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How online ‘filter bubbles’ can reinforce climate scepticism

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The internet is a marvellous thing. But as it’s progressed, it’s inevitably become smarter, to the point where search results are now intricately tailored to suit our individual needs. So when it comes to climate change, it’s doing its best to make the debate appear balanced, when in fact it’s anything but.

Have you noticed that when you make a search on Google, the results that come up are almost exactly what you‘d expected? Some might say that’s the point, but look closer and there may be an inherent problem.

Back in March 2011, Eli Pariser – former executive director of MoveOn.org, founder of Upworthy and co-founder of Avaaz – spoke at a TED conference about ‘filter bubbles’, which we first wrote about last year.

In a broadcast society, there were these gatekeepers, the editors, and they controlled the flows of information”, he explained.

Along came the internet and it swept them out of the way, and it allowed all of us to connect together, and it was awesome. But that’s not actually what’s happening right now.”

He described how Google’s search term personalisation is detrimental to the idea of the internet as a community and is, therefore, skewing debates and discussions. He cites an example of two friends who simultaneously searched for ‘Egypt’, only for Google to reveal completely contrasting search results – one of which totally omitted any mention of the unrest going on in the country.

The internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see”, he added.

So when it comes to climate change scepticism, Google could be having a negative effect on the debate, insofar that climate sceptics are only reading stuff that backs up their views, from websites that carry a shared doctrine.

Twitter is guilty of this, too. While tweeters are able to follow and unfollow who they wish, anyone signed up to the social networking site can send a tweet to someone else, unless of course, they use the block function.

Telegraph blogger and staunch climate sceptic James Delingpole is known to do this. Indeed, I noticed only recently that I too had been blocked by him.

Delingpole wrote a piece in October under the rather provocative title, Why I block Twitter’s environmental Taliban. He said that people had taken “great umbrage, apparently, over the fact that rather than engage with their fatuous arguments (in 140 characters? Yeah. That would work.) I tend usually to press the block button.

The problem with this is that the grounds on which his climate scepticism is based on appears stronger – thus leading him to believe that everyone on Twitter agrees with him. In reality, he has just created his very own Twitter filter bubble, meaning he only sees and receives tweets that massage his already overinflated ego (his Twitter biography reads, “I’m right about everything“).

This, in most cases is harmless. But Delingpole is widely regarded as one of the most influential anti-green writers in the country, and has many thousands of regular visitors to his blogs on both The Telegraph and The Spectator websites. His prominent platform makes it seem as though there is a debate to be had over climate change, when in fact, the science, evidence and facts suggest otherwise.

A recent excellent study by James Lawrence Powell showed that only 24 of 13,950 peer-reviewed climate articles (0.17% or 1 in 581) clearly reject climate change or endorse a cause other than carbon emissions for observed warming.

In a piece for The Conversation recently, Michael J I Brown tackled the myth that there was no consensus among climate scientists.

Scientific consensus is often demanded for policy making. But it should not be confused with 100% agreement”, he wrote.

Vocal minorities will never accept the evidence. A handful of biologists don’t accept evolution. A handful of astronomers think there was no Big Bang. A handful of climate scientists say there is no such thing as anthropogenic climate change.

The overwhelming majority of climate scientistspeer reviewed papers and scientific organisations have concluded anthropogenic climate change is real. This is scientific consensus.

But isn’t science never settled? Yes. But apples won’t start falling up because we don’t understand quantum gravity. Global warming won’t stop because we don’t know if temperatures will rise 2, 3 or 4 °C.

We don’t know exactly how climate will change, but we know it is changing and will continue to do so.”

Climate change is not a case of Pascal’s Wager – hedging your bets on cutting emissions and adapting to a global temperature rise, just in case. It’s instead a real and clear threat that the irrefutable majority of scientists, organisations, governments, businesses and individuals accept.

People on this side don’t block tweeters because they simply don’t like what they’re reading and they don’t base their views on what they see, hear or read in the right-wing media. They instead challenge, discuss and review the evidence; and shape their views over what’s observed.

It’s a shame that people think there is any debate at all, because there really isn’t. But then again, those of us who go through life without our fingers in our ears will know that all too well.

Further reading:

The Google searches that blind us

Why climate deniers have no scientific credibility – in one pie chart

The four horsemen of the climate apocalypse

Freedom of expression is not the same as a freedom to mislead

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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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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Energy

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

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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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