Sunday, December 21, 2008

Five Global Warming / Climate Change sceptic/denial Myths


Unlike scientists, a considerable number of journalists, conservative politicians, and ordinary people are unconvinced about the reality of man-made global warming.

Here are the five main myths put about by these climate change deniers:

1. “The science of climate change is not well established”.
The opposite is true. While 60% of ordinary people think there is some doubt about the science, there is consensus among climate scientists that man-made global warming is a very serious threat indeed.

2. "There is a downward trend in world temperatures in the last 10 years". This is true, but over the last 100 years, there is a definite and serious rise of global temperature over the last century. Take a look at the graph at the top of this piece.

It is important to take the widest possible view, rather than taking a short-term, partial view.There are regular fluctuations with an average 15.5 year cycle, and this last 10 year fall is consistent with this cycle. The recent fall is associated with the La Nina event in the Pacific, which brings more cold water to the surface. The Goddard Institute of Space studies say that the eight warmest years in the GISS record have all occurred since 1998, and the 14 warmest years in the record have all occurred since 1990.

3. "The Arctic is freezing again". This refers to a record growth of the ice in December 2007, but this is in the context of a record shrinking of the ice in the years previously, which has led to the opening up of the fabled North West Passage for the first time. The area of re-frozen ice was still less than the average for the last 25 years, and the rapid growth was due to the simple fact that it had room to grow. Ice depth measurement data shows that the Arctic sea ice is melting as a whole.

4. "Antarctic snow is getting thicker". Antarctica is melting at the edges, with huge cracks appearing in the old ice shelf. A pattern of warmer seas at the edge of Antarctica and colder trends at the South Pole itself . The warmer seas have produced more cloud and snowfall, leading to colder temperatures at the south pole.

Again we see how AGW deniers seize on one fact, and ignore the broad picture. The global climate is a highly complex system, and the changes we are producing will be highly unpredictable. We cannot deduce much from any one single piece of data; we need to view the system as a whole.

5. "Climate Change is happening, but it is down to a natural variation in the output of the sun". The Royal Society, which represents the best in British scientists, says “While there is evidence of a link between solar activity and some of the warming in the early 20th Century, measurements from satellites show that there has been very little change in underlying solar activity in the last 30 years there is even evidence of a detectable decline and so this cannot account for the recent rises we have seen in global temperatures”.

Denial is an ego defence mechanism which psychiatrists and psychologists have recongnised for a century; it is defined as the refusal to acknowledge the existence or severity of unpleasant external realities or internal thoughts and feelings . It is understandable, given the seriousness of what is happening. Deeply convinced denialists sometimes go further and say “ManMade Global Warming is a due to a conspiracy between the Greens, the world scientific community and the Powers that Be”. Many denialists do actually cling to this absurd conspiracy theory, despite the fact that they have not a shred of credible evidence for it.

Global Warming is a fact, we must face up to it and act first to stop it getting worse, and second to make it better. By acting together at every level, internationally, nationally, in business, work and at the personal level, we can succeed. It is going to be challenging, but the act of addressing global warming will provide good employment to millions, and will also stimulate the economy out of recession.

Go here for evidence that AGW is happening now.
Here for more detail on skeptics.
Here for Nancy Orestes' evidence on scientific consensus. (.pdf)


Stuart Jeffery said...

Treat the climate deniers as crank conspiracy theorists. Apparently they also suggest that the world is flat, smoking doesn't cause cancer and Diana was killed by aliens... Personally I like my science factual :-)

Glenn Vowles said...

Great article on the psychology of denial here:

Its also worth looking over this website:

Its takes more than information and science to overcome denial - that's the challenge to campaigners!

DocRichard said...

Thanks Stuart and Glenn. I agree, it is going to take more than reason. Sweet patient reason is more like it.

There is a denialist on openDemocracy using the tag Iron Mike, and he did actually admit that he believed there was a conspiracy between the Greens, scientists and Government to take away his beloved 4x4!

Denial is a frequent component of addiction, and the world is addicted to oil. However, it is possible to recover from addiction. The addict has to come up against the buffers of reality, like when the alcoholic realises he is about to lose his job and his house if he carries on. We are at that stage with AGW, with the warning signs clearly present.

We have to treat those in denial with understanding yet firmness, as we would if we were trying to help patients with a dependency problem. It is vital that we do not respond in kind to their provocative insults - I already have had a few here, on the Wind Turbines and Climate Change Denialists entries. I had some earlier too, which were so insulting that I deleted them, but now I rather regret that. On the other hand, leaving them in brings the whole neighbourhood down. They are like badly done graffiti tags - just a way of them saying "I exist".

I find it helps to cut and paste their emotionally charged words, and separate them out from the rest of the message. Often that leaves nothing behind, but if there is a comprehensible statement at the end of the process, we need to give them a link at least.

And thanks for the links, Glenn. Very useful.

Merry Christmas/Solistice/Winterval/ConsumerFest (delete to taste)

Bhuvan Chand said...

i really impress with you blog and plz keep writing for this blog. i also start collection of information about causes of global warming in my blog.