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Honesty, subtlety and complexity in science reporting



Newsflash: science is complicated. A lot of jobs, being a politician or columnist for example, can be mastered with very little hard work. This is not true of postgraduate science. Obviously natural flair matters and the best of those two aforementioned ‘professions’ have that flair in spades. But science is different.

Science is seriously complicated. While natural flair for a scientific subject still helps, put simply, you need to undertake years of dull, painstaking and patient research and analysis. To master science you need to be willing to fail or be proved wrong and have your findings brutally taken apart by your most respected peers, in journals that all of your colleagues will read.

One of the more complex areas of science is climatology.

No amount of classics, literature, economics or business education, even at a leading public school or university, can equip you with the detailed knowledge you need to understand fundamentally the climate. After all, it is not simply the weather.

The climate is a truly global, non-linear, highly interconnected, hard-to-model-and-predict feedback system. It extends from the exosphere (600km up) to the bottom of the deepest ocean trench (going down to 11km). That’s an awful lot of gas and liquid. It is explicitly not the arena for uninformed opinion, idle speculation or enthusiastic amateurism.

Almost all – 99.83%, to be precise – peer-reviewed climate research papers agree that carbon dioxide from human activity is affecting the environment, leading to global warming.

There is a small group of politicians and commentators however, especially those of a narrow educational background (Eton, Oxbridge/Buckingham) and economic philosophy (neoliberalism), who endlessly wax lyrical about the terrible conspiracy of an ‘environmental Taliban’ that is against economic growth.

Their central argument has subtly shifted from denouncing human-caused (anthropogenic) global warming as a myth, to the perverse argument that the warming has no discernible negative impact. Residents of places as diverse as Greenland, New York and Bangladesh may beg to differ.

They also couch their argument in seriously out-dated economic terms, seeing any sustainable initiative or project as a socialist plot to undermine their beloved and, ideally, unfettered capitalism.

They ignore overwhelming and peer-reviewed scientific evidence. They conveniently forget that fossil fuels consume more subsidies than renewables. They conveniently ignore the massive health affects and related costs of burning fossil fuels, regardless of climate impacts. And they conveniently overlook the fact that their economic philosophy’s founding fathers understood the importance of a country’s moral sentiments and the negative externalities (e.g. pollution) of markets.

Their faith in the markets is absolute. Their dogma is carved in tablets of stone through everything they think, say or write. They see their opinions and conclusions as vastly superior to millions of dollars of climate modelling technology and thousands of man-years in PhD-level climate research internationally. They are never wrong, nor will they admit they are ever wrong.


This has happened before with tobacco. A narrow clique of corporate tobacco leaders and their well-funded friends in academia, politics and the media hoodwinked the population into believing that smoking has no causal link with cancer.

They argued that the other side of the debate were nanny-state, anti-capitalist, interventionists. We now know better as do the millions who have suffered from believing them, but this was aggressively resisted by those vested interests. It still is, and birthed a political movement.

This is now happening over climate change and renewable energy. The corporations have a simple rulebook. First they must encourage academics, politicians and the media to rubbish the science and then rubbish the reputation of those conducting independent research or running enterprises in this area.

They must then suggest that the motives of those scientists and entrepreneurs are selfish and financial (grants and subsidies) without mentioning their own financial interest in the debate.

Finally, it is also important to create a grassroots movement so this is not seen as a corporate action. Once you have your academic, political and media ducks in a row, distribute your disinformation (being wrong intentionally) as widely as possible and hook it to other topical issues that people care about. This then becomes the accepted wisdom (or misinformation – being wrong unintentionally).

Online and newspaper filter bubbles go on to create a feedback loop of reaffirming misinformation and building an apparent, but wholly manufactured, intellectual depth to the scepticism.

Do not misunderstand this. As a magazine we, and many other investors, see a genuine economic opportunity in this crisis. New clean industries create jobs, reduce pollution, increase energy security, deliver valuable exports and deliver disruptive competition for incumbents. We are not afraid to declare publicly that our motives are, in part, economic.

However, sustainability is the art of balancing the needs of the economy, ecology and society. Capitalism, when channelled responsibly towards sustainability, is one of the most powerful and beneficial change agents we have at our disposal. Giving billions in subsidies to supposedly efficient and well-established oil and gas companies is not sustainable; nor is it capitalism.

The first question that should ever be asked of someone writing about the climate is, “Are you a climatologist?

If the answer is ‘no’, and unless they are plainly and honestly reporting what climatologists say, then move along; there is nothing useful being added to the debate – other than misinformation  or disinformation. Both are often paid for by those with a huge financial interest in the science being proved wrong.

If you want to understand the law, you talk to a lawyer. If you build a bridge, you engage an engineer. If you want to understand history, you talk to an historian. If you need brain surgery, you engage a brain surgeon. Ideally good ones. You do not ask a columnist or politician. The same surely applies to our fragile, precious and essential climate.

You certainly don’t listen to, or give column inches in previously authoritative broadsheets, to censured ‘interpreters of interpretations’. Dishonesty, polemicising and over-simplification are not the hallmarks of good journalism for the informed debate we need.

It is genuinely time for the enlightened and educated grown-ups to really lead the debate and tackle the myth-spreaders. That includes you.

Further reading:

The very well-funded war against climate science and all of us

The four horsemen of the climate apocalypse

Pick-and-mix dogma is unethical and intellectually dishonest

Witnessing financial capitalism’s failure

Climate sceptics are our generation’s slavery apologists

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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