Dear Climate Change Denier,
The person that referred you to this article probably thinks you’re too intellectually lazy to actually read it. While I’ve found that to very much seem to be the case, I’m guessing you have the modicum of intellectual diligence necessary to get through at least the next four paragraphs. I’m pullin’ for ya.
You are more than likely reading this article because someone tried to explain how we KNOW that current climate change is real, caused by humans, and potentially catastrophic. It’s likely that no matter what they said to you, you responded with derision, dismissals, silly graphics, or even stepped up and posted some denial page talking points that you believe settled it. Maybe it got to a point where you said what so many deniers do; “Where’s the proof?”. (That’s one paragraph)
Well, good for you. At least you’re engaged and asking for stuff. Thing is, in all the years I’ve gone around and around with you guys, I’ve found one commonality in those interactions. No matter what you’re shown, no matter what facts are handed to you, you won’t learn. (That’s two.)
By now you’ve probably trotted out that old canard about “Scientists thought an ice age was coming” as though that somehow dispenses with what we’ve learned since then. No matter how many times it’s been explained to you guys that the theory was never serious and that when we actually took a look at what was really happening with the climate we found that the long term trend was an alarmingly rapid rate of CO2 and warming increases… you guys keep pulling it out because you simply refuse to learn anything that conflicts with your beliefs. (Almost there…)
This is your chance to prove that wrong. You asked for proof? You want well established facts that demonstrate the reality of human caused climate change? Then exercise some intellectual honesty and diligence and read on. Otherwise, you can prove I’m right by quitting here and living with the fact that you really don’t give a damn about evidence and that intellectual laziness is a fact of your existence.
You’re not a dumbass? Great! In the following, we’re going to cover where the denial propaganda comes from and why, and go over five simple facts that prove beyond doubt to anyone with the capacity to reason and understand facts that climate change is real, serious, and that we are responsible. Here ya go:
Amidst the damning mountain of evidence that we’ve tipped the climate out of balance, the greatest challenge isn’t coming up with solutions. We have those. The greatest challenge is communicating that evidence into a form that people who can’t understand the science can grasp so they can fully realize the gravity of the existential threat humans and all other species on Earth face.
“Pfft! I’ll be just fine.”
I’ve spent hundreds of hours trying to explain to deniers just HOW it is we know that climate change is real, serious, and that we are responsible. The obstacle I’ve found is that these people have been deeply ingrained with the notion that it’s a ‘political’ issue rather than a scientific one. They’ve been deliberately fed misinformation, each piece of which is easily dismantled, but taken as a whole, it is a self-reinforcing edifice of half-truths, logical fallacies, and lies. For the scientifically illiterate, that mountain of propaganda is just as valid as the mountain of real evidence that the vast majority of the world and the community of climate scientists take very seriously.
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
“Of critical importance’, Hill argued, ‘they should declare the positive value of scientific skepticism of science itself.’ Knowledge, Hill understood, was hard won and uncertain, and there would always be skeptics. What better strategy than to identify, solicit, support, and amplify the views of skeptics of the causal relationship…? Moreover, the liberal disbursement of [industry] research funding to academic scientists could draw new skeptics into the fold. The goal, according to Hill, would be to build and broadcast a major scientific controversy. The public must get the message that the issue… remains an open question. Doubt, uncertainty, and the truism that there is more to know would become the industry’s collective new mantra.”
Does it sound like the energy industry’s response to their own discovery that rising CO2 levels caused climate warming? Does it sound like the construction of a strategy to sow doubt about the science of climate change? It does? Well it should, but it’s not. That was the PR firm of Hill and Knowlton coming up with a solution to the mounting scientific evidence that smoking caused cancer.
Back before the 1950’s, science was catching on that smoking cigarettes was linked to higher rates of cancer. As 1950 rolled around, the tobacco industry saw a threat building against it as the understanding of the toxicity of their product spread. As with any big business, the industry CEOs are beholden to the board of directors, who represent the stockholders, who expect a profit every quarter. It’s the CEO’s job to make the company profitable and the stockholders money no matter what. So, the heads of industry decided that along with marketing and cultural engineering, they would simply create their own ‘science’ to sow doubt among consumers that their product caused any harm.
Thus was spurred a long and well-documented history of industry-created propaganda being used to get consumers to think and behave against their own health and interests and for the interests of corporate profits.
This is so very well understood by now that anyone who says, “Well, we really don’t know whether smoking causes cancer.” gets the kinds of stares and laughs a hippopotamus wearing a sweater made of spaghetti and googly-eyes might draw. No one with a modicum of intelligence, education, and the ability to string two coherent thoughts together still questions the vast preponderance of scientific data that clearly concludes that ‘smoking tobacco greatly increases the risk of cancer’.
Some things that often clash, like the onward march of science and the profit motive for corporations, never change. Thus, history shall repeat.
In the late nineteenth century, just as industrialization was on the rise, a physicist/chemist named Svante Arrhenius became curious about what changes in atmospheric levels of CO2 and water vapor might do to air and surface temperatures. It would be some time before Guy Stewart Callendar would discover a solid link between atmospheric CO2 levels and global warming. It would be even longer before someone said, “Wait… this might be bad.”.
Then, in the late 1970’s, one of the leaders in the energy industry, Exxon Mobil, said, ‘Huh, it looks like this global warming thing might be real.’. More specifically, Exxon’s head scientist, James Black, said in July of ‘77;
“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,”
As a publicly traded corporation, Exxon had no choice; they had to fight any attempts to curb CO2 emissions simply because their bottom line depended on the status quo remaining intact. So they not only stole the tobacco industry’s playbook, they improved on it.
Knowing these things:
-That the energy industry’s profits depend on preventing controls on emissions and their existence depends on preventing any major infrastructure conversion to renewables.
-That the tobacco industry used the exact same tactics to sow doubt that smoking caused cancer that the energy industry is using now regarding climate change.
-That every single piece of ‘skeptical’ research, every denial talking point, and every climate ‘scientist’ that states there is doubt of human caused climate change has energy industry money behind it…
…Tells us that the entirety of the denial movement’s potency is another energy industry product manufactured expressly to to protect profits, just like the tobacco industry attempted, with some success, to do.
For the deniers who laugh at this, a simple challenge; produce ONE study or even ONE opinion from any climate scientist that challenges the consensus on climate change that isn’t linked to energy industry money. You can’t.
That alone is more than enough proof that the reality of human caused climate change, demonstrated by a literal ocean of evidence, is not seriously contested by real science. The ONLY original sources of human caused climate change denial have a clear and potent motive for producing the BS the deniers regurgitate: Money.
Meanwhile, actual climate scientists struggle to save for retirement when they could have taken much more lucrative jobs as paid schills rolling in industry cash.
There is simply nothing; no study, no argument, no graph, no cartoon, no talking point, and no graphic one can produce that does not run straight up against a wall of impermeable facts. Don’t believe it? Fine, you don’t have to. But the following facts don’t care what you believe.
The Five Simple Facts:
1) Humans have been burning fossil fuels at an ever accelerating rate for over 150 years, and the resultant CO2 is a greenhouse gas that causes the climate to absorb more solar energy.
2) Atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing since then at a commensurate rate not seen at any time in our geological history. The last time CO2 and temperatures rose at this rate was never. But the closest we can get is the Permian Extinction which happened after CO2 levels rose by 2600 ppm over TWENTY MILLION YEARS. That’s just over 0.01 ppm per hundred years. Our current rate is almost 100 ppm in the last hundred and fifty years. That’s nearly ten thousand times faster than ever before in geological history. When CO2 levels rose at barely 100 ppm over a million years, half the world died. (Thus the ‘extinction’ part of ‘Permian Extinction’).
3) We KNOW that the extra CO2 in the atmosphere was put there by us because we’ve identified the isotopes from the Carbon that’s been in the ground for millions of years and the Carbon that’s been in the natural cycle for the last several thousand years. They are different.
4) We’ve actually studied the various possible ‘natural’ causes such as solar fluctuations and orbital fluctuations and found that they were indeed part of the changes in the past… over millions of years. None of them correlate with what’s happening now.
Since it has never happened this fast in all of geological history, every single ‘natural cause’ can be ruled out; because if what is happening now was ‘natural’, it would have happened many, many times before. It has not. Ever.
5) Many of the predictions that were made decades ago about what might happen if we continued to put CO2 in the atmosphere at this rate are happening much sooner than we thought. Some haven’t happened… yet. But the fact that many have happened proves that those predictions were correct and we were being FAR too optimistic. And no, Al Gore saying that it’s ‘possible’ that Arctic sea ice could be gone by 2014 is ‘reasonable speculation’ (at the time), not a ‘hard prediction’. In fact, actual predictions are usually couched in terms like ‘possible’ or ‘likely’ because we only know some things are likely to happen, just not when. We also don’t know many things that could happen, so when they do, that will certainly demonstrate that the reality is ‘worse than we predicted’… unless we get very lucky and something happens that makes the climate fix itself.
For anyone with the ability to think and reason, and understand the meaning of verifiable facts, there cannot be even a shadow of a doubt after reading and understanding these that climate change is happening, it is serious, and we are responsible. These facts have never been refuted, at least not honestly, and stand as the hard proof.
If, Dear Denier, you cannot understand the significance of these facts added up, or choose to believe that they are not the well-researched, established facts they are, or if you believe the roundly discredited, industry-paid scientists, then so be it.
And the Climate doesn’t give a damn what you believe either.