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Institute of Race Relations (IRR) CEO-elect John Endres claims the institute “advocates for ... evidence-based reforms... backed up by its extensive research” (“Look more closely at Institute of Race Relations,” July 18). Let’s take a closer look by examining the IRR’s focus on climate change and racism and see how they fare in terms of evidence, research and truth.
As per the standard denialist approach, the IRR doesn’t deny that humans are responsible for some of the warming we observe, but this view contradicts the scientific consensus contained in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC’s) fifth assessment report which, based on climate modelling attributes 100% of warming since 1951 to human emissions.
The institute casts doubt on the predictions of rigorous climate studies by cherry-picking outlandish predictions reported in the media, rather than quoting the consensus model-based predictions of the IPCC assessments, which so far have been largely accurate, as demonstrated by comparing the model predictions with the temperature record. The IRR’s own policy paper casts doubt on the human role in causing climate change using the standard deniers’ trope: “The climate is always changing and has been ... since the Earth was born ….”
This is an example of a wider pattern. The IRR draws its distortions and half-truths from a right-wing ecosystem of conservative institutions, websites and media outlets that all construct and recycle the same bogus arguments. No matter how many scientific institutions debunk the “climate is always changing” argument, it gets recycled in different forms, such as “... the weak scientific case that links global warming and other planetary maladies to increases in carbon dioxide levels” — a statement that is objectively untrue.
Organisations such as the Hoover and Fraser institutes and Fox News all have one ideological position: they advocate, as per the demands of their billionaire backers, for reduced government economic regulation and reduced taxation so the rich can profit at the expense of worker and environmental protections. Anything that requires regulation is questioned and undermined, regardless of the truth. Likewise, the IRR is truthful when it suits it and undermines the truth when it does not, using scaremongering tactics.
The IRR’s “research” on racism conveniently reduces it to a question about personal incidents of explicit discrimination and asks loaded questions to get results that suit its agenda, such as “Do you prefer a political party which promises faster economic growth and more jobs, or one which promises land expropriation without compensation as redress for past wrongs? (Choose one)”. The IRR’s campaign, “Racism is NOT the problem”, is tone deaf to the pain and experiences of black South Africans who suffer the effects of historical and continuing structural racism.
These are just some of the many ways the IRR is at odds with the vision and intentions of its founders, who strove to gather evidence impartially without serving an ideological agenda. Indeed, Mr Endres, we are taking a closer look.
Prof David Brookes, Prof Heather Brookes, Kathy Brookes, Via e-mail
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.