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Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation

Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn't what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that purports to refute global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?

 


2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #15

Posted on 11 April 2021 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Apr 4, 2021 through Sat, Apr 10, 2021

The big news - at least from our perspective! - we shared on social media this week was Skeptical Science to expand impact as 501(c)(3) non-profitJudging from post activity, our followers on Facebook however thought differently and the most active posts were Carbon dioxide spikes to critical record, halfway to doubling preindustrial levels,How many anti-vaxxers does it take to misinform the world? Just twelve and Sea level rise is killing trees along the Atlantic coast, creating ‘ghost forests’ that are visible from space

Articles Linked to on Facebook

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The choice is clear: Fair climate policy or no climate policy

Posted on 9 April 2021 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Richard Richels, Henry Jacoby, Ben Santer, and Gary Yohe

President Biden has expressed a commitment to making equity a guiding principle in domestic policy formation. When applied to climate policy, it may help eliminate major obstacles to getting our own house in order. But equity concerns may be a greater barrier when it comes to international negotiations: Poorer countries are demanding that it be an overarching consideration in evaluating policies not only within but across national boundaries.

Equity graphic

The first image gets to the nub of the problem. Equality should not be confused with equity. Equality means that we all have access to the same tools and opportunities (ladders of equal height). This approach would be fine if all parties were to have the same access to the same underlying foundations: healthcare, education, jobs, shelter, and the other trappings of wellbeing. The higher ladder corrects for inequality. It gives the disadvantaged a step up, in effect leveling the playing field.

Domestically, one need look no further than the plight of coal miners or autoworkers for examples of what the President has in mind. Moving away from coal and oil will eliminate traditional jobs in these and related industries. The communities where workers live will also be adversely affected. Does America not owe some debt to those who helped power the post-World War II economic boom?

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Skeptical Science to expand impact as 501(c)(3) non-profit

Posted on 8 April 2021 by John Cook, doug_bostrom, BaerbelW

On November 25, 2020 Skeptical Science Inc. became a registered nonprofit organization and on March 17, 2021 our application to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for 501(c)(3) status was approved. In this blog post, we’ll explain why we went down this path and what will come next.

SkS Seal

Since its creation in 2007, Skeptical Science has been operated in an entirely informal manner by a global team of volunteers. Frankly, we’ve surprised ourselves how we've pushed the limits of what's possible with such a ragtag gang of plucky mavericks! But we also felt it was the right time to formalize the group and make it an official entity.

In order to bring the organization to the next level, we’ve had on-and-off discussions over the years about how to become an IRS-scrutinized and supervised 501(c)(3) entity in order to

  • Make it possible to approach foundations or similar funding outfits to support special projects
  • Tap into tax-deductible donations from US enthusiasts (which make up most of our audience)
  • Ensure tax exemption for contributions
  • Keep up with the urgency of our work
  • Initiate crowdfunding projects as needed
  • Consolidate accounts of our technical landscape

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #14, 2021

Posted on 7 April 2021 by doug_bostrom

Nature Climate Change celebrates 10 years of obfuscation

The Nature Publishing Group (a prestige division of Springer Nature; think "Cadillac" in the General Motors panoply) is distinguished not only by what we're told (most of us must take somebody's word for it) are exceptionally high quality research publications but also by what some might term an outlier, extremist policy on locked-down content. In many Nature publications, members of the public concerned about climate change or other matters of science important to society often cannot even read so as much the abstract of an article. So, it's refreshing to see that a decade of publishing Nature Climate Change has excited Nature Publishing Group so much that we're actually allowed to see summaries of what editors identify as outstanding papers published in Nature Climate Change during its first 10 years of an uncomfortable and difficult relationship with transparency. Whinging about throwing a blanket of darkness over information of an urgent nature aside,  10 years of Nature Climate Change is a fascinating read. Avail while the window of visibility is open just a crack.  Reflections and projections on a decade of climate science is also well worth reading.

To put what may seem like a negative attitude about Nature Publishing Group's jealous grip on information vital to public welfare into context, here is an open access article discussing the highly profitable scientific publishing enterprise: Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science? In a nutshell, for-profit publishing concerns have inserted themselves into the economy of human knowledge in a role similar but not identical to the elaborate financial friction of credit card payment processing.  The  difference in  this case is that no credit is advanced to anybody. In fact, it's hard to discern any unique or vital value provided for the enormous "take" enjoyed by publishers, given that the entire distinguishing characteristic and objective worth of the otherwise purely mechanical and commodity-type product on offer isn't produced by these concerns. Here instead of an unalloyed improvement we have business plans bolted to a utilitarian requirement for making information visible with the weird outcome that information thus becomes less visible.

What's truly amazing and almost beyond belief is that nearly all of the mental sweat required to allow Springer Nature and other similar enterprises to vacuum up money largely provided by the same public that pays for so much research - at prodigious rate and in astronomical quantity in both respects - is contributed for nothing tangible in return. The principal (and - parochially - principled) reward in this arguably lopsided compromise offered by researchers, reviewers and most editors is simply that of ratcheting our understanding forward, one article at a time. One can hardly imagine a more impressive monument commemorating the spirit of human inquiry.

104 articles 

Physical science of climate change, effects

Dependence of Climate Sensitivity on the Given Distribution of Relative Humidity
Bourdin et al 2021 Geophysical Research Letters
DOI: 10.1002/essoar.10506044.1

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A helpful resource: John Cook's presentations about countering misinformation

Posted on 6 April 2021 by BaerbelW

Our talks page provides links to many recorded presentations John Cook and others have given over the years. It also shows how the presentations evolved and how their focus changed from the early to current days. While climate science (e.g. here from 2013) and how that regularly gets distorted (e.g. here from 2016) was initially the main focus, things have broadened to encompass science misinformation more generally. Over time, more and more of John's Cranky Uncle cartoons made appearances in his presentations and he even managed to give one talk for CSICon Las Vegas 2018 where he explained climate science denial using only his cartoons - which I find quite the feat, but judge for yourself:

Now that the Cranky Uncle game is available, the most recent videos often leave out basic climate science information but instead focus on how to actually tackle misinformation, why that is really important and how the game can help with that task. A couple of John's talks this year have been along those lines and this talk for the Cyberpsychology Center from February 2021 is a good example:

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Suez Canal shutdown shows the vulnerability of the global economy to extreme events

Posted on 5 April 2021 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jeff Masters, PhD

A critical global shipping node – Egypt’s Suez Canal – was reopened on Monday, March 29, six days after being shut down when the 400-meter-long container ship Ever Given became lodged in the canal. A statement by the Suez Canal Authority initially blamed the incident on high winds and a sand storm that reduced visibility, but later said that strong winds were “not the only cause,” and that an investigation was ongoing.

There is no clear indication at this point that climate change played a role in the sandstorm that led to the ship’s blocking the canal, but the incident raises intriguing questions that likely will prompt research into any correlation.

The multi-day shutdown of one of the world’s busiest shipping chokepoints underscores the vulnerability of the global food system and economy to disruptions. That vulnerability is playing on the stage of increasingly extreme weather, rising seas, and an increasingly just-in-time world of shipping.

Figure 1Figure 1. MODIS satellite image from March 23, 2021, the day of the grounding of the container ship Ever Given in the Suez Canal. A cold front over Egypt was causing a widespread dust storm that affected the Red Sea, Suez Canal, and waters of the Mediterranean Sea. (Image credit: NASA Worldview)

Meteorology of the event

The high winds and sand storm that contributed to the grounding incident were caused by a cold front trailing to the south of a low-pressure system centered near southern Turkey.

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2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #14

Posted on 4 April 2021 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Mar 28, 2021 through Sat, Apr 3, 2021

The three apparently most popular posts on our Facebook page this week were John Cook's 23 Ways to Mislead (and how to spot them), Stanton Glantz' blog post Many industries share “spin” strategies to undermine science they don’t like and Doug Bostrom's Skeptical Science New Research for Week #12, 2021. This is based on a quick and rather arbitrary look at the metrics provided by Facebook regarding impressions, engagement and shares.

Articles Linked to on Facebook

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Clock is running on our reliance on vegetation as a steady 'carbon sink'

Posted on 1 April 2021 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Kristen Pope

Trees and other plants have been critical in helping to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. But newly published scientific findings suggest the clock may be running on vegetation’s forever continuing at the same carbon sink efficiency rate currently taken for granted.

An international team of researchers published their findings in Science. “The enhanced vegetation productivity driven by increased concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) [i.e. the CO2 fertilization effect (CFE)] sustains an important negative feedback on climate warming,” they noted in the paper, but “the temporal dynamics of CFE remain unclear.”

This “CO2 fertilization effect” (CFE) describes plants using CO2 to increase their photosynthesis rate to help them grow and thrive. The authors found that “global CFE has declined across most terrestrial regions of the globe from 1982 to 2015, correlating well with changing nutrient concentrations and availability of soil water.”

Plants sequester CO2 in their roots, trunks, and branches and other parts. For decades, the extra CO2 in the atmosphere was a “bonus” for the plants, allowing plant growth to increase as the plants sequestered CO2, leading to more photosynthesis and growth. This process is helpful also to humans in that it reduces the volume of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, as atmospheric CO2 levels keep rising (reaching more than 415 parts per million as of January 2021), water and nutrient levels in the environment – two other essential elements plants need to grow – are not rising in sync with the soaring CO2 levels.

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #12, 2021

Posted on 31 March 2021 by doug_bostrom

Short sharp slap

In the world of child psychology it's agreed that smacking youngsters isn't productive even as a slap certainly fixes attention. Our planet is notionally governed by proclaimed adults however and perhaps the psychology is different in this context. Perhaps an unmistakable signal will help to change attitudes. In any case, in their succinct and pointed opinion piece for journal EcoHealth Weinstein & Daszak lay out their skepticism over humankind's collective effort to address the climate mess we've all helped to create,  beginning with a title  guaranteed to seize our focus and fully redolent of an adult who has lost patience. Failing Efforts to Mitigate Climate Change are a Futile Band-Aid that will not Stop Other Elephants Filling the Room delivers a synopsis of our failure modes and lends the effort a public health perspective:

As all of us working in public health know, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, fixing disasters after they happen is more costly and less effective than preventing them. Of course it is better to invest in fencing cliffs, rather than buying ambulances to deal with the people who fall off: every public health students knows that! But the social, economic, and political realities are such that there has been little to no investment in adequate fencing, which is why no significant progress has really occurred since the Paris Accord. Climate change is just one symptom of a far deeper malaise that our planet is dealing with—a decline to a future earth that may verge on uninhabitable for many of us. That decline, in our Anthropocene Era, during the ‘Great Acceleration’ has climate change as just one of a series of ecological insults to our planet that need critical work to reduce, wind down, and turn back (Steffen et al. 2015). This is why our current efforts to deal with climate change are no more than a band-aid, treating the symptoms of the Great Acceleration rather than the cause, and doing a poor job of even that. Band-aids on such a chronic underlying malaise are at best futile. At worst, they are a negligent misuse of our resources, and a frittering away of the critical time in which it will be possible to start reversing our decline. Indeed, they border on irrelevant compared to some of the other elephants in the room.

The entirety of Weinstein & Daszak's swift kick is open access, fully shareable to those  already in agreement and especially for other more productive venues where wishful thinking in all of its forms is holding us back from repairing our climate problem. 

104 articles

 Observations of climate change, effects

Observational evidence of increasing global radiative forcing
Kramer et al 2021 Geophysical Research Letters
Open Access DOI: 10.1002/essoar.10506610.1

Recent Water Mass Changes Reveal Mechanisms of Ocean Warming
Zika et al 2020
Open Access DOI: 10.1175/jcli-d-20-0355.1

Observed trends in clouds and precipitation (1983–2009): implications for their cause(s)
Zhong et al 2020
Open Access pdf DOI: 10.5194/acp-2020-577

Linear and nonlinear trend analyses in global satellite-based precipitation, 1998-2017
Kazemzadeh et al 2021 Earth's Future
Open Access pdf DOI: 10.1029/2020ef001835

Satellite-observed decreases in water turbidity in the Pearl River Estuary: potential linkage with sea-level rise
Wang et al 2021 Journal of Geophysical Research
DOI: 10.1029/2020jc016842

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Biden's executive orders on climate have broad public support

Posted on 30 March 2021 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Gary Yohe, Henry Jacoby, Ben Santer, and Richard Richels

Governing from the White House by executive actions – whether by executive orders or variations thereon – has its pluses and minuses.

Executive orders, for instance, can help get past rigid partisan opposition and around the steep Senate filibuster requirements of at least 60 votes for passage. Some require action, but others are intended to signal the incumbent’s perspectives and preferences.

Whatever form they take, however, they lack the gravitas and the staying power of actual legislation passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and signed by the president. So what’s the point, given that they often are overturned by the next administration from the opposing party? It’s a fair question.

Use of presidential powers independent of congressional approval continues under both parties, so there must be a good reason. In part, it’s that those actions need not be – and they should not be – perceived simply as “one-off” pronouncements born of a transient political agenda. Instead, they can communicate support for policy actions that reflect societal, economic and/or cultural trends having significant and stable popular support.

Under President Trump, a number of executive actions were intended to dismiss the scientific evidence about the causes and effects of human-caused global warming. Many were, in fact, undertaken with the express goal of reversing actions by the previous Obama/Biden administration.

In stark contrast, the early Executive Office actions undertaken by the Biden/Harris administration often point to undoing those Trump actions – a practice Washington Post White House and environmental reporter Juliet Eilperin has characterized as “the unraveling of the unraveling.”

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Hard-hitting video explains the origins of climate change 'polarization'

Posted on 29 March 2021 by Bud Ward

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

A story “about today. That started yesterday. And impacts tomorrow.”

That’s how the University of Virginia’s Religion, Race & Democracy Lab introduces its new “God $ Green: An Unholy Alliance” 19-minute publicly available “eye-popping” video.

The video addresses decades of what it calls “religious polarization, political propaganda, corporate deal-making, and environmental injustice based on systemic racism.”

They’re talking climate change here, “the biggest crisis facing us today.” And they don’t pull punches, as in addressing the joining of “potent forces [that] came together to mount an army of climate change skeptics in the name of God, country, and capitalism.”

The “unholy alliance” terminology comes from the mouth of former conservative Republican U.S. Representative Bob Inglis, who from 1993 to 1998, and then again from 2005 to 2011, represented a conservative South Carolina district. Inglis says his support for taking action on climate change was the principal reason he lost his seat in a June 2010 Republican primary. He now heads the Energy & Enterprise Institute at George Mason University, where he champions free-market approaches to addressing climate change.

Watch the trailer (below) or view the full-length video here(Article continues below)

 

God $ Green trailer from University of Virginia Religion, Race & Democracy Lab.

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2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #13

Posted on 28 March 2021 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Mar 21, 2021 through Sat, Mar 27, 2021

Pickings for articles to share on our Facebook page were a bit slim last weekend, so we decided to re-highlight The Debunking Handbook 2021 and its by now nine translations on Sunday. Judging from the reactions to the post, this "stop-gap" measure turned out to be a good idea as the article got shared 38 times and was the post garnering the highest number impressions (13,000+) for the week. Another post piqueing the interest of our followers, was Bob Wentworth's blog post debunking Gerhard Gerlich's and Ralph D. Tscheuschner's paper published in 2009 which purported to prove that there is no such thing as an atmospheric greenhouse effect.

Articles Linked to on Facebook

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Details behind Biden's '30 by 30' U.S. lands and oceans climate goal

Posted on 25 March 2021 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Bruce Lieberman

Among the many goals in President Biden’s climate change agenda, protecting 30 percent of U.S. lands and ocean territories by 2030 is among the most ambitious. And among the most complex.

The administration initiative is likely to face political headwinds in a divided government.

Nevertheless, achieving the “30 by 30” goal could be a critical marker on the road toward a carbon-free future. The reason: Natural landscapes and seascapes are powerful carbon sinks, pulling CO2 from the atmosphere and storing carbon in soil, grasses, shrubs, and trees, coral reefs, sea grasses, and ocean floor sediments.

“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of protecting more of America’s – and the world’s – natural places,” a group of senior staff members at the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote shortly after President Biden’s announcement.

“This life support system … plays a vital role in pulling planet-warming carbon out of the atmosphere and sequestering it away,” the NRDC group wrote. “Protecting 30 percent of America’s natural areas will help stabilize the climate, protect biodiversity, and give plants and wildlife a chance to adapt to the warming already baked into our current climate.”

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #12, 2021

Posted on 24 March 2021 by doug_bostrom

$62,000,000,000 of simulated "income

Dealing with climate change as a society and in a socially cooperative fashion has proven uniquely difficult among historical collisions of science and public policy. Skeptical Science itself is simply an offshoot of this situation. Why is this so? We have various clues on hand. In "The producer benefits of implicit fossil fuel subsidies in the United States" by Matthew Kotchen and just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of he United States of America perhaps we find another hint. The abstract:

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Zero emissions drive would grow U.S. economy

Posted on 23 March 2021 by dana1981

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

Climate models show time is running out for the world to cut emissions and avert catastrophic climate change, but a new report finds that taking the required action will actually boost economic growth and create jobs.

“Transforming the economy requires us to build and deploy A LOT of new stuff,” Robbie Orvis, author of the report, explained by email. “As a result, we see a large increase in output from U.S. industries and the associated increased value-added and GDP benefits that come with that.”

Meeting the Paris targets would require rapidly transforming every sector of the economy to run on clean technologies instead of fossil fuels. Orvis, director of energy policy design at the nonpartisan energy and environmental policy firm Energy Innovation Policy & Technology, estimates that accomplishment would generate about 340,000 new full-time jobs over the next decade as workers find new jobs with manufacturers and with developers of clean energy technologies or associated industries like computer chip manufacturing, silicon mining, and steel production. Those new workers would spend their income on food and other retail items and personal and business services, indirectly creating jobs in those sectors, further boosting the economy.

Altogether, Orvis estimates that meeting the Paris targets would boost U.S. GDP by a cumulative $6.4 trillion by 2035 and by $20 trillion through 2050. For economics wonks, those dollar figures are undiscounted, and the 340,000 jobs figure is derived from a forecast for 3.1 million new “job-years,” a term defined as one full-time job for one year, by 2030 and 5.5 million new job-years by 2050.

While there would be steep capital costs involved in deploying clean technologies, costs would be high also to continue business as usual, since power plants, vehicles, and appliances all need to be replaced at the end of their life spans. Orvis estimates that the transformation to clean technology would cost about $2.5 trillion more than business-as-usual investments by 2035 and $4 trillion more by 2050. Yet the report concludes that the benefits to the U.S. economy from this rapid transition to clean technologies would outweigh the investment costs by a factor of 2.5 by 2035 and fivefold by 2050, even before accounting for the substantial health benefits associated with cleaner air or the societal benefits of slowing global warming and curbing climate disasters.

Another analysis, by the research group Project Drawdown, concluded that direct economic benefits of meeting the Paris targets globally would exceed the initial investment costs by about fivefold. In short, meeting the Paris climate targets would significantly boost the U.S. economy, improve public health, and save lives.

Clean the grid, electrify everything

Orvis and his team used Energy Innovation Policy & Technology’s U.S. Energy Policy Simulator to evaluate how the U.S. could meet its share of greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to achieve the Paris target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures.

Because average global temperatures have already risen by around 1.2°C (2.2°F), limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires immediate, rapid emissions cuts in every sector of the economy, especially by wealthy developed countries. To keep that target within reach, the U.S. would need to cut its emissions about 50% below 2010 levels by the end of the decade and to net zero by 2050.

The report identifies a handful of key policies that could achieve most of the needed emissions reductions, centering on decarbonizing electricity generation and electrifying other sectors, as the chart below illustrates.

Greenhouse Gas Reductions graphic

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UK is now halfway to meeting its ‘net-zero emissions’ target

Posted on 22 March 2021 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Carbon Brief by Simon Evans

The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 were 51% below 1990 levels, according to new Carbon Brief analysis. This means the UK is now halfway to meeting its target of “net-zero” emissions by 2050.

The milestone was reached after a record-breaking 11% fall in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic. Emissions are likely to rebound this year or next as the economy recovers.

The nature of the decline in 2020 shows how challenging it will be for the UK to eliminate its remaining emissions. It also illustrates the progress made so far, ahead of the UK hosting the COP26 UN climate summit in November.

Here, Carbon Brief sets out what contributed to the fall in emissions in 2020 and what it means for the next phase of the UK’s legally binding net-zero goal.

UK emissions are now halfway to net-zero

In 1990, the year Margaret Thatcher resigned after more than a decade as prime minister, the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions stood at 794m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e).

This is conventionally taken as the baseline for the UK’s climate goals, including the net-zero target under its legally binding Climate Change Act and its international pledge to the Paris Agreement.

(Net-zero is formulated in law as cutting greenhouse gas emissions to “at least 100%” below 1990 levels by 2050. As it stands, the target currently does not directly include emissions from international aviation and shipping, though the government’s climate advisers want this to change.)

It has taken 30 years for UK emissions to fall 51% below 1990 levels, according to Carbon Brief’s new analysis of government data. This is halfway to net-zero, with another 30 years to reach the target. (Progress would have been slightly slower if including international aviation and expected changes to the UK’s greenhouse gas inventory. The target will not include emissions associated with UK consumption of goods and services imported from overseas.)

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2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #12

Posted on 21 March 2021 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Mar 14, 2021 through Sat, Mar 20, 2021

Several articles shared on our Facebook page during the week tackled myth debunking one way or the other. We for example featured parts two and three of Noel Turnbull's series about fighting misinformation which leveraged materials created by members from our team like the FLICC framework or The Conspiracy Theory Handbook. An article on Medium provided information about the feasibility of "inoculation" against misinformation. And we also cast a wider net with an article related to GeoPolicy and social media featuring an interview with Stephan Lewandowsky. And just like on our homepage we veered off from our main topic climate change to share The COVID-19 vaccine communication handbook and our reasons for posting about this important handbook.

Articles Linked to on Facebook

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What does China’s 14th ‘five year plan’ mean for climate change?

Posted on 18 March 2021 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Carbon Brief 

This week, at the annual “two sessions” political gathering in Beijing, the Chinese government approved a key policy document that will heavily influence the nation’s economic development – and climate policies – over the next decade and beyond.

Following a week-long meeting, the National People’s Congress (NPC) of China yesterday formalised the “outline for the 14th five year plan and long-term targets for 2035”.

In short, the five year plan’s outline sets a 18% reduction target for “CO2 intensity” and 13.5% reduction target for “energy intensity” from 2021 to 2025. For the first time, it also refers to China’s longer-term climate goals within a five year plan and introduces the idea of a “CO2 emissions cap”, though it does not go so far as to set one.

These new targets have triggered widespread discussion about China’s ambition to tackle its rising emissions. Some have expressed scepticism which questions the five year plan’s “shortfall” relative to its longer-term climate pledges. Others say China has a history of overachieving its targets and this needs to be taken into account.

In this in-depth Q&A, Carbon Brief explains the wider context behind the release of the plan, as well as what it might mean for China’s efforts to tackle climate change.

Gathering together the reaction of various China experts, the Q&A also explains how the outline agreed this week is just a foretaste of the range of regional and sectoral plans due to be published over the next year.

What are the ‘two sessions’?

“Two sessions” is a collective term for two major national political meetings held in China every spring. Known as “liang hui” in Mandarin, they are the plenary sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislative body, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country’s top political advisory body. It is worth noting that the CPPCC does not hold any legislative power.

With thousands of attendees each year, the two sessions normally open on 3-5 March in Beijing – with the CPPCC taking the lead – and run for 10-12 days. There have only ever been two exceptions to their opening dates, both due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, the sessions were postponed to May, while this year their duration was shortened to six-and-a-half days.

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #11, 2021

Posted on 17 March 2021 by doug_bostrom

Fully conscious, conscientious solar geoengineering

The steady flow of research on carbon sources, sinks and flux is reflective of the tight tolerable "budget" for CO2 in the atmosphere, in our belated recognition and response to emissions accumulating for a very long time. Every ton counts. This is not exactly an expression of desperation but is certainly a hint of the jam we've gotten ourselves into with our accidental climate modification, a collective action we can't call "engineering" but which is definitely the result of scientific research and resultant technological capacity deployed without full circumspection or forethought.

Another indicator is the growing seriousness of purpose with regard to solar geoengineering, a "simple" idea in abstract first proposed more along the lines of a thought experiment but now gaining traction as realization in hardware, as a last-ditch means of avoiding losing habitability of large swathes of equatorial areas of the planet, loss of dry land area in higher latitudes and a general list of negatives too numerous to mention here. 

We're fortunate that our state of information and experience with such matters is far better than in past times. We've committed and learned from a lot of mistakes over the centuries. We've recorded the results of those errors and can form some general conclusions. The takeaway lessons are really more about us as a social species subject to cognitive fallibility than they are matters of science, engineering or subjects for technical failure analysis.

Leaps from bright idea to blackboard, then to blueprint and on to deployment on a massive scale accrue increasing scope of involved and affected actors, actors poorly or not understood or accounted for in the research phase of the long process from neurons firing to functioning hardware.

Even as it doesn't fully account for all factors including those still only in the future, research can inadvertently and hence witlessly shape those same factors and hence our possible future. This is more diplomatically and usefully expressed in a couple of paragraphs from McLaren & Cory's "The politics and governance of research into solar geoengineering" just published in WIREs Climate Change:

In response to a threat such as climate change, most research is seen as inherently “policy-relevant,” generating knowledge that can better inform those making decisions and designing tools to mitigate the threat or its impacts. Practicing researchers often understand policy relevance in terms of a linear or “technocratic” model (Hulme, 2009, p. 102) of science-policy interaction. In this idealized model, policy-makers are rational actors, responding (however imperfectly) to the public interest, informed by objective evaluations of problems and possible responses. Scientific research is independent and objective, enabling better policy-making.

However, for climate science in general, and solar geoengineering research in particular, the situation is rather more complicated. We need not rehearse the extent to which climate science is contested, politicized, and “post-normal” (Funtowicz & Ravetz, 1993; Hulme, 2009). Nor the deep complications and injustices introduced by histories of colonial and post-colonial (resource) exploitation (Ghosh, 2016; Mitchell, 2011; Moore, 2015), and by the ongoing social contestation of climate policy through continued disinformation by vested interests (Oreskes & Conway, 2011). Yet solar geoengineering is further complicated by being primarily a “technological imaginary” (Jasanoff, 2015), which is produced through research, regulation, and opinion (Stilgoe, 2015) and which in turn co-produces (future) societies and international orders.

The article goes on to identify ways to produce superior results to what we might expect from "no plan at all," with regard to the research phase in particular for solar geoengineering. research. Supposing that we've forced ourselves down the path of purposeful interference with the behavior of climate, we have many of the tools we need not to fully repeat prior mistakes, to do a bit better.  But those tools require integrated, coordinated, comprehensive use. Especially we need to be conscious of our hard-won better capabilities, and remember to use them.

It almost goes without saying: witless research, engineering and deployment are what brought us our accidental rapid climate change. Let's not do it again. McClaren & Cory's work is open access, free to read, highly recommended.

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The COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Handbook

Posted on 16 March 2021 by BaerbelW , John Cook

This blog post about The COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Handbook might seem a bit out of place here on Skeptical Science. So let us explain why we decided to share it regardless of not having much to do with climate science, our main staple topic-wise. Many of you will be aware by now that there's a lot of overlap between climate science denial and COVID-19 science and vaccine denial: you'll find the same techniques of science denial as well as many of the same - or at least similar - groups involved in pushing misinformation and conspiracy theories. It will therefore not come as a big surprise for you to learn that there's also a lot of overlap when it comes to the people involved with The COVID-19 Vaccine Communication HandbookStephan Lewandowsky and John Cook, are among the lead coordinating authors, Wendy Cook designed the layout, Bärbel Winkler is coordinating the translation activities and Wendy then creates the layouted translations.

The main reason, however, for us to share this important handbook on Skeptical Science is that vaccine hesitancy is a big issue in combating COVID-19. And as long as we are not getting close to herd immunity globally, people's minds will be pre-occupied with the pandemic and tackling climate change runs the risk of being relegated to being a back-burner issue. So, any resource which helps with this is worth highlighing here as far as we are concerned!

Check below for the available and upcoming translations!


C19VAX-EN-ThumbThe following description is taken from the press release published by Bristol University in January 2021:

A team of renowned scientific experts joined forces from across the world to help fight the spread of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines, which hold the key to beating the deadly pandemic and releasing countries from debilitating lockdown restrictions.

Lead author Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Bristol, said: “Vaccines are our ticket to freedom and communication about them should be our passport to getting everyone on board. The way all of us refer to and discuss the COVID-19 vaccines can literally help win the battle against this devastating virus by tackling misinformation and improving uptake, which is crucial. That’s why we produced this handbook so everyone has the basics, as well as more comprehensive information, at their fingertips and can do their part in sharing facts, not fiction, to put us on the road to recovery rather than a path of further suffering.”

Social media has fuelled a so-called ‘infodemic’, resulting in conspiracy theories and other misleading claims being shared rampantly, which could discourage people from being vaccinated and compromise efforts to achieve herd immunity. The COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Handbook sets out the facts, highlighting how the vaccines are overwhelmingly safe and effective.

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