Archive for April, 2010

The Greens’ election battlegrounds

Posted in Climate Sock, Politics on April 24th, 2010 by leo – 3 Comments

We saw in February that Caroline Lucas has a pretty good chance as being elected as the Green Party’s first MP. This still looks to be their best shot of winning a seat, but there are several other constituencies that will be interesting to watch over the next couple of weeks and on election night.

Brighton Pavilion

The seat’s currently held by Labour, who have a notional 5000 majority over the Tories. The Lib Dems are also in contention, themselves only about 8000 behind Labour in 2005, so this is very much a four-way marginal. The two polls I know of for the seat give completely different results, but the Green Party’s own poll seems more plausible, and this puts the Greens in the lead.

One issue is that this poll was taken well before the Lib Dem surge (up about 10pts since then). I suspect that if the Libs seem more likely to be elected and to be part of a coalition government, this could well draw votes to them from the Greens.  I doubt this will be enough for the Lib Dems to win the seat, though, and the constituency polls suggest the Tories are out of the running, particularly since they’ve lost national support since then.  So at the moment, this looks to be between Labour and the Greens, and is too close to call.

Lewisham Deptford

This is held by Labour’s Joan Ruddock, and is very safe territory. Last time, Labour won 56% of the vote (albeit down from 65% in 2001); it would take an epic upset for them to lose it. Nonetheless, it’s also one of the Greens’ strongest seats: last time, they won 11% of the vote, narrowly beaten by the Tories into fourth.

Given that the Greens are targeting this as one of their key seats, and their candidate is relatively high profile and credible, they seem very likely to increase their share. Overall, there looks to be a good chance of them overtaking the Tories and Lib Dems to finish second.

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‘Belief’ in climate change is the wrong goal

Posted in Climate Sock, Climategate, Media on April 5th, 2010 by leo – 4 Comments

Since Copenhagen, and since Climategate and all that followed, the climate change deniers are seen to be on the front foot. Not only in the media coverage, but in the blogs, campaign meetings and email groups, the conversation has become about how those trying to prevent climate change can recapture the initiative.

As we’ve seen, public opinion about climate change hasn’t moved very far since Climategate, and some of those changes may just be because it was so cold for so long. Yet, the recent public debate about climate change has still focused heavily on whether or not people believe that climate change is real.

This not only exaggerates public doubt, and distracts from other conversations about climate change, but other polling data also suggest that belief in climate change is a poor guide to people’s desire for action to tackle it.

The case that climate change is happening, is man-made, and if unchecked will cause serious harm, is a difficult one to win convincingly among non-scientists. Science is about uncertainties; a decent scientist would never say that they are absolutely certain of their case. But this doesn’t lend itself well to public debate. As science communicators and policy makers know, it is very difficult to win a public argument about a scientific issue when it has any vocal opposition. Uncertainties and risks can be taken out of context and exaggerated, creating greater doubt than is justified.

So something that is relatively likely to happen – like significant man-made climate change – gets bundled together with something that is relatively unlikely to happen, like a Swine Flu pandemic killing millions. This happens against a background of a debate between those who are very confident that climate change is real, and those who are convinced that it isn’t. For most people outside this vituperative debate, neither side appears attractive. The natural response is to assume that both sides are overstating their case, and that the true answer lies somewhere between them.

Thus, people seeking action on climate change aren’t going to win any time soon if winning is defined as having an overwhelming majority pledging absolute loyalty to the idea that climate change is man-made, and significant. The arguments about evolution are instructive: even 150 years after The Origin of Species, many still think, in the face of overwhelming evidence, that evolution isn’t a convincing theory.

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