Climate Change Denial

It happens after a big snowfall. It happens when the weather turns especially cold. It happens when fewer or weaker hurricanes make landfall in a season. More Americans do it now than even two years ago[1], while most of the rest of world does it less.

What is this strange phenomenon? It is Climate Change Denial.

There are three main varieties of deniers: the uninformed, the misinformed and the conspiracy theorists/crackpots. While it is often possible to have an intelligent and rational discussion with the first two, the third type should simply be avoided.

The following information can be used to educate the uninformed or correct the misinformed.

False assumption: Climate change/global warming concern is all because of Al Gore/environmentalists.

Fact: While Al Gore has taken an interest in climate studies since a college course he took in the 1960s, the first concerns about climate change were voiced nearly 200 years ago, in 1827, by French scientist Jean-Baptiste Fourier.

False assumption: The Earth is enormous/complex, human activity can’t possibly have that much of an effect.

Fact: It’s true that the Earth is complex. The human body is complex, but even a light blanket will keep you warmer. Similarly, greenhouse gases act like a blanket in the atmosphere, keeping the Earth warmer than it would naturally be. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Its levels have risen above any levels seen in the geologic record, from a pre-industrial average around 270 parts per million to nearly 400 parts per million in 2009. Source:

False assumption: Selling my Hummer and buying a Prius isn’t going to make a difference.

Fact: Every change for the better adds to the global effort. Consider the human activities that contribute to the increase in greenhouse gases:

56.6% CO2 (carbon dioxide) from fossil fuel combustion

17.3% CO2 from deforestation, decay of biomass, etc.

2.8% CO2 from other miscellaneous sources

14.3% CH4 (methane) from human and animal waste

7.9% N2O (nitrous oxide) from agricultural practices, animal manure, waste management, etc.

1.1% F-gases


Then, look at the drop in the level of chlorofluorocarbon-11 (CFC11) in the atmosphere since 1987, The Montreal Protocols called for the phase-out of CFCs to slow and eventually stop atmospheric ozone depletion and to shrink the growing hole in the ozone layer. Levels of CFCs in the atmosphere have dropped since the phase-out began, even before elimination of CFCs has been achieved.

If a phase-out can reduce atmospheric CFC levels, then lower CO2 emission from vehicles and industry can reduce atmospheric CO2 levels.

False assumption: We can’t believe anything environmentalists claim because of errors in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Fact: While it’s true there were errors in the report, they were minor and in no way discredit the whole report. For specifics, please see RealClimate:


Published 03/13/2010 at

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