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A Six-Step Guide to Combat the Fossil Fuel Industry's Climate Lies
By Jessica Corbett
After examining more than 40 common climate change myths pushed by those who are hell-bent on discrediting scientific conclusions about the global crisis, three researchers teamed up to create a six-step critical thinking tool that helps people combat misinformation by "neutralizing" the lies.
John Cook, Peter Ellerton and David Kinkead detailed their strategy in Deconstructing climate misinformation to identify reasoning errors, published Tuesday by Environmental Research Letters. The researchers also released a video that demonstrates what battling climate crisis lies can look like in everyday life.
"We offer a strategy based on critical thinking methods to analyze and detect poor reasoning within denialist claims," the paper explains. "This strategy includes detailing argument structure, determining the truth of the premises, and checking for validity, hidden premises, or ambiguous language."
Step 1: Identify the claim being made. For example, the most popular contrarian argument: "Earth's climate has changed naturally in the past, so current climate change is natural."
Step 2: Construct the argument by identifying the premises leading to that conclusion. In this case, the first premise is that Earth's climate has changed in the past through natural processes, and the second premise is that the climate is currently changing. So far, so good.
Step 3: Determine whether the argument is deductive, meaning that it starts out with a general statement and reaches a definitive conclusion. In our case, "current climate change is natural" qualifies as a definitive conclusion.
Step 4: Check the argument for validity; does the conclusion follow from the premises? In our example, it doesn't follow that current climate change must be natural because climate changed naturally in the past. However, we can fix that by weakening the conclusion to "the current climate change may not be the result of human activity." But in its weakened state, the conclusion no longer refutes human-caused global warming.
Step 4a: Identify hidden premises. By adding an extra premise to make an invalid argument valid, we can gain a deeper understanding of why the argument is flawed. In this example, the hidden assumption is "if nature caused climate change in the past, it must always be the cause of climate change." Adding this premise makes the argument logically valid, but makes it clear why the argument is false—it commits single cause fallacy, assuming that only one thing can cause climate change.
Step 5: Check to see if the argument relies on ambiguity. For example, the argument that human activity is not necessary to explain current climate change because natural and human factors can both cause climate change is ambiguous about the "climate change" in question. Not all climate change is equal, and the rate of current change is more than 20 times faster than natural climate changes. Therefore, human activity is necessary to explain current climate change.
Step 6: If the argument hasn't yet been ruled out, determine the truth of its premises. For example, the argument that "if something was the cause in the past, it will be the cause in the future" is invalid if the effect has multiple plausible causes or mechanisms (as with climate change). In our example, this is where the myth most obviously falls apart (although it had already failed in Step 4).
The paper notes that "social media presents one potent option" for deploying their strategy, as does the classroom. Acknowledging "there is in general a dearth of misconception-based learning resources for educators"—particularly when it comes to climate education—the paper emphasizes "this research is designed to act as a building block for developing educational material that teaches critical thinking through the examination of misinformation and evaluation of arguments."
"This approach is practical, achievable, and potentially impactful in both the short-term (e.g., in social media applications) and long-term (incorporating this kind of content into curriculum)," Cook, the lead author, told the Guardian. "Misinformation needs short, sharp, immediate inoculation. Our paper provides a blueprint into how to write these inoculations."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.
"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.
The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.
"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
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