Category Archives: Activism

The decline of trust in scientists between April and November 2020

Remember previous post in which I wrote about a handbook containing the claim that complete trust in scientists doubled between 2019 and November 2020, this while the poll that the authors referenced (but for obvious reasons didn’t link to) showed a rapid decline of trust after April 2020. Initially, trust levels in April 2020 quadrupled relative to 2019, but ended up in November as a doubling relative to the year before. Basically, although trust ended higher than the year before, half of those who completely trusted the scientists in April lost that trust by November.

The jump of trust in April 2020 was remarkable, but understandable. The world was confronted with a virus that was not only contagious but also deadly and people tend to unite in the face of external pressure, this combined with high expectation and the scientific community showing strong willingness to find a solution.

But then, why a decline already one month later and even more a half year later? This might have different reasons. The effect could be temporary, as suggested by the subtitle of the “trust in scientists” wiki page (but for some reason not explained in the rest of that text). I think there are other reasons and I will propose some in this post.

Reading the handbook, it struck me that there was a small discrepancy between the statement in the handbook (how much people trust scientists) compared to what the poll they referenced looked into (how much people trust science and research). This are two different things to me. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was surely trusting the science (as the method), but not necessarily the scientists (who use this method in various degrees and maybe even are motivated by other things).

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A falling coffee mug and the latest IPCC report

Some believe that we, due to rising temperatures as a result of our emissions, might be close to a tipping point and will experience irreversible changes for the worse. One of those is Nic Balthazar. He made the claim as a guest in the current affairs show “De 7de dag” (the 7th day) of last Sunday. He was invited there to comment on the COP 24 climate conference in Catowice. Nic Balthazar, a Belgian film director and a TV/radio personality, is also a co-founder of “Klimaatzaak” (an organization that filed legal action to force the federal and regional governments to improve their climate policies). The latter position is why he was invited.

He had mixed feelings about the conference. On the one hand, he was glad that some agreement was made, considering how many countries were present and all had to come to a consensus. On the other hand he was disappointed (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

On the other hand, it is the again incomprehensible that they didn’t want to listen to what all the scientists say today.

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We are doomed!

We are doomed! I kid you not. We are doomed!

This is how the campaign page looked like in its heyday:

The button “Read the report” goes to the New Economics Foundation where you can download the 100 months – Technical note document that explained the urgency (my emphasis):

O M G, they made a calculation!

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“Climate science educator”: we no longer have this stable, predictable system that we had…

jetstream crosses equator scream

Looking at the story about the cross-equatorial flow and the subsequent declaration of an emergency, I became curious about the Beckwith video that would give more explanation. Watching it was quite an experience. This is what he said after introducing himself:

For many years I have been talking about abrupt climate change and how the climate system is no longer behaving like it used to. We no longer have this stable, predictable system that we had. We gone to a chaotic system. As we transition in a non-linear fashion to a warmer world, we see a complete redistribution of jet streams and ocean currents.


I did’t expect something like that from someone who calls himself a “Climate System” scientist. The climate system, being a complex, coupled, chaotic system, is by its very nature unpredictable. How could he think that it ever was stable and predictable before?

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Global climate emergency over cross-equatorial flows

screenshot Youtube video Beckwith:

A couple days ago, we were treated to the alarming article in the Science section of a Flemish newspaper titled “Winter is dying”: scientists see worldwide climate crisis (Dutch). Those “scientists” being Robert Scribbler and Paul Beckwith. This is what they saw (translated from Dutch):

Environmental Scientists fear a “global climate crisis” after the jet stream from the northern hemisphere crossed the equator. That would provide unprecedented changes in weather patterns. Global food production is threatened and winter as we know it would be doomed. Not to mention summer.

and further in the article:

“Our climate continues to behave in new and frightening ways. This was never predicted and we have never seen this before. Welcome to climate chaos. We should declare a state of emergency global climate.”

“The food supply will be affected and these changes have the potential to cause major geopolitical unrest. Strange things are happening on our planet.”

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Woods in Flanders: only counting the losses, the balance will be negative

In the controversy around the inventory of the woods in Flanders the theme was the same: woods are disappearing year after year. To recap, these are the relevant quotes from the tweet of Groen [Flemish Green Party] (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

Every year, more woods are disappearing in Flanders.


In Flanders, more woods are cleared than planted.

“More being cleared than being planted” and “more are disappearing”, if I understand that well, it means that the area is going down, so less hectares occupied by woods each year that is passing.

The same thing in the foreword of the quiz from De Afspraak [talk show on the Flemish Television] (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

Environmental organization BOS+ examined at the request of Knack [a Flemish magazine] what the real state of the woods is in Flanders. The study found there are more woods being cleared than planted, contrary to the claims of Schauvliege [Flemish Minister of Nature].

Deforestation permits were issued for on average of 300 hectares of woods per year in the past ten years. In 2014 – the latest year for which figures are available – 263 hectares were cleared. In 2012 it was 195 hectares and in 2013 193 hectares.

More being cleared than being planted, that also looks like a downward trend to me. They also looked at previous years and found that 195 hectares were cleared in 2012, 193 hectares in 2013 and 263 hectares in 2014. So from the years that were presented, one could assume that there was an increase in cleared area over the last three years.

All in all, everything in the communication seems to assume that the numbers go down, that woods got lost. Remember that 263 number. It is important further in the post.

But I had more questions than answers. It was all rather vaguely presented and only with partial numbers. Something didn’t seem right. The first red flag was that if the average number of cleared woods in the last decade is 300 hectares and in the last three years 195, 194 and 263 hectares were cleared, then what about the previous years? 194, 195 and 263 are all less than 300, does this mean that there were much more permits given before that?

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The science, the evidence and the (satellite) data

Recently I viewed the video Sen. Cruz Questioning Sierra Club President Aaron Mair on Climate Change in the Judiciary Subcommittee on “Over-regulation and its impact on minority communities”. The video was from a couple weeks ago and went viral at that time. It became perfectly clear why when I at last viewed it. Skeptics got used to be viewed as the underdog and blamed for not having the evidence on their side, but in this video we saw Mr. Mair initially claiming to be driven by the science, the evidence and the data, yet when the questioning advanced, it became quickly clear that he wasn’t driven by the science, nor by the evidence, nor by the data. He probably wouldn’t even notice the science, even if it bit him. 😉

This is how the story goes. In his written testimony, the president of the Sierra Club wrote that the science behind climate change and its effect on minority communities should not be up for debate, which provoked a sequence of questions from Senator Cruz, which the president of the Sierra Club had a hard time answering. Just watch the video if you didn’t already.

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Learning from the pros: reframing the issue

If the controversy on the use of the Lubos_Motl handle by John Cook was interesting enough, the response of Skeptical Science was even more interesting.

This is how they introduce the issue to the readers:

A number of peer-reviewed studies have observed a link between climate science denial and conspiratorial thinking.

Hey, I know where this is going! Seemingly they want to frame their opponents as conspiratorial thinkers on the basis of these “peer-reviewed studies”.

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Reading skeptical comments threads (fabricated by alarmists) will make you stupid

It wasn’t my intention of blogging about the recent Cook/Lubos controversy, but it evolved in a rather interesting way, that I couldn’t resist dedicating a blog post to it (maybe even two).

First some background. Last Wednesday Luboš Motl wrote a blog post Identity theft: the thief of Lubos_Motl turns out to be a well-known man about John Cook using the handle “Lubos_Motl” on the SkS “private” forum.

Motl’s article was the first that I read in that regard and it seemed to me that he took it with a healthy dose of humor. Motl and Cook are not exactly best friends. John Cook wrote on SkS a list of Global Warming & Climate Change Myths (I have to admit that I used that list quite often when I was looking for information on global warming in the early days – shame on me) and Luboš Motl then wrote a rebuttal of every point on that list (I later read this list with even more pleasure – it turned out all right after all). The whole controversy came when Motl found out John Cook using the handle “Lubos_Motl”, apparently made comments on a (skeptical looking) blog post (but written by Cook himself) in a way that Motl personally wouldn’t do. In fact misrepresenting his ideas.

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This will be for our children

Urgenda, the organization that sued the Dutch Government because they didn’t do enough to prevent dangerous climate change, got victorious Wednesday last week. The judge ordered the Dutch Government to cut greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 by 25% by 2020.

My first reaction was amazement. Wasn’t there something like the separation of powers? Yet, now judicial power is intervening with legislative power. Aren’t they a democracy? Yet, now a small activist group is bypassing the majority.

Then there was this statement made after the judgement that kept on resonating in my head:

“A courageous judge. This is fantastic,” said Sharona Ceha, another Urgenda worker. “This is for my children and grandchildren.”

In a way, I can agree with this one, but obviously not how they see it…

Let’s for a moment look at reality. Global warming/climate change is something, well, global. If you just look at the global emissions, they go up, steeply up. Three countries are responsible for more than half of the emissions and for 3/4 of the increase in global emission compared to 2012. These are China (which isn’t planning to decrease emissions until 2030), USA (which is telling that it favors emission reduction, but doesn’t ratify anything and knowing the republicans are in the majority, this could make it rather difficult) and India (which said they will not decrease emissions in the first place).

Let’s look at some numbers to get some feel for the proportions. These are the three largest emitters which consists of more than half of the emissions compared with the total emissions and emissions of the Netherlands:

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