Category Archives: answering skeptics

The last word on climate denial–in one pie-chart

I’m not going to waste any more time showing why climate change deniers are wrong; I believe we should ignore them and put all our efforts into pressuring President Obama and Congress to take the lead on climate change, which means beginning to reverse the flow of carbon that is warming the planet and causing the oceans to acidify. This post on ought to be  the final word on denialism; after reading it, no one should believe there is serious disagreement in the scientific community about the reality of human-caused global warming. Post author James Powell writes, “If there is disagreement among scientists, based not on opinion but on hard evidence, it will be found in the peer-reviewed literature.” And so he surveyed the scientific literature over a 20-year period,  distilling his results in “Why Climate Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility – In One Pie Chart.” The proof is in the pie chart: of nearly 14,000 peer-reviewed articles on climate in science journals in the two decades since 1991, only 24 reject global warming and they are rarely cited. Powell writes, “Of one thing we can be certain: had any of these articles presented the magic bullet that falsifies human-caused global warming, that article would be on its way to becoming one of the most-cited in the history of science.”

Of course deniers won’t be convinced by this evidence; but it ought to persuade those snowed by the blizzard of propaganda–including some mainstream journalists–that they need not give deniers equal time. As Powell says, “Only one conclusion is possible: Within science, global warming denial has virtually no influence. Its influence is instead on a misguided media, politicians all-too-willing to deny science for their own gain, and a gullible public.” If you find yourself in conversation with a gullible member of that public–a doubter rather than a full-blown denier–send her or him this article to read. Or go to the Skeptical Science site, which rebuts in a very organized way the many pseudoscientific claims made by deniers and compiles the many articles providing evidence that humans are causing global warming. Try out some of the rebuttals; make them your own.  There are even smart-phone apps that lay out rebuttals to all the skeptic arguments to have in your hand when needed! Links here.


Extreme weather events are waking Americans up to reality of climate change

Just as I suspected, the Frontline documentary “Climate of Doubt” was a little out of date. In its zeal to drive home its main claim–that a massive propaganda campaign by climate change denialists convinced the public that global warming was nothing to worry about–the program neglected the findings of a recent poll. According to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication  it seems that the severe weather events of spring and summer  2012  woke people up: for the first time a majority of Americans believe that our actions are causing the planet to warm. The report says, “more than half of Americans (54%) believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities, an increase of 8 points since March 2012.” Furthermore,

Americans’ belief in the reality of global warming has increased by 13 percentage points over the past two and a half years, from 57 percent in January 2010 to 70 percent in September 2012. At the same time, the number of Americans who say global warming is not happening has declined nearly by half, from 20 percent in January 2010 to only 12 percent today.

So the skeptics and deniers are a shrinking minority. See the “Climate of Doubt” website for related articles that provide context and evidence supporting the documentary’s claims. The hundreds of comments on the program come from the usual mix of deniers and scientific realists; it is dispiriting to see how many of the former persist in sharing their willful ignorance in absolutist terms. But one commenter helpfully shares the name of a new group you can join to take action: Citizens Climate Lobby. Another group everyone should support is


Watch Frontline on PBS October 23 (or online) if you’ve ever wondered why everyone isn’t taking part in mass protests to demand action on climate change. We know what we need to do: shift to renewable energy sources, put a … Continue reading

Antarctic Sea Ice Grew, the Arctic Sea Ice Melted–Do They Cancel Each Other Out, as the Skeptics Say?

If you have an iPad, download the Zite app to create a personal magazine on topics of interest or passion. I created a Climate Change section; on any given day there are two dozen articles reposted there, and many stay for a week or more. You can act as gatekeeper, blocking some sources you don’t want because they aren’t relevant to a topic. But I don’t block articles that argue against the reality of climate change or that try to discredit the movement to force political action to solve the problem. I want to know what the skeptics’ claims are, especially when they are from popular and influential sites like the Freakonomics blog, so that I can find articles and columns that refute them when they question or flat-out deny that the Earth is warming. I thought no one could question the sensational news in September about the much-diminished Arctic sea ice, which is well-documented and has very scary implications for our near future.

But a short piece in Zite from News Max claimed that the record extent of Antarctic sea ice, reached this September, balanced out the melting of the sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere. What’s more, the blogger claimed that climate scientists are ignoring the Antarctic increase while playing up the Arctic sea ice loss  in order to advance their dubious “belief” that the Earth is warming. News Max quoted the skeptic site Real Science as saying that if this trend continues, “the earth will be completely covered with ice much faster than the climate models predicted.”

Finding no scientific support for this startling claim–only an attack on what is called “climatism,” the “belief that man-made greenhouse gases are destroying earth’s climate”– I immediately searched on Bing to see if that story was being downplayed (it’s not), and what scientific explanations there might be for the seeming contradiction. I struck gold with a thorough explanation on the Washington Post blog Capital Weather Gang The writer, Jason Samenow, says it’s misleading to compare the “stunning” record low extent of Arctic ice–50 percent below average–to the increase in Antarctic sea ice, which is only 5 to 10  percent above average. Furthermore, the increase in the Antarctic is “not directly related to local air temperatures, which are actually going up.”  Samenow excerpts three posts by scientists and science journalists (in the Houston Chronicle SciGuy, Live Science, and Skeptical Science) that explain in detail why it takes longer for Antarctic sea ice to respond to climate warming compared to the Arctic. Also cited is the explanation on the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) website.

It’s important to steer students and others not educated in the science of climate change to these science-based sites, and to show them the difference between made-up charges that come without support, and scientific arguments buttressed by evidence and explanation. According to a Christian Science Monitor LiveScience story by Natalie Wolchover, a blog post by a climate change skeptic, Steven Goddard, is distracting from the dramatic news about the loss of Arctic sea ice. And it’s getting legs on the internet because Goddard does not back down even in the face of scientific explanation. He claims that the “Southern Hemisphere must be balancing the warming of the Northern Hemisphere by becoming colder (and thus, net global warming is zero)”; and he doesn’t accept the NSIDC’s explanation that the difference in melting rates was  expected because the Arctic is surrounded by land and its southern counterpart by water–among other differences.  Wolchover writes, “If anyone had asked an actual scientist, they would have learned that a good year for sea ice in the Antarctic in no way nullifies the precipitous drop in Arctic sea-ice levels year after year — or the mounds of other evidence indicating global warming is really happening.” Too bad for us, but the scientists are unanimous, and the journalists reporting the harsh facts of climate warming don’t have to apologize–as another skeptic in said they should, for “misrepresenting scientific data.”