Category Archives: Uncategorized

Claim: 97% consensus found for “many decades”

Cook introducing the consensus

One has to be on one’s guard when John Cook is presenting the result of his findings. Previous post was about Cook illustrating his research with exaggerated claims from three politicians. This post will be about his first sentence in that video, just after the statements of the politicians:

For many decades, study after study have found that 97% of publishing climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming.

That specific claim drew my attention. It seems to suggest that many studies found that 97% result over a long time frame. From what I learned about the consensus papers, that didn’t agree very well with reality.

Let’s take it part by part and see where we get.

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The average of a decreasing trend extrapolated as an exponential growth in the future

While writing previous post, I got intrigued by the graph representing the electricity generation forecast until 2032, especially that yellow line representing the exponential growth of solar PV and wind. To recapitulate, this is the graph I am talking about:

The authors claim that this graph represents:

Current world electricity generation trends, extrapolated to 2032

They also state that the growth rate of solar PV was 28% and that of wind was 13% between 2012 and 2016. The yellow line, being a combination of solar PV and wind, will be somewhere between those two values.

The suggestion is that this growth of solar PV and wind is somehow established between 2012 and 2016, therefor could be used to extrapolate future values that give rise to that exponentially increasing yellow graph line. I wondered whether such trend really could been found between 2012 and 2016, so I looked at the values of electricity generation that I used for previous post:

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Mindfulness and sustainable behavior: how to find a correlation where none might exist

Since recently I discovered that there is a whole field of what is called ecopsychology. A couple days ago I started reading a paper by Amel, Manning, Scott and Koger (probably more about that later) and I wondered whether those four had previous papers as well on the subject. Apparently they had. Members of this group produced a bunch of papers with (an)other member(s). One of the those papers had the intriguing title “Mindfulness and Sustainable Behavior: Pondering Attention and Awareness as Means for Increasing Green Behavior” by Amel et al (2009). It was quite an intriguing read, hence this post.

The authors started from the observation that our rushed lifestyle separates us from nature and this let us fall back on automatic behaviors which are not necessarily sustainable. They investigated two aspects of mindfulness: acting with awareness (paying attention) and being in the here-and-now (observing sensations). The authors hypothesized that paying attention is necessary for making sustainable choices and their goal is to break through this automatic behavior with mindfulness, so people could adopt a more sustainable behavior.

The conclusion of the paper was that, indeed, “acting with awareness is significantly positively correlated with self-reported sustainable behavior”. They arrived at this conclusion by means of a survey. Participants completed two questionaires. One to test their level of mindfulness (they investigated two aspects: “acting with awareness” and “observing sensations”) and the other to test their level of how “green” they were. Greenness was measured on a scale of 7: 0 being “not green” (meaning: never choose the most sustainable option available if it’s more costly in terms of time, money, convenience, or personal preference) to 7 being “dark green” (meaning: always choose the most sustainable option available, even if it’s more costly in terms of time, money, convenience, or personal preference).

According to the authors, there was no correlation between “observing sensations” and the “self-reported Green Scale ratings”, but when they put “acting with awareness” against the “self-reported Green Scale ratings” in a graph, this was the result:

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The signal given by switching from gray to green. What signal?

The counter of the We close Doel”-campaign is currently at 3,295,737 kWh. The counter didn’t move much in the last week and stood at the same number for the last four days. Time to contemplate about the significance of this number.

Wij sluiten doel counter: 3295737 kWh

To recapitulate: the Flemish Green Party started a campaign to “close Doel 1 and 2” [the two smallest nuclear power reactors]. On their website, people could indicate that they were willing to change electricity provider and by calculating how many kilowatt hours can become green, they want to show that the nuclear reactors of Doel 1 and 2 could indeed be closed. This would be a “clear signal to the government”.

The number seems impressive, at least according to Flemish standards, but my question would rather be: what is the meaning of that number and, more importantly, can it be related to what the Flemish Green Party is trying to achieve? Looking at the campaign, it is not really clear what this switching from gray to green energy has to do with the closure of the two reactors, so how relevant is that number when it comes to the closure of Doel 1 and 2?

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High concern, but low priority

A question that I have been asking myself over the last posts was how it was possible that the climate change topic could get such high scores. In almost half of the countries surveyed, more than 50% of the respondents were very concerned about Climate Change and some countries even had a score as high as 79% on climate change worries. It gives the impression that climate change is high at the list of worries of the public.

This in stark contrast with what other polls show, for example the MY World global survey 2015:

MY World 2015 overview

It shows action on climate change dead last. So what is the catch?

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Are we smart if we agree with others?

When looking for information to be used in a previous post, I came across this article: Pew: Americans the least concerned about climate change at the Washington Examiner. The thing that initially caught my attention was the first sentence:

Despite the heavy media and political pressure to make global warming and climate change the top issue in the nation, it is more of a concern to citizens in 36 of 40 other industrialized nations than in the United States, according to Pew Research Center.

I can imagine the frustation. The media and politicians did their very best to promote the global warming and climate change scare in the US, yet it was more of a concern in other countries… The irony.

But that is not what this post will be about. The most remarkable in that article was the screenshot of this tweet, just below that statement:

pew research twitter

So the challenge was to see how smart we are and how we compare to others. Not sure how smartness and agreement with others are linked. Does it mean that we are smart if we agree with others? Or vice versa? My guess is that he means that agreeing with the majority is the smartest thing to do. I can see where that comes from, but I think there are many reasons why majorities exists and those reasons are not necessarily good ones.

Anyhow, I became really curious about how I would do in that survey, so I went to the Climate Change Quiz page. These were the three questions:

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It is okay to be skeptical (but apparently not about the AGW consensus)

During the holidays, while zapping from one channel to another on television, I came across a documentary about the life of James Randi. While I have never been much interested in magicians or escape artists, I found this nevertheless an interesting program to watch. I didn’t really know much about Randi until that point. I vaguely remembered that he had something to do with the debunking of Uri Geller back in the 1970s. The part where I landed into the program was when he made a list of points to take into consideration when Geller wanted to do his tricks, effectively stopping one of Geller’s performances in its tracks. He also revealed a number of charlatans and tried to educate the public about critical thinking. What I remember from the documentary is a man in search of the truth with a scientific approach. A researcher who didn’t just believe in everything he has been told, but relied on the facts.

After I saw the documentary, I became curious: he didn’t seem to be the person to mindlessly agree with a consensus, so how would he think about the global warming controversy? Would he “believe” in it or not? So I found myself googling and it didn’t take long before I landed at his article AGW revisited at the James Randi Educational Foundation site (if you haven’t read it yet, recommended). The article dates from December 2009. Quite some time ago, back then my skepticism was only a year old and this blog wasn’t even a thought in my mind. In that article he displayed a nuanced and humble view. He agrees that our Earth is warming, he agrees that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, that we increasingly emit it in our atmosphere, that the issue is however very complex, that there is not much historical data, that science is not done by consensus, that we should occupy us with current problems and so on. That is the critical thinking Randi I saw in the documentary.

To me it didn’t look controversial at all. On the contrary, it seems more or less in line with how I think about it. He just asked whether we currently have the means of knowing with any certainty that global warming is caused by humans. He didn’t even claim that global warming didn’t exist or that humans couldn’t have some effect in it, yet apparently he got labeled a “denier” by the very people that celebrate him. He got such strong negative reactions that he wrote a follow-up: I am not denying anything (if you haven’t read it yet, also recommended to do it now).

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