Why Do People Deny Anthropogenic Global Warming?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
11:27 am

Why do people deny global warming?

While it is a hypothesis and not a scientific law, this hypothesis has verified since the dawn of the industrial revolution, with the Earth warming nearly 1 degree Celsius since then. Take a look at the picture below, which shows the increase in temperature since the the dawn of the Second Industrial Revolution.

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Additionally, this hypothesis is grounded in scientific laws, particularly those pertaining to how infrared radiation escapes from the atmosphere. The picture below shows atmospheric absorptivity windows; i.e. how much of a certain wavelength that a given gas absorbs. When carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere, the wavelength “bands” below for carbon dioxide (those grey things) increase in magnitude and get slightly broader, meaning that more radiation is absorbed. Since the wavelengths that these bands are in are in the infrared spectrum, this means that the absorbed radiation is in the form of heat, and the planet is warmed. Of course, there are many, many feedbacks in the climate system and additional things that humankind has released into the atmosphere such as aerosols that tend to cool the climate, but the net effect of the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is to warm the atmosphere, as the increasing concentrations of these gases increases the absorptivity of infrared radiation and makes it harder for heat to escape.

Credit: Robert A. Rohde for the Global Warming Art project.

Take a look at the carbon dioxide measurements at Mauna Loa from 1960 to 2014. BTW, according to co2now.org, concentrations were at 400.26 ppmv (parts per million volume) this past February, so we’ve crossed the 400 mark. Cool! (or warm)

Credit: NOAA. Retrieved from the University of Washington Press Blog

Finally, if that wasn’t enough, the ice cores retrieved from Vostok, Antarctica provide a very clear relationship between greenhouse gas levels and temperatures. Notice how CO2, methane (CH4), and solar insolation line up nearly perfectly with temperature measurements.

Credit: U.S. Global Change Research Program

I could go on and on with evidence. As the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report says, “warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.” As the picture above shows us, the carbon dioxide concentrations now are likely higher than they have been in the past 400,000 years.

In the face of all this evidence, why do, according to a 2008 Gallup poll, 58% of the public deny that global warming is caused by human activities?

Well, I believe they are a multitude of reasons, but I think they all lead back to one general reason: accepting climate change doesn’t fit their agenda. It’s not that these people are stupid; Richard Lindzen, a professor at MIT renowned for his work on atmospheric thermodynamics, denies that climate change exists (he also denies that smoking cigarettes causes cancer and allegedly smokes them in his office). Why? Because he’s a contrarian. Also, the fact that he gets lots of money from oil companies doesn’t discourage him either. Between 2002 and 2010, conservative billionaires secretely donated 120 billion to 100 organizations to cast doubt on anthropogenic global warming (Goldenberg, 2013), and I would suspect that this is just so that they could gain support for any economic plans they had that would emit greenhouse gases (and thus get more money). Yes, a lot of it’s about money. But a lot of it also has to do with people not wanting to change how they live. I believe that this unwillingness to reduce carbon emissions subconsciously leads to global warming denial as a defense mechanism so that people don’t have to change their lifestyles. There’s no need to worry about carbon dioxide emissions from your yacht if global warming doesn’t exist, right?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about America, it’s that we love rebels and mavericks. We love Dirty Harry, Indiana Jones, and Rocky Balboa. We love all the Founding Fathers. And boy oh boy do we love Rush Limbaugh, the host of the most-listened-to radio talk show in the United States, and Fox News, America’s most-watched cable news station for 13 years and counting. In short, there’s nothing America likes more than a tenacious white man. And if you are a tenacious white man who denies global warming by bringing a snowball to congress, you might as well be a true American hero.

Credit: C-SPAN2

The thing is, many of these conservative badasses love to stand up to these scientists and deny that global warming is caused by humans. And to be honest, you’ve got to give them some credit for their bravado; it takes some serious balls to deny the scientific consensus on global warming. The cards are definitely stacked against them.

Would you trust this guy?

But ironically enough, that just might be why so many Americans don’t believe in global warming. Many people cannot trust these scientists, and that is completely understandable considering how the media portrays many of them. Have you ever seen “The Nutty Professor”? But they can relate to these climate change deniers because the deniers allow them to live out a fantasy persona of being the aforementioned “true American hero.” Of course, you’ve got so many deniers now that there are millions of these heros throughout our beautiful nation.

So, what do us enlightened folk do with these heros? How do we show them the path to salvation?

Well, I personally think that providing evidence of global warming is a moot point. They’ve heard it all before and they’ll just pass it off as liberal socialist agenda. Rather, you should tell them why you think they don’t believe in global warming. Ask them what they have to gain from denying global warming. Ask them if any of their idols deny global warming. If accepting global warming doesn’t fit their agenda or lifestyle, why would they want to believe it in the first place? If you can make them realize that their personal agenda is the deciding factor in their decision of whether something is true or not, you may be able to reach into the scientific side of things and show them some evidence. Do not make alarmist claims; in my opinion, global warming alarmists are only slightly better for society than global warming deniers, and the margin is very slim. One of the biggest claims of the past couple years is that Hurricane Sandy was caused by global warming. This claim has no scientific evidence to support it; in fact, according to a paper by Barnes et al., events like Sandy are actually expected to become less likely in the future.

Time for me to wrap up, it’s getting late. What are your thoughts on global warming deniers? Go ahead and comment below!

Charlie

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6 thoughts on “Why Do People Deny Anthropogenic Global Warming?

  1. Haha, sunspot cycles. I like how that article cited….. TWO peer reviewed papers, which were tangential to their 'findings' regardless. Every bit of scientific evidence out there supports that anthropogenic CO2 emissions have affected climate, from empirical and geochemical studies to dynamic models. There is also no plausible deniability of the litany of other consequences related to anthropogenic CO2 emissions — ocean acidification, sea level rise, migration of rainbelts, etc.

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  2. The easy rebuttal to sunspots driving warming since the Industrial Revolution is that variations in incoming solar radiation due to sunspot cycles (which have a frequency of 11 years, or so) are minuscule about 0.2 W/m2, whereas the observed warming could only be explained by an increase in solar radiation of 1.5-2 W/m2.

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  3. This entry makes me disappointed in the abilities of the blogger to separate science from his own obvious political and cultural bias. Inflammatory language, needling, and baiting based in opinion, assumptions, and possibly projection, do not belong in the realm of serious science. Emotional Intelligence appears to be a crucial element that zealous AGW supporters, including this budding scientist/blogger has left at the door, every bit as much as those he mocks for not accepting AGW as gospel and settled science.

    Science as a profession can trace its roots to those rare individuals who dared to question the motives of authoritarians enshrining a particular viewpoint as the only publicly acceptable one. Skepticism and curiosity drive people to look deeper for answers rather than readily and often blindly accepting evidence as presented and the theory as intended.

    In regard to AGW, this becomes especially true when significant elements of scientific data collected throughout the West have been compromised (intentionally adjusted) in order to support and secure the funding driving the research behind the hypothesis of Anthropogentic Global Warming/Climate Change/Climate Disruption. When scientists willfully compromise the integrity of their data it leaves all data and scientific conclusions open to question.

    It is no more comforting for the public at large to see scientists transform themselves into technocrats and crawl into bed with politicians and world governments than it is to see the oligarchs who have made their obscene fortunes through the oil, coal, and mining dependent technologies turn Representative Democracies into neo-Fascist oligarchies where dictated regulations by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, are vigorously enforced with the threat of force and at the point of a gun by same unelected bureaucratic agency.

    When in doubt, the most logical path for the skeptical public is to follow the money as to who has the most wealth/power to gain by the implementation of the greatest Ponzi scheme perpetrated upon the people at a global level: carbon taxation. Hint: it is not the people most affected by such taxation and regulations.

    Scientists who have the ability to divorce ego driven arrogance from the commentary of their research results should, rather than attacking those who dare to question and mocking them as some kind of 14th century heretic by labeling those who dare question their conclusions as deniers, acknowledge skepticism as a challenge that they have not yet presented convincing supporting evidence.

    AGW is seem by some skeptics as a highly egocentric hypothesis attempting to prove that humans haveexponentially more influence and control over the vast systems of this planet and its surrounding atmosphere than would seem, well, humanly possible. Sadly, even the geological scientific community's announcement that they have determined we entered the new era of the Anthropocene was largely a politically driven labeling endeavor to lend long sought legitimacy for the theory of AGW.

    Until this blogger and other scientists are able to divorce their work from their funding, social, and political ideological leanings, and stop seeking a seat at the table of power through the promotion of technocratic totalitarianism, their hypothesis and conclusions will remain open to public skepticism, challenges, and even public disdain.

    My best advice to this blogger/budding scientist is to remove the timber out of his own eye and make the case against the rotten elements within his intended profession before attacking those on the outside. Look inward at what the scientific community has done to reap such skepticism and public disdain.

    Beyond knowledge seek wisdom and always accept accountability when scientific results are challenged.

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  4. My best advice to anonymous above would to be to read an introductory book on atmospheric radiative transfer. One of the great obstacles the scientific community faces is their lack of ability to successfully communicate the science behind global warming to the public. The media often twists it out of proportion, both from extremist and “skeptic” perspectives (which is a euphemism for denial).

    This is an op-ed piece… I am intending to express my thoughts on global warming as it is perceived by the American public. And it's not a matter of “supporting” AGW… it's a matter of science. Do you “support” the notion that the moon revolves around the Earth?

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