Analysis

The Problem With Climate Doomsday Reporting, And How To Move Beyond It

The Banker Sculpture. Photo: University of Sydney

It’s not often that an article about climate change becomes one of the most hotly debated issues on the internet — especially in the midst of a controversial G20 summit.

But that exact thing happened following the publication of a lengthy essay in New York Magazine titled “The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, Economic Collapse, a Sun that Cooks Us: What Climate Change Could Wreak — Sooner Than You Think.”

In the course of 7,200 words, author David Wallace-Wells chronicled the possible impacts of catastrophic climate change if current emissions trends are maintained, including, but certainly not limited to: mass permafrost melt and methane leaks, mass extinctions, fatal heat waves, drought and food insecurity, diseases and viruses, “rolling death smog,” global conflict and war, economic collapse and ocean acidification.

Slate political writer Jamelle Bouie described the essay on Twitter as “something that will haunt your nightmares.”

It’s a fair assessment. Reading it feels like a series of punches in the gut, triggering emotions like despair, hopelessness and resignation.

But here’s the thing: many climate psychologists and communicators consider those feelings to be the very opposite of what will compel people to action.

What The Oilsands Sell-Off Actually Means

Oilsands trucks

The last few months have been marked by some massive shifts in the oilsands.

In December, there was the $830 million Statoil sale to Athabasca Oil, followed in January and February by the writing down of billions of barrels of reserves by Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.

On March 9, Shell sold a majority of its oilsands assets to Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) in a huge $7.25 billion sale, while Marathon Oil split its Canadian subsidiary between Shell and CNRL for a total of $2.5 billion.

The question is: why are all of these companies selling their oilsands assets? While some celebrate the moves as successes for the climate movement, others blame the Alberta NDP for the exodus of internationals.

Tweet: Experts say #oilsands sell-off has more to do w/ a broader shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical http://bit.ly/2nK3zyQ #ableg #cdnpoliBut experts say the reality has more to do with a broader economic shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical — for the time being at least.

Earth to America: Trump’s Not the Centre of the Universe (Or the Climate)

President-elect Donald Trump

The UN climate talks seemed to grind to slow motion this week with the much-hyped, much-anticipated arrival of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry arrived late for his scheduled talk, striding in with that celebrity dignitary air, surrounded by a posse of private security guards and long-lens photographers. An inexplicable apocalyptic plume of black smoke rose from the Marrakechi cityscape behind him.

Mapped: The Cosy Climate-Euro Sceptic Bubble Pushing for Brexit and Less Climate Action

Mapped: The Cosy Climate-Euro Sceptic Bubble Pushing for Brexit and Less Climate Action

There is a deep-rooted connection between UK climate science deniers and those campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union, new mapping by DeSmogUK can reveal.

Tying together this close-knit network reveals how organisations residing behind the doors of Westminter's 55 Tufton Street share many of the same members and donors.

And the reach of this small group of Brexit climate deniers extends beyond this Westminster building to include prominent politicians such as former London Mayor Boris Johnson, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, and Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom as well as traditional British media outlets.

Perhaps the epitome of this nexus between climate science deniers and Brexit campaigners came last week when former environment secretary Owen Paterson delivered a speech at this very same address.

How Propaganda (Actually) Works

clean coal propaganda

Political Propaganda employs the ideals of liberal democracy to undermine those very ideals, the dangers of which, not even its architects fully understand.
 
In the early years of DeSmog’s research into environmental propaganda, I thought of industry PR campaigns like “junk science,” “clean coal,” and “ethical oil” as misinformation strategies designed to dupe the public about the real issues.
 
Although there is obvious truth to that view, I now understand that propaganda is far more complex and problematic than lying about the facts. Certainly propaganda is designed to look like facts that are true and right, but not in a way we might think. What’s more, the consequences are far worse than most people consuming and even producing it realize.

What Are The Chances Of Getting All These Record Hot Years Without The Extra Greenhouse Gases? The Answer...

From hot to fractionally less hot, here are the planet’s ten warmest years on record – 2015, 2014, 2010, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2009, 1998, 2002 and 2006.

These are the numbers according to NASA and include measurements taken on land and at sea in a record that goes back to the year 1880.

Now that’s a pretty remarkable run of hot years for an era when, according to the rusted-on professional climate science denialists, global warming was supposed to have stopped.

But what are the chances of getting a run of “hottest on record” years like that - 14 of the 16 hottest years all happening since 2000 - without all the extra greenhouse gases that humans have been judiciously stockpiling in the atmosphere and oceans?

Study Finds The 'Era of Climate Science Denial Is Not Over'

Conservative think tanks in the United States are a sort of “ground zero” for the production of doubt about the links between fossil fuel burning and dangerous climate change.

These think tanks produce reports, hold conferences, write books, go on television, produce columns and blogs and generally and liberally splatter the public discourse with talking points.

You’ll have heard their manufactured doubt everywhere.  CO2 is great for the planet… fossil fuels are good… climate scientists are wrong… the world has been hotter in the past… cutting emissions will kill the economy.” That sort of thing.

But there has been speculation that as the world continues to break heat records, and as oceans rise and the science sends ever more clear and urgent signals, that the focus of these think tanks will shift away from attacking the science to discussing policy.

Now a new study published in the journal Global Environmental Change has declared unambiguously “the era of climate science denial is not over”.

Dr Travis Coan, of the University of Exeter, and Dr Constantine Boussalis, of Trinity College Dublin, analysed 16,000 articles, reports, transcripts, letters, reviews and press releases from the websites of 19 conservative think tanks, mainly based in the U.S, who work on climate change.

In the study, Boussalis and Coan discuss how commentators had been speculating about an end of climate science denial for more than a decade.

Analysing documents from 1998 until mid-2013, Boussalis and Coan found that think tanks had in recent years been focusing less on policy and more on attacking the science.

A Mythbusting Guide to the Paris Climate Agreement

Climate Nexus has published a helpful mythbusting page correcting the misinformation that is already being spread about the Paris Climate Agreement. It is rewritten here with permission.

Myths and Facts about COP21, the Paris Climate Agreement

MYTH: “Paris is not legally binding; it won’t change anything. China and India will still emit so much CO2 as to make all US reductions pointless.”

FACT: Paris does have legally binding aspects, and other nations are already taking action.

Agreement in Paris Paves Road For The End of Fossil Fuels

paris climate conference cop21

History was made tonight in Paris as the leaders of 195 nations agreed to an ambitious, science-based pact to move the world away from the fossil fuels that are to blame for the rapid increase in global temperatures.

After two weeks of negotiations here in the airport hangars of Le Bourget, 195 parties have signed a global pact that will curb global warming pollution and rapidly escalate the growth of the clean energy solutions the world needs.

The consensus here is that the Paris deal on the table is a good one. Could it be better? Of course. But this deal is about as good as it is going to get from a consensus process involving 195 countries.

What Happened to Obama's 'Planet in Peril' Rhetoric?

We know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime: two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century,” the newly elected president Barack Obama said in 2008 during his victory speech in Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois. 

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there,” he told the assembled public. “I promise you, we as a people will get there.”

Obama was in his own inimitable style promising to meet the challenge of climate change – while acknowledging that the resistance of the oil monopolies dominating the American energy market would be fierce.

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