Preaching to the Choir: Debunking Climate Change Deniers, Part 2


Temperature data showing rapid warming in the past few decades, the latest data going up to 2018. According to NASA data, 2016 was the warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. The 10 warmest years in the 139-year record all have occurred since 2005, with the five warmest years being the five most recent years. Credit: NASA's Earth Observatory

Temperature data showing rapid warming in the past few decades, the latest data going up to 2018. According to NASA data, 2016 was the warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. The 10 warmest years in the 139-year record all have occurred since 2005, with the five warmest years being the five most recent years. Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory

WC recognizes that, among his readers at least, arguing for the reality of anthropogenic climate change is preaching to the choir. But we all have friends and acquaintances who keep making the same, mistaken arguments against the reality of climate change. WC thought it might be worthwhile to provide you with rebuttals to some of the common ones. In particular, in the face of overwhelming evidence of a warming planet, all but the Flat Earthers now seem to have admitted the place is warming, but deny humans are too blame.

Keep in mind most of the deniers are using arguments made by the fossil fuel industry, who are much more interested in profits than in trivialities like saving the planet. But let’s resume analysis of the arguments.

Fib #3: Climate change won’t hurt me; it’s somebody else’s problem.

Public opinion on this is starting to shift. A majority of Americans now believe that climate change will affect them personally.

Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2018

Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2018

You can see that the grasp of the reality of the threat is lowest in the coal and oil belts, although the disbelief in coastal Florida and Alabama is hard to understand. Especially at high tides.

The reality is that climate change is a threat multiplier and touches everything, from our food supply to our health to our economy to our coasts to our infrastructure. It makes heat waves stronger, heavy precipitation events more frequent and hurricanes more intense, and it nearly doubles the area burned by wildfires. Climate change supercharges natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey and the central California Camp Fire. Climate change is no longer a distant issue in space or time: It’s affecting us, today, in the places where we live. Rising CO2 levels are increasing ocean acidification, jeopardizing the base of the food chain. As WC write this, the epic flood waters in the Midwest are only starting to recede. For many farmers, there will be no crops planted this year; their fields will dry out too late.

Fib #4: It’s getting colder, not warmer.

Every time there’s a cold spell in the Lower 48, you can count on climate change deniers to trumpet that it “proves” global warming is untrue. Trump has done so repeatedly, tweeting just before Thanksgiving, “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS — Whatever happened to Global Warming?” In 2015, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) brought a snowball to the Senate floor in an attempt to reject the reality of climate change.

There are at least two things wrong with this argument. First, it’s the average temperature, not the temperature on any particular day or week that matters. Climate – and climate change – is the long-term average of weather over decades. The fact it was cold and snowy one day last week on one week last month? That’s weather. Global warming or not, cold days still occur, particularly in winter. But since 2000, we’re seeing far more new hot-temperature records than cold ones. In 2017, we saw more than 10,000 cold-temperature records broken at weather stations across the United States. And more than 36,000 high-temperature records broken that same year.

Second, one consequence of climate change is that northern polar ice cap is melting. Each year sets a new minimum for the remaining polar ice. The absence of all that white, reflective ice means more open, dark, sunlight-absorbing water. That magnifies the polar warming. It’s a feedback loop. And that, in turn, disrupts the jet stream, the high-altitude, high velocity winds in the upper atmosphere. The normally roughly circular jet stream develops large loops, pulling the colder arctic air down to lower latitudes, resulting in harsh cold snaps .

Polar Vortex Explained

Polar Vortex Explained

Research shows that over the past several decades, the jet stream has weakened. There’s also evidence that as it wobbles, it can get stuck out of kilter, which can lead to more persistent weather extremes, including heat waves, cold snaps, droughts and flooding. There is strong evidence that human-caused global warming, and specifically increased heat in the Arctic Ocean, has altered the strength and path of the polar vortex.

With any luck, WC’s readers are now a little better equipped to respond to those folks who deny anthropogenic climate change.

If readers hear other arguments – as distinguished from loons who simply deny the facts – pass the arguments along to WC in a comment or email and WC will see what he can do by way of response.

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