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From climate change to peak oil and food insecurity, our societies are confronted with many serious challenges that, if left unresolved, will threaten the well-being of present and future generations, and the natural world. This website is dedicated to discussion of those challenges and potential solutions based on scientific evidence and scholarly analysis.
Our goal is to provide a platform for re-examining some of the assumptions we make about our technological, social and economic systems. The posts on this site are generally written by domain experts, specialists and scholars with an interest in these problems and we hope they will generate informed and constructive debate. We will archive seminal papers and posts for future reference.
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Our recent article “Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community” in Global Environmental Change, authored by me and Naomi Oreskes, James S. Risbey, Ben R. Newell, and Michael Smithson, has attracted a bit of attention over the last few days. I sample a few comments here and reply to a lengthy post by Richard Betts, Head of the Climate Impacts strategic area at the UK Met Office, that critiqued our paper.
The article “Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community” just appeared in Global Environmental Change. The article is authored by me and Naomi Oreskes, James S. Risbey, Ben R. Newell, and Michael Smithson.
There are two articles in Psychological Science that appeared online today: The first article by Ruth Dixon and Jonathan Jones presents an alternative analysis of two papers that I published with colleagues in 2013 on the role of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science. The second article is a rejoinder to Dixon and Jones and is authored by me together with Gilles Gignac and Klaus Oberauer.
The revelation of the “cash for comments” that may have turned Dr. Soon into a mercury expert has highlighted the potentially pernicious role of funding from vested interests in science. (Non-Australian readers who are not familiar with the “cash for comments” saga will find it explained on Wikipedia).
“In 1954 the tobacco industry paid to publish the ‘Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers’ in hundreds of U.S. newspapers. It stated that the public’s health was the industry’s concern above all others and promised a variety of good-faith changes. What followed were decades of deceit and actions that cost millions of lives”—so reads the opening paragraph of a recent peer-reviewed paper on the history of how Big Tobacco “played dirty” by injecting lavish amounts of money into a public-relations campaign aimed at undermining the scientific evidence linking tobacco smoke to adverse health impacts.
Our paper, entitled “The effect of framing and normative messages in building support for climate policies”, was recently published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. The paper reports a media analysis of the framing of Australia’s carbon pricing scheme along with two studies exploring approaches to building public support for reducing emissions. The abstract for the paper reads as follows:
After being rumored for some time, the E.U. has now abolished the post of Chief Scientific Adviser. I have been following this from a distance, and although there may be some nuances that I am unaware of, my first reaction is that I am in agreement with Mark Lynas, namely that
Naomi Klein spoke in Oxford a few days ago on invitation of COIN, the Climate Outreach Information Network in the UK. Her talk was in the Sheldonian Theatre, the official ceremonial hall of the University of Oxford—a ceremonial building indeed that added much to the enjoyment of the evening. Naomi drew a large crowd—of more than 800, so I have been told—and the event was very interesting indeed.
Update 3 October 11:33: Apparently there are two versions of the AP story, the earlier of which contained no mention of the Australian heatwave. This information was revealed by Seth Borenstein in a Twitter exchange which is recorded here. If The Australian relied on the earlier version, they would not have removed anything, and the remainder of this post is therefore irrelevant to their reporting in this instance. We now look forward to The Australian updating their AP report to reflect the elements that are of such obvious importance to Australia.
In Australia there has never really been a debate about the merits of particular policy instruments available to governments – price-based or quantity-based ones – to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Having been challenged by Shapingtomorrowsworld's Stephan Lewandowsky, the Director of the Cabot Institute has risen to the challenge. Full details and the video are here, and the screenshot below provides an idea of the size of the event:
The Arctic is in a death spiral:
The Guardian carried an interesting and incisive piece yesterday under the headline “Libertarian ideology is the natural enemy of science.” From gun control to health care to climate change, there are indeed many arenas in which scientific evidence clashes with libertarian (and conservative) worldviews: To illustrate, even though the data show that if you are a victim of an assault, you are between 4 and 5 times more likely to be fatally shot if you had a gun available than if you didn’t have a gun, this evidence is generally dismissed by American libertarians and conservatives. They also dismiss the fact that after Australia introduced stringent gun control in 1996, accelerated declines in firearm deaths were observed.
“Uncertainty, uncertainty, uncertainty … so why should we bother to act?”
Has global warming “stopped”? Do models “over-predict” warming? There has been much recent talk in the media about those two questions. The answer to the first question is a fairly clear “no.” Global warming continues unabated.
Updated below: 17 April 2014
Frontiers has issued a further statement on the retraction of our paper “Recursive Fury” (available at uwa.edu.au/recursivefury). This statement is signed by their editor in chief. It cannot be reconciled with the contractually agreed retraction statement signed by the journal and the authors on 20th March.
What constitutes legitimate analysis of speech?
The journal Frontiers retracted our “Recursive Fury” paper on 21 March. Frontiers withdrew Recursive Fury due to legal fears, not academic or ethical reasons. The paper—probably the most widely-read article ever published by Frontiers—can now be found at uwa.edu.au/recursivefury.
The journal Frontiers retracted our “Recursive Fury” paper some time ago not for academic or ethical reasons but owing to legal fears. The paper can now be found at uwa.edu.au/recursivefury because the University of Western Australia has come to a different risk assessment and sees no reason not to host the paper.
One of my most widely read papers, "Recursive Fury", was recently retracted by the journal Frontiers even though they found no academic or ethical problems with the paper. The reasons underlying this decision are outlined here and here.
Some 18 months ago I published a paper with colleagues Oberauer and Gignac that reported a survey of visitors to climate blogs which established a small, but significant, association between the endorsement of conspiracy theories and the rejection of several scientific propositions, including the fact that the earth is warming from greenhouse gases. The effects reported in that paper have since been replicated with a representative sample of Americans. No scholarly critique of either paper has been submitted for peer review to any journal to date.
Around the world ‘development’ is robbing tribal people of their land, self-sufficiency and pride.
This article by Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian caught my attention because it points to another potential source of violent conflict from climate change, namely the depletion of water in some parts of the world. To quote from her article:
[8.2.14: Update below] This new type of post, identified by the icon at the right, is intended to draw attention to interesting articles in the scientific literature. I came across an article by Valerie Mueller and colleagues in Nature Climate Change that examined the effects of weather extremes on migration within Pakistan. This research attracted my attention because it meshes nicely with our recent work on climate change and the risk of conflict. Although our work focuses in particular on how misinformation contributes to exacerbating those risks, any evidence for the linkage between extreme weather events and potential conflict triggers is of interest to us.
Australia is home to The Australian, a flagship product of Rupert Murdoch's stable of media organs. Although The Australian is technically a broadsheet, it sadly has a track record of distortion and misrepresentation when it comes to climate reporting.
The "97%" blog at The Guardian was generous enough to run a piece by me on the similarities and dissimilarities between the media coverage in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the current reporting of climate change. There is no point in reiterating the piece here, but it may be worthwhile to point to the underlying scholarly article that appeared in American Psychologist as part of a special issue on peace and conflict resolution. Sadly, the journal article is behind a paywall, but I believe that I am entitled to email it to interested parties upon request.
Further authors: Gerard Hastings and Linda Bauld, University of Stirling
On Wednesday, Australia’s independent Climate Change Authority (CCA) released the Targets and Progress Review Draft Report. The new Liberal government plans to abolish the CCA, and the legal requirement to set an emissions target, as part of legislation to repeal the former Labor government’s carbon price. Labor is now reportedly debating whether to negotiate on the bills, but at present Labor continues to defend the existence of the CCA and a cap on emissions. CCA is conducting the Review in accordance with existing law, but acknowledges the Government’s plans to replace the carbon price with an Emissions Reduction Fund, arguing that advice on selecting an emissions target remains relevant regardless of the chosen policy mechanism.