Enlightening Climate Change Reading Pt. 2

The previous posts line of thinking is inspired by Naomi Klein’s interview with Leanne Simpson. She doesn’t speak scientific facts. She speaks from the heart and from a natural perspective undisturbed by mass media or scientific jargon. Indigenous people often approach climate change in the same light because they are far more in tune with the earth than we, who are more concerned with man-made instruments such as smartphones and laptops. The Samsung Note 7 faulty battery debacle has instigated deep emotional responses from those that previously owned the phone. However, when attempting to initiate a conversation on climate change, some of you may be guilty of yawning. Science does not stir feelings. Poignant writing, on the other hand, has the power to do so. 

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Pala Molisa is specifically blunt as he states “… right now, we’re about 1.5 degrees above baseline. Most scientists would agree that if we go to 2 degrees above baseline, most complex life on the planet will die. We’re gone. Humanity – as a species – we’re gone.”

Leanne Simpson speaks compellingly of alternative modes of combatting climate change and refers to colonialism as a cause of the environmental issue, “Colonial thought brought us climate change. We need a new approach because the environmental movement has been fighting climate change for more than two decades and we’re not seeing the change we need. I think groups like Defenders of the Land and the Indigenous Environmental Network hold a lot of answers for the mainstream environmental movement because they are talking about large-scale transformation. If we are not, as peoples of the earth, willing to counter colonialism, we have no hope of surviving climate change. Individual choices aren’t going to get us out of this mess. We need a systemic change. Manulani Aluli Meyer was just in Peterborough—she’s a Hawaiian scholar and activist—and she was talking about punctuated transformation. A punctuated transformation [means] we don’t have time to do the whole steps and time shift, it’s got to be much quicker than that.”

A very real understanding of climate change is developed not from scientific facts but from genuine human expression. Drawing attention to these kinds of writings and opinions will hopefully incite change, whether changes in behaviour or change in perspective , it inspires change within a person. This is what the earth needs of us, to alter our physical ways by altering our mindsets. In doing so, the denialist cause will lessen as global acceptance takes its place. 

Image:

http://www.6seconds.org/2013/04/22/climate-change-emotional-intelligence/

Enlightening Climate Change Reading Pt. 1

Emotive language is undoubtedly an insightful lens through which to view climate change. Impactful filmmaking on the changing climate and its effects are significant. Visuals and moving images are a powerful form of affective response. However, writing can be not only illuminating but an awakening force. We are shifting from an in-depth focus on the science in this post as well as the last couple of posts. This does not mean to detract from actual scientific evidence and facts. But, for a society permeated by social media, science is simply no longer enough as a convincing tool. The way in which the severity of the issue is communicated is now perhaps of greater importance.

Scientists and politicians have spent countless years trying to scientifically explain and discuss the disastrous effects of climate change, along with what it is, what it’s doing, and what it will do to the earth if we do not act. It has grown phenomenally as an issue that ought to be at the forefront of our consciousness thanks to well-known figures such as Al Gore and renowned climate scientist Michael E. Mann. Just recently, Al Gore joined Hilary Clinton on her campaign trail in Florida and smoothly dissected the current climate issues facing the globe. However, is this enough?

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Simply lecturing on climate change and global warming as detrimental threats do not spur instantaneous action or change. It is easy to shelve such lectures as apocalyptic narratives, as Tony Birch puts it. He implicitly highlights the characteristics in tune with a society of the 21st century. We will choose to give our very limited span of attention to a site, speaker, or channel that will ultimately hand us a dramatic and/or entertaining tale that does not reveal its ending, but will encourage us to think creatively and in a curious manner. But, an abundance of hope is a bore. Overwhelming negativity and despair drive a feeling of helplessness and the question “what’s the point?”. So, a balance ought to be achieved. More importantly, communication ought to be looked at as a strategy carefully formulated to spur strong feelings and strong reactions. Otherwise, we are engaged for the time being, but we are not impacted to our core in the long term. 

More in part 2 of this post.

Image:
http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2014/12/11/new-guide-aims-at-how-we-talk-about-climate-change/

Communicating Climate Change

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Social media is arguably the core ingredient to communicating the latest trend and viral topics. People feel that what they see and hear multiple times on social media intrinsically equates to the information that ought to be known at that specific time, otherwise, one may feel or is deemed fairly “uncultured”. The Q&A segment with Brian Cox and Malcolm Roberts that we linked to in the previous post has become a viral sensation, particularly within the Australian public. On Facebook, we found several pages uploading the same video of the rather absurd altercation between the two. However, it was a creative video that was uploaded by Junkee that really caught our attention.

The link -> https://www.facebook.com/junkeedotcom/videos/966647310114400/

Susanne Moser highlights the importance of such forms of communication as she states, “Integrating insights on the difficulties of understanding climate change, on language, imagery, and the imaginal, communication experts now point increasingly to the importance of story-telling and using narrative formats to convey climate change”. The humorous and comical nature of the film instantaneously held our attention and encouraged several replays of the video. As Moser points out, we are permeated by a highly visualized culture. Moving images capture our imagination and most importantly our attention no matter how futile the content may be.

What’s important is to realize both the good and bad. Whilst it grabbed our attention and drew focus toward the actuality of the issue, it did not frame climate change in a way for us to be concerned and propelled to combatting the threat. Rather, it reinforced our distrust in politicians and how disillusioned some people remain. This affective response to media content ought to be enhanced to a point of increased alertness to climate change. However, we do believe that we are on the right path. Perhaps this is just the first step. Pushing for a strong and collective acceptance on the issue can then lead into innovative means of communicating the need for direct action. This may be just what climate change is asking for of the media.

Gaining a more informed understanding of the significant role of media and communications in presenting the issue of climate change to the world is crucial. Ineffective communication on the matter is one significant cause of denialism.

Image:

http://www.cambridgeblog.org/2012/04/climate-change-and-the-media/

Climate Change Seeks Support

What does climate change demand of the media? A very peculiar question to contemplate as it situates the issue as a living entity with needs and concerns. This, of course, reinforces the concept of having to approach the issue with a much broader understanding of the relationship between the individual and the environment. If you have not heard of the notion of Sila, it has evolved to mean “the breath of life, the reason for seasonal and other changes, and the fundamental principle underlying the natural world and its comprehensive “mind.””. The notion of Sila is critical in its identification of the self as being integrated “with the natural world”. It is, therefore, crucial to not go about the problem with a sole interest in the self and of society in general. The earth is dependent on our ability to see eye to eye with its pleas as well as its growing pains. You should think of it as a parent and child relationship.

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The media plays a crucial role in operating as a mediator between the two. People will simply not devote time or care if the media does not accurately emphasize just how important it is to step outside and act. It is no longer enough to be speaking on and reacting to the disastrous effects of climate change. Echoing the sentiment of many climate change activists, “Is it not simply time for action now?”. Communication on the topic must be enhanced in a way to motivate and encourage the general public into acting on inherent instincts such as that of nurturing.

We believe this kind of thinking will greatly broaden the hostile mind of denialists as well as providing an alternative perspective on the matter. Self-interest and greed must first be abandoned if we are to come together and collectively tackle the issue at hand. The next post will continue to look at the role of media and communications.

 

Image:
http://www.myentertainmentworld.ca/2014/05/sila-will-make-you-hold-your-breath/

Conspiracy Theories

One would think that this particular argument has long passed its expiry date. But, theories manifested by conspiracists are continuously consumed. This branch of pseudoscience corrupts the mind with absurd claims such as “climate change is a plot to get rid of the human race.” This particular theory was derived by author Alan Caruba, who slammed environmentalists as corrupt beings with the aim of diminishing human life on earth. A highly well-known theory is that publicised by none other than US Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump…

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Another is the idea that we are entering a phase of global cooling. In this case, dismissing and downplaying the reality of global warming. This further reinforces the importance of understanding the difference between weather and climate. Weather fluctuations occur on a daily basis. Climate studies centre on long-term trends. That is changes in the climate over a long period of time. So, climate change does not solely refer to warmer weather, although there is an innumerable amount of evidence that signifies overall warming of the planet. To counter this theory, there is simply no credible data or climate scientist that would make such a bizarre claim.

It is also important to be mindful of certain social media accounts that will claim to be spreading climate truth. The reality of pages such as Climate Truth Now is the furthest thing from a Twitter page filled with factual information. It rapidly disseminates tweets that are contradictory to “climate truth”. The account is really a counter account with twisted scientific articles. This is very important because what often happens when people get involved in thinking about climate change is that they are lured into one of these kinds of accounts and this immediately creates what the denial people want, that is a climate of doubt around global warming. Do not be deceived by the green images  and quotes.

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In Australia, One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts is insistent on natural causes as the only reason for climate change. Overwhelming criticism by the scientific community as well as fellow politicians has had no effect on his cause. He claims, “Nature alone determines levels of CO2 in air,” as 30 billion tonnes of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere by humans alone. He also points to conspiracy theories that position the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Bureau of Meteorology as “corrupt accomplices in climate conspiracy driven by the United Nations”. This essentially reinforces how important your voice is. At this point in time, we simply cannot afford to have denialists in positions of power.

You can view Malcolm Roberts in denial action here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxEGHW6Lbu8

Cherry Picking

This will be a continuation of a previous post. We explained what pseudoscience is and why it lures people into accepting misleading information. But, how can you be more accurately aware of its presence? What are some of the characteristics that define pseudoscientific claims? We’re here to break it down for you.

  1. Cherry Picking 

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Media outlets have a tendency to cherry pick facts to report on. One scientific paper will be solely focused on, whilst the rest of the peer-reviewed research is completely disregarded. Viewers are intentionally not given the “full picture” needed to understand a certain topic’s complexities. Rather, the viewer is handed information the media thinks they ought to know. Which is a real problem because it’s usually given out of context. The Climate Reality Project provides an excellent example below:

Let’s take this statistic that’s often cited out of context: “The global mean temperature was 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit in 1998 (14.6 degrees Celsius) according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In 2012, it was 58.2 degrees (14.56 Celsius).”

The obvious conclusion here is that global warming stalled or even stopped during this period. And if you look at changing temperatures in just these 14 years, it does look like they rose at a slower rate than they did over the longer period from 1951—2012. But remember, 1998 was an unusually hot year, which skews the analysis. The bottom line: global warming didn’t stop between 1998—2012.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from this, it’s that the full set of data and context are absolutely crucial to accurate citations of climate statistics. This is the bread and butter of understanding climate change reporting.

In another example, Business Insider looked at a set of papers that undermine human impact on the changing climate. They found that the papers that were often cited by media outlets had in fact been leaving out a large amount of climate data. In fact, one paper completely disregarded 6,000 years’ worth of data. Why? Simply because the information did not correspond with their own idea that the lunar and solar cycle are the main causes of climate change. Cherry picking is the leading cause driving the denialist movement because it professionally deceives people into believing inaccurate theories.

Stay tuned for our next post on conspiracy theories.

Historical Agreement To Reduce HFCs

Climate change progress has just gained increased momentum. Beginning in 2019, the most affluent countries and economies, including the United States and the European Union, will decrease their usage of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The agreement stems from the Montreal Protocol. It is under this treaty that over 140 countries signed the Kigali Amendment, which is the deal that will aim to phase down the global warming pollutants. 

In the words of US Secretary of State John Kerry, who extensively aided in the formation of the deal, “It’s a monumental step forward, that addresses the needs of individual nations but it will give us the opportunity to reduce the warming of the planet by an entire half a degree centigrade”.

NRDC recently reported “a new analysis by Dr. Guus Velders and colleagues projects that the Kigali amendment will avoid nearly 90 percent of the temperature increase that HFCs could have caused.

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You’re probably thinking how great and wonderful all of this is. But, there’s also the possibility that you have never heard of Hydrofluorocarbons. Well, fear not, because we’re here to give you a quick breakdown.

HFCs are composed of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon. They are predominantly used as refrigerants. HFCs are also found in air conditioners and aerosol cans. These gases are most commonly referred to as “super greenhouse gases” because of two main reasons: we use too much of them and they have enormous potential for dramatic increases in temperature. A combination of these two factors means that the benefits of reducing other greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, could be severely undermined.

The Montreal Protocol was adopted in 1987 and put in place to preserve the ozone layer by gradually phasing out the many substances responsible for ozone depletion. Hence, the introduction of HFCs as refrigerants by the chemical industry as the protocol has now almost entirely diminished the gases predecessor, Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Even though CO2 attracts most of the spotlight when it comes to reporting on greenhouse gases, HFCs are in fact 3,830 times more powerful and endure for up to 14 years.

Which is why this agreement carries such enormous significance. The world has united to collectively tackle the threat of climate change. This is a great example of major leaders taking real action on the biggest challenge to face modern society. Now, it’s up to us to spread information such as this in order to better inform the sceptics and denialists. To echo Joe Biden in 2015, denying climate change at this point is like “denying gravity”.

If we missed anything important or if you’d like to know more on a particular aspect of this post, let us know in the comments below.

Pseudoscience In The Realm Of Climate Change

Pseudoscience is basically the go to plan for politicians and persistent deniers when it comes to climate change. Utilising the concept as a tool to debunk climate scientists and raw scientific research has been at the forefront of guiding the denialist movement. This is why the mere use of the term to describe climate change is absurd. As we explained in the previous post, pseudoscience is everything real science is not. That is, a certain belief or claim is presented and promoted without any reliable scientific evidence as proof. In an attempt to extend the spotlight on false claims, discredited and non-peer reviewed research are also involved in the process. You’re probably wondering how such a ludicrous case is continually perpetuated in modern society. Well, history shows us that pseudoscience has always attempted to overshadow radical claims made by scientists, particularly in relation to the natural world.

Let us not forget that continental drift was once considered a laughing matter. German meteorologist Alfred Wegener first proposed the idea over a hundred years ago. However, in Wegener’s time, any and all concepts of geology were severely  underdeveloped.

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Science is naturally worrying for a lot of people because the scientific method enables for major discoveries. This usually means a drastic altering of our thinking process, which immediately comes across as slightly threatening to some people. Human beings inherently detest inconvenience, which is a side effect of change. The reality of climate change is that we have to change our regular, routinised habits. This is what it means to effectively act on climate. Denying climate change, on the other hand, is far more convenient both in a physical and emotional sense. It can be draining to consistently worry and think about the issue. It’s also a real struggle for others to make living adjustments according to what is more environmentally friendly. Hence, the ease of listening to the pseudoscience side of things is far more attractive than being told to give up meat for instance. It’s very easy to see why pseudoscience advances the state of denial in relation to climate change.

“I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive”. – Carl Sagan.

Image:

http://www.softpanorama.org/Skeptics/index.shtml

A Standard Case Of Denial

In the past, you may have found climate change Denialism rather humorous. Hearing older family members scoff at news reports on climate change may not have bothered you too much. In fact, you might have tended to agree with their stance. Famed psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky penned an intriguing article on why the human mind will choose to reject the science of climate change. He also has an eye-opening explanation to general denialists. He points out the impact “identity-protective cognition” can have on one’s ability to happily engage with the issue of climate change. It involves resistance to change due to long-held practices and ideals.

Climate change is an issue that requires both mental and physical change, which is a rather difficult thing to ask of people. However, from personal experience, one can choose to accept the fact that climate change exists but not do anything about it. For example, we have asked friends and family why they don’t install solar panels. They reply with the fact that they are rather costly. Instead, the money that can be used for solar panels will be spent on a trip to the mall. This is how we view the workings of denialists. They are not necessarily focusing on conspiracies or myths. Rather, they have done well to tone down the urgency and necessity to have all people engaged and actively aware of its threat. Which is why effective communication and media correspondence is essential to gaining and spreading awareness of the issue. 

Lewandowsky goes on to concisely explain what it means to deny climate change:

“Climate denial is therefore perhaps best understood as a rational activity that replaces a coherent body of science with an incoherent and conspiracist body of pseudo-science for political or psychological reasons.”

Of course, expert deniers will continue to say things like the pseudo-scientific goose chases associated with man-made global warming hurt legitimate science. 

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Now, if you’re wondering what on earth pseudoscience is, it falsely presents non-scientific claims as scientific. Non-scientific claims arise out of the basic rejection of the scientific method. That is, no actual scientific observations, experiments, or the recording of data took place. In this case, climate change deniers will take their firm beliefs and simply run with it under the guise of “science”.

However, climate change denial as a form of pseudoscience is a vast topic which we will be covering in depth in a later post, so stay tuned.

Image:
http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1423671

Method To The Denial

What we find is happening more and more is that climate change Denialists has taken an alternative route to the topic of climate change. Rather than completely dismissing climate change altogether, they acknowledge its existence (though very wearily) but will instead downplay its severity. For example, a highly well-known climate change Denialist site is Wattsupwiththat. This site is an excellent example of integrating scientific evidence with wishful thinking in order to give the impression that they do know what they’re talking about. They are also incredibly subtle in their denialism so as not to appear completely foolish to an audience with differing amounts of knowledge or experience on the topic. In doing so, they not only reach a greater amount of people, but they also earn their trust.

One example of this is an article they published on sea level rise with the following heading:

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Whilst this kind of headline may be easier to digest than say warnings of large cities being swallowed by the ocean in the future…

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It does very little to highlight the actual impact continually rising sea levels will have such as damaging coastal ecosystems, frequent flooding, and negatively affecting the economy (which is something you probably hadn’t thought of). Instead, it goes out of its way to squeeze in multiple sources that are filled with complex mathematics and scientific jargon.

“From the IPCC FAR Chapter 5.5.2: Holgate and Woodworth (2004) estimated a rate of 1.7 ± 0.4 mm yr–1 sea level change averaged along the global coastline during the period 1948 to 2002, based on data from 177 stations divided into 13 regions. Church et al. (2004) (discussed further below) determined a global rise of 1.8 ± 0.3 mm yr–1 during 1950 to 2000, and Church and White (2006) determined a change of 1.7 ± 0.3 mm yr–1 for the 20th century.”

How could the everyday person even begin to interpret all this? The answer is simple. They don’t. But the mere fact that they can’t will often encourage them to side with the notion that “it’s not a big deal” because it’s been confidently explained that it isn’t. The topic of rising sea levels is somewhat tricky. Levels vary because it all depends on how much ice melts, which is of course sometimes unpredictable. This makes it an easy target for Denialists due to the changing information that can be found online. We encourage greater depth of research to fact-check claims made by Denialists. And, if you’re unsure whether you’ve stumbled upon a Denialist site, fact-check it anyway. There’s nothing wrong with gaining a bit of extra knowledge, especially when it’s on climate change.

Image source: http://thefederalistpapers.org/us/flashback-abc-news-warns-nyc-will-be-under-water-by-2015-due-to-global-warming