Climate Denial: the Facts (in German)
It’s time, I thought, to write the definitive text on Climate Scepticism. So I started my research by googling “climate scepticism,” and my first hit was the Wikipaedia article on “Climate Change Denial.” (There is no Wiki article on climate scepticism.)
And the only Wiki article we have about us is prefaced with this note:
This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in German.
I think Wiki means that the article may have been so expanded, and not that it can (is permitted to) be.
Whatever. This present post is about that one-sentence warning notice, and about the German article “Leugnung der menschengemachten globalen Erwärmung” we’re being warned about.
(Discussion of the English Wiki article, of the 3.4 million mentions of climate scepticism, 9.4 million mentions of climate skepticism, and 40.8 million mentions of climate denial recorded by Google will have to wait for a further article.)
The German article is very thorough, and is supported by 218 citations. Authors most frequently cited, with number of citations, were as follows:
Riley Dunlap 33
Aaron McCright 30
John Cook 21
Naomi Oreskes 16
Michael Brüggemann 12
Michael Mann 11
Spencer Weart 6
Stephan Lewandowsky 6
Karin Edvardsson Björnberg 5
Stefan Rahmstorf 4
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber 3
(I’ve left out Cook’s occasional sidekick Hayden Washington, and Oreskes’ collaborator Conway, since they never have anything to say for themselves.) That’s 5 Americans, two Australians, one Swede and just three Germans in the top 11.
Chart topper Riley Dunlap is Professor of Sociology at Oklahoma State University, where Stephan Lewandowsky was once an Assistant Professor. Aaron McCright is his faithful Tonto, Professor of Sociology at Michigan State University. Cook, Oreskes, Mann and Weart need no introdfuctriloon from us. [What’s then matter with my keyboard tonight? Or could it be that home delivery of 20 litres of organic wine?]
Germany’s top cited expert is Prof. Dr. Michael Brüggemann,who is professor of Communication Studies, Climate and Science Communication at the University of Hamburg. He is cited eleven times for “Die Medien und die Klimalüge. Falsche Skepsis und echte Leugnung” (The media and the climate lie. False skepticism and real denial) which is a chapter in a book, but whose content is reproduced in this lecture (in German) and once for “Beyond false balance: How interpretive journalism shapes media coverage of climate change.”which you can buy for 55 dollars or rent for 24 hours for 9 dollars 50 cents. (Does anyone else find the idea of renting science a bit odd?)
And Germany’s two top climate scientists get beaten into tenth and eleventh positions by a Swede, Ms Björnberg, who received her philosophy degree 12 years ago, and who is “presently involved in a number of research projects focusing on ethical and regulatory aspects of genetically modified crop introductions, ethical aspects of biodiversity offsetting, and delay mechanisms in environmental policy and regulation, whileco-editing a comprehensive anthology covering the major topics in traffic safety research and related policy areas, and vice-directing Third-Cycle Studies at the School of Architecture and the Built Environment.”
What she don’t know about climate science denial ain’t worth publishing in the Journal of Cleaner Production, which is where you’ll find her article: “Climate and environmental science denial: A review of the scientific literature published in 1990–2015.” in which she cites Dunlap 38 times, McCright 28 times, Oreskes 7 times, Lewandowsky 8 times, and even a certain Paul Matthews 3 times, whose article “Why Are People Skeptical about Climate Change? Some Insights from Blog Comments” I can’t quote, since it will cost you 39 dollars just to ogle for 24 hours.
So why does Wiki think that the English-language version of the article is being cribbed from the German, and not the other way round? After all, if the German article cites mainly English-language sources, wouldn’t that be the default deduction?
That the Germans are not simply copying from English-speaking experts can be demonstrated by numerous examples. For instance, the German site states (para 3):
“Aus einer Vielzahl von wissenschaftlichen Untersuchungen geht hervor, dass der Klimaschutz häufig aus politischen und ideologischen Motiven bekämpft wird.” (“A large number of scientific studies have shown that climate mitigation policies are often opposed for political and ideological reasons.”)
citing “Future Global Change and Cognition” by Stephan Lewandowsky, in which it is stated that:
“There is a wide range of evidence that much of the opposition to climate mitigation is politically organised or ideologically motivated, or both.”
citing Dunlap & McCright, 2010,2011; Dunlap, 2013; Dunlap & Jacques, 2013; McCright & Dunlap, 2000, 2003, 2010, 2011; Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Signac, 2013; Lewandowsky, Signac, & Oberauer, 2013,and Orestes & Conway, 2010.
Nothing the least like this occurs on the English-language site. Whoever on the German site is citing an article by Lewandowsky citing Dunlap & McCright, Dunlap, Dunlap & Jacques, McCright & Dunlap, Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, Lewandowsky, Gignac, & Oberauer, and Orestes & Conway, isn’t active on the English-language site, where the Lewandowsky article in question isn’t even cited.
Which just goes to show that the anonymous author of the German language site who has a penchant for citations from two rather obscure American sociology professors isn’t copying the English language site.
True, the English-language Wiki article mentions Dunlap 21 times, McCright 9 times, Oreskes 8 times, Mann 8 times, and even Lewandowsky 6 times. But that particular citation isn’t there. No. Whoever is stuffing the German Wiki site full of references to Dunlap, Cook, Oreskes, Mann and Lewandowsky obviously has a soft spot for these individuals, and speaks perfect German. And whoever is translating information from that site back on to the English-language site obviously speaks perfect English. Who on earth could that be?
You can leave comments on the English site here and on the German Wiki site here. Oh, sorry, no you can’t. The site’s closed for some reason. But you can see what’s been happening to the site here and how it’s been altered 37 times this year alone.
I’m trying to think of another circumstance in which an article about a certain belief would have 218 citations (in the German version) or 282 (in the English version) about that belief, without once citing the work of a single person who held the belief in question. The English site has photos of Bolsonaro and John Bolton, and the German site has photos of Inhofe, Singer and Monckton and a portrait of Galileo, and mentions Lindzen, Christy etc. But they don’t link to any of their numerous publications. I mean, can you imagine an article about Judaism that didn’t once cite a single Jew?
Ridiculous. It could never happen.
Can’t argue against German Grundlichkeit.,,
33 citations of Riley Dunlap.,
30 citations of Aaron McCright,
21 from John Cook,
16 – Naomi Oreskes,
‘n others of Michael Mann,
Isn’t this just citation kiting to add to people’s CV padding?
It is that, but it’s not just that. It’s also exactly what was done in Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. These people are not stupid. They’ve read 1984, they know what they’re doing, and they know that we know. And they don’t care. Think about that.
It’s fascism without all the blood and bother. Thank goodness.
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So, we are looking for a climate alarmism collaborator fluent in both English and German.
@Geoff I also am working on the definitive text on climate scepticism, tho’ it may end up only being my personal definitive climate scepticism text rather than anyone else’s.
As part of this seemingly endless project, just last week I was scanning the Wiki page you refer to for juicy quotes, and found:
Aha! I thought. I wonder if these creatures are as relaxed about the term “alarmist” as they are “denier”?
–Wiki page on media coverage of global warming
I heartily recommend the page on climate change denial for anyone who is not yet a sceptic.
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The German site has a long section on denier blogs which isn’t on the English-language site, mentioning Curry, Watts, Morano and McIntyre. The section sums up thus:
The only source for this section is: Riley Dunlap, Aaron M. McCright: Challenging Climate Change. The Denial Countermovement.
Though the major sources cited are Dunlap & co, there are a number of rather obscure British sources, including a PhD thesis by a Miss McKie, who, if I remember correctly, was a peer reviewer of one of the versions of Lewandowsky & Cook’s “Recursive Fury” paper.
All part of the the intricate circular belief system, in which everybody therein contributes to making everyone else therein blind to the outside. (Not mine this one, I had it from Brendan O’Neill in Spiked).
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Wikipedia is done article by article with individuals by individuals who are passionate about the page they curate. If you don’t like a Wiki article you can write your own. You must be meticulous about following their rules about citation and formatting to the nth degree so they have no excuse to revert an article. You can also add a section and mark it “controversy” or “other opinions” and again, as long as it is done precisely to their rules with tons of citations they can’t revert it. Well they can revert it but if you just go right back and derevert it and state why with citations and such, eventually a more senior editor steps in and eventually it is fixed. The problem is a lot of people just complain about a page and never actually go and learn how to follow the Wiki rules and fix it. Wiki is run of by and for people and any one article is only as good as the people writing it.
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I can’t remember the last time WordPress allowed me to use the ‘like’ button. It is very frustrating when one cannot register one’s appreciation of a comment with a quick and easy button press. Your comment at 10:33am is just one of many that wish I could have ‘liked’. The following is my favourite page of examples of the non-pejorative use of ‘climate change denier’:
TWT: The problem with that is it’s a hard and continuous effort, as many cultural consensus enforcers iteratively grind down all articles with any contrary voice. As indeed occurred with any and all cc articles originally, and even in an organised / directed way, per Stoat. At least way back when, consensus was loosely aligned to mainstream science. Now, the cultural consensus is fixed on the certainty of imminent catastrophe, and protests against the IPCC for being too conservative / ‘hiding the truth’. If it were a few people in a large and diverse wiki crowd, then it could work as you suggest. But essentially, biased editing became a majority and entrenched feature with senior people either complying or too pressured / exasperating to fight back.
Jit: You may or may not find these contributions useful:
On ‘Denialism’ including flawed academic definition:
On the term ‘CAGW’, including some history somewhere in the footnotes:
Many words can be used as a pejorative, even ones which have no negative connotations, ie the short form of Japanese. However, “denier” and “alarmist” are both inherently negative words implying ignorance/bad faith on the part of the accused. They are obviously both used as pejoratives and to claim otherwise is typical of the hypocrisy you see from the “rules for thee but not for me” crowd..
Can we commission someone like Reiner Grundmann to submit a précis of one of his papers on the topic? Slightly odd that the wiki page did not allude to him. Has Connolley got at it? To declare my interest, I have edited and rewritten a few wiki articles, mostly on Spanish poets of the 1927 generation
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John: Have you tried using a different device? A bit annoying if you find the only thing that works is your wife’s phone or something, but you could maybe schedule a 20min borrowing period for likes every two days or whatever 🙂
To “like” a comment I have to click on the comment box, then click on WordPress so it says “you are commenting using your WordPress account” then leave cliscep and go on a different site, then come back. If you like this I’ll know it works for you.
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It’s the ‘leave cliscep and go on a different site, then come back’ bit that I hadn’t twigged on to. That’s some crazy mixed up shit there. How did you discover it?
How does Geoff Chambers discover crazy mixed up shit? If we all knew that, the world would the poorer.
@ John & Andy, thanks for the tips, I’ll have a read tomorrow.
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Although implicature is one of my favourite words in English, please, I beg you, do not detect one in this innocent question: is Stephan Lewandowsky a fluent speaker of German?
According to his Wikibio, Lew sprang fully-armed from the womb at the age of 22 with a degree from the University of Toronto. Barry Woods dug up a piece from his college days saying that he came from Bavaria.
I seem to remember reading (but memory plays tricks, according to Lew, and he’s quite right) that he was born in Silesia, most of which is in Poland I believe. There’s nothing on Wiki about the book he co-edited on the US use of torture following 9/11 when he was at Oklahoma University, either. Did I imagine it? Seriously, false memory is a real problem.
And the Lew Wiki bio exists in only one other language beside English, and that’s South Azerbaijani. (What they’ve got against him in North Azerbaijan I don’t know.)
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I’m nearly positive, from my one semester of beginner Russian >35 years ago, That Lewandowsky is German for Lysenko.
Geoff, if the English version:
– uses ‘conspiratorial’ and ‘conspiracist’ interchangeably
– overuses the verb ‘pursue’ as a synonym for everything from ‘criticise’ to ‘request information from’ to ‘do’
then you don’t have to be Mosher to call it. I’ll check myself after I’ve read everything interesting in the NSW State Library.
As for the remarkably perverse anthropology implicit in studying people without studying them—the anthropology of avoidance—I’ve always considered that good evidence, in and of itself, to persuade inhabitants of another planet that Earth is not experiencing dangerous warming.
(Alternative proofs exist, of course, such as the alarmists’ resort to argumentum ad consensum. You don’t have to live on Earth to know which side of the debate is right, once you know that.)
The question is why so many occupants of the Earth’s surface fail to draw the conclusion that would be obvious to a Venusian or Balrog.
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the Fury peer-approver was Emily McKeown, nicht wahr?
Lewandowsky’s mother tongue was German (or at least one of them was) and he took German in college anyway. Nor did he see fit to recuse himself from consideration for an award for mastery of that language despite the ancient custom that native speakers NOT compete against hard-working Americans in the acquisition of foreign tongues. Unless I’ve got false memory syndrome on this.
also, when you consider Lewandowsky’s contempt for language, the very fact (if it is a fact, which I think it is) that he took German in college can only be explained as a scam to get easy marks. I’m not buying that he cared about the subject one bit.
interesting comment, thank you. I use both “alarmist” and “denier” non-pejoratively, despite knowing that they are both weakly pejorative in connotation.
By “weakly,” I mean such terms are not so pejorative that they couldn’t easily be rescued from their pejorative status by a concerted re-appropriation and acceptance of them by those who are alarmed about the climate and those who deny there’s anything to be alarmed about, respectively.
You’re quite right, however, that we would not be on very solid ground if we objected to one, but not the other.
To complicate matters, “denier” is semantically incomplete. You need to specify “of what.”
“Climate denier” and “climate change denier” would be libelous labels for Our Side even without the dysphemistic connotation of “denier,” since they falsely attribute a ridiculous, strawman position.
The problem is that alarmists cannot, as a rule, say what we deny, since that would mean acknowledging what they believe: “CAGW,” an entirely accurate yet taboo name for Their Side’s belief system.
So when they say “denier,” they are invariably accusing us of denying something we don’t in fact deny.
My favourite paper on “climate denial” (as I’ve mentioned before) is “Leading voices in the denier choir” by Elsasser and Dunlap. It has a section about how climate deniers live in an echo chamber which is hilarious for its lack of awareness:
Who’s in an echo chamber?
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You’re quite right about McKie. To my shame, I realised I was wrong right after, and didn’t correct, thinking no-one would notice. To give Ms McKie her rightful place in history, she’s a Gramscian, and believes that we deniers are hegemonists. Which is better than being an extraterrestrial lizard I suppose, but only just. There’s also James Painter (ex-Reuters at Oxford,) Nick Watts from the Lancet, and Catriona McKinnon of Exeter University, hardly household names in Germany, or in the USA, one would think. Don’t they have journalists, medical journals and professors of law who want to jail you for your opinions in Germany? Perhaps not the latter…
On “pursue,” would that be “nachstellen?” “Pursue” is only used once in the English version, but someone who normally writes in English wouldn’t let his mother tongue override the normal jargon of his profession, would he?
I use a French-German dictionary to disguise my reliance on Google translate. You don’t need any German at all to realise that the entire article is dependent on the U.S. experience, that “liberal” is used in the American sense, and that the British sources are obscure and would only be known to someone who frequents the Conversation climate policy pages.
Whereas “alarmist” is litotic (from Chicago Tribunish, or “English-lite.”)
Ask a denier if he’s in denial and he’ll answer straight up: “No.”
Ask an alarmist: “Are you alarmed?” and she’ll reply: “Alarmed? I’m so petrified I’ve placed my child in a tiny barque made of folded up copies of the New Yorker and set it adrift to sink or be rescued by handmaidens of some wealthy hedge fund manager who will bring it up in his underground bunker to grow strong of limb and lean of footprint and one day rescue the world from this madness. And sold my womb for dog food.”
As I mention in the article, I came across three mentions of your peer-reviewed article, and almost no references to blogs in the articles cited. The article you cite above likewise mentions:
without mentioning blogs, despite the fact that the think tanks, conservative politicians etc., depend almost entirely on the bloggers for their information.
James Painter, professor of journalism, whom I mention above is now chief adviser to the Stockholm-based Centre for Studies of Climate Change Denialism (CEFORCED) set up to:
This academic powerhouse for the examination of denialism also seems to ignore the existence of blogs. It’s like Columbus heading west to find the Indies, as if he secretly knew that the world was flat and he was going the wrong way.
There’s surely room for a peer-reviewed article here on the key role of blogs in promoting denialism. There’s just enough mentions of blogs in the peer-reviewed literature to sneak in the peer-reviewed observation, based on the peer-reviewed literature, that there’s very little mention of blogs in the peer-reviewed literature, and that there’s surely a need for an examination of blogs in the peer-reviewed literature.
@ John your Pop Tech link led me into a maze of half-forgotten things like Chris Huhne, the Anti-Defamation League and the 10:10 No Pressure film. It was indeed a goldmine of quotes.
@ Andy I have read your essays, ta. I had read “Snarl” at the time, but had not delved into the notes. There was much food for thought in the “Denialist” essay, which I have not yet got to the bottom of. My definition of alarmist/denier has been catastrophe/no catastrophe. This puts the denier firmly on the side of science, and (as you note in the essay) our politicians and other persons of importance in fantasy land.
The alarm ratchet has to work harder as time goes by as the whale refuses to jump out of the sea and onto the clifftop, to mangle a series of metaphors. (In fact the whale is, so far, moving in the wrong direction.) So it’s not surprising that we end up with a bimodal distribution of opinions. But is there any room in the middle at all for a being the alarmist might call a “sceptic”?
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Jit: Glad to be of assistance. The bimodal thing is unfortunately self-reinforcing, which sucks the middle ground away, especially in the US where Rep/Con versus Dem/Lib tribalism are in the general public at least, bigging up each side. Indeed as you note, alarm is more alarming. I think we’re pretty much at the point where those who believe in certain imminent catastrophe consider orthodox IPCC supporters to be skeptics (of catastrophe), and some are essentially calling these out as these deniers now (saying that the IPCC and world governments are ‘hiding the truth’) 0: I think at last, incredibly late, this has caused some in climate science to wonder what is the monster they’ve created, and even with a bit more sign of push-back. But way, way too late really, and is way too much at stake for most of them to really go for any more than token push-back. Yet I think it’s also the case that what happens in the public domain, and what happens in science / knowledgeable blogs, are out of sync, so maybe single definitions can’t cover all cases anyhow.
Brad (6:02am and 6:08am): Thank you for those reminders of what and how I felt I knew. I’d read you saying exactly this before. The “scam to get easy marks” is instructive at every level.
Oh what a wonderful place this. Laid low by a current virus-du-Jour (not we think so far Covid 19 but who knows, no-ones being tested). I returned to blogging just an hour ago to discover this cornucopia of delights. A slagging off of Wikipedia’s superiority in presuming to give managed judgements on any aspects of climate change (in any language), an informed discussion, a joyful bickering between old hands, useful advice, pleasant conversation. It only took an absence of a few days for it to be as clear as crystal.
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This does remind me of this tweet about sceptics (of CAGW and some unspecified parts of western Covid-19 responses) on Saturday:
I was surprised that my two-tweet response to that led to a number of others, mostly because Philip Ball did engage, albeit with a sneer or three. The most tweeting I’ve done for a few months, though much less than Brad’s efforts in that epic encounter as a result of his WUWT piece.
I used the ‘self-questioning’ meme a lot eg
Hilarious would be taking it too far but the same gentle irony at least.
@ Andy perhaps I should have made an analogy, not with a reluctant whale and an alarmist ratchet, but with hellfire and damnation. With the hellfire and damnation meme, the punishment for crime is as far away as it is possible to get (excepting never), so that even if you believe entirely that punishment will actually occur, the punishment inevitably evolves to infinity. A slapped wrist when you steal the cookie, or hellfire and damnation upon your demise (obviously this relies on human nature, not a rational actor, but going with it for now). (The meme is “trying” to modify behaviour.)
So, if humanity is also recalcitrant re: changing its ways on CO2 emissions, the threats of not complying inevitably ratchet up via selection in the meme pool (since the weaker ones are just batted away).
But, the climate threat has two axes to slide up and down on, where hellfire has only one. The climate threat has a severity axis, just like the afterlife punishment, but it also has a proximity axis. Thus I would expect the threatened effects of climate change to a) happen sooner, indeed “now” is about as soon as it is possible to get, and b) be of ever larger magnitude. Anecdotally, this may be the case, but I guess it would be hard to prove (hard work I mean, certainly possible).
All this reminds me of:
“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid.”
@ Alan keep taking the vitamin C and Zn (I swear by it, tho’ have no compelling evidence that it does anything). Hope you shake it off soon.
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Jit: ‘Thus I would expect the threatened effects of climate change to a) happen sooner, indeed “now” is about as soon as it is possible to get, and b) be of ever larger magnitude. Anecdotally, this may be the case, but I guess it would be hard to prove (hard work I mean, certainly possible).’
Absolutely. Hence the cottage industry in attribution studies, in which via modelled scenarios of real events, we are told more and more often, that to higher certainties, and for greater proportions of an increasingly wide selection of what used to be called ‘natural disasters’, made-climate change ‘has to be’ responsible for said proportions of disaster.
I used to catch colds very easily, especially when flying / passing through airports a lot, which I did for decades on business travel (and much holiday travel across the world too). Given I had no time limit and very many opportunities for relatively controlled experiment, I worked through a range of things to cut down my vulnerability. I ended up with Vit C and Zinc as the absolute best combo, with each on their own having some effect, and everything else having no noticeable effect. Taken them regularly ever since, and also noticed that if I do still catch something, it is not as bad (missing out the whole ‘streaming nose’ phase, which before I got every time). I’ve more recently added D, but only because everyone says folks in the West are chronically short on it, and indeed my partner was diagnosed with Vit D deficiency a few years back.
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Paul Mathews 21 Apr 20 at 8:11 am
“…the strategy of ques-tioning the scientific evidence for global warming” The ultimate sin, questioning scientific evidence…
I had a look at the Centre for Studies of Climate Change Denialism at Chalmers University, mentioned by Geoff.
The opening page has a piece by Associate Professor Martin Hultman, who has a PhD in Social and Technological Change https://www.chalmers.se//CV/marhultm.pdf
He is excellent at pulling in the money, these are some of his well funded research projects:
Chalmers, Styrkeområde Energi, “Gender, technology and energy”, 1,2 miljoner (2019) I think that’s 1.2M SwKr, nearly £100,000
Formas, 3 year, “Practising green futures? Ecopreneurship and Social entrepreneurship in a Circular Economy” (2018-2021),
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond Environmental Posthumanities Network.. This is a supposedly independent but government funded organisation: https://www.rj.se/en/research-funding/ (2016-2017)
Formas, conference funding, Scrutinizing Climate Denial conference, Norrköping (2016)
Formas is more government funding: https://formas.se/en/start-page.html
A Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development
“The need for a global sustainable transformation is more urgent than ever. In September 2015 the UN adopted Agenda 2030, which consists of 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets for achieving an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable world by 2030. Knowledge creation, innovation and transformation are its central tenets, and we have no time to lose if we are to stand a chance of reaching these goals.”
They have produced a report on Sustainability for the Swedish Government, it’s in Swedish but that doesn’t matter, you really wouldn’t want to go past the graphic on the cover! Do have a look and be amazed…pull the symbolism out of that.
Click to access R14-2019-formas-underlag-kunskap-for-hallbar-omstallning.pdf
Sorry your comment got caught in moderation due to too many links. It was well worth rescuing. As for the symbolism of the report cover:
It clearly shows a young girl crossing the ocean using renewable energy. To the right is a lady who seems to be an opera singer, while to the left is a chap who might be an actor holding a girl who seems to be a younger version of the first girl.
Is it a scene from one of the Moomin books?
Arriving on a Shell, the lass in the middle is an avatar of fossil fuels. She is sneezing a dose of Covid-19, because our addiction to fossil fuels brings disease with it. On the right, the opera singer represents Sweden, and she is trying to catch the sneeze with her silk scarf.
To the left, Zephyr the wind watches on uselessly, with the rubber-clad woman, representing the unfair demands of modern society, weighing him down.