Climate Sophistry 1: The Flawed Premise of Climate Change Denial

The flawed premise of climate change denial and the deep roots and sound foundation of climate science.


I am going to address the most obvious flaws and and faulty logic of climate change denial one by one so lets start at the foundation with the flawed premise: The basic premise of climate change denial is that there is a scientific debate about man made climate change and that some scientists dispute it. In truth, there is no debate at all within science. The science behind it is well established and goes back to the 19th century when the effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on temperature on the earth was first discovered. The first scientist to make the connection between burning fossil fuels and a warming climate was Svante Arrhenius, a noble prize winning Swedish chemist, in 1896. The effects of carbon dioxide were known before that but he was the first to make the connection between human activity and the effects of increased amount of carbon dioxide we were putting into the atmosphere and global climate and come up with equations that put it on a sound mathematical basis.

That is how well founded the science is. There is no debate about the science within the mainstream scientific community and there never has been. What there is is a political debate about what to do about it that didn’t get started until the late 20th century when the fact of a warming planet became self evident. In the course of that debate, one side, conservative politically and economically tied to the fossil fuel industry, felt their economic interests threatened and they adopted the strategy of trying to undermine the science to end the political debate in their favor. They’ve poured vast amounts of resources into climate change denial but their debate is still entirely political and climate change denial is never found separate from politics and political ideology. The few scientists that support climate change denial are from the fringes of science and almost always funded and supported by conservative political organizations. It’s notable that in twenty years’ time, the arguments they use have hardly changed at all and they’ve produced no research that supports their position in any significant way in spite of the huge amount of funding and political support they’ve had. Climate change denial is a constant attack on established science. It has to be because there is nothing to defend, no alternative research that supports it so its only option is to attack and all it has to attack with is faulty logic based on a false premise that gets constantly repeated in an ideological echo chamber. This flawed logic doesn’t impress the scientific community very much but it doesn’t have to. Its aim is to make political converts to an ideology who will add their voices to the echo chamber. Meanwhile, in the same twenty years, climate science has made huge advances and has produced a catalog of research and data that confirms man made climate change.

Climate change deniers like to bring up a percentage of scientists who disagree with man made climate change, most commonly 3%. These scientists do exist, the field of science is vast and scientists can be influenced by money and political ideology just like anyone else. There is a survey of the percentage of climate denial in peer reviewed papers on climate by James Powell. The number was 4 out of 69,404 which comes to .006%.  He currently has 99.94% consensus on his web page. I can do my own math on some publicly available figures. The first is an online petition known as the Oregon petition which claims 31,487 signatures from American scientists skeptical of man made climate change. I will first compare it to the number of full time scientific researchers world wide from Unesco, 7.8 million. That comes to .4%.  If I restrict myself to the US I can use the number of scientists and engineers employed in the US according to the Congressional Research Service, 6.9 million. This yields a percentage of .46 when compared to the Oregon petition. That would be erring far on the side of caution. The number of truly valid signatures on the Oregon petition is generally seen as inflated with the true figure being around one third of the total number while the Unesco figure and the one from the Congressional Research Service are limited to full time scientific researchers world wide or employed scientists and engineers in the US which would be far less than all of those with academic degrees in science which is all that the Oregon petition requires. In any case, there is no serious dissent from the accepted conclusion that C02 levels are driving man made climate change in science, either in the form of a widely accepted peer reviewed paper or in a significant number of dissenting scientists.

So for anyone that has to confront climate change deniers, there is an easy response to the endless sophistic questions they will pepper you with trying to promulgate their artificial debate about the science: There is no debate, the science is well founded and there is no scientific research that disproves it. There is ongoing research about how far and how fast it will go and these and many other details are still debatable but the effect of carbon dioxide on global temperatures is not. That is basic science that was established long before climate change denial became part of a political ideology.


Reference links for further reading.

Climate Change Denial: Sources, actors, and strategies