MP Catherine McKenna Replies to 350 Ottawa

ANALYSIS OF POSTS ON “LET’S TALK CLIMATE ACTION” CONSULTATION SITE

When the Liberal government called for public input in the lead up to their Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, 350 Ottawa was most pleased.  It was sign of openness and willingness to listen to the public.

The process seemed clear.  Town Halls across the country in conjunction with MP Catherine McKenna’s portal ‘Let’s Talk Climate Action’ would give people the chance to have their say.  Citizens could provide their ideas and others could comment on what was being suggested.

As time went on, 350 Ottawa, when following the public’s input, saw challenges with the process and the portal itself.   As would be expected, the ideas and comments were of variable quality, but, more importantly, the input from ‘trolls’ was clearly a disturbing feature because of their apparent willful effort to interfere with the process and the results.   In addition, the portal ‘tags’, it was felt, gave bias to the climate change conversation.

In response to these concerns, 350 Ottawa did an in-depth analysis of the portal input and shared the findings with MP Mckenna.    Recently she kindly responded to our findings, and we are now pleased to be able to share this dialogue by way of this post.

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RE: ANALYSIS OF POSTS ON “LET’S TALK CLIMATE ACTION” CONSULTATION SITE

Catherine McKenna
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada

17 October 2016

Dear Ms. McKenna,

We at 350 Ottawa have analyzed the ideas and comments posted on the Let’s Talk Climate Action web site. 

We conclude that the numbers shown on the web site give a biased view of the actual content of the posts, and should not be used in establishing climate policy. There are two major problems: trolls and tags. 

Trolls bias the climate change conversation

We downloaded the ideas and comments posted at http://letstalkclimateaction.ca/ideas between April 20 and September 16, 2016 and analyzed their content using Kibana software. 

It is striking to see that only 10 authors account for nearly half of all 13,742 posts. The most active of these internet “trolls” posted up to several hundred comments per day. For more on this please see the article at http://capitalnews.ca/climate-consultation-swamped-by-internet-trolls/

We conclude that any analysis of the posts must begin by eliminating the bias created by these trolls. 

Tags bias the climate change conversation

We eliminated the troll bias by analyzing only the first idea or comment posted by each person. We then scanned these posts and compared the topics to the Tags listed on the web site. 

The web site offered authors 32 Tags (topics) from which they could select the Tags that best matched the topics of their posts. Authors were not permitted to create Tags. In analyzing the topics contained in the posts we discovered that there were several popular topics that were not included in the list of 32 Tags. 

For example, three topics of concern to many people were PIPELINES, FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES, and COAL POWER. These were each discussed in 5-7% of the posts, but none of them was represented in the Tags provided. For comparison, ADAPTATION AND RESILIENCE, one of the top-5 selected Tags was actually only present in fewer than 2% of the posts.

In other words, the Tags shown on the web site, and the numbers of posts associated with each Tag, do not represent the actual content of the posts.

In summary, if the Government is actually going to use the results of the climate consultation in formulating climate policy, as promised, we recommend you:

(1) eliminate the bias created by the “trolls” before analyzing the results; and

(2) analyze the actual contents of the posts themselves rather than the Tags, which misrepresent the topics discussed in the posts.

Yours respectfully, 

William Nuttle (president) Larry Dobson (vice president)

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Response from MP Catherine McKenna:

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