Then there is Russia, arguably the country apart from North Korea that has moved furthest past truth, both in its foreign policy and internal politics. Such dezinformatsiya may seem like a mere reversion to Soviet form. You can just say anything. Create realities. In such creation it helps to keep in mind—as Mr Putin surely does—that humans do not naturally seek truth.
In fact, as plenty of research shows, they tend to avoid it. People instinctively accept information to which they are exposed and must work actively to resist believing falsehoods; they tend to think that familiar information is true; and they cherry-pick data to support their existing views. Subjects in both groups were then asked how strongly they agreed with the misperception that Saddam Hussein had such weapons immediately before the war, but was able to hide or destroy them before American forces arrived. As might be expected, liberals who had seen the correction were more likely to disagree than liberals who had not seen the correction.
But conservatives who had seen the correction were even more convinced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Further studies are needed, Mr Nyhan and Mr Reifler say, to see whether conservatives are indeed more prone to the backfire effect. Given such biases, it is somewhat surprising that people can ever agree on facts, particularly in politics. But many societies have developed institutions which allow some level of consensus over what is true: schools, science, the legal system, the media.
This truth-producing infrastructure, though, is never close to perfect: it can establish as truth things for which there is little or no evidence; it is constantly prey to abuse by those to whom it grants privileges; and, crucially, it is slow to build but may be quick to break. Post-truth politics is made possible by two threats to this public sphere: a loss of trust in institutions that support its infrastructure and deep changes in the way knowledge of the world reaches the public.
Take trust first. This loss of trust has many roots. In some areas—dietary advice, for example—experts seem to contradict each other more than they used to; governments get things spectacularly wrong, as with their assurances about the wisdom of invading Iraq, trusting in the world financial system and setting up the euro. But it would be a mistake to see the erosion of trust simply as a response to the travails of the world. In some places trust in institutions has been systematically undermined. In the s many conservatives became alarmed by the likely economic cost of a serious effort to reduce carbon emissions.
Some of the less scrupulous decided to cast doubt on the need for a climate policy by stressing to the point of distortion uncertainties in the underlying science.
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Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate. Some conservative politicians, talk-show hosts and websites, have since included the scientific establishment in their list of institutions to bash, alongside the government itself, the courts of activist judges and the mainstream media.
Some are now having second thoughts. Yet gatekeepers would be in much less trouble without the second big factor in post-truth politics: the internet and the services it has spawned. Nearly two-thirds of adults in America now get news on social media and a fifth do so often, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Centre, a polling outfit; the numbers continue to grow fast.
Content no longer comes in fixed formats and in bundles, such as articles in a newspaper, that help establish provenance and set expectations; it can take any shape—a video, a chart, an animation. Data about the spread of a meme has become more important than whether it is based on facts.
The mechanisms of these new media are only now beginning to be understood. The rise of cable and satellite television channels in the s and s made it possible to serve news tailored to specific types of consumer; the internet makes it much easier. These measures were not statistically significant predictors of support for Mitt Romney, the far more conventional Republican presidential candidate in Self-reinforcing online communities are not just a fringe phenomenon.
Even opponents of TTIP, a transatlantic free-trade agreement, admit that the debate over it in Austria and Germany has verged on the hysterical, giving rise to outlandish scare stories—for instance that Europe would be flooded with American chickens treated with chlorine. Facebook subsequently became a much better—or worse—example.
So, for example, during the referendum campaign Leavers mostly saw pro-Brexit items; Remainers were served mainly pro-EU fare. They found that the distribution in which both types of articles were shared on Facebook are very similar see chart 3. If Facebook does little to sort the wheat from the chaff, neither does the market. Online publications such as National Report, Huzlers and the World News Daily Report have found a profitable niche pumping out hoaxes, often based on long-circulating rumours or prejudices, in the hope that they will go viral and earn clicks.
Many share such content without even thinking twice, let alone checking to determine if it is true. Weakened by shrinking audiences and advertising revenues, and trying to keep up online, mainstream media have become part of the problem.
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It does not help that the tools to keep track of and even predict the links most clicked on are getting ever better. Equally important, ecosystems of political online publications have emerged on Facebook—both on the left and the right. They pander mostly to the converted, but in these echo chambers narratives can form before they make it into the wider political world. A case in point is the recent speculation about the health of Mrs Clinton.
It started with videos purporting to show Mrs Clinton suffering from seizures, which garnered millions of views online. Rudy Giuliani, a former mayor of New York, urged people to look for videos on the internet that support the speculation. Such tactics would make Dmitry Kiselyov proud. Similarly, in post-coup Turkey the number of dubious posts and tweets has increased sharply. This plurality of voices is not in itself a bad thing. Vibrant social media are often a power for good, allowing information to spread that would otherwise be bottled up.
In Brazil and Malaysia social media have been the conduit for truth about a corruption scandal involving Petrobras, the state oil company, and the looting of 1MDB, a state-owned investment fund. And there are ways to tell good information from bad. Social media have started to police their platforms more heavily: Facebook recently changed the algorithm that decides what users see in their newsfeeds to filter out more clickbait.
Technology will improve: Mr Menczer and his team at Indiana University are building tools that can, among other things, detect whether a bot is behind a Twitter account. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, with the sections relating to bilateral trading between countries and a new sustainable development mechanism. Source: UN. A negotiator for the African Group , El Hadji Mbaye Diagne , agreed that while a functional market would be capable of raising climate ambitions, it had to be done right. However, the technical and political complexity of the topic, and the breadth of opinion among different nations, mean progress has been slow in agreeing the Article 6 rules.
Since the last COP, Brazil has resisted attempts to curtail double counting, a position it maintained in Bonn. Together with the Arab Group and India, Brazil has also called for all existing credits from the CDM to be carried forward beyond Members of the AOSIS group of small island states and the African Group want to avoid this transition, which they say would bring a huge surplus of weak credits into the market, reducing the need to actually cut emissions.
He points to research suggesting these additional carry-over units could amount to between 18 and 28 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent. In combination, Dufrasne says this hot air could compromise the entire Paris Agreement system. SB50Bonn decided to further discuss Art 6. It is said that Brazil wanted overrule COP24 decision on avoiding double counting!
Ahead of the meeting, it was generally agreed that by the end of the session in Bonn, parties needed to leave with a clear draft text concerning the future of carbon markets. This would have been put in front of ministers to consider ahead of the next COP so that the summit in Chile could sign off the final Article 6 rules.
Dufrasne tells Carbon Brief that while he saw greater understanding emerge of some of the technical challenges from delegates, progress was slow beyond combining two texts that had emerged from COP24 into one:. On the other hand it feels a bit like we are back where we were a year ago when we ended the Bonn session and went back to COP with text that included all the options….
Essentially, Dufrasne says, on key topics such as double counting, Brazil and other strong-minded delegations were still in a similar position to the one they had entered the talks in. Ideally, nations want to have this set of rules finalised by the end of the next COP, but Jennifer Tollmann from green thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief that ultimately a delayed trading system is preferable to an ineffective one. She says:. This idea of wanting to get rules by the end of COP works if they are good rules [but] if done incorrectly this has the risk of fundamentally undermining the credibility of the Paris regime.
Additional meetings had to be scheduled as proceedings drew to a close, amid concerns that no satisfactory conclusion would be reached before the closing plenary.
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The issues arose after a handful of nations led by Saudi Arabia raised concerns about the fundamental science underlying the report, which was commissioned by the UN to explore the differences between 1. Other countries, particularly developing nations and small island states who say 1. As the days progressed the Saudis , with notable support from regional rivals Iran, and input from Russia and the US, tried to add in sections of text highlighting uncertainties within the report and questioning its usefulness.
This was viewed as unacceptable by many present, as Alden Meyer , policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists tells Carbon Brief:. The report should be informing the negotiations on a number of tracks, as well as what actions countries are taking under the Paris Agreement to meet their nationally determined contributions NDCs. He praised the report, which was commissioned by the UN following the creation of the Paris Agreement and was the product of three years of work by scientists reviewing around 6, studies.
As for the motivation behind the opposition to the report, particularly by Saudi Arabia with its petrochemical-dominated economy, Meyer says this is clear:. Such a global effort would require an unprecedented transition away from fossil fuels. According to Fuller, these sessions would have consisted of one to understand the mitigation and adaptation measures required by nations, and also the funding required to achieve them.
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Given its issues with the underlying science, Saudi Arabia also rejected this proposal. An extra negotiating session on Wednesday failed to reach an agreement. Many nations made their displeasure felt at the closing plenary. Despite making protestations about the number of delegates taking the floor, Watkinson too emphasised the importance of science to the UN climate process after announcing the agreement.
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