Climate sceptic arguments – and how to debunk them

Scientists learning more about climate change

After reading any article on climate change, a trip to the comments section can be an amusing, yet soul destroying experience.

Public uncertainty over climate change is partly driven by the fact that climate sceptics receive a disproportionate amount of media coverage. For every scientist who believes climate change is caused by people (97% of the climate science community agree climate change is anthropogenic), a few argue the opposite.

In this blog I would like to address one of the common claims made by climate change sceptics, and offer some evidence-based rebuttals.

Records show its been hotter in the past – what’s the big deal?

This is true – the Earth has been warmer in the past. However, future temperatures are only part of the problem. The other worry is the rate at which temperatures are increasing. The characteristics and infrastructures of our society are suited to particular weather patterns and sea levels. We rely on nature for food, fuel, clean water and air, as well as many other ecosystem services. These ecosystems are similarly suited to certain climates. Rapid changes in global temperature could cause a collapse of these ecosystems and the services they provide, with a direct impact on humans. The rate at which global temperatures are increasing is unprecedented in the history of our species and even rare in geological history. In fact, the Earth has been accumulating the equivalent of four Hiroshima bombs worth of heat per second since 1998.

The Earth may have been through similar scenarios in the past, but this is not reassuring. When you study the effects of these past changes, the situation looks even more grave. Rapid climate change is a key factor in almost all mass extinctions, including the period known as the ‘Great Dying’ 250 million years ago, which wiped out 93 – 97% of the world’s species.

Climate change is not an issue for the Earth; our planet has survived without us for billions of years and will continue to do so when we are gone. Equally, future biodiversity is unlikely to be compromised by current climate change, as the Earth has experienced losses of 97% of all species and has still rebounded to produce humans and all the species around us today.

The issue with current climate change is that it is the first such change caused by the activities of a single species – humans. We need to reverse modern temperature rises to maintain an environment in which we can survive and rely on the ecosystems that support us.

 

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2 thoughts on “Climate sceptic arguments – and how to debunk them

  1. Tony

    The truth does not always lie with the majority.

    Remember Einstein the first to suggest that light does not travel in straight lines, and he was right!

    Ice melts but how come some glaciers are getting longer?
    How come temperatures are not rising as fast as predicted?

    I see no proven link between increase in CO2 and rising temperatures, yes both have been going up but the system is hugely complex and to claim that we know what is going on is not bright.

    Yes I am a sceptic but I am also a scientist and feel quite unreasonable pressure to conform to the incorrect assumption that we caused it and an insane idea that we can stop it!

  2. tony

    This week two of our thinking MPs have expressed reservations about the IPCC and as their title suggests it would be difficult for them to accept that they and all the weight the throw behind their arguments, models and predictions might not be correct.

    95% certain that it is caused by human activity will be eroded by the time the next report comes out.

    MPs have endorsed the findings of a UN climate panel that says humans are the dominant cause of global warming.

    Members of the Energy and Climate Change Committee said there was “no reason to doubt the credibility of the science” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    But two MPs, known for their sceptical views, voted against this conclusion.

    They said the committee report was more like cheer leading than objective analysis.

    The IPCC issued its latest assessment of the causes, impacts and solutions to climate science, in three parts, starting in September last year.

    No reason for doubt
    The panel’s key conclusion was that the scientists were 95% certain that humans were the “dominant cause” of warming since the 1950s.

    But the IPCC has faced criticism about its relevance and methods after a number of small errors were highlighted in its 2007 report.

    Continue reading the main story

    Start Quote

    What is starkly clear from the evidence we heard however is that there is no reason to doubt the credibility of the science”

    Tim Yeo MP
    Chair, Energy and Climate Change Committee
    The cross-party commons body heard from a range of experts and concluded that the panel had tightened its processes and the recent report was the most exhaustive and heavily scrutinised to date.

    The panel was sound, the MPs held, and so were its conclusions.

    “What is starkly clear from the evidence we heard however is that there is no reason to doubt the credibility of the science or the integrity of the scientists involved,” said Tim Yeo, MP chair of Energy and Climate Change Committee.

    “Policymakers in the UK and around the world must now act on the IPCC’s warning and work to agree a binding global climate deal in 2015 to ensure temperature rises do not exceed a point that could dangerously destabilise the climate.”

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