Social Question

poisonedantidote's avatar

What is the motivation for arguing against global warming aka climate change?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21638points) October 4th, 2010

I often see or hear people arguing against climate change as I go about my day. I see it coming in two shades, those who think its not real, and those who think man is not the cause.

This is not a debate on if it is real or not, what im trying to find out, is what is the motivation, what is the point of arguing against it. what is there to be gained.

If we look at it from the perspective of those who accept it is real, but say man is not causing it. then surely we still have to do something as we will be affected by it.

If we look at it from the perspective of those who think its not real, then surely it is wise to do something anyway. maybe someone would argue that it costs money, but surely a little money is no big loss compared to the loss we will experience if it is real. with all the scientists (the ones who dont work for big oil) saying that it is real, surely there can be no evidence to suggest it is not real, and if there is, i would really like to see it as i have not seen any so far.

What could be a persons motivation for denying that climate change is real? even say big oil companies, if its about money, surely they want to be alive long enough to enjoy the money.

I just cant understand what a persons agenda or motivation could be for arguing that its not real.

any insight on the matter?

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31 Answers

FutureMemory's avatar

They don’t want restrictions put on their capitalist ventures that contribute to global warming.

downtide's avatar

Avoiding responsibility for doing something about it. If you admit it’s real, you are also admitting that you personally need to live in a more environmentally-responsible way, and many people are too lazy, stubborn or mean to accept that.

lillycoyote's avatar

Petroleum is the what “fuels the engines” of all of the most advanced and affluent economies in the world. Jeopardizing or threatening that would be the main basis for arguments against the science that supports global warming/climate change, I think.

meiosis's avatar

I think some people genuinely believe that there’s a leftist conspiracy to bring down capitalism, which, having lost the ideological left/right battle, has invented the notion of anthropomorphic climate change in order to have another front on which to fight. Others then exploit this paranoia in order to maintain their entrenched interests, protect their investments or gain political power.

marinelife's avatar

Those who argue against it are the causers of the pollution that increases global warming, and they do not want to have to change what they are doing.

Individuals who argue against it are just ignorant or see it as another Y2K (people crying doom).

GracieT's avatar

Thank you for asking this!!! My college degree is enviromental, and I never understood why either. This question was a good way to begin to figure out why people feel that way…

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Read this:

If you want to “follow the money.” The short version: there is a lot of money to be made on fossil fuels, as they are a diminishing resource. Those who control the market in them get get even filthier rich than they already are. Initiatives to reduce dependence reduce profits. So you pay some disgruntled scientists to cook up some gobbledygook that the uneducated public will buy. For a few more years, anyway. Sooner or later, the heat waves and 100-year floods will make it too hard to ignore any longer.

kevbo's avatar

Weaponization of weather and tectonics.

Also, because 3,500 of 6,000 weather stations were eliminated from the data set in 1990 “in ways that may in all liklihood favor warmer climates.

I can’t reconcile any of these facts with the global warming climate change AGC climate disruption narrative.

YoBob's avatar

It’s not a matter of arguing against it. Climate change is very real. Our earth is dynamic. Ever hear of the Ice Age. It’s pretty darned apparent that climate change occurs. The argument is against those screaming “the sky is falling”, generally for political gain without taking into account the larger picture of natural cycles that span eons.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Because this is more than an argument about “global climate change”, much more. It’s an argument about power. That is, it’s an argument about energy use (that kind of ‘power’) and political redistribution of wealth (political power). And because if we want to declare that our decisions are based on science instead of emotion and plain greed—on either side—then we should be clear about the science, and we should investigate all of the science, including the answers that don’t seem to point where we want or expect them to.

So my counter-question to you is: Why do we attempt with such force to stifle those who argue in reasoned ways and with facts aplenty at their disposal that anthropogenic global climate change is negligible, that the planet has done this type of thing in the past, before mankind was even on the scene, that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is an ‘indicator’ of warming, and not a cause and in other ways suggest that we are not the cause of all of the changes we see?

And my other questions include:
What do you consider “a little money”? And how do you propose that we could spend it most wisely? (I know whose ox is being gored here, but which one/s do you want to fatten?)

What makes so sure that we even can “do something” that will be effective?

kevbo's avatar

3,500 4,500

CyanoticWasp's avatar

To append to the previous answer, which is good enough to stand on its own, but…

There’s a primary, fundamental reason why to argue against anthropogenic climate change that applies to all science all of the time. That is, “prove it”. Every scientific breakthrough, from finding that the Earth is a sphere to finding that it circles the Sun, from the discovery of oxygen and other elements, to the circulation of blood in our bodies and the DNA that makes us who we are, all of it is argued against at inception. All of it. And it has to be, in order for the proponents of the idea to discredit all (scientific) opposition as it arises and have it be accepted.

I prefer that we not put the “heretics” to death when they propose new ideas that aren’t generally accepted, but that happens, too (because politics and religion often override the science). But scientists argue—a lot!—about ‘new science’. And it’s a good thing that they do, or we’d still believe that the Earth is flat, that the Sun runs in a circle overhead every day, that ‘night vapors’ cause illness, and we’d be pouring money into “cold fusion” even now. Not to mention homeopathy, which has been discussed—and quite well discredited—on this forum.

Fortunately, the proponents of cold fusion weren’t put to death, but their bad ideas were, and now there’s another faith-based science that we don’t have to believe in. If you want to accept the hypotheses of anthropogenic global climate change (and don’t forget that 40 years ago it was “global cooling” that had everyone in arms), then you are entirely welcome to adopt that as your own religion, if you have such faith in it. As for me, the science isn’t proven yet. Prove it.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@CyanoticWasp , the science is easy enough to prove – if you understand it. Most people don’t, which is why it’s a matter of public debate at all, and this is what the denialists count on.

This is a good article to get you started. Not too much of a reach for a nonscientist, and it was written in 1959, long before anyone was paying attention to the issue in political circles. You can read more about the history of the science here.

The Plass article mentions the absorption spectrum of CO2 and its relevance to the problem. This is completely incontrovertible; it’s an experiment that can be done in any science lab with an infrared spectrometer. The heat cannot escape into space. The higher the concentration of CO2, the greater the effect. The only question is whether or not there are mediating factors. There may be, but they aren’t enough to compensate, so the world gets warmer. This is what most people just don’t get about global warming: the mechanism of action is known. There’s nothing else to explain.

iamthemob's avatar

I’m with @tinyfaery on this one: $$$.

Global warming would mean a drive to shift to renewable energy resources. That requires money. Those that approve the funding have had links to current energy resources. The heads of those resources also have a lot of money already. So they can fund research which can be tweaked to a specific outcome. That outcome can be readily publicized to create the impression that there is dissent in the scientific community regarding our impact on the environment, when independent scientific research has produced an almost unanimity of findings that we’re screwing ourselved. The media is encouraged to present both sides of the manufactured debate, and people, seeing scientists on one side and scientists on the other, don’t really think that they need to look into who’s funding the research, who’s doing it, etc….they just know “Eh, they don’t know if it’s happening…look at how they’re fighting on Fox News (or CNN, or MSNBC, etc…).

mattbrowne's avatar

The irrational fear that we lose too many amenities of modern civilization.
We don’t. Although certain life styles have to be changed.

Of course the fossil fuel industry is afraid of change or too stupid or lazy to come up with new business opportunities in green technologies.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@mattbrowne for a guy as smart as you obviously are, you do come up with some zingers from time to time.

Someday you’ll have to explain to me how it is “stupid and lazy” to drill for oil under a mile of seawater, and then through more thousands of feet of seabed. And then get the crude out, refine it and get it to markets around the world. The results may not always be pretty, granted, but “stupid and lazy” isn’t even getting that job started. I’m not even going to address “afraid of change”.

The fossil fuel industry exists because demand for fossil fuels exists. It’s not as if Mobil, Shell, Exxon and others have any kind of monopoly on “how energy is produced”.

mattbrowne's avatar

@CyanoticWasp – I meant that part of the fossil fuel industry which actually hinders progress in green technology for example by faking studies or by funding expensive anti-climate-change campaigns or by funding ultra-conservative drill-baby-drill politicians. Shell seems like a decent company with a serious interest in sustainability and the development of green technology. Unfortunately, too many fossil fuel senior managers rather support hoax websites like instead of

I recommend you read the following book written by Thomas Friedman who is a conservative

and it will become clear that large parts of the fossil fuel industry is still afraid of change or too stupid or lazy to come up with new business opportunities in green technologies.

If Reagan hadn’t removed the solar panels from the White House in 1980 and the American car industry had seriously focused on fuel-efficient cars there would be less need to drill for oil under a mile of seawater, and then through more thousands of feet of seabed. The same applies to the insulation of buildings in the United States. Check out

Western Europeans enjoy about the same standard of living using far less energy per capita.

Is this dubious “global warming hoax” movement in Europe as strong as in the US. No, it isn’t. Why? As I said because there seems to be the irrational fear in the US that we might lose too many amenities of modern civilization. Most Europeans think we don’t. Although certain life styles have to be changed. Like using the washing machine when the sun shines or the wind blows. Smart grids will help us do this.

It’s time for many companies to stop acting stupid. Or lazy. We need to innovate. Like hell.

kevbo's avatar

I would say part of the above also supports the argument against global warming. The oil and auto industries have suppressed plenty of efficiency technologies. IMHO, the carbon tax scheme is a way for those same interests to ensure they maintain revenue and power prior to releasing efficiency technologies (and it has already been demonstrated that they’ve attempted to rig cap and trade to keep developing nations in check). Further, @CyanoticWasp, a sizeable chunk of that demand in the U.S. is the result of collusion between the auto industry and government(s) over the last century to favor the automobile over mass transit, including the dismantling of existing mass transit systems (such as in Los Angeles), so I think it’s a little shortsighted to assume we are talking about a fair and open market in the first place.

mattbrowne's avatar

Maybe I should add this:

I don’t think there’s a demand for fossil fuels.

I think there’s a demand for mobility getting from place A to B.

I think there’s a demand for a warm home in winter and a cool one in summer.

I think there’s a demand for an easy way to clean our clothes and dishes.

Let’s do it in a smarter way.

kevbo's avatar

Assuming this is true, here’s one physicist/academic’s take on why he disbelieves the global warming narrative. Essentially, it’s a case (surprise!) of politcs trumping science.

mattbrowne's avatar

@kevbo – There are a lot of disgruntled scientists with bruised egos. Plus, the fossil fuel lobby has got very deep pockets. What matters is the opinion of the majority of reputable climatologists. And they recommend we apply the precautionary principle. Better safe than sorry. Besides with the growing middle class in China and India the supply of oil can’t meet the increasing demand. Drill baby drill is wishful thinking. Alternatives and especially energy efficiency are key.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@mattbrowne you only appear to be reasonable from time to time. Obviously, at least on this topic, you are not.

To say that there is no demand for fossil fuels, but just a demand to get from point A to point B, to heat our water and our homes, to cook our food, etc. is mere sophistry. I demand fossil fuels to do these things, because the machines that I have that do those things—because I’m too lazy and stupid to find or invent better—run on fossil fuels. If you have machines that run on alternative fuels or produce the electric and motive power I need through other motors, then bring ‘em on. If I can afford to buy, maintain and refuel them—and it doesn’t require jumping through hoops for me to enable that, then I’ll buy them. I might be lazy—I am—but I’m not stupid. Neither are oil company executives.

To call others stupid and lazy because they won’t bring those machines to market is beyond unreasonable. If you’ve got ‘em, then bring ‘em.

mattbrowne's avatar

@CyanoticWasp – Calling others unreasonable seems like an obvious sign for a debate becoming unreasonable. Maybe you thought that I meant you when I used the labels stupid and lazy. If so, let me clarify that I didn’t. I wasn’t talking about you. I’m talking about the movers and shakers in this game who are more interested in short-term profits than the long-term welfare of all citizens on our small planet. Some of them are in fact oil company executives. Others are automobile executives who decide whether to invest in new models of gas-guzzling SUVs or smaller fuel-efficient cars. These people exist and they do have a lot of power and their plans and behavior is a grave danger to our world. We have to expose their wrongdoing and we have to make them change their minds and if this isn’t possible remove them from power.

Reagan taking down the solar panels from the White House in 1980 isn’t an isolated case. Millions of people still think like him. It’s very sad, but it’s reality. Some even think supporting green technology is like supporting communism.

There’s a demand for mobility getting from place A to B. Of course it doesn’t make sense to scrap existing cars. Manufacturing a new car requires resources and energy as well. We should not throw away our products. So until our existing cars can’t be replaced with something better there’s a short-term demand for gasoline.

What isn’t acceptable are people who are actively obstructing the road to change. These are the people I am talking about. Don’t you think they exist?

iamthemob's avatar


To say that there is no demand for fossil fuels, but just a demand to get from point A to point B, to heat our water and our homes, to cook our food, etc. is mere sophistry. I demand fossil fuels to do these things, because the machines that I have that do those things—because I’m too lazy and stupid to find or invent better—run on fossil fuels. If you have machines that run on alternative fuels or produce the electric and motive power I need through other motors, then bring ‘em on. If I can afford to buy, maintain and refuel them—and it doesn’t require jumping through hoops for me to enable that, then I’ll buy them. I might be lazy—I am—but I’m not stupid. Neither are oil company executives.

You realize that the above doesn’t counter @mattbrowne‘s arguments. The demand for fossil fuels is because of the lack of other alternatives. The lack of alternatives is, in many ways, a result of the various industries’ attempts to prevent the development of alternatives.

This isn’t to champion alternative sources – it’s to reveal that the fossil fuel hype is just that – hype, media supported and marketing hype.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@mattbrowne for the record, I knew you weren’t addressing “stupid and lazy” at me. But if the real choices were out there and I wasn’t making them because of lack of understanding or lack of initiative, then the labels would apply. The fact is that the choices aren’t there for me.

“The road to change” sounds noble and good, but what do you really mean by that? Do you mean “tax a business that we don’t like for some reason, and give the money to one that we do (or might eventually)?” I’d be blowing up bridges on that road, and I don’t even own stock in oil companies.

Whatever political statement Ronald Reagan made regarding solar panels 30 years ago is pretty meaningless today. I would love to put solar panels on my roof, for domestic electricity and hot water both. But the cost-benefit just doesn’t justify that yet in Connecticut, so it would be a needlessly expensive—and therefore wasteful—political statement for me to do that at this time, because both are provided more cheaply and reliably by other means—oil heat and fossil-generated electricity. “Wanting” something different doesn’t make it appear.

Car executives make what they can sell. If you want to argue against government bailouts of car companies that try to buck the market, or against subsidies for any form of transit (other than the necessary evil of eminent domain to establish rights of way), then you won’t be arguing with me. I oppose both of those things.

I see that @iamthemob has also failed to realize the obvious intent of my earlier post. The fact is, as @iamthemob repeats, “the lack of alternatives”—by which we have to clarify: economically viable alternatives. I refuse to believe in any case that some cabal of oil and auto company executives can stop the technologies that you both seem to think are hidden by some kind of super-conspiracy.

Yes, company executives try to make profits. So does every profit-driven company in the world. It’s the sole reason for being in business, after all.

So to get back to your last question, @mattbrowne: No, those people don’t exist who “obstruct the road to change” just for the sake of being able to do it and interested only in their profits from their existing business. If the technologies you think are so beneficial were also cost-effective, then those technologies couldn’t be stopped. (How do you think we went from horses and buggies to autos in the first place, with the vested interests we had one hundred years ago in liveries, feed suppliers, saddlers and harness-makers, when the upstart horseless carriage was introduced. The unreliable horseless carriage with no filling stations and few paved roads, in case you need reminding.)

iamthemob's avatar


I recognized the intent. You’re limiting your definition of economically viable to, it seems, quarterly profits. Alternatives require an up-front investment in infrastructure. Much like the railroads – and the interstate highway. Of COURSE they could be stopped, then, considering that “profit now” is a greater draw than “profit later.”

Considering you state that the sole reason for business is profit, then it is inevitable both that (1) it is more attractive to stick with the status quo and make your money now, AND (2) to attempt to suppress significant development of alternatives so that you can milk your profit line for as long as possible. This happens over, and over, and over again. It’s why we have antitrust laws. It’s why big government is inefficient (no competition). And it’s why investors can be kept complacent.

Therefore, as long as there are profits for the foreseeable future, there is every incentive to stop the alternatives. Especially when your market is the resource. Once water is power, how do you make money on water? Air? Sun? It requires a shift in profit-thinking that is more significant than simply switching to another limited resource that requires investment to get at and is located within specific areas only.

mattbrowne's avatar

@CyanoticWasp – How about you take the time to read Thomas Friedman’s book mentioned earlier? It’s about the road to change.

‘Friedman frequently uses 2050 as a marker for when it will be too late for our world to reverse the harmful effects of climate change. He writes that the needed green revolution would be more ambitious than any project so far undertaken: It will be the biggest innovation project in American history; and it will change everything from transportation to the utilities industry. This project is described in terms of nation-building. The book alleges we’ve gone from the “Cold War Era” to the “Energy-Climate Era”, marked by five major problems: growing demand for scarcer supplies, massive transfer of wealth to petrodictators, disruptive climate change, poor have-nots falling behind, and an accelerating loss of biodiversity. A green strategy is not simply about generating electric power, it is a new way of generating national power.’

AdamF's avatar

“What is the motivation for arguing against global warming aka climate change?”

Among the general populace, I would say misinformation from some media, industry and governments, and a predisposition to reject information that would challenge their identities and values.

Among the OpEd pieces and general media, the tendency to present all issues as the equivalent of political debates or opinions (ie he said she said), rather than doing the hard yards and assessing the weight of evidence available for respective opinions. Equally, the benefit of promoting polarising controversy to keep readers interested, to keep carbon intense advertisers happy, and the cheap source of news available by printing with little modification or challenge the press releases of industry-backed think tanks….and misinformation and the difficulty to accept information which challenges your identify and values.

Among the carbon intensive industries (coal, oil, aluminium production, cement manufacturing, transport, etc..), short term profits, ease of maintaining the status quo rather than adapting an industry to novel circumstances, and obligations to share-holders, and as above, misinformation, and the difficulty to accept information which challenges your identify and values.

Among some elected or unelected officials of carbon-intensive economies, the need to please a significant part of the electorate for whom fossil fuels provide a livelihood, obligations to powerful lobbyists and financial contributors, misinformation, and the difficulty to accept information which challenges your identify and values.

choppersangel's avatar

A general comment: interesting to me as a newbie, is how big the discussions get in the ‘Social’ section, real, deep stuff. I have had the same and had it suggested my recent question (‘bout narcissists) should have been put in the General section, which I didn’t.

Anyway, cool to see intelligent discussion… But, I go with Terry Pratchett’s concept of a ‘not my problem field’.

At the level of individual human endeavour, there are still too many people who cannot see the issue at all. I have friends who run a ‘Carbon neutral’ business ( in PR, using little paper and they have mugs instead of plastic cups) but go home and dry their baby’s re-usable (trendy) organic cotton nappies in a tumble dryer, when they have central heating and a garden with a washing line. Petty hypocrisy, feeling that doing a little is enough, is rife.

I’m working on a ‘Look you bastard – it’s happening right now’ field, but it requires either Kryptonite or Dilithium crystals. Or chocolate cake, which, thankfully, I can provide.

Ron_C's avatar

The only time you hear complaints about environmental rules is when a group looses money following the rules. That is the only criteria that determines opposition or not. The bigger the company affected the louder the complaints.

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