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2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #17

Posted on 27 April 2019 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week, i.e., Sun, Apr 21 through Sat, Apr 27, 2019

Editor's Pick

It’s Easy to be Tricked by a Climate Denier

Here’s what to watch out for…"

Climate Denier Tricks

My father has an MBA from Harvard, an engineering degree from Cornell, and has been CEO of half a dozen companies. He’s smart, accomplished, and well-read. He’s also an open-minded man willing to adjust his own opinions in light of new information he encounters. Prior to reading this book, he believed that climate change was real, man-made, and required urgent attention. He and I even started a solar company together, both of us motivated by the desire to help address climate change.

My initial response to my father’s assertions about the book was surprise that he would question the truth about climate change. But then, as I thought about it, I became excited that maybe it could be true, and the world is, in fact, not heading toward climate disaster. I have a lot of fears about what we are doing to our world, and I hoped that Wrightstone was actually right. Maybe he had written the most important expose in modern times. Wouldn’t that be wonderful for us all? So, I read the book.

It’s Easy to be Tricked by a Climate Denier by Willard MacDonald, Environment, Medium, Apr 20, 2019

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Apr 21, 2019

Mon Apr 22, 2019

Tue Apr 23, 2019

Wed Apr 24, 2019

Thu Apr 25, 2019

Fri Apr 26, 2019

Sat Apr 27, 2019

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Comments 1 to 11:

  1. Gregory Wrightstone has very substantial involvement in the petroleum industry. CV here.

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  2. Gregory Whitestone is a climate denialist author who has written a misleading book, and he is a geologist with interests in the mining and petroleum industy. 

    Just remembered Ian Plimer is a climate denialist who wrote the book heaven and earth attacking climate science, and its a misleading book, and he has interests in the mining and petroleum industry. 

    I detect a pattern here....

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  3. nigelj: What did you think of MacDonald's rebuttal of the entire book?

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  4. John Hartz, fwiw I think MacDonald’s rebuttal of the book is well written, appears to cover all the main points, is scientifically accurate, polite but hard hitting, engaging, about the right length. Bear in mind I haven't read the book, but enough is quoted to get the gist of things.

    It managed to cover both the facts and logical fallacies. Perhaps it could have covered the later in more specific detail. But overall I dont know what else one could do in terms of a rebuttal. 

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  5. So, I went over to Amazon to see how "Inconvenient Facts" was playing and it was quite shocking. A summary of the reviews went something like this: Thank God you've finally told us the truth about Global Warming.

    I posted a review and referenced Willard MacDonald's rebuttal, but not having purchased the book from Amazon they may not publish my comment.

    Still, since this is a battle of the lay books, I thought of starting a Global Warming book club and read and discuss such books as "The Uninhabitable Earth" by David Wallice-Wells.

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  6. Not only does Whitestone lop off temperature data at 2012, he also deceives by starting his chart at 1998, whichat the time was the warmest year on record, due to El Ninõ. El Ninõ years aside, global temperatures are clearly rising since 1970. This deception is similar to that depicting warming starting at the Maunder Minimum.

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  7. Perhaps explain to the Monktons and other climate change deniers that even if they are right that climate change is not happening, or it is happening and we are not causing it or, it is happening and it will be good for us, there are other compelling reasons to wean ourselves off of fossil fuel.

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  8. Some other benefits of renewable energy from the union of concerned scientists. 

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  9. I find it helpful to describe Climate Science Deniers as “People trying to deliberately delay the correction of harmful unsustainable beliefs and actions that many humans have developed a liking for”. They do not care about eventually being proven wrong. And they may need to be externally motivated to behave decently. They see the required Climate Action corrections as personal Losses. Every year that they can delay their perception of personal Loss is tragically seen to be a “Win” from their developed narrow perspective of concern.

    The stories that 'get believed' are the 'perceived reality for each person'. In games able to be ruled by the 'majority of passionate public opinion (opinions of those motivated to and able to vote) in the moment of an election', misleading marketing and other political tactics (gerrymandering, voter suppression tactics) can be successfully abused to limit the influence of correct understanding.

    The popularity of incorrect beliefs and the profitability of related incorrect actions can be hard to Over-Power, hard to correct. The Inconvenient Stories that need to have increased awareness and support are the ones exposing that there is no Real Sustainable future for any society that fails to accomplish the harder task of correcting and limiting the development of harmful beliefs and actions in its population.

    Developed perceptions of superiority are only 'Really Sustainable', only have a future, when they are based on an improving understanding of what is going on that is being applied to sustainably develop benefits for the future of humanity.

    Based on that understanding this story is encouraging and discouraging.

    My expectation was that when a person developed an improved awareness and understanding of an important issue like climate science they would be very unlikely to be tempted to change their mind about the need to help rapidly end the harmful unsustainable use of fossil fuels.

    The author and his father did not appear to have sustainably developed an improved awareness and understanding of climate science and the related required corrections of what has developed. Perhaps they had not accepted that it was unacceptable for already fortunate people to try to continue to benefit from fossil fuels.

    The father was easily tempted to toss away his previous understanding. And the author's initial impression was to accept and even like the incorrect “Inconvenient Facts” book. The author of the article deserves credit for being curious enough to independently and thoroughly investigate and refute the claims made. But it does sound like he initially accepted what he should have seen as an incorrect story. And the father gets credit for changing his mind based on someone else, his son, putting the effort into improving his understanding.

    But the question remains “Have they sustainably developed an improved awareness and understanding, or are they still hopeful that they will be able to excuse continuing to try to benefit from fossil fuels?

    Tragically, competitions for perceptions of prosperity and status based on popularity and profit cause many people to develop to be more Egoist than Altruist. Being Egoist is easy to do and easy to be rewarded for. Consciously limiting your behaviour and choosing to be helpfully Altruistic is harder work and can even be penalized.

    As a result, many people unquestioningly go with their first impressions of what they like/dislike. If they put effort into considering their initial impressions they often do the following simple math:

    What is my benefit if what I like, believe and do is proven later to be incorrect?
    What is my cost if what I like, believe and do is proven later to be incorrect?

    A key unstated aspect of that consideration is 'later' being cared about less than Now. A related unstated aspect is that if the consequences are late enough I will not suffer the cost. And that 'consideration' also dismisses or diminishes fundamental concerns about being correct rather than incorrect Now. In fact, the evaluation many people develop a tendency to make is more like:

    “What is my benefit if I can get away with not correcting or changing what I have developed a liking for believing and doing? (combined with) What are the chances that I will get away with what I like believing and doing?”
    “What is my penalty for getting caught not correcting or changing what I have developed a liking for believing and doing? (combined with) What are the chances that I will face that penalty for what I like believing and doing?”

    That can be a powerful motivation to obtain maximum personal benefit by supporting efforts to delay the correction of understanding that would lead to effective efforts to correct what people are doing Now, including effective significant penalties for acting incorrectly Now. A related motivation is dislike of efforts that would improve understanding and passionate dislike of efforts that would correct incorrect behaviour.

    Recently I have seen many reports of politicians making sound-byte marketing claims based on one or both of the Two main points identified by MacDonald: "1) climate change is happening, but it’s not human-caused so there’s no point in modifying our behavior; and 2) global warming is, in fact, a good thing because historically human societies perform better in warmer climates, crops grow better with more CO2, and because it will help counter the next ice age."

    And the political affiliations of the people making and liking such claims appear to be strongly Right Wing. But the attitude can also develop in someone inclined to be more left wing. Someone tending to the left wing can still like some right wing stuff.

    The root of the problem appears to be that competitions for popularity and profit are an environment that misleading political actors thrive in. There is little perceived down-side for them choosing to make misleading appeals to a diversity of incorrect beliefs and desired actions. There is no penalty for attempting to resist efforts to helpfully progressively sustainably limit or correct the things that people have incorrectly developed a liking for.

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  10. I have a question. There are many articles about this familiar positive feedback look from melting permafrost: higher temps melt permafrost which allows decomposition of organic matter that releases methane and CO2 into the atmosphere which traps more heat.

    But is there must also be a local positive feedback loop, possibly many times stronger and faster, that works like this:

    Higher temps melt permafrost which allows decomposition of organic matter. Decomposition is itself an exothermic process directly melts more permafrost.

    The temperature boost from decomposition is not a small matter - put your hand into a compost pile sometime. It can be hot. I do not have any quantitative analysis (please provide any you can), but it seems that in the right circumstances there could be runaway local reactions that melt permafrost to deep levels very quickly.

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  11. This article at Thinkprogress describes a poll from CNN that claims 95% of Democratic or Cemocratic leaning voters consider climate change  was very important or somewhat important for a candidate to work on.  

    A similar poll in December indicated 56% of Republicians supported a carbon tax.

    Thinkprogress is a liberal news site and sometimes stretches the data but it is a great sign that climate is on the political radar.  There are rumors that the Trump campaign is putting together a list of "climate change victories"!!!

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