Why do we still have climate change denial?


DSC00908sAs I’m sure you are aware, the much-anticipated report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is out (or at least the first of three parts of AR5), and says with 95% certainty, humans are the dominant cause of global warming since the 1950s.

I’ll not dig down into the details too much, there is no need. Here, for example, is a fine summary by the IPCC  themselves. That link is hosted by the BBC and is the official IPCC summary, it outlines the actual evidence contained within part one (the bit that was just issued) of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report (AR5).

If even that is too big to digest, the BBC also has a clear summary of the facts

…the report says the period from 1983-2012 in the Northern Hemisphere was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1,400 years. Each of the last three decades has got successively warmer, and these decades have all been warmer than any of the preceding decades since 1850.

The combined average land and ocean surface data show a temperature rise of 0.85C over the period 1880-2012, the authors go on to say.

In addition, it is “virtually certain” that the upper 700m of the Earth’s oceans have warmed during the period from 1971 and 2010. The deep ocean, below 3,000m in depth, “likely” warmed between 1992 and 2005, says the report, with the largest effect observed in the Southern Ocean.

The report says that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink, and Arctic sea-ice as well as Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to fall in extent.

The above and more can be found here … ah but you are probably already quite familiar with these latest details, and so unless you have buried your head in the sand, it will not be news.

The facts are clear, and apart from the usual one of two kooks, the fact that there is a scientific consensus is clear …

No scientific body of national or international standing maintains a formal opinion dissenting from this

Additionally, a recent 2013 paper in Environmental Research Letters reviewed 11,944 abstracts of scientific papers, finding 4,014 which discussed the cause of recent global warming and reporting:

Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.

Additionally, the authors of the studies were invited to categorise their own research papers, of which 1,381 discussed the cause of recent global warming, and:

Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus.

Alas, we have a public disconnect

There are of course the usual kooks such as Mr Dellingpole who continues to bang the drum of denial. It is perhaps understandable that the Telegraph continues to give him a platform; the fact that they do so gives them a lot of links and coverage from others such as Phil Plait who respond in a Saloon article to dissect his latest bit of Dellingpole gibberish. As for Dellingpole himselt, well he is not just a normal idiot, but rather is a special kind who can not only happily rationalize away reality but also does not let little things such as facts disturb him in the least.

Apart from such scientifically illiterate kooks as Dellingpole, there is a far greater concern. A vast number of the public are not going with the scientific consensus at all, but are instead rejecting it and embracing a different conclusion. Why this is so is clear – the constant stream of grossly wrong stories in the press has created this disconnect. For example only a week or two ago we had …

Both stories are in fact complete bollocks, I explained why here. Yet the damage is done, I do not have the same reach as the mail or Telegraph, and so while my two readers (hi both) are aware that those stories were wrong, it successfully casts a doubt in many minds. When faced with the IPCC report along with such stories it casts an illusion of a lack of consensus. To handle the conflicting information, most can perhaps conclude that there is a lack of scientific consensus and so a doubt takes root.

That of course is wrong – there is in reality a scientific consensus, and has been for quite some time. The best way to address this is with accurate reliable evidence-based information, and yet while we still have the likes of  the Mail and Telegraph happily promoting an anti-science agenda, it will continue to be a very hard struggle.

It matters, it really does – doing nothing is not really an option.

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