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2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #31

Posted on 3 August 2019 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week, i.e., Sun, July 28 through Sat, Aug 3, 2019

Editor's Pick

Pretend Underdogs: Inside a Climate Denier Conference at Trump Hotel

2019 Heritage Conference

Photo by Joe McCarthy

I entered Trump International Hotel in Washington last Thursday with a three-person team to cover the Heartland Institute’s 13th International Conference on Climate Change. I left with two.

Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change by burning fossil fuels, this free-market think tank, which has received large sums of fossil fuel money, continues to hawk various strains of climate change denial. And they weren’t happy that The Weather Channel had brought along George Mason University researcher John Cook, who tracks disinformation and climate change denialism professionally. About two hours into the conference, interim Heartland President and Director of Communications Jim Lakely pulled us aside. “You have two choices,” the stocky, spikey-haired man told us in a small conference room filled with empty cardboard boxes. “Either John leaves, or you all leave.”

(Cook was not on the press list, but was an official correspondent with The Weather Channel for the occasion. After the Heartland Institute failed to respond to multiple emails, Cook joined our reporting team, assuming there was no problem.)

This gesture — “He’s not welcome on principle,” Lakely said — set the tone for the next several hours, during which former NASA climate communications specialist Laura Faye Tenenbaum, sound recordist Rachel Falcone and I would listen to a cabal of policy wonks, contrarian scientists and communicators sounding a little too certain in their denial to deserve the title, “skeptics.”

(The visit to the conference was part of the reporting for a new investigative podcast series on climate denial and disinformation coming from The Weather Channel this fall.) 

Pretend Underdogs: Inside a Climate Denier Conference at Trump Hotel by Joseph McCarthy, The Weather Channel, Aug 2, 2019


Links posted on Facebook

Sun July 28, 2019

Mon July 29, 2019

Tue July 30, 2019

Wed July 31, 2019

Thu Aug 1, 2019

Fri Aug 2, 2019

Sat Aug 3, 2019

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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. What happened to John Cook is an example of the actions predicted bt the Propaganda Model (PM) that was developed by Edward S. Herman and was presented with the assistance of Noam Chomsky in the book "Manufacturing Consent".

    The PM predicts that the freedom of people to believe what they want and do as they please in competitions for popularity and profit will develop powerful undeserving winners who will have many ways to influence and control what stories get told and become popular beliefs that 'suit their harmful developed interests and future desires'.

    The PM predicts that people who are wealthy because they deliberately harmfully ignore the reality of improving understanding like climate science will prefer to hear stories told by people who want to 'please them'. It identifies the many ways they can influence what stories get told and become popular beliefs that 'suit their developed interests and future desires'.

    The PM predicts results like powerful people not wanting to deal with 'The Truth, the Whole Truth and nothing but the Truth' successfully resisting having to deal with someone like John Cook.

    It can clearly be seen that many of the developed systems of wealth and power around the world have harmfully pursued greater freedom in competitions for popularity and profit with people freer to believe whatever they want to excuse doing what they please (non-democratic systems like the Soviet Union's and current day China and Saudi Arabia also suffer from this). The result can be expected to be accumulation of wealth and power by harmfully deceptive people (cheaters can and do prosper for as long as they can get away with it). And as that happens the PM predicts how they increase their power and unjustly defend their status, through their ability to influence the stories that get told (impressing the easily impressed).

    Even if the Weather Network was able to force the Heartland Institute into allowing John Cook to stay, the PM predicts that the powerful interests behind the Heartland Institute would amp up their flak attacks on him and the stories he would tell.

    The PM also predicts that very few other major popular media outlets will mention this incident as a criticism of the wealthy people behind the Heartland Institute, or dig into and present similar incidents. The PM also predicts that stories like this might get lower than deserved ranking in social media platforms (under the influence of the powerful).

    The PM also predicts that inconsequential incidents that could be abused to discredit foes of the undeserving among the wealthy would be scatter-shot across social media platforms that the powerful wealthy can influence by the mechanisms of the PM (No need for Russian Influence, totally Made-up in America).

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  2. The thing that stands out for me about the Heartland climate pseudo science conference is the way these people preach freedom and the right to express scepticism and then ban John Cook from the conference. Oh the stunning hypocrisy.

    Wealth and power is clearly sometimes dependent on practices that are not in the public interest, and I contend it can also become like a drug. This combination is lethal. Like with any drug people go into denial and will buy the best pseudo science they can get! Intelligent people can be very stupid, because they are resourceful at defending their obsessions.

    You cant appease these denialists. Give them hell, but politely.

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  3. I felt so angry at what i read, then cheered up a bit when i read this line..

    “I notice this is a real gray-haired crowd,” an attendee named Bill told us between presentations in the lobby outside the Presidential Ballroom where the keynote speeches took place. “The first thing I saw when I walked in that room was: no youth.”

    Hopefully these two faced bigots will die out before more irreparable damage is done..

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  4. Regarding the Heartland conference being populated by older people.

    Polls show older people are less receptive to climate science than younger people and this article is relevant. I had a quick look on the internet and couldn't find much research or informed opinion on why young people are more receptive to the science, however this article made one good point. It is primarily talking about how children influence their parents views:

    "Thunberg is not alone. Other young people can be equally convincing, according to a paper published May 6 in Nature Climate Change. The team of social scientists and ecologists from North Carolina State University who authored the report found that children can increase their parents’ level of concern about climate change because, unlike adults, their views on the issue do not generally reflect any entrenched political ideology. Parents also really do care what their children think, even on socially charged issues like climate change or sexual orientation."

    So kids are more apolitical and their views are not twisted by politics, and are more open as a result,  and their parents respect this. This is probably why Greta thornberg has been so motivating.

    Some other possibilities are that young people are getting some proper science at schools on the greenhouse effect, where their parents haven't got this so much. Young people are also less likely to be listening to talk back radio which is full of climate denial. Of course their parents have bills to pay and will be worried about any scientific theory that makes those bills larger as a result, and this might translate into scepticism about the science. (of course the claims that climate mitigation will impose huge costs are scaremongering). And young people are role model orientated, and several youth orientated celebrities are supporting climate science. I'm not aware of any talking it down.

    Imho adults will probably only accept the climate problem when the problem becomes impossible to ignore. The huge heatwaves in Europe look like they are making an impression on people attitudes just reading and listening to people.

    Perhaps someone else knows of solid information explaining the differences in attitude on climate change between young and old.

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  5. nigelj@4,

    Based on reading a broad range of books that present improving awareness and understanding of how people think (and the nature/nurture question and knowing that the future is not predetermined and the way people behave is not predetermined - the future is the collectove result of the choices everyone makes), the trend is towards understanding that people are born with a diversity of fundamental personality characteristics or predispositions. And everyone develops their character, thoughts and actions through their life experience. The result is each person learning to behave in ways that are different from their starting point character (one book, but by no means the only one, is "The Opposite of Hate" by Sally Kohn). And constant learning, and changing of behaviours to some degree, is possible for everyone at any time in their life.

    Based on that understanding, I would suggest that the climate science denying people populating the Heartland Institute have 'learned to want to deny climate science'. Their life experience has developed their preference to deny climate science. They have 'developed powerful motivations to dislike' the improving understanding of climate science and the required changes of human behaviour that that understanding leads to (disliking it from the 1980s when the required corrections of what had been developing was becoming undeniable, and disliking it more as it inevitably became harder to deny).

    Most younger people have not developed powerful reasons to resist understanding and easily accept climate science and the required corrections of the harmful unsustainable ways people have developed preferences for living. And many of them are concerned about their future, unlike the fans of the Heartland Institute whose primary concern is their developed perceptions of status in the status quo.

    Note that there are people in high school (grades 10 through 12) and even many in Junior High (grades 7 through 9) who have already by then learned that they could succeed 'famously' by being dismissive of others and being willing to act in ways that are 'harmful to others but unlikely to be meaningfully penalized', basically having learned to like being freer to do as they please and excusing their actions by making-up claims and attacking others who try to point out that their behavior is incorrect, harmful or unacceptable.

    Not all of the school kids like that stay that way. Some learn to become responsible considerate helpful members of society. And some of the kids who are thoughtful through completion of High School can have experiences that lead them to become selfish callous harmful people. The Norwegian attitude regarding criminal corrections is based on this understanding that anyone at any time can learn to become a responsible helpful member of society.

    The Heartland Institute appears to be populated by older people who resist learning to be helpful, considerate, responsible members of Global Humanity and its future. They prefer to 'fight for superior status relkative to Others'. They do not care if their actions harm Others. Their concern is how their actions can "Benefit Themselves".

    In Alberta the recent Right Wing winners of Provincial Leadership made a campaign pitch that included complaining that the Leadership before the election, not a Right-Wing party, was planning to brainwash the students in Alberta because their update of the Social Studies curriculum was to be based on the following: “Social studies provides opportunities for students to develop the attitudes, skills and knowledge that will enable them to become engaged, active, informed and responsible citizens. Recognition and respect for individual and collective identity is essential in a pluralistic and democratic society.”

    I am sure that anyone learning that type of improved Social Understanding, like Greta or any older person willing to learn to Be Better people, would be seen as a threat to the unjustified developed perceptions of status of likes of the fans of the Heartland Institute.

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  6. OPOF. Yes that makes some sense. There's clearly a powerful intersection of a cerain type of politics and status seeking behind all this. Older people do get set in their ways of course, but nobody has to give in to this. Its like they are deliberately trying to learn how to be stupid about how the natural world works.

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  7. nigelj@4,

    The way I try to help any person I encounter who resists accepting climate science and the required corrections of developed economic activity is to try to find out what they will claim they do that is Helpful to Others.

    Almost everyone wants to maintain some degree of perception of being a Good Person. So almost everyone will come up with at least one thing they claim they are Helpful about (like reducing poverty, often claimed as the excuse to not reduce the burning of fossil fuels).

    I can usually connect any claimed 'desire to be Helpful' to one of the Sustainable Development Goals. I use that to bring up the Sustainable Development Goals and mention that without achieving and improving on all of the SDGs any perceptions of Being Helpful will be Unsustainable.

    Then I can bring up the need to correct many developed ways of living, especially the burning of fossil fuels, to actually be Sustainably Helpful rather than being Harmful (while unjustifiably claiming to be Helpful). And I can add that since fossil fuel use is fundamentally a dead-end, it is undeniable that any perceived benefit from it cannot be sustained and trying to prolong perceptions of benefit actually makes things worse because of the accumulating harm of the use of fossil fuels.

    That does not always work (at least not while I am interacting with them, I am not sure if 'after the fact' they reconsider how they responded). Some people have developed very powerful motivations to resist learning how to be Helpful members of Global Humanity and its future, especially in Alberta, Canada. But I still believe Everyone can learn to become responsible, considerate, helpful members of Global Humanity and its Future.

    Everyone's actions add up. Each person who changes from being Harmful (and being Indifferent is being Harmful) to being Helpful is very Helpful (more helpful than an already helpful person becoming more helpful). And older people can Learn to Behave Better. They just have more incorrect learning to overcome than younger people.

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