December 12, 2013
The Canadians, eh? Remember those nice, civilized people who lived up north of us?
They’re under new management, which is cleaning house.
Starting with burning the libraries.
The Harper government has dismantled one of the world’s top aquatic and fishery libraries as part of its agenda to reduce government as well as limit the role of environmental science in policy decision-making.
Last week the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is closing five of its seven libraries, allowed scientists, consultants and members of the public to scavenge through what remained of Eric Marshall Library belonging to the Freshwater Institute at the University of Manitoba.
One woman showed up to pick up Christmas gifts for a son interested in environmental science. Other material went into dumpsters. Consultants walked home with piles of “grey material” such as 30-year-old reports on Arctic gas drilling.
Nearly 40,000 books and papers were relocated to a federal library in Sidney, B.C.
“It was a world class library with some of the finest environmental science and freshwater book collections in the world. It was certainly the best in Canada, but it’s no more,” said Burt Ayles, a 68-year-old retired research scientist and former regional director general for freshwaters in central Canada and the Arctic.
December 11, 2013
I sat next to Stephen Lewandowski at dinner last night. Dr. Lewandowski is a Professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Bristol. He has compared the 21st century’s two (so far) overwhelming and utter failures of journalism – the runnup to war in Iraq, and climate change.
If you’re in a rush, make sure you read the last paragraph.
“Iraq is developing a long-range ballistic missile system that could carry weapons of mass destruction up to 700 miles.” Iraq is progressing towards “dirty bombs that spew radioactivity, mobile bio-weapons facilities, and a new long-range ballistic missile.” An Iraqi defector “tells of work on at least 20 hidden weapons sites.” It is an “undisputed fact” that September 11 attacker Mohamed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence officers in Prague.
Those claims appeared in mainstream newspapers during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. All those claims were false. The nonexistence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq immediately prior to the invasion and the absence of links between Iraq and al-Qaida eventually became the official U.S. position with the Duelfer Report and the report of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
A decade later, those media failures are relevant not only because of the war’s six-figure death toll and because the Iraqi per capita GDP has so far failed to return to prewar levels, but also because they remind us that the media, including highly reputable newspapers, can sometimes get things quite wrong.
A similar media failure is arguably under way this very moment with regard to climate change. The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded with near certainty that human economic activity is responsible for ongoing global warming, and some of the largest insurance companies on the planethave blamed the increase in losses from extreme weather events to climate-related disasters.
This has not kept some newspapers from reporting that Arctic ice is “recovering“, a rather adventurous claim in light of the fact that the Arctic has lost 40% of its ice cover since 1980 and that ice extent is now lower than during several millennia preceding 1980. A recent quantitative analysis of climate coverage in the Australian media confirmed thatmisreporting of the science is widespread.
There are some interesting similarities and differences between the media failures involving Iraqi WMDs and climate change.
One notable difference between pre-invasion reporting on Iraqi WMD and climate change is that, in contrast to the near-hegemony of war-supporting reporting (at least in the U.S.), the public has a broader choice now when it comes to climate change: While there is a large supply of disinformation that threatens the public’s right to being adequately informed, there is also no shortage of actual scientific information, both in the mainstream media and beyond.
The diversity of sources empowers the public to select their information wisely, but it also provides a playing field for the dominant influence of people’s cultural worldviews or “ideology”, which can override even education. People whose core personal values are threatened by possible responses to climate change, such as a price on carbon or regulatory measures, are known to rely on media sources that are more likely to create confusion about climate change than disseminate scientifically accurate information.
Worldviews may also explain another cognitive difference between Iraq and climate, which concerns the asymmetry in the evaluation of evidence in the two cases. In the case of Iraqi WMDs, we now know that the media—and politicians among the “Coalition of the Willing”—used weak and insufficient evidence to call for a pre-emptive war against a largely imaginary risk. In the case of climate, by contrast, a mountain of scientific evidence pointing to a risk far greater than that posed by Saddam Hussein is ignored, and mitigative action refused, on the basis of similar worldviews.
There are also similarities. In both cases, a link can be drawn between misinformation and the likelihood of warfare. Together with colleagues, I reviewed the literature on this relationship in a recent paper using the Iraq War and climate change as case studies. We report a reasonably clear link between the acceptance of misinformation and support for the Iraq War, both before and after military action commenced. In one U.S. study, belief in misinformation—that is, the existence of WMDs—was the most powerful predictor of support for the Iraq war. Belief in WMDs quadrupled the likelihood of support for the war.
There is also increasing evidence of a link between climate change and violent conflict, with a recent study suggesting that the risk of violent conflict may increase globally by upward of 30% by 2050 if human-caused warming continues unabated. The link between climate change and conflict is of a statistical nature and not entirely certain, but it should alert us to the possibility that any further delay of climate mitigation, whether based on dissemination of misinformation or other factors, may cause unnecessary future deaths.
Another ironic similarity is that the same newspapers and the same journalists who beat the war drums a decade ago are now also frequently misrepresenting the risk the world is facing from climate change. After WMDs failed to materialize in post-invasion Iraq, this led to occasional anguish among journalists who regretted that they used “‘evidence’ now known to be bogus” to push for war. The lethal fallout from misinformation a decade ago primarily affected the people of Iraq. The fallout from misinformation about climate change is likely to affect us all.
December 9, 2013
Above, Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers, and Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground and the Weather Channel, on jetstream changes that may be responsible for changes in extreme weather events in the temperate zones.
Dr. Francis has a new paper just out reinforcing the sea ice connection with information about declining spring snow cover as well.
The past decade has seen an exceptional number of unprecedented summer extreme weather events in northern mid-latitudes, along with record declines in both summer
Arctic sea ice and snow cover on high-latitude land. The underlying mechanisms that link the shrinking cryosphere with summer extreme weather, however, remain unclear.
Read the rest of this entry »
December 9, 2013
Unseasonably warm falls keep pushing back the season for the “Where’s global warming” spots on Fox News. F-4 Tornadoes in November tend to mitigate against the popular right wing meme.
But now we’re actually getting some winter weather, look for the inevitable “ah stuck mah haid outsahd, an’ it wuz snowin’, so there cain’t be no glow-bull warmin’”.
Below, Jerry Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research discusses temp records, low and high.
December 9, 2013
Icon of the Great Folk Scare of the 1960s, Dave Van Ronk, does his signature piece.
Reportedly, Van Ronk was the inspiration for the Coen Brother’s new film.
December 9, 2013
When they’ve had a chance to live around wind turbines, and find out that they are quiet, clean, do not cause headaches, or herpes, as windbaggers claim – they quickly figure out who’s been lying to them.
A new survey finds that the wind turbines in Freiburg, Germany, are once again very popular after a brief concern over the impact on bats. The strangest thing was the timing of the bat issue.
A new survey conducted by the University of Freiburg (report in German) finds that approval of the city’s six turbines has risen from 65 percent when they were built to 80 percent today, further indication that acceptance of wind turbines increases when people live close to them.
Over time, the researchers say, initial concerns about the turbines possibly scaring away tourists died down when people realize that tourists keep coming unabated. Indeed, at one of Freiburg’s two sites with turbines, a tower for hikers and mountain bikers was also built directly next to four of the turbines, and it has become a popular attraction itself (see this video).
December 8, 2013
Reposting because in the space of the last few days, this video, posted just before Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, has become my most watched video, closing in on 100,000 views.
Right. Not exactly Gagnam Style, or even cute kitten territory, but not bad for a serious vid on a serious topic. The piece took off after it was posted first on BradBlog, from there to Upworthy, and then tweeted by Rainn Wilson, “The Office’s” Dwight Schrute.
Case study in small-time virality.