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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #48, 2019

Posted on 4 December 2019 by Doug Bostrom

Reminder! The crowdfunding campaign to complete development of the Cranky Uncle game for improving our climate cognition is running right now. It takes only a few minutes and a few dollars to make a difference, by contributing right now while you're thinking about it.  Thank you! 

"Not just your opinion, man*" 

From time to time scientists or groups of scientists pull their heads out of instrumentation, calculation, the general obsessive fascination of focused scientific inquiry and think about what their work means to the wider world. What can come out of this is useful synthesis. Many of the over 100 journals we scan regularly publish moments of bigger picture thinking, these being distinguished from beery bar chatter because even as they seek to form conclusions or suggestions about where we're headed or may want to go as a society, they're grounded in a foundation of scrupulous attention to facts and evidence. There's too much good thinking of this kind to leave unread, yet these musings don't fit the strict definition of research publications. To account for all of this, we've added a section at the bottom of the weekly research roundups titled "Informed opinion and nudges." Some select governmental and NGO whitepapers with roots in solid science may also be found there.

*Apologies to Lebowski

Update to global warming "hiatus" research survey

For many years Skeptical Science volunteer Ari Jokimäki published this weekly research review. Of late Ari's been working on updating his massive literature review/compendium of papers investigating a seeming slowdown in warming that was for a time unaccounted for in Earth's energy budget, the so-called "global warming hiatus." The latest version is now published as Global Warming Hiatus papers, version 3.0. Constructing and maintaining this assembly is a massive amount of picky work— hats off to Ari. 

Near and dear to Skeptical Science

Two papers in this month's list are particularly germane to Skeptical Science. 

Questioning scientific practice: linking beliefs about scientists, science agencies, and climate change  examines public attitudes and beliefs about science and scientific researchers.  In plain language, what authors Safford et al identify is quite familiar: when confronted with unassailable facts and evidence,  people posing as "skeptics" and pursuing various agendas are forced to abandon actual argument, shifting instead to ad hominem attacks on character. That's not a fair or honestly productive means of discourse, but the authors also identify possible ways of mitigating effects of such tactics. From the abstract: 

The climate-change debate in the U.S. has increasingly turned from discussing climate data and scientific consensus to questioning the credibility of scientists. While disinterested unbiased assessment of data is a fundamental norm within the scientific community, it is unclear whether the public believes scientists are objective in their practices or how general views about scientists’ integrity shape acceptance of climate-related scientific claims... Our results suggest that the scientific community may need to expand discussion of the ethics and rigor of their practices when discussing climate change and point to the importance of further sociological investigation of how perceptions of scientists and scientific practices shape climate views.

In Patterns of controversy and consensus in German, Canadian, and US online news on climate changeTschötsche, Schuck and Wonneberger identify some distinguishing characteristics of style and slant in climate news coverage across national boundaries. Highlights: 

  • German media focus on controversies about efficacy and portray a wide range of actors.
  • Canadian media emphasise consensus to limit emissions, but rarely discuss efficacy.
  • US media foreground political divisions concerning the need for policy to limit emissions.
  • Rare portrayals of controversy about climate science are driven by US politicians.
  • Media seem to index seemingly relevant positions across countries, with variation in emphasis.

65 Articles: 

Physical science of global warming

On the impact of future climate change on tropopause folds and tropospheric ozone (open access)

Early Holocene temperature oscillations exceed amplitude of observed and projected warming in Svalbard lakes

Physical observations of global warming and effects

Supraglacial lake drainage at a fast-flowing Greenlandic outlet glacier (open access)

Analysis of polarimetric satellite measurements suggests stronger cooling due to aerosol-cloud interactions (open access)

Multi?decadal changes in meteorological drought severity and their drivers in mainland China

Meltwater intrusions reveal mechanisms for rapid submarine melt at a tidewater glacier

Impact of West Antarctic Ice Shelf melting on the Southern Ocean Hydrography (open access)

Changes in temperature extremes on the Tibetan Plateau and their attribution

Modeling global warming & global warming effects

Simulated retreat of Jakobshavn Isbræ during the 21st century (open access)

Detecting Climate Change Effects on Vb?Cyclones in a 50?Member Single?Model Ensemble Using Machine Learning

Do CMIP5 models show El Niño diversity?

Why do crop models diverge substantially in climate impact projections? A comprehensive analysis based on eight barley crop models

Sensitivity of climate models in relation to the “pool of inhibited cloudiness” over South of the Bay of Bengal

Projected Changes in Extreme Precipitation over Eastern Asia in the 21st Century

Climate Change Projections in the Awash River Basin of Ethiopia using Global and Regional Climate Models

Future changes in East Asian summer monsoon circulation and precipitation under 1.5°C to 5°C of warming (open access)

Competition alters predicted forest carbon cycle responses to nitrogen availability and elevated CO2: simulations using an explicitly competitive, game-theoretic vegetation demographic model (open access)

Projected changes in extreme warm and cold temperatures in China from 1.5°C to 5°C global warming

Humans dealing with our global warming

Questioning scientific practice: linking beliefs about scientists, science agencies, and climate change (open access)

Patterns of controversy and consensus in German, Canadian, and US online news on climate change

Inequal responses of drylands to radiative forcing geoengineering methods

Thermodynamic Model of CO 2 Deposition in Cold Climates

Integrating climate prediction and regionalization into an agro-economic model to guide agricultural planning

Farmers’ understanding of climate change in Nepal Himalayas: important determinants and implications for developing adaptation strategies

The link between smallholders’ perception of climatic changes and adaptation in Tanzania

Enabling local adaptation to climate change: towards collective action in Flagler Beach, Florida, USA (open access)

The “value” of values-driven data in identifying Indigenous health and climate change priorities (open access)

New stories for a more conscious, sustainable society: claiming authorship of the climate story (open access)

Coastal Louisiana landscape and storm surge evolution: 1850–2110

Indicators to measure the climate change adaptation outcomes of ecosystem-based adaptation (open access)

Climate change impacts on groundwater storage in the Central Valley, California

How can we effectively build capacity to adapt to climate change? Insights from Malawi (open access)

Indicators to measure the climate change adaptation outcomes of ecosystem-based adaptation (open access)

Climate change impacts on groundwater storage in the Central Valley, California

Afforestation for climate change mitigation: Potentials, risks and trade?offs

Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C will lower increases in inequalities of four hazard indicators of climate change

Have greenhouse gas emissions from US energy production peaked? State level evidence from six subsectors

Determining the Social Cost of Carbon: Under Damage and Climate Sensitivity Uncertainty

Exploring greenhouse gas mitigation strategies for agriculture in Africa: The case of Nigeria

Protecting Antarctic blue carbon: as marine ice retreats can the law fill the gap? (open access)

Transparency requirements under the Paris Agreement and their (un)likely impact on strengthening the ambition of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) (open access)

Cost-benefit analysis to support decarbonization scenario for 2030: A case study in Italy

Global competition dynamics of fossil fuels and renewable energy under climate policies and peak oil: A behavioural model

How to slash greenhouse gas emissions in the freight sector: Policy insights from a technology-adoption model of Canada

Vertical integration for climate change adaptation in the water sector: lessons from decentralisation in Africa and India (open access)

Biology and global warming

Shift in size of bumblebee queens over the last century

Ocean freshening and acidification differentially influences mortality and behavior of the Antarctic amphipod Gondogeneia antarctica

Autonomous adaptation to climate-driven change in marine biodiversity in a global marine hotspot

GHG sources and sinks, flux

Tidal wetland resilience to sea level rise increases their carbon sequestration capacity in United States (open access)

Pseudoreplication and greenhouse-gas emissions from rivers (open access)

Tracking emissions in the US electricity system (open access)

Mean European carbon sink over 2010?2015 estimated by simultaneous assimilation of atmospheric CO2, soil moisture and vegetation optical depth


Global Warming Hiatus papers, version 3.0

Sensitivity of near?infrared transmittance calculations for remote sensing applications to recent changes in spectroscopic information (open access)

Informed opinion and nudges

Zero Carbon Britain: Rising to the Climate Emergency

The scientific challenge of understanding and estimating climate change (open access)

Joint statement on EPA proposed rule and public availability of data (open access)

Latest climate models confirm need for urgent mitigation

Meeting the looming policy challenge of sea-level change and human migration (open access)

Two High Risk Coastal Views

Recalibrating climate prospects

Climate migration myths (open access)

From migration to mobility (open access) 

Obtaining legal copies of "paywalled" articles

We know it's frustrating that many articles we cite here are not free to read. Here's an excellent collection of tips and techniques for obtaining articles, legally. 


Please let us know if you're aware of an article you think may be of interest for Skeptical Science research news, or if we've missed something that may be important. Send your input to Skeptical Science via our contact form.

A list of journals we cover may be found here. We welcome pointers to omissions, new journals etc. 

The previous edition of Skeptical Science New Research may be found here. 


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Comments 1 to 23:

  1. This recent Comment published Nov 27 in Nature "Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against", may be appropriate for the new Informed Opinion and nudges catergory.

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  2. I have just noticed that the item I linked to above is the basis for the "Climate Tipping Points Are Closer Than We Think, Scientists Warn" article that is included in "2019 SKS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #48".

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  3. "Questioning scientific practice: linking beliefs about scientists, science agencies, and climate change (open access)" doesn't appear to be open access.

    The informed opinion section is a great idea.

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  4. The author and the project may be 100% right in their scientific positions, but why the 'Skeptical' in the title?
    There is not skeptic attitude anywhere in this article or the whole website. You report that the mainstream finding is the mainstream finding, you repeat over and over that consensus has been reached and that there are no AGW denial positions.
    So why not change the name to ''?
    Then again, when there is no refusal of AGW (any more), why does the world need a website like this?

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  5. Scientists the true skeptics - demanding evidence for everything. Pseudo-skeptics are only skeptical about positions that offend what they would like to beleive, swallowing garbage without a blink if it backs their preferrences

    "Then again, when there is no refusal of AGW (any more), why does the world need a website like this?"

    If that true, then sure, the site could shut down. However, visitor no.s suggest otherwise. If you think there is no refusal of AGW anymore, then just peruse back through the "comments" link at top for a few pages and see whether you still think so. There is a very strong science consensus but not so much among the voting public who clearly prefer to convenient lies.

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  6. ed56 @4, I hear you, but read the mission statement for this website at the top of the home page "This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism." Having read much of the so called global warming scepticism myself, there is much to be sceptical about their claims. This website can't be all things to all people, and it focuses on getting sceptical about what the climate sceptics / denialists like to claim. 

    However there is published science from time to time that takes a sceptical position on mainstream climate science positions, and you sometimes see this in the weekly list of research papers.

    The greenhouse effect is established science, so there's no particular reason to be sceptical about it, in the same way theres no reason to be sceptical about the earth orbiting the sun. The things in genuine doubt include the exact effects of clouds and this gets discussed from time to time.

    And "warmists" argue with each other quite frequently for example look at the comments posted on the article "Video:Is CO2 dangerous" in the list of recent articles. So theres plenty of scepticism if you have your eyes open.

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  7. Being a skeptic is not being given a license to lie.  The science underlying AGW is almost 2 centuries old, and has been independently researched and validated as accurate by the fossil fuel companies themselves.

    I understand that pretend-skeptics don't like actual science that runs counter to their preselected opinions, but then, that's not skepticism.   It's flagrant denial: denial of facts, physics and history.

    Time and history are not on the side of pretend-skeptics, for the time for denial is long over.

    All that is left is to stand up and be counted, either as someone who understands science...or someone who doesn't.

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  8. Ed: "...why does the world need a website like this?"

    Some of us "lifers" on this project are sincerely wishing for the day when this site becomes truly obsolete. :-)

    That's not yet the case. The public is still being fed a rich fare of toxic mental fodder, for later regurgitation.on social media etc. Here's an example published only a few days ago (put your brain in protective wrapping before reading because research suggests we're all more or less susceptible to infection):

    Sputnik of course is an O&O organ of a country with an utterly desperate, urgent dependence on fossil fuel revenues, so it figures they'd need to debase themselves by publishing such garbage. Many variations on this  theme having the common tune of money vector preservation make SkS still necessary. We could wish it was otherwise.

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  9. Ok, so some people misuse the word 'skeptical' by pretending to have scientific arguments objecting the AGW explanation, while actually they have only misinformation based on political motives.
    Now by calling this website 'Skeptical' you trap them and make them read the truth. Does is work? I doubt.
    Why not be clear: The scientific facts about AGW are not debatable, the political conclusions are. Let's classify them and collect pro and con arguments for each.

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  10. ed56 @9:

    If you click on the About button on this website's Home Page, you will find the following statement:

    Skeptical Science is a non-profit science education organisation, run by a global team of volunteers.

    The goal of Skeptical Science is to explain what peer reviewed science has to say about global warming. When you peruse the many arguments of global warming skeptics, a pattern emerges. Skeptic arguments tend to focus on narrow pieces of the puzzle while neglecting the broader picture. For example, focus on Climategate emails neglects the full weight of scientific evidence for man-made global warming. Concentrating on a few growing glaciers ignores the world wide trend of accelerating glacier shrinkage. Claims of global cooling fail to realise the planet as a whole is still accumulating heat. This website presents the broader picture by explaining the peer reviewed scientific literature.

    Often, the reason for disbelieving in man-made global warming seem to be political rather than scientific. Eg - "it's all a liberal plot to spread socialism and destroy capitalism". As one person put it, "the cheerleaders for doing something about global warming seem to be largely the cheerleaders for many causes of which I disapprove". However, what is causing global warming is a purely scientific question. Skeptical Science removes the politics from the debate by concentrating solely on the science.

    This has been the mission of Skeptical Science since its inception and will continue to be its mission in the future.

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  11. Ed, your point about a site that collects and compares methods and mechansims for mitigation, adaptation etc. is a good one. There's a lot of redundant babble in the popular climate communications world and there could certainly be benefit from more specialization. Perhaps there is such a site— I don't know of it myself. 

    But as to whether or not SkS is useful, site access statistics show a clear result: some half a million persons per month arrive here and land on specific articles debunking various climate change myths. It's a very purposeful and objective use of the site. These people are on personal fact-checking missions and we're here when they need us. There's no other such resource available.

    Skeptical Science is specialized on providing factual corrections to climate misunderstandings. That's our stock-in-trade, our raison d'etre. We're a climate myth debunking encyclopedia.

    Perusing the "Humans dealing with our global warming" section above suggests several other available specialty communications slots. A site focusing on popular conveyance of human cognition of hazards and risks would certainly be good. Much of our problem in dealing with climate lies in our poor mental faculties for that. 

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  12. doug_bostrom @11: You opined:

    Ed, your point about a site that collects and compares methods and mechansims for mitigation, adaptation etc. is a good one. There's a lot of redundant babble in the popular climate communications world and there could certainly be benefit from more specialization. Perhaps there is such a site— I don't know of it myself.

    There are in fact many such sites. Carbon Brief is a prime example.

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  13. Not quite what I was thinking of, John, but it certainly covers the materal in more concentrated way.

    I'm thinking more along the lines of what we do, something that can do better than the current Google results on a question such as "how does co2 capture via chemisorption compare iin cost to direct capture." If you try that query there's no obvious place to go. 

    I don't get out much, so I'm sure I'm missing something. :-)

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  14. ed56@9, scepticalscience is just a name. Names need to be short and calling the website "busting climate" is long and corny and could be interpreted in different ways leading to the need to write "busting the climate myths of the climate  which is even longer.

    Yeah maybe the intent in the name sceptical science was to fishook in a few climate sceptics. No big deal. Clever move.

    But I get your point that Sceptical science implies scepticism should be broadly applied. I think it  would be useful to have the occasional article looking at some of the extremist warming claims and dissecting them. Eg climate change will cause human extinction, and the ridiculous claims on 

    This website is probably not the ideal venue for looking regularly at mitigation and adaptation and the pros and cons, ie a sceptical analysis, because it can't do everything, but it could look at the occasional mitigation issue such as the very science heavy ones. In fact it did that a year ago by taking a look at the claims made by Alan Savory about regenerative cattle farming being able to sequester vast quantities soil carbon, and took a sceptical position. Heres the article.

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  15. Doug @13: Here's the "About" statement posted on the website of MIT's  Center for Global Change Science (CGCS). Note the final paragraph in particular:

    The Center for Global Change Science (CGCS) at MIT was founded in January 1990 to address fundamental questions about the global environment with a multidisciplinary approach. In July 2006 the CGCS became an independent Center in the School of Science. The Center’s goal is to improve the ability to accurately predict changes in the global environment.

    CGCS seeks to better understand the natural mechanisms in the ocean, atmosphere and land systems that together control the Earth’s climate, and to apply improved knowledge to problems of predicting global environmental change. The Center utilizes theory, observations, and numerical models to investigate environmental phenomena, the linkages among them, and their potential feedbacks in a changing climate.

    The Center builds on existing programs of research and education in the Schools of Science and Engineering at MIT. The interdisciplinary organization fosters studies on topics as varied as, for example, oceanography, meteorology, hydrology, atmospheric chemistry, ecology, biogeochemical cycling, paleoclimatology, applied math, data assimilation, computer science, and satellite remote sensing.

    CGCS sustains a program of discovery science with research on the natural processes in the global environment, concentrating on the circulations, cycles and interactions of water, air, energy, and nutrients in the Earth system.

    Parallel CGCS activities incorporate the insight gained into climate prediction models, and climate policy analysis, with the aim of providing it in a useful way to decision-makers confronting the coupled challenges of future food, energy, water, climate and air pollution (among others). The CGCS also interacts with complementary MIT efforts in the Environmental Solutions Initiative, the Energy Initiative, and the Earth Resources Laboratory.

    Given that cutting-edge research about carbon capture is occurring at MIT, you might want to nose around the CGS website to see if your question is being addressed. 

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  16. ed56@4: You wrote:

    Then again, when there is no refusal of AGW (any more), why does the world need a website like this?

    If you carefully read the following article, you will understand why your global assertion is not accurate.

    Flat Earthers, and the Rise of Science Denial in America, Opinion by Lee McIntyre, Newsweek, May 14, 2019

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  17. Regarding "Flat Earthers, and the Rise of Science Denial in America," linked by John Hartz.

    A good read with mostly convincing conclusions, but it was not clear  what it meant by denialists. I think what you have is "hard core" denialists who have gone slightly crazy and have a very extreme view of climate science. There are many moderate sceptics who are just slightly sceptical and people who are rather "impressionable" and easily swayed. The risk is the hard core denialists infect these moderates. This is the war zone we have to be wary of.

    These are two largely different groups, because we are all sceptics of everything to some extent. Facts wont change hard core denialists minds, with a few  exceptions, because they are driven by ideology and conspiracy theory beliefs, but I believe facts do change the minds of the moderatly sceptical people. The article failed to make the distinction so sends a bad message.

    Sadly the article was also rather vague on just how to reach the hard core denialists but rather than throw too many facts at them it might be useful to talk about motivated reasoning and confirmation bias. Thus they are not being told they are wrong or have the wrong facts. But the rest of the article was great.

    These denialists seem to go over board with conspiracy theories and they really do "believe". I remember reading about the illumaniti conspiracy and it can be seductive, but I have a big internal wall that stops be falling for this sort of thing, and a careful study of the origins of the group shows its harmless. But that sort of study takes effort to find reliable information and recognise it. Makes me wonder if denialists are often just lazy.

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  18. nigelj @ 17: You wrote:

    Sadly the article was also rather vague on just how to reach the hard core denialists but rather than throw too many facts at them it might be useful to talk about motivated reasoning and confirmation bias. Thus they are not being told they are wrong or have the wrong facts. But the rest of the article was great. 

    My advice to you and everyone — Ignore the hard core denialist and focus on getting the majority of people to move from climate awareness to climate action.

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  19. Nigelj, science denial may be a special problem in den US (much less in Europa, where I sit), but then again it is not a challenge for natural science.
    It may be one for sociology, and I miss information here from this perspective.
    You all know better what the effect of this website is, from my superficial perception it could have the effect of further splitting the (social) camps.
    Remember, the other camp is also a natural grown inhabitant of this planet ;-)

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  20. ed56 @19,

    People who resist expanding their awareness and resist improving their understanding and resist applying what they learn to help develop a sustainable and improvable future for a robust diversity of humanity fitting in to a robust diversity of life are not "... natural grown inhabitants of this planet".

    They are products of the socioeconomic-political systems and story-telling that they developed in. They are humans who have allowed their ability to be 'helpful members of a robust diversity of humanity' to be over-powered by the 'harmful selfish enticements and motivations of the socioeconomic-political systems' that can be seen to develop harmful unsustainable results and develop powerful resistance to correction.

    Climate science and the resistance to accepting it is clearly the largest case study proving that point. But similar examples exist related to every other Sustainable Development Goal.

    Whenever the harmful correction resistant portion of the population sense that learning would threaten a developed belief and resulting personally liked actions they will be tempted to use all available methods to evade 'learning to be helpful rather than continue to be enjoy being harmful'. That is on bold display everywhere. It is even tragically succeeding at temporarily winning unfettered power in some of the 'supposedly most advanced nations'. And it is having significant influence even if that harmful portion of the population do not win unfettered power. Popularity and profitability are hard to effectively fight against.

    The future of humanity is at stake. And there are indeed two camps. And one of them clearly deserves to be Governed and Limited by the Other Camp. The Nature and Humanity camp must govern and limit the Popularity and Profit Camp.

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  21. Analogies don't function in the mind of folks bent on not understanding even as analogies are a very useful way of giving people a leg up on unfamiliar topics. Nor will this web site penetrate diamond-hard dogma.

    Fortunately research tells us that the intractably intransigent are distinctly in the minority. :-)

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  22. nigelj @14:

    Yeah maybe the intent in the name sceptical science was to fishook in a few climate sceptics. No big deal. Clever move.

    That's part of the rationale for the name, and it has worked well for the purpose. OTOH, science is a centuries-long, worldwide collective enterprise by trained, disciplined, competitively skeptical individuals, who adopt Nullius in verba as a guiding principle. As nigelj well knows, soi disant "skeptics" of anthropogenic global warming are actually pseudo-skeptical, and are appropriately called AGW-deniers. For the most part, volunteer AGW-deniers are neither trained nor disciplined, and readily succumb to the Dunning-Kruger effect. They scorn the lopsided consensus of genuine experts, namely the international peer community of climate specialists; but gladly take the word of professional disinformers who obfuscate reality for hire, with or without scientific credentials. It's no surprise that a robust public deception industry has flourished, under savvy long-time reinvestment of a tiny fraction of annual fossil fuel profits. The persistent failure of the US to enact effective decarbonization policy is a positive ROI.

    Many non-Americans find both our long history of truculent anti-intellectualism, and the vast power of fossil-carbon wealth over our politics, hard to fathom. Alas, they are realities confronting the world 8^(. FWIW, I apologize for my country, and I cling to hope we can somehow blunder our way to a carbon-neutral economy before it's too late for any economy at all!

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  23. The escalator gif needs a 2020 update.

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