I have all of my data analysis done and printed in a thick binder sorted by subject matter.

With a 58 page bibliography, I feel like I am a good way through the literature review, though my room and computer are still well populated with a set of things which I have read and annotated but still need to be incorporated into the manuscript, as well as a much smaller number that still need to be read.

I have a 98,000 word manuscript, not counting the bibliography, but it has been written in thousands of little sessions and surely needs a fair measure of editing to make it all clear, non-redundant, and smooth-flowing.

Perhaps the following makes sense as a path to completion:

  1. Finish incorporating all paper and digital sources into the manuscript
  2. Complete a read-through and first electronic edit of the entire draft, making note of places where evidence from the interviews would provide useful substantiation
  3. Read through the empirical package, adding relevant quotes and references to the manuscript
  4. Print off and hand-edit the manuscript to the point where I think it is completely ready to go to the dissertation committee for their substantive contents

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The November 2nd Economist included an article with some interesting claims about lies, politics, and identifying deceit:

But even in daily life, without the particular pressures of politics, people find it hard to spot liars. Tim Levine of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, has spent decades running tests that allow participants (apparently unobserved) to cheat. He then asks them on camera if they have played fair. He asks others to look at the recordings and decide who is being forthright about cheating and who is covering it up. In 300 such tests people got it wrong about half of the time, no better than a random coin toss. Few people can detect a liar. Even those whose job is to conduct interviews to dig out hidden truths, such as police officers or intelligence agents, are no better than ordinary folk.

Evolution may explain credulity. In a forthcoming book, “Duped”, Mr Levine argues that evolutionary pressures have adapted people to assume that others are telling the truth. Most communication by most people is truthful most of the time, so a presumption of honesty is usually justified and is necessary to keep communication efficient. If you checked everything you were told from first principles, it would become impossible to talk. Humans are hard-wired to assume that what they hear is true—and therefore, says Mr Levine, “hard-wired to be duped”.

In politics, however, these explanations cannot be the whole story. At the heart of the lying-politician paradox is an uncomfortable fact: voters appear to support liars more than they believe them. Mr Trump’s approval rating is 11 points higher than the share of people who trust him to tell the truth. A third of British voters view Mr Johnson favourably but only a fifth think he is honest. Voters believe in their leaders even if they do not believe them. Why?

The answer starts with the primacy of intuitive decision-making. ln 2004 Drew Westen of Emory University in Atlanta put partisan Republicans and Democrats into a magnetic-resonance-imaging scanner and found that lying or hypocrisy by the other side lit up areas of the brain associated with rewards; lies by their own side lit up areas associated with dislike and negative emotions. At no point did the parts of the brain associated with reason show any response at all. If voters’ judgments are rooted in emotion and intuition, facts and evidence are likely to be secondary.

A new version of confirmation bias is “identity-protective cognition”, argues Dan Kahan of Yale Law School. This says that people process information in a way that protects their self-image and the image they think others have of them. For example, those who live surrounded by climate-change sceptics may avoid saying anything that suggests humankind is altering the climate, simply to avoid becoming an outcast. A climate sceptic encircled by members of Extinction Rebellion might do the same thing in reverse. As people become more partisan, more issues are being taken as markers of the kind of person you are: in Britain, the country’s membership of the European Union; in America, guns, trade, even American football. All give rise to the acceptance of bias.

Thomas Gilovich of Cornell shows how fake news, cognition bias and assuming that people are telling the truth interact to make it easier to believe lies. If you want to believe a thing, he argues (that is, a lie that supports your preconceived ideas), you ask yourself: “Can I believe it?” A single study or comment online is usually enough to give you permission to hold this belief, even if it is bogus. But if you do not want to believe something (because it contradicts your settled opinions) you are more likely to ask: “Must I believe it?” Then, one apparently reputable statement on the other side will satisfy you. That may be why so many climate sceptics manage to cling to their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Activists point out that 99% of scientists believe the Earth is warming up because of human actions. But people who doubt the reality of climate change listen to the other 1%.

There does seem to be good reason to believe that people often have powerful psychological impulses to protect their existing worldview rather than believe the most accurate available information or most plausible explanation for what has happened.



Professor Joe Curnow, now at the University of Manitoba, studied the Toronto350.org / UofT350.org divestment campaign at the University of Toronto, in part using multi-angle video recordings of campaign planning meetings.

Her dissertation is now available on TSpace: Politicization in Practice: Learning the Politics of Racialization, Patriarchy, and Settler Colonialism in the Youth Climate Movement


Zero by 2050


in Daily updates

Canada’s per-capita emissions are 20 tonnes per person per year. That’s 44092 lb (pounds). That’s 21% of the mass of a Boeing 747-200F aircraft (≈ 105 sh tn ).


There are several reasons to be interested in the climate politics of faith groups. Some progressive ones like the United Church of Canada and the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have taken meaningful action by divesting. The pope’s Laudato Si encyclical may have an impact on billions around the world.

Faith groups becoming champions of a stable climate could have the potential to shift the character of the climate change debate, which is presently mostly about progressives calling for strong action (usually coupled with a social justice and redistribution agenda) and conservatives either denying that there is a problem or finding a justification to take no action. If the arguments of climate scientists can be legitimized by faith communities which conservatives care about, we might start to see progress toward a pan-ideological consensus on climate action.

One story today that reminded me of this: Why Four Christian Activists Risked Arrest to Shut Down an oil Pipeline

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Not only is the Trudeau government calling into question its seriousness about decarbonization by allowing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, they are considering allowing Teck to build another open-pit bitumen sands mine which will produce 6 million tonnes of CO2 per year in its operations and far more when the fuel it produces is burned.

Every Canadian government must live in fear of being the ones in power when the markets and Canadians finally realize that developing the bitumen sands has been a mistake and the industry has no future. Since every government wants to avoid the blame when that happens, they each do what they can to maintain the illusion of a future for the industry which will justify the tens of billions that have been invested. In so doing, they inadvertently tell Canadians and the world that they are willing to create a permanently destabilized global climate in exchange for as many more years of oil profits as they can get away with.


2012 tritium:

2019 tritium:

Inside these tubes, quarks are changing their flavour from down to up as neutrons change to protons and hydrogen atoms turn to helium, emitting the electrons which make the tubes’ phosphor coatings visibly glow and antineutrinos.


It complicates the process of completing my PhD dissertation, but there has been highly encouraging movement from administrations targeted by fossil fuel divestment campaigns. While McGill has again said no, Concordia and UBC have pledged to go beyond their prior partial commitments and entirely divest from fossil fuels:

The movement has generally had a hard time in Canada, perhaps because of the size and influence of the fossil fuel industry.

I’m working this week on finishing my NVivo coding of interviews, then moving on next week to finishing the literature review. Spending the rest of the month working on a finalized and complete manuscript, I will need to make sure to mention new developments without expressing false confidence about my ability to explain something which happened so recently and which I don’t have independent data about.


Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysysk’s 2019 report says that the Ontario government’s proposed climate policies are insufficient to meet their (inadequate) target for reducing greenhouse gas pollution:

The province estimates that its new approach will still meet federal reduction targets of 30 per cent below 2005 emission levels, or the equivalent of 17.6 megatonnes by 2030.

But that estimate is based on an older forecast that accounted for initiatives around electricity conservation, renewable energy and cap-and-trade — programs that have all been cancelled by the Ford government.

Lysyk estimates the new plan will only reduce emissions by between 6.3 and 13 megatonnes by 2030.

Page 147 of the report says:

Emissions Estimates Underlying Plan Not Supported by Sound Evidence

The Plan projects that Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions will be 160.9 Mt in 2030 if no further climate initiatives are taken. To reduce Ontario’s emissions by 17.6 Mt to meet the 2030 target, the Plan outlines eight areas where the Ministry expects emissions reductions to occur. We reviewed the evidence and assumptions the Ministry used to estimate the emissions projected for 2030, as well as the reductions for each area. Based on our review, several of the estimates are not supported by sound evidence. Our assessment of the assumptions and double counting of initiatives found that the Plan overestimates the emissions reductions expected. Overall, our analysis found that the initiatives in the Plan have the potential to achieve between 6.3 Mt to 13.0 Mt of the 17.6 Mt emission-reduction goal.

This reinforces how many Canadian provincial and federal governments see climate change as a public relations issue: an area of criticism where they need a rhetorical answer to manage the level of criticism they get in the press.


Spies tend to make extravagant claims for their craft, but the reality of espionage is that it frequently makes little lasting difference. Politicians treasure classified information because it is secret, which does not necessarily render it more reliable than openly accessible information, and frequently makes it less so. If the enemy has spies in your camp, and you have spies in his, the world may be a little safer, but essentially you end up where you started, somewhere on the arcane and unquantifiable spectrum of “I know that you know that I know…”

Yet very occasionally spies have a profound impact on history. The breaking of the Enigma code shortened the Second World War by at least a year. Successful espionage and strategic deception underpinned the Allied invasion of Sicily and the D-day landings. The Soviet penetration of Western intelligence in the 1930s and 1940s gave Stalin a crucial advantage in his dealings with the West.

The pantheon of world-changing spies is small and select, and Oleg Gordievsky is in it: he opened up the inner workings of the KGB at a pivotal juncture in history, revealing not just what Soviet intelligence was doing (and not doing), but what the Kremlin was thinking and planning, and in so doing transformed the way the West thought about the Soviet Union. He risked his life to betray his country, and made the world a little safer. As a classified internal CIA review put it, the ABLE ARCHER scare was “the last paroxysm of the Cold War.”

Macintyre, Ben. The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War. 2018. p. 182–3 (ellipses in original)


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