News » Features

Climate IQ: Dispelling The Top 10 Arguments of Climate Change Skeptics

A look at what's really going on out there


Snow in the South, ice gain in Antarctica and scientists seemingly fudging climate data. Is the global warming debate over? Definitely.

But skeptics aren't on the winning side. Global warming naysayers have gleefully seized on recent scandals and misinterpreted data to bolster their collection of arguments, but there are these pesky things called facts that keep getting in the way of their agenda.

How do you respond to that impassioned neighbor, cranky uncle or annoying cocktail party guest who uses sunspots, Al Gore's supposed greed and a limited grasp of climate science to claim that global warming isn't really happening? Presenting the Top 10 global warming denier arguments and the facts that thoroughly debunk them.

10. It's all a hoax perpetuated by money-hungry Al Gore

"You fools are being taken for a ride! Al Gore just made all this stuff up about global warming so he can roll in the Benjamins at his mansion."

Fact: Gore donates all of the proceeds from both the book and DVD of An Inconvenient Truth to environmental causes. He also donated 100 percent of his Nobel Peace Prize award as well as the salary from his venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, to the Alliance for Climate Protection.

Al Gore isn't the only target, though a few poorly worded statements and oversimplified points in the Inconvenient Truth documentary (not to mention his status as a wealthy former politician) make him an easy one.

Some claim that scientists "follow the money right onto the man-made global warming bandwagon." But most funding for global warming research comes from government grants, and the money is doled out before the results are determined.

Meanwhile, dirty energy companies and anti-climate-action groups shower scientists who are willing to argue against climate change with cash. ExxonMobil was one of the largest sources of funding for such scientists for over a decade and purported to stop in 2008. Surprise! They lied. Records show that the oil giant paid out $125,000 that year to several climate action opposition groups.

9. But look at all the snow!

"It's going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries 'uncle,'" tweeted South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint on Feb. 9, 2010, as a fierce winter storm dropped foot after foot of snow on the nation's capital.

"Record snowfall illustrates the obvious: The global warming fraud is without equal in modern science," trumpeted an editorial in the conservative Washington Times. And let's not even get started on The Donald.

Right--because winter is never cold, and all that snow can't possibly have anything to do with a near-record amount of moisture in the air. Meteorologist Jeff Masters explains that heavy precipitation events are increasing as the world warms and guess what? At the freezing point and below, that means snow (and lots of it). Global warming doesn't mean winter is going to go away.

And guess what? The United States isn't the entire world--it's only 1.5 percent of the globe. The Earth's atmosphere is getting warmer, but different climates will be affected in different ways. Local weather is becoming more volatile across the board due both to warming and normal variability, but while that has translated to more frequent, more severe snow events in North America, Brazil has experienced a near-record heat wave at the same time.

8. Warming is a good thing

"Break out the grill, swimsuits and daiquiri mix--a huge chunk of the world is about to turn into tropical paradise." OK, so not everyone using this argument paints such a laughably simplistic picture of supposed global warming benefits, but it's still bad: Many believe that global warming would be good for the Earth--and us.

Some cite fewer winter deaths, an ice-free Northwest Passage and increases in the number of certain species. Others argue that if the climate were to cool instead, even a little bit, a feedback effect would make things worse as growing Arctic snowfields caused more sunlight to reflect away from the ground. And another Ice Age wouldn't exactly be kind to humanity.

But while a few select regions could benefit from a warmer overall climate, most of the world would suffer on a nightmarish scale, and the feedback effect applies to warming as well.

Raging wildfires, extreme water scarcity, expanding deserts, changing ecosystems. Heat-wave deaths, the spread of deadly mosquito-borne diseases, growing dead zones in the oceans, death of healthy trees and other vegetation, coral extinction. War. Climate refugees. That's only a small fraction of the projected consequences--taken from material published by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society and Science, among other places--but it's surely more than enough.