So you’ve got the facts to rebut global warming denial arguments like “Al Gore wants our money”, “But it’s snowing!” and “Warming sounds good to me.” From here on out, things get a little more complicated. Claims that use the sun’s influence on the Earth’s climate, Antarctica’s ice gain, reliability of temperature data and supposed evidence of cooling are based on a thin understanding of how climate science works.
There’s no doubt that the world is warming. Get a grip on reality with our debunking of the top 10 denier’s claims – and click on the links to read the studies and analyses that support the scientific consensus for more information. (Click here for the first part in this series.)
5. Antarctica is actually gaining ice, not losing it
Melting at the Earth’s poles has long been considered a major warning sign of global warming, so when two recent studies indicated a slowing of overall surface warming across Antarctica – and even some ice gain – skeptics took it as solid proof of their point. The problem is, NASA satellite data shows that Antarctica has been losing more than 24 cubic miles of ice each year since 2002.
The “discrepancy” boils down to two things: first, there’s a big difference between land ice and sea ice. Sea ice is increasing, but it’s not because Antarctica is cooling – in fact, the Southern Ocean is warming faster than any other ocean on earth. It’s due to a series of events including the hole in the ozone layer and wind currents pushing sea ice around.
Second, scientists suspect that Antarctic ice shelves are being eroded from underneath by warming seas, and satellites can’t measure under the ice. While there’s not much happening in East Antarctica, which is a high, dry desert making up 2/3 of the continent, West Antarctica – a series of ice-covered islands that rest on the ocean floor – is retreating at a dramatic pace, especially along the southern portion of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The Peninsula is the furthest point from the South Pole, so its deterioration could be a sign of what’s to come for the rest of the continent.
4. “˜Climategate’ proves it’s all an elaborate scam
When hackers stole emails written by climate scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in November of 2009, skeptics hailed it as “the final nail in the coffin for global warming.” To much of the public, the content of some of the emails seemed damning: the scientists, including Phil Jones, joked about physically harming opponents and referred to their work in terms that seemed to boast of intentionally manipulating data.
But the quotes were clearly taken out of context. Few people took the time to read the emails in full before deciding that their contents proved global warming a scam.
While Jones himself admits that the personal attacks in some of the emails were “awful”, an extensive independent examination of all 1,073 emails by the Associated Press and a panel of moderate climate scientists found no evidence whatsoever that the science of global warming was faked.
An Academic Board of Inquiry at Pennsylvania State University also cleared scientist Michael E. Mann, who was also a prominent figure in the hacked emails, of any wrongdoing in his widely criticized use of the word “trick”. “The so-called ‘trick’ was nothing more than a statistical method used to bring two or more different kinds of data sets together in a legitimate fashion by a technique that has been reviewed by a broad array of peers in the field,” the panel said.
Since so-called “˜Climategate’ fizzled, skeptics have homed in on a new target: a few minor errors in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That’s an entire article in itself – get the facts and spin from the experts at RealClimate.org.
3. There’s no consensus among scientists
The 31,000-strong “˜Petition Project‘ is proof that there’s no scientific consensus on climate change! Except that it’s not. An investigation by the Seattle Times into the “˜scientists’ who signed the petition found that dozens of names were made up including “Perry S. Mason”, “Michael J. Fox”, “John C. Grisham” and Spice Girl “Dr. Geri Halliwell”.
Only 0.1% of the Petition Project signers have a background in climatology. An unrelated survey found that 97.5% of actual climatologists who actively publish research on climate change believe that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.
26 scientific organizations and the Academy of Sciences from 19 different countries all support the consensus, and a survey of all peer-reviewed abstracts on the subject of global climate change published between 1993 and 2003 found that not a single paper rejected the consensus position.
2. It hasn’t warmed for over a decade
This wholly inaccurate argument is a favorite of Glenn Beck and his ilk. Here are the facts.
1998 was a record-breaking, blazing hot year. Since average global temperatures haven’t quite reached those levels since, some critics have claimed that the Earth hasn’t continued to warm over the last decade – or even that the Earth is in a cooling period.
That’s just wrong. Though there were several years in the past decade of relatively cooler global temperature averages, that has to do with normal short-term climate variability caused by climate events like El NiÃ±o and La NiÃ±a. The combination of global warming and El NiÃ±o produced the dramatic spike in 1998, while La NiÃ±a has contributed to slight cooling in years like 2008 – which was still the 10th warmest year on record. In fact, NASA research has found that the last decade was the warmest on record and 2009 temperatures reached near-record levels despite an unusually cold December in parts of North America. Or, put in simple terms: a year of record breaking heat (1998) followed by a decade more of still-record breaking heat isn’t cooling. It’s record breaking heat.
Moreover, surface temperatures aren’t everything. The entire planet, including the oceans, is accumulating heat. Skeptical Science puts the data in terms that are easier for the layperson to understand: the amount of heat that the oceans have accumulated since 1970 is roughly the equivalent of “190,000 nuclear power plants pouring their energy output directly into our oceans.”
1. It’s all the sun’s fault
In 2004, a group of researchers announced that the sun is increasingly active, and that a rise in the number of sunspots corresponds to the rise in temperatures over the last century. Of course, global warming skeptics jumped on this as an easy explanation for warming.
But the fact is, the sun has shown a slight cooling trend – in direct opposition to the warming trend on Earth. Naturally, the sun does have a lot of influence on the Earth’s climate, and during the 1150 years for which scientists have records, temperatures on this planet closely correlated with solar activity. It was right around 1960 that the Earth’s temperatures began to break away. Numerous peer-reviewed studies have concluded that the sun’s role in warming trends is, in fact, negligible.