Snow in the South, ice gain in Antarctica and scientists seemingly fudging climate data: is the global warming debate over? Definitely.
But skeptics aren’t on the winning side. Global warming deniers have gleefully seized on recent scandals and misinterpreted data to bolster their collection of arguments, but there are these pesky things called facts that keep getting in the way of their agenda.
But how do you respond to that impassioned neighbor, cranky uncle or annoying cocktail party guest who uses sunspots, Al Gore’s supposed greed and a limited grasp of climate science to claim that global warming isn’t really happening? Presenting the top 10 global warming denier arguments, and the facts that thoroughly debunk them. Today’s installment features numbers 10-6, check back tomorrow for the top 5.
10. It’s all a hoax perpetuated by money-hungry Al Gore
“You fools are being taken for a ride! Al Gore just made all this stuff up about ManBearPig global warming so he can roll in the Benjamins at his mansion.”
Fact: Gore donates all of the proceeds from both the book and DVD of An Inconvenient Truth to environmental causes. He also donated 100 percent of his Nobel Peace Prize award as well as the salary from his venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, to the Alliance for Climate Protection.
Al Gore isn’t the only target. Some claim that scientists “follow the money right onto the man-made global warming bandwagon.” But most funding for global warming research comes from government grants, and the money is doled out before the results are determined.
Meanwhile, dirty energy companies and anti-climate-action groups shower scientists who are willing to argue against climate change with cash. ExxonMobil was one of the largest sources of funding for such scientists for over a decade, and purported to stop in 2008. Surprise! They lied. Recently released records show that the oil giant paid out $75,000 that year to several climate action opposition groups.
9. But look at all the snow!
“It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries “uncle,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Jim DeMint (R-SC) on February 9th as a fierce winter storm dropped foot after foot of snow on the nation’s capital. “Record snowfall illustrates the obvious: The global warming fraud is without equal in modern science,” trumpeted an editorial in the conservative Washington Times. And let’s not even get started on The Donald.
Right, because winter is never cold, and all that snow can’t possibly have anything to do with a near-record amount of moisture in the air. Meteorologist Jeff Masters explains that heavy precipitation events are increasing as the world warms, and guess what -- at the freezing point and below, that means snow (and lots of it). Global warming doesn’t mean winter is going to go away.
The U.S. isn’t the entire world -- it’s only 1.5 percent of the globe. The Earth’s atmosphere is getting warmer, but different climates will be affected in different ways. Local weather is becoming more volatile across the board due both to warming and normal variability, but while that has translated to more frequent, more severe snow events in North America, Brazil is experiencing a near-record heat wave at the same time.
8. Warming is a good thing
“Break out the grill, swimsuits and daquiri mix because a huge chunk of the world is about to turn into tropical paradise!” Okay, so not everyone using this argument paints such a laughably simplistic picture of supposed global warming benefits, but it’s still bad: many believe that global warming would be good for the Earth and us.
Some cite fewer winter deaths, an ice-free Northwest Passage and increases in the number of certain species. Others argue that if the climate were to cool instead, even a little bit, a feedback effect would make things worse as growing Arctic snowfields caused more sunlight to reflect away from the ground. And another Ice Age wouldn’t exactly be kind to humanity. But while a few select regions could benefit from a warmer overall climate, most of the world would suffer on a nightmarish scale, and the feedback effect applies to warming as well.
Raging wildfires, extreme water scarcity, expanding deserts, changing ecosystems. Heatwave deaths, the spread of deadly mosquito-borne diseases, growing dead zones in the oceans, death of healthy trees and other vegetation, coral extinction. War. Climate refugees. That’s only a small fraction of the projected consequences, but it’s surely more than enough.
7. Climate change is part of a natural cycle
“How can we, petty little humans that we are, possibly alter something as huge in scope as the planet’s climate? After all, when you think about just how complex the Earth really is, we’re just not that important. So why should we change our habits?”
That might have been true until about two centuries ago, when the Industrial Age came along and we first started burning massive quantities of filthy, CO2-producing coal. Since then, as technology has advanced and our population has multiplied to over six billion people, we’ve gotten a bit big for our britches, pushing the limits of just how much pollution we can pump into the air before seeing catastrophic global effects.
There’s no doubt that historically, temperatures and greenhouse gas levels have fluctuated naturally, but those fluctuations are nothing compared to what we’ve seen in the past century (see charts in #6.)
6. Temperature data is unreliable
Skeptics like to claim that temperature records showing a warming trend are unreliable because weather stations are often located in areas that absorb and radiate heat, like rooftops and asphalt parking lots. But in reality, the Urban Heat Island Effect has had a very small influence on temperature readings and climate scientists adjust the data to account for it.
All major temperature reconstructions for the past 1,000 years published in peer-reviewed journals show some variability in surface temperatures over centuries (above graph), with a dip in the Little Ice Age and a huge uptick during the last century. Even if those reconstructions are excluded and we only look at the last 150 years (below graph), there’s a significant rise.
When it comes down to it, surface temperature records are far from the only evidence of global warming. With borehole analysis, weather balloon temperature data, satellite measurements, glacial melt observations, sea level rise and other indicators can be used completely independently of surface temps.