Climate change denial is shifting to climate action delay

Don’t be fooled, it’s the same people with the same agenda

Michael Barnard
Jun 9, 2020 · 8 min read
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limate change denialists are under 10% of the population of the even the United States. About 69% of Americans want the government to take action on the human causes of climate change. Yet we continue to not take action.

Part of the reason is that the industries that care about perpetuating fossil fuel use and its resultant global warming and pollution negative externalities have shifted PR gears. Now they are churning out and amplifying messages that make the problem seem too hard to solve, or the solutions inadequate. Neither is true, but sapping will to accelerate into the future is the intent, and it works far too often. This piece is the start of a climate action delaying tactics thread.

One of the first I started seeing was more incidents of overpopulation being cited as an excuse for inaction. Then a CBC reporter pinged me to ask me about the subject and we got into a thread on the regular recurrence of specific denialist and delaying memes that cycled through.

Then, over on one of the climate communication facebook pages one of my peeps is involved with, they started a thread about a concise, plain English rebuttal of denialist talking point. That lead to pointing to the Skeptical Science and Grist sites on the subject, of course, but also a realization that Skeptical Science does denialist science rebuttals, but not delay rebuttals.

Grist has more of the delaying arguments, but not expressed that way. The taxonomy is imperfect.

As part of the beginning of the list of delaying tactics and debunkings, I’ll try to use John Cook’s excellent guide to the three steps to resolving disinformation. John and I talked about these on a podcast a few months ago.

John Cook’s Cranky Uncle three-step process of debunking
John Cook’s Cranky Uncle three-step process of debunking
John Cook’s Cranky Uncle three-step process of debunking with permission

I’ve had a couple of conversations about creating a specific site for this like John Cook’s Skeptical Science, but COVID-19 derailed them. This is a potential starting point for such a site. Let me now if you would like to collaborate to make it real.

Delaying points I’m seeing include:

Innovation

Fact: Renewable electricity and electrification of everything will fix 80% of the issues.

Myth: We have to fund innovation because we don’t have all the solutions and answers.

Fallacy: This is like saying we shouldn’t start a European vacation because we aren’t sure whether we’ll travel between Paris and Berlin by train or by renting an electric car.

References:

Nuclear

Fact: Renewable energy — wind, solar and water — are cheap, fast to build, low-GHG emissions and reliable.

Myth: Only nuclear will work because it’s the only low-GHG form of generation that is suitable for baseload.

Fallacy: Baseload is a legacy requirement that is applicable to dumb grids that are more disconnected, not the smart connected grids we have today.

References:

Solar Geoengineering

Fact: Solar geoengineering — increasing the reflectivity of the upper atmosphere by lacing it with chemicals — is unproven, has high risks and will not solve any of the non-warming negative externalities of fossil fuel use, including oceanic acidification and millions of deaths from air pollution annually. We may have to use it sparingly, but only under global governance as the Oxford Principles suggest.

Myth: We don’t need to change our economy, we can just adjust our global thermostat with technology.

Fallacy: Solar geoengineering is like being in a skid and trying to control it by accelerating in the right direction. It’s far too easy to overshoot and end up fishtailing rapidly. With warming and cooling, it’s the rate of change that’s the problem.

References:

Socialism

Fact: Markets that include negative externalities aren’t socialism, and regulated markets that deliver better outcomes are the basic reality of today.

Myth: Efforts to control global warming are socialism and a plot by the UN to replace capitalism with global socialism.

Fallacy: That’s like saying that gas taxes that help pay for roads is socialism, or that stock market regulations prevent pump-and-dump and Ponzi schemes are socialism.

References:

Green New Deal

Fact: The Green New Deal is a 100% aligned with the New Deal approaches and content brought in FDR, and deals with both mitigation and adaptation for climate change, ensuring that the necessary transformation is relatively just across historically disadvantaged communities.

Myth: The Green New Deal is an unworkable set of fantasy targets.

Fallacy: Opponents of the Green New Deal have created a strawman version of it which they attack with posters of Ronald Reagan riding a velociraptor and wielding a machine gun.

References:

China and India

Fact: China and India have much lower emissions per capita than North Americans and are transforming their economies to lower carbon much faster than North America.

Myth: It doesn’t matter what we do because of China and India.

Fallacy: This is a red herring, pointing at distant lands that they are ignorant about and saying that popsicles grow on trees there.

John Cook’s Cranky Uncle red herring cartoon
John Cook’s Cranky Uncle red herring cartoon
John Cook’s Cranky Uncle red herring cartoon with permission

References:

Germany

Fact: Germany has over 30% lower GHG emissions than it did in 1990 with a bigger economy and population, gets over 40% of its electricity from renewables, has a much more reliable grid than North America and has among the cheapest wholesale electricity rates in Europe. They keep consumer rates high to drive efficiency.

Myth: But Germany has really high electricity prices and we can’t afford that.

Fallacy: This is like saying that someone who in the winter time sets their thermostat low, puts on sweaters, is comfortable and saves money is foolish.

References:

Beach Houses

Fact: Al Gore’s oceanview villa is about two miles uphill from the water. Barack and Michelle Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard home is 3 meters above water, about 3 times as high as the highest potential water levels in 80 years.

Myth: Al Gore and Barack Obama bought waterfront homes so global warming must not be real.

Fallacy: This is the tu quoque fallacy, claiming that leading figures in the fight against global warming are hypocrites based on intentional misrepresentation of the facts to give others the right to do nothing.

References:

Flying

Fact: Negotiating, networking and sharing information with large numbers of people in a rapid enough manner to deal with the severity of climate change often requires that politicians, activists and climate scientists need to fly to large meetings. When 13 billion people fly daily, it’s irrelevant if a few thousand fly a few times a year for good causes.

Myth: Climate activists fly in jets, and they wouldn’t do that if they believed in what they were saying.

Fallacy: More tu quoque fallacy, the appeal to hypocrisy.

References:

  • TBD

Population

Fact: Global population growth has been slowing after decades of efforts since Toward a Sustainable Future was published by the UN and Gro Brundltand. It’s expected to peak around 2100.

Myth: We can’t do anything about global warming because the problem is overpopulation.

Fallacy: This is another red herring, used by delayers to slap people about the head and shoulders with something distracting.

References:

Electric cars

Fact: Every major study shows that even electric cars in the highest CO2 electrical generation grids have lower full-lifecycle emissions than internal combustion cars, and as the grid decarbonizes, electric cars just get better.

Myth: Electric cars have higher CO2 emissions because we burn coal.

Fallacy: This is like saying that that LED lightbulbs are less efficient than old incandescent ones because the light emitting part is smaller but the packaging is often the same. The Koch-led disinformation network funds anti-electric vehicle messages like this to the tune of over $10 million USD annually.

References:

Carbon capture and sequestration

Fact: Mechanical carbon capture and sequestration is a global failure after 50 years of investment, promotion and efforts. Oil companies sequester a tiny fraction of their emissions, and almost all of it aids in extraction of more fossil fuels. Biological processes will be required to draw down CO2 but we have to stop putting CO2 into the air.

Myth: We can just capture the CO2 and put it back in the ground, and keep burning fossil fuels.

Fallacy: This is like saying that because we demonstrated once, in a lab, very expensively that we could turn pig manure into gold, that we’re going to pour pig manure on the streets of our cities, knowing that we’ll turn it into gold pavement later.

References:

Politics

Fact: Politics is the process by which society creates change and deals with major problems. Global action, cooperation between countries and national political action is necessary to combat climate change. Partisan denial and delay is unproductive.

Myth: We need to take the politics out of climate change.

Fallacy: This is another red herring. That many conservative political movements have been coopted by the fossil fuel industry is the essence of making climate change political. Margaret Thatcher accepted climate change. GHW Bush accept climate change. Brian Mulroney accepted climate change. It’s only in the past 20 years that major conservative parties have shifted from acceptance and action to denial and delay.

References:

The Future is Electric

The Future is Electric is the house journal of TFIE…

Michael Barnard

Written by

Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc. Business and technical future-proofing. Top Writer Quora since 2013. CleanTechnica, Forbes, Quartz+ more. In 4 books.

The Future is Electric

The Future is Electric is the house journal of TFIE Strategy Inc, a firm which assists global clients to future proof themselves in our rapidly changing world of business and technical innovation, and geopolitical and climate disruption.

Michael Barnard

Written by

Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc. Business and technical future-proofing. Top Writer Quora since 2013. CleanTechnica, Forbes, Quartz+ more. In 4 books.

The Future is Electric

The Future is Electric is the house journal of TFIE Strategy Inc, a firm which assists global clients to future proof themselves in our rapidly changing world of business and technical innovation, and geopolitical and climate disruption.

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