threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Wake-up Calls on Climate Change

One of the reviewers of my book described it as a Wake Up Call  and this phrase is being used more and more in relation to climate change, especially as people have experienced extremes of weather in the last two years.

Now, the Guardian has published an article about the things that their readers have described as Wake Up Calls:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/21/the-heatwave-was-a-wake-up-call-readers-on-a-year-of-climate-change-anxiety?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMTgxMjIx&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GreenLight&CMP=greenlight_email

They include the following:

  1. The 2018 heatwave.
  2. Wildfires in California.
  3. The IPCC report, saying we have 12 years.
  4. The launch of Extinction Rebellion.
  5. Extreme heatwaves harming the poorest people.
  6. The’Beast from the East’.
  7. ‘The changing political landscape prompted me’

 

wildfires


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Solar Panels: the majority of the UK public want to install them

A survey, reported in The Guardian has shown that more than half of people in the UK would install solar panels on their homes, if there was Government support on the cost of installation.  62% said they wanted to fit solar panels and 60% said they would buy an energy storage device.  Many have made this decision because they want to break up the energy suppliers market dominance but less than 10% of those surveyed had already installed solar panels.

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/aug/20/majority-of-uk-public-want-to-install-solar-panels-poll-finds

The survey was commissioned by Client Earth, an environmental law group: https://www.clientearth.org/

The survey also found that solar is the most popular energy source, with coal the least popular.  Nuclear energy and gas were almost as unpopular as coal.

Further data and graphs are given in The Guardian article.

how-much-roof-space-needed-for-solar-panels-1040x520

 


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A People’s Manifesto for Wildlife

Chris Packham, the well-known naturalist and broadcaster, has launched this manifesto, which can be found at:

http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/a-peoples-manifesto-for-wildlife

Also, this weekend, he is organising #ThePeoplesWalkFor Wildlife, in Hyde Park London.  People from across the country are joining this.

To accompany both, Chris has written an article – well worth a read – in The Guardian, entitled, “My manifesto could save Britain’s dying wildlife”.

Well done, Chris, and keep up the consciousness-raising.

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The Guardian article was published on 19th August 2018 and can be found at:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/19/manifesto-for-wildlife-uk-countryside-species-biodiversity?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Green+Light+2016&utm_term=286174&subid=2617869&CMP=EMCENVEML1631

 


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More lost and endangered species are being reported

A new statistical analysis by Bird Life International has been reported by Patrick Barkham in The Guardian. It has confirmed that eight bird species are known to have become extinct this decade. Five species are from South America and their extinction has been caused by deforestation.  They include:

  • the Brazilian Spix’s macaw;
  • the poo-uli (black-faced honey creeper);
  • the pernambuco pygmy owl;
  • the cryptic treehunter;
  • Alagoas foliage gleaner.

Other extinctions have been small island species, vulnerable to hunting or invasive species.  90% of bird extinctions have been small-island species but now some species from large continents are disappearing.  See:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/04/first-eight-bird-extinctions-of-the-21st-century-confirmed?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Green+Light+2016&utm_term=285147&subid=2617869&CMP=EMCENVEML1631

poo-uli

The Poo-uli, last seen in Hawaii in 2004


In another painstaking study, it has been found that hedgehog numbers in the UK have declined by 80% since the 1950s.  This is thought to be due to intensive farming methods and increasing badger populations (badgers eat hedgehogs but both species can co-exist in the same habitat).  The study has been published in Nature: Scientific Reports – 

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-30130-4

A number of rural sites were surveyed across England and Wales and, in many of them, no hedgehogs were found at all.  the South West of England seemed to be paricularly devoid of hedgehogs.

hedgehog map

The green dots in the map above show where hedgehogs were detected and the black dots where none were found; the large black spots identify the locations of badger setts.  The study was carried out by Ben M. Williams, Philip J. Baker, Emily Thomas, Gavin Wilson, Johanna Judge and Richard W. Yarnell.  Scientific Reports 8, Article Number 12156 (2018).

Damian Carrington of The Guardian has given a summary of this report:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/06/most-of-countryside-now-devoid-of-hedgehogs-study-finds?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Green+Light+2016&utm_term=285147&subid=2617869&CMP=EMCENVEML1631

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The endangered hedgehog



An article in Nature has shown that all widlife species have declined by 58% in the past four decades and predicts that by 2020, populations will have declined by two-thirds from 1970.

https://www.nature.com/news/wildlife-in-decline-earth-s-vertebrates-fall-58-in-past-four-decades-1.20898

Activities such as deforestation, poaching and human-induced climate change are in large part to blame for the decline, with the main decline due to habitat loss.



 


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UK Government seeks to weaken commitment to Paris 2015 targets before Brexit

An article in The Guardian by Arthur Nelson (9th May 2018) claims that a secret plan, to stretch targets backwards to comply with the Paris 2015 commitments, has been leaked by MEPs.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/09/secret-uk-push-to-weaken-eu-climate-laws-completely-mad

The EU has committed to a 20% in energy use by 2020, as a first stage in its more ambitious promise to the Paris conference of a 40% emissions cut by 2030.

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1399375464230&uri=CELEX%3A32012L0027

The secret documents seen by The Guardian show that the UK plans to stretch its timeline backwards by four years, in order to use pre-2014 energy efficiences to be compliant with the EU directive. Then, once the UK has left the EU, it will no longer have to comply with the directive.

A member of the EU’s Environment Committee told The Guardian that:

“The UK’s proposal to widen ‘flexibilities’ is completely mad and undermines the principle of additionality, as well as the overall ambition of the energy efficiency directive. This approach would risk failure in our efforts to reach even moderately ambitious overall targets, while the higher – and beneficial targets – that we need to strive for could become lost altogether.”

According to the Shadow International Trade and Climate spokesman, the UN has asked countries to ratchet up their commitments on climate change in 2018.  Instead the UK government is weakening ours.

At present, almost all of the UK environmental policy derives from EU law but Michel Barnier, has insisted that a ‘non-regression article’ be included in any final EU-UK agreement to prevent backsliding.

what-is-climate-change

Sunday May 20th 2018

And now, the United Nations is getting in on the act.  In a report in the Huffington Post today, it is said that Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN’s environment programme, has said that Britain must keep its promise to deliver a green exit from the EU.  This story is also reported in The Observer.

Solheim has said that “Any dilution and the UK reputation would be damaged. People in government need to make sure that does not happen. We need to make sure they have those standards or improve them, or meet the ones under the European Union.”

 

 


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Dr Mayer Hillman’s contribution to knowledge about climate change reality

Dr Mayer Hillman is an 86-year old social scientist and he has been contributing articles about carbon emissions, global warming and climate change for much of his life.  A recent article in The Guardian sets out his current stance.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/26/were-doomed-mayer-hillman-on-the-climate-reality-no-one-else-will-dare-mention

In an interview with Patrick Barkham, published on 26th April 2018, he points out that, because humans are so dependent on fossil fuels, there is not much longer for this planet to sustain life here.  He believes that climate change is in runaway mode and that “we are doomed” (to quote The Guardian headline).

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Dr Hillman is a senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute and has contributed over the years to a number of policy decisions, one of which was a recommendation that homes should be energy-rated, finally adopted by Government in 2007.  He has also, for more than 40 years, challenged society’s preoccupation with economic growth.

He has been a keen cyclist, though cannot cycle at present for health reasons.  He is quoted in The Guardian article as saying:

“With doom ahead, making a case for cycling as the primary mode of transport is almost irrelevant,” he says. “We’ve got to stop burning fossil fuels. So many aspects of life depend on fossil fuels, except for music and love and education and happiness. These things, which hardly use fossil fuels, are what we must focus on.”

note-d-amour

Dr Hillman has done much work in the past on road safety and has written at length about society’s failure to challenge the supremacy of the car.

In 2016 the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was confirmed as beyond 400 parts per million, the highest level for at least three million years (when sea levels were up to 20m higher than now). Hillman is quoted as saying, “Concentrations can only drop if we emit no carbon dioxide whatsoever. “Even if the world went zero-carbon today that would not save us because we’ve gone past the point of no return.”

Most of Dr Hillman’s comments are in line with the theme of my book, so I recommend readers to look at The Guardian article to learn more about his predictions.


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Dramatic decline in the number of European farmland birds

A recent article by Patrick Barkham in The Guardian, 22 March 2018, featuring two studies in France, gives evidence of ‘catastrophic’ falls in farmland birds, such as skylarks, whitethroats and yellowhammers, and suggests that the decline could be Europe-wide.

Farmland makes up 45% of EU’s land area.  Dr Benoit Fontaine of France’s National Museum of Natural History, and co-author of one of the studies, outlined the findings of a national survey of France’s common birds. A quarter of the population of skylarks has been lost in 15 years and a third of the total number of farmland bird species. Another study showed that 70% of meadow pipits have disappeared and 80% of partridges. The researchers believe that the declines have intensified over the last 10 years and think that the declines are related to a drastic reduction in insect life – a 76% fall in flying insects on German nature reserves over the last 27 years.  Scientists believe that the falls are related to an increase in the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, to control insects.

Of 39 species commonly found on European farmland, 24 have declined and only six have increased.  The species that have increased are those who also thrive in urban environments, such as chaffinches and blackbirds.

Populations have fared better in non-EU states in eastern Europe, where farming practices are less intensive.  Martin Harper, director of RSPB in the UK said:

“In the UK the situation is just as concerning.  Our beleaguered farmland birds have declined by 56% between 1970 and 2015, along with other wildlife linked to changes in agricultural practices, including the use of pesticides.”

skylark

skylark


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The death of coral reefs

In Chapter 1 of my book, Our beautiful world in harmony, I talk about coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, caused by warming sea temperatures and Australia’s recent surge in industrialisation projects.  The Great Barrier Reef is 1,400 miles long and is the longest and largest coral reef in the world. It lies off the N.E. coast of Queensland, Ausltralia. This blog goes into the issue in more detail and cites from articles in The Guardian, The Atlantic.com and the campaigning organisation Fight for our Reef.

According to Ben Smee in The Guardian (18th April 2018), the 2016 heatwave in Australia caused the death of 30% of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef. A study by scientists, led by Prof Terry Hughes (Director of ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies), and published in Nature, examined the link between the level of heat exposure, subsequent coral bleaching and ultimately coral death.  Hughes commented,

“When corals bleach from a heatwave, they can either survive and regain their colour slowly as the temperature drops, or they can die.”  Across the whole of the barrier reef, 30% of the corals died during the period March to November 2016.  The figure below shows that losses were greater in the warmer northern part of the barrier reef but coral deaths were recorded as far south as off Rockhampton, Queensland.

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                            The loss of coral cover along the Great Barrier Reef in 2016.                                Photograph: Nature/Hughes et al. 2016

North of Cooktown, coral losses of between 75-100% were recorded.  The study found that “initially, at the peak of temperature extremes in March 2016, many millions of corals died quickly in the northern third of the Great Barrier Reef over a period of only two to three weeks”.  Those corals that died were the temperature-sensitive species, such as staghorn and tabular corals; other corals were more resilient to temperature changes which resulted in radical changes in the mix of coral species on hundreds of individual reefs”.

Staghorn corals play crucial roles in reef-building, and in providing food, shelter and other services to the remarkable array of associated species (fish, crustaceans etc), a number of which are important to humans.   See: https://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/fact_sheet_red_list_staghorn_corals.pdf
This article, entitled “Staghorn Corals and Climate Change, published in pdf by the Species Survival Commission, gives a great deal of information about staghorn corals.

Prof Hughes and his researchers estimated that half of the corals in shallow-water habitats in the northern Great Barrier Reef have already been lost but their conclusion is that the Great Barrier Reef is certainly threatened by climate change, but it is not completely doomed yet, “if we deal very quickly with greenhouse gas emissions”.  Their conclusion was: “If the targets in the Paris agreement are met, the reef will survive as “a mixture of heat-tolerant [corals], and the ones that can bounce back”.

See: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/19/great-barrier-reef-30-of-coral-died-in-catastrophic-2016-heatwave


The Atlantic.com article also draws on the Nature article but gives further detail about how the study was conducted. See:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/since-2016-half-the-coral-in-the-great-barrier-reef-has-perished/558302/

It also refers to a further study, conducted in 2017 when warm waters struck the reef again and triggered another bleaching event.  The results have not yet been published but Hughes is quoted as saying:

“Combined, the back-to-back bleaching events killed one in every two corals in the Great Barrier Reef. It is a fact almost beyond comprehension: In the summer of 2015, more than 2 billion corals lived in the Great Barrier Reef. Half of them are now dead.”

Hughes was also clear about the cause of this coral bleaching and death: human-caused global warming. The accumulation of heat-trapping pollution in the atmosphere has raised the world’s average temperature, making the oceans hotter and less hospitable to fragile tropical corals.

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bleached staghorn corals


The Australian-based Fight for Our Reef Campaign has no doubt about who is the greatest culprit in causing this warming of the barrier reef water – Adani Group coal supply chain.  The following comes from their latest email:


A couple of weeks ago we emailed you with the shocking news. Adani Group representatives had been quietly meeting with federal Trade Minister Steven Ciobo and the government’s Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) – trying to secure funds for their Reef-wrecking coal project and their suppliers via this backdoor channel.¹

We asked for your help to expose Adani, and the response has been incredible. We dialled up the pressure with thousands of emails to Minister Steven Ciobo. And with the world watching we ran a mobile billboard during the Commonwealth Games – calling on the Federal government to not give Adani any of our taxpayer dollars through EFIC.

The reaction to our billboard was overwhelming. Honks, whistles and cheers as the billboard drove past, exposing Adani’s backdoor plans to people living in Minister Ciobo’s electorate and international visitors alike.

Let’s turn this moment into unstoppable momentum. We’ve reached 9,000 emails calling for Minister Ciobo to rule out taxpayer funding. 

The Commonwealth Games may be over now but our effort to stop Adani getting their hands on taxpayer money isn’t finished yet. To protect our Reef from the pollution this mine would unleash, the Minister must rule out any EFIC funding going to the Adani Group’s coal supply chain.

If Adani succeed, and get this money, it will be bad news for our beautiful Reef. The mining and burning of coal from Adani’s colossal Carmichael coal mine would generate billions of tonnes of new carbon pollution, heating our oceans and endangering the future of our beautiful but damaged Great Barrier Reef.

We have to ensure that Adani does not get their hands on our taxpayer money. The window of opportunity is closing fast. Tell Minister Ciobo to rule out any EFIC money going to the Adani Group and its suppliers.

We exposed Adani and stopped the $1 billion NAIF loan of taxpayer money. Public pressure has gotten banks around the world to rule out funding this Reef-wrecking coal mine. Together we can stop Adani getting taxpayer money from EFIC.

Yours, for our Reef.

Imogen Zethoven
With the Fight For Our Reef Campaign team
P.S. Outrage is growing. More and more people are talking about Adani’s sneaky attempts to get our taxpayer money for their Reef-wrecking mine. But it’s going to take more voices to turn this momentum into change. Add your name to the thousands of Australians fighting for our Reef – no taxpayer money to Adani!

¹ Source: ABC News – Adani Finance Agency Talks Suggest Door Not Shut on Taxpayer Funds
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-20/adani-finance-agency-talks-suggest-door-not-shut-taxpayer-funds/9344886 ;


And in May 2018, further concerns about another company applying to start mining in the Galilee Basin in Queensland.  The latest email from the “Fight for Our Reef Campaign” states the following:

Thank you for contacting the federal Minister for Environment and Energy and asking him to reject the Waratah Coal mine proposal and protect our beautiful Great Barrier Reef.

Waratah Coal, a Clive Palmer associated company, is currently seeking approval for a new coal mining project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. If built the mine would be 33% bigger than Adani’s Carmichael coal mine and would be a disaster for our precious Reef.  

While we didn’t manage to have the mine proposal rejected outright, we were successful in ensuring any impacts to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and Marine Park must be considered as part of the assessment process.

In its application Waratah Coal stated that the mine would have no impact on the Great Barrier Reef. They failed to acknowledge the extra coal ships that will plough through the Reef’s waters, the dredging that will be required to expand the port of Abbot Point and above all the climate change-related impacts on the Reef caused by the burning of coal from this mine in power plants.       

Thanks to you and the other 8000 people who contacted the Minister – we drew the Minister’s attention to the impacts the mine would have on the Great Barrier Reef.

To preserve the remainder of our precious Reef we must rapidly reduce carbon pollution, not open up new mega mines. With your help we will continue to fight this and other Galilee Basin mines to ensure the Reef has a future.

Thanks for all that you do.

For our Reef,
Dr Lissa Schindler


 


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Developing a new, participatory economy by George Monbiot

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 11th October 2017.  It was entitled “Labouratory” and also appears on George Monbiot’s website http://www.monbiot.com.

We are still living in the long 20th Century. We are stuck with its redundant technologies: the internal combustion engine; thermal power plants; factory farms. We are stuck with its redundant politics: unfair electoral systems; their capture by funders and lobbyists; the failure to temper representation with real participation.

And we are stuck with its redundant economics: neoliberalism, and the Keynesianism still proposed by its opponents. While the latter system worked very well for 30 years or more, it is hard to see how it can take us through this century, not least because the growth it seeks to sustain smacks headlong into the environmental crisis.

Sustained economic growth on a planet that is not growing means crashing through environmental limits: this is what we are witnessing, worldwide, today. A recent paper in Nature puts our current chances of keeping global heating to less than 1.5°C of at just 1%, and less than 2° at only 5%. Why? Because while the carbon intensity of economic activity is expected to decline by 1.9% a year, global per capita GDP is expected to grow by 1.8%. Almost all investment in renewables and efficiency is cancelled out. GDP, the index that was supposed to measure our prosperity, instead measures our progress towards ruin.

But the great rupture that began in 2008 offers a chance to change all this. The challenge now is to ensure that the new political movements threatening established power in Britain and elsewhere create the space not for old ideas (such as 20th Century Keynesianism) but for a new politics, built on new economic and social foundations.

There may be a case for one last hurrah for the old model: a technological shift that resembles the Second World War’s military Keynesianism. In 1941, the US turned the entire civilian economy around on a dime: within months, car manufacturers were producing planes, tanks and ammunition. A determined government could do something similar in response to climate breakdown: a sudden transformation, replacing our fossil economy. But having effected such a conversion, it should, I believe, then begin the switch to a different economic model.

The new approach could start with the idea of private sufficiency and public luxury. There is not enough physical or environmental space for everyone to enjoy private luxury: if everyone in London acquired a tennis court, a swimming pool, a garden and a private art collection, the city would cover England. Private luxury shuts down space, creating deprivation. But magnificent public amenities – wonderful parks and playgrounds, public sports centres and swimming pools, galleries, allotments and public transport networks – create more space for everyone, at a fraction of the cost.

Wherever possible, I believe such assets should be owned and managed by neither state nor market, but by communities, in the form of commons. A commons in its true form is a non-capitalist system, in which a resource is controlled in perpetuity by a community, for the shared and equal benefit of its members. A possible model is the commons transition plan commissioned by the Flemish city of Ghent.

Land value taxation also has transformative potential. It can keep the income currently siphoned out of our pockets in the form of rent – then out of the country and into tax havens – within our hands. It can reduce land values, bringing down house prices. While local and national government should use some of the money to fund public services, the residue can be returned to communities.

Couple this with a community right to buy, enabling communities to use this money to acquire their own land, with local commons trusts that possess powers to assemble building sites, and with a new right for prospective buyers and tenants to plan their own estates, and exciting things begin to happen. This could be a formula for meeting housing need, delivering public luxury and greatly enhancing the sense of community, self-reliance and taking back control. It helps to create what I call the Politics of Belonging.

But it doesn’t stop there. The rents accruing to commons trusts could be used to create a local version of the citizens’ wealth funds (modelled on the sovereign wealth funds in Alaska and Norway) proposed by Angela Cummine and Stewart Lansley. The gain from such funds could be distributed in the form of a local basic income.

And the money the government still invests? To the greatest extent possible, I believe it should be controlled by participatory budgeting. In the Brazilian city of Porto Allegre, the infrastructure budget is allocated by the people: around 50,000 citizens typically participate. The results – better water, sanitation, health, schools and nurseries – have been so spectacular that large numbers of people now lobby the city council to raise their taxes. When you control the budget, you can see the point of public investment.

In countries like the UK, we could not only adopt this model, but extend it beyond the local infrastructure budget to other forms of local and even national spending. The principle of subsidiarity – devolving powers to the smallest political unit that can reasonably discharge them – makes such wider democratic control more feasible.

All this would be framed within a system such as Kate Raworth’s doughnut economics which, instead of seeking to maximise growth, sets a lower bound of wellbeing below which no one should fall, and an upper bound of environmental limits, that economic life should not transgress. A participatory economics could be accompanied by participatory politics, involving radical devolution and a fine-grained democratic control over the decisions affecting our lives – but I will leave that for another column.

Who could lead this global shift? It could be the UK Labour Party. It is actively seeking new ideas. It knows that the bigger the change it offers, the greater the commitment of the volunteers on which its insurgency relies: the Big Organising model that transformed Labour’s fortunes at the last election requires a big political offer. (This is why Ed Miliband’s attempts to create a grassroots uprising failed).

Could Labour be the party that brings the long 20th Century to an end? I believe, despite its Keynesian heritage, it could. Now, more than at any other time in the past few decades, it has a chance to change the world.

www.monbiot.com


November 2019

George Monbiot has been active in supporting the Extinction Rebellion movement, speaking at their various demonstration in London.  This photograph shows him being arrested for his actions in October 2019.

GeorgeMonbiot



 


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The three per cent of scientific papers which deny climate change have been reviewed and found to be flawed: Quartz report

Of all the published scientific research on climate change, 97% of the papers conclude that global warming is real, problematic for the planet, and has been exacerbated by human activity.

Yet, climate-change deniers like to quote from the 3% of papers which draw a different conclusion.

Now, a review published in the Journal of Theoretical and Applied Climatology (November 2016, vol.126, issue 3-4 p699-703) by Rasmus E. Benestad and colleagues describes how replication of the methodology of the 3% of studies has failed to draw the same conclusions and only found biased and faulty results.

Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, worked with the team of researchers to look at the 38 papers published in peer-reviewed journals in the last decade that denied anthropogenic global warming.

“Every single one of those analyses had an error—in their assumptions, methodology, or analysis—that, when corrected, brought their results into line with the scientific consensus,” Hayhoe wrote on her Facebook page.

Broadly, there were three main errors in the papers denying climate change. Many had cherry-picked the results that conveniently supported their conclusion, while ignoring other context or records. Then there were some that applied inappropriate “curve-fitting”—in which they would step farther and farther away from data until the points matched the curve of their choosing.

Those who assert that these papers are correct while the other 97% are wrong are holding up science where the researchers had already decided what results they sought, the authors of the review say. Good science is objective—it doesn’t care what anyone wants the answers to be.

In an article for the Guardian, one of the researchers, Dana Nuccitelli points out another red flag with the climate-change-denying papers: “There is no cohesive, consistent alternative theory to human-caused global warming,” he writes. “Some blame global warming on the sun, others on orbital cycles of other planets, others on ocean cycles, and so on. There is a 97% expert consensus on a cohesive theory that’s overwhelmingly supported by the scientific evidence, but the 2–3% of papers that reject that consensus are all over the map, even contradicting each other.”

See: https://qz.com/1069298/the-3-of-scientific-papers-that-deny-climate-change-are-all-flawed/

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Satellite images of Lake Chad from 1963 to 2007 give evidence of global warming