Pre-Bunking: Fake Debate

An often-used disinformation technique relevant to CDR is fake debate.

Fake debate is “two-siding” when there are no two sides. While it is important and good to present both/all sides in politics, economics, art, culture, etc. it is not appropriate when we are discussing settled science. This creates the illusion that there is still a valid scientific debate ongoing - when there isn’t.

(this and more amazing graphics are here: Cranky Cartoon (EN) - Debate)

This does not mean that science cannot be questioned with the goal of improving on the existing knowledge, but that needs to be done by scientists in the appropriate forum, say a scientific paper or conference, and not on social media or the evening news.

We have seen fake debates play out a lot during the COVID pandemic where long-debunked claims, e.g. that vaccines cause autism, were presented as valid science. This makes non-experts think that the science on this is still unsettled - when it is not.

In climate change, this method has been deployed for decades by the fossil fuel industry to cast doubt on the fact that human-caused CO2 emissions are leading to global warming. They used a number of different fake debates to cast doubt, e.g. by claiming that volcanoes are the source of most of the CO2, that warming is natural and causing CO2 to increase, instead of the other way around, or that warming is brought on by natural cycles of the sun. All of these claims are incorrect but because of the fake debates, too many people still believe that global warming isn’t real.

(On a side note, the fossil fuel industry learned from the best: big tobacco that perfected the art of fake debate about the long-proven fact that smoking is really bad for your health.)

How does that apply to carbon dioxide removal?

There is a fake debate happening about the need for CDR. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (for a quick summary of the IPCC scroll down) states in no uncertain terms that we need CDR.

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Yet there are individuals and organizations who claim that decarbonization alone is enough to restore our climate and that CDR is alternatively useless, superfluous, dangerous, or bad.

This is a young debate and the science might feel less firm. However, the consensus among the thousands of climate scientists that contribute to the IPCC reports should be enough to settle the debate. We cannot let this fake debate derail the implementation of CDR.

The IPCC explained
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific intergovernmental body established by the United Nations and World Meteorological Organization in 1988 to provide scientific information to policymakers to help them take informed decisions about climate change. The IPCC is widely recognized as the leading international body for the assessment of climate change and its impacts.