CheckMate is a weekly newsletter from RMIT FactLab that summarizes the latest in the world of misinformation and fact-checking that draws on the work of FactLab and its sister organization, RMIT ABC Fact Check.
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CheckMate June 24, 2022
This week, CheckMate looks at whether Germany, a poster child for renewable energy, remains dependent on lignite for nearly three-quarters of its electricity production.
We also bring you facts about “sudden adult mortality syndrome” and dig into claims that cow deaths and fires in the United States are all part of a plan to create food shortages.
Why claims about Germany’s dependence on lignite are bunkum
While Australia is battling an ongoing energy crisis and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is committed to reducing CO2 emissions by 43 percent by 2030, the Labor government has promised to “create the framework for renewable energy for storage and transmission”.
But when it comes to other countries’ success in embracing renewable energy, some people sow online doubt about Germany, a country long held up as the “gold standard” for economies that want to move away from fossil fuels.
According to a series of posts on Twitter and Facebook, including one by an independent candidate in the recent federal election, Germany continued to be overwhelmingly driven by lignite.
“Germany has spent $ 750 billion on its transition to renewable energy so far,” Stuart Bonds, a coal miner and candidate for Hunterwrote on Facebook along with a chart pretending to show energy sources in the country.
“2 o’clock this morning [Saturday, June 18] Germany ran on 72% lignite and 15% nuclear power. “
But that’s wrong.
The graph included in the social media posts, which first appear to have been posted on Twitter by climate skeptic and author with more than 120,000 followers, shows a point-in-time breakdown of the mix of energy sources produced by the German energy company RWE.
Of the electricity produced at the time, the graph shows that 72 percent came from lignite (commonly known as lignite), 15 percent from nuclear power, 7 percent from storage, and 4 percent from offshore wind.
In an email, a spokeswoman for RWE confirmed that the graph had come from their website, but explained that it did not represent energy production in Germany as a whole.
“As we are only one of many electricity producers in Germany, it says nothing about the energy mix in Germany as a country,” the spokeswoman said, pointing to an official government website for statistics across the market.
According to a press release from the government published on that website, renewable energy accounted for 47.9 percent of energy production in Germany in the March quarter, while 52.1 percent came from “conventional” sources, including 17.8 percent from lignite.
The RWE spokeswoman also provided CheckMate with one link to a graph shows that more than 60 percent of Germany’s electricity production on June 18, the day referred to in social media posts, was sourced from renewable energy.
other than that Anne Kalliesa senior lecturer at the RMIT Graduate School of Business and Law, told CheckMate that RWE operated a “particularly large conventional electric fleet.”
“RWE is the largest owner of lignite stations in Germany – they own and operate three of the four largest lignite power plants,” says Dr. Kallies, who researches energy, environment and climate.
News reports said this week that despite the country having to reopen previously closed coal-fired power plants after the power supply from Russia was cut off, Germany remained committed to its goal of closing all coal-fired power plants by 2030.
U.S. food factory fires and cattle deaths no sign of planned food shortages
News of thousands of cows suddenly dying in the US state of Kansas has added fuel to conspiracy theories that powerful elites, including Bill Gates and World Economic Forums Klaus Schwab, are orchestrating food shortages to force a shift away from meat consumption and towards alternatives such as eg. as edible insects.
The deaths – estimate for which between 2,000 and 10,000 over two days – has also been linked to allegations that the U.S. food supply was “under attack” after an apparent wave of fires affecting food processing plants.
“10,000 cows died overnight in Kansas… 79 food processing plants mysteriously burn[ed] down … and then this, “reads a tweet, accompanied by a picture of the world’s largest edible cricket farm, which is to open in Canada.
According to another Twitter user: “If you think 3k cows falling dead in Kansas at once have nothing to do with the orchestra[d] food shortages and the mysterious burning of dozens of American food factories to the ground, you deserve EVERYTHING that is coming your way. “
However, such allegations are unfounded.
This was due to a combination of local factors that experts described as a “perfect storm”: minimal winds, temperatures above 37 degrees Celsius and high humidity, all of which seemed close together over several days.
Importantly, an expert told FactCheck.org, temperatures remained above 21 degrees in the evening, meaning the cows were unable to give off the heat they had accumulated during the day as they normally would.
Meanwhile, allegations that food plant fires were on the rise have been rejected by several fact-checking entities, with Reuters found that such fires were not more common than usual and that there was no evidence that these incidents were intentional.
In fact, a spokeswoman for the National Fire Protection Association told FactCheck.org that between 2015 and 2019, there were more than 5,300 fires each year on average in U.S. manufacturing and processing facilities of any type, and that these fires “occur more often than people think.”
A study by Snopes also revealed that at least some of the examples are circulating online did not support the alleged increaseincluding, for example, a fire in a butcher shop, another in an abandoned building and still others that have not affected food production.
CoronaCheck: No increase in Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, despite claims
A wave of news articles about a condition known as Sudden Adult (or Arhythmic) Death Syndrome (SADS) has driven a new wave of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.
An article originally released in late May by the Irish Mirror detailed the sudden death of a 31-year-old woman in Ireland, and was subsequently featured in a number of Australian news stories published by the media, including news.com.au and 7 News.
Despite not mentioning COVID-19 vaccines, the articles garnered thousands of comments on social media that fundamentally linked SADS deaths with the vaccines.
Also make the vaccine link, conservative news website Spectator Australia went so far as to say that “a strange new medical anomaly has astonished doctors when it sweeps across the country.”
However, as the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institutes Elizabeth Parazt told CheckMate, there was nothing to support such claims.
“There is no evidence of either an increase in SADS or that COVID-19 vaccines contribute to an increase in SADS,” said Dr. Paratz and an e-mail.
According to RACGPSADS is an “umbrella term for describing unexpected deaths in adolescents” 40 or less whose cause of death could not be determined during an autopsy.
As Dr. Paratz explained, SADS had “for many years been recognized” as “the most common cause of sudden death in adolescents”.
In fact, research published in the Medical Journal of Australia as far back as 2004 have investigated the incidence of sudden cardiac death in adolescents.
Talking to CheckMate, Sean Lala clinical academic cardiologist at the University of Sydney and director of acute heart failure at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, said he has not seen an increase in SADS.
“There has been no increase in sudden cardiac death due to COVID vaccination,” said Dr. Lal.
“In fact, we saw an increase in sudden cardiac death in adolescents due to COVID infection secondary to severe myocarditis [heart inflammation].
“Vaccination protects patients from such serious diseases.”
Internationally recognized cardiologist Christopher Semsarianwho is also a professor at Sydney University, agreed with Dr Lal.
“I am not aware of any data that suggests there is any increase in SADS in Australia. I think there is more awareness of SADS both in the medical world and in society,” he told CheckMate.
Mark Latham says more than 13,000 NSW teachers are unable to work because of their vaccine status. Is it correct?
As teachers in NSW Speak out on “cruel” staff shortages and increased workload, the NSW One Nation MLC and former Federal Labor leader Mark Latham have suggested that vaccine mandates are to blame.
“The latest data show that 13,699 teachers at [the NSW Department of Education] pay system is not allowed to teach due to insufficient vaccination status, “Mr Latham tweeted. “It’s your NSW teacher shortage crisis right there.”
But the RMIT ABC Fact Check this week found that the allegation was misleading.
According to a report cited by Mr Latham as the source of his claim, only 865 teachers on the NSW Department of Education’s payroll were confirmed, per. March 31, that they were unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, or that they had provided evidence of vaccination, were subsequently rejected.
A spokesman for the department told Fact Check that per. By June 6, only 208 full-time teachers and 381 teachers on temporary contracts had been fired for failing to comply with the vaccine mandate.
The majority of the figure quoted by Mr Latham consisted of inactive teachers who had not certified their vaccination status. These teachers were not currently working and were therefore not required to certify, nor were they necessarily looking for work.
The figure also captured active teachers who had not certified their vaccination status but who may not have been required to do so. These teachers may have been nominated to join a school but have not yet been assigned a role, or they may have been on longer leave.