How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic (Because We Must)

April 23, 2007

The conservative arguments against the evidence for global warming remind me of the decades-long debate over the health hazards of cigarette smoking. Then as now, there were arguments from uncertainty: “There isn’t enough evidence.” There were arguments from anecdote: “I know somebody whose Uncle Joe smokes a pack a day and he’s not sick.” And there were arguments from economics: “If we ban smoking, American tobacco farmers will go broke.”

Because we live in an era where it is no longer acceptable for smokers to stink up workplaces and other people’s houses, and because the accumulation of medical evidence against smoking has reached Himayalan proportions, it’s hard for younger people to appreciate the blizzard of industry-driven pseudoscience and half-smart arguments that continued right up to the point when the tobacco companies smoothly shifted gears from “There’s no evidence that cigarettes are bad for you” to “Of course cigarettes are bad for you, and it’s your own stupid fault if you get cancer from smoking.”

The global warming debate seems to be reaching its conclusion a bit faster, but the airwaves and op-ed pages are still chock-full of wingers who have made careers out of yelling “Black!” whenever liberals say “White!” So Grist magazine has done us all a service by compiling all the bogus arguments against climate change and their refutations in one convenient, easy-to-use package.

Now as then there are arguments from uncertainty: “There is no evidence.” There are arguments from anecdote: “It’s cold today in Wagga Wagga.” And there are arguments from economics: “Kyoto is a big effort for almost nothing.”

There is also the ever popular “hockey stick” argument, still a feature of many blog comments. And there’s my personal favorite, “Mars and Pluto are warming, too.” You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve had that one thrown at me.

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2 Responses to “How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic (Because We Must)”

  1. Brian Says:

    This website is a gold mine. I’ve already tried it out on some of my winger friends, to pretty decent success! Thanks!

  2. Caveat Says:

    What an amazing amount of work to put that together. Thanks for finding and posting it.


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