Despite prolific and consistent scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change, industry members and their proponents still insist that climate change is a hoax. Yet, while climate deniers are standing their ground, the evidence against them continues to grow.
There are even stages to the denial process, according to Skeptical Science. Even if deniers are forced to accept that the surface temperature of the planet has been warming significantly, they will quickly move along to the next stage of denial, which is to deny that humans are to blame for the planet’s warming. After accepting that humans are the cause of global warming, many will simply deny that it is a problem, and so on.
Last week, the United Nation’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their comprehensive report on climate change. Scientists reported with “extreme confidence,” or 95 percent certainty, that humans are the dominant cause of global warming. The report projected a global average temperature rise of 0.3 to 4.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, and a seal level rise of 10 to 32 inches.
As Truthout states, “As the consequences of climate change become more apparent and the window to act closes, an unprecedented battle is growing in ferocity. Energy and fossil fuel interests and their supporters now face opponents including a sizable chunk of the remaining world power brokers.”
The argument against man-made climate change has essentially become the equivalent of arguing that smoking is not linked to cancer. The evidence against climate deniers includes,
- The fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed, scientific papers agree that global warming is happening and we are the cause. 97 percent of climate scientists agree that significant global warming trends over the past century are due to a human-caused increase in greenhouse gases and other human contributions. The consensus is such that those who disagree with it are comparable to the fringe groups who believe HIV does not cause aids or that smoking is unrelated to lung cancer.
- The International Energy Agency, a representative of coal, oil, and nuclear power, advocates climate action. The group warned in 2011 that “the door is closing” for the world to change direction on energy usage. This year, the agency released a report providing four energy policies that, if implemented, could potentially keep the international target of limiting the average global temperature rise to 2 °C.
- The Pentagon and top military officials agree that climate change is a threat to national and global security. In June, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of DoD strategy said that climate change was forcing Pentagon strategists to consider global food and water scarcity, mass migration, and the potential for those factors to “ignite clashes around the world.” In 2010, the Pentagon concluded that climate change will be an “accelerant of instability and conflict” and a “burden on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.” In March, the head of the US Navy Pacific command called climate change the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region. The DoD’s position is supported by the State Department and all sixteen agencies of our Intelligence Community, Truthout notes.
- The Carbon Disclosure Project represents 722 investors and a total of $87 trillion in assets, about one-third of the world’s invested capital, calling for companies to disclose their carbon emissions and climate change strategies. The CDP holds the largest collection of climate change and environmental information on companies and aims to use it to reduce companies’ impacts on the environment.
- PricewaterhouseCoopers, the world’s largest professional services firm, last year warned that the future could be catastrophic unless “radical action is taken now to combat climate change,” The Guardian reports. The PwC report warned that “we have passed a critical threshold,” and urged a “rapid uptake of renewable energy, sharp falls in fossil fuel use or massive deployment of carbon capture and storage, removal of industrial emissions and halting deforestation.”
- NASA has documented indications of the earth’s changing climate using satellite images taken over a period of seven years. Its GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) Mission measured the amount of ice lost from earth’s glaciers and ice caps from 2003 to 2010. Over the past year, warming temperatures have reduced the amount of Arctic sea ice to record lows. Groups have documented polar bear deaths due to melting sea ice from Norway to Canada.
Aside from these power players, climate deniers face environmental protection agencies, environmentalists, and scientists. This year alone, scientists have released reports documenting that our global climate is changing at an “unprecedented rate,” linking anthropogenic climate change to extreme weather events of 2012, stating that cutting carbon emissions would save millions of lives, and many others.
With all of the evidence, it is somewhat astonishing that there are still those on the fringe who continue to proclaim that climate change is a “hoax.” This fringe group is a large, loud army of denial, and a powerful misinformation machine.
- Right-wing media outlets such as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh decrease trust in scientists, thereby decreasing the trust in science and climate change. According to Skeptical Science, a study on conservative media outlets and global warming denial finds five main methods that outlets use to create distrust in scientists, including: 1) “presenting contrarian scientists as ‘objective’ experts while presenting mainstream scientists as self-interested or biased,” 2) “denigrating scientific institutions and peer-reviewed journals,” 3) equating peer-reviewed research with a politically liberal opinion,” 4) “accusing climate scientists of manipulating data to fund research projects,” and 5) “characterizing climate science as a religion.”
- The US Chamber of Commerce, a powerful business lobbying group that represents mega-corporations, fights climate change legislation and opposes federal efforts to regulate CO2 emissions. In 2009, the Chamber spent over $65 million actively campaigning against climate change legislation. It has taken a lead role in challenging EPA attempts to regulate greenhouse gases and continues to cast doubt on climate change science, Environment360 reports.
- Republican politicians, some on the Environment and Public Works Committee and other government environmental boards, continue to fight climate change legislation and EPA efforts. In April, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) claimed that Al Gore, the United Nations, MoveOn.org, Michael Moore, and George Soros are responsible for creating the climate change “hoax.” Politicians are often backed by industry contributions.
- Conservative think tanks and institutes fund climate change denial, spread misinformation, and incite tensions. Two trusts, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund were created by ideologue billionaires like the Koch Brothers and Richard Mellon Scaife to fund over 100 anti-climate groups working to discredit the science behind climate change. One recipient of Donors Trust funds, the Heartland Institute, is notorious for spreading climate change science denial by targeting children by attempting to integrate anti-climate science materials into schools.
While neither list represents the full spectrum of players in the climate change battle, it is easy to see how the cycle of denial is perpetuated. Despite scientific evidence and consensus, the misinformation machine is loud, and its methods still seem to be effective.
Unfortunately for the deniers, the evidence against them will only continue to grow. Unfortunately for the environmentally-conscious, all the time being wasted by science-deniers on stalling climate action may leave fewer and fewer options for the future.