General Question

JonnyCeltics's avatar

So for those in denial of climate change/global warming, what are their claims?

Asked by JonnyCeltics (2698 points ) September 23rd, 2011

…and this could fall outside the realm of denial (e.g. ‘i just don’t care’)...

I’m in a grad class (w/@sushilovinfun) right now and we are studying deeply the roots of climate change…and I’d like to come armed with examples or arguments against the permeating feeling that something like climate change cannot be denied (my personal opinions aside, for sake of discussion).

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23 Answers

Nullo's avatar

There’s also a bunch of people who object to the “anthropogenic” part of “anthropogenic global warming,” who attribute climate change to solar cycles and other naturally-occurring phenomena.
Then there’s the fallout from Climategate, which suggested that someone had been fudging numbers to misrepresent the state of the climate, possibly in hopes of encouraging environmentalism.

King_Pariah's avatar

Like what @Nullo said, two examples I can think of is the sun cycle is at a point where it’s hotter than normal, and that the Earth’s magnetosphere is weaker than usual due to it approaching it’s due date for a polar shift.

XD's avatar

Not proof by any means, but here are some much more mundane and common phenomena that science cannot explain. Yet, the message on climate change is “the science is settled!”

The climate change narrative is a modern day incarnation of Original Sin for those who are “intelligent” enough to believe that “we” caused this “problem” through our own existence. Or that carbon, which is the basis for life, is the problem. The fox is guarding the henhouse in this respect.

The data set for worldwide global temperatures was changed in recent decades. NOAA reduced the number of weather stations in its worldwide data set from about 6,000 to 1,500. They claim to have normalized the data continuum via algorithms, but the data set is changed nonetheless.

It is naive (but understandable) to think that technology that can substantially control or influence the weather does not exist. One might suggest that the global warming narrative is a smokescreen of sorts to conceal the employment of such technology, especially since the promise of global warming isn’t necessarily warmer temperatures but extreme weather phenomena, which could be explained by that kind of technology. One might add that the whole pro- and anti-global warming debate is just a giant circle jerk to fill up people’s heads so that they never consider the above possibility.

In the recent past, industrialized, first-world nations have systematically attempted to wrangle developing nations into sacrificing more than their fare share of emission restrictions. This belies the fact that, for example, an entire Afghan family (and I don’t remember where I read this, so you’ll have to cut me a little slack) doesn’t even approach the carbon footprint of a baby born in the United States. As a tangential point, why are we aspiring to a technologically-based solution that might work if we all act quickly enough, when one would presume an abandonment of technology would guarantee our success? If all life on this planet (which itself will survive global warming or cooling or a nuclear holocaust or anything short of the Death Star or collision with another planet) is imminently at risk, then why would we choose a “maybe” solution over one that the logic of agc presumably would deem 100% effective?

How’s that?

AdamF's avatar

Sure anthropogenic climate change can and is repeatedly denied. It’s simple to do, and can be done for any topic (smoking doesn’t cause cancer, HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, etc.). All you need to do is start with a position (it isn’t real) and let your motivated reasoning do the rest.

The problem is that such denial doesn’t come backed-up with sufficient supportive evidence (just lots of conspiratorial hand waving, counting the hits and ignoring the misses, etc.).

Whereas the evidence for anthropogenic climate change has overwhelming scientific peer-reviewed evidence to back it up, that in-turn, increases every year.

If you’re after a comprehensive list of denialist claims, they’ve been compiled here (along with their evidence-based rebuttals from the peer-reviewed scientific literature).

http://www.skepticalscience.com/

Nullo's avatar

@AdamF HIV doesn’t cause AIDS when you use it to kill cancer.

Roby's avatar

It is all a bunch of liberal propaganda.

AdamF's avatar

@Nullo Interesting study, not sure of the relevance though…..

6rant6's avatar

I think some people have trouble hearing “Climate change” and not hearing, “Climate change – ant it’s your fault!”

Seems pretty ridiculous not to acknowledge the shrinking of the polar ice caps, whether or not we agree on the cause. If the world is getting hotter, we’d better think about what that means for humankind.

Whether we can do anything about it is issue 2.

Whether we should do anything is issue 3.

Whose fault it is…who cares?

tranquilsea's avatar

@6rant6 I agree. I wish that we’d get beyond blame and start really talking about what our future is going to look like. Then talk about different plans to adapt.

6rant6's avatar

@tranquilsea Even, as some contend, the change in climate is part of a “natural” cycle, that’s hardly a reason for burying our collective heads in the sand and disclaiming credit and ignoring consequences.

I wonder how much we could accomplish if climate control became a multi-national priority. One day, mankind might look back and say that the climate change panic led to something extraordinary in terms of scientific research or worldwide cooperation. We can only hope.

JonnyCeltics's avatar

I added this discussion to our class blog

lifeflame's avatar

I think there are a lot of people in denial that actually don’t have rational claims for it.
Emotionally it’s uncomfortable to think of impending disaster or giving up the current lifestyle, so they just don’t think about it. They can believe that it’s coming, but somehow part of the brain denies the fact that it’s going so swiftly, or that their individual contributions are making an impact. My extended family knows the existence of global warming, would probably nod along to the science, and are environmentally friendly on a surface level: recycling, will buy organic paint for the house; yet they continue to fly all over the planet. So I think the denial is not actually rational; but emotional.. which leads them to ignore the urgency of the problem.

To be honest, how many of us are prepared/are preparing for when the shit hits the fan?
The civilised lifestyle is by definition, unsustainable, and to partake in this system is, in a sense, to live in denial.

dabbler's avatar

If anthropogenic climate change is genuine then it’s important to figure whodunnit, distinct from blame perhaps, so we can coax them out of continuing.
We need to fly them all to the conference and explain it to them. I’m sure they will see the light and do the right thing !
...er, what’s that? ..um, er, gulp, blush, gulp

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know if people are always in “denial.” They may accept that global changes are occurring but argue that climate has been constantly changing over the eons. We don’t know whether the current changes are good or bad for humans. We know that things will change and there will be “winners” and “losers.” But we can only judge from the point of view of humanity, and that is not the only point of view. It’s the only point of view we know anything about, but it is not the only possible point of view.

Is species die out bad? I don’t know how we can know for sure. Maybe it’s nothing new. Maybe entire new sets of species will appear as suddenly as those disappearing now are disappearing. Is species die out a result of climate change or a result of human activity? If we stopped warming the planet, would species stop dying out? I doubt if anyone could say that for sure.

Humans are a very successful species. They will not voluntarily dies themselves out. As we take over more and more of the bionome, we will crowd out other species. Other species will develop that can live symbiotically with us. I would not say this is good or bad. It just is. Maybe it will hurt us. Too bad. But I make no excuses for saying I really only care for what is best for humans. I care about animals and the environment only insofar as if facilitates the perpetuation of the human species.

AdamF's avatar

@wundayatta “We don’t know whether the current changes are good or bad for humans.””

I think ÿou’re either defining “know” at a threshold level where nobody can be said to know anything, or you might be defining good or bad at time scales that gloss over impact on current generations, or perhaps you’re confusing “We” for “I”. No major review of the scientific evidence has ever come close to conlcuding that unrestricted increases in greenhouse gas emissions and associated increases in global temperature, ocean acidity, climate instability, sea level rise, etc. might be “good” for humans. Not the Stern Report, IPCC fourth Assessment report, the Garnault report, or for that matter any recent joint statement by the world’s national academies of sciences.

“Is species die out bad? I don’t know how we can know for sure.”

Yes, it’s bad, because it limits human options. Is the loss of a global fishery not bad?

“Maybe it’s nothing new.”

It isn’t. There have been five major mass extinctions in the last 550 millions years (the period we have adequate fossil record data to answer the question). But “not new” doesn’t equal “good” for us. Genocide is nothing new either.

“Maybe entire new sets of species will appear as suddenly as those disappearing now are disappearing.”

No. Species appearance in the fossil record takes place on evolutionary time scales. Extinction can take place on decadal time periods or less. Rates of specication vary, but they are still orders of magnitude removed from the rates at which we can wipe them out.

“Is species die out a result of climate change or a result of human activity?”

False dichotomy. However, the current rate of species loss is estimated to be approximately 100–1000 times the natural background rate of extinction. Most of this recent loss is do to loss or degredation of natural vegetation (ie due to agriculture, urbanization, forestry), introduced species, overharvesting, pollution, etc. Predictions for this century are for a dramatic increased loss of species already vulnerable to extinction because of these existing processes, and additional species being lost primarily due to the impacts of climate change.

google “SPECIES SUSCEPTIBILITY TO CLIMATE
CHANGE IMPACTS”. It’s a relevant report from the IUCN

“If we stopped warming the planet, would species stop dying out?”

No. Continued species loss will occur because of continued human population growth and continued increased demand on global resources. But the vast majority of the world’s governments have agreed that such rates loss are unexceptable and have agreed that biodiversity loss is bad for humanity, hence the ratification of the CBD by 150 countries.

http://www.cbd.int/convention/

“I doubt if anyone could say that for sure”..in reference to species dying out.

I think there is a vast amount of knoweldge out there that you seem unaware of.

Here’s a decent starting point.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecosystem_services

“Humans are a very successful species. They will not voluntarily dies themselves out.”

You might want to read Collapse by Jared Diamond.

“Maybe it will hurt us. Too bad. But I make no excuses for saying I really only care for what is best for humans.”

That sounds mutually contradictory. Regardless, if you care what’s best for humans then you should care about humanity retaining a global climate which is consistent with that for which civilization developed. Anthropogenic climate change isn’t conducive to that. Neither is species loss generally good for humanity.

“I care about animals and the environment only insofar as if facilitates the perpetuation of the human species.”

You’re not alone. BUt if you’re going to take that stance then that only serves to emphasize rather than deemphasize the importance of nature.

Humans are incredibly adaptable. Can the human species survive trashing much of the planet? I think so. But I see no reason why we should be setting the bar so low as to to aim for mere survival.

wundayatta's avatar

@AdamF I was just reading a National Geographic article about climate change at the beginning of the Eocene. Seems there was a massive change in speciation at that point, with new species appearing at an incredibly rapid rate. But you are right, there is a vast amount of knowledge out there that I am unaware of. I’m sure the same is true for you. In fact, it’s true for everyone. Why are you wasting time pointing out useless facts?

My point is that I don’t care how much scientific data we have, we can not predict very precisely what will happen in the future. We can make some analogies but things are very different. Global warming helps some areas for some purposes and hurts others. What is the net change? What’s your prediction? What’s the basis for your prediction?

Even if you can prove that global warming will be bad, overall, for an adaptable species like humans, what makes you think that the species itself cares enough to do something about it?

Global warming has happened and it will happen. I don’t think it’s possible to stop it now. What we can do is prepare for the changes and prepare to help people. That’s what I think we should be doing. In order to prepare for change we don’t have to accept the idea of human generated climate change. We just have to accept the notion that disasters happen.

Let’s think about floods and droughts and human migration and the economy. Lets think about human psychology—in particular the instinct to want to avoid planning for change. Those are the issues I think we should be worrying about. Climate change will happen. Is happening. Has happened. We are not going to change our impact on the planet any time within the lifetime of anyone currently living. Focusing on climate change and arguing about whether it exists and is good or bad is beside the point. It makes for a nice fluther discussion, but it has nothing to do with making the world a better place.

Focus on doable actions. Focus on helping people. We’ll all be better off then.

AdamF's avatar

“Who cares if smoking causes cancer. People have always gotten cancer. Families have always adapted to losing loved ones. It’s part of life and humans have always managed. Why bother with useless facts? My point is that I don’t care how much scientific data we have, we can not predict very precisely what will happen in the future. No one can predict if I’m going to get cancer if I smoke.

So let’s just deal with the deaths like we’ve always dealt with deaths, because there’s no point arguing for tackling the causal processes.

Focus on doable actions. Focus on helping people. We’ll all be better off then.”

Brilliant! Bravo! Guaranteed PR job with Philip Morris.

“Why are you wasting time pointing out useless facts?”

Thanks for being honest. I sincerely promise I won’t waste my time again.

@wundayatta = doesn’t like facts getting in the way of his/her opinions.

XD's avatar

Here’s a recent article reporting the opinions of dissenting scientists, including a Nobel laureate physicist, who (OMG!) states: “Global warming has become a new religion. We frequently hear about the number of scientists who support it. But the number is not important: only whether they are correct is important.”

Here is the open letter referenced in the above article that calls for a change to the American Physical Society’s statement on climate change, which recommends adopting the following language: “Current climate models appear insufficiently reliable to properly account for natural and anthropogenic contributions to past climate change, much less project future climate.”

XD's avatar

addenda: It appears the APS language was adopted in 2007, and the open letter was submitted around early 2009 and rejected by the APS in late 2009, so the statement reflects climate modeling capabilities of that timeframe.

wundayatta's avatar

@AdamF I love how when people don’t have answers they either try to change the course of the conversation (“Brilliant! Bravo! Guaranteed PR job with Philip Morris.”) or put out an ad hominem attack ( ”@wundayatta = doesn’t like facts getting in the way of his/her opinions.”). Very clever, my friend.

There are facts and there are interpretations. There are models and there is reality. I totally believe that sea levels will rise. I totally believe that there will be huge fluctuations in the weather and in droughts and floods. I totally believe that there will be huge changes in speciation.

I also don’t see how anyone can make an accurate prediction, even from the anthropocentric point of view, about the consequences of those changes. To me, that strikes of a true believer who believes what he or she wants to believe. You can not support that with facts because there has never been a time when humans have experienced these conditions.

Your analogies to the past are not very helpful because you can not take into account the adaptability of humans. You don’t even appear to be interested in taking into account the adaptability of humans.

Am I happy about the apparent man-made changes in climate? Not particularly. However I believe that change will happen no matter whether men make it or other natural processes play a major role. I do not presume to claim to know the “natural” state of the planet nor do I give “nature” a privileged position. I do not think that man is unnatural.

So please dispense with the uninformative rhetorical techniques and focus on facts. Either they are your friend or they are not. Perhaps we have different facts, but I don’t think so. I think the issue is the different in predicting the consequences of the facts and the trends. Your comments, so far, are very unconvincing, and your rhetoric techniques make me despair of having any kind of reasoned discussion. Perhaps you will relieve my despair, I hope. There is no need to get emotional here. We don’t have to prove anything. We can just explore the issues.

AdamF's avatar

@wundayatta I didn’t write that comment with the intent of seeming over the top, but I can understand with hindsight how it came across that way. So fair enough. Mia culpa.

That said, you’ve provided your perspective. Here’s mine, and a recap.

In my original post that responded to yours, I took the time to point out where I thought you were off track, and provided sources for where you could read more. Your reply brushed over these points and only provided what appear to me to be mutually contradictory claims, i.e. that no matter how much data we have, we can’t predict the future, but somehow you nevertheless knew that we wouldn’t be able to alter climate change in the lifetime of anyone living?

This statement is entirely disconnected from the best evidence we have with respect what is likely to happen this century at a given level of greenhouse gas emission. It also indicates to me that you are not familiar with the way ghg scenarios are formulated. Temperature projections are geared towards what will likely happen by the end of this century, and are based on alternative development pathways and associated greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. Divergence in global temperature averages for the upper and lower scenarios begins to occur around 2050. I sure as hell hope to be alive then, as I hope my kids will be alive towards the end of the century. So the argument that what we do is irrelevant with respect to any impact it could have on present generations is directly contradicted by the available evidence.

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page5.php

Furthermore, see here for a simple graphic of how uncertainty can and is incorporated into climate change projections, but in no way does this error (noise) exceed the level of understanding (signal) to the extent necessary to negate motivating a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

http://globalchange.mit.edu/resources/gamble/

So we do have different facts (as I thought was pretty clear considering my first post), and it is on the basis of those facts that we seem to be coming to very different conclusions.

You also claimed that we should simply concentrate on helping people, which from what you’ve written implies that we could somehow do so without tackling climate change emissions? I do not understand this argument. Check out the figures reproduced from the IPCC FAR report here.

http://rs.resalliance.org/2007/09/22/a-damaged-world-vs-a-severely-damaged-world/

So where to from here? Not sure really.

I am not aware of any major scientific body that adopts anything like a view that we should leave greenhouse gas emissions unregulated, or that resultant projections for rising sea levels, increasing ocean acidity, reduced food supplies, increased storm damage, reductions in glacial melt water supplies, more extreme rainfall events, higher rates of species loss, etc… somehow manages to a sit on the fence with respect to its likely positive or negative implications for humanity. And it is because of the weight to which such risks fall on the side of “not good” to “very not good”, that all the major science academies of the world signed a joint statement that we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
If you wish to nevertheless argue that humans will adapt; well that’s a no brainer. Of course we will. Much of humanity can and will adapt, at least those with the resources to do so. But that’s a far cry from what the issue is. The issue is whether the cost of transitioning away from a carbon based economy is compensated by the long-term decreased associated risks of climate change impacts on human health, food resources, water resources, ecosystems and infrastructure, over current and future generations.

If you’re going to argue that it isn’t, that we should continue reliance on fossil fuels as if they are disconnected from climate change, or that climate change is no big deal, then would you mind explaining how you justify such a conclusion when it contradicts the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence?

mattbrowne's avatar

Those in denial of global warming claim that we can’t trust the readings of thousands of thermometers collected over the past 150 years. Those in denial of climate change claim that we can’t trust the carbon dioxide analyses of ice cores referring to changing conditions for the past 500,000 years. We can’t trust anything coming from reputable scientists (who could actually be communists in disguise). But we can trust the messages created by marketing experts of the fossil fuel industry who are hardworking, lawabiding, decent, patriotic Americans who cherish this great country.

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