Almost All Studies Show, Humans Cause Climate Change

Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – More than 99.9% of peer-reviewed scientific papers agree that climate change is mainly caused by humans, according to a new survey of 88,125 climate-related studies.

The research updates a similar 2013 paper revealing that 97% of studies published between 1991 and 2012 supported the idea that human activities are altering Earth’s climate. The current survey examines the literature published from 2012 to November 2020 to explore whether the consensus has changed.

“We are virtually certain that the consensus is well over 99% now and that it’s pretty much case closed for any meaningful public conversation about the reality of human-caused climate change,” said Mark Lynas, a visiting fellow at the Alliance for Science at Cornell University and the paper’s first author.

“It’s critical to acknowledge the principal role of greenhouse gas emissions so that we can rapidly mobilize new solutions, since we are already witnessing in real time the devastating impacts of climate-related disasters on businesses, people and the economy,” said Benjamin Houlton, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell and a co-author of the study, “Greater than 99% Consensus on Human Caused Climate Change in the Peer-Reviewed Scientific Literature,” which published Oct. 19 in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

In spite of such results, public opinion polls as well as opinions of politicians and public representatives point to false beliefs and claims that a significant debate still exists among scientists over the true cause of climate change. In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that only 27% of U.S. adults believe “almost all” scientists agreed climate change is due to human activity, according to the paper. A 2021 Gallup poll pointed to a deepening partisan divide in American politics on whether Earth’s rising observed temperatures since the Industrial Revolution were primarily caused by humans.

“To understand where a consensus exists, you have to be able to quantify it,” Lynas said. “That means surveying the literature in a coherent and non-arbitrary way in order to avoid trading cherry-picked papers, which is often how these arguments are carried out in the public sphere.”

In the study, the researchers began by examining a random sample of 3,000 studies from the dataset of 88,125 English-language climate papers published between 2012 and 2020. They found only four out of the 3,000 papers were skeptical of human-caused climate change. “We knew that [climate skeptical papers] were vanishingly small in terms of their occurrence, but we thought there still must be more in the 88,000,” Lynas said.

Co-author Simon Perry, a United Kingdom-based software engineer and volunteer at the Alliance for Science, created an algorithm that searched out keywords from papers the team knew were skeptical, such as “solar,” “cosmic rays” and “natural cycles.” The algorithm was applied to all 88,000-plus papers, and the program ordered them so the skeptical ones came higher in the order. They found many of these dissenting papers near the top, as expected, with diminishing returns further down the list. Overall, the search yielded 28 papers that were implicitly or explicitly skeptical, all published in minor journals.

If the 97% result from the 2013 study still left some doubt on scientific consensus on the human influence on climate, the current findings go even further to allay any uncertainty, Lynas said. “This pretty much should be the last word,” he said.

Support for the Alliance for Science is provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Indian Women’s Nutrition Suffered During COVID-19 Lockdown

Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – The 2020 nationwide lockdown India imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions that negatively impacted women’s nutrition, according to a new study from the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition.

Published in the journal Economia Politica, the study shows that women’s dietary diversity – the number of food groups consumed – declined during the lockdown compared to the same period in 2019. Most concerningly, the drop was due to decreased consumption of foods like meats, eggs, vegetables and fruits, which are rich in micronutrients that are crucial to good health and development.

“Women’s diets were lacking in diverse foods even before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has further exacerbated the situation,” said Soumya Gupta, a research economist at TCI who coauthored the study along with Prabhu Pingali, TCI director; Mathew Abraham, assistant director; and consultant Payal Seth. “Any policies addressing the impact of the pandemic on nutritional outcomes must do so through a gendered lens that reflects the specific, and often persistent, vulnerabilities faced by women.”

The Indian government instituted a national lockdown to slow down the spread of COVID-19 on March 24, 2020. Disruptions to agricultural supply chains subsequently led to price fluctuations, especially for nonstaple foods. The lockdown was lifted on May 30, 2020, though some restrictions remained in certain areas of the country.

TCI analyzed surveys of food expenditures, dietary diversity and other nutrition indicators at the national, state and district levels in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha. They found that food expenditures significantly declined during the lockdown, especially in less developed districts. Nearly 90% of survey respondents reported having less food, while 95% said they consumed fewer types of food. The largest drop in food expenditures was for micronutrient-rich fresh and dried fruits, as well as animal products such as meat, fish and eggs.

Expenditures returned to pre-lockdown levels in June 2020 at the national and state levels but remained low at the district level. Gupta and her co-authors said this suggests that underdeveloped regions were disproportionately affected by access and availability constraints.

Surveys also suggest a decrease in the quantity and quality of nutritious foods consumed by women during the pandemic. For example, some women said that during the lockdown they halved the amount of dal, or red lentils, that they prepared, or that they prepared thinner dals.

“The decline in women’s diet diversity combined with a likely decrease in quantities consumed points to a greater risk for micronutrient malnutrition as compared to before the pandemic,” Gupta said. “Due to the spillover effects of maternal malnutrition, that risk poses a threat not only to women’s productivity and well-being, but also that of their children.”

Nutrition security declined across the board during the lockdown, but researchers found reason to believe that women’s nutrition was disproportionately impacted. The number of women consuming vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables dropped by 42%.

While the data analyzed in the study does not allow for direct comparisons between women and other members of their families, a previous TCI study showed that Indian women eat less diverse diets than their households.

Many factors have been associated with gender differences in food allocation across the world, including income, bargaining power, social status, interpersonal relationships, tastes and preferences. Uneven food allocation within households has also been associated with the role of women in different family systems, including women eating after all other members have eaten.

“How food is distributed between members of the household depends in part on social norms, but also on how much food the household has to begin with,” Gupta said. “That in turn depends on income, access to markets and prices. All of these were adversely impacted during the early stages of the lockdown.”

The unequal burden on women was also caused in part due to the closure of India’s aanganwadi centers during the lockdown, the researchers said. The centers, which provide take-home rations and hot cooked meals to nursing and expecting mothers, are an important source of nutrition for women and children. According to the study, 72% of eligible households lost access to those services during the pandemic.

Policymakers should recognize the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and other disruptive events on women’s nutrition by bolstering safety-net programs to ensure they meet the needs of women and other marginalized groups, the researchers said.

The researchers also recommended market-oriented reforms, such as the removal of rules that restrict the movement of products between markets and state boundaries, commercialization of small farms, and investments in infrastructure like refrigerated supply chains.

“While it is a long-standing issue, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the relative lack of affordable nutritious foods in India to the fore,” Pingali said. “Broad reforms are needed to diversify the country’s food system and ensure that women and other marginalized groups have access to nutritious diets during the pandemic and beyond.”

TCI is part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and hosted by the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Pingali is also a professor in the Dyson School, with joint appointments in the Division of Nutritional Sciences and the Department of Global Development in CALS. The Division of Nutritional Sciences is shared by CALS and the College of Human Ecology.

Whatsapp Has ‘Strong Argument’ In India Privacy Lawsuit

Facebook’s messaging app, WhatsApp, has filed a lawsuit against the Indian government in the Delhi High Court, alleging that the government is forcing the app to violate Indian privacy rights in identifying “first originator of information” at the demand of authorities. SitalKalantry is a professor at Cornell Law School, teaches comparative constitutional law with a focus on India, and is an expert in the Indian judicial system. Kalantry says WhatsApp comes to Delhi’s High Court with a strong argument. She adds that the Modi administration’s new rule imposed on WhatsApp is a tool to repress political dissent.

Kalantry says:“The Indian government’s new regulations require WhatsApp to break its encryption and identify certain users to the government. The Indian Supreme Court’s landmark privacy decision in the Puttaswamy case provides protections against this government intrusion. WhatsApp has a strong argument in its case in the Delhi High Court that the government’s new rules do not have a legitimate goal. The rules are one more way that the Modi administration will repress political dissent on social media, which it did during its annexation of Kashmir and the farmers’ protests.” WhatsApp is suing the Indian government over a ‘traceability’ clause in the new Intermediary Rules 2021, which were notified in February this year. In response, the government has called WhatsApp’s act as a one of defiance and wants them to comply.

Here are the top points explaining everything to know about this latest controversy.

1) WhatsApp’s case against IT rules

As reported by indianexpress.com, WhatsApp has said that the new social media rules are unconstitutional and filed the case on May 25, incidentally it was also the last day for companies to comply with the new rules. The Facebook-owned messaging app is invoking the 2017 Justice K S Puttaswamy vs Union Of India judgment in support of its arguments. WhatsApp wants the court to ensure the clause does not come into force, and prevent criminal liability to its employees for non compliance.

2) Traceability means End-to-End encryption won’t work

In a detailed blog post, WhatsApp has also explained that traceability will not work, arguing that breaking end-to-end encryption (E2E) would weaken user privacy on the app and stifle free speech and freedom of expression. E2E encryption is turned by default on WhatsApp for all messages.

Further, WhatsApp will have to re-engineer the app just for India, which won’t happen. If WhatsApp had to comply with the rules, it would have to create a version of the app that supports traceability and doesn’t have E2E encryption.WhatsApp said in its blog that while it supports “reasonable and proportionate regulations”, it cannot stand for “eroding privacy for everyone, violating human rights, and putting innocent people at risk.”

3) Traceability means a lot of data collection

WhatsApp in its blog post makes it clear that in order to trace the originator of any message, it will have to keep a log of all messages. Currently, WhatsApp cannot read a user’s message given the E2E encryption.It says tracing even one message means tracing every single message on the platform and they will have to add some sort of “permanent identity stamp” or effectively ‘fingerprint’ each message. It says that this will be the equivalent of a mass surveillance program.

4) Traceability is not foolproof

WhatsApp and internet experts have made it clear that traceability is not foolproof. Further, when users are forwarding, copying messages, finding the originator becomes difficult. WhatsApp says it might have to “turn over the names of people who shared something even if they did not create it, shared it out of concern, or sent it to check its accuracy,” which would lead to human rights violations as innocent people could end up getting caught in investigations or going to jail.

Further, even if messages are fingerprinted on WhatsApp, these techniques are not foolproof and can be easily impersonated. WhatsApp also says that “traceability” goes against the basic principles of how law enforcement and investigations work.

5) Government response to WhatsApp’s lawsuit

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY)has called WhatsApp’s refusal to comply with the new IT rules as a “clear act of defiance.” Further, it has said that the right to privacy will come with reasonable restrictions, adding that social media companies will only have to give the originator of a message in select cases and based on an order from a competent court.

The government also questioned WhatsApp’s own commitment to user privacy pointing out that the company plans to “share the data of all its users with its parent company, Facebook, for marketing and advertising purposes.”

6) IT rules on tracing originator

According to the government, tracing the first originator is only under select circumstances and they don’t want to track all messages.Under Rule 4(2) of the guidelines, a social media intermediary could be required to trace an originator of a message or tweet or post “only for the purposes of prevention, investigation, punishment etc. of inter alia an offence relating to sovereignty, integrity and security of India, public order incitement to an offence relating to rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for not less than five years.”

7) Three red ticks on WhatsApp calls, messages?

There is a fake WhatsApp message going viral claiming that three red ticks will appear on messages indicating that the government is reading and recording all calls, messages on the platform. This is patently false and has been debunked earlier as well. It is best to ignore this message and not forward to others. Read more about it here.

8) Google and others on the new social media rules

The new IT rules impact all social media intermediaries and companies, not just WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter. This includes Google as well, which is another major player in the market.In a statement, CEO Google SundarPichai said the company will comply with all laws. “It’s obviously early days and our local teams are very engaged… we always respect local laws in every country we operate in and we work constructively. We have clear transparency reports, when we comply with government requests, we highlight that in our transparency reports,” he said, reported PTI.

While WhatsApp is fighting a lawsuit against the new IT rules, its parent company Facebook. “Pursuant to the IT Rules, we are working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies. Facebook remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platform,” a spokesperson for the company said.Twitter has issued a statement on its platform around the IT rules as well. “We, alongside many in civil society in India and around the world, have concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global Terms of Service, as well as with core elements of the new IT Rules,” the statement said.

“We plan to advocate for changes to elements of these regulations that inhibit free, open public conversation. We will continue our constructive dialogue with the Indian Government and believe it is critical to adopt a collaborative approach. We believe that it is the collective responsibility of elected officials, industry, and civil society to safeguard the interests of the public,” the statement adds.

Under the new guidelines, significant social media intermediaries (those with more than 50 lakh users in India) have to appoint a resident grievance officer, a chief compliance officer and a nodal contact person. The guidelines state these employees need to be residents of India.