him, his critics liked to cite a passage from Psalm 93: “The world also is established that it cannot be moved.”

Galileo refused to cave. In his 1632 book, “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems,” he did give the views of Pope Urban VIII an airing: He repeated Urban’s statement that no human could ever hope to decode the workings of the universe. But Livio slyly points out that Galileo put these words in the mouth of a ridiculous character named Simplicio. It was a slight Urban would not forgive. “May God forgive Signor Galilei,” he intoned, “for having meddled with these subjects.”

At the close of his 1633 Inquisition trial, Galileo was forced to declare that he abandoned any belief that the Earth revolved around the sun. “I abjure, curse, and detest the above-mentioned errors and heresies.” He swore that he would never again say “anything which might cause a similar suspicion about me.” Yet as he left the courtroom, legend goes, he muttered to himself “E pur si muove” (And yet it moves).

In the face of science denial, Livio observes, people have taken up “And yet it moves” as a rallying cry: a reminder that no matter how strong our prejudices or presuppositions, the facts always remain the same. But in today’s “post-truth era,” as political theorist John Keane calls it, with little agreement on what defines a reliable source, even the idea of an inescapable what is seems to have receded from view.

Levinovitz’s own evolution in writing “Natural” reveals how hard it can be to elevate facts above all, even for avowed anti-deniers. When he began his research, he picked off instances of pro-natural bias as if they were clay pigeons, confident in the rigor of his approach. “Confronted with a false faith, I had resolved that it was wholly evil,” he reflects.

Yet he later concedes that a favoritism toward nature is logical in domains like sports, which celebrate the potential of the human body in its unaltered form. He also accepts one expert’s point that it makes sense to buy organic if the pesticides used are less dangerous to farm workers than conventional ones. By the end of the book, he finds himself in a more nuanced place: “The art of celebrating humanity and nature,” he concludes, depends on “having the courage to embrace paradox.” His quest to puncture the myth of the natural turns out to have been dogmatic in its own way.

In acknowledging this, Levinovitz hits on something important. When deniers take up arms, it’s tempting to follow their lead: to use science to build an open-and-shut case that strikes with the finality of a courtroom witness pointing out a killer.

But as Galileo knew — and as Levinovitz ultimately concedes — science, in its endlessly unspooling grandeur, tends to resist any conclusion that smacks of the absolute. “What only science can promise,” Livio writes, “is a continuous, midcourse self-correction, as additional experimental and observational evidence accumulates, and new theoretical ideas emerge.”

In their skepticism of pat answers, these books bolster the case that science’s strength is in its flexibility — its willingness to leave room for iteration, for correction, for innovation. Science is an imperfect vehicle, as any truth-seeking discipline must be. And yet, as Galileo would have noted, it moves.

Elizabeth Svoboda is a science writer based in San Jose, California. Her most recent book for children is “The Life Heroic.”

Related

Opinion: The Roots of Modern Medical Denialism

NIH Cancels Funding for Bat Coronavirus Research Project (The Scientist)

The abrupt termination comes after the research drew President Trump’s attention for its ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

NIH Cancels Funding for Bat Coronavirus Research Project
The canceled grant included money for surveillance of coronaviruses in Yunnan, China.
© ISTOCK.COM, REDTEA
Shawna Williams
Apr 28, 2020

A grant to a New York nonprofit aimed at detecting and preventing future outbreaks of coronaviruses from bats has been canceled by the National Institutes of Health, Politico reports, apparently at the direction of President Donald Trump because the research involved the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. The virology institute has become a focal point for the idea that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from the laboratory and caused the current COVID-19 pandemic, a scenario experts say is not supported by evidence. Instead, virologists The Scientist has spoken to say the virus most likely jumped from infected animals to humans.

The grant, first awarded in fiscal year 2014 and most recently renewed last year, went to EcoHealth Alliance, which describes itself as “a global environmental health nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease.” The aims of the funded project included characterizing coronaviruses present in bat populations in southern China and conducting surveillance to detect spillover events of such viruses to people. The project has resulted in 20 publications, most recently a March report on zoonotic risk factors in rural southern China.

EcoHealth Alliance’s partners on the project include researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a BSL-4 facility that has for months been a focus of conspiracy theories that SARS-CoV-2 escaped or was released from a lab. On April 14, the The Washington Post published a column highlighting State Department cables about concerns regarding safety at the institute. (Experts tell NPR that, even in light of the cables, accidental escape of the virus from a lab remains a far less likely scenario than a jump from animals.) 

Then, in an April 17 White House coronavirus briefing, a reporter, whom Politico identifies as being from Newsmax, falsely stated in a question that “US intelligence is saying this week that the coronavirus likely came from a level 4 lab in Wuhan,” and that the NIH had awarded a $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan lab. “Why would the US give a grant like that to China?” she asked. “We will end that grant very quickly,” Trump said in his answer.

An NIH official then wrote to EcoHealth Alliance to inquire about money sent to “China-based participants in this work,” Politico reports, and the organization’s head, Peter Daszak, responded that a complete response would take time, but that “I can categorically state that no fund from [the grant] have been sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, nor has any contract been signed.” Days later, NIH notified EcoHealth Alliance that future funding for the project was canceled, and that it must immediately “stop spending the $369,819 remaining from its 2020 grant”—an unusual move generally reserved for cases of scientific misconduct or financial improprieties, according to Politico.

In a statement about the cancellation, EcoHealth Alliance says the terminated research “aimed to analyze the risk of coronavirus emergence and help in designing vaccines and drugs to protect us from COVID-19 and other coronavirus threats,” and that it addresses “all four strategic research priorities of the NIH/NIAID Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research, released just this week.” The organization will, it says, “continue our fight against this and other emerging diseases.”

See “Theory that Coronavirus Escaped from a Lab Lacks Evidence

‘There is no absolute truth’: an infectious disease expert on Covid-19, misinformation and ‘bullshit’ (The Guardian)

theguardian.com

Carl Bergstrom’s two disparate areas of expertise merged as reports of a mysterious respiratory illness emerged in January

‘Just because the trend that you see is consistent with a story that someone’s selling,inferring causality is dangerous.’
‘Just because the trend that you see is consistent with a story that someone’s selling,inferring causality is dangerous.’ Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Alamy Stock Photo

Julia Carrie Wong, Tue 28 Apr 2020 11.00 BST

Carl Bergstrom is uniquely suited to understanding the current moment. A professor of biology at the University of Washington, he has spent his career studying two seemingly disparate topics: emerging infectious diseases and networked misinformation. They merged into one the moment reports of a mysterious respiratory illness emerged from China in January.

The coronavirus touched off both a pandemic and an “infodemic” of hoaxes, conspiracy theories, honest misunderstandings and politicized scientific debates. Bergstrom has jumped into the fray, helping the public and the press navigate the world of epidemiological models, statistical uncertainty and the topic of his forthcoming book: bullshit.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You’ve been teaching a course and have co-written a book about the concept of bullshit. Explain what you mean by bullshit?

The formal definition that we use is “language, statistical figures, data, graphics and other forms of presentation that are intended to persuade by impressing and overwhelming a reader or listener with a blatant disregard for truth or logical coherence”.

The idea with bullshit is that it’s trying to appear authoritative and definitive in a way that’s not about communicating accurately and informing a reader, but rather by overwhelming them, persuading them, impressing them. If that’s done without any allegiance to truth, or accuracy, that becomes bullshit.

We’re all used to verbal bullshit. We’re all used to campaign promises and weasel words, and we’re pretty good at seeing through that because we’ve had a lot of practice. But as the world has become increasingly quantified and the currency of arguments has become statistics, facts and figures and models and such, we’re increasingly confronted, even in the popular press, with numerical and statistical arguments. And this area’s really ripe for bullshit, because people don’t feel qualified to question information that’s given to them in quantitative form.

Are there bullshit narratives about the coronavirus that you are concerned about right now?

What’s happened with this pandemic that we’re not accustomed to in the epidemiology community is that it’s been really heavily politicized. Even when scientists are very well-intentioned and not trying to support any side of the narrative, when they do work and release a paper it gets picked up by actors with political agendas.

Whether it’s talking about seroprevalence or estimating the chance that this is even going to come to the United States at all each study gets picked up and placed into this little political box and sort of used as a cudgel to beat the other side with.

So even when the material isn’t being produced as bullshit, it’s being picked up and used in the service of that by overstating its claims, by cherry-picking the information that’s out there and so on. And I think that’s kind of the biggest problem that we’re facing.

One example [of intentional bullshit] might be this insistence for a while on graphing the number of cases on a per-capita basis, so that people could say the US response is so much better than the rest of the world because we have a slower rate of growth per capita. That was basically graphical malfeasance or bullshit. When a wildfire starts spreading, you’re interested in how it’s spreading now, not whether it’s spreading in a 100-acre wood or millions of square miles of national forest.

Is there one big lesson that you think that the media should keep in mind as we communicate science to the public? What mistakes are we making?

I think the media has been adjusting really fast and doing really well. When I’m talking about how to avoid misinformation around this I’m constantly telling people to trust the professional fact-based media. Rather than looking for the latest rumor that’s spreading across Facebook or Twitter so that you can have information up to the hour, recognize that it’s much better to have solidly sourced, well-vetted information from yesterday.

Hyper-partisan media are making a huge mess of this, but that’s on purpose. They’ve got a reason to promote hydroxychloroquine or whatever it is and just run with that. They’re not even trying to be responsible.

But one of the biggest things that people [in the media]could do to improve would be to recognize that scientific studies, especially in a fast-moving situation like this, are provisional. That’s the nature of science. Anything can be corrected. There’s no absolute truth there. Each model, each finding is just adding to a weight of evidence in one direction or another.

A lot of the reporting is focusing on models, and most of us probably don’t have any basic training in how to read them or what kind of credence to put in them. What should we know?

The key thing, and this goes for scientists as well as non-scientists, is that people are not doing a very good job thinking about what the purpose of different models are, how the purposes of different models vary, and then what the scope of their value is. When these models get treated as if they’re oracles, then people both over-rely on them and treat them too seriously – and then turn around and slam them too hard for not being perfect at everything.

Are there mistakes that are made by people in the scientific community when it comes to communicating with the public?

We’re trying to communicate as a scientific community in a new way, where people are posting their data in real time. But we weren’t ready for the degree to which that stuff would be picked up and assigned meaning in this highly politically polarized environment. Work that might be fairly easy for researchers to contextualize in the field can be portrayed as something very, very different in the popular press.

The first Imperial College model in March was predicting 1.1 million to 2.2 million American deaths if the pandemic were not controlled. That’s a really scary, dramatic story, and I still think that it’s not unrealistic. That got promoted by one side of the partisan divide. Then Imperial came back and modeled a completely different scenario, where the disease was actually brought under control and suppressed in the US, and they released a subsequent model that said, ‘If we do this, something like 50,000 deaths will occur.’ That was picked up by the other side and used to try to discredit the Imperial College team entirely by saying, ‘A couple of weeks ago they said a million now they’re saying 50,000; they can’t get anything right.’ And the answer , of course, is that they were modeling two different scenarios.

We’re also not doing enough of deliberately stressing the possible weaknesses of our interpretations. That varies enormously from researcher to researcher and team to team.

It requires a lot of discipline to argue really hard for something but also be scrupulously open about all of the weaknesses in your own argument.

But it’s more important than ever, right? A really good paper will lay out all the most persuasive evidence it can and then in the conclusion section or the discussion section say, ‘OK, here are all the reasons that this could be wrong and here are the weaknesses.’

When you have something that’s so directly policy relevant, and there’s a lot of lives at stake, we’re learning how to find the right balance.

It is a bit of a nightmare to put out data that is truthful, but also be aware that there are bad faith actors at the moment who might pounce on it and use it in a way you didn’t intend.

There’s a spectrum. You have outright bad faith actors – Russian propaganda picking up on things and bots spreading misinformation – and then you have someone like Georgia Governor Brian Kemp who I wouldn’t calla bad faith actor. He’s a misinformed actor.

There’s so much that goes unsaid in science in terms of context and what findings mean that we don’t usually write in papers. If someone does a mathematical forecasting model, you’re usually not going to have a half-page discussion on the limitations of forecasting. We’re used to writing for an audience of 50 people in the world, if we’re lucky, who have backgrounds that are very similar to our own and have a huge set of shared assumptions and shared knowledge. And it works really well when you’re writing on something that only 50 people in the world care about and all of them have comparable training, but it is a real mess when it becomes pressing, and I don’t think any of us have figured out exactly what to do about that because we’re also trying to work quickly and it’s important to get this information out.

One area that has already become contentious and in some ways politicized is the serology surveys, which are supposed to show what percentage of the population has antibodies to the virus. What are some of the big picture contextual caveats and limitations that we should keep in mind as these surveys come out?

The seroprevalence in the US is a political issue, and so the first thing is to recognize that when anyone is reporting on that stuff, there’s a political context to it. It may even be that some of the research is being done with an implicitly political context, depending on who the funders are or what the orientations and biases of some of the researchers.

On the scientific side, I think there’s really two things to think about. The first one is the issue of selection bias. You’re trying to draw a conclusion about one population by sampling from a subset of that population and you want to know how close to random your subset is with respect to the thing you’re trying to measure. The Santa Clara study recruited volunteers off of Facebook. The obvious source of sampling bias there is that people desperately want to get tested. The people that want it are, of course, people that think they’ve had it.

The other big piece is understanding the notion of positive predictive value and the way false positive and false negative error rates influence the estimate. And that depends on the incidence of infection in the population.

If you have a test that has a 3% error rate, and the incidence in the population is below 3%, then most of the positives that you get are going to be false positives. And so you’re not going to get a very tight estimate about how many people have it. This has been a real problem with the Santa Clara study. From my read of the paper, their data is actually consistent with nobody being infected. A New York Citystudy on the other hand showed 21% seropositive, so even if there has a 3% error rate, the majority of those positives have to be true positives.

Now that we’ve all had a crash course in models and serosurveys, what are the other areas of science where it makes sense for the public to start getting educated on the terms of the debate?

One that I think will come along sooner or later is interpreting studies of treatments. We’ve dealt with that a little bit with the hydroxychloroquine business but not in any serious way because the hydroxychloroquine work has been pretty weak and the results have not been so positive.

But there are ongoing tests of a large range of existing drugs. And these studies are actually pretty hard to do. There’s a lot of subtle technical issues: what are you doing for controls? Is there a control arm at all? If not, how do you interpret the data? If there is a control arm, how is it structured? How do you control for the characteristics of the population on whom you’re using the drug or their selection biases in terms of who’s getting the drug?

Unfortunately, given what we’ve already seen with hydroxychloroquine, it’s fairly likely that this will be politicized as well. There’ll be a parallel set of issues that are going to come around with vaccination, but that’s more like a year off.

If you had the ability to arm every person with one tool – a statistical tool or scientific concept – to help them understand and contextualize scientific information as we look to the future of this pandemic, what would it be?

I would like people to understand that there are interactions between the models we make, the science we do and the way that we behave. The models that we make influence the decisions that we take individually and as a society, which then feed back into the models and the models often don’t treat that part explicitly.

Once you put a model out there that then creates changes in behavior that pull you out of the domain that the model was trying to model in the first place. We have to be very attuned to that as we try to use the models for guiding policy.

That’s very interesting, and not what I expected you to say.

What did you expect?

That correlation does not imply causation.

That’s another very good one. Seasonality is a great example there. We’re trying a whole bunch of things at the same time. We’re throwing all kinds of possible solutions at this and lots of things are changing. It’s remarkable to me actually, that so many US states are seeing the epidemic curve decrease. And so there’s a bunch of possibilities there. It could be because people’s behavior is changing. There could be some seasonality there. And there are other possible explanations as well.

But what is really important is that just because the trend that you see is consistent with a story that someone’s selling, there may be many other stories that are also consistent, so inferring causality is dangerous.

COVIDenial Executive Summary (DESMOG)

Original article

April 24, 2020

“Government should be doing little or next to nothing,” Richard Ebeling wrote in a post about COVID-19 republished on March 24 by the Heartland Institute. “The problem is a social and medical one, and not a political one.”

“I just think we’re going to be fine. I think everything is going to be fine,” Heartland editorial director and research fellow Justin Haskins said about COVID-19 during a March 13 episode of the podcast In the Tank. “I really don’t think this is going to be a problem even two to three months from now.”

On Dec. 31, 2019, “a pneumonia of unknown cause” was first reported to the World Health Organization’s China Country Office — and in the months following that report, the disease now known as COVID-19 spread to infect millions of people worldwide and seems well on its way to killing hundreds of thousands — while experts warn that the presumed death toll may be significantly higher than we yet know.

As the virus spread, so too did misinformation: baseless predictions that the disease would not cause significant harm, claims of miracle cures, and conspiracy theories about the virus’s origins. That misinformation was often circulated by white-collar professionals — including many who have a history of casting doubt on climate science or seeking to debate issues that were already laid to rest within the scientific community. The overlap was so striking that it caught the attention of both former President Barack Obama and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel in March.

Some of that misinformation on COVID-19 came straight from President Trump. But a river of faulty information on the coronavirus also flowed from think tanks, experts (some self-proclaimed), academics, and professional right-wing activists who also have spurned climate science and sought to slow or stop action to respond to the climate crisis.

Some compared COVID-19 to the flu or other threats, suggesting that the flu was a larger threat and that action to slow the spread of the novel virus was an overreaction. As the toll from COVID-19 grew, others argued that the virus was the most important threat and that action to slow climate change was superfluous. Some circulated false or unproven cures and remedies while others touted the benefits of single-use plastics during the pandemic (without regard for the health of those living in places where plastics and petrochemicals are produced — like Saint John the Baptist parish, Louisiana, which on April 16, had the highest per-person COVID-19 death rate in the U.S.)

Some attacked renewable energy, some the Green New Deal, and others the World Health Organization (WHO). Some framed efforts to “flatten the curve” of infections as infringements on liberty or simply unnecessary while others persisted in using terms that the WHO has warned can lead to dangerous stigma and discrimination. And some climate science deniers have circulated conspiracy theories, like claims that the virus was a foreign “bioweapon,” that it’s linked to “electrosmog” and 5G networks, or alleged that “the World Health Organization has carried out the greatest fraud perhaps in modern history.”

The decades that fossil fuel companies spent funding organizations that sought to undermine the conclusions of credible climate scientists and building up doubt about science itself ultimately created a network of professional science deniers who are now deploying some of the same skills they honed on climate against the public health crisis at the center of our attention today.

Many of the operatives spreading COVID disinformation have influence because of the fossil fuel industry.

COVID denial reveals the deadly threat that climate denial poses to all aspects of public health and science. 

  • The American Petroleum Institute’s 1998 “Victory Memo” outlined a broad roadmap to erode public confidence in climate change that went well beyond just the science. Their strategy included plans to “identify, recruit and train” messengers who could “participate in media outreach” on “the climate change debate.” It called for the use of both individuals and third-party organizations to assist in the industry’s efforts to stir doubt about climate science. 
  • To delay climate change-related regulation and policy-making, the oil and gas industry sought to mislead the public and Congress and create distrust of the media.
  • Decades ago, an industry report drafted by a Mobil executive concluded that theories that had been advanced by climate “contrarians” didn’t hold water —— but the industry nonetheless funded their work on climate change, and now some of those same professionals are speaking out about COVID-19. In 1995, Lenny Bernstein, a Mobil executive, examined the work of climate “contrarians” in a draft report for the Global Climate Coalition (later published omitting that assessment). Bernstein’s draft concluded that “The contrarian theories raise interesting questions about our total understanding of climate processes, but they do not offer convincing arguments against the conventional model of greenhouse gas emission-induced climate change.” One of the arguments that the report draft specifically labeled “not convincing” was credited to Prof. Patrick Michaels, then based at the University of Virginia. In 2010, Michaels — at that point based at the Cato Instituteestimated in a CNN interview that perhaps 40% of his funding came from oil and gas companies.
  • In a March 9, 2020 article in the Washington Examiner, Michaels — now a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) — predicted that a proposed European Union law (one intended to slow climate change) would be far more damaging to the economy and to “environmental resilience” than COVID-19. “Make no mistake,” Michaels wrote. “The proposed EU climate law will reverse a lot more progress and a lot more economic and environmental resilience than any probable climate change or, for that matter, coronavirus.” (Another of the scientists whose work was discredited in the draft Global Climate Coalition report, Richard Lindzen, signed onto a March 23, 2020, open letter calling climate change a “non-problem” compared to COVID-19. “As a very first step, designated Green New Deal money must be redirected and invested in a significantly better global health system,” the letter argues. “The past 150 years also show that more CO2 is beneficial for nature, greening the Earth and increasing the yields of crops. Why do world leaders ignore these hard facts? Why do world leaders do the opposite with their Green New Deal and lower the quality of life by forcing high-cost, dubious low-carbon energy technologies upon their citizens?”)

COVID denial should forever discredit climate science deniers.

  • These attempts to exploit a global pandemic to further the climate denial machine’s anti-science agenda will mean loss of life, and unnecessarily imperil frontline medical personnel by allowing the virus to spread further and more quickly. 
  • Some climate deniers have pushed outright conspiracy theories on COVID-19: claiming, as Piers Corbyn did, that the pandemic is a “world population cull” backed by Bill Gates and George Soros; alleging, as a former member of British Parliament did, that COVID-19 is just a “big hoax”; or, like Alex Jones, seeking to profit directly off of COVID-19 through false marketing, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the New York Attorney General, both of which have warned Jones to desist from marketing a toothpaste he claimed “kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range.”
  • Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit claiming that COVID-19 “was prepared and stockpiled as a biological weapon to be used against China’s perceived enemies.” Principia Scientific International claimed that economies were about to be shut down because “the WHO Director caused a global coronavirus panic over a basic math error,” (referring to early World Health Organization fatality rate numbers). Steve Milloy tweeted out a link to a New York Times op-ed by Dr. Cornelia Griggs, who described working in a New York City hospital amid the pandemic, calling her a “Hysterical doc” and writing “Stop the panic.” (Less than a week later, Milloy tweeted that “#Coronavirus has given us the #GreenDream: —Deprivation — Destroyed economy — Police state”). On April 10 — at a time when over 92,000 deaths had been reported worldwide — Bjorn Lomborg wrote that “Significant data indicate corona is no worse than the common flu.” And former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani tweeted out a list of leading causes of death on March 10, writing “Likely at the very bottom, Coronavirus: 27.” Six weeks later, more than 14,400 people in New York City had died after contracting the virus.
  • Not only does their pandemic messaging undermine climate science deniers’ credibility, it also puts on display some of the faulty thinking that can be seen in their discussions of both topics — you see the same logical fallacies at play. There’s the rejection of basic modeling techniques (and early models on both COVID-19 and on climate have ultimately proved tragically accurate). There’s a failure to grasp the ways that an exponential problem can accelerate. There’s a willingness to make assertions that aren’t supported by evidence as well as a willingness to issue blanket assurances that things will be fine without taking into account the evidence. And there’s a reliance on ad hominem attacks and innuendo. These communications tactics used on both issues mirror each other.
  • The individuals and organizations responsible for spreading disinformation on climate science and COVID-19 will forever cement their reputations on the wrong side of history. 

Climate change and the COVID pandemic are both crises.

  • Some climate science deniers argue that COVID-19 is the “real” crisis — but that’s another logical fallacy, because it’s entirely possible to be confronted with multiple crises at the same time. Some claim that we have to choose between action to fight COVID-19 and action to fight climate change — but that ignores policy options proposed by some advocates who have highlighted ways to respond to the urgencies of COVID-19 and the climate crisis simultaneously.
  • Some climate science deniers conflate the impacts of slashing carbon emissions through a managed transition to renewable energy and electric vehicles with the slashed emissions that resulted from the dramatic drop in travel caused by shelter-in-place orders — two very different ways to arrive at a similar point. “Brendan O’Neill, editor of Koch-funded website Spiked, argued that ‘this pandemic has shown us what life would be like if environmentalists got their way.’ In a column titled ‘COVID-19: a glimpse of the dystopia greens want us to live in,’ O’Neill claimed government responses to the virus represent a ‘warped dystopia’ that environmentalists like George Monbiot have been calling for,” DeSmog UK reported

By taking a close look at where those who advocate inaction on climate change erred or misled their audience about the pandemic, it’s possible to learn a great deal — and not only about who has provided reliable information about COVID-19 and who has misled.

There are striking parallels between this pandemic and the climate crisis. The virus’ spread has proven capable of accelerating at an exponential rate.

Similarly, climate scientists have warned for decades that climate change can accelerate exponentially. That means that for both crises, the earlier action is taken, the more effective it is, and more cost efficient too.

The question facing each of us is whether we will listen to the counsel emerging from public health circles and climate scientists — or whether we allow their voices to be drowned out by those who argue for inaction. Series: COVIDeniers: Anti-Science Coronavirus Denial Overlaps with Climate Denial

The anti-quarantine protests seem spontaneous. But behind the scenes, a powerful network is helping (Washington Post)

washingtonpost.com

Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm, April 22, 2020

A network of right-leaning individuals and groups, aided by nimble online outfits, has helped incubate the fervor erupting in state capitals across the country. The activism is often organic and the frustration deeply felt, but it is also being amplified, and in some cases coordinated, by longtime conservative activists, whose robust operations were initially set up with help from Republican megadonors.

The Convention of States project launched in 2015 with a high-dollar donation from the family foundation of Robert Mercer, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Republican patron. It boasts past support from two members of the Trump administration — Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development.

It also trumpets a prior endorsement from Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida and a close Trump ally who is pursuing an aggressive plan to reopen his state’s economy. A spokesman for Carson declined to comment. Cuccinelli and DeSantis did not respond to requests for comment.

The initiative, aimed at curtailing federal power, is now leveraging its sweeping national network and digital arsenal to help stitch together scattered demonstrations across the country, making opposition to stay-at-home orders appear more widespread than is suggested by polling.

“We’re providing a digital platform for people to plan and communicate about what they’re doing,” said Eric O’Keefe, board president of Citizens for Self-Governance, the parent organization of the Convention of States project.

A longtime associate of the conservative activist Koch family, O’Keefe helped manage David Koch’s 1980 bid for the White House when he served as the No. 2 on the Libertarian ticket.

“To shut down our rural counties because of what’s going on in New York City, or in some sense Milwaukee, is draconian,” said O’Keefe, who lives in Wisconsin.

Polls suggest most Americans support local directives encouraging them to stay at home as covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, ravages the country, killing more than 44,000 people in the United States so far. Public health officials, including epidemiologists advising Trump’s White House, agree that sweeping restrictions represent the most effective mitigation strategy in the absence of a vaccine, which could be more than a year away.

Still, some activists insist that states should lift controls on commercial activity and public assembly, citing the effects of mass closures on businesses. They have been encouraged at times by Trump, whose attorney general, William P. Barr, said in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that the Justice Department would consider supporting lawsuits against restrictions that go “too far.”

The swelling frustration on the right coincides with major policy changes in some states, especially those with Republican governors. Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee have all begun relaxing their restrictions in recent days after bowing to pressure and imposing far-reaching guidelines.

The protests are reminiscent in some ways of the tea party movement and the demonstrations against the Affordable Care Act that erupted in 2010, which also involved a mix of homegrown activism and shrewd behind-the-scenes funding.

For the Convention of States, public health is an unusual focus. It was founded to push for a convention that would add a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. That same anti-government impulse is now animating the group’s campaign against coronavirus precautions.

“Heavy-handed government orders that interfere with our most basic liberties will do more harm than good,” read its Facebook ads, which had been viewed as many as 36,000 times as of Tuesday evening.

Asking for a $5 donation “to support our fight,” the paid posts are part of an online blitz called “Open the States,” which also includes newly created websites, a data-collecting petition and an ominous video about the economic effects of the lockdown.

The group’s president, Mark Meckler, said his aim was to act as a “clearinghouse where these guys can all find each other” — a role he learned as co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. FreedomWorks, a libertarian advocacy group also active in the tea party movement, is seeking to play a similar function, creating an online calendar of protests.

“The major need back in 2009 was no different than it is today — some easy centralizing point to list events, to allow people to communicate with each other,” he said.

Meckler, who draws a salary of about $250,000 from the Convention of States parent group, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service, hailed the “spontaneous citizen groups self-organizing on the Internet and protesting what they perceive to be government overreach.”

So far, the protests against stay-at-home orders in states including Washington and Pennsylvania have captured headlines and drawn rebukes from some governors and epidemiologists. Experts say a sudden, widespread reopening of the country is likely to worsen the outbreak, overwhelming hospitals and killing tens of thousands.

The protesters so far have not aimed their ire at Trump, though it is his administration’s experts whose guidelines underlie many of the states’ actions.

Trump’s public comments — including his recent tweets calling for supporters to “liberate” states including Michigan, a coronavirus hot spot — have catalyzed some of the broader public reaction. Following those tweets, tens of thousands of people joined Facebook groups calling for protests in states including Pennsylvania and Ohio, where the efforts are coordinated by a trio of brothers who typically focus their efforts on fighting gun control.

In recent days, conservatives have set their sights on Wisconsin, where a few dozen protesters turned out at the Capitol to air their frustrations with Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, after he extended his state’s stay-at-home order until late May. Ahead of the demonstration, Moore, the Trump ally, revealed on a live stream that he was “working with a group” in the state with the goal of trying “to shut down the capital.”

Moore, who served as a Trump campaign adviser in 2016, said he had located a big donor to aid in the effort, though he never elaborated. “I told him about this, and he said, ‘Steve, I promise to pay the bail and legal fees for anyone who gets arrested,’ ” Moore said in the video. He likened his quest to the civil rights movement, adding, “We need to be the Rosa Parks here and protest against these government injustices.”

Moore, who has also worked at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, did not respond to a request for comment.

In Michigan, among those organizing “Operation Gridlock” was Meshawn Maddock, who sits on the Trump campaign’s advisory board and is a prominent figure in the “Women for Trump” coalition. Funds to promote the demonstrations on Facebook came from the Michigan Freedom Fund, which is headed by Greg McNeilly, a longtime adviser to the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

McNeilly said the money used to advance the anti-quarantine protests came from “grass-roots fundraising efforts” and had “nothing to do with any DeVos work.”

Many of the seemingly scattered, spontaneous outbursts of citizen activism reflect deeply interwoven networks of conservative and libertarian nonprofit organizations. One of the most vocal groups opposing the lockdown in Texas is an Austin-based conservative think tank called the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which also hails the demonstrations nationwide.

“Some Americans are angry,” its director wrote in an op-ed promoted on Facebook and placed in the local media, telling readers in Texas about the achievements of protesters in Michigan.

The board vice chairman of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, oil executive Tim Dunn, is also a founding board member of the group promoting the Convention of States initiative. And the foundation’s former president, Brooke Rollins, now works as an assistant to Trump in the Office of American Innovation.

Neither Dunn nor Rollins responded to requests for comment.

The John Hancock Committee for the States — the name used in IRS filings by the group behind the Convention of States — gave more than $100,000 to the Texas Public Policy Foundation in 2011.

The Convention of States project, meanwhile, has received backing from DonorsTrust, a tax-exempt financial conduit for right-wing causes that does not disclose its contributors. The same fund has helped bankroll the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which is encouraging protests of a stay-at-home order imposed by the state’s Republican governor, Brad Little.

“Disobey Idaho,” say its Facebook ads, which use an image of the “Join or Die” snake woodcut emblematic of the Revolutionary War and later adopted by the tea party movement.

In 2014, the year before it launched the Convention of States initiative, Citizens for Self-Governance received $500,000 from the Mercer Family Foundation, a donation Meckler said helped jump-start the campaign. Mercer declined to comment.

While groups and individual activists associated with the Koch brothers have boosted this far-flung network, Emily Seidel, the chief executive of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity advocacy group, sought to distance the organization from the protest activity, which she said was “not the best way” to “get people back to work.”

“Instead, we are working directly with policymakers, to bring business leaders and public health officials together to help develop standards to safely reopen the economy without jeopardizing public health,” Seidel said.

But others see linkages to groups pushing anti-quarantine uprisings.

“The involvement of the Koch institutional apparatus in groups supporting these protests is clear to me,” said Robert J. Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University whose research has focused on climate lobbying. “The presence of allies on the board usually means that they are deeply engaged in the organization and most likely a funder.”

Brulle said the blowback against the coronavirus precautions carries echoes of efforts to deny climate change, both of which rely on hostility toward government action.

“These are extreme right-wing efforts to delegitimize government,” he said. “It’s an anti-government crusade.”

Why Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories Flourish. And Why It Matters (New York Times)

The Interpreter

Unseen villains. Top-secret cures. In their quest for reassurance during the pandemic, many people are worsening more than just their own anxiety.

Volunteers disinfecting a theater in Wuhan, China, last week.
Volunteers disinfecting a theater in Wuhan, China, last week.Credit…Aly Song/Reuters

By Max Fisher

April 8, 2020; Updated 8:55 a.m. ET

The coronavirus has given rise to a flood of conspiracy theories, disinformation and propaganda, eroding public trust and undermining health officials in ways that could elongate and even outlast the pandemic.

Claims that the virus is a foreign bioweapon, a partisan invention or part of a plot to re-engineer the population have replaced a mindless virus with more familiar, comprehensible villains. Each claim seems to give a senseless tragedy some degree of meaning, however dark.

Rumors of secret cures — diluted bleach, turning off your electronics, bananas — promise hope of protection from a threat that not even world leaders can escape.

The belief that one is privy to forbidden knowledge offers feelings of certainty and control amid a crisis that has turned the world upside down. And sharing that “knowledge” may give people something that is hard to come by after weeks of lockdowns and death: a sense of agency.

“It has all the ingredients for leading people to conspiracy theories,” said Karen M. Douglas, a social psychologist who studies belief in conspiracies at the University of Kent in Britain.

Rumors and patently unbelievable claims are spread by everyday people whose critical faculties have simply been overwhelmed, psychologists say, by feelings of confusion and helplessness.

But many false claims are also being promoted by governments looking to hide their failures, partisan actors seeking political benefit, run-of-the-mill scammers and, in the United States, a president who has pushed unproven cures and blame-deflecting falsehoods.

The conspiracy theories all carry a common message: The only protection comes from possessing the secret truths that “they” don’t want you to hear.

The feelings of security and control offered by such rumors may be illusory, but the damage to the public trust is all too real.

It has led people to consume fatal home remedies and flout social distancing guidance. And it is disrupting the sweeping collective actions, like staying at home or wearing masks, needed to contain a virus that has already killed more than 79,000 people.

“We’ve faced pandemics before,” said Graham Brookie, who directs the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “We haven’t faced a pandemic at a time when humans are as connected and have as much access to information as they do now.”

People gathering on a beach in Rio de Janeiro last week. Brazil’s president has implied that the virus is less dangerous than experts say.
People gathering on a beach in Rio de Janeiro last week. Brazil’s president has implied that the virus is less dangerous than experts say.Credit…Antonio Lacerda/EPA, via Shutterstock

This growing ecosystem of misinformation and public distrust has led the World Health Organization to warn of an “infodemic.”

“You see the space being flooded,” Mr. Brookie said, adding, “The anxiety is viral, and we’re all just feeling that at scale.”

“People are drawn to conspiracies because they promise to satisfy certain psychological motives that are important to people,” Dr. Douglas said. Chief among them: command of the facts, autonomy over one’s well-being and a sense of control.

If the truth does not fill those needs, we humans have an incredible capacity to invent stories that will, even when some part of us knows they are false. A recent study found that people are significantly likelier to share false coronavirus information than they are to believe it.

[Analysis: Peaks, testing and lockdowns: How coronavirus vocabulary causes confusion.]

“The magnitude of misinformation spreading in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic is overwhelming our small team,” Snopes, a fact-checking site, said on Twitter. “We’re seeing scores of people, in a rush to find any comfort, make things worse as they share (sometimes dangerous) misinformation.”

Widely shared, Instagram posts falsely suggested that the coronavirus was planned by Bill Gates on behalf of pharmaceutical companies. In Alabama, Facebook posts falsely claimed that shadowy powers had ordered sick patients to be secretly helicoptered into the state. In Latin America, equally baseless rumors have proliferated that the virus was engineered to spread H.I.V. In Iran, pro-government voices portray the disease as a Western plot.

If the claims are seen as taboo, all the better.

The belief that we have access to secret information may help us feel that we have an advantage, that we are somehow safer. “If you believe in conspiracy theories, then you have power through knowledge that other people don’t have,” Dr. Douglas said.

Amid a swirl of rumors about the cause of Covid-19, some have attacked cellphone towers, like this one in Birmingham, England.
Amid a swirl of rumors about the cause of Covid-19, some have attacked cellphone towers, like this one in Birmingham, England.Credit…Carl Recine/Reuters

Italian media buzzed over a video posted by an Italian man from Tokyo in which he claimed that the coronavirus was treatable but that Italian officials were “hiding the truth.”

Other videos, popular on YouTube, claim that the entire pandemic is a fiction staged to control the population.

Still others say that the disease is real, but its cause isn’t a virus — it’s 5G cellular networks.

One YouTube video pushing this falsehood, and implying that social distancing measures could be ignored, has received 1.9 million views. In Britain, there has been a rash of attacks on cellular towers.

Conspiracy theories may also make people feel less alone. Few things tighten the bonds of “us” like rallying against “them,” especially foreigners and minorities, both frequent scapegoats of coronavirus rumors and much else before now.

But whatever comfort that affords is short-lived.

Over time, research finds, trading in conspiracies not only fails to satisfy our psychological needs, Dr. Douglas said, but also tends to worsen feelings of fear or helplessness.

And that can lead us to seek out still more extreme explanations, like addicts looking for bigger and bigger hits.

The homegrown conspiracists and doubters are finding themselves joined by governments. Anticipating political backlash from the crisis, government leaders have moved quickly to shunt the blame by trafficking in false claims of their own.

A senior Chinese official pushed claims that the virus was introduced to China by members of the United States Army, an accusation that was allowed to flourish on China’s tightly controlled social media.

In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro suggested that the virus was an American bioweapon aimed at China. In Iran, officials called it a plot to suppress the vote there. And outlets that back the Russian government, including branches in Western Europe, have promoted claims that the United States engineered the virus to undermine China’s economy.

In the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, leaders praised bogus treatments and argued that citizens should continue working.

But officials have hardly refrained from the rumor mongering in more democratic nations, particularly those where distrust of authority has given rise to strong populist movements.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s anti-migrant League Party, wrote on Twitter that China had devised a “lung supervirus” from “bats and rats.”

And President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has repeatedly promoted unproven coronavirus treatments, and implied that the virus is less dangerous than experts say. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all took the extraordinary step of removing the posts.

President Trump has pushed unproven drugs, despite warnings from scientists.
President Trump has pushed unproven drugs, despite warnings from scientists.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump, too, has repeatedly pushed unproven drugs, despite warnings from scientists and despite at least one fatal overdose of a man whose wife said he had taken a drug at Mr. Trump’s suggestion.

Mr. Trump has accused perceived enemies of seeking to “inflame” the coronavirus “situation” to hurt him. When supplies of personal protective equipment fell short at New York hospitals, he implied that health workers might be stealing masks.

His allies have gone further.

Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, and others have suggested that the virus was produced by a Chinese weapons lab. Some media allies have claimed that the death toll has been inflated by Mr. Trump’s enemies.

“This kind of information suppression is dangerous — really, really dangerous,” Mr. Brookie said, referring to Chinese and American efforts to play down the threat of the outbreak.

It has nourished not just individual conspiracies but a wider sense that official sources and data cannot be trusted, and a growing belief that people must find the truth on their own.

A cacophony arising from armchair epidemiologists who often win attention through sensational claims is at times crowding out legitimate experts whose answers are rarely as tidy or emotionally reassuring.

They promise easy cures, like avoiding telecommunications or even eating bananas. They wave off the burdens of social isolation as unnecessary. Some sell sham treatments of their own.

“Medical conspiracy theories have the power to increase distrust in medical authorities, which can impact people’s willingness to protect themselves,” Daniel Jolley and Pia Lamberty, scholars of psychology, wrote in a recent article.

Such claims have been shown to make people less likely to take vaccines or antibiotics, and more likely to seek medical advice from friends and family instead of from doctors.

Supposed coronavirus remedies at a market in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Supposed coronavirus remedies at a market in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.Credit…Ulet Ifansasti for The New York Times

Belief in one conspiracy also tends to increase belief in others. The consequences, experts warn, could not only worsen the pandemic, but outlive it.

Medical conspiracies have been a growing problem for years. So has distrust of authority, a major driver of the world’s slide into fringe populism. Now, as the world enters an economic crisis with little modern precedent, that may deepen.

The wave of coronavirus conspiracies, Dr. Jolley and Dr. Lamberty wrote, “has the potential to be just as dangerous for societies as the outbreak itself.”

Emma Bubola contributed reporting from Rome.

Fallacy Taxonomy and Icons available via Wikimedia (Skeptical Science)

Fallacy Taxonomy and Icons available via Wikimedia

Posted on 16 March 2020 by BaerbelW

Many of you will already be familiar with the FLICC graphic which shows the 5 main characterstics of (climate) science denial, namely fake experts, logical fallacies, impossible expectations, cherry picking and conspiracy theories. It was first introduced when our MOOC “Denial101x – Making sense of climate science denial” launched in April 2015.

FLICC

In the five (!) years since, John Cook and colleagues have been busy refining and enlarging this fallacy taxonomy as explained in a series of three new videos for Denial101x. Here is the first of them:

Part 2

Part 3

While working on the Cranky Uncle book and app, John Cook added even more icons to the taxonomy and gave people a chance to get to know them via several FLICC quizzes published on social media. They are still online and you can access them via these short links: http://sks.to/quiz1http://sks.to/quiz2http://sks.to/quiz9.

We recently received an email from a current Denial101x student suggesting to make the fallacy icons available as emojis to have them readily available when responding to comments on social media. While this might not be quite as easy as it sounds (anybody know?), it gave us another idea: make the current set of fallacy icons available on Wikimedia commons! So, this is what we did! The significantly larger taxonomy makes for a good entry point:

Large Taxonomy

The individual icons can be found on the page listing all of our uploaded files (which we plan to add to soon with more fallacy icons as well as other graphics from our large collection – please feel free to help us decide which ones to upload by posting a comment!).

And to state the obvious: these fallacies not only plague climate science but also many other scientific discussions. It for example didn’t take long for them to appear with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as John Cook noted in a recent tweet sharing the taxonomy graphic:

Seeing the same fallacies & science denial techniques proliferate with coronavirus as they do with climate science denial inspired me to post the latest version of the FLICC taxonomy, documenting many of the techniques found in science misinformation.

The individual icons will therefore hopefully come in handy to call-out fallacies regardless of the topics they show up with!

Climate Science Meets a Stubborn Obstacle: Students (New York Times)

“It’s his website,” she said.

 Mr. Sutter during his Advanced Placement environmental science class. He was hired from a program that recruits science professionals into teaching. Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

For his part, Mr. Sutter occasionally fell short of his goal of providing Gwen — the most vocal of a raft of student climate skeptics — with calm, evidence-based responses. “Why would I lie to you?” he demanded one morning. “It’s not like I’m making a lot of money here.”

She was, he knew, a straight-A student. She would have had no trouble comprehending the evidence, embedded in ancient tree rings, ice, leaves and shells, as well as sophisticated computer models, that atmospheric carbon dioxide is the chief culprit when it comes to warming the world. Or the graph he showed of how sharply it has spiked since the Industrial Revolution, when humans began pumping vast quantities of it into the air.

Thinking it a useful soothing device, Mr. Sutter assented to Gwen’s request that she be allowed to sand the bark off the sections of wood he used to illustrate tree rings during class. When she did so with an energy that, classmates said, increased during discussion points with which she disagreed, he let it go.

When she insisted that teachers “are supposed to be open to opinions,” however, Mr. Sutter held his ground.

“It’s not about opinions,” he told her. “It’s about the evidence.”

“It’s like you can’t disagree with a scientist or you’re ‘denying science,”’ she sniffed to her friends.

Gwen, 17, could not put her finger on why she found Mr. Sutter, whose biology class she had enjoyed, suddenly so insufferable. Mr. Sutter, sensing that his facts and figures were not helping, was at a loss. And the day she grew so agitated by a documentary he was showing that she bolted out of the school left them both shaken.

“I have a runner,” Mr. Sutter called down to the office, switching off the video.

He had chosen the video, an episode from an Emmy-winning series that featured a Christian climate activist and high production values, as a counterpoint to another of Gwen’s objections, that a belief in climate change does not jibe with Christianity.

“It was just so biased toward saying climate change is real,” she said later, trying to explain her flight. “And that all these people that I pretty much am like are wrong and stupid.”

Classroom Culture Wars

As more of the nation’s teachers seek to integrate climate science into the curriculum, many of them are reckoning with students for whom suspicion of the subject is deeply rooted.

In rural Wellston, a former coal and manufacturing town seeking its next act, rejecting the key findings of climate science can seem like a matter of loyalty to a way of life already under siege. Originally tied, perhaps, to economic self-interest, climate skepticism has itself become a proxy for conservative ideals of hard work, small government and what people here call “self-sustainability.”

A tractor near Wellston, an area where coal and manufacturing were once the primary employment opportunities. Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

Assiduously promoted by fossil fuel interests, that powerful link to a collective worldview largely explains why just 22 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters in a 2016 poll said they believed that human activity is warming the planet, compared with half of all registered voters. And the prevailing outlook among his base may in turn have facilitated the president’s move to withdraw from the global agreement to battle rising temperatures.

“What people ‘believe’ about global warming doesn’t reflect what they know,” Dan Kahan, a Yale researcher who studies political polarization, has stressed in talks, papers and blog posts. “It expresses who they are.”

But public-school science classrooms are also proving to be a rare place where views on climate change may shift, research has found. There, in contrast with much of adult life, it can be hard to entirely tune out new information.

“Adolescents are still heavily influenced by their parents, but they’re also figuring themselves out,” said Kathryn Stevenson, a researcher at North Carolina State University who studies climate literacy.

Gwen’s father died when she was young, and her mother and uncle, both Trump supporters, doubt climate change as much as she does.

“If she was in math class and teacher told her two plus two equals four and she argued with him about that, I would say she’s wrong,” said her uncle, Mark Beatty. “But no one knows if she’s wrong.”

As Gwen clashed with her teacher over the notion of human-caused climate change, one of her best friends, Jacynda Patton, was still circling the taboo subject. “I learned some stuff, that’s all,’’ Jacynda told Gwen, on whom she often relied to supply the $2.40 for school lunch that she could not otherwise afford.

Jacynda Patton, right, during Mr. Sutter’s class. “I thought it would be an easy A,” she said. “It wasn’t.”Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

Hired a year earlier, Mr. Sutter was the first science teacher at Wellston to emphasize climate science. He happened to do so at a time when the mounting evidence of the toll that global warming is likely to take, and the Trump administration’s considerable efforts to discredit those findings, are drawing new attention to the classroom from both sides of the nation’s culture war.

Since March, the Heartland Institute, a think tank that rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, has sent tens of thousands of science teachers a book of misinformation titled “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” in an effort to influence “the next generation of thought,” said Joseph Bast, the group’s chief executive.

The Alliance for Climate Education, which runs assemblies based on the consensus science for high schools across the country, received new funding from a donor who sees teenagers as the best means of reaching and influencing their parents.

Idaho, however, this year joined several other states that have declined to adopt new science standards that emphasize the role human activities play in climate change.

At Wellston, where most students live below the poverty line and the needle-strewn bike path that abuts the marching band’s practice field is known as “heroin highway,” climate change is not regarded as the most pressing issue. And since most Wellston graduates typically do not go on to obtain a four-year college degree, this may be the only chance many of them have to study the impact of global warming.

But Mr. Sutter’s classroom shows how curriculum can sometimes influence culture on a subject that stands to have a more profound impact on today’s high schoolers than their parents.

“I thought it would be an easy A,” said Jacynda, 16, an outspoken Trump supporter. “It wasn’t.”

God’s Gift to Wellston?

Mr. Sutter, who grew up three hours north of Wellston in the largely Democratic city of Akron, applied for the job at Wellston High straight from a program to recruit science professionals into teaching, a kind of science-focused Teach for America.

He already had a graduate-level certificate in environmental science from the University of Akron and a private sector job assessing environmental risk for corporations. But a series of personal crises that included his sister’s suicide, he said, had compelled him to look for a way to channel his knowledge to more meaningful use.

The fellowship gave him a degree in science education in exchange for a three-year commitment to teach in a high-needs Ohio school district. Megan Sowers, the principal, had been looking for someone qualified to teach an Advanced Placement course, which could help improve her financially challenged school’s poor performance ranking. She hired him on the spot.

Mr. Sutter walking with his students on a nature trail near the high school, where he pointed out evidence of climate change. Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times 

But at a school where most teachers were raised in the same southeastern corner of Appalachian Ohio as their students, Mr. Sutter’s credentials themselves could raise hackles.

“He says, ‘I left a higher-paying job to come teach in an area like this,’” Jacynda recalled. “We’re like, ‘What is that supposed to mean?”’

“He acts,” Gwen said with her patented eye roll, “like he’s God’s gift to Wellston.”

In truth, he was largely winging it.

Some 20 states, including a handful of red ones, have recently begun requiring students to learn that human activity is a major cause of climate change, but few, if any, have provided a road map for how to teach it, and most science teachers, according to one recent survey, spend at most two hours on the subject.

Chagrined to learn that none of his students could recall a school visit by a scientist, Mr. Sutter hosted several graduate students from nearby Ohio University.

On a field trip to a biology laboratory there, many of his students took their first ride on an escalator. To illustrate why some scientists in the 1970s believed the world was cooling rather than warming (“So why should we believe them now?” students sometimes asked), he brought in a 1968 push-button phone and a 1980s Nintendo game cartridge.

“Our data and our ability to process it is just so much better now,” he said.

In the A.P. class, Mr. Sutter took an informal poll midway through: In all, 14 of 17 students said their parents thought he was, at best, wasting their time. “My stepdad says they’re brainwashing me,” one said.

Jacynda’s father, for one, did not raise an eyebrow when his daughter stopped attending Mr. Sutter’s class for a period in the early winter. A former coal miner who had endured two years of unemployment before taking a construction job, he declined a request to talk about it.

“I think it’s that it’s taken a lot from him,” Jacynda said. “He sees it as the environmental people have taken his job.”

And having listened to Mr. Sutter reiterate the overwhelming agreement among scientists regarding humanity’s role in global warming in answer to another classmate’s questions — “What if we’re not the cause of it? What if this is something that’s natural?” — Jacynda texted the classmate one night using an expletive to refer to Mr. Sutter’s teaching approach.

But even the staunchest climate-change skeptics could not ignore the dearth of snow days last winter, the cap to a year that turned out to be the warmest Earth has experienced since 1880, according to NASA. The high mark eclipsed the record set just the year before, which had eclipsed the year before that.

In woods behind the school, where Mr. Sutter had his students scout out a nature trail, he showed them the preponderance of emerald ash borers, an invasive insect that, because of the warm weather, had not experienced the usual die-off that winter. There was flooding, too: Once, more than 5.5 inches of rain fell in 48 hours.

The field trip to a local stream where the water runs neon orange also made an impression. Mr. Sutter had the class collect water samples: The pH levels were as acidic as “the white vinegar you buy at a grocery store,” he told them. And the drainage, they could see, was from the mine.

It was the realization that she had failed to grasp the damage done to her immediate environment, Jacynda said, that made her begin to pay more attention. She did some reading. She also began thinking that she might enjoy a job working for the Environmental Protection Agency — until she learned that, under Mr. Trump, the agency would undergo huge layoffs.

“O.K., I’m not going to lie. I did a 180,” she said that afternoon in the library with Gwen, casting a guilty look at her friend. “This is happening, and we have to fix it.”

After fleeing Mr. Sutter’s classroom that day, Gwen never returned, a pragmatic decision about which he has regrets. “That’s one student I feel I failed a little bit,” he said.

As an alternative, Gwen took an online class for environmental science credit, which she does not recall ever mentioning climate change. She and Jacynda had other things to talk about, like planning a bonfire after prom.

As they tried on dresses last month, Jacynda mentioned that others in their circle, including the boys they had invited to prom, believed the world was dangerously warming, and that humans were to blame. By the last days of school, most of Mr. Sutter’s doubters, in fact, had come to that conclusion.

“I know,” Gwen said, pausing for a moment. “Now help me zip this up.”

Shell made a film about climate change in 1991 (then neglected to heed its own warning) (The Correspondent)

27.Feb.2017

Confidential documents show that Shell sounded the alarm about global warming as early as 1986. But despite this clear-eyed view of the risks, the oil giant has lobbied against strong climate legislation for decades. Today we make Shell’s 1991 film, Climate of Concern, public again.

By Jelmer MOMMERS

Shell Oil Company has spent millions of dollars lobbying against measures that would protect the planet from climate catastrophe. But thanks to a film recently obtained by The Correspondent, it’s now clear that their position wasn’t born of ignorance. Shell knows that fossil fuels put us all at risk – in fact, they’ve known for over a quarter of a century. Climate of Concern, a 1991 educational film produced by Shell, warned that the company’s own product could lead to extreme weather, floods, famines, and climate refugees, and noted that the reality of climate change was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists.”

The question, ladies and gentlemen, is what did Shell know and when did they know it. The Correspondent would like to enter into evidence Exhibit A: Climate of Concern.

The Climate of Concern stories are the result of over a year of investigative reporting by You can find Jelmer’s original reconstruction here (in Dutch). Jelmer Mommers for The Correspondent. For the English-language version of the main report, we teamed up with the Guardian’s Environment Editor You can find the Guardian piece here. Damian Carrington, who conducted additional research and covered the story for his outlet.

Researchers say they’ve figured out what makes people reject science, and it’s not ignorance (Science Alert)

Why some people believe Earth is flat.

FIONA MACDONALD

23 JAN 2017

A lot happened in 2016, but one of the biggest cultural shifts was the rise of fake news – where claims with no evidence behind them (e.g. the world is flat) get shared as fact alongside evidence-based, peer-reviewed findings (e.g. climate change is happening).

Researchers have coined this trend the ‘anti-enlightenment movement‘, and there’s been a lot of frustration and finger-pointing over who or what’s to blame. But a team of psychologists has identified some of the key factors that can cause people to reject science – and it has nothing to do with how educated or intelligent they are.

In fact, the researchers found that people who reject scientific consensus on topics such as climate change, vaccine safety, and evolution are generally just as interested in science and as well-educated as the rest of us.

The issue is that when it comes to facts, people think more like lawyers than scientists, which means they ‘cherry pick’ the facts and studies that back up what they already believe to be true.

So if someone doesn’t think humans are causing climate change, they will ignore the hundreds of studies that support that conclusion, but latch onto the one study they can find that casts doubt on this view. This is also known as cognitive bias.

“We find that people will take a flight from facts to protect all kinds of belief including their religious belief, their political beliefs, and even simple personal beliefs such as whether they are good at choosing a web browser,” said one of the researchers, Troy Campbell from the University of Oregon.

“People treat facts as relevant more when the facts tend to support their opinions. When the facts are against their opinions, they don’t necessarily deny the facts, but they say the facts are less relevant.”

This conclusion was based on a series of new interviews, as well as a meta-analysis of the research that’s been published on the topic, and was presented in a symposium called over the weekend as part of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual convention in San Antonio.

The goal was to figure out what’s going wrong with science communication in 2017, and what we can do to fix it.

The research has yet to be published, so isn’t conclusive, but the results suggest that simply focussing on the evidence and data isn’t enough to change someone’s mind about a particular topic, seeing as they’ll most likely have their own ‘facts’ to fire back at you.

“Where there is conflict over societal risks – from climate change to nuclear-power safety to impacts of gun control laws, both sides invoke the mantel of science,” said one of the team, Dan Kahan from Yale University.

Instead, the researchers recommend looking into the ‘roots’ of people’s unwillingness to accept scientific consensus, and try to find common ground to introduce new ideas.

So where is this denial of science coming from? A big part of the problem, the researchers found, is that people associate scientific conclusions with political or social affiliations.

New research conducted by Kahan showed that people have actually always cherry picked facts when it comes to science – that’s nothing new. But it hasn’t been such a big problem in the past, because scientific conclusions were usually agreed on by political and cultural leaders, and promoted as being in the public’s best interests.

Now, scientific facts are being wielded like weapons in a struggle for cultural supremacy, Kahan told Melissa Healy over at the LA Times, and the result is a “polluted science communication environment”.

So how can we do better?

“Rather than taking on people’s surface attitudes directly, tailor the message so that it aligns with their motivation,” said Hornsey. “So with climate skeptics, for example, you find out what they can agree on and then frame climate messages to align with these.”

The researchers are still gathering data for a peer-reviewed publication on their findings, but they presented their work to the scientific community for further dissemination and discussion in the meantime.

Hornsey told the LA Times that the stakes are too high to continue to ignore the ‘anti-enlightenment movement’.

“Anti-vaccination movements cost lives,” said Hornsey. “Climate change skepticism slows the global response to the greatest social, economic and ecological threat of our time.”

“We grew up in an era when it was just presumed that reason and evidence were the ways to understand important issues; not fear, vested interests, tradition or faith,” he added.

“But the rise of climate skepticism and the anti-vaccination movement made us realise that these enlightenment values are under attack.”

Global warming hiatus disproved — again (Science Daily)

Study confirms steady warming of oceans for past 45 years

Date:
January 4, 2017
Source:
University of California – Berkeley
Summary:
Scientists calculated average ocean temperatures from 1999 to 2015, separately using ocean buoys and satellite data, and confirmed the uninterrupted warming trend reported by NOAA in 2015, based on that organization’s recalibration of sea surface temperature recordings from ships and buoys. The new results show that there was no global warming hiatus between 1998 and 2012.

A new UC Berkeley analysis of ocean buoy (green) and satellite data (orange) show that ocean temperatures have increased steadily since 1999, as NOAA concluded in 2015 (red) after adjusting for a cold bias in buoy temperature measurements. NOAA’s earlier assessment (blue) underestimated sea surface temperature changes, falsely suggesting a hiatus in global warming. The lines show the general upward trend in ocean temperatures. Credit: Zeke Hausfather, UC Berkeley

A controversial paper published two years ago that concluded there was no detectable slowdown in ocean warming over the previous 15 years — widely known as the “global warming hiatus” — has now been confirmed using independent data in research led by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Berkeley Earth, a non-profit research institute focused on climate change.

The 2015 analysis showed that the modern buoys now used to measure ocean temperatures tend to report slightly cooler temperatures than older ship-based systems, even when measuring the same part of the ocean at the same time. As buoy measurements have replaced ship measurements, this had hidden some of the real-world warming.

After correcting for this “cold bias,” researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded in the journal Science that the oceans have actually warmed 0.12 degrees Celsius (0.22 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade since 2000, nearly twice as fast as earlier estimates of 0.07 degrees Celsius per decade. This brought the rate of ocean temperature rise in line with estimates for the previous 30 years, between 1970 and 1999.

This eliminated much of the global warming hiatus, an apparent slowdown in rising surface temperatures between 1998 and 2012. Many scientists, including the International Panel on Climate Change, acknowledged the puzzling hiatus, while those dubious about global warming pointed to it as evidence that climate change is a hoax.

Climate change skeptics attacked the NOAA researchers and a House of Representatives committee subpoenaed the scientists’ emails. NOAA agreed to provide data and respond to any scientific questions but refused to comply with the subpoena, a decision supported by scientists who feared the “chilling effect” of political inquisitions.

The new study, which uses independent data from satellites and robotic floats as well as buoys, concludes that the NOAA results were correct. The paper is published Jan. 4 in the online, open-access journal Science Advances.

“Our results mean that essentially NOAA got it right, that they were not cooking the books,” said lead author Zeke Hausfather, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group.

Long-term climate records

Hausfather said that years ago, mariners measured the ocean temperature by scooping up a bucket of water from the ocean and sticking a thermometer in it. In the 1950s, however, ships began to automatically measure water piped through the engine room, which typically is warm. Nowadays, buoys cover much of the ocean and that data is beginning to supplant ship data. But the buoys report slightly cooler temperatures because they measure water directly from the ocean instead of after a trip through a warm engine room.

NOAA is one of three organizations that keep historical records of ocean temperatures — some going back to the 1850s — widely used by climate modelers. The agency’s paper was an attempt to accurately combine the old ship measurements and the newer buoy data.

Hausfather and colleague Kevin Cowtan of the University of York in the UK extended that study to include the newer satellite and Argo float data in addition to the buoy data.

“Only a small fraction of the ocean measurement data is being used by climate monitoring groups, and they are trying to smush together data from different instruments, which leads to a lot of judgment calls about how you weight one versus the other, and how you adjust for the transition from one to another,” Hausfather said. “So we said, ‘What if we create a temperature record just from the buoys, or just from the satellites, or just from the Argo floats, so there is no mixing and matching of instruments?'”

In each case, using data from only one instrument type — either satellites, buoys or Argo floats — the results matched those of the NOAA group, supporting the case that the oceans warmed 0.12 degrees Celsius per decade over the past two decades, nearly twice the previous estimate. In other words, the upward trend seen in the last half of the 20th century continued through the first 15 years of the 21st: there was no hiatus.

“In the grand scheme of things, the main implication of our study is on the hiatus, which many people have focused on, claiming that global warming has slowed greatly or even stopped,” Hausfather said. “Based on our analysis, a good portion of that apparent slowdown in warming was due to biases in the ship records.”

Correcting other biases in ship records

In the same publication last year, NOAA scientists also accounted for changing shipping routes and measurement techniques. Their correction — giving greater weight to buoy measurements than to ship measurements in warming calculations — is also valid, Hausfather said, and a good way to correct for this second bias, short of throwing out the ship data altogether and relying only on buoys.

Another repository of ocean temperature data, the Hadley Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom, corrected their data for the switch from ships to buoys, but not for this second factor, which means that the Hadley data produce a slightly lower rate of warming than do the NOAA data or the new UC Berkeley study.

“In the last seven years or so, you have buoys warming faster than ships are, independently of the ship offset, which produces a significant cool bias in the Hadley record,” Hausfather said. The new study, he said, argues that the Hadley center should introduce another correction to its data.

“People don’t get much credit for doing studies that replicate or independently validate other people’s work. But, particularly when things become so political, we feel it is really important to show that, if you look at all these other records, it seems these researchers did a good job with their corrections,” Hausfather said.

Co-author Mark Richardson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena added, “Satellites and automated floats are completely independent witnesses of recent ocean warming, and their testimony matches the NOAA results. It looks like the NOAA researchers were right all along.”

Other co-authors of the paper are David C. Clarke, an independent researcher from Montreal, Canada, Peter Jacobs of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and Robert Rohde of Berkeley Earth. The research was funded by Berkeley Earth.


Journal Reference:

  1. Zeke Hausfather, Kevin Cowtan, David C. Clarke, Peter Jacobs, Mark Richardson, Robert Rohde. Assessing recent warming using instrumentally homogeneous sea surface temperature recordsScience Advances, 2017; 3 (1): e1601207 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601207

Pesquisadores temem ações de Trump relacionadas à ciência e ao clima (Folha de S.Paulo)

Damon Winter/The New York Times
Com menos dinheiro no orçamento, ciência pode ser uma das áreas mais afetadas
Com menos dinheiro no orçamento, ciência pode ser uma das áreas mais afetadas

SALVADOR NOGUEIRA
COLABORAÇÃO PARA A FOLHA

23/12/2016  02h00

A eleição de Donald Trump pode pressagiar um período de declínio para a ciência nos Estados Unidos.

Noves fora a retórica que lhe ganhou a Casa Branca, os planos que ele apresenta para a próxima gestão podem significar cortes orçamentários significativos em pesquisas.

A campanha do republicano à Presidência bateu fortemente em duas teclas: um plano vigoroso de corte de impostos, que reduziria a arrecadação em pelo menos US$ 4,4 trilhões nos próximos dez anos, e um plano de investimento em infraestrutura que consumiria US$ 1 trilhão no mesmo período.

Na prática, isso significa que haverá menos dinheiro no Orçamento americano que poderá ser direcionado para os gastos “discricionários” -aqueles que já não caem automaticamente na conta do governo por força de lei. É de onde vem o financiamento da ciência americana.

“Se o montante de gastos discricionários cai, o subcomitê de Comércio, Justiça e Ciência no Congresso receberá uma alocação menor, e eles terão menos dinheiro disponível para financiar suas agências”, diz Casey Dreier, especialista em política espacial da ONG Planetary Society.

Entre os órgãos financiados diretamente por esse subcomitê estão a Fundação Nacional de Ciência (NSF), a Administração Nacional de Atmosfera e Oceano (Noaa) e a Administração Nacional de Aeronáutica e Espaço (Nasa).

Existe a possibilidade de o financiamento sair intacto desse processo? Sim, mas não é provável. Algum outro setor precisaria pagar a conta.

SEM CLIMA

Ao menos no discurso, e fortemente apoiado por nomeações recentes, Trump já decidiu onde devem ocorrer os cortes mais profundos: ciência climática.

Que Trump se apresenta desde a campanha eleitoral como um negacionista da mudança do clima, não é segredo. No passado, ele chegou a afirmar que o aquecimento global é um embuste criado pelos chineses para tirar a competitividade da indústria americana.

(Para comprar essa versão, claro, teríamos de fingir que não foi a Nasa, agência americana, a maior e mais contundente coletora de evidências da mudança climática.)

Até aí, é o discurso antiglobalização para ganhar a eleição. Mas vai se concretizar no mandato?

Os sinais são os piores possíveis. O advogado Scott Pruitt, indicado para a EPA (Agência de Proteção do Ambiente), vê com ceticismo as políticas contra as mudanças climáticas. E o chefe da equipe de transição escolhido por Trump para a EPA é Myron Ebell, um notório negacionista da mudança climática.

O Centro para Energia e Ambiente do Instituto para Empreendimentos Competitivos, que Ebell dirige, recebe financiamento das indústrias do carvão e do petróleo. Colocá-lo para fazer a transição entre governos da EPA pode ser o clássico “deixar a raposa tomando conta do galinheiro”.

Como se isso não bastasse, durante a campanha os principais consultores de Trump na área de pesquisa espacial, Robert Walker e Peter Navarro, escreveram editoriais sugerindo que a agência espacial devia parar de estudar a própria Terra.

“A Nasa deveria estar concentrada primariamente em atividades no espaço profundo em vez de trabalho Terra-cêntrico que seria melhor conduzido por outras agências”, escreveram.

Há consenso entre os cientistas de que não há outro órgão com competência para tocar esses estudos e assumir a frota de satélites de monitoramento terrestre gerida pela agência espacial.

Além disso, passar as responsabilidades a outra instituição sem atribuir o orçamento correspondente é um jeito sutil de encerrar o programa de monitoramento do clima.

BACKUP

Se isso faz você ficar preocupado com o futuro das pesquisas, imagine os climatologistas nos EUA.

De acordo com o jornal “Washington Post”, eles estão se organizando para criar repositórios independentes dos dados colhidos, com medo que eles sumam das bases de dados governamentais durante o governo Trump.

Ainda que a grita possa evitar esse descaramento, a interrupção das pesquisas pode ter o mesmo efeito.

“Acho que é bem mais provável que eles tentem cortar a coleção de dados, o que minimizaria seu valor”, diz Andrew Dessler, professor de ciências atmosféricas da Universidade Texas A&M. “Ter dados contínuos é crucial para entender as tendências de longo prazo.”

E O QUE SOBRA?

Tirando a mudança climática, a Nasa deve ter algum suporte para dar continuidade a seus planos de longo prazo durante o governo Trump -talvez com alguma mudança.

De certo, há apenas a restituição do Conselho Espacial Nacional, criado durante o governo George Bush (o pai) e desativado desde 1993.

Reunindo as principais autoridades pertinentes, ele tem por objetivo coordenar as ações entre diferentes braços do governo e, com isso, dar uma direção estratégica mais clara e eficiente aos executores das atividades espaciais.

Isso poderia significar uma ameaça ao SLS (novo foguete de alta capacidade da Nasa) e à Orion (cápsula para viagem a espaço profundo), que devem fazer seu primeiro voo teste, não tripulado, em 2018.

Contudo, o apoio a esses programas no Congresso é amplo e bipartidário, de forma que dificilmente Trump conseguirá cancelá-los.

O que ele pode é redirecionar sua função. Em vez de se tornarem as primeiras peças para a “jornada a Marte”, que Barack Obama defendia para a década de 2030, eles seriam integrados num programa de exploração da Lua.

(Tradicionalmente, no Congresso americano, a Lua é um objetivo republicano, e Marte, um objetivo democrata. Não pergunte por quê.)

Trump deve ainda dar maior ênfase às iniciativas de parcerias comerciais para a exploração espacial. Em dezembro, Elon Musk, diretor da empresa SpaceX e franco apoiador da campanha de Hillary Clinton, passou a fazer parte de um grupo de consultores de Trump para a indústria de alta tecnologia.

Áreas afetadas

NASA

Assessores de Trump querem tirar da agência a função de estudar a Terra em favor da exploração espacial

Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr
Imagem feita pela Nasa
Imagem feita pela Nasa

PROTEÇÃO?

Scott Pruitt, indicado para Agência de Proteção do Ambiente, já processou o órgão por limitações impostas à indústria petrolífera. A agência pode perder força e deixar certas regulações a cargo dos Estados

Spencer Platt-7.dez.2016/Getty Images/AFP
Scott Pruitt chega a Trump Tower, em 7 de dezembro, para encontro com Donald Trump
Scott Pruitt chega a Trump Tower, em 7 de dezembro, para encontro com Donald Trump

PETRÓLEO

Rex Tillerson, executivo da petroleira ExxonMobil, foi indicado para o posto de secretário de Estado, o que dá mais sinais de que o governo Trump não deve se esforçar para promover fontes de energia limpa

Daniel Kramer – 21.abr.2015/Reuters
Rex Tillerson, CEO da ExxonMobil
Rex Tillerson, CEO da ExxonMobil

Climate Change in Trump’s Age of Ignorance (New York Times)

Stanford, Calif. — THE good news got pretty much drowned out this month: Yes, 2016 is on track to become the hottest year on record, but thankfully also the third year in a row to see relatively flat growth in global greenhouse gas emissions. With global economic growth on the order of 3 percent a year, we may well have turned a corner toward a sustainable climate economy.

The bad news, of course, is that the world’s wealthiest nation, home to many of the scholars scrambling to reverse global warming, has elected a new president with little or no interest in the topic. Or an active disinterest. Donald J. Trump is surrounding himself with advisers who are likely to do little to challenge his notion of climate change as a Chinese hoax. People like to think of us as living in an age of information, but a better descriptor might be “the age of ignorance.”

How did we get into this predicament? Why are we about to inaugurate the most anti-science administration in American history?

As a graduate student at Harvard in the 1970s and early 1980s, I was astonished to find how little concern there was for the beliefs of ordinary Americans. I was in the history of science department, where all the talk was of Einstein and Darwin and Newton, with the occasional glance at the “reception” of such ideas in the larger literate populace.

I had grown up in a small town in Texas, and later in Kansas City, where the people I knew often talked about nature and God’s glory and corruption and the good life. At Harvard, though, I was puzzled that my professors seemed to have little interest in people outside the vanguard, the kinds of people I had come from, many of whom were fundamentalist Christians, people of solid faith but often in desperate conditions. Why was there so little interest in what they thought or believed? That’s Point 1.

INTERACTIVE MAP

What Trump’s Climate Legacy Could Look Like

How the president-elect deals with climate change could make him the man who shrunk America or the man who helped save the planet.

Point 2: Early in my career as a historian, I was further bothered by how little attention was given to science as an instrument of popular deception. We like to think of science as the opposite of ignorance, the light that washes away the darkness, but there’s much more to that story.

Here my Harvard years were more illuminating. I got into a crowd of appropriately radicalized students, and started to better understand the place of science in the arc of human history. I learned about how science has not always been the saving grace we like to imagine; science gives rise as easily to nuclear bombs and bioweapons as to penicillin and the iPad. I taught for several years in the biology department, where I learned that cigarette makers had been giving millions of dollars to Harvard and other elite institutions to curry favor.

I also started understanding how science could be used as an instrument of deception — and to create or perpetuate ignorance. That is important, because while scholars were ignoring what Karl Marx dismissively called “the idiocy of rural life” (Point 1), tobacco and soft drink and oil companies facing taxation and regulation were busily disseminating mythologies about their products, to keep potential regulators at bay (Point 2).

The denialist conspiracy of the cigarette industry was crucial in this context, since science was one of the instruments used by Big Tobacco to carry out its denial (and distraction) campaign. Cigarette makers had met at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on Dec. 14, 1953, to plan a strategy to rebut the evidence that cigarettes were causing cancer and other maladies. The strategy was pure genius: The claim would be that it had not been “proved” that cigarettes really cause disease, so there was room for honest doubt. Cigarette makers promised to finance research to get to the truth, while privately acknowledging (in a notorious Brown & Williamson document from 1969) that “Doubt is our product.”

For decades thereafter, cigarette makers poured hundreds of millions of dollars into basic biomedical research, exploring things like genetic and viral or occupational causes of cancer — anything but tobacco. Research financed by the industry led to over 7,000 publications in peer-reviewed medical literature and 10 Nobel Prizes. Including consulting relationships, my research shows that at least 25 Nobel laureates have taken money from the cigarette industry over the past half-century. (Full disclosure: I’ve testified against that industry in dozens of tobacco trials.)

Now we know that many other industries have learned from Big Tobacco’s playbook. Physicians hired by the National Football League have questioned the evidence that concussions can cause brain disease, and soda sellers have financed research to deny that sugar causes obesity. And climate deniers have conducted a kind of scavenger hunt for oddities that appear to challenge the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists.

This latter fact might be little more than a historical quirk, were it not for the fact that we’ll soon have a president whose understanding of science is more like that of the people in the towns where I grew up than those scholars who taught me about Darwin and Einstein at Harvard.

We now live in a world where ignorance of a very dangerous sort is being deliberately manufactured, to protect certain kinds of unfettered corporate enterprise. The global climate catastrophe gets short shrift, largely because powerful fossil fuel producers still have enormous political clout, following decades-long campaigns to sow doubt about whether anthropogenic emissions are really causing planetary warming. Trust in science suffers, but also trust in government. And that is not an accident. Climate deniers are not so much anti-science as anti-regulation and anti-government.

Jeff Nesbit, in his recent book, “Poison Tea: How Big Oil and Big Tobacco Invented the Tea Party and Captured the G.O.P.,” documents how Big Tobacco joined with Big Oil in the early 1990s to create anti-tax front groups. These AstroTurf organizations waged a concerted effort to defend the unencumbered sale of cigarettes and petro-products. The breathtaking idea was to protect tobacco and oil from regulation and taxes by starting a movement that would combat all regulation and all taxes.

Part of the strategy, according to Mr. Nesbit, who worked for a group involved in the effort and witnessed firsthand the beginning of this devil’s dance, was to sow doubt by corrupting expertise, while simultaneously capturing the high ground of open-mindedness and even caution itself, with the deceptive mantra: “We need more research.” Much of the climate denial now embraced by people like Mr. Trump was first expressed in the disinformation campaigns of Big Oil — campaigns modeled closely on Big Tobacco’s strategies.

We sometimes hear that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, but a “repeat” is perhaps now the least of our worries. Judging purely from his transition team, Mr. Trump’s administration could be more hostile to modern science — and especially earth and environmental sciences — than any we have ever had. Whole agencies could go on the chopping block or face deliberate evisceration. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan may be in jeopardy, along with funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Grumblings can even be heard from Europe that if the Paris climate accord is abandoned, the United States may face carbon taxes on its export goods. Ignorance and its diabolic facilitator — the corruption of expertise — both have real-world costs that we ignore at our peril.

Pope Francis’s edict on climate change has fallen on closed ears, study finds (The Guardian)

Hailed as a significant call for action, the pope’s encyclical has not had the anticipated rallying effect on public opinion, researchers have found

Pope Francis environmental activists

Knowledge of the pope’s encyclical, called Laudato Si’, did not appear to be linked to higher levels of concern regarding climate change, the study found. Photograph: Bullit Marquez/AP

 

The pope’s call for action on climate change has fallen on closed ears, research suggests.

A study by researchers in the US has found that right-leaning Catholics who had heard of the pope’s message were less concerned about climate change and its effects on the poor than those who had not, and had a dimmer view of the pope’s credibility.

“The pope and his papal letter failed to rally any broad support on climate change among the US Catholics and non-Catholics,” said Nan Li, first author of the research from Texas Tech University.

“The conservative Catholics who are cross-pressured by the inconsistency between the viewpoints of their political allies and their religious authority would tend to devalue the pope’s credibility on this issue in order to resolve the cognitive dissonance that they experience,” she added.

Issued in June 2015, Pope Francis’s encyclical, called Laudato Si’, warned of an “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems” if climate change continues unchecked and cited the scientific consensus that human activity is behind global warming.

Research conducted on the eve of the announcement found that 68% of Americans and 71% of US Catholics believe in climate change, with Democrats more likely than Republicans to believe in the issue, put it down to human causes and rate it as a serious problem.

The pontiff’s comments were seen by many as a significant call for action in the battle against climate change, focusing on the moral need to address the impact of humans on the planet. “Pope Francis is personally committed to this [climate] issue like no other pope before him. The encyclical will have a major impact,” said Christiana Figueres, the UN’s climate chief, at the time.

But new research published in the journal Climatic Change suggests that the encyclical might not have had the anticipated rallying effect on public opinion.

In a nationally representative survey of 2,755 individuals across the US, including more than 700 Catholics, researchers quizzed individuals on their attitudes towards climate change, its effects on the poor and papal credibility on the issue, together with questions on their political views and demographics such as age, sex and ethnicity. The team found that 22.5% of respondents said they had either heard of the pope’s message or his plans for the letter.

Overall, the team found that members of the public who identified as politically liberal, whether Catholic or not, were more likely to be concerned about climate change and perceive climate change as disproportionately affecting the poor than those who identified as conservative.

But knowledge of the papal letter did not overall appear to be linked to higher levels of concern regarding climate change.

Instead, the researchers found that the effects of awareness of the letter were small, although awareness was linked to more polarised views. For both Catholics and non-Catholics, conservatives who were aware of the letter were less likely to be concerned about climate change and its risk to the poor, compared to those who had not. The opposite trend was seen among liberals.

But, the authors say, among both conservative Catholics and non-Catholics who had heard of the encyclical, the pontiff’s perceived credibility decreased as political leaning veered to the right.

“For people who are most conservative, the Catholics who are aware of the encyclical give the pope 0.5 less than Catholics who aren’t aware of the encyclical on a one to five scale,” said Li.

The researchers say it is not clear if the increased polarisation is caused by hearing about the encyclical or, for example, if more politically engaged individuals were simply more likely to be aware of the papal letter.

“In sum, while [the] pope’s environmental call may have increased some individuals’ concerns about climate change, it backfired with conservative Catholics and non-Catholics, who not only resisted the message but defended their pre-existing beliefs by devaluing the pope’s credibility on climate change,” the authors write.

The results chime with the reaction to the papal stance by conservative media and a number of prominent individuals, including former presidential candidate Jeb Bush who rebuffed the pope’s message, saying: “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope.”

Neil Thorns, director of advocacy at the Catholic aid agency Cafod, said: “Laudato Si’ was a wake-up call on how we’re treating our planet and its people which unsurprisingly – although disappointingly – some climate deniers and those with vested interests were not willing to hear.”

Coal Companies’ Secret Funding of Climate Science Denial Exposed (Eco Watch)

Elliott Negin, Union of Concerned Scientists | April 13, 2016 10:49 am

Peabody Energy—the nation’s largest investor-owned coal company—declared bankruptcy Wednesday. Among the many consequences: the company’s court-ordered disclosures are likely to yield hard evidence of Peabody’s direct links to climate science denial.

After all, that’s what we learned from the bankruptcy filings of two other major U.S. coalcompanies, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources. The companies’ lists of creditors accompanying their chapter 11 bankruptcy filings both cited known climate science deniers. So far, the bankruptcy cases have not revealed the details of these financial relationships. But there is now no doubt the coal companies contracted with these groups and individuals to either make a donation or pay for services.

Recent bankruptcy filings have revealed that Chris Horner, who regularly derides climate science on Fox News Channel, has financial ties to the coal industry.Recent bankruptcy filings have revealed that Chris Horner, who regularly derides climate science on Fox News Channel, has financial ties to the coal industry.

This new evidence is important at a time when coal and oil and gas companies are under increased scrutiny about their ongoing climate science disinformation campaigns. ExxonMobil, for example, currently faces state and possibly federal investigations into whether the discrepancies between what the company knew about climate science and what it told their shareholders and the public amounted to fraud.

Of course, there’s no shortage of historical evidence of the coal industry’s track record of deceiving the public about global warming. In 1991, for example, coal trade associations formed a short-lived front group called the Information Council on the Environment that ran a national public relations campaign downplaying the known risks of climate change. All through the 1990s, coal trade groups also were members of the Global Climate Coalition, an alliance of companies and business groups that disputed the findings of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and, later on, helped scuttle the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty. And, more recently, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity paid a lobbying firm to send forged letters to members of Congress from actual nonprofit groups, including the NAACP and the American Association of University Women, espousing fabricated opposition to a 2009 climate change bill.

But such coal company connections have been harder to pin down in the current era of so-called dark money. That’s what makes the latest disclosures so noteworthy: They indicate that coal industry disinformation campaigns have continued even as the scientific evidence that burning fossil fuels is driving climate change has only become stronger.

Revealing Creditor Lists

The creditor list for Alpha Natural Resources—which filed for bankruptcy last August—indicates that the company has been especially active in supporting the denier network. As first reported by The Intercept, Alpha—the fourth largest U.S. coal company—has financial ties with a half dozen denier organizations, some which have direct links to billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, owners of the coal, oil and gas conglomerate Koch Industries. The Koch-affiliated groups include Americans for Prosperity, the Institute for Energy Research and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a de facto Koch bank that disburses donations from anonymous, wealthy conservatives to groups that advocate rolling back public health, environmental and workplace protections.

Other Alpha creditors include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which questions the legitimacy of climate models; the Heartland Institute, which is probably best known for its billboard likening climate scientists to the serial killer Ted Kaczynski; and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which convenes conferences for its state legislator members featuring speakers who distort climate science and disparage renewable energy. One of the speakers at a summer 2014 ALEC conference, for example, was Heartland Institute President Joe Bast, whose slide presentation falsely claimed: “There is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change” and “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change … is not a credible source of science or economics.”

The Alpha creditor list also includes at least two individuals with links to denier groups. Particularly noteworthy is Chris Horner, an attorney who is closely associated with a number of nonprofit denier groups, including ALEC, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the Heartland Institute, the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute (E&E Legal), formerly the American Tradition Institute, and the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic, another Alpha creditor.

Arch Coal, the second largest U.S. coal company, listed ALEC and E&E Legal in its list of creditors when it filed for chapter 11 protection in January. Just last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company donated $10,000 to E&E Legal in 2014. E&E Legal’s executive director, Craig Richardson, told the Journal the contribution was for “general support.”

Chris Horner’s Coal Ties Disclosed

The exposure of Horner’s financial ties to coal companies is significant because he is a regular guest on Fox News Channel, which identifies him by his affiliation with CEI or E&E Legal but not by his connection to the coal industry.

Despite his lack of scientific expertise, Horner routinely critiques scientific findings, has called for spurious investigations of climate scientists affiliated with the IPCC and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and has harassed scientists by filing intrusive open records requests with the universities where they work. As legal counsel for the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute and the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic—which work in tandem—Horner has targeted a number of leading climate scientists, including James Hansenand Katharine Hayhoe. Perhaps his most notorious lawsuit was against the University of Virginia to obtain emails, draft research papers, handwritten notes and other documents related to the work of Michael Mann, lead author of the famous “hockey stick” study demonstrating the link between increased fossil fuel use and rising global temperatures. The Virginia Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the university and Mann, affirming the school’s right to protect the privacy of its researchers from overly broad open records requests.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Alpha paid Horner $18,600 before it declared bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic—an Alpha creditor—paid him $110,000 in 2014, $115,865 in 2013 and $60,449 in 2012, according to the clinic’s tax filings.

Besides Alpha and Arch Coal, Horner has ties to other coal companies. Last summer, he was a featured speaker at a private $7,500-a-person golf and fly-fishing retreat sponsored by Alpha, Arch Coal and four other coal companies: Alliance Resource Partners, Consol Energy, Drummond and United Coal. After the event—the 2015 annual Coal & Investment Leadership Forum—attendees received an email from the coal company CEOs praising Horner, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonpartisan political watchdog group that first reported the connection between Arch Coal and E&E Legal. “As the ‘war on coal’ continues,” the email stated, “I trust that the commitment we have made to support Chris Horner’s work will eventually create a greater awareness of the illegal tactics being employed to pass laws that are intended to destroy our industry.”

Given the recent spate of bankruptcies, the companies’ commitment to Horner likely will create a greater awareness of something quite different: that the coal industry—along with the likes of ExxonMobil and Koch Industries—is still funding denier groups to spread disinformation about climate science and delay government action. It is time we held these companies accountable.

France’s top weatherman sparks storm over book questioning climate change (The Telegraph)

Philippe Verdier, weather chief at France Télévisions, the country’s state broadcaster, reportedly sent on “forced holiday” for releasing book accusing top climatologists of “taking the world hostage”

Philippe Verdier's outspoken views reportedly led France 2 to send him on a 'forced holiday'

Philippe Verdier’s outspoken views reportedly led France 2 to send him on a ‘forced holiday’ 

 By , Paris

Every night, France’s chief weatherman has told the nation how much wind, sun or rain they can expect the following day.

Now Philippe Verdier, a household name for his nightly forecasts on France 2, has been taken off air after a more controversial announcement – criticising the world’s top climate change experts.

Mr Verdier claims in the book Climat Investigation (Climate Investigation) that leading climatologists and political leaders have “taken the world hostage” with misleading data.

In a promotional video, Mr Verdier said: “Every night I address five million French people to talk to you about the wind, the clouds and the sun. And yet there is something important, very important that I haven’t been able to tell you, because it’s neither the time nor the place to do so.”

He added: “We are hostage to a planetary scandal over climate change – a war machine whose aim is to keep us in fear.”

His outspoken views led France 2 to take him off the air starting this Monday. “I received a letter telling me not to come. I’m in shock,” he told RTL radio. “This is a direct extension of what I say in my book, namely that any contrary views must be eliminated.”

The book has been released at a particularly sensitive moment as Paris is due to host a crucial UN climate change conference in December. 

 par Editions_Ring

According to Mr Verdier, top climate scientists, who often rely on state funding, have been “manipulated and politicised”.

He specifically challenges the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, saying they “blatantly erased” data that went against their overall conclusions, and casts doubt on the accuracy of their climate models.

The IPCC has said that temperatures could rise by up to 4.8°C if no action is taken to reduce carbon emissions.

Mr Verdier writes: “We are undoubtedly on a plateau in terms of warming and the cyclical variability of the climate doesn’t not allow us to envisage if the natural rhythm will tomorrow lead us towards a fall, a stagnation or a rise (in temperature).”

The 330-page book also controversially contains a chapter on the “positive results” of climate change in France, one of the countries predicted to be the least affected by rising temperatures. “It’s politically incorrect and taboo to vaunt the merits of climate change because there are some,” he writes, citing warmer weather attracting tourists, lower death rates and electricity bills in mild winters, and better wine and champagne vintages.

Asked whether he had permission from his employer to release the book, he said: “I don’t think management liked it, let’s be honest.”

“I put myself via this investigation on the path of COP 21, which is a bulldozer, and we can see the results.”

The book was criticised by French newspaper Le Monde as full of “errors”. “The models used to predict the average rise in temperatures on the surface of the globe have proved to be rather reliable, with the gap between observations and predictions quite small,” it countered.

Mr Verdier told France 5: “Making these revelations in the book, which I absolutely have the right to do, can pose problems for my employer given that the government (which funds France 2) is organising COP [the climate change conference]. In fact as soon as you a slightly different discourse on this subject, you are branded a climate sceptic.”

He said he decided to write the book in June 2014 when Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, summoned the country’s main weather presenters and urged them to mention “climate chaos” in their forecasts.

“I was horrified by this discourse,” Mr Verdier told Les Inrockuptibles magazine. Eight days later, Mr Fabius appeared on the front cover of a magazine posing as a weatherman above the headline: “500 days to save the planet.”

Mr Verdier said: “If a minister decides he is Mr Weatherman, then Mr Weatherman can also express himself on the subject in a lucid manner.

“What’s shameful is this pressure placed on us to say that if we don’t hurry, it’ll be the apocalypse,” he added, saying that “climate diplomacy” means leaders are seeking to force changes to suit their own political timetables.

According to L’Express magazine, unions at France Television called for Mr Verdier to be fired, but that Delphine Ernotte, the broadcaster’s chief executive, initially said he should be allowed to stay “in the name of freedom of expression”.

Exxon’s climate lie: ‘No corporation has ever done anything this big or bad’ (The Guardian)

The truth of Exxon’s complicity in global warming must to be told – how they knew about climate change decades ago but chose to help kill our planet

Exxon refinery in Texas

By 1978 Exxon’s senior scientists were telling top management that climate change was real, caused by man, and would raise global temperatures by 2-3C. Photograph: Pat Sullivan/AP

I’m well aware that with Paris looming it’s time to be hopeful, and I’m willing to try. Even amid the record heat and flooding of the present, there are good signs for the future in the rising climate movement and the falling cost of solar.

But before we get to past and present there’s some past to be reckoned with, and before we get to hope there’s some deep, blood-red anger.

In the last three weeks, two separate teams of journalists — the Pulitzer-prize winning reporters at the website Inside Climate News and another crew composed of Los Angeles Times veterans and up-and-comers at the Columbia Journalism School — have begun publishing the results of a pair of independent investigations into ExxonMobil.

Though they draw on completely different archives, leaked documents, and interviews with ex-employees, they reach the same damning conclusion: Exxon knew all that there was to know about climate change decades ago, and instead of alerting the rest of us denied the science and obstructed the politics of global warming.

To be specific:

  • By 1978 Exxon’s senior scientists were telling top management that climate change was real, caused by man, and would raise global temperatures by 2-3C this century, which was pretty much spot-on.
  • By the early 1980s they’d validated these findings with shipborne measurements of CO2 (they outfitted a giant tanker with carbon sensors for a research voyage) and with computer models that showed precisely what was coming. As the head of one key lab at Exxon Research wrote to his superiors, there was “unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the earth’s climate, including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere”.
  • And by the early 1990s their researchers studying the possibility for new exploration in the Arctic were well aware that human-induced climate change was melting the poles. Indeed, they used that knowledge to plan their strategy, reporting that soon the Beaufort Sea would be ice-free as much as five months a year instead of the historic two. Greenhouse gases are rising “due to the burning of fossil fuels,” a key Exxon researcher told an audience of engineers at a conference in 1991. “Nobody disputes this fact.”

But of course Exxon did dispute that fact. Not inside the company, where they used their knowledge to buy oil leases in the areas they knew would melt, but outside, where they used their political and financial might to make sure no one took climate change seriously.

They helped organise campaigns designed to instil doubt, borrowing tactics and personnel from the tobacco industry’s similar fight. They funded “institutes” devoted to outright climate denial. And at the highest levels they did all they could to spread their lies.

To understand the treachery – the sheer, profound, and I think unparalleled evil – of Exxon, one must remember the timing. Global warming became a public topic in 1988, thanks to Nasa scientist James Hansen – it’s taken a quarter-century and counting for the world to take effective action. If at any point in that journey Exxon – largest oil company on Earth, most profitable enterprise in human history – had said: “Our own research shows that these scientists are right and that we are in a dangerous place,” the faux debate would effectively have ended. That’s all it would have taken; stripped of the cover provided by doubt, humanity would have gotten to work.

Instead, knowingly, they helped organise the most consequential lie in human history, and kept that lie going past the point where we can protect the poles, prevent the acidification of the oceans, or slow sea level rise enough to save the most vulnerable regions and cultures. Businesses misbehave all the time, but VW is the flea to Exxon’s elephant. No corporation has ever done anything this big and this bad.

I’m aware that anger at this point does little good. I’m aware that all clever people will say “of course they did” or “we all use fossil fuels”, as if either claim is meaningful. I’m aware that nothing much will happen to Exxon – I doubt they’ll be tried in court, or their executives sent to jail.

But nonetheless it seems crucial simply to say, for the record, the truth: this company had the singular capacity to change the course of world history for the better and instead it changed that course for the infinitely worse. In its greed Exxon helped — more than any other institution — to kill our planet.

Exxon’s Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels’ Role in Global Warming Decades Ago (Inside Climate News)

Top executives were warned of possible catastrophe from greenhouse effect, then led efforts to block solutions.

By Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer

Sep 16, 2015

Exxon Experiment

Exxon’s Richard Werthamer (right) and Edward Garvey (left) are aboard the company’s Esso Atlantic tanker working on a project to measure the carbon dioxide levels in the ocean and atmosphere. The project ran from 1979 to 1982. (Credit: Richard Werthamer)

“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.

It was July 1977 when Exxon’s leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis.

A year later, Black, a top technical expert in Exxon’s Research & Engineering division, took an updated version of his presentation to a broader audience. He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles.  Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert.

“Some countries would benefit but others would have their agricultural output reduced or destroyed,” Black said, in the written summary of his 1978 talk.

His presentations reflected uncertainty running through scientific circles about the details of climate change, such as the role the oceans played in absorbing emissions. Still, Black estimated quick action was needed. “Present thinking,” he wrote in the 1978 summary, “holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”

Exxon responded swiftly. Within months the company launched its own extraordinary research into carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and its impact on the earth. Exxon’s ambitious program included both empirical CO2 sampling and rigorous climate modeling. It assembled a brain trust that would spend more than a decade deepening the company’s understanding of an environmental problem that posed an existential threat to the oil business.

Then, toward the end of the 1980s, Exxon curtailed its carbon dioxide research. In the decades that followed, Exxon worked instead at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day.

This untold chapter in Exxon’s history, when one of the world’s largest energy companies worked to understand the damage caused by fossil fuels, stems from an eight-month investigation by InsideClimate News. ICN’s reporters interviewed former Exxon employees, scientists, and federal officials, and consulted hundreds of pages of internal Exxon documents, many of them written between 1977 and 1986, during the heyday of Exxon’s innovative climate research program. ICN combed through thousands of documents from archives including those held at the University of Texas-Austin, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The documents record budget requests, research priorities, and debates over findings, and reveal the arc of Exxon’s internal attitudes and work on climate and how much attention the results received.

Of particular significance was a project launched in August 1979, when the company outfitted a supertanker with custom-made instruments. The project’s mission was to sample carbon dioxide in the air and ocean along a route from the Gulf of Mexico to the Persian Gulf.

In 1980, Exxon assembled a team of climate modelers who investigated fundamental questions about the climate’s sensitivity to the buildup  of carbon dioxide in the air. Working with university scientists and the U.S. Department of Energy, Exxon strove to be on the cutting edge of inquiry into what was then called the greenhouse effect.

Exxon’s early determination to understand rising carbon dioxide levels grew out of a corporate culture of farsightedness, former employees said. They described a company that continuously examined risks to its bottom line, including environmental factors. In the 1970s, Exxon modeled its research division after Bell Labs, staffing it with highly accomplished scientists and engineers.

In written responses to questions about the history of its research, ExxonMobil spokesman Richard D. Keil said that “from the time that climate change first emerged as a topic for scientific study and analysis in the late 1970s, ExxonMobil has committed itself to scientific, fact-based analysis of this important issue.”

“At all times,” he said, “the opinions and conclusions of our scientists and researchers on this topic have been solidly within the mainstream of the consensus scientific opinion of the day and our work has been guided by an overarching principle to follow where the science leads. The risk of climate change is real and warrants action.”

At the outset of its climate investigations almost four decades ago, many Exxon executives, middle managers and scientists armed themselves with a sense of urgency and mission.

One manager at Exxon Research, Harold N. Weinberg, shared his “grandiose thoughts” about Exxon’s potential role in climate research in a March 1978 internal company memorandum that read: “This may be the kind of opportunity that we are looking for to have Exxon technology, management and leadership resources put into the context of a project aimed at benefitting mankind.”

His sentiment was echoed by Henry Shaw, the scientist leading the company’s nascent carbon dioxide research effort.

“Exxon must develop a credible scientific team that can critically evaluate the information generated on the subject and be able to carry bad news, if any, to the corporation,” Shaw wrote to his boss Edward E. David, the executive director of Exxon Research and Engineering in 1978. “This team must be recognized for its excellence in the scientific community, the government, and internally by Exxon management.”

Irreversible and Catastrophic

Exxon budgeted more than $1 million over three years for the tanker project to measure how quickly the oceans were taking in CO2. It was a small fraction of Exxon Research’s annual $300 million budget, but the question the scientists tackled was one of the biggest uncertainties in climate science: how quickly could the deep oceans absorb atmospheric CO2? If Exxon could pinpoint the answer, it would know how long it had before CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere could force a transition away from fossil fuels.

Exxon also hired scientists and mathematicians to develop better climate models and publish research results in peer-reviewed journals. By 1982, the company’s own scientists, collaborating with outside researchers, created rigorous climate models – computer programs that simulate the workings of the climate to assess the impact of emissions on global temperatures. They confirmed an emerging scientific consensus that warming could be even worse than Black had warned five years earlier.

Esso Atlantic

Between 1979 and 1982, Exxon researchers sampled carbon dioxide levels aboard the company’s Esso Atlantic tanker (shown here).

Exxon’s research laid the groundwork for a 1982 corporate primer on carbon dioxide and climate change prepared by its environmental affairs office. Marked “not to be distributed externally,” it contained information that “has been given wide circulation to Exxon management.” In it, the company recognized, despite the many lingering unknowns, that heading off global warming “would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion.”

Unless that happened, “there are some potentially catastrophic events that must be considered,” the primer said, citing independent experts. “Once the effects are measurable, they might not be reversible.”

The Certainty of Uncertainty

Like others in the scientific community, Exxon researchers acknowledged the uncertainties surrounding many aspects of climate science, especially in the area of forecasting models. But they saw those uncertainties as questions they wanted to address, not an excuse to dismiss what was increasingly understood.

“Models are controversial,” Roger Cohen, head of theoretical sciences at Exxon Corporate Research Laboratories, and his colleague, Richard Werthamer, senior technology advisor at Exxon Corporation, wrote in a May 1980 status report on Exxon’s climate modeling program. “Therefore, there are research opportunities for us.”

When Exxon’s researchers confirmed information the company might find troubling, they did not sweep it under the rug.

“Over the past several years a clear scientific consensus has emerged,” Cohen wrote in September 1982, reporting on Exxon’s own analysis of climate models. It was that a doubling of the carbon dioxide blanket in the atmosphere would produce average global warming of 3 degrees Celsius, plus or minus 1.5 degrees C (equal to 5 degrees Fahrenheit plus or minus 1.7 degrees F).

“There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the earth’s climate,” he wrote, “including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere.”

He warned that publication of the company’s conclusions might attract media attention because of the “connection between Exxon’s major business and the role of fossil fuel combustion in contributing to the increase of atmospheric CO2.”

Nevertheless, he recommended publication.

Our “ethical responsibility is to permit the publication of our research in the scientific literature,” Cohen wrote. “Indeed, to do otherwise would be a breach of Exxon’s public position and ethical credo on honesty and integrity.”

Exxon followed his advice. Between 1983 and 1984, its researchers published their results in at least three peer-reviewed papers in Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences and an American Geophysical Union monograph.

David, the head of Exxon Research, told a global warming conference financed by Exxon in October 1982 that “few people doubt that the world has entered an energy transition away from dependence upon fossil fuels and toward some mix of renewable resources that will not pose problems of COaccumulation.” The only question, he said, was how fast this would happen.

But the challenge did not daunt him. “I’m generally upbeat about the chances of coming through this most adventurous of all human experiments with the ecosystem,” David said.

Exxon considered itself unique among corporations for its carbon dioxide and climate research.  The company boasted in a January 1981 report, “Scoping Study on CO2,” that no other company appeared to be conducting similar in-house research into carbon dioxide, and it swiftly gained a reputation among outsiders for genuine expertise.

“We are very pleased with Exxon’s research intentions related to the CO2 question. This represents very responsible action, which we hope will serve as a model for research contributions from the corporate sector,” said David Slade, manager of the federal government’s carbon dioxide research program at the Energy Department, in a May 1979 letter to Shaw. “This is truly a national and international service.”

Business Imperatives

In the early 1980s Exxon researchers often repeated that unbiased science would give it legitimacy in helping shape climate-related laws that would affect its profitability.

Still, corporate executives remained cautious about what they told Exxon’s shareholders about global warming and the role petroleum played in causing it, a review of federal filings shows. The company did not elaborate on the carbon problem in annual reports filed with securities regulators during the height of its CO2 research.

Nor did it mention in those filings that concern over CO2 was beginning to influence business decisions it was facing.

Throughout the 1980s, the company was worried about developing an enormous gas field off the coast of Indonesia because of the vast amount of CO2 the unusual reservoir would release.

Exxon was also concerned about reports that synthetic oil made from coal, tar sands and oil shales could significantly boost CO2 emissions. The company was banking on synfuels to meet growing demand for energy in the future, in a world it believed was running out of conventional oil.

In the mid-1980s, after an unexpected oil glut caused prices to collapse, Exxon cut its staff deeply to save money, including many working on climate. But the climate change problem remained, and it was becoming a more prominent part of the political landscape.

“Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate,” declared the headline of a June 1988 New York Times article describing the Congressional testimony of NASA’s James Hansen, a leading climate expert. Hansen’s statements compelled Sen. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.) to declare during the hearing that “Congress must begin to consider how we are going to slow or halt that warming trend.”

With alarm bells suddenly ringing, Exxon started financing efforts to amplify doubt about the state of climate science.

Exxon helped to found and lead the Global Climate Coalition, an alliance of some of the world’s largest companies seeking to halt government efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions. Exxon used the American Petroleum Institute, right-wing think tanks, campaign contributions and its own lobbying to push a narrative that climate science was too uncertain to necessitate cuts in fossil fuel emissions.

As the international community moved in 1997 to take a first step in curbing emissions with the Kyoto Protocol, Exxon’s chairman and CEO Lee Raymond argued to stop it.

“Let’s agree there’s a lot we really don’t know about how climate will change in the 21st century and beyond,” Raymond said in his speech before the World Petroleum Congress in Beijing in October 1997.

“We need to understand the issue better, and fortunately, we have time,” he said. “It is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now.”

Over the years, several Exxon scientists who had confirmed the climate consensus during its early research, including Cohen and David, took Raymond’s side, publishing views that ran contrary to the scientific mainstream.

Paying the Price

Exxon’s about-face on climate change earned the scorn of the scientific establishment it had once courted.

In 2006, the Royal Society, the United Kingdom’s science academy, sent a harsh letter to Exxon accusing it of being “inaccurate and misleading” on the question of climate uncertainty. Bob Ward, the Academy’s senior manager for policy communication, demanded that Exxon stop giving money to dozens of organizations he said were actively distorting the science.

In 2008, under mounting pressure from activist shareholders, the company announced it would end support for some prominent groups such as those Ward had identified.

Still, the millions of dollars Exxon had spent since the 1990s on climate change deniers had long surpassed what it had once invested in its path-breaking climate science aboard the Esso Atlantic.

“They spent so much money and they were the only company that did this kind of research as far as I know,” Edward Garvey, who was a key researcher on Exxon’s oil tanker project, said in a recent interview with InsideClimate News and Frontline. “That was an opportunity not just to get a place at the table, but to lead, in many respects, some of the discussion. And the fact that they chose not to do that into the future is a sad point.”

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, who has been a frequent target of climate deniers, said that inaction, just like actions, have consequences. When he recently spoke to InsideClimate News, he was unaware of this chapter in Exxon’s history.

“All it would’ve taken is for one prominent fossil fuel CEO to know this was about more than just shareholder profits, and a question about our legacy,” he said. “But now because of the cost of inaction—what I call the ‘procrastination penalty’—we face a far more uphill battle.”

Part II, coming on September 17, will further examine Exxon’s early climate research.

ICN staff members Zahra Hirji, Paul Horn, Naveena Sadasivam, Sabrina Shankman and Alexander Wood also contributed to this report.

Exxon and Climate Change

The fossil-fuel industry’s campaign to mislead the American people (The Washington Post)

 May 29

Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, represents Rhode Island in the Senate.

Fossil fuel companies and their allies are funding a massive and sophisticated campaign to mislead the American people about the environmental harm caused by carbon pollution.

Their activities are often compared to those of Big Tobacco denying the health dangers of smoking. Big Tobacco’s denial scheme was ultimately found by a federal judge to have amounted to a racketeering enterprise.

The Big Tobacco playbook looked something like this: (1) pay scientists to produce studies defending your product; (2) develop an intricate web of PR experts and front groups to spread doubt about the real science; (3) relentlessly attack your opponents.

Thankfully, the government had a playbook, too: the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. In 1999, the Justice Department filed a civil RICO lawsuit against the major tobacco companies and their associated industry groups, alleging that the companies “engaged in and executed — and continue to engage in and execute — a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes, in violation of RICO.”

Tobacco spent millions of dollars and years of litigation fighting the government. But finally, through the discovery process, government lawyers were able to peel back the layers of deceit and denial and see what the tobacco companies really knew all along about cigarettes.

In 2006, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decided that the tobacco companies’ fraudulent campaign amounted to a racketeering enterprise. According to the court: “Defendants coordinated significant aspects of their public relations, scientific, legal, and marketing activity in furtherance of a shared objective — to . . . maximize industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public.”

The parallels between what the tobacco industry did and what the fossil fuel industry is doing now are striking.

In the case of fossil fuels, just as with tobacco, the industry joined together in a common enterprise and coordinated strategy. In 1998, the Clinton administration was building support for international climate action under the Kyoto Protocol. The fossil fuel industry, its trade associations and the conservative policy institutes that often do the industry’s dirty work met at the Washington office of the American Petroleum Institute. A memo from that meeting that was leaked to the New York Times documented their plans for a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign to undermine climate science and to raise “questions among those (e.g. Congress) who chart the future U.S. course on global climate change.”

The shape of the fossil fuel industry’s denial operation has been documented by, among others, Drexel University professor Robert Brulle. In a 2013 paper published in the journal Climatic Change, Brulle described a complex network of organizations and funding that appears designed to obscure the fossil fuel industry’s fingerprints. To quote directly from Brulle’s report, it was “a deliberate and organized effort to misdirect the public discussion and distort the public’s understanding of climate.” That sounds a lot like Kessler’s findings in the tobacco racketeering case.

The coordinated tactics of the climate denial network, Brulle’s report states, “span a wide range of activities, including political lobbying, contributions to political candidates, and a large number of communication and media efforts that aim at undermining climate science.” Compare that again to the findings in the tobacco case.

The tobacco industry was proved to have conducted research that showed the direct opposite of what the industry stated publicly — namely, that tobacco use had serious health effects. Civil discovery would reveal whether and to what extent the fossil fuel industry has crossed this same line. We do know that it has funded research that — to its benefit — directly contradicts the vast majority of peer-reviewed climate science. One scientist who consistently published papers downplaying the role of carbon emissions in climate change, Willie Soon, reportedly received more than half of his funding from oil and electric utility interests: more than $1.2 million.

To be clear: I don’t know whether the fossil fuel industry and its allies engaged in the same kind of racketeering activity as the tobacco industry. We don’t have enough information to make that conclusion. Perhaps it’s all smoke and no fire. But there’s an awful lot of smoke.

*   *   *

The Long Tale of Exxon and Climate Change (Inside Climate News)

ExxonTigerTimeline1058px

Why so many Republicans can’t resist climate denial (Grist)

Despite the large number of major Republican presidential candidates — now 15, following Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s entry into the presidential race last week — they do not represent the full spectrum of their party’s beliefs on climate change. This is the unfortunate byproduct of the particular fusion of social conservatives and big business interests that came together to form the modern GOP. They don’t always have the same priorities, and so when an issue like opposition to climate action binds them together, it’s particularly sticky among Republican politicians.

Pew polls find that between a quarter and half of Republican voters accept the basics of climate science, depending on how you phrase the question. And roughly half of Republicans support the EPA setting limits on carbon emissions from power plants. You might think that one of the establishment candidates would see a political advantage in being the only contender to embrace a more moderate position — one that would also play better in the general election — as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have done on immigration.

But none of the 15 Republican candidates for president supports EPA’s carbon regulations. With the exception of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (who is polling at 0.6 percent), they oppose regulating climate pollution at all. Walker, for example, pledged never to back a carbon tax. Bush, Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul have all sneered at climate science.

That’s because accepting climate science threatens the very foundations of any GOP presidential aspirant’s base.

For the religious right, climate science is anathema for both doctrinal and cultural reasons. Accepting climate science means accepting Earth science and what it shows us about how the Earth is billions of years old rather than a few thousand. So Christian fundamentalists and all those who interpret the Bible literally or subscribe to “Young Earth Creationism” cannot accept the foundations upon which climate science is built. More broadly, issues like evolution that set up the same tension between the religious right’s medieval belief system and modern science make social conservatives unwilling to accept any evidence that God is not, in fact, personally micromanaging the Earth’s affairs.

For the business wing of the Republican Party, climate science is anathema for both ideological and financial reasons. Ideologically, real acceptance of the science would mean acceptance that greenhouse gas emissions need to be slashed, and the most straightforward way to do that would be more government regulation. For the average Tea Party activist or Ayn Rand fan, government regulation is presumed to be bad, and working backward from that climate science must therefore be bogus. Financially, regulation of greenhouse gases could hurt fossil fuel companies and related interests like the Koch brothers’ industrial empire, but also other big businesses. That’s why the corporations that control the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have set the business lobby against regulating carbon pollution.

The two camps’ reasons are different, but together they make an overwhelming case for Republican politicians to keep denying climate science.

Add in tribal identity and the case for cowardice becomes completely irresistible. Politics is not just about positions, after all, it’s about identity. Climate denial is one way a Republican politician can intimate to the anti-modernity wing of the GOP that he or she is one of them and doesn’t trust professors or the mainstream media.

So intransigence on climate change becomes an appealing way of pulling together the disparate strands of the Republican Party. It keeps heartland social conservatives and corporate bosses on the same team. It’s sort of like the inverse of Democrats’ efforts to connect clean energy with economic populism.

This is notably different from the situation with another hot issue, immigration, on which the GOP is split. Many rank-and-file Republican voters harbor anti-immigrant views, but big business wants immigration reform that would bring more potential workers into the U.S. That’s why we’ve seen some top Republican presidential candidates, such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, embrace immigration reform, while there’s not yet any evidence of such a shift on climate change.

The significance of an issue to business interests is key. Compare immigration to abortion or Republican warmongering in the Middle East: because the business wing of the party does not have a financial stake in moderating on those issues, Republican pols just pander to the conservative base on them, despite divided opinion among their more moderate voters. Twenty-seven percent of Republican voters support abortion rights, according to a Gallup poll from last year, but none of their presidential candidates do except for former New York Gov. George Pataki, who currently polls at an average of 0.2 percent. Thirty-one percent of Republicans support making a deal with Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, but all the Republican presidential candidates oppose it.

In fact, the prospects for GOP moderation on climate change are in some ways even worse than on abortion. While the Wall Street Journal editorial page might make a show of opposing abortion rights, there is no reason to think that if, say, John McCain had chosen a pro-choice running mate like Joe Lieberman they would have refused to back the ticket. Selfish rich white men who live on the East Coast don’t actually care about protecting fetuses, it’s just a trade they’ve made with the yokels in exchange for keeping the capital-gains tax rate low. But imagine how they, or an executive from ExxonMobil, might respond to a climate hawk on the GOP ticket.

That’s why none of the GOP’s top-polling contenders have clearly accepted climate science. The only Republican candidates to even partially acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change are ones with little to no chance of winning the party’s nomination — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Graham, and Pataki. According to the Huffington Post polling average, Christie is the only one of those who averages (barely) above 2 percent, and he is the only one who is (barely) placing in the top 10, necessary to qualify for the CNN and Fox News debates. (In 2008, Mike Huckabee, who Huff Po has in seventh place, accepted climate science and supported emissions caps, but he has long since flip-flopped.)

This disconnect between Republican politicians and voters on climate change is not limited to the presidential candidates. In June, 239 House Republicans votedfor (and only four voted against) a bill that would delay EPA from regulating power plants’ carbon emissions until all legal challenges are settled and would allow states to opt out of the rules, thus rendering them worthless.

Major conservative media figures such as talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh and Erick Erickson of RedState and Fox News enforce this trend. They behave like political strategists rather than truth-seeking journalists and unleash fury on candidates who deviate from the orthodox party line.

Is there any hope of breaking this logjam? Currently, Republican politicians get away with denying climate science because the moderate wing of their party shrugs it off. Moderate voters may accept climate science and support carbon regulation, but they don’t care enough about it to vote on it.

What Democrats and climate hawks must do, then, is turn backwardness on climate change into a symbol of backwardness writ large, as I argued in a recent post. They must make Republican moderates embarrassed to vote for a candidate who does not accept climate science and embrace climate action, in the same way it would embarrass them to vote for a candidate who says that women cannot get pregnant when raped. Because the one thing Republican politicians care about more than anything else is winning.

How climate change deniers got it right — but very wrong (MSNBC)

 VIDEO: GREENHOUSE, 1/22/15, 3:34 PM ET

06/16/15 08:30 PM

By Tony Dokoupil

It turns out the climate change deniers were right: There isn’t 97% agreement among climate scientists. The real figure? It’s not lower, but actually higher.

The scientific “consensus” on climate change has gotten stronger, surging past the famous — and controversial — figure of 97% to more than 99.9%, according to a new study reviewed by msnbc.

James L. Powell, director of the National Physical Sciences Consortium, reviewed more than 24,000 peer-reviewed papers on global warming published in 2013 and 2014. Only five reject the reality of rising temperatures or the fact that human emissions are the cause, he found.

“It’s now a ruling paradigm, as much an accepted fact in climate science as plate tectonics is in geology and evolution is in biology,” he told msnbc. “It’s 99.9% plus.”

Powell, a member of the National Science Board under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, decided to share an exclusive draft of his research on Tuesday — just days before Pope Francis is set to deliver a major address on climate change — because he doesn’t want his holiness to reference outdated numbers.

“I don’t want the Pope to say 97%,” Powell said by phone, arguing that accuracy now is more important than ever. “It’s wrong, and it’s not trivial.”

VIDEO: THE ED SHOW, 6/8/15, 5:53 PM ET – Santorum lectures Pope on climate change

Pope Francis is preparing to charge into the political debate over climate change, citing “a very consistent scientific consensus” and the risk of “unprecedented destruction,” according to a leaked draft of Thursday’s papal encyclical.

The notion of 97% agreement among climate scientists started with studies in 2009 and 2010. It wasn’t until a 2013 study, however, that the figure went viral. President Barack Obama tweeted it. The comedian John Oliver set up a slapstick debate between a climate change denier and 97 of his peers.

But Powell argues that acceptance of man-made global warming has grown. The author of a new Columbia University Press book on scientific revolutions used an online database to compile a mountain of global warming papers published in the last two years.

He also tried a different approach than the earlier studies. Rather than search for explicit acceptance of anthropomorphic global warming, Powell searched for explicit rejection. All the papers in the middle, he figured, weren’t neutral on the subject — they were settled on it.

The results include work from nearly the entire population of working climate scientists — close to 70,000 scientists, often sharing their byline with three or four other authors. They also include a dwindling opposition: Powell could find only four solitary authors who challenged the evidence for human-caused global warming.

That’s a rate of one dissenting voice for every 17,000 agreeing scientists, and it’s not a strong voice. Powell called the four dissents “known deniers and crackpots,” and noted that their work had been cited only once by the wider academic community.

“I don’t want the Pope to say 97%. It’s wrong, and it’s not trivial.”
JAMES L. POWELL, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL PHYSICAL SCIENCES CONSORTIUM

Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science at Harvard, hasn’t read the Powell paper but she doesn’t doubt the general direction of the findings.Back in 2004, she became the first researcher to claim a “consensus” on climate change, finding a roughly 75% agreement within the literature.

“Scientists have done so much more work since then,” she said. For me, as a historian of science, it really feels like overkill. One starts to think, how many more times do we need to say this before we really get it and start to act on it?”

One reason for inaction of course is politics. Many of the world’s leaders still doubt the science of climate change, assuming incorrectly that it’s unsettled or exploratory. The view is especially prevalent among the current crop of Republican presidential candidates.

Earlier this month, for example, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told Fox News that the pope would be “better off leaving science to the scientists.” Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, meanwhile, claim that the science remains vague or is made up entirely.

That raises a second reason for inaction, according to Oreskes: intentional deception. Oreskes is the co-author of the “Merchants of Doubt,” a book that demonstrated how interest groups had undermined the science on tobacco, ozone depletion, acid rain and now climate change.

Many self-proclaimed “climate skeptics” no longer deny that the globe is warming, and some even acknowledge a human role in the new heat wave. Instead, they now say, warming is real — it just isn’t dangerous. They also attack the idea of a consensus, whatever the percentage.

“Nothing has really changed there,” said Oreskes. “The details shift but the overall picture remains the same. It’s a bit like Monet’s water lilies; it can look different at different at different times of day but it’s the same picture.”

Powell, however, hopes his work can finally close the debate, end the notion of doubt, move the frame ahead.

“There isn’t any evidence against global warming and there isn’t any alternative theory,” he said. “We’ve been looking for negative feedbacks and we’ve never found one that amounts to anything. It’s not impossible that we will, but I wouldn’t bet my grandchildren’s future on it.”

RELATED: Santorum to Pope Francis: ‘Leave science to the scientists’

RELATED: Pope Francis may drop political bombshell on climate change

Pope Francis to Explore Climate’s Effect on World’s Poor (New York Times)

VATICAN CITY — Ban Ki-moon arrived at the Vatican with his own college of cardinals. Mr. Ban, the United Nations secretary general, had brought the leaders of all his major agencies to see Pope Francis, a show of organizational muscle and respect for a meeting between two global institutions that had sometimes shared a bumpy past but now had a mutual interest.

The agenda was poverty, and Francis inveighed against the “economy of exclusion” as he addressed Mr. Ban’s delegation at the Apostolic Palace. But in an informal meeting with Mr. Ban and his advisers, Francis shifted the discussion to the environment and how environmental degradation weighed heaviest on the poor.

“This is the pope of the poor,” said Robert Orr, who attended the May 2014 meeting as Mr. Ban’s special adviser on climate change and described the informal conversation with Francis. “The fact that he is making the link to the planet is really significant.”

On Thursday, Francis will release his first major teaching letter, known as an encyclical, on the theme of the environment and the poor. Given the pope’s widespread popularity, and his penchant for speaking out on major global issues, the encyclical is being treated as a milestone that could place the Roman Catholic Church at the forefront of a new coalition of religion and science.

Francis, the first pope from the developing world, clearly wants the document to have an impact: Its release comes during a year with three major international policy meetings, most notably a United Nations climate change conference in Paris in December. This month, the Vatican sent notifications to bishops around the world with instructions for spreading the pope’s environmental message to the more than one billion Catholics worldwide.

By wading into the environment debate, Francis is seeking to redefine a secular topic, one usually framed by scientific data, using theology and faith. And based on Francis’ prior comments, and those of influential cardinals, the encyclical is also likely to include an economic critique of how global capitalism, while helping lift millions out of poverty, has also exploited nature and created vast inequities.

“We clearly need a fundamental change of course, to protect the earth and its people — which in turn will allow us to dignify humanity,” Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who oversaw the drafting of the encyclical, said at a conference on climate change this spring at the Vatican.

Vatican officials say that the encyclical is a theological document, not a political one, and have refused to divulge the contents. But there is already much speculation about how Francis will comment on humans’ role in causing climate change, a link he has spoken about in the past. The Vatican’s scientific academy recently attributed climate change to “unsustainable consumption” and called it “a dominant moral and ethical issue for society.”

This stance has rankled some conservative Catholics, as well as climate change skeptics, who have suggested that Francis is being misled by scientists and that he could veer into contentious subjects like population control. Others have argued that papal infallibility does not apply to matters of science. In April, a group of self-described climate skeptics, led by the Heartland Institute, a libertarian group, came to Rome to protest.

“The Vatican and the pope should be arguing that fossil fuels are the moral choice for the developing world,” said Marc Morano, who runs the website Climate Depot and once worked as an aide to Senator James M. Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and climate change skeptic.

Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo of Argentina, who is also chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, has sharply rebutted the criticism and postulated that many of the attacks have been underwritten by oil companies or influenced by conservative American interests, including the Tea Party. “This is a ridiculous thing, completely,” Bishop Sorondo said in an interview at the Vatican.

The first clue of the pope’s interest in the environment came when he chose his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the 13th century friar who dedicated himself to the poor and is considered the patron saint of animals and the environment. Francis had shown interest from his days in Argentina, when he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires.

There, he played a major role in convening different leaders to seek solutions for Argentina’s social ills. Francesca Ambrogetti, who co-wrote a biography of Francis, said he pushed for scientists at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina to investigate the impact of environmental issues on humanity. As far back as September 2004, Cardinal Bergoglio cited the “destruction of the environment” as contributing to inequality and the need for social reforms. At a 2007 meeting of Latin American bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, he oversaw the drafting of a broad mission statement that included an emphasis on the environment.

Pablo Canziani, an atmospheric physicist who researches climate change, said Francis, who had once trained as a chemist, became very interested in the links between environmental destruction and social ills, including a dispute over paper pulp mills on the border with Uruguay, which Argentina claimed were polluting local drinking water.

The pope, Professor Canziani added, has stayed in touch. Last year, the Vatican invited professors at his university to contribute ideas for the encyclical. He said they sent a memo focused on legal issues, sustainability, civic responsibility and governance.

“I’m pretty certain Francis will be requesting a change in the paradigms of development,” he said. “The encyclical will focus on why we’re suffering environmental degradation, then focus on links to social issues.”

Pope Francis and Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, during a meeting at the Vatican.CreditL’Ossservatore Romano, via Associated Press 

The final document seems certain to bear the fingerprints of scientists and theologians from around the world. The Rev. Sean McDonagh, an Irish priest who has worked on environmental issues and climate change for decades, said that Cardinal Turkson contacted him more than a year ago and asked if he would write a comprehensive document about the theological and ethical aspects of environmental issues.

Father McDonagh said he had spent two or three months writing about climate change, biodiversity, oceans, sustainable food “and a section at the end on hope.” Then he sent it to the Vatican. “At the time, they didn’t say there would be an encyclical,” he recalled, adding that he was eager to see it.

The hoopla over Francis’ encyclical confounds some Vatican experts, who note that both of Francis’ predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, wrote about the role of industrial pollution in destroying the environment. Benedict was called the “green pope” after he initiated projects to make the Vatican carbon-neutral. Other religious groups, including evangelical Christians, have spoken about the impact of environmental destruction on the poor.

But many analysts argue that Francis has a singular status, partly because of his global popularity. And in placing the issue at the center of an encyclical, especially at a moment when sustainable development is atop the international agenda, Francis is placing the Catholic Church — and the morality of economic development — at the center of the debate. In January, while traveling to the Philippines, Francis told reporters accompanying him that he was convinced that global warming was “mostly” a human-made phenomenon.

“It is man who has slapped nature in the face,” he said, adding: “I think we have exploited nature too much.”

Francis will travel in July to South America, and in September to Cuba and the United States, where he will speak about his encyclical at the United Nations.

“He is certainly going on the road,” said the Rev. Michael Czerny, a Jesuit priest who works under Cardinal Turkson and has been involved in drafting the encyclical. “This is certainly an agenda-setting document.”

Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development Program, said Francis had an “emerging agenda” on social issues and seemed determined “to make his period in office one related to the great concerns affecting humanity.” She added: “He is a man in a hurry.”

Ms. Clark and other development officials can tick off myriad ways that the global poor bear the brunt of environmental damage and changing weather patterns, whether they are African farmers whose crops are destroyed by drought or South Asian farmers threatened by rising sea levels. In this context, Vatican officials say, Francis is likely to see moral injustice.

“Rich people are more prepared,” said Bishop Sorondo, the head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. “Poor people are not prepared and have suffered the consequences.”

The May 2014 meeting at the Vatican between Francis and the United Nations delegation came at a propitious moment. The Vatican had just held a major symposium that brought together scientists, theologians, economists and others to discuss climate change and the social impact of environmental damage.

Partha Dasgupta, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences who helped organize the symposium, said many scientists — having dedicated their careers to raising awareness and trying to influence policy — were perplexed at the seeming lack of broad political response. Mr. Dasgupta, an agnostic, said he hoped that Francis could capture public attention by speaking in the language of faith.

“The pope has moral authority,” said Mr. Dasgupta, a prominent expert on development economics and climate change. “It could change the game in a fundamental way.”

Science Under Siege (CBC)

Paul Kennedy

Wednesday June 03, 2015

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/science-under-siege-part-1-1.3091552

Are we living through an Anti-Scientific Revolution? Scientists around the world are increasingly restricted in what they can research, publish and say — constrained by belief and ideology from all sides.  Historically, science has always had a thorny relationship with institutions of power. But what happens to societies which turn their backs on curiosity-driven research? And how can science lift the siege?  CBC Radio producer Mary Lynk looks for some answers in this three-part series.

Science Under Siege, Part 1:  Dangers of Ignorance – airs Wednesday, June 3
Explores the historical tension between science and political power and the sometimes fraught relationship between the two over the centuries. But what happens when science gets sidelined? What happens to societies which turn their backs on curiosity-driven research?

Science Under Siege, Part 2: The Great Divide – airs Thursday, June 4
Explores the state of science in the modern world, and the expanding — and dangerous — gulf between scientists and the rest of society.  Many policy makers, politicians and members of the public are giving belief and ideology the same standing as scientific evidence. Are we now seeing an Anti-Scientific revolution?  A look at how evidence-based decision making has been sidelined.

Science Under Siege, Part 3: Fighting Back – airs Friday, June 5
Focuses on the culture war being waged on science, and possible solutions for reintegrating science and society. The attack on science is coming from all sides, both the left and right of the political spectrum. How can the principle of direct observation of the world, free of any influence from corporate or any other influence, reassert itself? The final episode of this series looks at how science can withstand the attack against it and overcome ideology and belief.

Climate Misinformer Christopher Monckton

Global Climate Scam: An Interview with Lord Christopher Monckton

Climate Misinformer: Christopher Monckton (Skeptical Science)

Christopher Monckton is a British consultant, policy adviser, writer, columnist, and hereditary peer. While not formally trained in science, Monckton is one of the most cited and widely published climate skeptics, having even been invited to testify to the U.S. Senate and Congress on several occasions.

For a comprehensive rebuttal of many of Christopher Monckton’s arguments, check out this presentation by Professor John Abraham. Abraham has compiled many examples where Monckton misrepresents the very scientists whose work he cites. Check out this PDF of Monckton quotes versus the scientists who in their own words explain how Monckton misrepresents their research.

Quotes Articles Arguments Blogs Links Search

Favourite climate myths by Christopher Monckton

Below are many of the climate myths used by Christopher Monckton plus how often each myth has been used.

Climate myths by Monckton What the Science Says Usage
“Climate sensitivity is low” Net positive feedback is confirmed by many different lines of evidence. 15
“Sea level rise predictions are exaggerated” Sea level rise is now increasing faster than predicted due to unexpectedly rapid ice melting. 11
“Hockey stick is broken” Recent studies agree that recent global temperatures are unprecedented in the last 1000 years. 10
“Sea level rise is exaggerated” A variety of different measurements find steadily rising sea levels over the past century. 9
“Medieval Warm Period was warmer” Globally averaged temperature now is higher than global temperature in medieval times. 9
“It’s cooling” The last decade 2000-2009 was the hottest on record. 9
“IPCC overestimate temperature rise” Monckton used the IPCC equation in an inappropriate manner. 8
“CO2 limits will harm the economy” The benefits of a price on carbon outweigh the costs several times over. 7
“There’s no tropospheric hot spot” We see a clear “short-term hot spot” – there’s various evidence for a “long-term hot spot”. 7
“Arctic sea ice loss is matched by Antarctic sea ice gain” Arctic sea ice loss is three times greater than Antarctic sea ice gain. 7
“It warmed just as fast in 1860-1880 and 1910-1940” The warming trend over 1970 to 2001 is greater than warming from both 1860 to 1880 and 1910 to 1940. 7
“Lindzen and Choi find low climate sensitivity” Lindzen and Choi’s paper is viewed as unacceptably flawed by other climate scientists. 6
“Models are unreliable” Models successfully reproduce temperatures since 1900 globally, by land, in the air and the ocean. 6
“Hurricanes aren’t linked to global warming” There is increasing evidence that hurricanes are getting stronger due to global warming. 6
“IPCC ‘disappeared’ the Medieval Warm Period” The IPCC simply updated their temperature history graphs to show the best data available at the time. 6
“Extreme weather isn’t caused by global warming” Extreme weather events are being made more frequent and worse by global warming. 5
“IPCC is alarmist” Numerous papers have documented how IPCC predictions are more likely to underestimate the climate response. 5
“Climate’s changed before” Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change at the time; humans are now the dominant forcing. 5
“Greenland is gaining ice” Greenland on the whole is losing ice, as confirmed by satellite measurement. 5
“It’s global brightening” This is a complex aerosol effect with unclear temperature significance. 5
“CO2 limits will make little difference” If every nation agrees to limit CO2 emissions, we can achieve significant cuts on a global scale. 5
“Arctic was warmer in 1940” The actual data show high northern latitudes are warmer today than in 1940. 5
“It hasn’t warmed since 1998” For global records, 2010 is the hottest year on record, tied with 2005. 4
“It’s not bad” Negative impacts of global warming on agriculture, health & environment far outweigh any positives. 4
“Oceans are cooling” The most recent ocean measurements show consistent warming. 4
“An exponential increase in CO2 will result in a linear increase in temperature” CO2 levels are rising so fast that unless we decrease emissions, global warming will accelerate this century. 4
“CO2 lags temperature” CO2 didn’t initiate warming from past ice ages but it did amplify the warming.  4
“Climategate CRU emails suggest conspiracy” A number of investigations have cleared scientists of any wrongdoing in the media-hyped email incident. 4
“Al Gore got it wrong” Al Gore’s book is quite accurate, and far more accurate than contrarian books. 4
“It’s the sun” In the last 35 years of global warming, sun and climate have been going in opposite directions 4
“Arctic icemelt is a natural cycle” Thick arctic sea ice is undergoing a rapid retreat.  4
“It warmed before 1940 when CO2 was low” Early 20th century warming is due to several causes, including rising CO2. 3
“Mt. Kilimanjaro’s ice loss is due to land use” Most glaciers are in rapid retreat worldwide, notwithstanding a few complicated cases. 3
“There’s no empirical evidence” There are multiple lines of direct observations that humans are causing global warming. 3
“Temp record is unreliable” The warming trend is the same in rural and urban areas, measured by thermometers and satellites. 3
“It’s Urban Heat Island effect” Urban and rural regions show the same warming trend. 3
“Earth hasn’t warmed as much as expected” This argument ignores the cooling effect of aerosols and the planet’s thermal inertia. 3
“There’s no correlation between CO2 and temperature” There is long-term correlation between CO2 and global temperature; other effects are short-term. 3
“Greenland was green” Other parts of the earth got colder when Greenland got warmer. 3
“Skeptics were kept out of the IPCC?” Official records, Editors and emails suggest CRU scientists acted in the spirit if not the letter of IPCC rules. 2
“2009-2010 winter saw record cold spells” A cold day in Chicago in winter has nothing to do with the trend of global warming. 2
“Hansen’s 1988 prediction was wrong” Jim Hansen had several possible scenarios; his mid-level scenario B was right. 2
“IPCC were wrong about Himalayan glaciers” Glaciers are in rapid retreat worldwide, despite 1 error in 1 paragraph in a 1000 page IPCC report. 2
“CO2 limits will hurt the poor” Those who contribute the least greenhouse gases will be most impacted by climate change. 2
“Antarctica is gaining ice” Satellites measure Antarctica losing land ice at an accelerating rate. 2
“Polar bear numbers are increasing” Polar bears are in danger of extinction as well as many other species. 2
“Greenland ice sheet won’t collapse” When Greenland was 3 to 5 degrees C warmer than today, a large portion of the Ice Sheet melted. 2
“Ocean acidification isn’t serious” Ocean acidification threatens entire marine food chains. 2
“Arctic sea ice has recovered” Thick arctic sea ice is in rapid retreat. 2
“We’re coming out of the Little Ice Age” Scientists have determined that the factors which caused the Little Ice Age cooling are not currently causing global warming 2
“CO2 was higher in the past” When CO2 was higher in the past, the sun was cooler. 2
“CO2 is plant food” The effects of enhanced CO2 on terrestrial plants are variable and complex and dependent on numerous factors 2
“Phil Jones says no global warming since 1995” Phil Jones was misquoted. 2
“Global warming stopped in 19981995200220072010, ????” Global temperature is still rising and 2010 was the hottest recorded. 2
“There is no consensus” 97% of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming. 2
“Sea level is not rising” The claim sea level isn’t rising is based on blatantly doctored graphs contradicted by observations. 2
“Record high snow cover was set in winter 2008/2009” Winter snow cover in 2008/2009 was average while the long-term trend in spring, summer, and annual snow cover is rapid decline. 1
“Satellites show no warming in the troposphere” The most recent satellite data show that the earth as a whole is warming. 1
“It’s microsite influences” Microsite influences on temperature changes are minimal; good and bad sites show the same trend. 1
“CO2 has a short residence time” Excess CO2 from human emissions has a long residence time of over 100 years 1
“Glaciers are growing” Most glaciers are retreating, posing a serious problem for millions who rely on glaciers for water. 1
“CO2 is just a trace gas” Many substances are dangerous even in trace amounts; what really matters is the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. 1
“Ice Sheet losses are overestimated” A number of independent measurements find extensive ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland. 1
“CO2 is not a pollutant” Through its impacts on the climate, CO2 presents a danger to public health and welfare, and thus qualifies as an air pollutant 1
“Corals are resilient to bleaching” Globally about 1% of coral is dying out each year. 1
“Tuvalu sea level isn’t rising” Tuvalu sea level is rising 3 times larger than the global average. 1
“Ice age predicted in the 70s” The vast majority of climate papers in the 1970s predicted warming. 1
“Coral atolls grow as sea levels rise” Thousands of coral atolls have “drowned” when unable to grow fast enough to survive at sea level. 1
“Peer review process was corrupted” An Independent Review concluded that CRU’s actions were normal and didn’t threaten the integrity of peer review. 1
“It’s not urgent” A large amount of warming is delayed, and if we don’t act now we could pass tipping points. 1
“It’s not us” Multiple sets of independent observations find a human fingerprint on climate change. 1
“Greenland has only lost a tiny fraction of its ice mass” Greenland’s ice loss is accelerating & will add metres of sea level rise in upcoming centuries. 1
“Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted” Weather is chaotic but climate is driven by Earth’s energy imbalance, which is more predictable. 1
“It’s freaking cold!” A local cold day has nothing to do with the long-term trend of increasing global temperatures. 1
“Over 31,000 scientists signed the OISM Petition Project” The ‘OISM petition’ was signed by only a few climatologists. 1
“It’s too hard” Scientific studies have determined that current technology is sufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to avoid dangerous climate change. 1
“Animals and plants can adapt” Global warming will cause mass extinctions of species that cannot adapt on short time scales. 1
“Scientists tried to ‘hide the decline’ in global temperature” The ‘decline’ refers to a decline in northern tree-rings, not global temperature, and is openly discussed in papers and the IPCC reports. 1
“Southern sea ice is increasing” Antarctic sea ice has grown in recent decades despite the Southern Ocean warming at the same time.  1
“CRU tampered with temperature data” An independent inquiry went back to primary data sources and were able to replicate CRU’s results. 1
“It’s Pacific Decadal Oscillation” The PDO shows no trend, and therefore the PDO is not responsible for the trend of global warming. 1
“Trenberth can’t account for the lack of warming” Trenberth is talking about the details of energy flow, not whether global warming is happening. 1
“Clouds provide negative feedback” Evidence is building that net cloud feedback is likely positive and unlikely to be strongly negative. 1

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