The Best Argument Against Global Warming

Joe Romm

Dr. Peter Gleick is co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California.  He wrote a great op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle, with that terrific Matt Groening cartoon:

Here is the best argument against global warming:

. . . .

Oh, right. There isn’t one.

There is no good argument against global warming. In all the brouhaha about tiny errors recently found in the massive IPCC report, the posturing by global climate deniers, including some elected officials, leaked emails, and media reports, here is one fact that seems to have been overlooked:

Those who deny that humans are causing unprecedented climate change have never, ever produced an alternative scientific argument that comes close to explaining the evidence we see around the world that the climate is changing.

Deniers don’t like the idea of climate change, they don’t believe it is possible for humans to change the climate, they don’t like the implications of climate change, they don’t like the things we might have to do to address it, or they just don’t like government or science. But they have no alternative scientific explanation that works.

Here is the way scientists think science works: Ideas and theories are proposed to explain the scientific principles we understand, the evidence we see all around us, and the mathematical models we use to test theories. Alternative theories compete. The ones that best explain reality are accepted, and any new idea must do a better job than the current one. And in this world, no alternative explanation for climate change has ever come close to doing a better job than the science produced by the climate community and represented by the IPCC and thousands of other reports. Indeed, the evidence that man-made climate change is already happening is compelling and overwhelming. And our water resources are especially vulnerable (see, for just one example, this previous blog post).

But the world of policy often doesn’t give a hoot for the world of science. That, of course, permits climate deniers to simply say “no, no, no” without having to come up with an idea that actually works better to explain what we see and know. That’s not science. It’s ideology.

And in the world of media, it makes some kind of sense to put a marginal, discredited climate denier up against world-leading climate scientists, as though that’s some kind of fair balance. Scientists don’t understand that — and it certainly confuses the public.

Here is the second best argument used by deniers against global warming, (but edited for children) from a message received by a colleague of mine:

“Mr. xxx, this is John Q. Public out here. Perhaps you don’t understand there’s no such thing as man-made global warming. I don’t care if you call it f!@%$#%@ing climate change, I don’t f!@%$#%@ing care what you call it. The same thing you communists tried in the 1970s. I’ve got a f!@%$#%@ing 75 articles from Newsweek Magazine stating we were making the earth freeze to death and we would have to melt the f!@%$#%@ing ice caps to save the earth. You, sir, and your colleagues, are progressive communists attempting to destroy America…Your f!@%$#%@ing agenda-driven, money-f!@%$#%@ing grabbing paws and understand there’s no such thing as global warming, you f!@%$#%@ing idiot and your f!@%$#%@ing colleagues.”

Nice, eh? Unfortunately, lots of climate scientists get emails and other messages like this. Note the careful reasoning? The persuasive and logical nature of the debate? The reference to the best scientific evidence from 1970 Newsweek magazines? Very compelling arguments, yes?

Scientists are used to debating facts with each other, with the best evidence and theory winning. Well, this is a bar fight, where the facts are irrelevant, and apparently, the rules and tools of science are too. But who wins bar fights? As the Simpson's cartoon so brilliantly showed, bullies. Not always the guy who is right.

This post was created for ClimateProgress.org      , a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund  .  Joseph Romm is the editor of Climate Progress and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

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4 comments

If you see any unhelpful comments, please let us know immediately.

a whitekid (anonymous)

cool story bro. too bad your wrong, check out some websites. Your facts suck dicks

Written in June 2010

whitekid (anonymous)

global warming is fake, believe it?

Written in June 2010

The picture is nice but sad. The thing is that it is true and reflects the present situation about the climate change very well. So many people wanted to make some changes but they had to leave their posts. You know there is a song What Do You Do For Money by AC DC (I've downloaded it from the best music search http://www.mp3hounddog.com ). It is a pity that some people are ready to sacrifice the lives of the majority of people to earn some extra billions.

Written in July 2010

mrstan (anonymous)

Why were most of the documents related to global warming falsified as shown in the GW scandal concerning all the emails speaking to the falsification of temperature data found in the congressional archive?

How do you explain the arboreal conifer forest ring surrounding the Artic pole which has not shifted in 20,000 years which flys in the face of the Global Warming myths? What I am seeing is falsification of data trying to establish the idea that the earth is going to melt unless we pay carbon credits to someone. The true indicators of global warming have proven this theory as false beyond reproach... to the point of the term global warming being altered to climate change now.. Especially since we are in the coldest winter since the "mini-ice age" of the middle 19th centrury.
Truth be known, the changes in climate and temperature are most likely caused by solar activity as identified by NASA measurements of sun-spot and flare activity within its 11 year cycles.

Can you provide scientific proof of this "warming" other than falsified emails and biased NASA documents which completely leave out the sun activity as a possible origin of these changes?

Why is this topic being so biasly conveyed as a doomsday situation when in fact no definitive proof can be presented other than measureing 1000 points around the globe for the maximum temps at those spots all year? I would hope a more scientific effort would be taken if this is truly such an impactful event instead of cooking the books in promoting some kind of agenda for whatever reason. Why would scientists do this kind of falsification? Do you deny these emails and data are in fact falsified? I refer to the notes surrendered to the congressional inquiry on the topic and investigation. What is the truth, or are we not able to trust our people of science now either?

Written in March

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