FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How to Answer the Dumb Things Climate Change Skeptics Say

by JOSHUA FRANK

If you are like me you probably have encountered a few people that do not believe global warming exists, or if they do, they are not always convinced that humans are contributing to the problem. There are usually a range of issues these skeptics raise in an attempt to cast doubt on climate change evidence. Below are a few responses to some of the more frequent statements these deniers toss our way.

The Skeptics: There is simply no evidence that humans are contributing to climate change, if the earth is even warming.

Answer: As carbon dioxide (CO2) is pumped into the air through human activities, heat becomes trapped in the atmosphere. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as the “greenhouse effect.” If the earth’s global temperatures rise a mere 3 degrees, there will be catastrophic results all over the world.

The Skeptics: CO2 can’t possibly be to blame for any so-called climate change as emissions only stay in our atmosphere for up to 10 years. Our oceans and terrestrial carbon sinks absorb this CO2 anyway. In fact, the oceans are so big that they could absorb over 50 times more CO2 than humans contribute now. As such, we can’t possibly be to blame for any change in global temperatures today.

Answer: Actually the ocean’s ability to store CO2 is not very long. Only 50% of CO2 is absorbed by areas of the ocean that are not very deep. In these areas, CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. Recent studies have shown that only 30% of CO2 is stored in the deep ocean. The rest, some 20%, stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

The Skeptics: The evidence that CO2 emissions are linked to any rise in global temperatures is casual at best. Global CO2 emissions do not match Arctic temperatures, which are often used as the best gauge for how to measure the earth’s climate.

Answer: While the Arctic may serve as a great resource for measuring climate change, looking at one small area of the planet is not the best way to assess the situation. During the 1930s, for example, warming occurred in the Arctic, but the cause is not exactly known and did not take place all over the planet.

The Skeptics: It’s actually been much hotter than it is today during recorded human history. During medieval times, for example, warm temperatures plagued much of Europe. This happened long before humans started burning fossil fuels, which is hard proof that we aren’t causing global warming today.

Answer: The warming that happened during 800-1300 AD is considered to be a local warming event, which is quite different than the changes in the global climate we are experiencing today. Ice samples have shown that temperatures around the world varied during that time.

The Skeptics: But ice core sampling is simply not a reliable way to measure changes to our climate because it is an imperfect science. Records come from measuring gas that is trapped in tiny air bubbles. But this air isn’t saved in stone, it can seep out over time.

Answer: Specific ice samples may not be completely reliable, this is true. However, in order to reduce error many samples are taken all over the world, which gives us a much better record of the earth’s historic climate trends. When used in conjunction with other resources, like tree rings, these records are undeniably accurate and reliable.

The Skeptics: Scientists fix the data all the time. One ice sampling in the Arctic at Siple has shown us that CO2 levels were around 328 parts per million all the way back in 1890. However, global warming believers insist that this level wasn’t met until the early 1970s. In order to make their point, graphs have been altered to fix this data in order to have us believe that CO2 emissions, from humans, were to blame for the rise in global temperatures.

Answer: When new evidence is found scientist alter their theories and data. No additional samplings taken anywhere in the world confirm that CO2 levels were above 290 parts per million in the last half of a million years. The Siple ice core samples in the Arctic cannot be used to counter this overwhelming consensus. Perhaps temperatures in the Siple area were elevated for a month or a year, but not consistently and not anywhere else on the planet at the same time. Since new data has come to light to address these findings, scientists have adjusted their graphs.

The Skeptics: Our environment has a great ability to adjust for inflation in CO2 emissions. When an increase occurs, our carbon sinks pick up the slack over a period of decades. So all the hype about global warming is nothing more than hot air.

Answer: Past warming cycles are not the result of greenhouse gas emissions. These warming trends were the result of the earth’s rotation around the sun. When the earth heated up in the past, more CO2 was released from our carbon sinks, which created a greenhouse effect. So when humans release CO2 today we are not allowing the earth to go through its natural cycle. Our oceans haven’t even started heating up yet. But if they do, and we do not cut CO2 in the atmosphere over the next twenty years, catastrophic effects will ensue.

(Thanks to RealClimate.org for background resources.)

Joshua Frank, Managing Editor of CounterPunch, is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, and of Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is now available in Kindle formatHe can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com.

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @brickburner

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail