From info-visualization genius Robert Rohde and Berkeley Earth.

Below, more info-graphic wizardry from Kevin Pluck.

Click on images for larger.

Tony Leiserowitz for Yale Center on Climate Communication: (email)

Eight in 10 (80%) voters – including about nine in 10 (91%) Democrats and two-thirds (67%) of Republicans – say we should listen to scientists and public health experts who recommend we continue social distancing and keep non-essential businesses closed. Just one in five (20%) say we should loosen the social distancing restrictions and reopen non-essential businesses, even if it means some Americans will be at greater risk of contracting or dying from the coronavirus. Voters are also generally observing social distancing guidelines: More than seven in 10 (71%) say they have not left their home in the last 3 days for non-essential reasons.

Nearly nine in 10 (88%) voters, including Democrats (91%) and Republicans (86%), say politicians should trust the experts and heed their advice, even if they may not personally agree, as opposed to trusting their own instincts and acting accordingly, even if it means going against the advice of experts (12%). 

Covid-19 denial is Climate denial in a test tube. We’re seeing it play out in real time.

Here’s how it’s done.

Find a contrarian talking point that is congruent with what right wing media messaging.

Launch on social media.

Get bumped to national dialogue with no standard journalistic vetting that another story might have to go thru.

It worked for Pizzagate.

Raw Story:

A pair of doctors who have been condemned by physicians across the United States for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 have become media stars thanks to exposure to Fox News.

The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer reports that Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi, the owners of a chain of urgent care clinics, have become celebrities among conservatives for their false claims that COVID-19 isn’t more deadly than the seasonal flu.

“At their press conference, the two doctors laid out a theory of a vastly reduced coronavirus mortality rate that would soon be trumpeted across right-wing media,” Sommer reports. “Citing a 6.5 percent coronavirus positive rate for tests conducted at their clinic in Bakersfield, California, the pair claimed that meant roughly 6.5 percent of the people in surrounding Kern County (with a population of nearly one million) must also have already had the disease. In Erickson’s telling, that meant the virus had only a 0.03 percent mortality rate in California, and was much less dangerous than the flu.”

The two doctors were subsequently invited on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show to discuss their purported “findings” — and now they’ve generated backlash from their fellow medical professionals.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) put out a joint statement condemning them for spreading misinformation.

“These reckless and untested musings do not speak for medical societies and are inconsistent with current science and epidemiology regarding COVID-19,” the organizations said. “As owners of local urgent care clinics, it appears these two individuals are releasing biased, non-peer reviewed data to advance their personal financial interests without regard for the public’s health. COVID-19 misinformation is widespread and dangerous.”

Leah Stokes in Vox:

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. To celebrate the occasion, filmmaker Michael Moore dropped a new movie he produced, Planet of the Humans. In less than a week, it has racked up over 3 million views on YouTube

But the film, directed by Jeff Gibbs, a long-time Moore collaborator, is not the climate message we’ve all been waiting for — it’s a nihilistic take, riddled with errors about clean energy and climate activism. With very little evidence, it claims that renewables are disastrous and that environmental groups are corrupt.

What’s more, it has nothing to say about fossil fuel corporations, who have pushed climate denial and blocked progress on climate policy for decades. Given the film’s loose relationship to facts, I’m not even sure it should be classified as a documentary.

There are real tradeoffs in the clean energy transition. As a scholar, I’ve done my fair share of research and writing on those exact issues over the past decade. Renewables have downsides. As do biomass, nuclear, hydropower, batteries, and transmission. There is no perfect solution to our energy challenges.

But this film does not grapple with these thorny questions; it peddles falsehoods.

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CleanTechnica:

Writing in Vox, Leah Stokes, an assistant professor at the University of California Santa Barbara and frequent writer on environmental issues, says

There are critiques that can be made of environmental NGOs. But the way activists are portrayed in this film is inaccurate. One of the film’s main theses is that the climate movement is captured by corporations. As Gibbs puts it, environmentalists are “leading us off the cliff.”

The evidence for this assertion? The Union of Concerned Scientists’ support for electric vehicles. And Sierra Club’s promotion of solar. And the fact that 350.org has received funding from environmental foundations. I fail to see how any of these facts are problematic.

The most egregious attack is made against Bill McKibben, a dedicated and kind environmental leader. As he has said, he has never taken any money for his environmental activism with 350.org. Watching this film, you might mistake him for a robber baron. McKibben wrote to the filmmakers, to clarify his views. They did not write back. As he put it: “That seems like bad journalism, and bad faith.”

One of the main themes of the movie is that the climate crisis is attributable to too many people competing for scarce resources. While the size of the Earth’s human population is of concern, the film never once draws attention to the perfidy of fossil fuel companies and electric utilities over the past several decades as they raked in record profits while lying through their teeth about the impact of their business activities on the environment.

The movie also quotes prices for solar power installations and conversion factors that are over a decade out of date. The worst sin of all for CleanTechnica readers is that the movie pumps air into the pernicious myth that electric cars are just as dirty as conventional cars because some electricity comes from burning coal. For that reason alone it deserves nothing but scorn.

The Guardian reports the environmental community has reacted with fury at the film. Josh Fox, who made the documentary Gasland, has written a letter signed by various scientists and activists urging the film be removed from the internet because it is “shockingly misleading and absurd” and “trades in debunked fossil fuel industry talking points” that question the affordability and reliability of solar and wind energy.

Climate scientist Michael Mann was one of the people who signed the letter. He tells The Guardian the film includes “various distortions, half-truths and lies” and that the filmmakers “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet by promoting climate change inactivist tropes and talking points.”

Bill McKibben says, “I am used to ceaseless harassment and attack from the fossil fuel industry, and I’ve done my best to ignore a lifetime of death threats from rightwing extremists. It does hurt more to be attacked by others who think of themselves as environmentalists.”

There are few people who can say they have done more to bring the issue of an overheating climate to the attention of the world than McKibben, the founder of 350.org, who has been jailed on many occasions for his implacable opposition to the burning of fossil fuels.

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Climate change is not your fault.

The fossil fuel industry has been spending a lot of money to subtly introduce the idea that if only you, just you, would change your wasteful habits, then maybe climate change wouldn’t be so bad. They started doing it with those benign “Check your Carbon footprint” ads years ago, and it continues today.
But the current crisis has shut down flying, most driving, and kept millions inside their homes, and while we’ve seen lower particulates in the air, leading to those beautiful photos of clear views from Los Angeles to Mumbai, carbon emissions have dropped in only a minor way.

Mute proof of what I’ve been telling people for years. If you and I and our 100,000 closest friends move to the woods to subsist on nuts and berries, the impact on carbon and climate would be minimal to none.
We live in a system that has to end its reliance on burning fossil fuels – that’s it.

New Republic:

In the United States, the fight against climate change is often framed as a matter of individual action toward a collective goal. If only Americans would drive and fly less and consume more sustainable energy and food, then maybe our country could do its part to help reduce carbon emissions worldwide.

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are a sobering rejoinder to such hopes. With much of the world in lockdown, road traffic and air travel have decreased significantly. The air in major cities like Los Angeles and New York is clearer than it’s been in decades, revealing skylines and mountain ranges previously obscured. We have never had a clearer example of how changes to individual behavior, on a mass scale, can make a real difference. And yet, as drastically as our lives have been circumscribed in recent weeks, new data shows that this would not be enough to save the planet—even if it were somehow sustainable.

Carbon Brief, a website in the United Kingdom, has estimatedthat the pandemic could wind up cutting global carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 by 5.5 percent—“the largest annual fall in CO2 emissions ever recorded, in records going back to the 18th century.” Another report predicts a 5 percent reduction this year, based on anticipated economic stagnation in the months ahead. Any drop in emissions, which currently aren’t being reduced fast enough to curb global warming, would normally be good news. But with such dramatic changes to the ways we conduct our lives, a 5 percent reduction feels like poor payoff. Climate experts aren’t celebrating. If anything, they say, this comparatively mild and temporary reduction shows how desperately we need comprehensive climate policy—to reduce emissions in a truly systematic, sustainable way.

In order to hit the aspirational target of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) outlined in the Paris Agreement, emissions would need to fall by about 7.6 percent every year for the next decade. Even the 5 percent reduction estimated for this year wouldn’t be enough—and the way we’ve gotten to that reduction is not sustainable in the long term. Although they are necessary to halt the spread of the coronavirus, stay-at-home orders are already affecting the emotional, physical, and financial well-being of millions of people. And, experts say, as soon as businesses begin to reopen, we’ll likely see a push to ramp up production and erase most or all of these environmental gains.

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New York Times:

The farmers and ranchers who supply the nation with hamburgers, pork chops, T-bone steaks and chicken fingers now confront several crises at once: Large processing plants are shutting downas workers fall ill, many producers were already strained by the trade war with China, and the sudden rise of plant-based “fake” meat alternatives had been starting to capture Americans’ imaginations.

On top of that, the meat business had been attracting growing scrutiny for its climate change consequences in recent years, with scientists and environmentalists urging Americans to eat less meat, particularly beef.

Cattle have an outsized environmental impact largely because they belch up methane, a potent planet-warming gas. Studies have found that beef production creates roughly four to eight times the emissions from pork, chicken or egg production, per gram of protein, and all have a larger climate-change footprint than plant-based proteins like soy or beans.

The biggest short-term disruption is the fact that a growing number of meat processing plants — where workers slaughter livestock and package food products — are shutting down as employees get sick from the coronavirus.

On April 12, Smithfield Foods said it was closing its Sioux Falls, S.D., plant indefinitely after 230 workers became infected. The facility processes roughly 5 percent of the nation’s pork. In Greeley, Colo., where at least four meatpacking workers have died, one of the nation’s largest beef-processing plants has shut down. Other plants in Iowa and Pennsylvania have also closed temporarily.

Plants like these are at the heart of a $140 billion meat industry that processes some 9 billion chickens, 32 million cattle and 121 million hogs each year. On the whole, agriculture accounts for 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with livestock responsible for roughly two-fifths of that, much of it because of methane from burping cows and decomposing animal manure.

After the financial crisis in 2008, Americans cut back on meat in favor of eggs, nuts and legumes. The average person went from eating more than 200 pounds of meat per year down to around 185 pounds by 2012. Beef and pork declined significantly in favor of lower-cost chicken. Meat consumption eventually bounced back to pre-recession levels by 2018, though beef never fully recovered.

One climate consequence of that: The emissions associated with producing food for American diets fell roughly 10 percent between 2005 and 2014, according to estimates by the Natural Resources Defense Council, mainly because people were eating less beef. (Ranchers have been steadily exporting more beef, however, to countries like Mexico and China, where meat eating is on the rise as incomes grow.)

Any drop in meat eating wouldn’t necessarily affect everyone equally: One recent study found that about 20 percent of Americans account for 41 percent of emissions related to food production, because they consume a disproportionately large amount of beef and dairy.

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