Progressives should know the disinformers’ most commonly used arguments — and how to answer them crisply.
May 7, 2013 |
Progressives should know the disinformers’ most commonly used arguments — and how to answer them crisply. Those arguments have been repeated so many times by the fossil-fuel-funded disinformation campaign that almost everyone has heard them — and that means you’ll have to deal with them in almost any setting, from a public talk to a dinner party.
You should also know as much of the science behind those rebuttals as possible, and a great place to start is SkepticalScience.com.
BUT most of the time your best response is to give the pithiest response possible, and then refer people to a specific website that has a more detailed scientific explanation with links to the original science. That’s because usually those you are talking to are rarely in a position to adjudicate scientific arguments. Indeed, they would probably tune out. Also, unless you know the science cold, you are as likely as not to make a misstatement.
Physicist John Cook has done us a great service by posting good one-line responses and then updating them as the science evolves and as people offer better ways of phrasing. Below I have reposted the top 99 with links to the science. You can find even more here. Everybody should know the first 20 or so.
For instance, if somebody raises the standard talking point (#1 on the list) that the “climate’s changed before,” you can say, “ Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change at the time; humans are now the dominant forcing.” That is actually quite similar to what was my standard response, “The climate changes when it is forced to change, and now humans are forcing it to change far more rapidly than it did in the past” (see “ Humans boosting CO2 14,000 times faster than nature, overwhelming slow negative feedbacks” and “ New Science Study Confirms ‘Hockey Stick’: The Rate Of Warming Since 1900 Is 50 Times Greater Than The Rate Of Cooling In Previous 5000 Years “). Working in the “humans are now the dominant forcing” part is a good idea.
Cook explains the origin of these one-liners in a 2010 post, “ Rebutting skeptic arguments in a single line.” I have included the longer ‘paragraph’ rebuttals, which any CP reader who plans to speak out on this subject — in public or just with friends and associates — should also be familiar with.
|Skeptic Argument||One Liner||Paragraph|
|1||“Climate’s changed before”||Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change at the time; humans are now the dominant forcing.||Natural climate change in the past proves that climate is sensitive to an energy imbalance. If the planet accumulates heat, global temperatures will go up. Currently, CO2 is imposing an energy imbalance due to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Past climate change actually provides evidence for our climate’s sensitivity to CO2.|
|2||“It’s the sun”||In the last 35 years of global warming, sun and climate have been going in opposite directions||In the last 35 years of global warming, the sun has shown a slight cooling trend. Sun and climate have been going in opposite directions.|
|3||“It’s not bad”||Negative impacts of global warming on agriculture, health & environment far outweigh any positives.||The negative impacts of global warming on agriculture, health, economy and environment far outweigh any positives.|
|4||“There is no consensus”||97% of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming.||That humans are causing global warming is the position of the Academies of Science from 19 countries plus many scientific organizations that study climate science. More specifically, around 95% of active climate researchers actively publishing climate papers endorse the consensus position.|
|5||“It’s cooling”||The last decade 2000-2009 was the hottest on record.||Empirical measurements of the Earth’s heat content show the planet is still accumulating heat and global warming is still happening. Surface temperatures can show short-term cooling when heat is exchanged between the atmosphere and the ocean, which has a much greater heat capacity than the air.|
|6||“Models are unreliable”||Models successfully reproduce temperatures since 1900 globally, by land, in the air and the ocean.||While there are uncertainties with climate models, they successfully reproduce the past and have made predictions that have been subsequently confirmed by observations.|
|7||“Temp record is unreliable”||The warming trend is the same in rural and urban areas, measured by thermometers and satellites.||Numerous studies into the effect of urban heat island effect and microsite influences find they have negligible effect on long-term trends, particularly when averaged over large regions.|
|8||“Animals and plants can adapt”||Global warming will cause mass extinctions of species that cannot adapt on short time scales.||A large number of ancient mass extinction events have been strongly linked to global climate change. Because current climate change is so rapid, the way species typically adapt (eg – migration) is, in most cases, simply not be possible. Global change is simply too pervasive and occurring too rapidly.|
|9||“It hasn’t warmed since 1998″||For global records, 2010 is the hottest year on record, tied with 2005.||The planet has continued to accumulate heat since 1998 – global warming is still happening. Nevertheless, surface temperatures show much internal variability due to heat exchange between the ocean and atmosphere. 1998 was an unusually hot year due to a strong El Nino.|
|10||“Antarctica is gaining ice”||Satellites measure Antarctica losing land ice at an accelerating rate.||While the interior of East Antarctica is gaining land ice, overall Antarctica is losing land ice at an accelerating rate. Antarctic sea ice is growing despitea strongly warming Southern Ocean.|
|11||“Ice age predicted in the 70s”||The vast majority of climate papers in the 1970s predicted warming.||1970s ice age predictions were predominantly media based. The majority of peer reviewed research at the time predicted warming due to increasing CO2.|
|12||“CO2 lags temperature”||CO2 didn’t initiate warming from past ice ages but it did amplify the warming.||When the Earth comes out of an ice age, the warming is not initiated by CO2 but by changes in the Earth’s orbit. The warming causes the oceans to give up CO2. The CO2 amplifies the warming and mixes through the atmosphere, spreading warming throughout the planet. So CO2 causes warming ANDrising temperature causes CO2 rise.|
|13||“Climate sensitivity is low”||Net positive feedback is confirmed by many different lines of evidence.||Climate sensitivity can be calculated empirically by comparing past temperature change to natural forcings at the time. Various periods of Earth’s past have been examined in this manner and find broad agreement of a climate sensitivity of around 3°C.|
|14||“We’re heading into an ice age”||Worry about global warming impacts in the next 100 years, not an ice age in over 10,000 years.||The warming effect from more CO2 greatly outstrips the influence from changes in the Earth’s orbit or solar activity, even if solar levels were to drop to Maunder Minimum levels.|
|15||“Ocean acidification isn’t serious”||Ocean acidification threatens entire marine food chains.||Past history shows that when CO2 rose sharply, this corresponded with mass extinctions of coral reefs. Currently, CO2 levels are rising faster than any other time in known history. The change in seawater pH over the 21st Century is projected to be faster than anytime over the last 800,000 years and will create conditions not seen on Earth for at least 40 million years. |