Why People Resist the Notion of Climate Change

by Shannon Hall on February 10, 2014

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Image Credit: NASA

Arctic sea ice loss is one of the most dramatic signs of climate change. Image Credit: NASA

One of the most striking features of the climate change ‘debate’ is that it’s no longer a debate. Climate scientists around the world agree that climate change is very real — the Earth is warming up and we are the cause.

Yet while there is consensus even among the most reserved climate scientists, a portion of the public persistently disagrees. A recent Pew Research Center — an organization that provides information on demographic trends across the U.S. and the world — survey found that roughly four-in-ten Americans see climate change as a global threat. Climate scientists are racking their brains in an attempt to find out why.

Yale law professor Dan Kahan has done extensive research which reveals how our deep-rooted cultural dispositions might interfere with our perceptions of reality.

Why We Resist Climate Change

In 2010 Kahan led a study, “Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus,” which found that individuals tend to weigh evidence and credit experts differently based on cultural considerations. Psychological mechanisms allow individuals to selectively credit or dismiss evidence and experts, depending on whether the views presented match the dominant view of their group.

“There is an interdependence between people’s prior beliefs about risk and their exposure to and understanding of information,” Kahan told Universe Today. “People are motivated to search out information in a biased way. They look more for information that is consistent with their views than for information that is going to refute their views.”

Kahan’s study was administered online to 1,500 U.S. adults. Preliminary analyses wanted to determine if the public thought there was a scientific consensus regarding climate change and if there was a scientific consensus regarding human activity as the cause.

A majority — 55 percent — of the subjects reported their opinion that most scientists agree that global temperatures are rising, 12 percent believed most scientists do not find that global temperatures are rising, and 33 percent believed that scientists are divided on the topic. On whether or not human activity is the cause, 45 percent believed scientists agree that human activity is the cause, 15 percent believed scientists don’t think human activity is the cause, and 40 percent believed scientists are divided on the topic.

The public is generally not in a position to investigate the data for themselves or even read a scientific paper full of unfamiliar acronyms, plots and equations. Instead they turn to experts for assistance. Often times in determining who is credible, individuals will trust those who share similar world views and personal values. They tend to seek information congenial to their cultural predispositions.

For Kahan’s first experiment, the subjects read the biographical information of an expert scientist. They had to decide whether he was credible, having earned a Ph.D. from an elite university and now serving as a faculty member of another elite university. Those who listed themselves as hierarchical — believing in stratified social roles (generally conservatives) —  were more likely to find the expert scientist credible, while those who listed themselves as communitarian — expecting individuals to secure their own well-being (generally liberals) — were more likely to find the expert scientist not credible.

These fictional individuals were identified as credible or not based on their biographies only.

These fictional individuals were identified as credible or not based on their biographies only. Credit: Kahan et al. 2010

However, a second experiment showed the subjects not only the resume of the expert scientist but his position as well. Half the subjects were shown evidence that the expert believed in climate change, placing us at a high risk, while the other half of the subjects were shown evidence that the expert didn’t believe in climate change, placing us at a low risk.

The position imputed by the expert scientist dramatically affected the responses of the subjects. When the expert scientist supported a high risk position, 23 percent of the hierarchs and 88 percent of the communitarians found him credible. In contrast, when the expert scientist supported a low risk position, 86 percent of the hierarchs and 47 percent of the communitarians found him credible.

Whether the expert scientist was considered credible was highly associated with whether he took the position dominant in the subject’s cultural group. The subjects “have dispositions that are connected to their values that then will affect how they make sense of information,” Kahan said.

Image Credit: Kahan et al. 2010

The percentage of subjects who found the author credible depending on whether he supported a high risk (climate change is real) or low risk (climate change is not real) position. Credit: Kahan et al. 2010

At the end of the day the conclusion is simple: we’re human.  And this leads us to take the path of least resistance: we choose to believe in what those around us believe.

So it’s not that people aren’t sufficiently rational. “They’re too rational,” Kahan said. “They’re too good at extracting from the information you’re giving them, which sends the message that tells them what position they should take given the kind of person they are.”

Moving Forward

Kahan’s study shows that scientific consensus alone will not sway the public. The public will remain polarized despite efforts to increase trust in scientists or simply awareness of scientific research. Instead the key is to use science communication strategies, which reduce the likelihood the public will find climate change threatening.

In a more recent study, published in Nature, Kahan analyzed two techniques of science communication that may help break the connection between cultural predispositions and the evaluation of information.

The first technique is to frame the information in a manner that doesn’t threaten people’s values. In this study, Kahan and his colleagues asked participants to once again assess the credibility of climate change. But before doing so the subjects had to read an article.

One article was a study suggesting that carbon dissipates from the atmosphere much slower than scientists had previously thought. As a result, if we stopped producing carbon today, there would still be catastrophic effects: rising sea level, drought, hurricanes, etc. Another article (shown to a different group) gave information on geo-engineering or nuclear power — potential technological advances that may help reduce the effects of climate change. A final control group read an unrelated article on traffic lights.

Logically all of these articles had nothing to do with whether climate change is valid. But psychologically these articles did determine the meaning that people attached to the evidence of climate change. In all cases the hierarchs were less likely than the communitarians to say climate change is valid. But the gap was 29 percent smaller among the group that was first exposed to geo-engineering than the group that was exposed to regulating carbon.

“The evidence of whether there is a problem doesn’t depend on what you’re going to do about it,” Kahan said. “But psychologically it can make a difference.”

People tend to resist scientific evidence that may lead to restrictions on their personal activities, or evidence that threatens them as individuals  But if they are presented with information in a way that upholds their identities, they react with an open mind.

The second technique is to ensure that climate change is vouched for by a diverse set of experts. If a particular group is able to identify with that expert, then that group will be more open-minded in addressing the study. This will help reduce the initial polarization between hierarchs and communitarians.

Kahan argues that science “needs better marketing.” It needs to combine climate change with meanings that are affirming rather than threatening to people. When groups can identify with the expert, or are presented with possible solutions to climate change, the individuals in that group will stop attaching the issues to identity.

According to Kahan, in order to move forward, science communication needs to change the narrative. It needs to mitigate the connection between climate change and the individual. In order for there to be a public consensus on climate change it has to be presented in a less threatening manner.

This doesn’t mean that science communication has to avoid the nasty truth about climate change in order to finally reach a public consensus. Instead it has to spin climate change in a positive way — a way that is less threatening to the individual.

Science communication has to focus the public’s attention on what so many individuals value: efficiency, not being wasteful, innovation and moving forward. Only then will the public reach a consensus where there is now only polarization.

About 

Shannon Hall is an aspiring science journalist and is an editorial intern at Sky & Telescope magazine. She holds two bachelor's degrees from Whitman College in astrophysics and philosophy, and recently received her master's degree in astrophysics from the University of Wyoming.

jblank February 10, 2014 at 10:51 AM

“expecting individuals to secure their own well-being (generally liberals)”

On what planet are liberals the ones that expect individuals to secure their own well-being? Not on Earth! The left are the ones giving us growing Socialism, more government dependence, and telling people it is a GOOD thing that fewer people will be working.

With respect to global warming, I think the evidence was strong……until we started cooling. Look at the current winter, look at the cooler than normal seasons we have seen recently, look at the record ice growth in the Arctic. I think we need to take a step back and continue to study things, while at the same time continuing to do what we can (within reason) to lower CO2 emissions. That said, we don’t need to turn the clock back to 1750 and stop using things like coal for power. I think a fine line exists where we can do what we can without causing power shortages or causing unnecessary financial burden on people.

savmerrabard February 10, 2014 at 8:05 PM

Hi jblank,
While I understand from your perspective that your local weather has undergone recent cooling, where I live (Australia) we have had (http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/annual/aus/):
Summer 2012–13 was the warmest on record nationally, spring was also the warmest on record and winter the third warmest;
Overall, 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record: annual national mean temperature was +1.20 °C above average;
All States and the Northern Territory ranked in the four warmest years on record;
Nationally-averaged rainfall was slightly below average for the year, with 428 mm (1961–1990 average 465 mm).

We have also had a record heatwave of temperatures above 45°C (113°F) for most of December and most of January, with 50°C (122°F) not uncommon.
This summer, Melbourne has had 8 days above 41°C (105°F) with 4 in a row, when our average is 3.
Our rainfall is drastically low with receiving less than 30% of monthly average for November, December and January. To date this month we have had 0.6mm (0.02 of an inch) of rain, and most of the State in which I live is under wildfire/bushfire, with some areas burning since late November.

So, as you can see, from my perspective, Global warming is accelerating alarmingly.
With warm (literally) regards from Australia.

jblank February 11, 2014 at 11:44 AM

And that is fine to believe that, but I can cite examples from many other parts of the world that showed dramatic cooling.

Underlings February 11, 2014 at 4:16 PM

Sure, it’s easy to find individual locations where they have spikes of cooler weather…but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s the GLOBAL average that matters. The local spikes are a predicted result of global climate change, since greater heat introduced to the system results in more energetic weather and greater extremes. The recent cold weather in the continental US is actually evidence FOR climate change, since an erratic Jet Stream is a predicted consequence of increased warming. Alaska ended up with unseasonably warm weather as a result of the displaced polar vortex.

The predicted results coupled with nearly the entire global community of climate scientists being in agreement that climate change is happening and is being caused by human activities is as good as evidence and relevant support ever gets. It would be criminally foolish to sit by and do nothing while waiting for “more evidence,” when all the credible evidence continues to fit the climate change model. The wise course is to incentivize industry to adopt greenhouse gas-neutral technologies, and de-incentivize industry from adopting greenhouse gas-producing technologies. So what if it costs more in the short run? The potential payoff could literally mean life and death for civilization as we know it. Not to mention the myriad other benefits, from pollution reduction to reducing terrorism….

savmerrabard February 11, 2014 at 6:47 PM

And it’s fine to believe what you do too.
By ‘believe’, I assume you mean my ‘belief’ in global warming accelerating as opposed to my ‘belief’ in the recorded data?
Is it possible – either to ‘believe’ or ‘prove’ – that extreme weather events (cold and hot) may well be a result of global warming?
I suspect that I too could cite examples from many other parts of the world that showed dramatic warming and concomitant lack of rainfall.
Incidently, we need to go back further than 1750 for coal use…Hopi Indians used coal in the 1300′s…and coal was used by the Romans. If alternatives exist that don’t belch massive amounts of particulate matter/smoke/gases/heat why not use them?
Regards from another day expecting 43°C (110°F), giving a monthly daily average of more than 7°C higher than long term records show.

savmerrabard February 11, 2014 at 7:25 PM

Hi jblank,
Belief is a funny thing…I will quote your opening paragraph above in fractured form, with my take on things:
“With respect to global warming, I think the evidence was weak……until we started warming. Look at the current summer, look at the warmer than normal seasons we have seen recently, look at the record high temperatures and low rainfall, and record ice melting in the Antarctic.”
As yours was, mine is also a localised observation from many parts of the world.

While many local examples seem to support or otherwise the idea of global warming, the very term ‘global warming’ refers to the whole planet, and is observed, therefore, via global trends. We could endlessly debate our local experiences but this would, I fear, be for naught.

A global trend, perhaps, transcends belief. For example, “NASA scientists say 2013 tied with 2009 and 2006 for the seventh warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures.

“With the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years in the 134-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the warmest years on record.” (http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/nasa-finds-2013-sustained-long-term-climate-warming-trend/)

“Can global warming be real if it’s cold in the U.S.? Um… yes!” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/01/06/can-global-warming-be-real-if-its-cold-in-the-u-s-um-yes/)

Denver February 10, 2014 at 10:52 AM

I do not know what the sea ice extent was CE 850-1250, but I do know there were thriving dairy farms in Greenland during that 400 year period. I do know what the sea ice extent was CE 1350, Iceland had been fully cut off from open water for several decades, with several more decades to go before the ice retreated. The Vikings had abandoned Greenland some 40 – 50 years before.

It was warmer in CE850 than it is today. It was cooler in CE1350 than it is today. So today’s climate is in between the two extremes, with thriving Greenlandish diary farms on one end and a year round ice pack to 50 miles south of Iceland at the other.

Let me know when 400 years of dairy farming again occurs in Iceland. Then, and only then, will our climate have warmed to historic levels.

Forty February 10, 2014 at 4:28 PM

“I do not know what the sea ice extent was CE 850-1250, but I do know there were thriving dairy farms in Greenland during that 400 year period”
And where were those farms? Only in a southwestern coastal region of Greenland. The rest was ice-covered like it is since 400.000 years….

robadawb February 10, 2014 at 11:16 AM

Case in point, the comments above.

jblank February 10, 2014 at 11:20 AM

When you can’t refute, attack. Right Rob?

robadawb February 10, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Okay..

” The left are the ones giving us growing Socialism, more government dependence, and telling people it is a GOOD thing that fewer people will be working.”

That is a biased statement and an opinion. Climate change is about science. This article is about why people refuse to believe in climate change. And you comment about “growing socialism” and “the Left” implying that both have a negative effect on humanity???

And you claim *I’m* attacking. Sure, okay.

jblank February 10, 2014 at 4:57 PM

No, that is a statement of fact. Are you going to sit here, with a straight face, and pretend for a moment that what I said there isn’t true? All you need to do is look at the Obama administrations policies and beliefs to validate exactly what I said, then read the columnists who praise things like “liberating people from work”. I have a negative view of the political left, progressivism, and the sycophant media, who advocate for leftist politics, rather than being an investigative watchdog.

papayaman February 14, 2014 at 1:33 AM

Is it possible for you to address the veracity of greenhouse gas global warming without reframing it into a vituperation of any idea verbalized by one you seem to impugn as a “liberal” or “progressive”, without addressing the issue originally broached. If there’s an opinion piece on the internet offering anyone an opportunity to vilify any ideas attributed to the “libtards”, your opinions would be at home there. Otherwise, your comments are irrelevant to the topic under discussion, and give some guidance how seriously your opinions should be taken.

How would you take it if all the liberals in your community disappeared in the middle of the night, and were never heard from again?

What is your take on the “objectivity” of FOX News (oxymoron)?

FarAwayLongAgo February 10, 2014 at 11:33 AM

The distrust comes from the fact that many climate scientists never distance themselves from crazy environmentalists who abuse climate science for their political agenda. Because fanatics have hijacked climate science in media for their dangerous political purposes, it is very important that climate scientists distance themselves from such politicians and organizations when they mix up science with politics. Otherwise the public identifies climate science to be the same as the political agenda of the crazy environmentalists who shout the loudest.

Climate scientists must publicly declare very clearly that they do science. They have nothing to say about the POLITICAL choice between ADAPTING to climate changes, or STOPPING climate changes. That is a political issue which must be democratically left to the people to make, it is not a scientific issue. Science can never be used to propagate one particular political agenda. When such mix up has been made historcially, it has also proved to be very devastating.

jblank February 10, 2014 at 11:41 AM

Well stated.

Forty February 10, 2014 at 4:13 PM

“The distrust comes from the fact that many climate scientists never distance themselves from crazy environmentalists who abuse climate science for their political agenda”

Since when exactly are the Koch Brothers “crazy environmentalists”?

robadawb February 10, 2014 at 4:23 PM

Hogwash – saying that “crazy environmentalists” have created public distrust is not only a cheap shot at environmentalists and an attempt to label them as “radicals”, it has about as much merit as saying rocks or toothpaste has created public distrust.

“Psychological mechanisms allow individuals to selectively credit or dismiss evidence and experts, depending on whether the views presented match the dominant view of their group.”

FarAwayLongAgo February 10, 2014 at 5:23 PM

Even if the “global standstill” which the IPCC describes, according to which global temperatures increased by 0.0 degrees during the last 17 years, is true, even then it is up to the people to decide whether to ADOPT to this climate change, or to STOP it. The political alternative of stopping it requires immediate and extremely sever cut backs in energy, transports, agriculture and industry (and certainly the abolishment of all space space flight). The other political alternative of adopting to it, requires us to successively rebuilding our cities further from the beach or building protections like in the Netherlands or Venezia. And gradually moving agriculture to better lands. As humanity always has adopted to natural climate changes.

Science can only describe the climate change. They can never tell the people what to do about it, because science has no clue as to what the people wants. All climate scientists need to very clearly distance themselves from all kinds of climate politicians.

philw1776 February 10, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Another junk science sociology paper making assumptions about so-called conservatives’ mind set. The issue is not with climate changing but with the 20th century’s accelerated warming and now the approaching 2 decade hiatus on rate of warming. Unlike physics, etc. climate science is permeated with ideologues who stridently exaggerate their findings so as to facilitate a political response. This is viewed by some of us science folks as being hysteria with the destructive effects on the economy of Western nations unwarranted.

Those sincerely wishing to mitigate the planetary experiment of pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere should support fracking in the short term and nuclear fission using 21st century waste burning tech in the mid term until truly effective renewable and fusion answers are really viable. But most don’t support these actions because their ideology trumps science.

jblank February 10, 2014 at 12:12 PM

Agreed and this is what angers me the most. Leftist politics has so permeated the media, researchers, as education, that politically motivated agendas, as you said, have trumped legitimate science, investigative reporting, and information dissemination.

Forty February 10, 2014 at 4:16 PM

You wouldn’t be able to see legitimate science even if you got hit in the face every day by legitimate science.

jblank February 10, 2014 at 4:59 PM

Oh and I suppose you would? I’d put my scientific credentials up against yours any day of the week. Just because someone isn’t a Progressive zombie that eats up every word that comes out of a Democrats mouth and thinks government is the most important thing in the world and the cure for all our ills, doesn’t mean I don’t respect or care about science. If you’d read my initial post in the thread, you’d even see that I still believe in man-made global warming, though the evidence for it is becoming more tenuous each day.

papayaman February 14, 2014 at 1:51 AM

Your methods of argumentation, specifically ad hominem attacks, prejudicial language, and calling the kettle black serve as evidence that you, yourself provided, that you have to provide fallacious arguments to figuratively hit those with whom you disagree in the face with a hammer to attempt to make a point, rather that logically respond to their assertions.

robadawb February 10, 2014 at 4:29 PM

Again, with “the Left”. Is Leftist even a word? Labels, stereotypes, claims, lack of evidence. I can just as easily insert any political party into that statement and make the same claim.

For example, “the Rightist politics has so permeated the media, researchers, as education, that politically motivated agendas, as you said, have trumped legitimate science, investigative reporting, and information dissemination.”

jblank February 10, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Except that statement would be a lie, considering that the major media has almost no Conservative representation and Conservative politics and beliefs are either ignored or scoffed at, by the mainstream press.

The couple of you in here that have chosen to come at me personally, have completely ignored anything I, or anyone else has said. That, to me, speaks volumes about your inability to explain this growing period of cooling and it flying in the face of all the projections.

Why don’t you spend some time refuting the statements and less time coming at me simply because I’m critical of the politics behind the climate change debate.

savmerrabard February 12, 2014 at 12:10 AM

jblank,
I don’t understand the politics in which this discussion is immersed – assuming US definitions of conservative, leftist, liberal, etc. The politics behind the climate change debate, especially in a country where I do not live, are of little interest to me.
Even in my country the issue is a political hot potato, with members of all sides of politics harbouring disparate views, thereby effectively trivialising the issue.

With regards to refuting your statements, I can find little reference in your posts to your statements on the issue of global warming per se, apart form your initial post in this thread.
However, I absolutely dispute your claim of “this growing period of cooling”. Your argument re global warming revolves around anecdotes of local phenomena, when the issue must, by definition, be understood and tackled as a global one.
The current “growing period of cooling” that you appeal to are local phenomena which can instantly be contradicted by appeal to other concurrent local phenomena.

“Can global warming be real if it’s cold in the U.S.? Um… yes!” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/01/06/can-global-warming-be-real-if-its-cold-in-the-u-s-um-yes/)

Underlings February 11, 2014 at 4:35 PM

When the vast majority of climate scientists worldwide agree that global climate change is occurring and is caused by human activities, that’s what matters. That’s the ONLY thing that matters, quite frankly. Because if you’re not a climate scientist studying the phenomenon yourself, your understanding of the evidence isn’t going to compare. Instead, you’re left with using ad hominem fallacies like claiming “climate science is permeated with idealogues who stridently exaggerate their findings so as to facilitate a political response.” You’re using the exact same fallacious tactics creationists use to deny evolutionary theory. But if you would step back and look at your position objectively, you’d see it simply makes no sense. After all, your claim requires a GLOBAL conspiracy of scientists successfully suppressing evidence, when DISPROVING climate change would result in their receiving a Nobel Prize, fame, recognition, etc., not to mention the biggest scientific reward: better understanding of phenomena. Anyone who works in a scientific field knows that your conspiracy isn’t even remotely credible.

savmerrabard February 11, 2014 at 6:48 PM

Well stated, very well stated indeed.

Jean R. February 10, 2014 at 12:10 PM

“Yale law professor Dan Kahan has done extensive research which reveals how our deep-rooted cultural dispositions might interfere with our perceptions of reality.” …. “People are motivated to search out information in a biased way. They look more for information that is consistent with their views than for information that is going to refute their views.” – Professor Kahan.

Nothing new under the sun there.

CONFIRMATION BIAS:

“Confirmation bias … is the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. …. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. …. A series of experiments in the 1960s suggested that people are biased toward confirming their existing beliefs. Later work re-interpreted these results as a tendency to test ideas in a one-sided way, focusing on one possibility and ignoring alternatives. In certain situations, this tendency can bias people’s conclusions. [ News bulletin: scientists are people too. ] …. Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain or strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Poor decisions due to these biases have been found in political and organizational contexts. [ Are scientists immune to this human tendency? ] …. [ On shades of definition: other ] psychologists restrict the term to selective collection of evidence.” – Wikipedia

Therein lies a double-edged sword, which cuts both ways: Climategate comes to mind.

Majority consensus does not translate into absolute truth. No? Look back into history for examples of professional “group”-beliefs that turned out to be – dead wrong.

wfcollins February 10, 2014 at 12:48 PM

Even if everyone believed in the science and the consequences, the majority of people would still fail to act. The consequences are too far away and abstract for people to take action. We respond to present threats very well, but we care too much about our present situation to worry about tomorrow. Look at how we prepare for our retirement. 50% of people have no savings. There is incontrovertible evidence that the vast majority of people retire. Almost everyone accepts this as fact. But a huge portion of the population does nothing to prepare for it.

FarAwayLongAgo February 10, 2014 at 2:29 PM

But do you thereby suggest that some “elite” of human individuals with force remove the freedom of everyone else??? They probably dislike you as much as you dislike them, so the both kinds of you are on equal footing there. Do you want to fight about it?

Loveyourcountry February 10, 2014 at 4:50 PM

I agree that humans have an effect in climate.
I also know that the IPCC is a political organization vice a scientific one, with the political agenda of stopping the burning of fossil fuels.
I also know that if we follow the infamous “hockey stick graph” from 1998, we’ve dropped below the average global temperature predicted. We’ve dropped so far below that we are outside their temperature band of “95% certainty”. How can we be expected to make policy based on such predictions?
I also know that the eco-activists that dominate the climate change debate will never make a single compromise to get what they want. Their solution involves zero further development of natural resources, and zero fossil fuel emissions. How can we expect to ever live up to these expectations? To them, stopping global warming means the destruction of the economy.

mewo February 10, 2014 at 8:08 PM

Oh come on. What could scientists possibly gain by deliberately wrecking the economy? Do you imagine governments are generous with grant handouts when there’s a recession on? It is not climate scientists pushing the “ignore climate change or destroy the economy” idea, which is a false dichotomy.

I believe that tackling climate change will be good for the economy in the long run. Innovation is always good for the economy, whether it’s a forced response to some pressing issue or not.

jeep4josh February 11, 2014 at 10:19 AM

Great point. That’s the maing problem here. Scientists make predictions and policymakers pass dumb laws based on those predictions. When those predictions don’t pan out, the taxpayers suffer. That is the heart of this matter in my opinion. The government needs to stay out of this issue. I believe people will make the right choice. The history of oxygen in our atmostphere is no different than CO2. It has ebbed and flowed greatly over time (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/science/earths-oxygen-a-mystery-easy-to-take-for-granted.html)

weeasle February 11, 2014 at 8:02 AM

These kind of discussions can turn people against eachother who could normally enjoy fishing or a drink together whilst having healthy differences of opinion. What I came here to say is yeh people dont trust scientists much anymore.. Remember those 3 china syndromed reactors in Japan (One of which has thousands of tons of spent fuel dangling above said china syndomed corium waiting for the next tremor to collapse). Not trying to be alarmist but a couple posts above about fracking and uranium/plutonium based nuclear makes my stomach turn. No I am not leftist rightist or whatever, just wish we humans could wise up b4 too late… Checkout thorium lftr reactors… walkaway safe, can beat all of the earths swords into plowshares; just needs the impetus and funding BEFORE ITS TOO LATE

jeep4josh February 11, 2014 at 10:03 AM

This assessment is ironic because it makes the global warming theorists believe that the skeptics are believing what they want and ignoring sound evidence. Oddly enough, this whole article is an example of that behavior in action – global warming theorists believing what they want and ignoring sound evidence. The primary reason people haven’t bought into global warming is Al Gore. He has been trying to make money off this (partnering in carbon exchanges that the government would have all of us use, thereby making Al even more wealthy), and failing to lead by example. Additional reasons are simple. In 1957, Sputnik was launched. In the years following, we began to improve our picture of weather on Earth through satellite measurements and ice cores, but we are generating mountains of theories about the state of our world from a hair’s width worth of our planet’s evolution. Our written history includes the little-ice age, but we have no idea if that’s a repeating pattern. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere may not doom us to Venus’ fate, and the wild projections made early in the debates (20 sea rise by 2000) have not come to fruition. Of paramount importance; NOAA increasingly gathers their data from population centers where temperatures are a few degrees higher from paving and buildings, but that doesn’t reflect the overall surface temperature. And yes, there are competent scientists with credentials who dispute the findings of global warming theorists. Truthfully, there is evidence supporting both sides of this debate. Only time will tell if this is a cyclical journey we are on, and whether Earth has a natural reaction to this. One thing is for sure: humans are a burden to the planet. The good news is that the planet will be here long after we’re gone and isn’t that reassuring? The main problem I am concerned with is what my government does with this latest batch of science. They’re in the process of making coal too expensive to use for the production of electricity, essentially a tax on energy. While we seek to save the world, India and China’s combined 3billion people have little concern over global warming in their “energy policy”. The crux of this fight isn’t the science. It is and always has been, what the government will do with it. If the government stayed out of the fight, and people were able to continue making their own choices, I believe that we would still clean up our coal, choose LED bulbs, and recycle our plastic. The police power of government should not be involved in this dispute.

celestialpilot135 February 11, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Will somebody please tell me a time when the climate didn’t change? It is illogical to think that it shouldn’t or that it does is bad. It is far more logical, especially, once the whole global warming thing failed for the socialist and progressives of the world, as the Earth continues to cool. Instead of abandoning the smoke screen known as “global warming”, they merely wrap their failed beliefs in the new wrapper of “global change”. My only logical conclusion is that the push on this in not to save the planet or the human race…which they never seem to mention, but instead is to establish power and control by finding some battle cry to scare and manipulate the entire human race into paying a global tax on something that they are not ultimately responsible for. Why don’t they just charge they real perpetrator…the Sun.

papayaman February 14, 2014 at 2:02 AM

You should accumulate some knowledge of science and how it works before dismissing the global warming controversy as merely an us (we want to make $ any way we can) vs them (their ideology strives to shut the economy down and prevent people from enriching themselves in the most efficient laissez-faire way). The issue should be informed by atmospheric science, not in having one view be aired, and all in opposition be suppressed, denied, or discredited by fallacious techniques of argumentation.

dangerdad February 11, 2014 at 1:30 PM

I don’t resist the notions, I draw different conclusions based on data. Arctic sea ice has rebounded, Antarctic ice has been increasing for some time.

I don’t trust the data curators — they resist sharing the data and “hide the decline”.

I don’t trust the data analysis. Once I accepted global warming because of the hockey stick. Then it was proven to be a massive analysis error and was quietly swept under the rug.

The grand handwaving about how incomplete and UHI data (we ‘adjusted’ that!) is just handwaving. It’s embarrassing to science and scientists. And now that the data is diverging from the models, it’s time for “climate” scientists to admit it.

plainly February 11, 2014 at 1:58 PM

I know I am going to get shot down for this post, but frankly I don’t give a damn. But I am not alone in what I think.

Climate change is a fact. The fact is that it is purely natural. Part of the normal changes that the Earth experiences over prolonged periods.
We are currently emerging from an Ice Age, a time when the average temperatures were much lower than we have ever experienced. We have a long way to go until the next ice age, if there is to be one, and while we exist in this interglacial period the earth will warm up, cool down, and anything in between.

During the last interglacial period there were Hippopotami in the Thames and other UK rivers. Try introducing Hippos to UK rivers now and see how long they will survive (yes they live in Zoo’s and sleep in heated accommodation at night). There are other examples, but you get the idea.

The current climate change debate is all about money, and in particular, tax. The little man is being taxed for his CO2 contribution. But methane is a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2. So a smaller increase in this gas makes a bigger difference. Where I ask is the tax on oil companies and farmers for the methane they are producing and releasing. There isn’t any tax because these industries are owned by the same people who tax the little people. They are far too powerful to tax and are therefore ignored in the grand scheme. The same applies to air travel, it is not taxed for their CO2 emissions because the airlines are owned by the people and organizations who make the rules for others to follow.

When the USA and the EU grow a big enough pair to cut their emissions and tell the likes of China to cut their emissions, then I may reconsider my position. But the USA and the EU want more CO2 because CO2=Tax.

ronmt February 11, 2014 at 7:23 PM

There are good reasons to be suspicious of the predictions.
1) the weather models are not validated, if they were, they would work backward in time and they do not predict earlier climate data, they only extrapolate based on current data
2) unpredictable phenomenon are not considered in the models (e.g. volcanoes). No one knows how many volcanoes will erupt and so you cannot expect the model to account for unknown cooling activity
3) In the few years that I have been watching the debate, there is a slightly revised forecast for global warming or climate change or both. This has happened for the last several years. If the climate models are so good, why do they keep revising them. Further if the original models should be accepted as gospel, then why to they keep getting revised.
4) All science theories are only theories until a better one comes along or can be proven. Climate change is a theory that is supported by inputs of the a few years, it will have to wait quite a few more before the models predictions can be useful for prognostication. In the mean time, it is hardly scientific to label anyone that does not agree with the theory. If the theory is good, it will stand up to scrutiny over many decades. If not, then it won’t.

papayaman February 14, 2014 at 2:24 AM

Science works by determining successive approximations of what the truth probably is. Many people, especially authoritarians and pragmatists have a problem with this method of inquiry. They want to know up-front what the unimpeachable final word on the matter is. Science is basically the study of nature. As is well known to those versed in scientific research, nature gives up her secrets only with difficulty to the best researchers. People who want all the final words up front effortlessly would be more satisfied getting their opinions from religion or other ideologies, rather than sorting through a volume of ambiguities, that takes lots of work.
Another point: The word “theory” has different meanings to a scientist and the man on the street. To a scientist, gravity, relativity, and evolution are theories in that they are supported by the preponderence of evidence, and there are few, if any reputable scientists who seriously doubt the veracity of the theory. To the man in the street, a “theory” is a guess that may or may not be supported by any evidence. In this sense, a “theory” is more accurately described as a hunch, guess, or at best a hypothesis in need of more supporting evidence. When scientists and the scientifically challenged discuss “theories”, for this to make any sense, they both need to agree on an operational definition of “theory”, otherwise they will just end up yelling at each other, with no understanding possible.

papayaman February 14, 2014 at 1:17 AM

Conservatives generally (not to the last person) would prefer to believe that anthropogenic global warming is bogus, because global warming being taken into consideration in public policy could potentially decrease corporate profitability. It seems a reasonable assumption from their words and deeds that many conservatives consider the maximum profitability of the largest business entities to be the highest good in the land, and anything that may potentially diminish this should be vigorously opposed by any means possible. How much credence would you give to someone who asserts that an unseasonable cold snap is definitive proof that there cannot be any such thing as anthropogenic global warming. People arguing against the veracity of anthropogenic global warming also seem to cite the all or nothing argument that failure to prove that all global warming is anthropogenic is proof that none of it is. This seems predicated on the idea that there is no such thing as a “green house gas”, and all gasseous elements make an equal to each other or none at all whatsoever contribution to the heat content of the earth’s atmosphere. The Texas’s BOE’s sentiments against critical thinking skills instruction for public school students will only increase this muddled thinking in the future, and will further enable China to leave the USofA behind in citizen’s scientific literacy.

Jim Krug February 14, 2014 at 10:57 AM

“Climate scientists around the world agree that climate change is very real — the Earth is warming up and we are the cause.”

Careful there. While I am an adamant recycler, composter, and energy saver, humans may not be the SOLE cause of global warming. The Milankovitch Cycles could certainly come into play. If it were solely humans, why would the Mesozoic be warmer than the present?

“Psychological mechanisms allow individuals to selectively credit or dismiss evidence and experts, depending on whether the views presented match the dominant view of their group.”

And at no place is this phenomenon more visible than here at the Universe Today when topics regarding the existence of advanced civilizations visiting Earth surface. The groupthink here rivals the Greek mystics of the Classical Era, who lambasted anyone that dared not believe the Earth was at the center of the universe.

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