Thursday, May 31, 2018

Racial attitudes are related to climate skepticism

New research by Salil Benegal finds a link between racial attitudes and climate skepticism.  I attach the journal abstract to the bottom of the article below. The article below draws conclusions that go beyond what was found in the research so I will confine my comments to what is said in the academic journal article.

His finding that racial and environmental attitudes became more closely allied during the Obama regime is interesting but much caution is needed in looking at what the causal chain might be.  Mr Benegal appears to see a straight causal relationship between the two but the correlation could be merely coincidental.  Correlation is not causation.

But if Mr Benegal can theorize so can I.  I suspect that the repeated failures of Warmist prophecies gradually got through to those who were willing to hear it but not to the Warmists, to whom Warmism is an item of faith. And conservatives have always been much more interested in the facts than in theory.  And given its status as a prophecy about the future, Warmism can be nothing but a theory at this stage.

Mr Benegal thinks that Obama was somehow involved in the causal chain but that is just an assumption.  I am inclined to think that Obama just happened to be there at a time of change.

But it is beyond dispute that attitude to climate studies is now heavily polarized politically.  Conservatives worldwide think it is a lot of hokum. So skepticism about Leftist racial urgencies (Affirmative action, white privilege) among conservatives are simply conservative continuities unrelated to climate beliefs.

And I think the correlation is because the Left back Warmism so heavily while conservatives don't see anything much happening now  or any likelihood of much happening to the climate in the foreseeable future.

It really does come down to the facts.  Warmism is a prophecy so can in principle have no facts to back it.  We can't see the future. Even if we conceded that there has been some recent warming we have no warrant that the warming will continue.  There have been both warming and cooling periods in the past so to identify a few years as part of a trend that will continue for many decades is egregious

There is of course the CO2 theory but that was from the outset disconfirmed.  The theory is that CO2 emissions leaped after WWII and that caused a rapid rise in global temperatures.  The CO2 levels certainly did leap in that period but temperatures did not.  There was a global temperature plateau between 1945 to 1975:  A full 30 years of NO warming.  So CO2 and temperature clearly go their separate ways without any effect on one another. That is the science of the matter.

So I think Mr Benegal still has some thinking to do.

After Barack Obama took office, white Americans were less likely to see climate change as a serious problem, according to a recent paper published in the journal Environmental Politics. The study further finds evidence of a link between racial resentment and climate change denial. This is not to suggest that all climate deniers are racists, merely that racial resentment may, in part, be driving climate denial.

“There has been increasing polarization on this issue — and this is one thing my own research has been examining for a while — trying to figure out what are some of the root causes of this polarization,” said study author Salil Benegal, a political scientist at DePauw University.

Researchers have thoroughly investigated the link between ideology and attitudes toward climate change, finding that conservatives are significantly more likely to reject climate science, not because they misapprehend the facts, but because they are taking their cues from conservative elites, many of whom have close ties to the fossil fuel industry. Thus, while scientists have grown more certain about the causes and perils of climate change, attitudes toward the carbon crisis have become more and more polarized. While Democrats have grown more concerned about climate change, among Republicans, climate denial has become increasingly calcified.

Separately, researchers have studied how racial resentment among white Americans has worsened economic anxiety and driven opposition to welfare, Medicaid and other government initiatives. (As it happens, white Americans are the largest beneficiaries of these programs.) Writing in the Washington Post, political scientists Adam Enders and Jamil Scott explained that, while racial resentment has remained stable over time, “More and more, white Americans use their racial attitudes to help them decide their positions on political questions such as whom to vote for or what stance to take on important issues including welfare and health care.” They added, “Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency further strengthened the relationship between racial resentment and political attitudes.”

Benegal’s study links these two fields of research by asking if, and to what extent, racial resentment has fueled climate change denial. He began by examining the views of black and white Americans on climate change before and during Obama’s presidency, comparing Pew surveys taken between 2006 and 2008 with surveys taken between 2009 and 2014. Obama, who named climate change a top priority on the campaign trail, tried and failed to pass cap and trade in 2009.

Before the 2008 election, Benegal said, there was no significant difference between white and black Americans on climate change, when controlling for partisanship, ideology, education, church attendance and employment. In the years after Obama took office, the views of black Americans stayed roughly the same. White Americans, however, were 18 percent less likely to see climate change as a very serious problem.

For the second part of his study, Benegal investigated the relationship between racial resentment and climate denial using data from the 2012 and 2016 American National Election Studies. First, he created an index of racial resentment based on how much people agreed or disagreed with statements like, “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough, if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites,” and, “Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve.” Then, he looked at how racial prejudice interacted with views about climate change.

“I found that the racial resentment scale was incredibly significant in predicting whether or not people agreed with the scientific consensus,” Benegal said. Controlling for age, ideology and education, he found that white Republicans who scored high on racial resentment were significantly more likely than those who scored low to say that climate change isn’t happening or that humans aren’t the cause.

“It is not so much that elites would highlight Obama’s race specifically and then bring up climate or other health policies,” Benegal said. “It’s more that when certain voters associated Obama with an issue, they inherently saw Obama through this racial lens and immediately viewed almost anything he was associated with as some kind of racial issue.” And Obama did a lot on climate change — setting ambitious fuel standards, creating the Clean Power Plan, joining the Paris Agreement.

None of this is to say that racial resentment is the sole driver of climate denial. Rather, this study shows that racial resentment could be one of several factors shaping views about climate change. Benegal suggested future research could investigate how political elites talk about climate change — how they may be tapping into racial resentment to stoke climate denial, just as they have capitalized on resentment against black and, increasingly, Hispanic Americans to court white voters.

While Benegal’s research makes an important contribution to understanding attitudes toward climate change, political scientists Adam Enders and Jamil Scott, who were not affiliated with the study, noted its limitations. Enders, an assistant professor at the University of Louisville, said that it is difficult to separate racial resentment from partisanship as climate change is highly politicized, and people are more likely to hear about the issue from politicians than from scientists.

Scott, a Phd candidate at Michigan State University, noted how polarized the issue has become. “Climate change is an issue that is ‘owned’ by the Democratic Party. Thus, Democrat identifiers tend to buy into the message of climate change and Republican identifiers do not,” she said, explaining that “a stronger test of the racialization hypothesis would tease out the difference between negative attitudes toward climate change as a partisan concern, which by extension includes Obama as the head of the party, versus negative attitudes toward climate change as a racial concern because of its association with Obama. There is subtle, but important difference there.”

Benegal said he intends this study as first step in understanding this relationship, explaining that “we need to examine other elements of partisanship or factors that may amplify or intensify partisan values or behaviors” — including racial resentment. He added, “I’m hoping this paper acts as a step in that direction to start exploring some of those interactions, specifically those between race and party ID.”

Benegal worries that, as some have suggested, the political parties are sorting according to feelings of about race. “Maybe we need to look at race or racial resentment much more critically,” he said. “The concern for me is that if climate change as an issue has become more racialized… it may make it harder to actually persuade individuals to shift their views.”


The spillover of race and racial attitudes into public opinion about climate change

By Salil D. Benegal


The relationship between racial attitudes and public opinion about climate change is examined. Public opinion data from Pew and American National Election Studies surveys are used to show that racial identification and prejudices are increasingly correlated with opinions about climate change during the Obama presidency. Results show that racial identification became a significant predictor of climate change concern following Obama’s election in 2008, and that high levels of racial resentment are strongly correlated with reduced agreement with the scientific consensus on climate change. These results offer evidence for an effect termed the spillover of racialization. This helps further explain why the public remains so polarized on climate change, given the extent to which racial grievances and identities have become entangled with elite communication about climate change and its related policies today.


Three New Papers: Permian Mass Extinction Coincided With Global Cooling—Not Global Warming

Warmth encourages life.  Cold threatens it

In the past, it has been widely reported that high and abruptly changing CO2 concentrations during the Permian led to climate conditions that were “too hot for complex life to survive” on the planet.

Today, scientists have determined that the opposite may be true: the Permian mass extinction event occurred during a period of global cooling, expansive ice sheet growth, relatively low CO2 levels, and a marine-habitat-destroying sea level drop of 100 meters.

A year ago, the press release for a paper published in Scientific Reports argued that during the Permian mass extinction event, “the majority of marine species” were killed off by an “extreme cold” period that coincided with widespread glaciation and a dramatic drop in global sea levels.

“Analysis of the newly dated layers showed a significant reduction of seawater levels during the [Permian] extinction event. The only explanation for such a dramatic decrease in water levels is a sudden increase in ice. The ice age lasted just 80,000 years, but the extreme cold was enough to kill off the majority of marine species.”

Within the last few months, at least two more papers have been published that also affirm that the Permian mass extinction event that annihilated up to 90% of marine species and 70% of land-dwelling species coincided with extreme global cooling, ice sheet expansion over land, and dramatically-falling sea levels — 100 meters lower than they were in previously warmer climates.

The lowering of sea levels alone may have been enough to destroy a substantial percentage of marine habitats, and the expansion of ice sheets may have austerely limited the habitat ranges for land-dwelling fauna.

Further analysis reveals that, contrary to commonly popularized claims, neither the Ordovician mass extinction event nor the Permian mass extinction event had a clear causal link to atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Indeed, it has long been documented that CO2 concentrations may have fluctuated between about 280 ppm and 2800 ppm during the Permian, with the low CO2 values coinciding with cool periods and the high values coinciding with warm periods (Saunders and Reichow, 2009).

While both extinction events occurred during global cooling periods accompanied by significantly lowered sea levels, the CO2 concentrations were relatively high (“over 2000 ppm”) during the Ordovician but relatively low (~300 ppm) during the Permian extinction event.

The latter CO2 values would appear to undermine the contention that CO2-driven ocean “acidification” and too-high CO2 concentration levels were causally connected to the extinction of marine species during the Permian.

And the relatively high CO2 values during the Ordovician are not compatible with the accompanying global cooling, glaciation, and plummeting sea levels of that period.

In sum, a growing body of evidence suggests that commonly-held assumptions about a direct causal link between CO2 concentration flux and mass extinction events may not be as clear as previously thought.


Activist Behind ESA Listing Of Polar Bears Says It Didn’t Achieve Her ‘Political Goals’

The activist lawyer primarily responsible for polar bears being listed as ‘threatened’ on the US Endangered Species List (ESA) in 2008 is frustrated that those efforts have not generated her preferred political action.

Kassie Siegel also claims in another 10 years it will be too late to save polar bears from extinction — despite clear evidence to the contrary.

In an emotional rant over at The Hill with a predictably hysterical headline, Siegel perhaps reveals more than she should about her motivation (“Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is the only way to save polar bears ravaged by climate change,” 26 May 2018).

Siegel takes a lot of credit for the ESA listing, as well she should, although she couldn’t have done it without the speculation provided by a couple of Canadian polar bear researchers (Derocher and Stirling 2004; Stirling and Derocher 1993).

She also seems to admit her three-year-long legal efforts to make polar bears the first species to be classified as ‘threatened’ by climate change were motivated more by a desire to have stringent curbs put on fossil fuel use than to protect the bears:

“Ten years ago this month, I was anxiously awaiting a decision that could change environmental policy forever. I was in my office with butterflies in my stomach and a film crew in the next room ready to record my reaction.

Then the news hit. The polar bears won protection throughout their range as a “threatened” species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

As an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, I fought for that protection for more than three years.

The polar bear’s listing was a watershed decision. It was the first time a species was protected solely because of the threat from global warming. It was an acknowledgment from the federal government that climate change is real, urgent and dangerous enough to wipe out a species.

But today, I’m more worried than ever about polar bears and other climate-threatened wildlife — and it’s not just because President Trump has turned the White House into the capital of climate denial.

Our hope a decade ago was that the listing would help spur swift and aggressive action to curb fossil fuel pollution, the largest climate culprit.

The science was clear: Keeping the vast majority of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground is critical not only to save the polar bear, but to preserve a livable planet for all of us.

Fossil fuels are still being extracted and burned at a furious rate. And the polar bear’s habitat is melting away even faster than predicted....

Keeping fossil fuels in the ground now is the only way to save the polar bear’s icy Arctic home. It is the only way to address the health and justice crisis caused by dirty oil extraction in our communities.

That’s why Brown must act now — on the 20-year anniversary of the polar bear’s listing, it will be far too late. ”

Read the entire piece here. The headline claim that polar bears are being “ravaged by climate change” is without foundation.

Even Environment Canada has acknowledged that polar bears are doing fine (Environment Canada 2018, see slide with map below) — as have Russian scientists working in the Chukchi Sea (Feb 2018 announcement) and Norwegian scientists working in the Barents Sea (Aars et al. 2017) — despite the fact that summer sea ice has declined faster than expected (Amstrup et al. 2007; Crockford 2017, 2018; Crockford and Geist 2018; York et al. 2016).

Siegel’s parting shot is that it will be too late to save polar bears by 2028 (10 years from now) without action on climate change, but that’s just political theatre. Don’t forget Siegel is a lawyer for a well-funded lobby organization, not a scientist. No polar bear researcher has published any such prediction.

However, Siegel’s rant does echo the sentiments expressed by former USGS biologist Steven Amstrup (Amstrup et al. 2007) a few weeks ago (11 May 2018) on the website of another activist organization, Polar Bears International.

It includes a similarly over-the-top headline — including a claim that polar bears are “more at risk than ever” — even though no one is quoted making that such a statement and no reference is made to any study that does:

“I never would have predicted that a decade after the listing, we would not have taken the actions necessary to save polar bears,” said Dr. Steve Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bears International. “In fact, with 10 years of inaction, we’ve lost another million square kilometers of summer sea ice. Polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt, breed, and sometimes to den. With 10 more years of continued warming and sea ice loss, the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is more urgent than ever.” ....

Prior to joining PBI, Amstrup was the head of polar bear research in Alaska for 30 years. One of his last major tasks as a government scientist was to lead the U.S. Geological Survey team that produced the series of reports convincing the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to grant the polar bear threatened status.

“We’ve learned much about polar bears in the intervening years,” Amstrup said, “and the new information has only corroborated the information we provided 10 years ago.”

The lack of action on climate led Amstrup to retire from his government job in 2010 to become chief scientist at Polar Bears International.

“I left the USGS not because I’d lost my interest in research, but because I knew that inspiring action to halt global warming was the only way to save polar bears,” he said. “Now, as the U.S. government works to derail recent climate progress, inspiring action within the general public is more important than ever,” he emphasized. “

In my current role, I can speak freely, without government-imposed restrictions, about the need for all of us to minimize our personal greenhouse gas footprints and vote for leaders concerned about the world we are leaving our children and grandchildren.”

Read the entire piece here. No other major news outlet picked up the PBI piece, hence (I assume) Siegel’s attempt yesterday to get some media traction as the 10 year anniversary of the ESA decision on the polar bear (14 May 20108) passed without notice (see original news reports here and here) as the predicted catastrophe failed to materialize.


B.C. Files Legal Challenge Law Limiting Alberta Oil In Trans-Mountain Pipeline

The British Columbia government filed a constitutional lawsuit Tuesday countering an Alberta government bill that would limit fuel being sent to the province.

It comes weeks after the B.C. government asked its highest court to decide if it has the right to limit the flow of bitumen in the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley saw some irony in B.C.’s position.

“It’s very interesting, on one hand, they don’t want our oil and on the other hand they’re suing us to give them our oil,” she told a news conference in Edmonton on Tuesday.

The latest legal action further strains an acrimonious relationship between the two provinces over the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Attorney General David Eby said B.C. is prepared to ask for an injunction and financial damages against Alberta if it restricts the flow of fuel.

Notley said the lawsuit is just one of several tactics to create uncertainty over the Kinder Morgan pipeline project.

“They must think everybody was born yesterday,” Notley said. “They are still reserving the right to play legal rope-a-dope until the cows come home. That is not a thing we are going to let happen.”

Plans to triple the capacity of Kinder Morgan’s existing Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby have pitted Alberta and the federal government against B.C., which says the risk of a bitumen spill is too great for the province’s environment and economy.

Eby said the Alberta and the federal government are causing delays by refusing to accept B.C.’s invitations to join legal cases, or take legal arguments straight to the Supreme Court of Canada where the outcomes are final.

The B.C. government has filed a reference case in the provincial Court of Appeal to determine if it has jurisdiction to regulate heavy oil shipments. It also joined two other lawsuits launched by Indigenous groups opposed to the $7.4-billion pipeline project.

Eby said the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench challenges the constitutionality of Alberta’s law because it is intended to punish B.C.

“We believe it would be reckless in the extreme and therefore highly unlikely that Alberta will actually attempt to use the powers they granted themselves in Bill 12,” he told a conference call. “If Alberta did take the remarkable step of attempting to use this law, we are prepared to immediately file an injunction. We will not hesitate.”

Notley bowed out of a Western premier’s meeting on Wednesday in Yellowknife, saying she could not discuss issues like a national prescription drug plan in the presence of B.C. Premier John Horgan while his government is trying to stop the pipeline project.

“Pharmacare does not grow on trees,” Notley said. “In order to protect and improve the things that matter to people, like pharmacare, we need a strong, functioning national economy.”

Before he left for the meeting, Horgan said he didn’t expect tensions over the pipeline to dominate discussions among the premiers.

Kinder Morgan has ceased all non-essential spending on the project until it receives assurances it can proceed without delays, setting a May 31 deadline for those guarantees.


The love of government power trumps concern for the environent in SF

Bay City bureaucrats are uncomfortable with permissionless innovation

San Francisco has given e-scooter companies an ultimatum: Get your vehicles off our streets by June 4 or risk fines of $100 per day per scooter. And we just might take the scooters too.

Some companies might be allowed to rent out their electric dockless scooters again, but not until they secure permits from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA), which won't be issuing them until late June at the earliest.

The announcement comes a month after the city issued cease-and-desist letters to several e-scooter companies and began impounding improperly parked vehicles. (Austin, Texas, chased e-scooter companies off the streets earlier this year too.)

The permits themselves were unveiled yesterday. They come with numerous new requirements for the e-scooter companies, whose dockless vehicles—rentable via smartphone app—started cropping up in San Francisco earlier this year.

The application costs alone are $5,000. Once approved, scooter companies such as Lime, Bird, and Spin will have to pay another $35,000 to the city. The number of rentable e-scooters available for all companies will be capped at 1,250 city-wide for six months (then rising to 2,500), and companies will have to provide service area plans, which will be subject to city approval.

These rules are necessary, city officials say, to combat the threat e-scooters pose to some deeply held San Francisco values.

"We can have convenience, but it can't sacrifice privacy and equity along the way," City Attorney Dennis Herrera informed everyone in a Thursday press release. "Everyone needs to play by a set of rules for cities to function efficiently, safely and equitably—even corporations," added San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the author of the city's new e-scooter regulations.

To achieve this end, the city's new permits will also require scooter companies to offer their website and apps in multiple languages (including but not limited to Chinese and Spanish), to make their customer interface technology accessible to the disabled, and to offer discounts and cash payment options to low-income people.

If officials' primary concern is ensuring more people can have access to e-scooters, it seems a counter-productive strategy to demand that all scooters be taken off the road. So does capping the total number of scooters. And piling on a lot of new regulations that raise the costs of providing the vehicles.

Costs come down and accessibility increases when service providers can respond and grow with demand, not when they are artificially constrained by regulatory caps and costs.

Uber is a great example of this, starting as essentially a luxury town car provider before evolving into a popular transit service used by all kinds of people.

The deeper motivation behind these new restrictions appears to be a discomfort about any innovation that is not pre-planned, pre-approved, or in conformance with pre-established city goals.

SFMTA chief Ed Reiskin summed up the attitude when he said, "Just because something is innovative doesn't mean it's good for our city."




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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