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Skepticism is not Denial - FAQ

Skepticism is a necessary component of the scientific process. 

Denial is a required task of the carbon fuel industry's PR campaign.  

A skeptic can be informed, a denialist is rigidly dogmatic.

Grist offers an excellent lesson in How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic.   They list about 250 common questions with a succinct answer for each.

Un-Deniable Summary Statements 2008

I am grateful to a dear acquaintance who requested a brief update on global warming. She wanted a current problem summary.   I rise to the task and offer this one page overview.   The following is a distillation of a year spent reading, studying and ranting. Statements footnoted with links.

Most all scientists will agree that:

1. Global warming is real; is made much worse by human civilization; and is accelerating.

Weather channel has the message

2. We can no longer fix it.  We can only adapt, mitigate and suffer the consequences.

Adaptation: Wikipedia
Public Health perspective

3. We have begun to act.  But over the next few decades - if we do little or nothing - humans will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Given Continued Inaction, Climate Future of Hellish Wildfires
Melting of methane ice triggered long-ago warming surge: study
Beyond the Point of No Return

4. Actions taken now require 30 to 50 years for effects to begin — and thousands of years to completely revert to a healthy atmosphere.

How long will global warming last?
EPA U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Reports

5. Model scenarios do not exclude a prediction of horrible calamity.   We do not know the time-line for anticipated changes.   Farther out in time is much harder to predict.—
Keep in mind these are pretty optimistic scenarios
How Bad? and When? Graph view:
Special Report on Emissions Scenarios
The costs of inaction

6. Climate change is dangerous because of “tipping points” - an important concept to know - where one event triggers another.  Like connected, amplified teeter-totters.   Science has a hard time with tipping points, because they lead to greater complexity and runaway impacts

Tipping points discussed
NASA says we are close
Permafrost tipping point

7. Currently, scientists are disturbed to note the rate of change is picking up.—
Research shows rapid changes in the past
Oceans warmed 50% faster over the last 40 years to climate change

8. For decades the fossil fuel industry has funded huge PR campaigns to discount the science and restrict legislative reactions that would stifle their business.   These have been very effective.   The Executive branch has actively suppressed government studies on global warming.  Seemingly intelligent people will often deny brutal truths.

Naomi Oreskes video lecture about the organized campaigns to create public doubt and confusion about science.
Dr James Hansen testimony before Congress
Article:;jsessionid=anjGFkx1cf95IxGn6P?article=the_manufacture_of_uncertainty - “The Manufacture of Uncertainty - How American industries have purchased “scientists” to undermine scientific verities when those verities threaten their profits.”
Scientists are far more concerned than is reflected by public opinion; they have very little voice in this issue, business has much.
Exxon still funds denialist groups
Read the original Exxon memo
Systematic suppression of science - George Monbiot
“…the problem is not that people aren’t hearing about climate change, but that they don’t want to know. The professional classes have the most freedom to lose and the least to gain from an attempt to restrain it.  Those who are most responsible for carbon pollution are - being insulated by their money - the least likely to suffer its effects. “
…we all have our self-justifying myths.  We tell ourselves a story of our lives in which we almost always appear as the heroes. These myths prevent us from engaging with climate change…
…The most powerful story of all, endlessly narrated by the hired hands of the fossil fuel industry, just as it was once told by the sugar slavers, is that we are both all-important and utterly insignificant.  We are too important to be denied any of the delights we crave, but too insignificant to exert any impact on planetary processes.  We fill the whole frame of the story when it suits us and shrink to a dot when that scale is more convenient. We are capable of occupying both niches simultaneously…
…It is not just because (the movie) The Great Global Warming Swindle is at odds with the entire body of scientific knowledge on this subject that I have bothered to contest it. It is also because it is consonant with the entire body of human self-deception. We want to be misled, we crave it; and we will bend our minds into whatever shape they need to take in order not to face our brutal truths.   - George Monbiot 7-22-08

9. Europe and other nations seem to better understand the problem than the US.  Most humans will not really get it until they feel the sea level rise and experience more storms, floods, heat waves, bio changes, crop losses, etc.

10. Dramatic and painful climate problems happening sooner will better work to stimulate change.   Any changes made now are more effective than the same change enacted in the future.   The longer we wait, the harder it gets. (8 years have been wasted)

Tracking Extreme Weather Events
Austrialia heat waves by 2010


11. Most adults alive today will see more and increasingly intense global warming problems; Children growing into a very unpredictable world will need all the preparation we can give them.  Philosophically: we should learn the dangers, still enjoy life, educate the kids, and push change as fast as we can.   No engagement is more important.

Specific solutions
Spirituality and Hope
Spend 1% to halve greenhouse gas by 2050:
Vatican calls it a sin
Babtists on climate change

To stay fairly current, a minimal information task is to subscribe to an email newsletter like Grist’s

For background see the movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ - remembering that the science in that movie is now about 5 years old.

Prepared by Richard Pauli July 2008