Category Archives: Climate Communication

The fifty-times-more-deaths-by-weather news item: the contribution of the “expert”

In previous two posts, I explained a television news item explaining the scientific paper in which was proposed that there would be fifty times more deaths in the period 2070 to 2100. This post will focus on the dubious contribution of the expert in that news item. It was not really clear to me why he was invited. I expected that he was interviewed to explain the content or conclusions of the paper, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

The expert had seven lines in total, yet only two of them were related to the paper. These are his first two lines (translated from Dutch):

The heat is clearly the effect that will make the majority of victims. Flooding by rivers, by sea, but also by forest fires and extreme weather, storms etc.

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The one and only solution

Continuing from previous post in which I described the start of a television news item on the modeled impacts of future weather on Europe. After that introduction, an expert was brought up to explain the paper a bit more, in this case Serge De Gheldere. As far as I know, he is an engineer (specialized in material technology and product design) who got his climate training from no one less than Al Gore, so I was a bit puzzled what his expertise was concerning this specific paper.

He first explained the outcome of the paper (translated from Dutch):

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Fifty times more deaths by weather

VTM news August 5, 2017: fifty times more deaths by weather

The hyperbole level was high in this news item from the VTM news of last Saturday: Fifty Times More Deaths By Weather. This is how it is introduced (translated from Dutch):

South and Central Europe are moaning under a heatwave these days and this has consequences. In Italy, for example, is it up to 46 degrees and there are already three deaths. It is an example of what will happen much more by the end of this century: people who die from extreme weather. That is what researchers of a working group of the European Commission say. According to their study, there will be about 152,000 deaths by weather-related phenomena per year between 2071 and 2100, mainly caused by climate change.

That 50 times more is compared to the weather-related deaths in the reference period 1981→2010 and projected into the future with demographic and climate models. The study at issue is titled Increasing risk over time of weather-related hazards to the European population: a data-driven prognostic study and is written by Giovanni Forzieri et al of the Joint Research Center of the European Commission.

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Cancer risks versus Climate risks

It was quite hectic in the last month. Now the dust is slowly starting to settle, I will try to pick up blogging again. The subject of previous post was the statement that climate scientists are as certain about climate risks as oncologists on cancer risks that come with smoking. I ended that post being confused whether the authors meant that the evidence of climate risks is as strong as the evidence of the link between smoking and cancer or that there is the same “overwhelming” consensus as the medical scientists have on the link between smoking and cancer.

Scientific American seems to suggest the former, the scientific paper that was linked to in Scientific American the latter. This post will explore the case that they meant that the “evidence of climate risk is as strong as the link between smoking and cancer”, so this post will be about the evidence of the cancer risks linked to smoking and whether the evidence of climate risks is in the same ballpark.

Before I look into this, I can somehow understand the comparison between medical science and the climate science. Both study a very complex system. Medical sciences study the human body and climate scientists study the Earth with its climate system. The complexity of the human body and its interactions means that there is not one conclusive proof, but there are multiple lines of evidence. We hear the same thing about climate science.

So far, so good.

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“Climate Risks” as conclusive as the link between Smoking and Lung cancer?

Via the Cliscep post “Don’t call me an alarmist,” says alarmist, I landed on this livescience article: Treading the Fine Line Between Climate Talk and Alarmism. It is an op-ed written by Sarah E. Myhre about climate change communication and her wish not being called an alarmist.

One thing that caught my attention in the op-ed was this statement:

We would never fault an oncologist for informing patients about the cancer risks that come with smoking. Why would we expect Earth scientists to be any different, when we’re just as certain?

It is not clear from the text what we should expect from those Earth scientists. Luckily, the links goes to an article in Scientific American, titled “Climate Risks as Conclusive as Link between Smoking and Lung Cancer”. So apparently, she means that the Earth scientists know as much from climate risks as medical scientists about the link between smoking and lung cancer…

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Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: selecting 33 answers in just ONE minute?

Looking at the data of the second experiment of the Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation paper, I came across something rather strange. The time to complete the survey was recorded also and some of the participants finished the survey in an incredibly short timespan.

Let me first explain how I got there. I incidentally stumbled on it by looking at something else that initially puzzled me. This is how the population of experiment 2 was selected as explained in the section “Participants”:

Participants (N = 400) were a representative U.S. sample, recruited through Qualtrics.com, based on U.S. demographic data on gender, age, and income in the same fashion as for Experiment 1 (49.2% female, average age M ≈ 43 years, SD ≈ 15 years). The sample delivered by Qualtrics comprised only participants who had successfully answered all attention filter items. None of the participants had participated in Experiment 1. Outliers in the time taken to complete the survey (n = 8) were eliminated according to the outlier labelling rule as in Experiment 1. The final sample of participants (N = 392) were randomly allocated to the four experimental conditions: control (n = 98), inoculation (n = 98), misinformation (n = 99), and inoculation+misinformation (n = 97).

As it is explained here, I understood that there were 400 participants and 8 of them were outliers (in the sense that it took them too long to complete the survey). Subtracting those eight outliers left them with 392 final participants who were randomly allocated to the four experimental conditions.

In the order as it is explained in that paragraph, it didn’t make much sense to me.

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Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: the conclusion that could not be a conclusion

This is already the third post on the Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation paper of Cook, Lewandowsky and Ecker (2017). This post will focus on one paragraph in the general conclusions of this paper (my emphasis):

The ongoing focus on questioning the consensus, in concert with the gateway belief status of perceived consensus, underscores the importance of communicating the consensus [68,69]. However, positive consensus messaging is not sufficient, given recent findings that misinformation can undermine positive information about climate change [33,56]. As a complement to positive messages, inoculation interventions are an effective way to neutralize the influence of misinformation.

Although these are nice sounding conclusions, I have one problem with it: these could never ever be one of the conclusions that can be drawn from these two experiments described in the paper…

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