How to talk to a climate skeptic

Underwear proves global warming

We’ve all had the experience: Arguing with somebody who doesn’t believe that climate change is real.

They may say that the science is rigged and that global warming is just a hoax, an excuse for the eco-meanies to take away your Hummer or get big bucks grants for research and activism.

Or maybe they say that global warming is actually real, but that it just isn’t that bad.  So we definitely shouldn’t try to stop it. Maybe we should even encourage it? Baffin Island — the new Florida — Golfside villas starting at $199K.

Or maybe they admit that warming is both real and bad, but they argue that it couldn’t be caused by humans burning oil and stuff. Maybe it comes from solar flares? Anyway, there’s nothing we can do to stop this natural global warming. And it couldn’t be that bad anyway, because those Little Ice Age people made it through just fine, and this couldn’t be any worse than that. That was the freakin’ Dark Ages, after all.

Angry white men

What’s impressive is that these skeptics — nearly always white men of a certain age (coincidence?) — all seem to be singing from the same hymnal. They wax eloquently about solar flares.  They can cite chapter and verse from the Gospel of Bjorn (Lomborg, that is). And they never tire of delving into the arcana of Climate-gate and how the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is just a harbinger of the black helicopters of the coming New World Order.

Is there some kind of training camp run by Massey Energy where these guys go to learn their talking points? Or do they just watch a lot of Fox News?

Anyway, we’re all sure to encounter these argumentative folks in the future. How should we react?

We asked Guy McPherson, author of our October issue’s “Climate wake-up call,” what he would say to climate-change deniers, and he gave us this response:

Considering the overwhelming evidence, to deny anthropogenic climate change at this point makes you not a skeptic, but a sucker. I know there is no politically viable solution — as with energy decline, this is a predicament, not a problem — but we should not let fear force us into inaction.

Guy has much more patience than I do. After years of arguing with skeptics with nothing to show for it but spikes in blood pressure, I’m determined to never again have to hear what Richard Lindzen has to say about how the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation shows that mainstream climate science is bunk.

Just say nah nah nah nah nah

I’m afraid my approach to arguing with climate skeptics is much less open-minded:  I just don’t.

I’m not going to engage their “evidence” about natural waves and climate cycles. I’m not going to read their photocopied papers from the Heartland Institute. And I’m not going to look at their charts of temperature decline. I’m not a snob. It’s just that it’s not entertaining any more.

Boy with his tongue out

Also, I recognize that I’m not a trained climatologist. So how can I go through reams of data on ice cores? I can’t even remember the first line of the periodic table. I’m just not Bill Nye the Science Guy.

By the way, most any skeptic you meet is not a climatologist either. Unless you happen to run into Pat Michaels at Starbucks, in which case please say hi from me, since I’m a big fan of his climate-denier work as Virginia state climatologist until he was hounded out by that nasty liberal former Governor Tim Kaine.

I don’t need no stinkin’ climatology degree

Your friend the climate skeptic may have worked as an engineer. He may know about computer hardware or fiber optics. Or he may be a PhD in physics or chemistry. But none of that makes him a climatologist. And if he’s not a climatologist, then he’s no more qualified to argue about the details of climate science than you, or me, or Homer Simpson.

That’s why we have scientists. Like the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change. Or the academies of sciences of the United States, the United Kingdom, China, and Japan. And every other industrialized country. Or every major university. They ALL agree that global warming is dangerous, that today’s warming is mostly caused by human activity, and that we’d better do something to save our bacon. Or else it’s us who will be on the menu.

But even if 99% of qualified scientists agree on global warming, skeptics won’t be moved. There are always the Richard Lindzens of the world to give them doubt. And they don’t need no stinkin’ climatology degree to judge the evidence for themselves. They’ve studied it, they’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh, and they can see that it’s clearly bad science.

Now, these same old white guys wouldn’t build their own Boeing 727 in their garage and then try to fly it from Houston to Boca. And they wouldn’t brew up a batch of vaccine for H1N1 in the kitchen and inject it into their kids when they came home from school. But they have no problem saying that 50,000 years of ice-core data just don’t support the theory of anthropogenic climate change.

They believe in science. Except when they don’t.

Well, that sounds more like faith then science to me. And you can’t argue about faith. That’s just uncivil. No, really, you should just respect someone’s faith.

So, if someone wants to believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, that a massive Jewish conspiracy put out the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or that Taco Bell’s light menu really qualifies as eating healthy, then who am I to kill their buzz?

I’ve got better things to do anyway, like hanging out with Climate Alarmists who want Big Government to force Job Killing Taxes down the throats of Working Families who Rely on Affordable Energy for A Strong America.

Or, you might say, saving the planet from runaway global warming.

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  1. Jay says

    this article sucks. it basically says ‘if you dont believe in “climate change” then you watch fox news and listen to rush limbaugh.’ what a bunch of crap. anyone with half a brain can tell that this is one big ad hominem attack on skeptics. hey here’s a question for your so-called ‘educated mind’. why not call it global warming? LOL what a load.

  2. James R. Martin says

    Hey, Jay. Some of us know we’re not experts on climatology, which is quite a complicated thing, and that we ought therefore to listen to people who *are* climatologists. The key word here is *listen*. There may be some uncertainty. (Few things are certain!) But we listen. And listening makes us uneasy. Maybe the vast majority of actual climatologists actually know what they’re talking about? Maybe most (or all) those who say most climatologists are fraudsters are full of it? Maybe we ought to burn less fossil fuels, just in case the majority of the relevant scientists are correct? Maybe we ought to live in such a way as to give future generations a chance to grapple with the question?

    Maybe some folks won’t listen simply because they don’t want to feel uneasy? Maybe they like their SUVs too much, and their three thousand square foot houses–that make little or no use of solar energy? Maybe they’re attached to an outmoded sense of what constitutes “progress,” “success,” “wealth”?


    • says

      I’m all for skeptical thought, but I’m with you James in recognizing that climatologists maybe know more about climatology than I do. Or even than Rush Limbaugh does. And you’re right on the money when you say that we need to revisit our ideas of progress, etc. I might add prosperity to your list. Does more stuff = more happiness? America is the world’s richest country, but we have some of the world’s highest rates of depression, stress and even teen suicide. A country where teenagers feel the need to kill themselves has a serious problem. Consumerism promises much, but delivers little true satisfaction. Time to consider an end to economic growth? Nature may just impose that on us anyway, whether we like it or not. And that may just be OK.

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