Dealing with climate change denial

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I always laugh when people claim there’s some vast, worldwide conspiracy of scientists who made up climate change in an attempt to get pots of money and/or force the world to submit to a totalitarian government made up of crazed scientists.

For one thing, there’s not a lot of money in science. Researchers have to compete with many others to gain access to what research funds are available, and those funds are spent on infrastructure, staffing, and consumables: doing the research, in other words, rather than providing crystal goblets and solid gold plates for scientists to dine from.

For another, trying to get a bunch of scientists to organise for any reason is like herding cats – they’re fiercely independent and mostly totally engrossed in their work. They’d also rather have root canal surgery than do any more administration than is absolutely necessary, so the idea of them willingly choosing to rule the world is quite ridiculous.

Finally, the idea that any substantial group of scientists would choose to lie about their research, or would be allowed to get away with it, is also ludicrous. Scientists do what they do because they’re passionate about it, not because they want to institute a new world order. Even if one or more wanted to lie, the system of peer review makes it highly unlikely that they’d get away with it.

And while peer review is not perfect, scientists who attempt to replicate flawed work soon find that it’s flawed (and they do try: scientists will always test anything and everything). Proving the entire scientific establishment wrong is a great way to build a stellar reputation fast, compared to the decades spent building a reputation on solid incremental work.

There are a plethora of other denier arguments, so here you’ll find a collection of articles where you’ll find rebuttals to these arguments, some useful graphs, and an interesting article about the source of much climate denier publicity.

Queensland politician ‘disproves’ greenhouse gas theory using two fish boxes and a roll of cling film (worth a laugh)

7 stages of climate denial (contains a good cartoon)

Climate denial man

Climate change (science) is good science

Why climate deniers have no credibility

Dealing in doubt – Greenpeace exposes fossil fuel-funded climate denial machine

Skeptical Science

Real Climate

How to talk to climate skeptics

Climate Reality

Deniers vs the Consensus

How many gigatons of CO2?

When sea levels attack


  1. It’s crazy to think that there are people that deny climate change.
    It’s not even something abstract that one reads in an article, it’s something that can be observed by the general public in their day to day (or year to year) life.
    I remember growing up and knowing in which months to expect rain and in which to expect hot sunny days (max 35º in Lisbon). Now everything is a mess, patterns are not usually accurate and just a couple of months ago Lisbon reached new highs of 44º (and other parts of the country 48º).
    It’s scary and we either try to “fix” it or have to adapt really really fast (which might be difficult due to our own physical limitations).


    1. Sadly, it’s almost impossible to fix it now, although we may be able to reduce the degree of severity, and maybe even stop us going over the tipping point.

      The hard part of adaptation will be the animals and plants (including in the oceans). We’re already in the throes of a great extinction (the anthropocene) and given deforestation, ocean acidification, and pollution of air, water and land, all the other living things are already having a rough time – climate change can only make that worst, or tip them right over the edge.

  2. Alison, it’s Big B. here. I hate to “bleg”, but Dr Evon Hekkala of Fordham University asked me to publicize her DNA from Dioramas project. She has raised $860 out of $13,000 necessary for the project, which will compare the genomes of specimens collected in the Congo from 1909-1915 with genomes of recently collected specimens. There are eighteen days left in the campaign. Here’s the link for the campaign, I’d be grateful if you could pass this information along.

  3. I have no idea what anyone is talking about when they talk of “climate change denial”

    Are humans supposed to be able to detect the anthropogenic signal in the noise that is climate change, or are we supposed to assume that all climatic change is human induced these days?
    Or, perhaps, we are supposed to be dutiful citizens and accept the word of The Scientists, however flimsy their arguments may be

    1. Hi Andy,

      I’ll reply to your comments point by point, if that’s okay with you.

      I have no idea what anyone is talking about when they talk of “climate change denial”

      It’s usually used to refer to denying either that climate change is happening, or that humans are largely responsible for the current climate change.

      Are humans supposed to be able to detect the anthropogenic signal in the noise that is climate change,

      Yes, because there is a lot of supporting evidence from a wide variety of areas. There are scientists looking at: ice cores at the poles; plant migration; marine and terrestrial animal population migration; rising sea levels, ocean acidification, major currents like the great ocean conveyor belt, and deep and surface temperatures; frequency and severity of severe weather events such as fires, tornados, and tropical storms; plant pollination times; and other topics – it’s not just about atmospheric CO2, hotter summers and colder winters.

      The evidence from all of these fields of study forms pretty comprehensive evidence that (a) climate change is happening, and (b) that humans are largely responsible.

      or are we supposed to assume that all climatic change is human induced these days?

      It’s not a matter of assumption, it’s a matter of fairly overwhelming evidence. Once again, scientists in a variety of areas have tested the hypothesis that there’s no change, or that it’s not caused by human-generated CO2, and both those hypotheses have been proven false.

      Or, perhaps, we are supposed to be dutiful citizens and accept the word of The Scientists, however flimsy their arguments may be

      If you believe that the arguments of The Scientists (you make it sound as if they’re all parts of a hive mind!) are flimsy, you need evidence. And if you have any evidence that climate change is not happening, or that humans are not responsible, you can make a stellar scientific reputation (and incidentally make a lot of people feel very relieved) by publishing that evidence.

      Bear in mind that, unless you’ve made a comprehensive study of all the scientific studies that relate to climate change (which would be a full-time job for some months, at least), you’re probably unaware of much of that evidence. As you probably already know, a lot of academic papers never even make a ripple in the mainstream media, and the science related to climate change is no different.

      If you’re interested, here are a few of our past posts about climate change. You might also want to read this paper, which shows a link between belief in laissez faire economic theory and a rejection of climate change science.

      Climate change – who cares?

      First signs that climate change is causing adaptive shifts in plants

      Beer, chocolate, wine, coffee: all will suffer from climate change

      Who believes in climate change anyway?

      Climate change – a tidal wave of agreement

      1. So you are telling me that ALL climatic change is due to humans (post 1950 presumably), and that the climatic change we saw before 1950 was natural (according to the IPCC) and of similar magnitude. At least, the warming was a similar magnitude to the post 1950s warming.

        Whether or not the post 1950s warming is all man -made and the pre-1950s warming is all natural, it seems a little far fetched to say that all climatic change now is due to humans. Scientists can’t even explain the pause in surface temperatures over the last 15 years.

        The Pacific Decadal Oscillation wasn’t even named until 1996, and is a major multi-decadal part of the climate system

        I would argue that climate science is still in its infancy so claims like yours are a little hard to justify

      2. No, I’m not saying that *all* climate change is caused by humans, but the consensus is that most is. Not sure where you get the 1950 cutoff – that’s not a cutoff date that I’ve ever read, nor would it make sense to say that climate change before then was natural and after then was human-caused.

        As for the reduced rate of warming over the last 15 years, scientists can explain that quite well, although again it doesn’t often reach the mainstream media. Effects like el nino and la nina have an effect on surface temperatures in the short term, but the overall climate continues to change over the longer term.

        Also, short-term variations act as the noise in the signal, so climate models stretch across longer periods in order to filter out that noise.

        It’s also worth noting that, although the rate surface temperature increase slowed down, the ocean has been absorbing a lot of the temperature increase: Skeptical Science has a nice discussion and illustration of this, with some links for further reading (fairly academic).

        Regarding climate science being in its infancy, it’s based to a large degree on atmospheric physics, which is fairly old and venerable. I’d say its pedigree is at least as old and respectable as computer science, and climate science also has supporting evidence from many other areas of science, so it’s fairly credible.

      3. I got the 1950 date from the IPCC reports

        Sorry, I meant where you got the idea that all climate change before then was natural and all change after that was anthropogenic. If you could point me to a page and a section in the IPCC report, or a link to a news report, that would help. Here’s a link to the sections of the report:

        As far as I can tell from what I’ve read, the 1950 date referred to the fact that there were more comprehensive records available from then on: it wasn’t intended to suggest any binary change in causality.

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