Global Warming/Climate Change

How to Talk to a Climate Change Denier

The contest is joined. On one side there is the near-unanimous conclusion of thousands of active climate scientists throughout the world: the global climate is changing and human technology is the primary cause. From the other side we are told that “climate change” is at worst a “hoax” or at least a normal and natural phenomenon not significantly affected by human activity. This position is endorsed by right-wing media, almost all congressional Republicans, and a few bought-off “scientists” (“biostitutes”) lavishly funded by fossil fuel industries.

So how do you deal with a “denier” willing to engage you in a debate?

If the “denier” tells you that “God would not allow the climate to change” or that “Jesus will fix all that when he comes back in the next few years,” and then quotes the Bible as “evidence,” save your breath and his time. His is a hopeless case.

But if your adversaries are citing what they believe is “scientific fact” or otherwise exhibit some indication of a capacity to yield in the face of scientific evidence, they just might listen to reason and consider evidence – but don’t count on it.

You might proceed by citing scientific studies, to which your opponent will likely respond with anecdotes, out-of context quotes, and citations of dissenting “biostitutes” (Cf. “The Tobacco Institute”). But this promises to be an endless harangue. As one wit put it, “for every Ph.D there is an equal and opposite Ph.D.” Except, of course, in this case, with regard to the weight of empirical evidence, the “experts” in question, while “opposite,” are not equal.

Three Questions for the Denier:

Instead of citing an endless list of scientific studies, I propose a different approach. Pose just three questions.

Now he might reply that the press has lied: that there never was such a survey, and that there is no such thing as the IPCC. But such a reply will only confirm that your adversary is a certified citizen of Fantasyland, and that it is time for a polite but prompt exit.

But if your opponent answers the first two questions affirmatively, it seems that there are only four conceivable responses to these compelling facts:

  1. “Global climate change” is a hoax, perpetrated by a world-wide conspiracy of thousands of scientists.
  2. Those scientists have been “bought off” by funding agencies – primarily governments – who have a secret agenda (variously described).
  3. These scientists, along with their inferences from thousands of peer-reviewed accounts of field and laboratory studies, are all simply wrong.
  4. The consensus conclusion of these scientists is correct: global warming is real and homo sapiens have caused it.

A Hoax? Bribery? Scientific Error? Our Response:

Is climate change a hoax?

If so, then it is a “hoax” deliberately and collectively perpetrated by thousands of active climate scientists from dozens of countries throughout the world. It is a “hoax” endorsed by virtually every national and international scientific organization, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences. In other words, this “hoax” amounts to an international conspiracy.

What possible motive could unite so many individuals and nations from so many differing cultures, traditions, religions and national interests – a motive so compelling that it leads them all to participate in a colossal fraud? None that I can imagine, save perhaps personal financial gain, which we will deal with next.

There is, however, another common motive which might lead all these climate scientists to the consensus that global climate change is real and largely of human origin: Scientific integrity.

That integrity is achieved by strict adherence to scientific method and rigorous peer review prior to publication. Conversely, a violation of this integrity, for example by presenting non-replicable “cooked” evidence or purchased conclusions, can end a scientific career.

Have climate scientists been “bought off” by funding agencies?

If you wish to trade in your scientific reputation for cash, don’t look to the United Nations, the United States, or other governments for that payoff. You will do far better if you solicit the Koch brothers, or Exxon-Mobil, or Peabody Coal. To be sure, a few scientists have done just that, but not enough to make a dent in that roster of climate scientists who have joined the consensus.

But bribing thousands of scientists around the world to affirm a conclusion that they all know to be false? What agency could conceivably be behind this conspiracy? National governments that are members of the United Nations? But why would any national government, much less all governments, prefer a finding of climate change to that of a steady-state climate?

And what independent evidence exists of this colossal bribery? If there were any, you can be sure that it would have been trumpeted by the corporate media. Of these thousands of allegedly corrupt scientists, have any of them “fessed up” to their crimes? None that I know of. If they had, we would know of it, believe me.

In one noteworthy case, Stanford climatologist Richard Muller, on record as a “climate change skeptic,” accepted a grant from the Koch brothers to critically examine the validity of the scientific consensus. Muller’s conclusion: he was wrong and the consensus was right. Anthropogenic climate change is very real.

Are all these scientists and their supporting studies simply wrong?

Conceivable, but highly improbable. In fact, the “conceivability” that the consensus view might be wrong is essential to the likelihood that it is true. Scientists call this “the falsifiability criterion.” An explanation is in order.

We can imagine a world in which evolution is false. In such a world, there would be no fossil record, no DNA similarity among the species, no random mutations, etc. But that would not be the world that we live in. Evidence in this “real world” confirms the truth of evolution.

We can imagine a universe in which Einstein’s relativity theory is false. In such a world, light from a distant star would not “bend” in an eclipse in a manner precisely predicted by Einstein’s theory. Nor would particle accelerators behave as they do, etc. But scientific experimentation proves that we live in Einstein’s universe, not another that is conceivably different.

In brief: assertions of fact, if they are to be scientifically valid, must in principle be capable of describing what it would be like for such assertions to be false.

Thus the consensus conclusion of 98% of active climate scientists is that the world we inhabit is undergoing significant man-made climate change. Moreover, it is easy to imagine a world in which this is not happening. In such a world, the Arctic ice cap and the terrestrial glaciers would not be decreasing, the acidity and temperature of the oceans would not be increasing, the CO2 content of the atmosphere would be steady. Sadly, that is not the world that is measured, confirmed and reported by the climate scientists.

The climate change deniers would have us believe that despite all the accumulated evidence by those thousands of scientists, the conclusion that the global climate is changing is false. On the contrary, they tell us, the world in which we live has a steady-state climate, or if not, then climate change is “natural,” occasional, and of no great concern.

If so, then where is the evidence? And where is the argument that the data from these field and laboratory experiments do not in fact support the consensus view?

There are none that survive scrupulous, peer-reviewed scientific scrutiny. Instead, we get citations of the rare and insignificant errors in the mountain of confirming data. We get out-of-context reports, such as “proof” of global cooling taken from arbitrary data points in a temperature graph that, in full context, unquestionably displays an upward trend line. In fact, the very flimsiness of the refuting arguments serve, in the minds of the informed and critical observer, to significantly weaken the denialists’ assertions. “If that’s the best that the deniers can come up with, they don’t have a case.” Unfortunately, this is not the response of the typical FOX News viewer, or of virtually all GOP members of Congress.

And what of that dissenting 2% of climate scientists? I have not seen a breakdown of that statistic, but I would guess that a large majority are “skeptics” rather than “deniers.” They have seen the evidence, might find it compelling, but “are not yet convinced.” That would leave less than one percent who are “deniers,” and that, in science, constitutes “proof beyond reasonable doubt.”

Could the consensus be right – is anthropogenic climate change a reality?

This, by process of elimination, must be the only plausible explanation of the world-wide scientific consensus.

And yet, as scientists, they are open to the possibility that they are wrong. Scientific integrity demands this openness: its called “the falsifiability rule.” All that is required is scientifically compelling contrary evidence and inference.

So far: nothing.

Furthermore, as compassionate human beings with children and grandchildren, and with concern for the future of humanity, these same scientists must hope that they are wrong. Sadly, their evidence offers them no solace.

The Climate Change Denier Responds:

Our hypothetical opponent may still be unconvinced, and thus not quite done with us. Here are a few denialist responses that I have encountered personally, and which are no doubt familiar to those who have been following the climate debate.

What do you know? You are not a climate scientist!

Granted. I am not a climate scientist. So I rely on the findings of those who are.

But neither is Glenn Beck, or Sean Hannity, or Senator James Inhoff, or any of the denier Republicans in Congress, climate scientists. In fact, the only Member of Congress to come close to expertise in the subject is physicist Rush Holt (D, NJ). And he, of course, believes in climate change.

So you are a victim of the fallacy of argument from authority.

Guilty as charged. Almost everything I know is via someone else’s say-so.

Likewise yourself, gentle reader. Indirect knowledge (from “authority”) is an indispensable condition of education and of modern civilization.

I know directly that it is sunny outside, that I’d rather be exploring the Pacific Coast in my sea kayak right now, and that my wife is about serve me a spaghetti dinner (I just checked). Virtually everything else – that Barack Obama is President, that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius, and so on ad infinitum – I know “by authority.” And regarding the boiling point of water: if I confirm that by looking at a thermometer, I believe it only on the authoritative assumption that the thermometer accurately measures temperature in degrees Celsius.

So “argument by authority” is unavoidable. But it is also occasionally fallacious. If my doctor writes out a prescription, I trust that he is qualified to do so. But if a retired Olympic skating champion tells me on TV that I should take Vioxx, I should be skeptical. How do we know how to make that distinction? By examining the qualifications and motives of the alleged “authorities.”

In short, some alleged “fallacies” aren’t. Distinguishing sound from fallacious reasoning requires a critical “case-by-case” examination of the alleged “fallacies.” (See my “That’s Just Your Opinion”).

So it comes down to this: My hypothetical critic takes me to task for “citing authorities,” which he says is a “fallacy.” In return, he cites his own “authorities,” as he must. How do we settle this “he said — she said” confrontation? By examining the qualifications of the opposing “experts,” and the empirical foundations of their research. On my side thousands of qualified climate scientists, with conclusions following billions of dollars and billions of hours of peer-reviewed research. On the other side purchased “biostitutes” and corporate funded public relations campaigns.

No contest.

Scientists have been known to be wrong in the past.

Again, true. But how has scientific error been discovered and corrected? In all cases, this has been accomplish through better science.

So to the deniers, I have this challenge: present your “better science” if you have it. So far, silence.

In the meantime, the scientific community remains permanently open to well-founded contrary evidence. As we noted above (re: “falsifiability”), that is how science works.

Conclusion:

The political, economic and media opposition to scientific research, as exemplified in the climate change debate, is not new. We have seen it before: acid rain, cigarettes and cancer, Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” aerosols and ozone, as Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway have documented in their outstanding book, Merchants of Doubt.

Corporate propaganda is powerful, but it is not omnipotent. In all these cases, the weight of scientific evidence eventually prevailed. But this time, we can’t wait for “eventual” vindication. The findings of the IPCC and of those thousands of climate scientists portend unimaginable horrors, unless the global community of nations and their scientists act immediately and decisively.

“Eventual” vindication of their warnings will be too late.

More Readings for Unconvinced Climate Change Deniers

Websites:

~~~~~

Dr. Ernest Partridge has taught Environmental Philosophy, Ethics and Policy Studies at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, “The Online Gadfly” and co-edits the progressive website, “The Crisis Papers“. In 1983-1985 Dr. Partridge studied ethical aspects of applied seismology under a grant from the National Science Foundation. His e-mail is: gadfly (at) igc.org

39 Comments

  1. This article is also a part of the problem. This ‘me, and ‘them’ delusion. Both sides caught in a ‘I am right, you are wrong,’ situation. By this kind of attitude, all that happens is that both side become more set in their stance. Trying to fight your oppose into the ground be it with logic, fists or condemnation creates more anger, more polarisation. Only by seeing all beings as the same as us, with the same problems, worries and desires to be happy, can we let go of our desire to prove something. You may see this as a naïve view, but, there we have if. Fighting our corner merely causes yet more conflict

    1. While I am sympathetic to the aversion to a “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude, can’t we agree that some facts are settled? Among them: evolution, the shape of the earth, the existence and abject evil of the holocaust, etc.

      And with 98% of climate scientists agreeing that climate is changing and human activity is primarily responsible, can’t we include anthropogenic climate change among these settled issues? There comes a time when further discussion is moot and action is urgently required. E.g., England in 1940. If the Brits at the time insisted, “maybe Hitler has a point, lets hear his side” today we’d all be speaking German and saluting the Swastika.

      The “two-sides-to-every-argument” attitude has crippled US journalism, which now refuses to stand for anything at all.

      Of course, if the issue is a live one, by all means let’s hear both sides. But on some issues, once the evidence is assessed there remains no grounds for reasonable doubt.

      In the face of a growing global emergency, the post-modern slogan “there are no facts, only opinions” is a recipe for disaster.

      1. The “two-sides-to-every-argument” attitude has crippled US journalism, which now refuses to stand for anything at all.

        […]

        In the face of a growing global emergency, the post-modern slogan “there are no facts, only opinions” is a recipe for disaster.

        I couldn’t agree with you more Ernest. I see some segments of our readership want this site to go the same route – to become a dumbed down outlet of fluff – leaving out articles if even just a few people disagree with them. We’re facing a world of madness in the coming years, and we need to be able to face harsh realities, and talk about them objectively.

        1. Thank you. I responded once to the article on the UN Climate Committee disaster pending paper as follows with my name and Fellow Status in two fields related to science. This is my word-for-word 200 limit as submitted.

          “The 4th National Climate Assessment Report has had Statesman headline coverage twice now, November 20th & 24th (25th?). Despite the report’s “excessive” overreach and use of “could” triple frequency of fires, result in “MEGA” droughts, more heatwave deaths, et al, I would remind the readers that this group has yet to be right. I remind you that CO2 has far more benefits than negatives such as the increased greening of the Earth with less than 4% of vegetated land suffering from plant loss. That actually can slow the pace of warming. (Ref. 33 years Satellite via the Modis and AVHRR instruments it carries.) I would also remind you that Global Temperatures have been flat for the last 18 to 20 years while Global CO2 continues to rise slightly. CO2 is NOT a pollutant and is essential to life, nor does Global CO2 drive Global Temperature, but “lags” Global Temp! Not a single Scientist on the planet can or has ever refuted that comment. Archaeological and ice core studies (e.g. Vostok) have proven beyond doubt Global temperature “leads” Global CO2. As long as scientific “group think” exists, they’ll get it wrong.

      2. When “believers” pose the opposing “deniers” arguments you know they have no case. Let me bring you some rationale. Instead, I will pose a question or two. (1). Please identify one scientist on this planet, who has either conclusively proven, rigorous, proof that the very “paltry” contribution (fraction of 1% CO2 in atmosphere by volume, of which ~ 3% is human-caused) has sufficient impact to “drive” global temperature (leading). (2). Otherwise, please enlighten me, why have researchers, scientists all, (X times hundreds-over) who have focused on the previous ~400,000+ years, in every case, conclude that the symbiosis-related CO2 to Temperature (T)…”LEAD’s” carbon dioxide…every time on the grander time scale. You know, if the agent of driving force (CO2) around your models over these many trying years continue to fail, wouldn’t you become dejected at least a little? Could your hypothesis require a “polarity” shift? [i.e.; CO2 LAGS T!!!!
        “(Roughly?) 97% of Climate Scientists agree”. First, the only thing that many scientists could agree to is that, yes, CO2 is a GHG. (Wow) Second, no list or survey has ever been published and no research has been undertaken to validate the estimate. Third, not even ONE Scientist on this Planet has proven a peer-reviewed proof that CO2 “drives” Temperature on any Global scale, period. Fourth, any scientific theorem on almost anything will never achieve a near perfect consensus (99-100%) in academia. Shame, by the way you cannot produce such a survey made in the last 15-20 years or since the Climate summit of 2008. 20 of 25 submitted papers disproving CO2 as cause. That old survey is as old as your arguments. I could go on but facts do not support the fear mongering. I could go on, with overwhelming evidence from the sun beginning its predictable cooling phases and magnetic fields to archaeological and Ice core studies by thousands of scientists everyone showing CO2 FOLLOWS Temperature! Thousands! Hard evidence that BELIEVERS are WRONG to their core every time. Where are the 98% people. The ignorance is vast and remember this message when the WORLD DOES NOT END IN 12 YEARS.

        And yes. Temperature has trended flat for 18-22 years. One last BARB (I have more), tell me why when Ocean Temperatures rises sufficiently, more CO2 is released, not less? Every where yo ture (so called fact base people cannot face real facts. You just can’t give up the Polar Bear arguments.

  2. If you win the day Ernest, than what? A huge push to press governments and multinationals to cut emissions of all sorts. How and with what means. Many of us know the climate is changing. We see it everyday in front of us. Are we going to create more laws to stop the increase in pollution?Which means higher taxes to pay for cleaner air or maybe voluntarily cutting our usage of the combustion engine. Not easy when we humans have been conditioned to equate making money with making a living. We here in Brasil are taxed out the ass. Most our tribute goes to line the pockets of politicians, multinationals. and other shadowy figures .Saw 40 % of American who can work can´t find work. How will they pay for emissions reduction? Emissions reduction will be sold to us as a new tax. Btw what about Fukushima? It is a time bomb that is continuously going off. Fukushima, Climate Change, DU(Depleted Uranium), Fracking, GMO´s, Vaccines, Wars, tyranny and a host of other sinister things to control and or kill us(all Species)…Pick your poison. My feeling is a paradigm shift is occuring at this moment. Not sure we two leggeds will see the otherside.

    1. Shawn, I share your suspicion and distaste for corrupt governments. But what is the alternative? Anarchy? Police departments don’t prevent all crime and fire departments don’t prevent all fires. The solution? Abolish all law enforcement and fire prevention? Of course not. The rational response is reform, not abolition.

      As for taxation, in a just political economy, the poor and middle classes would pay less taxes, and the corporations and the wealthy would pay their fair share — i.e., much more. In the US, tax rates on the wealthy and corporations have been slashed as the top one percent have grabbed more than half of the national wealth. Restore the tax rates of the Eisenhower era, cut the military budget in half (leaving the US military still far and away the most powerful on Earth), and recover for public investment the cash looted by the plutocrats, and there will be plenty of resources for reform, repair, research and development.

      How likely is that? Not very so long as the corporate oligarchs remain in power. Sad to say, Shawn, I share your pessimism.

    2. Oi, Shawn. I appreciate your frustration. I’ve had a similar frustration since the 70’s, when I first became aware of all the world’s problems. At that time, there were writers like this one and I fell for their urgent calls to fix the problems. I recycled, I protested, I petitioned, I supported noble causes and I sent money into Nature Conservancy. But most of what I saw accomplished was more government and more problems. If we could have seen the laws we have now, in the 70’s, we would have been sure the problems would be fixed. But they are not fixed! What we did was grow government into big government. Now, big government has teamed up with the big corporations, as you wrote. That’s the problem, IMO. Please notice in the writers first paragraph in reply to you, he gives you a “corrupt government” OR “anarchy” choice. Either A or B. In the second paragraph, he uses the “fair share” argument to painlessly get more taxes from the “one percent,” but this time the government will spend this “public investment” money for the good of all. LOL Then, he slides up to you, head down, puts his arm around you and agrees that his plan is “sadly” “not very likely” to work. But, notice, he never retracted all his solutions. And, he still wants you to choose “A” or “B.” He still is parading around as having the best solution, but “sadly” it won’t work.” I say, if you know your plan won’t work, when come up with a new plan or shut up and sit down, because you’re wasting our attention time. Since being in this movement from the 70’s, my guess is that the writer craves the “attention” part, not the thinking part. In the future, when someone poses the “A” or “B” question, say neither! Tell them to go squawk in front of another audience, because you choose to use my precious time in solutions, not their hysteric unworkable power-over NON-solutions. IMHO, permaculture is one of those solutions.

    3. Shawn, trying to affect climate by attempting to suppress and destroy the US Economy is insane on its face! It won’t make a pimple on a mosquito’s bum! Carbon Dioxide is essential to life and is beneficial on every count. Let us not be sheep but look DIRECTLY at studies and research papers! Ignore the International Climate (political leaning on summit lectures none know enough to challenge) and anything from the UN Climate Committee!

      If permitted see my following explanation on CO2…a bit more organized “proof” as it were. – Ernie
      CARBON DIOXIDE – A SHORT PRIMER: (Note: References are limited due to space but all data below stems from recognized scientists or peer-reviewed publications and are multiple-sourced before selected use here.)

      My synopsis and argument for all “Believers” – From time-to-time, a subject will have legs (be persistent) raising concerns about its potential to negatively affect our work and profession. Examples include Birth Defects from VDT’s, cancer from power lines or brain tumors from cell phone use. All of these have faded in the spotlight of new data and science, yet these fears still return from time-to-time. One arms themselves by reviewing the actual studies or research papers to become better informed on behalf on our workforce and employers. Carbon Dioxide is one such subject with its recent demonization as a pollutant (EPA) to Global Warming to Carbon suppression, taxing and controls (Cap n’ Trade) through congressional mandate. Due to its controversial nature and this Editors interest and technical review over many years, this primer is solely the opinion of mine and includes factual data with some conclusions.

      What is CO2? – It is a solid below – 78 C/- 108.4 F and becomes a liquid if compressed at a pressure of 870 psi (lbs/in2) at room temperature (20C/68F). From its solid form (Dry Ice) it sublimates directly into a colorless, odorless gas once above – 78 C/ – 108.4 F. It is about 1.5 times as dense as air and tends to collect in low or confined locations and may become an asphyxiation hazard. (Example: Storing Dry Ice in a small space. A combination of reduced O2 and increased CO2 could be fatal.)

      CO2 as a Green House Gas? Carbon Dioxide makes up 0.0405% (405 ppm) of the earth’s atmosphere by volume (2016y) but CO2 comprises only around 1 percent by volume of total Green House Gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. The bulk, water vapor, comprises 95 percent of all GHGs. The other GHGs are methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone and CFCs. Water vapor varies from a trace in extremely cold and dry air to about 4% (40,000 ppm) in extremely warm and humid air. Water vapor therefore averages about 2 – 3% in atmosphere while CO2 is about 0.0405% (0.04%) by volume averaged over the planet. There is about 60 times more water vapor in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide under average conditions. [It is worth noting that most supporters of global warming leave out water vapor when charting GHG’s.]

      Of the approximately 1% of CO2 to total GHG’s, ~ 3% of the 1% is anthropogenic or Human caused. Goldburg). Human addition (anthropogenic) is 8 Gton which is approx. 1 % of total atmospheric CO2 (750 Gton in atmosphere). Comparing greenhouse gases by strict concentration only, the total human component is somewhere between 0.1% and 0.2%, depending on whose numbers you use. Adjusted for GWP (Global Warming Potential), the total human contribution to Earth’s overall greenhouse effect is about 0.28%. Negligible compared to water vapor, not to mention solar affects.

      The Carboniferous Period (about 286 -360 million years ago) and the Ordovician Period (about 438 million years ago) were the only geological periods during the Paleozoic Era when global temperatures were as low as they are today. The Late Ordovician Period was also an Ice Age while at the same time CO2 concentrations then were nearly 12 times higher than today– 4400 ppm. (C.R. Scotese and R.A. Berner, 2001)

      Vostok Ice Core Data, about the timing of CO2 and climate change – from extensive studies in the Vostok ice core over the period that comprises what is called Glacial Termination III, which occurred about 240,000 years BP (Before Present). The results of their meticulous analysis led them to conclude that “the CO2 increase lagged Antarctic deglacial warming by 800 ± 200 years.” (Caillon et al., 2003) All historical data to date supports a finding that increasing atmospheric CO2 can lag temperature by as much as 100 – 800 years but consistently shows it as a lagging, not a leading indicator of Global warming.

      What are the benefits? – CO2 is a highly effective fire suppression total flooding system and can replace the Clean Air Act’s phase-out of Halon 1301 (1994y) systems although one must understand that it comes with much higher risk to life. Atmospheric CO2 is viewed by many today, (at 405 ppm) as impoverished. Voluminous scientific evidence shows that if CO2 were to rise above its current ambient level of ~ 405 parts per million, most plants would grow faster and larger because of more efficient photosynthesis and a reduction in water loss. For over 100 years, nurserymen have been adding carbon dioxide to their greenhouses to raise the yields of vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants. A doubling of the carbon dioxide (810 ppm) concentration in the atmosphere would increase plant productivity by almost one-third. Most plants would grow faster and bigger, with increases in leaf size and thickness, stem height, branching, and seed production. The number and size of fruits and flowers would also rise. Root/top patios would increase, giving many plants better root systems for access to water and nutrients.

      What are the Hazards? CO2 is non-toxic under normal exposures but becomes toxic above 0.5% (5,000 ppm). Carbon dioxide acts as both a stimulant and depressant on the central nervous system (OSHA 1989, Wong 1992). Exposure to a concentration of 6 percent (60,000 ppm) carbon dioxide can produce hearing and visual disturbances within 1 to 2 minutes; at 7 to 10 percent carbon dioxide can produce unconsciousness within a few minutes; 17 percent to 30 percent quickly (within 1 minute) leads to loss of controlled and purposeful activity, unconsciousness, coma, convulsions, and death (OSHA 1989, CCOHS 1990, Dalgaard et al. 1972, CATAMA 1953, Lambertsen 1971).

      My considered conclusions: (1) CO2 is not a pollutant! (2) It is non-toxic under normal use. (3) Benefits far outweigh negatives for both humans and plant life. (4) CO2 is a lagging indicator of global warming; (5) CO2 has been many times higher during previous ice ages. Earnest f. Harper, CSP, DABFE, DABFET, CFC Fellow of the American Society of Safety Engineers, January 31, 2010 – minor revision June 2017

  3. As Lomba rightly points out this type of ‘I’m right because these people say so’ serves no purpose other than attempt to polarise people on one side or the other.

    I have no doubt climates change. If they didn’t the world would be well knackered.
    I have no doubt that the sun has the biggest the fastest the most effective impact on climates around the world. Without it there would be no climate to change as the planet would be dead.
    As for the CO2 is a pollutant argument being pushed on a permaculture site which would beggars belief. CO2 is required for plant growth that is not in doubt.
    As for the CO2 produced by man how on earth is this measured?
    How on earth can it be separated from natures CO2?
    What happens when nature ‘burps out’ a larger amount of CO2 than ‘normal’ or locks more CO2 away than ‘normal’?
    Why is the head of the IPCC a railway engineer and not a climate scientist?

    But beyond all this what I cannot understand is why those who believe that man made carbon dioxide production is changing the climates of the earth do they not seem to be able to see that the obsession with carbon dioxide has quite literally knocked the man made pollution problems off the ‘front page’.

    1. Thank you Bill. The arguments for & against climate change are extremely tiring so I don’t really have an opinion on the here & now. I know climates change constantly, my husband works in a coal mine (!!!!) & seeing all the different layers of coal, then soil, then coal again, goes to show the see saws of our climate over the billions of years. Instead of spending so much time arguing about climate change, which much as some can’t admit, may be proved by computer models but Mother Nature may have different ideas, perhaps we should spend the time working on things we know, such as getting rid of plastic, reducing chemical use & improving our agricultural practises. If man-made climate change is happening, doing all this will do more to help than Australia’s 5% carbon tax!

    2. This “CO2 is necessary for life, therefore there is no climate crisis” argument is getting tiresome. I’ve heard it time and again, and it remains as fallacious as ever.

      The problem is that it is a half truth. The first part, “CO2 is necessary for life” is the truthful half. And no sane person disputes it. What follows the “therefore” is patently false.

      Of course, CO2 is a good thing. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Water is necessary for human (and all) life, but you can drown in it. There are numerous chemical elements and compounds which are necessary for life which, in excess, are poisonous. E.g., iodine.

      Phytoplankton, the foundation of all acquatic life and the source of half of the atmospheric oxygen, requires CO2. But an excess of atmospheric CO2 is increasing the acidity of ocean (carbonic acid) which in turn is killing the phytoplankton. “Too much of a good thing.”

      With no CO2 in the atmosphere, the Earth would be much colder and there would be no life. With an excess of CO2, primarily the result of fossil fuel consumption and deforestation, the atmosphere is heating along with the ocean.

      These are scientific facts. Deal with them!

      As for the question, “how is atmospheric CO2 measured”? Google “Keeling Curve” to find your answer.

      I’ve read all the comments on this site to date. But with these three replies, I’ve about shot my bolt.

      Many of these comments can be answered by reading my essay and considering the central question: “How can 98% of active climate scientists and their mountain of confirming research and data all be wrong?” Provide me with a plausible and scientifically sound reply, and I will take notice.

      1. In addition to what you’ve said, Ernest, about substances like iodine killing us in excess, or killing us if we have none, I want to remind readers of something that should be patently obvious…

        Two thousand years ago (or even just five hundred) the world supported a far greater amount of biomass (forests, bushes, grasslands, etc.) than it does today. And I do mean a far, far greater amount – there is only a fraction of it left today. But those forests and grasslands, in all their pristine glory, were, despite growing in a ~280ppm CO2 world, absolutely flourishing. To say that restricting CO2 emissions is cruelty to plant-life is falicious in the extreme.

    1. Sigh. Really? You agree with Bill here?
      Did you even read the article? What is your counter-theory? What evidence supports your belief, because that is all it is…belief. To (supposedly) read this article and make such a statement means you are quasi-educated like Bill. The theory of gravity is built on the same firm foundation as that of Anthropogenic Climate Change. I dare you to deny gravity, because it doesn’t give a hoot what you believe. Sorry, you cannot escape basic, natural laws!
      I’m beyond anger with this sort of lazy thinking…I’d actually feel sorry for you if your ignorance and arrogance were not so dangerous! And Lomba the relativist uber alles! Krikey! You sound as though you have studied Buddhism and duality but lack understanding. So what if we are all the same? First and foremost, you are physical, material, and grounded in being. Return to your cave saddhu.
      Next contestant step right up! fixie knocks em down!

  4. Articles like this remind of me of why I turned away from religion, with all its atheist vs ‘believer’ debates, and why I am considering going in a different direction from the one towards which the current trends in ‘permaculture’ are heading.

  5. I kind of agree with Shawn. Dr Partridge your article is completely correct but who cares what “they” think? I want to know what I can do here and now, in my own life to make any kind of difference. I believe that once I am doing it my neighbours will copy and somebody else will copy them and eventually the government will get the idea. That’s how society works. But what is it? What can I do to at least stop adding to the problem?

  6. Hi Kitty,

    The trouble with academics is that they are not all as reputable as each other.

    For this reason, scrutinising both sides of any debate, including the authors involved, is an important thing for all of us to do.

    I know that I myself have been guilty of heavily scutinising those whose position I oppose and letthing those I support off the hook. I suspect it is something many of us do.

    Because I am skeptical of skeptics, my immediate response was to look Prof. Carter up on the web. Makes for interesting reading, if you feel the urge yourself. Now I should probably go and look up one of his critics!

    Cheers, Sara

  7. I agree with the comments above. Sad to see the PRI keeping on going with this Malthusian climate change stuff. People are increasingly “denying” (or just not being convinced of) anthropogenic climate change. There is a scientific debate about the issue which is made complex by the statistical nature of the arguments, but we shouldn’t use concepts like “scientific consensus” to decide the matter.
    Notice how all the “solutions” to climate change put forth are 100% based around taxation and finance, (see the Chicago Mercantile Carbon Exchange) and never about for example, local permaculture projects.
    I would have thought that the permaculture community would have a healthy level of skepticism about backing any governmental-corporate-banking solution to the “climate crisis”. But this is all that we have, you either believe in climate change and thus support carbon taxes being paid to JP Morgan to create derivatives which are going to save the world, or you are a “denier”.
    Personally as a non scientist I am not convinced that CO2 drives the climate, rather the theory that solar activity is the most important factor looks most likely to me.
    For the laymen like myself a 17 year “pause” in global warming needs a better explanation than “the heat went into the ocean” for this arbitrary period.
    Putting that aside though the Malthusian aspect is important to consider. The doomsday scenarios which seem to be always just around the corner probably do a lot of harm to the permaculture movement in the long run. Historians note that powerful finance oligarchs frequently resort to the philosophy of Thomas Malthus in order to justify keeping populations in conditions of feudal serfdom. A paradigm of control which, if you look at the 85 richest people who own more wealth than 3.5 billion people (google it), might be attractive to our current crop of oligarchs. In fact look at those 85 people and see how many of them are lobbying for climate change. Also note how these people are as pro war as they are concerned about climate change. A good example is George Soros’s website Avaaz, but equally look at how Tony Blair, Rupert Murdoch and Monsanto campaign for climate change. Not that we want to fall for guilt by association, but the point is worth noting.
    Instead of promoting Malthusian negativity (Peak oil/climate change etc) which has as it’s core principle “humans are bad/humans are the problem” the permaculture community should be promoting the liberating idea that permaculture brings about self sufficiency and abundance. Permaculture allows human existence to thrive independent of the psychopathic madness of the government-corporate system. Obviously that is not to say that there are not negative problems that need attention, but from my point of view it seems that all the environmental issues which used to be talked about have been subsumed over the past decade by the climate change crowd. Lets embed solutions into all of the problems we discuss, this is playing to our strengths.
    So in conclusion I would say somewhere in all of this the problem is the solution.

  8. Wikipedia: In 2012, documents acquired from The Heartland Institute revealed that Carter was paid a monthly fee of $1,667 (USD), “as part of a program to pay ‘high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist [anthropogenic global warming] message’.”While Carter did not deny that the payments took place, he declined to discuss the payments.Carter “emphatically denies” any suggestion that his scientific opinion on climate change can be bought or swayed by funding.

  9. Sigh. what a stupid waste of time all this bickering is. Can anybody tell me what I can plant, what I can give up, what I can support that will make any difference to the state of the world? It seems to me none of you people are doing anything but jumping up and down in front of your screens and making monkey faces at each other. Come on people, let’s take some action here!

  10. This article (https://permaculturenews.org/2014/01/17/crash-on-demand-a-response-to-david-holmgren/) made a lot of sense to me while confirming to me the pointlessness of ever wasting energy on an argument involving this subject.

    However, “winning” an argument will always be an exciting and easy way to achieve satisfaction and distraction in a scary, complex world.

    Reading the entire article was beneficial to me (and my sanity), so I would recommend it to most who have their mind open to this. It all feels well summerized in the following paragraph:

    “The difference is that both financial crisis and peak oil are far more personal and immediate than climate change, and so are far bigger motivators of behavioural change. For this reason, addressing arguments in these terms is far more likely to be effective. In other words, the best way to address climate change is not to talk about it.”

  11. As an AGW skeptic (I don’t deny climate change, I don’t deny that human activity has some impact on climate – I am skeptical that there there is significant human impact on the global climate) I will take the bait.

    Firstly, if you want to talk to an AGW skeptic, don’t call them a climate change denier. Calling people names (“denier” is a very negative word) will start off any attempt at dialogue on the wrong foot. Instead, listen and attempt to understand what they actually believe. That said, let me answer the three questions.

    1) This is the paper by John Cook et al. title “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature” available at https://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024024/article To answer the question, I would respond – have you even read the paper? I would suggest that you take a look at Table 3 and tell me what percentage endorsed “No AGW position” (look it up for yourself. Hint, it’s greater than 50%). I think that answers your questions as to whether or not 98% of the 10,000 active climate scientists in that study endorse the position; you can easily see for yourself the answer through reading the article. So, on to the next question.

    2) If you provide me a link to the report so that I can see it for myself (not a link to a political website), I’ll happily acknowledge its existence.

    3) By saying that the previous two questions don’t add anything to the debate. Firstly, even if there is a consensus of scientists, that doesn’t actually matter at the end of the day. Scientists are not equivalent to science (an appeal to authority or “Argumentum ab auctoritate” is a logical fallacy). Science is a process by which a hypothesis is made, a (falsifiable) test for that hypothesis is created and then observations are compared to the hypothesis.

    Computer simulations are not proof, they are hypotheses. We can compare them to observations and even non-scientists can see that most of them have been falsified.

    I would like to pose a number of questions back.

    1) Do you acknowledge that computer simulations are a hypothesis, not proof?

    2) Do you acknowledge that the predictions made by computer simulations are falsified if they do not match actual observations?

    3) Have the IPCC models been falsified by the 15+ years of lack of global warming (accompanied by continually rising CO2 levels) or the missing “hotspot” (from AR4 https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html )

    4) Can this blog get back to permaculture?

  12. Interesting point of view Jo (Wikipedia: 2012 documents revealing Carter payments to counter alarmist messages) How are the “alarmist” scientists funded to come to their conclusions, who by, and to what brief or agenda?
    Taking Gregs’ point a moment further, about computer simulations being hypotheses, not proof, the Met Bureau computer models give us different/altered weather predictions every day….what does this mean? Also, I believe our time sample of existing records is way too small for the current speculation to be useful. Honing in on one scapegoat, is missing a whole range of opportunities for actual solutions. Too much argumentive hot air is expelled, Ernest, (exhausting out our limited resources further…) when what really is useful, is revegetating the earth to keep it cooler and moister. Permaculture is one of the better solutions, the quiet achiever!

  13. There is a very powerful argument that ‘deniers’are correct. We are told that our very best scientific brains are desperately worried that anthrpogenic pollution will destroy the world. Yet they all seem to blandly accept that the world population will double in 40 years. Now we can foam at the mouth and demand that we close coal fired power stations, peppercorn our world with wind farms et al, but if the population keeps doubling every forty years we will NEVER reduce pollution. Why then are the scientists not demanding population control if they really are sincere in their beliefs?

  14. Hello there, i can’t believe this topic still has enough fuel to keep burning on.
    But I’m going to give my two pence worth anyway. Quite frankly as a human being trying to live as close to nature as possible and living as off grid as possible, while raising 2 children, i don’t care if its man made or not !.
    Id much prefer it not to be man made, so the scoundrel of the corporate world won’t have permission to flog the poor even more, but theres not enough conclusive science out there or we would have a definitive answer one way or the other. All i hope for is that people start to care for this planet like our ancestors did, live a little more in the garden/forest/jungle/park than in there houses with there heads in pc’s/TV’s/DVD’s.
    The reason I’m on the PRI website is because it fills me with hope because like minded people “ARE” watching nature and adapting to it, without the incentive of money we do it because we care!!!.
    i find it quite offensive when people tell me about climate change, as if its some big secret. For some of us who have been watching it for 20 or so years, we know!. We’ve seen it every season for the last however long!!!. so please let it rest, and just look after the planet because you care not for the incentive of money. Anyway peace love and dirty fingers to both sides of this quite silly argument. x

  15. I haven’t “denied” Climate Change since I became aware of Global Cooling in the 1970’s. I’m just suspicious that most people who believe in Climate Change want some government to fix it. I’m into permaculture, because we need to fix our world’s problems WITHOUT governments, because governments are causing most of our world’s problem.

  16. As someone who is always open to new ideas, always questioning old ones, and always trying to find the best compromise — if one exists — I can tell you that my position is to put as much carbon back in the soil as possible. Regardless if AGW is real or not, more carbon in the soil favors soil life (humus), and humus is a magnificent sponge. Large quantities of humus, water, and soil life is a beautiful thing.

    So I’ll keep on planting nitrogen-fixing ground cover, I’ll continue to mob-graze my paddocks, I’ll continue to plant trees so they can suck carbon out of the air as they grow. I’ll do my best to build soil while others debate AGW. Because the solution — either way — would most likely be what I’m already doing.

  17. Thank you Knighter, Mykle and Troy Marz. It seems the best we can do is keep caring, keep planting. And try to stop any more trees being cut down.

  18. Could we all meet back here in 10 years and laugh about all the stupid solutions spouted by the government ninnies? And in the mean time, I’d like to get back to individual permaculture solutions for our lives. Thanx.

  19. Qualifier: I didn’t (yet at least) read the article or the comments. :)
    How I like to, in part, respond to climate change denialism is simply this:
    “How much fossil fuel do you think humans have burned up until now? (a lot) …And do you really think that that won’t somehow affect the climate? Put it this way; if you relate [‘compress’] the relatively-short time-frame humans have spent burning fossil fuels to geological time-frames [tens or hundreds of millions of years] then the burning of fossil fuels is essentially an explosion. What kind of explosion do you think? (What kind of explosion may have knocked out the dinosaurs?)”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button