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2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #27

Posted on 8 July 2017 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week. 

Editor's Pick

G20 closes with rebuke to Trump's climate change stance

Trump & Merkel G20 Hamburg July 8 2017 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel closed the G20 summit in Hamburg with a rebuke to President Donald Trump's stance on climate change, but the group of the world's economic leaders appeared to make a concession on his protectionist trade policies.

Officials had been at an impasse over an increasingly isolationist United States and Trump's climate change and trade policies for most of the summit, and Merkel made it clear the United States had made talks difficult.

"Unfortunately — and I deplore this — the United States of America left the climate agreement, or rather announced their intention of doing this," Merkel said as she closed the summit and presented a G20 declaration.

G20 closes with rebuke to Trump's climate change stance by Angela Dewan & Stephanie Halasz, CNN, July 8, 2017

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Comments 1 to 13:

  1. Justin Trudeau makes a good point that "strong economic growth and environmental protection can go hand in hand." There are more jobs in renewable energy than coal, study after study has observed this. Trump is living in the past too much.

    Having said that, growth in simple output terms may slow a little long term, and already has since the 1970s, probably due to saturated markets, and more people may be choosing more lesiure time, and quality over simple quantity.

    Apartment living is not conducive to raw output of more quantity of "stuff". And why would I need a new washing machine every year? The low hanging fruit that generate easy growth have all been picked. Getting gdp growth in manufacturing is  easy, but it's not so easy in services based economies.

    A lot of money is also going into non productive speculation. It's a complicated issue overall.

    Hope I'm not sounding too contradictory. The ideas are not incompatible, if you think about it

    I'm not promoting zero growth, because some forward momentum is a good thing, but it looks to be inevitably slowing and maybe we shouldn't panic. Quality may come to replace quantity.

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  2. nigelj,

    Economic growth in sustainable ways is the only growth that can be sustained. And that does indeed include the production of longer lasting goods and infrastructure.

    The appearance of economic growth from the expansion or prolonging of understandably unacceptable and ultimately unsustainable activity like the burning up of buried ancient hydrocarbons, wasteful consumerism, or increased consumer debt cannot be expected to last.

    Sadly for many Americans (and many others who developed along the path pushed along by the least concientious people created by the undeniably failing American Experiment in the freedom for everyone to beleive and do as they please - the sad perversion of the original intent to have everyone free from unjust authoritarian actions) they bought into the lie that they did not have to change the way they lived. G.W Bush declared that Big Lie when announcing that the USA would not join the Kyoto agreement.

    Much of the developed perception of prosperity and opportunity in the USA is a mirage, a figment of the imagination, the result of unsustainable and damaging activity that the biggest beneficiaries attempt to mask and excuse. Because they over-developed so much in incorrect ways and fought against changing their ways many of them undeniably have the most to lose and now fight even more viciously against being the ones to suffer that inevitable bigger loss (hoping the future generation suffers the consequence).

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  3. OPOF @2, yes sustainable economic growth has to be the main goal or criteria, for our quality of life, and planetary stability. I would even argue prosperity as well.

    Of course sustainable growth might reduce rates of crude gdp growth output, or equally alternatively it could be more neutral, or even positive. When limits are put on some resources or activities, efforts often simply move into other activities, and enhance those. Plenty of small countries with strong environmental standards have reasonable gdp growth rates such as Scandinavia.

    Solutions are often not as costly as expected. The obvious example was strong controls on vehicle pollution in the 1950s and 1960s, which ended up having virtually no effect on company profitability.

    Cheap renewable power is emerging, and would make make recycling more economically feasible, and reduce the need to expand mining in sensitive areas. This is a virtuous circle.

    Of course there are arguably ultimate limits to economic growth due to ultimate resource limits. There are numerous writings on this, but we are a fair way away from that yet, and many things can be recycled.

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  4. The Skeptical Science Facebook link is incorrect.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Corrected. Thank you for bringing this glitch to our attention.

  5. For those interested, I highly recommend the David Runciman article: "How climate scepticism turned into something more dangerous".  Some quotes from that article: "climate scepticism is being driven out by climate cynicism. A sceptic questions the evidence... A cynic questions the motives... In these politically charged circumstances, there is no safe space for the facts to retreat to. That was made clear by... “climategate"... the emails betrayed the scientists’ awareness that the idea of a consensus on... climate change was under concerted attack. So they went out of their way to shore up the consensus. Which, when revealed, confirmed to their opponents that the consensus was a sham... we dislike hypocrisy more than we dislike lying... [and this] is not just a problem for climate politics. It is a problem for democracy... Trump has always been careful not to come across as the wrong sort of hypocrite: the kind who seems to be talking down to people. Hillary Clinton was not so careful. And when the voters get to choose between the two, the hypocrite loses to the liar... We live in an age when mistrust of politics has spilled over into mistrust of expertise... To respond with ever-greater certainty in the name of science is a big mistake... climate science... in the age of Trump should not keep saying that the populists are lying about the consensus. They should say that they are hypocrites about the doubt: they do not practise what they preach because they think they know the answers already. Climate change deniers argue they are only trying to discover the truth. We should all be sceptical about that."

    Denial thrives on the idea of science hypocrisy.  It is combatted not by attempting science purity, but by hammering on denial hypocrisy itself.  At the very least, point out how someone cannot be a skeptic if he ignores the ocean of evidence before him to focus on one bit of cherry-picked data.  And keep hammering the idea that much 'denial' is being funded by an industry with a $22 trillion interest in the outcome of this debate.

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  6. ubrew12@5,

    "Climategate" exposed the exploitation of criminal theft of emails by very smart undeserving wealthy people who abused bits of information completely out of context to achieve a damaging objective. "Climategate" did not expose subversive actions by scientists. The worst that it exposed was the use of terms that can have a meaning twisted when they are taken out of context (like presenting the average of longer periods of data to hide a short-term decline, or excluding tree ring data that was inconsistent with all of the other data until the inconsistency was better understood). The fact that many people still believe it exposed anything else is a serious problem.

    Increasing awareness and providing better explanations of what is going on is effectively being attacked by damaging irresponsible adults telling other people that they can believe what they prefer to believe and that anyone who says otherwise is a liar and a hypocrite and all manner of other derogatory names.

    Unltimately, the only future for humanity is for the vast majority of the population to become compassionate considerate responsible adults who will rationally evaluate what is presented to them with the objective of improving the future for all of humanity. And that majority must have no hesitation to disappoint the stubborn people who resist becoming responsible adults because they like the idea of getting away with less acceptable behaviour.

    The expectation that everyone must be allowed to believe whatever they want to excuse or defend doing what they please is the problem. Climate science is only one of many 'constantly improving understandings of what is really going on' that have exposed the fundamental problem. The solution to that problem is not the responsibility of climate scientists, acting to correct the problem has to be understood to be the responsibility/obligation/expectation of every 'leader/winner' (in business and government) in every society on this planet, no matter how unpopular or less profitable the many required corrections may be regionally.

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  7. Ubrew @5, thanks for the tip on the article. I have just read a very good book on scepticism called "Skeptic, by Michael Shermer" and it's the healthy, rational form of genuine scepticism. This writer also wrote "The Moral Arc". People who read this website may be interested.

    He does an excellent chapter on the scientific method, logic and misleading fallacy arguments, then works through the main of the historical conspiracies like 911 etc, as well as climate change denialism and why it doesn't make sense. He was in fact once a climate change sceptic, but changed positions when he looked deeper at the issue. He uses this as an example of rational scepticism.

    If I'm honest with myself I'm at a stage where I'm tempted to say some very brutal things about climate denialists, but I restrain myself. It is not going to persuade people, especially the hardened conspiracy theory, elite hating people like for example Steve Bannon.

    Society probably follows some sort of bell curve where you have a big group in the middle who can be persuaded by sensible, constructive argument. It requires showing genuine flaws in denialist rhetoric and as you say exposing the hypocrisy, and I would say the contradictions. But it must be done simply, and very skillfully, and often people get too tangled up in detail and endless qualifications. There is of course definitely sometimes a place for this sort of detail but it depends on context. This website is a good place for detail, but Michael Mann lets himself get a little to bogged down by details sometimes and also personalities and when you are in some form of climate hearing process or talking to the media you have to keep it simple, clear and focussed. 

    There is a group who will "never" be convinced. Theres no point agonising over them. They tend to mainly have poor educations etc. There are people who still believe tobacco is harmless, and evolution is a myth.

    The more important goal is to convince ordinary, sensible people, and people in positions of power. Intelligent people have their world views and biases, but generally also have at least some flexibility of thought, (although the current Republican Party doesn't exhibit much of this. It wasn't always that way. But i feel they are currently perhaps an exception).

    You are right about Clinton and Trump. She can be patronising, a cold fish, not a good communicator etc. Trump is easier to relate to, but it's still in my view all confidence trickery stuff.

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  8. Climategate was unfortunate. Of course it was theft of documents we shouldn't ever forget that, and an attempt to dig dirt and basically politically motivated.

    The accusations turned out to be empty, (no surprise there) and several official investigations found nothing wrong.

    It was almost just rotten luck. Things were leaked and some of the language used was unfortunate and not a good look, unless you knew the background. I was familiar with the term "hide the decline" and knew it wasn't how it sounded, but from the point of view of the general public this understandably sounded sinister. Its rotten luck, and sometimes the events of history turn on such things.

    The hackers and climate sceptics are driven by a whole mish mash of vested interests, excessive, paranoid fears  about government regullation, and protecting personal wealth and established power bases, and even just personal habits. Climategate played into their hands, and gave them a further excuse. Any investigations probably "fell on deaf ears" but remember the general public and moderately open minded people have more respect for official investigations. Still it was rotten luck, and could have had a rather large if disproportionate impact on the whole debate.

    Nevertheless the denialists and wealthy power play denialists in particular are acting unacceptably like OPOF says, and values have to change. I think they need to change back to the more ethically focussed and moderate, consensus seeking capitalism before the "greed is good" nonsense emerged in the 1980s. 

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  9. The David Runciman article is very perceptive on the whole, with some caveats. I certainly agree the whole climate issue has become very politicised and the scepticism has become cynical denialism.

    I don't understand why people get so obsessed with motives of various people involved on either side of the debate. Regardless of motives, the laws of physics, equations etc are not altered by motive. I also think the evidence for a warming world is so overhelming and varied, that its literally insane to think its some sort of conspiracy.

    However it's possibly also of little use to impugn the motives of sceptics too much. It's never going to prove them wrong, although my private thoughts are very criticial.

    I wonder about the discussion on lies versus hypocrisy. The article argues that people preferred the liar trump over the hypocrite clinton. This is very debatable, as Trump himself is a huge hypocrite arguably more so than clinton.

    I think Clinton lost primarily due to the email scandal. I struggle to see how they ever thought she could win with that monkey on her back. She has several obvious flaws, but I dont think hypocrisy was a huge factor here. None of us perfectly walk the walk, and the public know this. Anyway all I'm saying is be careful how you interpret that election result.

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  10. I also thought the 'Clinton hyprocrisy' argument was the weakest of Runciman's otherwise excellent essay.  After all the heat and noise over Clinton's email server, how much classified material made it into the hands of our enemies? None. And arguably this was because of her use of a private server. This might not be notable except, at the same time, the Trump campaign was in conversation with those same enemies in common cause to win the election, with no media interest until after Nov.

    "it's...of little use to impugn... motives"  Turning skeptics into cynics is how money can influence elections and public decisions, like inaction on climate change.  For years, Fox News directed its viewers to look at how people talk, when they talk, and not what they are actually saying.  You'll never see a Trump or a Hannity slouching, looking askance, and fiddling his fingers.  He'll always sit ram-rod straight, look you right in the eye, and in full military-bearing... lie to you.  By training their viewers to focus on how people look when they're talking, rather than judge what is coming out of their mouths, Fox News is training people to be cynics.  And the way to combat this, I think, is to draw people back into the conversation: What is actually being said, and how reasonable does it appear to be?  Almost everything that comes out of Trump's mouth is 'word garbage', but you can't deny the straightforwardness with which he said it.

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  11. ubrew12 @10, from former Director Comey's statement on the Clinton Emails:

    "From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional e-mails were “up-classified” to make them Confidential; the information in those had not been classified at the time the e-mails were sent."

    "With respect to the thousands of e-mails we found that were not among those produced to State, agencies have concluded that three of those were classified at the time they were sent or received, one at the Secret level and two at the Confidential level. There were no additional Top Secret e-mails found. Finally, none of those we found have since been “up-classified.”

    "With respect to potential computer intrusion by hostile actors, we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked. But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account."

    From the combination of these three quotes, it is clear that Clinton made confidential (and indeed, top secret) information vulnerable, and it is not known that that vulnerability was not exploited by hostile powers.  Nor is it known that it was.

    Further, the evidence that Trump or his campaign knowingly colluded with Russia in its attempts subvert the US Presidential election are, to date, circumstantial.  It is consistent with that evidence that no knowing collusion took place.  Therefore, so far as the evidence currently goes, Clinton was guilty of a worse offense than Trump has been shown to have committed.  Of course, the investigation into Trump and his associates is not yet finished, and it is entirely possible that he or his campaign will be shown to have knowingly colluded, which would be a much worse offence than Clinton's.

    In the meantime we should neither understate the case against Clinton, nor overstate the case against Trump.

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  12. I don't want to argue Clinton's culpability here at skeptical science.  I would note that if you are sent a classified email from an unclassified system (as the FBI found of all such Clinton emails), it doesn't seem proper that you alone should be prosecuted for it.

    My broader point was that there seems to have been, or still is, an effort among rightwing media to train their viewers to 'spot the hypocrit'.  If people are being trained into thinking of motive first, and evidence second, then it's that much easier to turn them to cynicism, which I agree with Runciman is epidemic in the US today.  As a society we are obsessed with motive to the exclusion of evidence.  Media has gone from print to television.  But on TV its much easier to encourage the viewer to use 'visual shortcuts', shortcuts that may have been useful when we were all swinging in the trees, but today are used to herd us into tribes.  In effect, the signal is being lost to the noise.

    One thing I didn't see on this weeks selection of reading material was this article in New York Magazine by David Wallace-Wells: "The Uninhabitable Earth... What climate change could wreak- sooner than you think".  It's possibly a bit alarmist, but he paints a very sobering picture of what the future holds if we don't get a handle on this problem soon.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The David Wallace-Wells article that you have flagged was posted on July 9 (US). The most recent Weekly News Roundup was posted on July 8 (US). A link to the Wallace-Well article will be posted on the SkS Facebook page later today. The article will therefore be included in the next edition of the Weekly News Roundup.

    Based on Michael Mann's reaction to the Wallace-Wells article, I have elected not to post a link to it on the SkS Facebook page. See:

    Fear Won't Save Us: Putting a Check on Climate Doom by Michael Mann, Common Dreams, July 10, 2017

    Also see:

    Are We as Doomed as That New York Magazine Article Says? by Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, July 10, 2017

    Stop scaring people about climate change. It doesn’t work. by Eric Holthaus, Grist, July 10, 2017

  13. Ubrew @10, I agree I think the Clinton email issue was a little "overblown". Obviously she did wrong, but there's no evidence harm was done (although as TC points out the potential was there) and no evidence of malicious intent.

    However just to clarify my point, in my view the email thing made her virtually unelectable. It created huge and understandable suspicions in the publics perception (rightly or wrongly) right through the campaign and finally exploded again the the final week. It probably lost her the election more than anything else. Trump used the issue to the maximum.

    We should not conclude that she lost due predominantly to her policies, so called elitism, lies (and there were a couple) or alleged hypocisy. These are probaly negative factors and some contributed, but not the main reason she lost which was the email issue. In fact I think her policies were largely sensible for what its worth.

    I agree with the rest of what you say about Fox news, Trump, appearances, personalities, trying to personally discredit people. I'm no fan of any of this.

    Unfortunately though many people make their political decisions based on little more than personality and gut instinct rather than policy, but the very last thing we need is to encourage yet more of this. Shame on Fox News.

    The Russia thing is all just speculation. Innocent until proven guilty. But there an awful lot of smoke, etc, etc. However it's not really relevant to my comments.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Russia/Email scandals are a long way from climate science. Enough please.

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