CLIMATE SCEPTICS: THE FACTS
All the facts in the “Top 5 Climate Sceptic Arguments & How to Respond to Them” video are referenced here.A note on the name
We’re using the term “climate sceptic” because it’s in popular use and people know what we mean by it. However, the real meaning of the word “sceptic” is someone who doesn’t take things on face value; they demand facts to back things up, and are ready to change their opinions based on the weight of evidence, even if that goes against their personal preferences or beliefs. By contrast, the people who argue most loudly against the reality of climate change are doing so in spite of the huge weight of evidence that supports modern climate science, so they aren’t true sceptics at all; we apologise to all the real sceptics out there for using this term.
Note that – as we point out in the video – the most vocal opponents of climate science tend to take that position not because of the facts but because they don’t want to accept the reality of climate change for one reason or another. As a result, you’re unlikely to get them to change their mind simply by confronting them with the information in this video. However, in addition to the vocal climate change “sceptics” there are a lot of people out there who read or hear their arguments and end up feeling torn or confused, so it’s really important that these arguments are challenged whenever they’re presented to the public, whether live, in print or online. We hope the information in this film will help you to do that. For advice on how to talk directly to a friend or relative who doesn’t believe in climate change, see George Marshall’s excellent video “How to talk to a climate change denier” http://youtu.be/Qp-nJKBwQR4
1. Do the scientists all agree?
The thing we need to remember about science is that it moves forward through debate and there’s plenty of disagreement amongst scientists about things like the exact rate of global warming. Get the facts
Disagreement is is a fundamental part of the scientific method.
While the amount of warming that’s happened so far is pretty well established, the exact future rate depends on all kinds of complex factors and so scientists have agreed on a range of possible warming rates, as explained in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. See Section E.1 on page 18.
In fact, out of those 12,000 papers, only 0.7% expressed the opinion that climate change wasn’t caused by humans. Meanwhile, 66.4% didn’t express any opinion on this question (probably because they took it for granted that their readers would know climate change was mainly caused by humans) leaving 32.6% who clearly expressed the opinion that humanity is to blame (and 0.3% who were uncertain). This means that 97% of the 4000-ish papers that expressed an opinion agreed that humanity is changing the climate. View the paper.
Yes yes yes, but hasn’t the climate always changed?
2. Has the climate always changed?
Well, yeah, evidence from ice sheets and trees rings does show that in the distant past the Earth has swung between warmer and colder periods.
These changes were caused by the sun going through a warmer phase. Get the facts
See http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/07/the-lure-of-solar-forcing/ for an explanation of how this happens.
…called “Milankovitch cycles”
Solar variation and Milankovitch cycles result in an incredibly small amount of extra warming or cooling each year. The planet would then warm or cool gradually, over hundreds or thousands of years. Why the sudden flip into rapid change? Well, as the planet warms up, carbon dioxide and methane are released from plants, soils and oceans. These gases create a greenhouse effect which leads to more warming and thus the release of more CO2 and so on until the whole climate has changed completely. This explains why, if you look at ancient CO2 and temperature records, the temperatures started to rise first, and then CO2 followed.
We’ve blasted a huge amount of carbon into the atmosphere over the last 150 years, overriding those slow natural changes and kicking off a period of rapid warming unlike anything that we know of in prehistoric times. Get the facts
There’s a good explanation of this in James Hansen’s book Storms of my Grandchildren
That’s what you say! But I’ve heard that recent evidence shows that climate change has stopped.
3. Has climate change stopped?
I really wish it had but it hasn’t. The rise in surface temperature has been going through a slow patch since the early 2000s, but scientists expect the surface warming to go a bit faster or slower sometimes Get the facts
See the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report for the latest temperature figures – see D1 on Page 13
According to the IPCC this accounts for up to half of the recent slow patch, with the rest being due to heat reflection from a higher-than-average amount of volcanic ash, and the sun going through a cool phase.
But the global economy is bust. Can we really afford to tackle climate change?
4. Can we afford to tackle it?
There are several responses to this question. The first is to ask: Are you sure you understand the scale of the problem?
Climate change could strip away the basic life support systems that humanity relies on to survive on this planet Get the facts
Also, there’s plenty of money around for tackling climate change. Governments currently subsidise the fossil fuel industry by almost 2,000 billion dollars. Get the facts
This is according to the very conservative International Monetary Fund. It includes direct handouts, indirect subsidies (such as tax breaks) and schemes to supply artificially cheap fuels to consumers, and represents 8% of global government spending – see http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr1393.htm
If that money was instead spent on renewable power and energy efficiency it would benefit local economies and create jobs, like in Germany where the renewables sector employs around 400,000 people. Get the facts
5. Is climate change just a giant global conspiracy with the world’s natural scientists in league with Al Gore and the polar bears and the secret Shadow World Government?
Yes, that’s exactly what’s going on. Well done.
So if these arguments are all false, why are some people so drawn to them?
Well it might be because cracking down on the fossil fuel industry would conflict with their political beliefs or challenge what they do for a living, or simply because this stuff is really freaking scary and they just don’t want to think about it. Get the facts
for lots of discussion and links to research about this see http://climatedenial.org/
All of which is understandable but has nothing to do with the facts.