The Vampire that Won't Die

The author of today’s post, Sheryl Canter, is an Online Writer and Editorial Manager at Environmental Defense.

The cover story in the current issue of Newsweek is about the bizarre persistence of the global warming deniers, in the face of overwhelming evidence that global warming exists ("Global Warming Is A Hoax – Or so claim well-funded naysayers who still reject the overwhelming evidence of climate change").

Who is funding the doubt machine, and how should science-based organizations respond?

ExxonMobil is a major funder of the conservative think tanks Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and American Enterprise Institute (AEI). CEI has run misleading ads about climate change, and AEI reportedly offered scientists $10,000 to write articles undercutting the IPCC report. Grist offers a good overview of the dispute.

According to a Newsweek poll, a disturbingly large percentage of Americans still think (erroneously) that there is "a lot of disagreement among climate scientists" on whether the planet is warming. As our window of opportunity for effective action closes and we get closer and closer to the tipping point, this is frustrating!

The Conscious Earth blog is so tired of repeating explanations to skeptics who never listen that they’ve posted a new policy of non-response to climate change deniers. We’ve felt the frustration here at Climate 411 as well. We post thoroughly documented explanations of the science behind global warming, and then get comments from skeptics that directly contradict the latest scientific measurements and conclusions.

What’s the solution?

Some have suggested that climate change deniers be frozen out of the media the way terrorists are – don’t give them a platform. Should we do like the Conscious Earth blog and stop responding to "commenters that regurgitate an existing and previously debunked skeptic argument"? We don’t want to ignore sincere questions from people who have heard the skeptics’ arguments and want to know whether they hold water.

What do you think? How do we stop going in circles and move forward before it’s too late?

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  1. tkalee
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Let me be the first to say you should give deniers as little attention as possible. Direct them to many of the excellent debunks of climate myths, by all means, but like children they live for attention. Don’t give it to them by dignifying their views.

  2. Posted August 8, 2007 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    As a retired meteorologist, I think there should be MORE funding for the so-called ‘deniers’ and skeptics from universities and governments (not oil companies!), to really do unbiased studies on climate change and its causes. The way it is, there are BILLIONS spent on funding studies to further the warming consensus views and only millions to see if there are other possible explanations we may not even be aware of yet. To say the ‘Science is Settled’ on any issue is in itself a form of denial – a denial of science’s purpose to study all possible angles of any issue. After all, Galileo was also a ‘denier’ in his day. What if the ‘science is settled’ people of his day had their way? It just takes one unbiased scientist proving a point to undo thousands of consensus writers. No, DON’T silence any legitimate questions or opinions. Don’t deny descent.

  3. Posted August 8, 2007 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    kenzrw – you have a basic misunderstanding of how science works. It’s not science if you are funding someone to come up with a pre-conceived conclusion. That’s dishonest manipulation, not science.

    The job of a scientist is to keep an open mind, and reach conclusions based on observation and data. After decades of careful observation, the conclusion is clear. The earth is warming to a dangerous degree, and the cause is human activities.

    The thousands of scientists who have reached this conclusion didn’t do so because they were paid to. Their conclusion comes from the data. The people who are paid to reach a particular conclusion are those working for the Exxon-funded think tanks.

    No one is suggesting that legitimate questions be silenced. The arguments thrown out by climate change deniers are not legitimate – they ignore data. Their arguments are soundly debunked, and yet they keep on making them. For some people, there is absolutely nothing you can say to make them look at and believe the facts.

    As for stalling until there is no more debate… Bad idea. You might want to read our previous post on scientific uncertainty.

  4. Posted August 8, 2007 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m not so sure there’s an open mind anymore on either side. And legitimate questions are still being asked but anyone who does so is immediately called a ‘denier’. Why is that?

    too look at the facts from a meteorologist viewpoint and I remember and look at official literature of all the heatwaves of the past, the cold outbreaks, etc, and realize that we’ve always had weather extremes somewhere on the planet in any given year. When someone says the current heat in the mid part of the country is proof of global warming (I DO think we’re in a warming trend, however), I always tell of the heat of the 1930s and the 1950s to point out that this all has happened before. I just don’t see the temperature data in the US at least as having an alarming upswing. I put this NOAA/NCDC site together using all the state’s average temperatures from 1895 thru 2006 and see no alarming trend in any state so far (no ‘hockey stick’ upswing anywhere). I know I should only look at the global temperatures, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that there’s no alarming trend in the the US. Here’s the site I put up from NOAA’s official data:

    Most states show that average temperatures were warmer in the 1930s than today. Can this be denied? Some states are actually cooling from the El Nino enhanced warmest 1998 readings.

  5. KingdomofOz
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that adding a reference page with a similar look to a FAQ page, except with layout of a law book. It could serve several purposes. First it would allow E.D. contributors to answer redundant questions with lengthly accurate responses. Second, the posted response (a reference to a frequent question or lack of understanding) gives the least amount of attention and avoids getting into a battle of verbal fisticuffs

  6. Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    KingdomofOz, a FAQ page is a good idea. It wouldn’t take that long to put together if we could did it as an index into existing posts, which already address all the denier arguments. It would just be a matter of organizing the content into categories and putting up a page. An index into the blog’s content would be useful for others, as well, not just deniers. I’ll see how fast I can put this together. Thanks for the idea.

  7. Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    kenzrw, we addressed the 1930’s argument in our post Swindles in the “Great Global Warming Swindle”. Here’s the relevant part:

    Swindle: From 1900 to 1940, temperatures rose though CO2 from industry was low. From 1940 to 1975, temperatures fell though CO2 from industry was high. Therefore CO2 does not drive temperature.

    The Truth: CO2 concentration is not the only factor influencing global temperature change, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a factor. Rising CO2 concentrations from human activity have been detectably driving up global temperature for just the last 50 years. From 1900 to 1940, increased solar energy output accounted for higher temperatures. Temperatures fell from 1940 to 1975 because air pollution was dimming the sun. After the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, warming resumed.

  8. Tass
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Dear Sheryl,

    By accident I took notice of this webpage (redirected through an article of the Environmental Magazine) and I find it a very good initiative. However, as I’m European (and biologist) my point of view might be slightly different on some points. In Germany the green discussion is very old and includes global warming since years. I think nowadays almost no one would question that global warming is a fact. But while in the US many people deny the problem, in Europe many people argue, that if we have global warming already there is nothing we can do anymore and we have to find ways now, how to adapt to these new conditions. What I try to say is, that the truth is very simple and very inconvenient: if we want to avoid a further acceleration of global warming (NOT avoid global warming itself, that is far to late), we have to change our way of life, our attitudes and our consumer behaviour. Unfortunately, less then 0.1% of the people are willing or able to do this. I think to deny this problem is nothing else then to say, I won’t take consequences, I don’t care. This kind of inertia is unfortunately very human and I fear there won’t be any voluntary change if not by means of social or governmental pressure.

    Kind regards and good luck.

  9. Sam I Am
    Posted August 11, 2007 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I have been visiting websites like this and have seen an alarming behaviour, one that reminds me of doomsday cults. The closer we get to the perceived “tipping point” the more radical the behaviour and the complete intolerance towards anyone that threatens the cult’s belief system.

    Like communism and facism, any dissent is swiftyl dealt with and denialists are sent to the “Grist’s Skeptic Page” or removed from the blog altogether.

    The similarities are stricking. In Nazis Germany, the jews where the “vampires that won’t die.” Hence the “Final Solution” and with Stalin, progroms that killed 20 million. Hey folks, Al Gore is getting very rich selling “carbon credits,” he is the best snake oil salesman I’ve seen in a long time.

    According to the “Global Warming Alarmists,” there is no more debate, its just about silencing those “deniers” that don’t agree with our Zietgeist. Unfortunately, the debate is far from over. The biggest influence over temperature rise on planet earth is the sun. The sun’s temperature varies, thereby warms and cools, warms and cools. When it is warmed by the sun, CO2 is released. When the sun cools, so does the earth and CO2 decreases. Opps, sorry, lets not mention the little ice age and the medevial warming period (those little bits of inconvenient truth).

    No, lets take two data sets (one set based on ice core samples and combine them with direct sampling from atop a volcano and combine them to create a data set that supports our “belief system.” And for those that don’t agree with us and drink the Koolaid, its of to the virtual (at least for now) gulag.

    The hysteria and extreme rhetoric seen on websites like this are very amusing and symptomatic of dillusional thinking, and if you threaten this dillusion its off to the virtual re-education camp.

    I suppose you folks would all be in favor of buring books (and people) that disagree with you? Am I right? Based upon the new policy of ignoring folks like me, I won’t expect a reply and its off to concentration camp for me. Go ahead, prove me wrong.

    All Hail Al Gore!

  10. Posted August 11, 2007 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    The only way to defeat these guys is to stop arguing from a scientific viewpoint. The vast majority of Americans barely know the chemical symbol for water.

    They don’t get the science and their eyes glaze over when you explain it to them. The Republicans have been kicking the Democrats butts in elections because they keep their message simple and respond to intelligent arguments with ridicule.

    In a country where the “common man” is the ideal and highly educated people are dismissed as “elitist” and “eggheads”, you have to fight the battle at the level of the people you are trying to win over. Any advertising person understands this.

    The scientific community must get its collective “head out of its ass” and go on the offensive with spokespeople who are flippant, witty and have a razor sharp tongue without seeming overly mean.

    They have to ridicule the “vampires” who are funded by major industry. Make fun of their pseudo-science because most Americans don’t know the difference. Portray them as “flat-earth” types.

    Also, the middle class love to hate the rich. Portray them as the “ultra-rich and powerful” thinking they can “fool” the “stupid little people.”

    And appeal to the fears of mothers. If you can convince mothers that their children are threatened by the Wealthy Industrialist Elite and their tools, the Republicans, (sheesh, I sound like a 1930’s Communist propaganda leaflet), you have a great chance of defeating these guys once and for all.

    But, hey, that’s just my opinion.

  11. Sam I Am
    Posted August 12, 2007 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Oh, and by the way, this silly notion that there are 1000 scientists that favor Global Warming THEORY to 1 that opposes is just silly.

    The Scientific community is split just about down the middle on this. And as more and more scientists no longer fear the radical environmental movement (because really folks, you are getting quite shrill and loosing street cred) and threats of being burned at the stake, will come out of the denialist closet.

    Just the fact that websites like this begin (although I must give this one credit for allowing my posts, kudos to the moderator) censoring opposing points of view shows that GW Alarmists are loosing ground.

  12. ccr9405
    Posted August 13, 2007 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    The young vanguard of the climate shock troops, such as Sheryl Canter, have evidently failed to inform themselves broadly concerning the methodology of climate change studies. She might benefit from reading the papers in Vol. 8 of World Econmics, where detailed methodology used by the IPCC, among others, is examined by actual scientists, not journalists more interested in causally tosssing around such tags as “vampires” and “climate change deniers”. The impatience of ideologists with the deliberations of science and public policy, not to say with a democratic process that takes into account the amorphous beast of public opinion, is more frightening than a melting ice cap.

  13. Buffy:VampireSlayer
    Posted August 13, 2007 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Wow! You guys are so smart; I don’t think I can like handle it! I’m just entering middle school, and I’m soo worried about global warming, but I’m even MORE worried about my vampire parents. They’re like soooo denying like everything! OMG!! Can someone please like come and get them?? Isn’t there like somewhere they can go to like learn the facts!?! IDK wat to like do with them!!! I cried like all night when I heard about the polar bear on that icecap thingy, it like tore my heart in two! I decided to start a club at my school for global warming, but I don’t know what to call it! OMG how incredibly frustrating. Do you guys have any ideas? It would be like soooo helpful. I’m soo intense about this, that my ex-BFF, who is like a complete and total denier, I totally like shunned her, and my friends want to torch her. (Her name is Lucy.) My new gobal warming club is like THE popular group, and she is like a loser beyond repair! OMG!! My club has a secret handshake, and we even have like an initiation right! (did I spell that right??) My new BFF has even like set up an altar like thingy, an on it we have a totally awesome Al Gore bobblehead!! I didn’t even know they had those!! OMG its like soooo cool. We’re working on a worship prayer. it’s really coming along! We’re taking the names of the deniers in our school, and we want to know where we can like send them, like along with my weird and totally like bogus parents.

  14. Posted August 13, 2007 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Sam I Am – We don’t delete the posts of people who disagree with us, as long as they disagree civilly. We only delete posts that are personally insulting, use inappropriate language, violate copyright laws, or hawk products. So far we’ve had hardly any of that, happily.

    Re your “It’s the Sun” theory, please see our previous post, “The Only Explanation Left“. It directly addresses this erroneous idea with hard data.

    > The Scientific community is split just about down the middle on this.

    That is simply wrong. What data do you have to support this silly statement? Deniers are a tiny (though loud) minority. You don’t believe atmospheric scientists from Princeton, MIT, and virtually every other respected university in this country (not to mention other countries), members of the National Academies of Science, authors of studies commissioned by the U.S. government, and more? All these people say we’re in big trouble. If you don’t believe them, who do you believe?

    Bob – your comments remind me of a terrific presentation I saw at the YearlyKos convention by Drew Weston, author of “The Political Brain“. Check it out. It’s veeeeery interesting!

    Buffy – I don’t know if you are a real kid or a poseur, but whichever… It’s the young who should be most worried about global warming – they’re the ones who will be alive in 2050 and suffering the effects if we don’t do something now. I went to the Sea of Change demonstration in New York, and half the speakers were high school students. It was very inspiring.

  15. futurewatcher64
    Posted September 6, 2007 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Ok, I am not in denial that we are seeing a warming trend here, but the cause is what is being disagreed over by so many scientists. So, far studies I have read and seen don’t show that CO2 is the cause, and they don’t show any change in atmosphere to be the cause(so far there has been little man-made change). In the end it is as my blog from yesterday said:

    The facts keep coming in from scientists all over the world, including those working in meteorology and at major universities. The message is clear and concise. There is no proof or even a hint of truth that there is any global warming happening at all. The real truth is there for anyone who wants to take a trip down science lane. I don’t like to spend time educating people who don’t want to know the truth about the so-called global warming issue. None the less, certain facts need to be presented that utterly destroy the words of those who claim global warming is going to be the worse thing ever, and it is happening now and it will get much worse. The real truth is nothing is happening at all to create an atmosphere change to cause global warming.

    Let’s look at the center piece of the global warming issue, and talk about Carbon Dioxide or CO2. It does not cause global warming. It makes up only about .5 percent of the entire atmosphere. It does not have any affect at all on climate change. This is provable in many models. Let’s talk about the time of the great industrial age. What about the worst years, the last 50-60 years when global C02 emissions have been at their highest? From 1940-1977 the charts show a dramatic DECREASE (every year for 4 decades) in over all temperature of this planet. In the late 1960s to 1970s this became such a fear, that we were all warned about an impending ice age from some not so scientific scientists (yet they were probably more scientific than what we are seeing spread as scientific fact today, that is NOT scientific fact at all).

    A hard fact: All the carbon dioxide produced by man, is so low that it makes up a number so small (.015%), that it is only barely registering in the upper atmosphere, and not that much at all even in the lower atmosphere (less than 10Km). The great ice age actually had much higher CO2, and yet the temperatures were so much colder. The hottest temperatures are not right now either like we have been told. The 1930s had even hotter temperatures (Remember the Dust Bowl days?). The lack of facts and the entire case for global warming just does not add up, and if you talk to most meteorologists, they will tell you the same things I have just stated. The temperatures in the upper atmosphere do not show warming at all, in fact the opposite, and only in some areas at ground level do we see any warming. This means if warming is taking place it is NOT coming from the atmosphere. All of this points to the Sun as the cause of the heat, and by far the most CO2 is coming from the oceans of this planet from the higher Sun heat. The Sun spot cycles have a whole lot to do with this, and their magnetic polar interference with the Sun will tell you when things are going to get hotter and when they will cool. Many test models have been done following the cycles of sun spots and there is more and more evidence that this is the TRUE source of the so-called global warming. It is not man-made, we have very little if anything to do with causing global warming.

    My sources are too numerous to mention, but I will mention a few to show I have actually done some research. I have no political agenda, I am just a person in the world living my life. I want happiness too! I just don’t think global warming scares make life better. Stop being so dang paranoid everyone. The liberals out there want us afraid of our own shadow so they can manipulate us. I am not afraid of mine, are you?

    Prof. Tim Ball, University of Winnipeg,
    Prof. Nir Shaviv, University of Jerusalem institute of Physics,
    Prof. John Christie, winner American Meteorological Society achievment award.

  16. jan
    Posted September 20, 2007 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    I think there are few who would say some heating up of the planet is simply not happening. The observation of shrinking polar ice caps, the effect on polar bears, and the shrinking of ice caps on mountains that formerly had larger areas is measureable and occurring. What the real issue seems to be is whether or not this is a natural process, part of a cycle. And secondly, regardless of whether it is or is not a natural process, whether or not people can, or should do anything to slow or stop the process. How can we impartially, without rhetoric, and without agendas trying to push us to one conclusion or the other determine what precisely is responsible? That is the true nature of science, and following that impartial method should be the commitment of all of us, it seems to me. Our survival could possibly depend on such impartial analysis.

  17. jan
    Posted September 20, 2007 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    Here is one suggestion for collecting the data in one place. This site could host a kind of discussion between scientists and published individuals promoting the divergent views: we must do something, we need to do nothing. It would be very helpful if the two camps could be somewhat organized among themselves to avoid duplication of posts. The format could include categories, with the discussion for each taking maybe a week. The first category could be what is known about the previous history of our planet heating up, and the second category what is known about this particular heating up period, and a third, what is known about what causes the heating. A final catgegory could be what else do we need to know to come to a conclusion about what is causing the heating, and how do we get that data. Simple categories. First one group could discuss, then the second group could be charged with first addressing any divergent views of what was written by the first group, then adding new ideas. The next week would have a reversal of which group would start first with the next category. This website could take a stab at suggesting the individual scientists for each side, maybe limiting the number to 10. There could be a time period for readers to suggest others.

  18. stateoffear
    Posted January 27, 2008 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    I suppose I must be one of these evil vampires . . . though my name might be a bit of a hint. Because you apparently have answers–albeit strange and depthless ones–I do not present my well researched points, but instead a few interesting questions:
    A. Just how thick was this layer of pollution that supposedly ‘dimmed the sun?’
    B. Where did the logic for your swindles on swindles thing-a-ma-bob come from?
    C. How much warmth is needed to cause all this chaotic destruction you’ve been rambling on about? (Because last time I check, overall temperature change in the last 100 years was .3 degrees Celcius.)
    Please enlighten me on these topics.

  19. stateoffear
    Posted January 27, 2008 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Uh, Buffy–
    It’s an initiation rite, not an initiation right.

  20. Posted January 29, 2008 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    stateoffear – we don’t feed the vampires here. If you have real curiosity, read the blog. Here’s a place for you to start – an article on global dimming:

  21. stateoffear
    Posted January 30, 2008 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I’d already read your article, but there was no meantion of how thick the layer of pollution was–how much pollution was needed to “significantly cool the earth.”

  22. Posted January 31, 2008 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for reading the article. You made a perceptive comment in response to it, too.

    Scientists measure pollution in terms of density (particles per unit of atmosphere) versus “thickness”. I don’t know the exact numbers involved. I do know that the Clean Air Act solved the problem. With reduced air pollution and smog, the effect of global dimming was greatly reduced.