At the end of August, Cliscep had an interesting post about a Google campaign against misinformation on social media based on (psychological) inoculation research. That post also pointed to some videos on the inoculation Science website. Looking around this website, I also found a link to the COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Handbook in the “Inoculation explained” tab. The handbook was a collaboration between several (social science) researchers among whom Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook as two of the lead authors. That promises to be interesting, I wonder what tricks they came up with this time.
Going through the handbook, trust in scientists seems to be an important element in the handbook and this infobox at the bottom of page 4 immediately caught my eye:
Trust in scientists increases:
Surveys in several countries have shown trust in scientists to increase.
In Germany, the share of people who completely trust scientists
doubled between 2019 and November 2020, and around 70% of the
public trust scientists. In the U.K., 64% of respondents indicated in
April 2020 that the pandemic had made them more likely to listen to
scientists and researchers.
It caught my attention because, by using the present tense, the title seems to suggest that trust is on the increase (at least at the time the handbook came out). I can certainly agree that trust in scientists surged at the beginning of the pandemic, but as far as I know, that initial trust was already declining for quite a while by the time that the handbook was released (January 7, 2021). Therefor it didn’t make much sense to me that trust in scientists was still increasing at that time and it made me wonder what evidence the handbook provides to support this position.
The Ventilus project is a future 380 kV high-voltage power line with a capacity of 6 GW that will connect the Belgian coast with the rest of the country and will also serve as a (second) interconnection with the UK. There is quite some protest against it. It was planned as an overhead power line, but people living along the trajectory want the cables below ground. To my surprise, the Green party wants them above ground and demands a quick approval of the project by the Flemish Government. This is how Jeremie Vaneeckhout (the Flemish green party co-chairman) explains the urgency of the project (transcription translated from Dutch, my emphasis)
Ventilus is not only the project that can ensure that a capacity of 3.5 nuclear power plants produced at sea by wind energy, that we get that on land. It is also the guarantee that the vehicle fleet can be made electric, can be electrified, and that our grid will not fail, that all West Flemish companies can certainly remain on the grid.
The first time that I heard this, it didn’t make much sense to me. Our largest nuclear reactors have a capacity of 1 GW, but offshore wind currently has a capacity of 2.2 GW, so he is likely talking about a future capacity (but then (much) less than the 8 GW that the Minister of the North Sea envisioned). Where does this 3.5 GW number comes from? My guess was that it is the future capacity of offshore wind by the time that Ventilus will come into use. I found dates between 2027 and 2030, but Belgian offshore wind should already exceed 3.5 GW by then.
There also were others that started to use that the Ventilus-is-3.5-nuclear-reactors claim around the same time relating to Ventilus. The chairman of the Flemish socialist party said the following in an interview on Flemish television news one week earlier (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):
The current plan of the Belgian Government is to keep the two youngest nuclear power reactors (Doel 4 and Tihange 3) open for ten more years (called “plan B”). That was a blow for our Minister of Energy who, as a member of the Flemish green party, relentlessly advocated for a complete nuclear exit (“plan A”). This makes her statement in an interview on current affairs program Terzake rather curious (translated from Dutch, emphasis by the Minister in the interview)
The essence is security of electricity supply. The most performing power stations that we have are our two youngest nuclear power stations, which lifespan we are going to extend by ten years, at my initiative, at my request.
This statement in which she praised herself for keeping the two youngest nuclear reactors open came as a complete surprise to me and many others. She made it very clear in the past that she wanted nuclear electricity production gone, all of it and as soon as possible. This sudden emphasis on herself as the one who initiated and requested this elongation is therefor pretty remarkable.