An outfit called the Council of Canadian Academies was just paid handsomely by the government to say people should not disagree with the government and the government should consider punishing them if they do. Which is a bit scary. And very relevant to our mandate because the Canadian government is working on an online censorship bill and this report it paid for mentions “climate” 137 times in 185 pages (and another 109 in the references section) and in its “Summary of Main Findings” it says “the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has explicitly acknowledged the role politically endorsed misinformation plays in limiting climate action”. So it’s a plot, and the state must smash it. For your own good, you understand.
The report begins, as these things will, by saying “The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) acknowledges that its Ottawa offices are located on the unceded, unsurrendered ancestral home of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation, who have cared for the environment of this territory for millennia.” And naturally on that point there are not two or more perspectives, just a catechism of dogmatic truths. As with its identification of the policy setting:
“We face unprecedented and layered collective challenges: climate change, environmental degradation, pandemics, inequality, colonialism, racism, threats to democracy, war.”
But not inflation, high taxes, the breakdown of the family or any of that nonsense. Or that politicians lie a lot, something that virtually all normal people regard as beyond dispute and harmful. Instead the “Message from the Chair” (a former senior Canadian public servant and a sociologist and left-wing activist) winds up with:
“More fundamentally what’s needed are policies that yield less inequality and more democracy, and a politics that seeks to heal our divisions rather than exploit them.”
And to get the healing started we’ll accuse anyone who disagrees with us of being a misinformed stooge. Thus for instance:
“Those who were misinformed about COVID‑19 also reported lower support for action in other policy areas where misinformation can hold influence, including climate change, addressing systemic racism, and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples (EKOS, 2021).”
And the solution couldn’t be more patronizing if the report were Babylon Bee satire:
“As misinformation has become entwined with identity and ideology, some politicians have amplified it to build their political coalitions. Misinformation and division are locked in a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. Rebuilding trust, once lost or broken, is a difficult, long-term process, but a number of strategies have proven to be helpful. These include improving direct access to academic research; communicating research accurately and conveying uncertainty where it exists; and carefully selecting the messenger and the medium to reach diverse audiences most effectively.”
We are inclined to think that improving peoples’ access to research, communicating accurately about its findings and uncertainties, and assessing the credibility of the government’s messengers tends to weaken peoples’ trust in governments because it inevitably exposes their untrustworthiness. Though it's not strictly true that the report ignored politicians. It had a lot to say about how bad right-wing ones are. For instance “The language of values and morality can be used by politicians as framing devices to further alienate and polarize political discourse (Lakoff, 2014, 2016).” So there’s the settled science on that point. Morality is evil.
As to climate, well, they’re all over it:
“the Panel has broadly examined the nature and impacts of science and health misinformation in three areas where there is robust evidence:
• Vaccine hesitancy
• Health and wellness (e.g., nutrition, genetically modified (GM) food products, alternative medicine)
• Acceptance of climate change (as well as desire and actions to combat it)”.
And they warn that:
“Catastrophic events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the droughts, floods, and wildfires exacerbated by climate change, underscore the need for reasoned, evidence-informed decision-making at both the personal and public level.”
The evidence, one presumes, does not include what even the IPCC and similar agencies really say about “droughts, floods, and wildfires” which is that the trends are not clear and in many places run opposite to alarmist slogans. Which is probably part of the conspiracy in which “A key misinformation tactic in the climate change debate has been to exaggerate scientific uncertainty” and alas “The long history of climate change denialism and doubt-mongering continues to influence policy.” Is “doubt-mongering” a scientific term, or the raving of activists?
We say the latter, since the report also raves that:
“targeted misinformation campaigns have played a documented role in creating opposition to policies addressing climate change and the widespread and increasing human and economic damage it is causing.”
Naturally opposition to climate policies has nothing to do with the way they cause energy costs to soar and energy sources to become unreliable. No, it’s a plot by the sinister right-wing deniers who secretly control all the governments, universities, media and corporations, and who cleverly disguise their control by always speaking in alarmist slogans and implementing all the plans of climate activists.
The report even singles out the “Calgary-based Friends of Science” for a good rubbishing on the grounds that “It is difficult to trace the funding sources behind Friends of Science, but the fossil fuel industry is among its contributors (Montgomery, 2006; Gorrie, 2007)” while ignoring poor old CDN. Of course if we were secretly in charge of the world, that’s just the sort of thing we’d say to avoid raising suspicion.
So who do they like? Well, the usual suspects. Like those poor misunderstood souls at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit with their misrepresented, entirely innocent “Climategate” emails. And one of the peer reviewers they thank is none other than John Cook, who is not just “Assistant Professor, Center for Climate Change Communication” at George Mason University and the main author of one of the most tendentious and statistically unsound efforts to prove a scientific consensus but is also referenced favourably in the actual report 38 times, so there can be no question as to his capacity to review the document dispassionately.
Well, we can’t discuss all their claims, even to underline their obsession. But we can say that you know where it’s all going:
“Public policies, including legislation, can play an important role in mitigating the negative consequences of science and health misinformation and exist on a continuum from persuasive to coercive.”
So don’t say you weren’t warned, including by them. Coercion to toe the party line is part of the plan. After all of which it takes some gall for them, in “The Challenge Ahead”, to declare that:
“The Panel recognizes that speaking up against misinformation, particularly online, often invites vitriol, harassment, and threats of violence. This adversarial environment points to broader societal challenges, such as increasing polarization, social fragmentation, and the growth of harmful ideologies that pit one group of people against the ‘other.’”
Which we at the CCA would never do, except when it’s, you know, “them”, the deliberate liars and polarizers who challenge the government position to foster inequality and racism and the destruction of the very planet they’re on. Because after all the science is clear:
“Trust-building endeavours that expand beyond the community – such as improving access and delivery of social services, including mental healthcare, as well as addressing issues of economic inequality and systemic racism - are long-term efforts, with implementation and impacts measured across generations.”
Left wing good, right wing bad.
Lorne Gunter, who notes that the CCA “has received nearly $55 million in federal funding since 2002 for ‘independent’ assessments of science” (but we deniers have all the money, though not its staff of 30 for some reason) quoted the report that “some journalistic norms contribute to misinformation, such as the tendency to present both sides of a debate … artificially creating a false balance even in cases where the science is conclusive.” But, Gunter asks, when is the science ever fully conclusive? An essential part of scientific process is the constant testing and questioning of “conclusive” knowledge.
At least, it used to be. Back when it was also true that whichever side was currently winning a debate, on policy or on science, didn’t get to blow a whistle and declare the game over. Back when it was understood that lots of ideas, like that we should not treat people badly on the basis of their race, were distinctly unpopular when first articulated and that censorship is a tool of the obtusely oppressive not of the enlightened and kind.
Ban that thought.