How to deny global warming


Since last month is, yet again, a record-setter for abnormally high global average temperatures, I thought now would be a good time to post this list of tactics used by denialists to deny, obfuscate, misdirect, or otherwise impede our willingness to take action to reduce global warming.

#1. Deny that global warming exists. Contradict or disparage the data. Accuse scientists of cherry-picking, and publishing biased interpretations. Dismiss all signs of global warming as “just weather.”

#2. Where global warming is undeniable, deny that it is man-made. Compare the emissions of a single car to the emissions of a volcanic eruption, in order to make man-made sources of carbon seem trivial. Point to climate variations in prehistoric times as evidence that the climate change is a purely natural phenomenon. Ignore the fact that “natural disasters” are also natural.

More below the fold.

#3. Where man-made global warming is undeniable, question or deny that any negative consequences will result. Emphasize the amazing versatility and adaptability of humankind and of human science. Ignore any millions/billions of poor people from third world countries who will suffer the worst impact of global warming. Remind people that we all have air conditioning and other comforts now (if we’re well-to-do Americans).

#4. Where man-made global warming with negative consequences cannot be denied, claim that the cost of doing anything is too high. Emphasize the uncertainty of success, and the impact on the economy. Warn of impending job loss due to reduced profits. Insist that concerned individuals should just be content to reduce their own carbon footprint, and leave everyone else (especially industry) alone.

#5. When it becomes clear that we must do something, co-opt the remediation effort, and subvert the process to funnel yet more cash into industry profits. Claim to have been on the right side of science the whole time, and to be the only people capable of addressing the problem. Announce impressive projects without regard for feasibility, and devote significant portions of the budget to PR.

#6. When it becomes clear that industry efforts are ineffective, deny that anyone could possibly have foreseen the consequences of man-made global warming. Pretend to have discovered the problem only recently. Insist that earlier data was badly flawed, and/or deliberately distorted to promote unsavory political agendas.

#7. When all else fails, blame liberals, secularists, and scientists for everything. Claim that God is judging us for our failure to listen to conservatives and our refusal to punish people for being different. Ask why, if we knew about global warming so far ahead, did we not do something about it then? Imply that liberals, secularists, and scientists are causing global warming on purpose, as part of an evil plot to use natural disasters against conservatives.

Reading this over, I realize it sounds hopelessly cynical. At the same time, looking back at the history of tobacco regulation, of leaded gasoline, and of the Iraq war under Dubya, I have to say there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before. It’s only a matter of time before we see all 7 gambits being used in connection with global warming as well.

Comments

  1. Naked Bunny with a Whip says

    Related to #5, wave your hands around and say there’s no problem with global warming that technology can’t solve, then vote to defund research on any technology that might help with global warming.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    #5. When it becomes clear that we must do something, co-opt the remediation effort, and subvert the process to funnel yet more cash into industry profits. Claim to have been on the right side of science the whole time, and to be the only people capable of addressing the problem. Announce impressive projects without regard for feasibility, and devote significant portions of the budget to PR.

    The only problem with that point is that doing the right thing looks exactly like that.

    Funnelling cash into industry is the only way to get stuff done on the kind of scale that will make any difference. Feasible, impressive projects are only reliably identifiable in hindsight – if we could predict what was going to be feasible in advance with any reliability, nobody would ever go out of business or lose money. Business are not generally in the habit of sinking millions or billions into things they are not confident will pay back. It’s just that most of the time, they’re wrong. If you have a way of changing this, you could literally save the world. It is reasonable to expect most big projects to fail in important ways. And ultimately, you have to sell the alternatives to people, which requires PR.

    • johnhodges says

      How to tell the difference: look at WHICH industries get the cash, and where the cash comes FROM. To do the right thing, the cash should come FROM the fossil-fuel industries and go TO non-carbon energy industry. The SCALE of the effort should be comparable to the scale of the problem.

      • sonofrojblake says

        Pre-supposes that the “non-carbon energy industry” and the “fossil-fuel industries” are separate to the point of being mutually exclusive and equally well resourced in infrastructure, personnel and equipment.

        In fact, it is reasonable to suppose that, if they’re smart, the “fossil fuel industries” are future-proofing themselves by becoming the non-carbon industries, and are in fact best placed to do so because they already have massive experience in huge projects and hundreds of thousands of employees who’ve been working on such things for decades.

        Whether they’re doing so fast enough, or whether they’re capable of doing so fast enough, is arguable of course. But corporations and industries are not inherently evil, they just want to make money. Look to governments to set the environment. If the financial environment says “stick to oil and gas”, they’ll stick to oil and gas. If the financial environment says “pivot and build wind turbines and solar cells”, you can bet your house they’ll pivot. Don’t blame BP, Exxon, etc. Blame the governments who aren’t incentivising them.

      • StevoR says

        For a certain value of “good” – my counter to that would be the analogy of speeding car that has just gone off the road and is heading for a crash at high speed. You cannot avoid an accident – its too late for that – but you can choose to brake and reduce the impact speed from something that will write off the car and everyone in it to something that does a lot less damage and won’t be fatal although you and the car will still be hurt.

        Meanwhile in reality the observed factual evidence keeps piling up ever higher :

        http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-20/hottest-march-in-modern-times/7340246

        I expect NASA and other agencies to confirm this and add the pile and for the trend to continue – certainly over the decadal term even if an occassional (also hotter than usual) La Nina or neutral ENSO phase breaks the immediate run of record-breaking months.

  3. DonDueed says

    Somewhere in the 3.5 to 4.5 range: get laws passed that explicitly forbid any government action to address, or even acknowledge, climate change.

  4. oliver says

    It seems obvious to me that if you want to change denialists’ minds about the reality of global climate change, all you have to do is say, “Yes, it exists, and it is terrible, and it is all Obama’s fault.” There will be mass conversions to climate change acceptance overnight.

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