Answers to Global Warming Skeptics

The controversy over global warming is being fought over in the popular media even though the consensus of the scientists who are actually researching climate change is that humans are having a greater impact on global warming than natural sources. As a measure of the certainty of this, major insurance companies take the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's conclusions into account in creating their business projections (see this report and others from google search). Insurance companies know very well how to make money on projections of real future events and they are not going to be swayed by any so-called "propaganda from tree-hugging environmentalists"—if the science conclusions are good enough for the insurance companies, then you may want to think twice, three times, many times, before discounting the IPCC conclusions. Even the U.S. Department of Defense recognizes that climate change is happening and that it will bring stresses on food and water supply systems. (See other DoD climate change links in a google search.)

You can take a look at the carbon dioxide and climate change data yourself from the links on the Online Trends page of the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. Besides carbon dioxide trends, CDIAC includes data on other gases that respond to infrared, role of the biosphere and oceans in the cycling of greenhouse gases, fossil fuel burning emission of carbon dioxide, effect of land use changes (deforestation, paving over, etc.), long-term climate trends, etc.

The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community (i.e., those who are actively engaged in climate research, publish their results in peer-reviewed journals, and allow their conclusions to be tested by others) is that the global warming that is happening is mostly human-caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Despite this consensus there is considerable debate among the general public. There is big disconnect between the scientists and the general public. The popular media is usually interested in fanning the flames of controversy instead of educating the public. Therefore, they will look for opponents of the scientific consensus to provide a "balanced view" and give equal credence to the global warming skeptics. The voices of the few (unqualified) are magnified to be equal to the voices of the many. A short summary of the evidence and logic behind the conclusion that climate change is indeed happening and human activity is responsible for the majority of the change is my "How I Know" primer. It is a PDF that will print on one sheet of paper front and back.

Below are links to those who have compiled the arguments that counter the claims of the global warming skeptics BUT sociology research has shown that presenting a bunch of science arguments or data might not be the best way to convince the climate change denier. In January 2017, ScienceFriday ran a segment about the best ways to talk about climate change to those who deny it's happening. In the United States, there are six groups of people with regard to their views on climate change: one group is either alarmed (20% of population), one group is dismissive (10% of population), and other four groups are somewhere in the middle (70% of the population). The research has shown that science literacy and math ability are NOT correlated with how they view climate change---what matters is a person's political affiliation in how they assess the risk, i.e., staying within one's own "tribe" is more important for people on all sides of the issue. Probably the best way to convince someone is to find what other area of life you have in common with the person you're talking to and start from that point to build trust. (Link to local copy of the transcript of the ScienceFriday January 2017 segment)

With the warning of the previous paragraph in mind, here are links to those who have compiled the detailed counter-arguments and debunking of the claims of the global warming skeptics. All of the links to external sources will appear in a new window.

In March 2007, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) broadcast a show called "The Great Global Warming Swindle" that seemed to counter all that "Inconvenient Truth" stuff from Al Gore, et al with experts (including some with PhDs) claiming that the human-caused global warming was just a scam. Unfortunately, the people who were swindled were the viewers of the BBC GGWS show. Though broadcast overseas, it has been viewed by many thousands of people in the United States courtesy of internet TV (and will probably be broadcast on the Fox channel sometime soon). Needless to say, there were many problems with the "documentary". Here are a few links to critiques of the show:

But It Has Cooled in the Last Decade! --- Going Down the Up Escalator

An often-used argument against the claim that the Earth is warming is that the temperature data show that the Earth has actually cooled in the past decade. If you cherry-pick your data, then yes, you can see that cooling trend but if you look at all of the data, the opposite trend appears. Also, remember the difference between weather (short-term wiggles) and climate (long-term averages). Here are a couple of popular examples highlighting the difference between trends using cherry-picked data vs. all of the data called "going down the up escalator".

Going down the Up Temperature Escalator

Cherry-picked temperature data trends are the blue bars: confusion of weather vs. climate. Actual climate trend is the red bar.

Arctic sea ice escalator

Year-to-year changes in the amount of arctic sea ice data taken at the same time each year so one can do a proper comparison.

Still Don't Agree with the Climate Change Scientists?

If you still think the conclusions of the IPCC and numerous other science organizations are invalid, the climate science is flawed, etc., then how about considering economic and national security reasons? Energy from fossil fuel burning (oil, coal, natural gas, etc.) is getting more and more expensive since it is a non-renewable resource that is shrinking while the demand for energy is ever increasing. The US produces about two-thirds of the crude oil it consumes. A sizable chunk of the United States supply of oil comes from countries that are politically unstable or questionable or have "less than warm" relations with the United States. While the top two oil exporters are friendly to the U.S. (Canada and Saudi Arabia), the top 15 exporters list from the U.S. Department of Energy includes countries such as Venezuela, Iraq, and Russia. The other exporters will also feel more and more pressure to export to other countries such as China and India as their energy needs grow as a result of their conversion to a Western-style economic system. If you add in the health costs that arise from the respiration and ingestion of the by-products of fossil fuel burning, the costs will be prohibitive (especially as China and India ramp up to Western levels of per capita consumption).

"America's addiction to oil"

What Can You Do?

The world would get warmer even if we were to stop all fossil-fuel burning now because of the time it takes for natural processes to get rid of the human-generated excess of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and halocarbons). Does that mean it is hopeless? No. We can still prevent the warming from becoming catastrophic. We can lessen the amount of eventual warming. No one thing will be the answer that saves us. A number of simple, smaller things added together will be the answer. In the long run, the things we do now to slow the growth of greenhouse gas increases will not only prevent catastrophe, it will save us a lot of money and make the world more politically stable. Consider this like saving for retirement or like investing in the stock market for the long-term: invest some money now to reap a greater reward later.

Return to Human Role in the Carbon Cycle

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last updated: June 8, 2017

Is this page a copy of Strobel's Astronomy Notes?

Author of original content: Nick Strobel