Why climate skeptics will lose. How they can win.

Summary: With declarations of a Climate Emergency and advocacy for the Extinction Rebellion, the climate wars have begun a new phase. Here is why the skeptics probably will lose, and how they can win.

Climate change choices - Dreamstime_50990297
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They have spent a lot for little gain

Climate activists dominate many of the power centers in America and the West. Almost every professional association of scientists. Most western governments, as seen in their dedicated websites: CanadaAustralia, the European Union, and the United States (the EPANASADoE, and many more Federal, State, and local units). The major international agencies, such as the UN (and its many agencies) and the World Bank. The major news media, such as the New York Times and The Guardian – and alternative media (e.g., Take Part). A large fraction of the West’s non-governmental organizations (e.g., the WWFthe EDF, and Greenpeace) and science-related institutions (e.g., science museums, such as the American Museum of National History). Many of the world’s churches, such as Roman Catholic Church).

They are opposed by a few climate scientists, a rag-tag collection of mostly self-funded amateurs, and some light-funded organizations.

Gallup’s data as of March 2019 shows the result in America from 30 years of bombardment by lavishly-funded propaganda of climate activists. The result: a modest increase in concern since 2001 (see detail about 1998 – 2016 here and here – and from 1990 here). But their results stalled in 2017. These are small results from a vast expenditure of money and work.

Global Warming - Belief and Concern

But the believers are hard-core indoctrinated. Gallup asked Americans about the 2018-19 winter. Parts of America had a warmer-than-average winter; some had a colder-than-average winter. They asked what caused it.

  • 19% said that their winter was colder than usual, due to climate change.
  • 14% said that their winter was warmer than usual, due to climate change.

The cage match continues. Who will win?

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”
— Yogi Berra about baseball’s 1973 National League pennant race.

The skeptics’ websites look (and are) amateurish, supported by advertising and donations — unlike those of activists (glossy, well-staffed, often professionally written). They’re astonishingly effective (especially Anthony Watts’ website) given their tiny funding, but they reach only the tiny sliver of the public listening to the skeptics. Also, they lack leadership and organization – unlike alarmists, who move together like a school of fish. That so many believe they are winning reminds me of the French at Dien Bien Pfu in 1954– confident of victory while the Viet Mien slowly massed artillery in the surrounding hills. It did not end well for them.

So why have the alarmists failed to panic Americans into supporting their policies, such as the Green New Deal?

First, our confidence in America’s institutions has been falling for 40 years. Our institutions are falling like dominoes, becoming dysfunctional. Our government officials lie casually and frequently, even about matters of great importance. In this instance, we appear to have finally learned to be skeptical.

Second, the public policy campaign has been conducted incompetently, marked by exaggerations and misrepresentations beyond that supported by science (e.g., using RCP 8.5 to predict nightmares). — allied with doomsters who have a near-perfect record of being wrong. Worst of all, the natural and inevitable questioning of the warnings were met with contempt and ridicule – instead of working to answer them.

The third and perhaps most important factor: the weather has supported the skeptics during the past two decades. Many kinds of extreme weather have remained stable, diminished in frequency or intensity – or both. Predictions of drastic increases have proven wrong. Such as more and stronger hurricanes after Katrina in 2005, and the “end of snow” in England predicted in 2000.

What might change public opinion?

Skeptics fail to understand the first rule of insurgency: defenders of the status quo need to win every day while insurgents only need win once. Public policy measures are difficult to enact but are also difficult to reverse. What might defeat the skeptics?

First, we might get one or more major extreme weather events (not just a fraction of a degree rise over several years in the global average temperature). For example, a massive hurricane might hit a city on the US East Coast or  East Asia – of course attributed to CO2 (whether scientists’ analysis eventually concurs is politically irrelevant). This or other extreme weather could stampede public opinion into supporting the Green New Deal, no matter how weak its foundation in science. I believe (guess) that this is the most likely outcome.

Or, a realignment election in the US could put the Democrats in power. This could happen in 2020 or 2024. The next recession, if occuring at a politically sensitive time (in the year before the election), could do it. Although Democrats seldom talk about climate change during campaigns, expect radical action from them once in power.

What skeptics could do while they still can

Skeptics should use their political strength while they still have it. The 2020 campaign provides an opportunity that might not come again. Their political supporters have only weak answers when asked about climate change. They give half-understood technobabble (any technical reply is babble to the general public), mumble about a conspiracy of scientists, and wave the uncertainty flag. Senator Inhofe tossed a snowball on the Senate floor to show that the Earth is not warming. These are pitifully weak rebuttals to the well-polished arguments of those advocating for strong action to fight climate change.

There are clear, powerful answers that skeptics could give their political allies. For example, they could advocate for a fair test of the climate models that provide the predictions of climate catastrophes. This would force their opponents to explain to the public why the models should not be tested. Here is a description of such a testthis explains why it is needed under the norms of science and by the words of major scientists.

Denial is not enough, Skeptics must offer a way to end the debate. Or they can continue on their present course, and probably lose, eventually.

Conclusions

This is my 400th post about climate, ending this long series (as usual) with a prediction and recommendation. This post goes on my Forecasts page, and will eventually move to the list of hits or list of misses. My success rate is quite high, as such things go, and I am confident this will add to that list.

For More Information

Ideas! See my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see the keys to understanding climate change, and especially these …

  1. Let’s prepare for past climate instead of bickering about predictions of climate change – Doing something is better than nothing.
  2. The IPCC gives us good news about climate change, but we don’t listen.
  3. Focusing on worst-case climate futures doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work.
  4. A look at the workings of Climate Propaganda Inc.
  5. Scary but fake news about the National Climate Assessment.
  6. The Extinction Rebellion’s hysteria vs. climate science.
  7. Activists hope that fake news about droughts will win.
  8. Listening to climate doomsters makes our situation worse.
  9. See how climate science becomes alarmist propaganda.
  10. How journalists helped wreck the climate debate – by climate scientist Roy Spencer.
  11. Did the IPCC predict a climate apocalypse? No.
  12. Is climate change an existential threat to humanity?

Activists don’t want you to read these books

Some unexpected good news about polar bears: The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened by Susan Crockford (2019).

To learn more about the state of climate change see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr., professor for the Center for Science and Policy Research at U of CO – Boulder (2018).

The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.

 

39 thoughts on “Why climate skeptics will lose. How they can win.”

  1. If the West and developed Asia uses more CO2/per capita than the less developed world and CO2/capita is the lefts great concern. Surely the best thing we can do to stop global warming is to immediately stop or greatly reduce immigration into the richer countries, to save the world from extinction in 12 years or whatever the new figure is, by stopping all that extra CO2 that would otherwise happen.

    Does this mean Trumps wall could actual helping reduce climate change?

  2. Skeptics fail to understand the first rule of insurgency: defenders of the status quo need to win every day while insurgents only need win once.

    That is terribly, terribly wrong and summarizes why conservatives never conserve anything. Because they should not just defend. They should attack. If you just sit around for the insurgents to attack, they get lucky one day, indeed. But you take the war to them, you hunt them down, then it is entirely different.

    Go on the attack: discredit the alarmists. Make it dangerous to one’s career and reputation be known as an alarmist.

    This is precisely what conservatives have always been doing wrong. They sit around and then, say, some socialists attack capitalism. In which case they defend capitalism or point out that socialism does not work. The big mistake is that they tacitly concede that if socialism worked, it would be morally better. They should be FAR more aggressive and e.g. talk about socialism as nothing but a pure power grab based on weaponizing envy that, when it succeeds, ends up creating its own unequal hierarchy.

    One absolutely has to be on the attack and take the fight to the enemy. Do not just deal with leftist attacks on their own terms, from a defensive viewpoint: go on the attack, shame, humiliate, discredit and silence them. Exactly what they are doing.

  3. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) was moved to Spain after riots in Chile cancelled their planed meeting in Santiago. 400 Chinese-made electric buses and a 4 cent transit fare increase for lower CO2 didn’t sit well with the already struggling peons. The Greta show goes on from there.

    The U.S. formally pulled out of the Paris accords 2 days ago.

    Both good things for Skeptics.

      1. Larry,

        Several news reports say the latest protests in Chile were triggered by a relatively minor increase in subway fares. Perhaps not unlike the yellow vest protests in France.

        Germany’s failing Energiewende program is another example. It’s all good for the Greens until it’s time for the skeptics to foot the bill.

        68% of Americans Wouldn’t Pay $10 a Month in Higher Electric Bills to Combat Climate Change; https://www.cato.org/blog/68-americans-wouldnt-pay-10-month-higher-electric-bills-combat-climate-change

      2. Larry,

        “The Paris Treat is a sideshow, as many climate activists (eg, Michael Mann) said at the time.”
        Mann’s opinion and activists like him mean little to this administration.
        Pompeo’s tweet;

        Secretary Pompeo
        @SecPompeo

        Today we begin the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. The U.S. is proud of our record as a world leader in reducing all emissions, fostering resilience, growing our economy, and ensuring energy for our citizens. Ours is a realistic and pragmatic model.

      3. Ron,

        Blah blah blah. Listening to those kind of empty speeches by politicans is a waste of your time. Telling us about them is a waste of our time.

        “Mann’s opinion and activists like him mean little to this administration.”

        I suggest you re-read what I said. You’ve missed the point.

      4. Larry,

        “Blah blah blah. Listening to those kind of empty speeches by politicans is a waste of your time. Telling us about them is a waste of our time.”

        An energy policy position statement from Secretary of State Pompeo is hardly a waste of time. To me, it’s important and good news.

      5. Ron,

        It’s meaningless news. First, because it was announced years ago. Second, because – as so many on all sides of the debate have said – the Paris Agreement is meaningless. I’m unsure why this isn’t clear to you.

      6. Larry,

        I understand it was meaningless the day Obama walked out the door and we’re only committed ’till 2020.
        I don’t know who’s left in the Paris accords but we won’t be part of it. The decision was formalized, if I’m not mistaken.

  4. Today’s nipick. school of WISH? 1st paragraph of section: The cage match continues. Who will win?

  5. I think Roger Pielke Jr’s iron law of climate will ultimately decide whether the draconian measures needed to save us from climate catastrophe stay in place after they are enacted. The iron law simply states that while people are often willing to pay some price for achieving environmental objectives, that willingness has its limits. There is no way the costs much less the changes to behavior needed to eliminate fossil fuels will be acceptable.

    1. Roger,

      (1) Such “laws” are fun, but have the lifespan of mayflies. Hari Seldon’s psychohistory lies in the future.

      (2) “There is no way the costs much less the changes to behavior needed to eliminate fossil fuels will be acceptable.”

      Such statements are meaningless unless you specify a time horizon. Over ten months or ten centuries? Also, movements often set maximal goals for shock value – but implement more moderate goals when in power. Who wins is a matter of power, not policy.

      1. Larry,

        (1) I think that we are already seeing responses consistent with the Iron Law in France and Chile, but based on your responses to Ron I guess you do not. A recent poll (http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/Is-the-Public-Willing-to-Pay-to-Help-Fix-Climate-Change-.aspx) asked the public how much they were willing to pay to combat climate change. The poll found that “To combat climate change, 57 percent of Americans are willing to pay a $1 monthly fee and 23 percent are willing to pay a monthly fee of $40.” Based on that I think there is low tolerance when it comes to costs.
        (2) I am from New York and have to live with the recently passed Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. It does not include moderate goals. The movement got their way. It includes a 2030 requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 60 percent of 1990 emissions levels. New York is about halfway to that target at this time. I think the costs will force a repeal within five years when the public figures out the math. It might be sooner when the State finally gets around to doing a feasibility study to explain how the State is supposed to meet the aspirational targets.

        For example, if we assume that all sectors have to make a 30% reduction then transportation emissions could meet that goal if 30% of the vehicles were electric by 2030. That equates to 2.8 million electric vehicles in a state that only has 58,000 electric vehicles now. Getting the public to buy that many means that the infrastructure to support them has to be installed and all that has to add up to a lot of money. Of course, car owners could take public transit but that behavior change would be inconvenient.

        In my opinion, when the costs increase much then some questions will be asked. Near the top of the list will be “What do you mean there hasn’t been an open, transparent and fair test of the climate models that you are using to claim we need to spend this money?”. Throw in “What do you mean the changes to global warming when you use your models are so small that they cannot be measured unless the whole world signs on?” and I think that laws like New York’s will be repealed sooner rather than later.

      2. Roger,

        (1) You are describing the situation before the public panics. As I explained at great length in this post, this can change rapidly.

        (2) It costs nothing for politicians to set bold goals. Even when they do some follow-through (rare but it does happen), the public seldom minds. Winning the War on Drugs. Winning the War on Cancer. Winning the War on Poverty. All of those set difficult or impossible goals. We’ve spent a lot of money, with little results. I don’t see widespread protests.

      1. Kakatoa,

        There is plenty of NG in Pa. A pipeline went in after restrictions were lifted in 2016. Just the normal fractivists held it up a bit. NG is cheep at the moment.

  6. When I go surfing off northern Ventura county, i see a bunch of oil rigs. There use to be less out there during W. Bush/the Governator’s time, but under Obama’s watch, since then increasingly there has been more. And i’m still paying around $4.50 in gas per gallon today.

    Natural gas is supposed to burn cleaner, than gas or coal (for buses, and for power plants alike) . Okay , that’s fine . so during Obamas rein here in Ventura and Kern counties a bunch of fracking happened (Google map it and you’ll see it). Suppose to be more in Monterey county area, around or towards San Benito county also. i’ve only seen the ones here. I helped a buddy of mine evacuate when they had a natural gas storage leak in the San Fernando Valley, and the sht got ’em nose bleeds for weeks. No bueno.

    So i’m swallowing oil scum, no doubt from oil rigs washing up to shore; and my buddys family’s got nose bleeds from inhaling natural gas.

    I don’t need scientists from that side or this side, to tell me i’m good or not. These are nasty, nasty chemicals no body should be subjected to!!!!!!!!!!

    And it goes back to my hatred of plastics from Walmart. because plastic is as we all know a oil by product. China’s making the most of it, and we’re all buying it from Walmart.

    I have no powers over the oil rigs out there; nor natural gas storage leaks. Too high up above over my pay grade, i’m a nobody, but I can chose to not buy plastics and encourage others to do the same.

    1. There are a couple of misconceptions here.

      First of all, the tar and oil that washes up on the beach is completely natural. It has been happening of millions of years. There is lots of oil underground is SoCal, and it naturally rises to the surface, especially in the ocean. The tar and oil on the beach is not from oil rigs.

      Second, natural gas (methane) is non-toxic. Leaks are dangerous in enclosed spaces because it can suffocate you and cause explosions. It does not cause nosebleeds. Whatever affected your neighbor, it was not a natural gas leak.

      If you’re going to hate oil and oil drilling, make sure you have your facts straight.

      1. Then why are oil scum only found in places like Summerland or Goleta beaches (the only mainland attack of Japanese during WWII, by submarine historical trivia). Other beaches not so much, though currents move by definition. That’s because those beaches were all filled with oil derecks back at the turn of the century.

        Not so natural after all, huh? As for oil rigs association cause/effect. I know about past oil derecks onshore, i’m not talking about the stuff you step on at the beach, playing sand castles.

        I’m talking about off shore, surf zone, and past the surf zones, where the only digging activities are in fact the off shore oil rigs— which multiplied exponentially during Obama’s reign, remember more domestic oil, less ME oil?

        More oil scum, more oil rigs, common sense tells us its not natural , Erfie!!!

        As for natural gas leak, maybe you’re right and correct, i’m less familiar with natural gas. OR Maybe its some chemicals they mix in storage I dunno. But nose bleeds and headaches were experienced by much of the people in the neighborhood, mostly kids.

        so before said leaks were exposed, I was there pre-leak, to BBQ over there w/ them , etc. all were healthy otherwise, new houses… sure you can say psychosomatic, stuff like that. but I saw the nose bleeds, man. Mind over matter? no way.

        there was only one variable causing the neighborhood to feel similar health issues, Erf. ‘splain to me that.

      2. LCPl,

        “why are oil scum only found in places like Summerland or Goleta beaches”

        Most of your comments are just making stuff up. Try reading first, such as “Ocean Gunk Makes Beach-Goers Nervous” in the LAT.

        “’Lately, we’ve seen what we call oil-spill paranoia,’ said Huntington Beach marine safety Capt. Bill Richardson, who has been working the city’s beaches for 28 years. …The stuff can be red, brown, white or yellow – a virtual rainbow of crud. And it comes in many forms–foamy, slimy, stringy, oily. Sometimes, it smells like dead fish or rotten eggs, while other times, it has the rich, unmistakable odor of petroleum.

        “Much of the slime is actually a creation of nature itself – rotting plankton can leave slicks so thick it smothers fish. And off Huntington Beach, natural oil deposits and tar balls – sometimes jostled loose from deep beneath the sea floor after earthquakes–are the largest sources of oil in the water.”

        You show zero interest in the info given contradicting your fantasies. It’s a waste of time discussing things with you. I’m moderating your comments. Anything based on facts or reliable sources will be posted.

      3. Larry,

        There ‘s no increase in oil scum in Orange county. I surf there too. too many people.

        And yes, there is natural occuring tar deposit (you ever been to the La Bra tar pits???), on beaches. tar is stickier, oil from past oil derecks at the the turn of the century, differs from tar. I’m assuming leaks from past oil digs when much of Socal was oil derecks turn of the century.

        I’m talking about oil scum you see past the surf zone and in the surf zone, a marked increase.

        You see all this only where the off shore oil rigs are found. nope not orange county, or even LA county, but in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

        Why is oil scum from oil rigs off shore in Ventura and SB counties so dangerous that you have to moderate me. Go to the beach, talk to those who live there and the surfers who are there day in and day out, they’ll tell you what i’m telling you here.

        More off shore oil rigs equal more oil scum in the ocean, is my point. Take it or leave it.

    2. LCPl,

      Thank you for dashing my slight optimism that Americans might be developing skepticism – and reminding me that propaganda works.

      (1) “And i’m still paying around $4.50 in gas per gallon today.”

      Poor baby. The gas tax in Calif is $0.55. So you are paying $3.95. Adjusted for inflation, that is equivalent to $1.17 in 1980 – which was the average national gas price then. Cry me a river.

      (2) There has been fracking in California for 30 years. The effects have been slight. It is a different kind of fracking than that gets all the publicity back east. Read the briefing sheet by the California State Dept of Conservation. It will correct some of your misinformation.

      (4) “So i’m swallowing oil scum”

      Please be more careful. People who post lies get moderated. Life is too short for me and the readers here to bother with fantasists. There will be no further warnings.

      1. 1). My point was if we were expanding oil rigs off shore, why am I still paying so much on gas… the answer of course is China, we’re selling our own oil to China.

        2). Fracking in Ventura and Kern are new, Larry. There are new crews, there are new digs. I’m familiar with oil pumps all over Kern county west of the I-5, they ‘re old; fracking set-ups look different.

        4). So you’ve spent time in the waters off Ventura and Santa Barbara county, to know there’s less or more oil scum??? And i’m lying because you haven’t swallowed this gunk?

  7. First, we might get one or more major extreme weather events (not just a fraction of a degree rise over several years in the global average temperature). For example, a massive hurricane might hit a city on the US East Coast or East Asia – of course attributed to CO2 (whether scientists’ analysis eventually concurs is politically irrelevant). This or other extreme weather could stampede public opinion into supporting the Green New Deal, no matter how weak its foundation in science. I believe (guess) that this is the most likely outcome.

    We could also get a period of prolonged cooling. Don’t rule it out, there have been a lot of those historically. I doubt whether warmism or climatism would survive that intact.

    It depends whether you think the current account of unprecedented warming is valid. If so, then your scenario is plausible, we have continuing warming or at least stable temperatures, and we have some extreme weather events which confirm the alarmist narrative.

    But if we have a regular and prolonged decline in global temperatures, perhaps the Arctic ice cap increases?

    Then I think we might see increasing disbelief among the general public, coupled with increasing frenzied advocacy by the faithful, and a sort of frozen embarrassment among the scientific ultras as it became clear and clearer that it had all been a hallucination or hysteria.

    I don’t know how likely this is, but would guess its as likely as your own scenario.

    1. Henrik,

      “We could also get a period of prolonged cooling.”

      Almost everybody who is an expert in this disagrees with you. I suggest you pay more attention to them than your wild guesses.

      “It depends whether you think the current account of unprecedented warming is valid.”

      You are reading too many ignorant newspaper stories. Neither the IPCC or major climate agencies say that the present temperatures are “unprecedented.” It probably will become so sometime in the 21st century, if current trends continue.

      “then your scenario is plausible,”

      You have totally misunderstood what I said. What I quite clearly said. Some perfect commonplace weather (historically speaking) could panic Americans.

      “I don’t know how likely this is, but would guess its as likely as your own scenario.”

      Obviously false, no matter how much you guess.

      1. Write it down as a prediction: there will not be a period of prolonged cooling. Need to set a time on it, lets say in the next ten years?

        The experts’ predictions are not doing all that well so far, so we shall see. Look at the spaghetti charts and the gap compared to reality.

  8. Pingback: Why climate skeptics will lose. How they can win. – SPORT NEWS

  9. Who wins the argument is irrelevant. The Earth will decide the outcome. We as a nation are willing to spend billions to guard against the small likelihood of another terrorist attack similar to 9/11. Should we not consider similar vigilance concerning the possibility of catastrophic climate change?

    1. David,

      “Who wins the argument is irrelevant.”

      This is not an argument. It is a debate about public policy. The winner sets public policy. Large public policy changes are difficult to reverse, even after the other party gains power. For example, the New Deal and Great Society programs remained largely intact after the GOP took control in Washington.

      If the alarmists get control and enact some or all of the Green New Deal, I doubt that they’ll apologize and reverse it should the climate apocalypse not appear by 2050. More likely they will take credit for vanquishing it.

      “The Earth will decide the outcome”

      That is probably false. If the alarmists are correct, a definitive change in climate will appear in roughly ten years – perhaps longer. By then the political debate is likely to be resolved. I doubt any political campaign can run another ten years at the current intensity of the climate wars.

    2. 2 – David,

      “Should we not consider similar vigilance concerning the possibility of catastrophic climate change?”

      We could have just as well burned that money in May Day bonfires for all that it has accomplished.

      “Should we not consider similar vigilance concerning the possibility of catastrophic climate change?”

      It’s a daft justification for spending billions on another vain project. What about the oceans, a more certain and imminent danger – due to pollution and overfishing. How about the many other threats facing us? Why should we fund them based on their political utility?

      Perhaps we should try a rational response, like this?

      1. Yes, this is spot on. The argument David gives is logically absurd, because it doesn’t consider opportunity costs.

        Its a form of Pascal’s Wager. The underlying argument is that the event feared may be vanishingly unlikely, but we should take the proposed measures because if it happens its disastrous. So the payoff, probability times cost, is big enough to justify the proposed measures.

        Pascal’s argument was, if the downside of disbelief when its true is going to Hell forever, and all it costs to avert it is the modest cost of believing, then the rational thing to do is believe, because the cost-benefit balance is way in favor.

        However, the fallacy is that it does not help us choose between many different religions, all incompatible, which threaten eternal damnation as the price of disbelief.

        Similarly on climate. There are many fairly low probability high payoff threats. Asteroids, for instance. You mention the oceans. We do not have enough resources to take effective measures against all. In fact, going carbon neutral as a planet would probably take away the resources we need to take measures against some others of these.

        The argument is trying to deal with the fact that predictions of disaster and proposals for measures to avert it are not justified by the evidence. So the argument essentially asks us to dispense with normal decision evaluation procedures in this particular case. But not in all cases, or we would find ourselves back in the original situation, trying to prioritize which threats are most pressing and which we should deal with first.

        It may be vanishingly unlikely that there is a giant turtle out there in space which will eat earth ten years from now unless we all stand on our heads for a minute every day. But surely doing it is a small price to pay for averting such a terrible fate for the planet?

        In the end, look hard at the evidence base for the predictions of climate disaster, and examine the track record of those predictors who are making them, and evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed measures in reducing global emissions.

        When you do this what you find is unfounded predictions and measures which are ineffective. Its a modern mass hysteria.

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