Category Archives: Climate Politics

Climate misinformation having little or no effect on liberals?

It has been a while since last post. I am learning new skills and this has a negative effect on the post frequency. I am still in the learning process, but I couldn’t resist when I saw this list of quotes in a tweet from John Cook (my emphasis):

Twieet John Cook 20200724

These quotes are a collection extracted from an Independent article on “The spread of climate denial on Facebook”, which contained some quotes from John Cook. These are all interesting quotes, but I will limit myself in this post to the first quote (yellow marking):

Through his research, Dr Cook has found that climate misinformation that is spread on social media disproportionately affects conservatives and has little impact on liberals.

I can understand that conservatives and liberals have different worldviews, therefor react differently to the same information, but there is much more nuance to it than that.

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Getting the world below 2 degrees not possible without a “climate neutral” EU?

Some seem to believe that a EU emission decrease will have a huge effect on world emissions, as is shown in this curious tweet from a Belgian politician (my emphasis):

Without getting the EU climate neutral, you will not get the world below 2 degrees C. And if we do not achieve that, the costs and losses cannot be foreseen.

Tweet wf schiltz 20191211

This is a bold statement and it doesn’t make much sense. Firstly, the EU emissions were in the order of 10-11% of world emissions in 2018 and secondly, developing countries like China and India have strongly rising emissions without engagements to lower them, so their emissions are very likely to further increase in the future, likely even after 2030. Africa will likely follow soon.

He rightfully got criticized for that in the reactions on the tweet. In this post, I want to go a step further and try to find out how EU emissions relate to global emissions and to what extent these are big enough to compensate for the increase from the developing regions.

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More doom stories from The Guardian

This is the follow-up of on previous post in which I discussed a Guardian article of October 2006, claiming that we only had ten years to save the planet “from mankind”. This was only one article in a string of others that I found having the same structure: number of time left to save the world/planet.

Fast forward two years.

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Ten years to save the planet from mankind?

When researching previous post, I came across the article in the Guardian on James Hansen stating that “Obama had only four years to halt devastating climate change”. When I finished that post, I wondered how many other similar claims (in the form of “number of years/months to save the planet/world”) were there in Guardian articles.

As expected there were more than the one I accidentally bumped into. This post will be about the first article I found, there will be a follow-up post on the others.

That first article that I found is titled “Ten years to save the planet from mankind“, written by Gaby Hinsliff and published on 29 Oct 2006. Its subject is the Stern report that was published a day later (it is striking how the Guardian succeeds to know what is in a report before it is published). It was initially not really clear what the “from mankind” in the title is about.

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Doom prediction amnesia

One of the things that became abundantly clear in a previous post is how incredibly easy it is replace past failed predictions by a brand new one, even when incompatible with the failed prediction. There was the example of a Belgian activist who in 2008 claimed that we only had ten year left to avert tipping points by limiting the temperature increase to 2 °C, but in 2018 -when we horribly failed to reach that target- he made a new prediction that we now had another ten years to prevent tipping points by limiting the temperature increase to … 1.5 °C.

In that post, I also noticed the similarity between this prediction and the prediction by Andrew Simms and his onehundredmonths campaign. Both claimed that 2 °C had to be averted otherwise we were in for tipping points, pointed to the authority of the IPCC to justify their claim, both started their campaign roughly at the same time (2008), both had a hard deadline in the near future for this to happen (100 months for Simms, 10 years for Balthazar). The deadlines expired without reaching the goal in both cases and both adopted a new target: limiting to 1.5 °C temperature increase, basically forgetting about their previous claim. Simms learned his lesson and didn’t propose a new deadline anymore. Balthazar apparently wasn’t that smart and adopted another, rather close-by, target date (2030). I wonder what new claim he will make when his current prediction will not materialize (odds are that it will not materialize, because his claim is not substantiated by the report he claims it is based on).

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Where does the claim that we only have ten years left come from?

“We have about ten years before we get into a irreversible situation”, said Nic Balthazar (see previous post). Just as in an earlier interview at the end of December 2018, he based his claim on the IPCC SR15 report that was “clearer than ever”. But then, I read the SR15 report before and I didn’t find anything that suggests that there would be tipping points at a 1.5 °C temperature increase.

As far as I know, the SR15 report was commissioned at the 2015 Paris conference and the question back then was: which are the effects of the threshold of 1.5 °C (proposed at the conference) compared to the 2 °C threshold that was valid until that conference?

That is what I also see in the SR15 report: how do the two thresholds compare. So how on earth does he come to the conclusion that the SR15 report shows that there will be a tipping point within ten years and it will be game over for our society in twenty years?

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Imagine that 11,000 doctors tell you that you are dying of cancer…

When I looked at the stats of my previous post a couple days ago, I noticed that there were quite some visits coming from Twitter. However, when I looked at the tweet linking to my post on my own twitter account, I didn’t see that many views and hardly any engagements, so only few clicked the link. These stat views definitely didn’t come via my own tweet. This prompted me to search for the distribution of the link to my previous post on twitter.

I quickly found some twitter accounts that picked up the link to my previous post. Two of them were interesting, these are both replies on tweets about (alarmist) articles from the Guardian and the Independent.

This is the tweet that originated from the Independent:

The tweet stated that a sane person would not need more convincing than the 11,000 scientists backing up the “report” (it is actually a viewpoint). He took the list of 11,000 “scientists” as a confirmation that we are in a climate emergency (and maybe even are too late already). I am pretty sure that the tweep didn’t look at that list…

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Given the same evidence, why do some people become concerned while others deny it?

Previous post was on the question whether the political left is more science-minded than the political right, based on a Conversation article by David Hall. In that post, there was a link to another Conversation article titled “Climate explained: Why are climate change skeptics often right-wing conservatives?. It is written by three authors in the field of Psychology. Their article start with this paragraph (my emphasis):

The scientific evidence for climate change is unequivocal: 97 per cent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that human activities are causing global warming. Given the same evidence, why do some people become concerned about human-caused climate change while others deny it? In particular, why are people who remain skeptical about climate change often identified as right-wing conservatives?

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Is the political left more science-minded than the political right?

In the article “Why some people still think climate change isn’t real“, the author stated that political ideology is the strongest predictor for denial and conservative voters are more likely to discount climate change. The focus is on conservatives that are said to be ideologically biased and therefor can’t accept the facts of climate science.

I heard many times before that the political right tend to deny the science. In the article itself, there was a link to another “Climate explained” article titled “Why are climate change skeptics often right-wing conservatives“. This was also explained in several papers authored by John Cook and it was therefor no surprise that this claim also appeared in the consensus handbook (in the chapter “The role of politics and information”):

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Impartially weighing up all the evidence or post hoc rationalisations?

climate explained header

The Conversation has a “Climate explained” series with articles centered around a (climate change related) question that get answered by an “expert”. The question of the article that is the subject of this post is “Why some people still think climate change isn’t real” and the expert who answers this question is David Hall, a Senior Researcher in, ahem, Politics.

He tries to explain in the article what drives the “deniers” and how to “undo” their denial.

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