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2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #43

Posted on 24 October 2020 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Oct 18, 2020 through Sat, Oct 24, 2020

Editor's Choice

A second Trump term would mean severe and irreversible changes in the climate

No joke: It would be disastrous on the scale of millennia.

Wildfire in US  


This piece was originally published August 27, and has been lightly updated.

During the final presidential debate Thursday night, both candidates were asked how they would combat climate change and support job growth. President Donald Trump offered few specifics, merely saying that that, “We have the Trillion Trees program. We have so many different programs. I do love the environment.”

But let’s be clear: If Trump is reelected president, the likely result will be irreversible changes to the climate that will degrade the quality of life of every subsequent generation of human beings, with millions of lives harmed or foreshortened. That’s in addition to the hundreds of thousands of lives at present that will be hurt or prematurely end.

This sounds like exaggeration, some of the “alarmism” green types are always accused of. But it is not particularly controversial among those who have followed Trump’s record on energy and climate change.

“As bad as it seems right now,” says Josh Freed of Third Way, a center-left think tank, “the climate and energy scenario in Trump II would be much, much worse.”

Click here to access the entire article as published on the Vox website.

A second Trump term would mean severe and irreversible changes in the climate by David Roberts, Energy & Environment, Vox, Oct 23, 2020

Articles Linked to on Facebook

Sun, Oct 18, 2020

Mon, Oct 19, 2020

Tue, Oct 20, 2020

Wed, Oct 21, 2020

Thu, Oct 22, 2020

Fri, Oct 23, 2020

Sat, Oct 24, 2020

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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. "We have the Trillion Trees program. We have so many different programs. I do love the environment (says Trump)”

    Trump does not have a one trillion trees programme. America does not have a one trillion trees programme. Its all spin. Trump is just joining something called the "global one trillion trees initiative" which is funded by many countries. in terms of Americas contribution it mostly amounts to planting some extra trees in the USA on conservation land.

    Its also "tokenism" because the actual planting plan in the USA is a small part of the solution to climate change. Politicians often have token programmes to try to keep everyone happy, things that sound nice and dont cost too much or ruffle corporate feathers. Some references on the tree planting programme here and here.

    We have just had a general election in New Zealand. A centre left leaning Party won, and the centre right party lost in a landslide. The interesting point is the leader of the losing Party was a little bit like Trump in style and personality, although the policies were different except for her very dismissive attitude to climate change and other environmental problems. There is some good evidence that most people are not too impressed with her style (polling and commentary) and perhaps her position on climate change.

    Given all this and other evidence, I doubt Trump would get more than 5% support in NZ or Australia. I simply dont understand whats going on in the USA, and how anyone could support a leader who has been so ineffective on really crucial things, and who gets so many facts wrong, regardless of whether the leader leans left or right.

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  2. nigelj,

    What is happening in the USA is a massive effective misleading marketing campaign that appeals to people who believe they should be masters of the world, or at least the masters of their part of the world, or at least the masters of what is believed in their part of the world (or more likely aspiring toward as much of the above as they can get away with).

    Post-truth or some version of it is discussed in many books. And many of them were written decades ago about how Lenin and Hitler openly told falsehoods and bombasted their way to steamroll evidence-based understanding, common sense, out of the minds of many to establish popular belief in what they claimed.

    The onslaught of nonsense that appeals to a gut-reaction, first impression, emotion-triggered type of response over-whelms the ability of many people to figure out what is actually verifiable common sense. People feeling a little less successful than they believe they should be are easily led to believe they are being cheated by 'Others'. And in the USA, white or english-speaking or evangelical-christians or men (or any combination) are feeling cheated out of their Perceived Right to forever continue, strengthen, and expand their rule over Others in their part of the USA, all of the USA, and around the world. And another group that is easily triggered is greedy people who want more status relative to Others any way they can get away with. That greedy group has figured out how to appeal to the first group to get more support for their fight against the rapid ending of fossil fuel use.

    The first book I read about the attack on 'Reason' and 'Evidenced based understanding' was Al Gore's "The Assault on Reason". More recent books on the topic of post-truth include Masha Gessen's "Surviving Autocracy" and Michiko Kakutani's "The Death of Truth".

    Other books about the current state of affairs in the USA include "On Tyranny" by Timothy Snyder, and "White Fragility" by Robin DiAngelo.

    The problem is not because of Trump. The problem in the USA has been developing towards something like Trump becoming President for a while now.

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  3. OPOF, I have a copy of Post Truth, by Evan Davis so that is another one to add to the list.

    Your explanations sound quite good, although I'm still puzzled why we haven't seen quite the same extent of problems in NZ, ( we have seen some and it is growing a bit) but it may partly relate to geography and size and location,  in that we are very small and very reliant on trade and international alliances which does open the mind and make people more tolerant of 'foreigners' and international organisations, and very aware of what happens in other countries. Fake news and xenophobia finds it harder to gain traction in that sort of environment.

    America is so large it's almost self contained, and certainly trades less on a per capita basis than us, all of which might create a little bit of a bubble where fake news can gain traction along with anti foreigner sentiments, and if you tap into that racial dimension with appropriate falsehoods and emotive rhetoric, you pretty much have people under your control.  We have had politicians like that and our share of xenophobes, but they are getting less and less traction. It was actually a free trade agreement with China around 2006 that got us through the GFC, and people are grateful. 

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  4. nigelj,

    The following is my current understanding of the problems faced by efforts to develop sustainable improvements for the future of humanity. Better understanding a problem, and the desired outcome, is one of the most important steps in developing sustainable solutions, as every Engineer is very aware.

    Regarding reactions to climate science and climate change information and misleading claims, a major difference between the USA and NZ is probably that, relative to NZ, the USA has more powerful wealthy people who have their wealth and power because of fossil fuels. They would lose status if the changes of how people live that are required to limit the climate change harm done to future generations are actually achieved. Increased awareness and understanding of the need to meet the Paris limits makes these powerful wealthy people more likely to lose their status. And that threat of losing their perceived status causes some of them to mentally 'lose it' and double down on harmful misleading marketing rather than striving to honestly change to be less harmful and more helpful.

    Other possible reasons for the difference regarding harmful populism in the USA and NZ could be:

    • The USA is the least Socialist of the supposedly more advanced nations. I use 'supposedly' because it highlights that 'impressions of advancement' may be misleading. Increased wealth or increased technological development that does not result in sustainable improvements of the living conditions for the poorer portion of the population is not 'advancement'.
    • The USA, since its foundation, has been a nation of Anglo Saxon Colonists pursuing ever expanding Superiority for 'Their Tribe' relative to all 'Others' (the reason I pointed to "White Fragility" as a book to read). Books like "The End of the Myth" by Greg Grandin present an accurate and unflattering history of the formation and expansion of the USA (violent disregard for Others is a powerful part of the USA's history). And many Americans are still powerfully motivated by their collective lack of social development on acceptance of diversity and the related need to systemically more equitably treat the diversity of humanity.
    • In the USA the 'pursuit of freedom' has been about the more freedom for powerful wealthy property-owning people (with property including Other people) to become more powerful and wealthier (small government having no role in regulating economic activity, not limiting the harm it does). It includes protection of the ability of likely unjustly acquired wealth to be passed to children who may be even less deserving of having that wealth and power. The wealthier a person is the more helpful and less harmful to Others that person needs to be, or the advancement of society is slowed or reversed.
    • The USA has a 2 party system which makes it easier for the greedy and intolerant people to gather together and claim that 'The Other is the enemy'. And the history of the USA explains why the 2 Parties in the USA substantially share the objective of protecting the wealth of the wealthy. However, currently the Democrats are leaning towards being more Socially Sharing and Caring due to their party including the Social Democrat thinking. Multi-party systems may make people more aware of diversity rather than seeing things as Black-White Us-Them. In Canada there is only one party heavily focused on promoting greed and intolerance, the merged Right-Wing Conservatives. There used to be a Progressive Conservative Party that was centrist, but it disappeared when it merged with social conservatives and increased appeals to greed (which used to be in fringe parties). The inability of the hard Right-wing Party to get along with a diversity of Other Parties may make more people aware that it is the uncooperative party that is the problem, rather than a 2 party system where 'The Other' can always be blamed.

    Another difference between the USA and NZ is that the Separation of Church and State has been removed by the current Republican pursuit of popular support from fundamentalist religious groups, because there is such a large population of fundamentalist evangelical religious people (and those people appear easily inclined to believe conspiracy theories about 'Those Others - Their Enemies').

    A related difference between the USA and NZ may be that the USA has also amplified the power of wealth in government. It is clear that democracy requires a separation of Wealth and State (read Thomas Piketty's "Capital and Ideology") so that the State can act as the Responsible Governor of what is going on to limit harm done and help develop sustainable improvements for the least fortunate.

    In summary, Social Democracy that effectively limits the influence of Religion and Wealth on the actions of Government may powerfully inoculate populations against populist autocracy. Note that anti-Socialism is part of the misleading marketing attacks by the greedy and intolerant portions of many populations that have joined forces to try to win the power to do as they please. Selfish people are more inclined to be harmful to Others, and less inclined to be helpful to Others. They easily dislike the idea of being 'forced to share and care by Government'. Any government that would do that is part of the 'Others'. They want the freedom to 'Win higher status any way they can get away with'. To them 'Harm Done is justified by Benefits Obtained'.

    Closing back to climate change and climate science. The belief in conspiracy is strong in people who have developed preferred beliefs that are contradicted by expanded awareness and improved understanding of how to be less harmful and more helpful to Others. To maintain their perceptions of status and related beliefs, they accept anything that appeals to them, including the ability to declare themselves to be the Victims - of conspiracies, which requires the belief that there is no Objective Reality as a basis for Common Sense, every belief is equally valid - because of the barage of falsehoods they have developed a liking for but have been unable to make sense of.

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  5. I prefer a Trump reelection, the sooner we get close to a "point of no return" scenario the better, at least then, we could have a real informed discussion on a global scale.

    Also it's not that i don't appreciate the bashing, but China emitted 2020 close to double the CO2 (10.06GT vs 5.41GT) not that one should take those number all to seriously as there is no sure way to independently verify whether national governments are telling the truth about their own emissions. And i honestly don't think that the worlds factory will stop pumping CO2 into Atmos, just becouse Trump didn't get re-elected. On the other hand, I'm pretty confident that a Biden Presidency would just motivate them to increase it even more.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] The latest full-year data are through 2018, with 2019 data still provisional.  By definition, 2020 is incomplete.  The US is by far the leader in both cumulative and per-capita emissions and thus by far the single biggest portion of the overall problem.  Discussions on politics must also be tangential to climate change.

  6. Odium,

    The first, and most important point, regarding climate change impacts is that there is no 'point of no return'. There have already been significant harmful consequences for some regions of the planet. And the harm done will only continue to increase until the creation of the harm done is stopped. And for humanity to have a lasting and improving future 'human activities that cause harmful consequences for Others' must be ended. The Creed that "Harm Done is justified by Benefits Obtained" is wrong because it is "Us benefiting from Harm Done to Others". Until human activity stops making things worse the harm done will continue to increase.

    The real informed discussion on a global scale started before the 1972 Stockholm Conference.

    The understanding regarding the potential for many human activities to be harmful and ultimately unsustainable was being developed in the decades leading up to that 1972 conference. The first global attempt to do something was the League of Nations after WW1 which failed to stop WW2 from happening. The UN was then set up and its first formally estanblished Global Understanding is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

    Trump represents the part of the USA that fights against the concept of Human Rights, fights against "No Harm Done", Fights for "Justifying Harm Done to Others". Fights to claim "They are the Victims - Others are the problem". Which is what MAGA is all about, reversing any and all Human Rights base advancements that have happened in the USA.

    Though the USA is one of the least 'Human Rights advanced' nations among the supposedly advanced nations, its history is of a significant portion of the population liking the USA to be even less advanced. In the 1700's, after beating France to establish control of the eastern part of the USA, the King of England decreed that the settler colonies would be limited to the coast region east of the Allegheny Mountains. The Native population that had helped defeat the French but was displaced by the settlers would have the territory west of the Mountains as their Nation.

    That thoughtful human rights based decision by the King of England in the 1700s was the trigger for the American Revolution against England. And the massacre of the Native population of the USA followed. The attitudes about slavery, also abolished in England, were a parallel case of the USA Manifest Destiny to maximize their Anglo Saxon Superiority.

    The effort to increase the understanding of the many ways human activity was developing to be harmful and unsustainable has been happening for centuries, with people like Trump fighting against the understandings.

    I hope you appreciate, that with that understanding, I am being extremely civil in responding to someone who has declared a powerful liking for Trump that includes the "We are the Victim - Others are the problem" pathetic argument (Oops, I couldn't keep it totally civil to the end - apologies for using the term pathetic - but it applies).

    And that is the root of the problem with believing there can ever be a 'reasonable debate amng all people'. The Harmfully Selfish will always be a part of humanity. They will always need to be externally governed by more thoughtful responsible people 'like the King of England in the 1700s'. Negotiating with harmfully selfish people leads to compromises that do not end the harm being done.

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  7. Odium @5

    "I prefer a Trump reelection, the sooner we get close to a "point of no return" scenario the better, at least then, we could have a real informed discussion on a global scale."

    If the climate is past the point of no return, what is it you think we should be discussing globally? Do we have a global last rites for the planet? Do we have a large mutual commiseration session? Do we say "oh well its all over we just have to go away and spend a fortune on adaptation"?

    I meant there really would be nothing to discuss. Our goose would be cooked.

    Given Trumps proven antipathy to international organisations, he won't want much of a global discussion and given his record its unlikely he will want to do much to help anyone. So electing him wont help. So have you actually thought about anything you just wrote before putting pen to paper? :)

    But of course there is indeed no point of no return. Its never too late to make a difference.

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