How to Act on Climate Change in a Post-Truth World

Shortly after President George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Protocol, longtime New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert decided it was time to get clear on the debate around global warming. “I thought, ‘Either this is a really big deal—in which case it’s being horrifically under-covered—or it isn’t, in which case we could forget about it,” Kolbert says. She set off to Alaska and Greenland, met with top atmospheric scientists, and quickly learned that the vast majority of scientists had arrived at a consensus: Our world was changing. Her resulting three-part series in 2005, “The Climate of Man,” took readers to the front lines of climate change and became the basis of a seminal tome on the topic: Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change(2006).

Field Notes galvanized conversations around climate action, policy, and research. It was also instrumental in creating Climate One, a San Francisco talk show aimed at engaging leaders from business, policy, advocacy, and academic circles in a conversation about stabilizing the earth’s climate and building a sustainable economy. (Founder Greg Dalton, a journalist, started Climate One after an interview with Kolbert prompted him to visit the Arctic and witness the changing climate for himself.) Since then, Kolbert published another influential book, the Pulitzer Award–winning The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014), which details why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in ways no species has before.

More than a decade after their first interview, Kolbert met with Dalton again last week at the Climate One headquarters, within the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. She sat onstage alongside fellow veteran climate reporter Dave Roberts (formerly of Grist, now writing for Vox), for a televised conversation about environmental journalism in a post-truth world where climate-denialism is on the rise.

“We’ve already met the enemy, and he’s all of us,” Kolbert said during an interview with Sierra before the event. At the time, Maria was spinning toward Puerto Rico, and Texans and Floridians were still reeling from Harvey and Irma.

Sierra: In Field Notes From a Catastrophe, you discuss turbulent natural forces that have shaped previous human civilizations with a NASA scientist. You quote him saying, “We may say that we’re more technologically able than earlier societies. But one thing about climate change is it’s potentially geopolitically destabilizing. And we’re not only more technologically able; we’re more technologically able destructively as well.” Can you talk about the ways in which technology is helping humanity to address climate change, and the ways in which it isn’t?

Elizabeth Kolbert: Right now we’re sort of only addressing climate change through technology. It comes down to two schools of thought: One is that we can keep doing everything we’re doing now, just with different technologies. The other is that we’ll have to live differently, with maybe much less technology—that we can’t just solar-power everything and call it a day. I tend to fall into the “We can’t just keep doing what we’re doing but actually have to change the way we live” category, but then I also don’t have a mechanism to get from here to there.

In any case, right now I think it’s pretty clear that we’re only pursuing the former, tech-reliant strategy and that we’re not even pursuing that very accurately. I mean, look out on the street—most people are still driving cars with internal combustion engines, even here in California, which has done as much as any place in the United States. Nothing very dramatic has changed. So, I don’t know an answer.

The other point of that quote was that, really, at the end of the day—and this is sadly all too relevant right now—most major countries have nuclear weapons, and that if things get ugly, they’ll use them. At the time I wrote that, it seemed way out there, but now it doesn’t. So I think this nativist, national moment we seemed to be in is contributing to all sorts of potential crises around the globe—climate-related and not.

Read more at sierraclub.org

Photo credit: CLIMATE ONE

Can we discuss Climate Change in the Post-Truth World?

Fighting the Normalization of Post-Truth Politics

Donald Trump’s rally speech in Phoenix on August 22 was full of falsehoods. The lack of outrage over his deceptive statements points to the normalization of post-truth politics, when appeals to personal beliefs and emotions wins out over objective facts. To avoid this normalization, we need to borrow the successful tactics of the environmental movement in dealing with the pollution of our environment.

 

During this speech, according to highly credible fact-checking organizations such as Factcheck.org and Politifact, Trump misled the audience as to his reaction to the Charlottesville violence, such as by neglecting to mention that he blamed “both sides.” He made false claims about the media, for instance that CNN’s ratings went down when they are rising, or that the media failed to report on Trump’s condemnation of racism, when they did. In the economic arena, he stated that wages “haven’t gone up for a long time,” when actually they’ve risen for at least the last three years. Another example of economic deception: Trump wrongly claimed that the US has “become an energy exporter for the first time ever just recently.”

 

Where is the outrage over these deceptions? This is our President, systematically sowing misinformation. Most of his falsehoods – such as the statement about the wages or CNN ratings – had been debunked earlier. Yet he kept repeating them, leaving no other interpretation than a deliberate intent to deceive, the dictionary definition of lying.

This lying is part of a broader pattern: Trump’s Politifact file shows an astounding 49 percent of his statements, are false. By comparison, his opponent in the US presidential election Hillary Clinton’s file shows that only 12 percent of her statements were false, 14 percent for the Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Despite Trump’s extremely high rate of deception, many still believe him. As an example, 44 percent of those polled believed his falsehoods about Obama wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 election campaign.

 

Thus, many will believe his Phoenix rally claims, despite debunking by fact-checkers. Unfortunately, 29 percent of the public, and only 12 percent of Trump supporters, trustfact-checkers. This mistrust enables Trump to pollute our politics with deception, undermining the trust so crucial to the political health of any democracy…

 

Read more on HuffPost

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

 Is Fake News the New Norm?

Surviving in a Post-Truth World

LOS ANGELES – Despite the falsehoods that some politicians peddle, facts still matter, and getting those facts right is essential for survival. I know, because I regularly see the deadly consequences of getting facts wrong.

I am a behavioral ecologist, and I study how animals assess and manage predation risk. But, rather than study the flashy predators – with their sharp teeth, stealthy approaches, and impressive sprinting abilities – I focus on their food.

Some wallabies make bad use of facts. Too often, these four-legged snacks ignore information right in front of them – like rustling in the underbrush or the scent of a passing carnivore. And they pay for this ignorance dearly, with the sudden slash of talons, or the constricting squeeze of a powerful jaw.

But my research has shown that many would-be meals – marmots, birds, lizards, fish, and sessile marine invertebrates among them – are better at assessing risk. In 1979, the ecologists Richard Dawkins and John Krebs proposed the “life-dinner principle,” which holds that prey, with more to lose than predators, are more creative survivalists. The risk of being eaten – and thus removed from the gene pool – provides a strong incentive to up one’s game. For the predator, the only consequence of failure is going hungry until the next meal.

Continue reading on Project-Syndicate.org

Featured Image Credit

Does survival depend on having the facts?

PUSHING THE EDGE: What’s the truth about the ‘post truth’ era

Consider this fictional encounter between a mother and her teenage son.

Mom: “Hey Billy. I just received a call from your English teacher. She says you have not been doing your homework in preparation for class.”

Billy: “Don’t listen to her. That’s ‘fake news’. Who are you going to believe that loser teacher or your loving son?”

Who should Mom believe?

Is “fake news” really fake?

Recently we have added new words to our lexicon such as “fake news” and “alternative facts”. The proliferation of social media such as Twitter and Facebook allows erroneous claims to spread really fast. These erroneous claims can easily be interpreted as “truth” when the information confirms one’s preexisting beliefs. This phenomenon is called “confirmation bias”. Given that bias, fake news instigators thrive on stoking their followers’ confirmatory bias.

Confirmation Bias

In today’s highly politically charged environment, there are many “camps of opinion” that hold their beliefs to be right and others, with different beliefs, to be wrong. The “camps” are preoccupied with building arguments using selective “facts” to support their assertion of “truth” and that “prove” the other wrong. When people with opposing views interpret information in a biased way, their views can move even further apart. Many of us are so attached to our beliefs that those beliefs can survive logical challenges.

Read more here: http://norwell.wickedlocal.com/news/20170720/pushing-edge-whats-truth-about-post-truth-era

Featured photo credit: http://ow.ly/j0I430dOEtd

Do you agree: Can beliefs be so strong that they can survive logical challenges?

Culture Lab Detroit announces 2017 theme: ‘post-truth’

“If it wasn’t apparent already, we have officially entered a post-truth era. From the “alternative facts” brazenly spun from the White House daily to the public’s eroding trust in the media, the concept of a fractured reality had a moment in 2016 — so much so that the Oxford English Dictionary even chose “post-truth” (an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”) as its word of the year, noting a 2,000 percent uptick in its usage in 2015.

What does the concept of post-truth mean closer to home? With the increasing traction of the narrative of “Two Detroits” — a booming downtown touted in the media as a Motor City comeback, while the rest of the city experiences a very different reality — it’s a question worth asking, which Culture Lab Detroit will explore later this year with the announcement of the “post-truth” theme for its 2017 discussion series, to be held Oct. 5 and 6.”

Read more on this story at MetroTimes.com

Would you go to this discussion series?

The Post-Truth World – Why Have We Had Enough Of Experts?

We are living in a post-truth world, where alternative facts and fake news compete on an equal footing with peer-reviewed research and formerly-authoritative sources such as the United Kingdom’s global news and current affairs service, the BBC.

Read more:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lbsbusinessstrategyreview/2017/05/22/the-post-truth-world-why-have-we-had-enough-of-experts/#15b8140754e6

How to fight ‘fake news’ in a post-truth environment

Though co-opted by US President Donald Trump, the ‘fake news’ phenomenon is global and weakening trust in media.

Its definition is unclear and can change depending on whom you ask. It is used in increasingly politicised ways across much of the world.

And, although its leap to prominence is largely due to 140-character Twitter posts coming out of the White House, it now has widespread implications for journalism, politics, and how people everywhere share information online.

But what exactly is “fake news” and what effect is it having globally?

Read more:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/03/fight-fake-news-post-truth-environment-170327162945897.html