This New Scientist special report is a great resource for those of you who have the misfortune to know climate change deniers. Here’s the overview:
Our planet’s climate is anything but simple. All kinds of factors influence it, from massive events on the Sun to the growth of microscopic creatures in the oceans, and there are subtle interactions between many of these factors.
Yet despite all the complexities, a firm and ever-growing body of evidence points to a clear picture: the world is warming, this warming is due to human activity increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and if emissions continue unabated the warming will too, with increasingly serious consequences.
Yes, there are still big uncertainties in some predictions, but these swing both ways. For example, the response of clouds could slow the warming or speed it up.
With so much at stake, it is right that climate science is subjected to the most intense scrutiny. What does not help is for the real issues to be muddied by discredited arguments or wild theories.
So for those who are not sure what to believe, here is our round-up of the 26 most common climate myths and misconceptions.
There is also a guide to assessing the evidence. In the articles we’ve included lots of links to primary research and major reports for those who want to follow through to the original sources.
To illustrate the tone and nature of reporting, here is the article on the myth “Many leading scientists question climate change:”
Climate change sceptics sometimes claim that many leading scientists question climate change. Well, it all depends on what you mean by “many” and “leading”. For instance, in April 2006, 60 “leading scientists” signed a letter urging Canada’s new prime minister to review his country’s commitment to the Kyoto protocol.
This appears to be the biggest recent list of sceptics. Yet many, if not most, of the 60 signatories are not actively engaged in studying climate change: some are not scientists at all and at least 15 are retired.
Compare that with the dozens of statements on climate change from various scientific organisations around the world representing tens of thousands of scientists, the consensus position represented by the IPCC reports and the 11,000 signatories to a petition condemning the Bush administration’s stance on climate science.
The fact is that there is an overwhelming consensus in the scientific community about global warming and its causes. There are some exceptions, but the number of sceptics is getting smaller rather than growing.
Even the position of perhaps the most respected sceptic, Richard Lindzen of MIT, is not that far off the mainstream: he does not deny it is happening but thinks future warming will not be nearly as great as most predict.
Of course, just because most scientists think something is true does not necessarily mean they are right. But the reason they think the way they do is because of the vast and growing body of evidence. A study in 2004 looked at the abstracts of nearly 1000 scientific papers containing the term “global climate change” published in the previous decade. Not one rejected the consensus position. One critic promptly claimed this study was wrong – but later quietly withdrew the claim.