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Green Folly
Climate Skepticism on the Rise

American skepticism of the dangers of climate change is on the rise, according to a recent Gallup poll. While most respondents agreed that scientists think global warming is happening, more than four in ten said they believe the dangers of this trend are exaggerated in the news. Gallup reports:

These sentiments are lower than the record 48% who believed this four years ago, but higher than any year before Barack Obama became president. […]

[P]ublic opinion has changed notably since Gallup first asked the question in 1997. Fewer Americans now say the seriousness of global warming is generally correct; at the same time, the percentage finding the threat generally exaggerated has increased, and since 2009 has consistently been at or above 40%, a mark it never reached in the years before.

Before we go any further, let’s get something out of the way. At the most basic level, climate scientists have a very solid grasp on a relatively simple set of facts: certain gases, carbon dioxide among them, “trap” the sun’s heat in our atmosphere, much like a greenhouse’s glass. Humans have been emitting these gases at very high rates of late, and that’s a problem, because it will lead to a warmer climate and a variety of new challenges to which life on earth will have to adapt, ourselves included.

The devil is, as usual, in the details. Our climate models weren’t able to predict the recent plateau in warming over the past decade or so, a reflection of our incomplete understanding of the “fiddly bits” of Earth’s climate. The central problem here is the enormous complexity of the system we’re dealing with. Our planet is filled with many different feedback loops and relationships, some of which we understand, but many of which we remain ignorant of. Because of that, any prediction of what might happen when we ramp up one variable like carbon dioxide is going to have a significant margin of error.

But the green movement has made a habit—and for some a living—of exaggerating the dangers of climate change to justify unworkable policies. In the past this probably produced some short-term payoff in terms of public support, but over time it has weakened the credibility of not just the environmental movement but the scientific understanding that these greens claim to be advancing. This recent Gallup poll reflects a damning fact for today’s greens: Climate alarmism tops “big oil” money as the leading cause of climate skepticism.

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  • Ghosts of Benghazi

    Having been to India several times I can understand a culture of pollution which is a more widespread danger than climate warming. One can almost chew the air in India and the aversion to consume anything uncooked is a must. The local drinking water, forget about it! It takes days out of country to get the in country smell out of your nose, body, etc. On the issue of skepticism, my disdain for the subject originates with politicians (liberal of course) professors (liberal of course) calling me stupid, ignorant or criminal for not swallowing the ‘settled science’ that is a trumped up cause to seize money and power – plain and simple. Al Gore is the poster boy on that front. Going back to my India experience, yes man can and does destroy his climate through pollution and modernization. However, in the US (and other advanced countries), technology and societal awareness about effects of pollution have made enormous strides over the past 30 years to reduce pollution and emissions. Like the race card and other liberal dog whistles, the left has used hysteria and arrogance to club people over the head and it is good to see the same populous pushing back on ‘settled science’ of GW and racism….

    • Breif2

      To summarize: the AGW “settled science” isuncooked and an aversion to consuming it is a must. 🙂

      • Ghosts of Benghazi

        Great comprehension and brief of key concepts!

  • Andrew Allison

    “Humans have been emitting these gases at very high rates of late,
    and that’s a problem, because it will lead to a warmer climate and a
    variety of new challenges to which life on earth will have to adapt,
    ourselves included.” is not supported by the data. Specifically, the “plateau” is not a plateau: , in the face of a 35% increase in anthropogenic emissions, the trend in global temperature has been DOWN since 1997. Furthermore, despite a 10-fold increase in such emissions over the past 100 years ( there has been NO increase in the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events over the past 100 years (alarmistuse the cost of such events rather than their actual characteristics).
    To a scientist (see, e.g., or even a sentient observer, these facts should suggest that the effect of anthropogenic emissions is much less than advertized.
    Climate change happens, and there appears to be very little we can do about it.

    • Loader2000

      You can’t measure an increase or decrease from a single year time point. That is a classic method of twisting statistical data to get a specific answer that is often NOT the truth. You always measure from a smoothed trend-line across multiple years. Be careful where you get your information. I’ve read a whole lot about this and much of the pseudo science from the anti-AGW folks is nearly as pathologically bad as the pro-AGW folks. There is too much emotionally invested on both sides and has become an issue of political tribal identity, not science anymore.

      • Andrew Allison

        Do you dispute the fact that while anthropogenic CO2 has increased 10-fold during the past 100 years, there’s been NO change in the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events? If so, take it up with NOAA. That the decadally smoothed average temperature peaked in 2005? If so, take it up with the UK Met Office.
        Science consists of developing a hypothesis and evaluating it in the light of the data. The results are in, and the AGW hypothesis disproved. The frantic search for explanations as to why the data do not conform to the hypothesis is the antithesis of science.

        • Jacksonian_Libertarian

          Well said, the scientific method consists of 4 steps
          1.Observation/Data collection

          Any scientist worthy of the name, would have already gone back to the drawing board when Predictions based on the Hypothesis of “Global Warming” proved to be wrong. Instead they change the name to “Climate Change” and franticly grasp at any explanation for the failure, all while smearing the skeptics that recognize the failure of “Global Warming” as deniers, like they were denying the Holocaust where 6 million Jews were murdered.

          This is the Greatest Scientific Hoax in history, and it’s just a matter of time before mankind recognizes they’ve been gullible fools.

          • Breif2

            I particularly like the two-step of:
            1. You are an ignorant science-hating denier to even suggest that there is a pause in warming.
            2. Warming has paused because the heat is hiding in the ocean / because of volcanoes / because of little green men…

        • Corlyss

          The single fact that causes extreme weather events is the number of silly twits who live by water. The Greens try to point to the cost of storms as proof of severity, when in fact the cost is directly related to the number of people who have decided to live in vulnerable littoral areas.

          • Andrew Allison

            Corlyss: it pains me to take issue with you (really!) but you’ve fallen into the alarmist trap. Nobody knows what causes extreme weather events; what we do know is that they haven’t increased despite a 10-fold increase in atmospheric CO2. What we need, IMNHO, to do is call out the mendacity of using cost.

          • Corlyss

            No, I didn’t. So you aren’t really disagreeing with me. For the alarmists, they derive a great deal of publicity by labeling rather ordinary outcomes exacerbated by people who expect insurance cos. and the government to hold them harmless from their stupid decisions to locate their homes, expensive or not, too close to unpredictable water. Their labeling has little to do with the weather itself. It has everything to do with the words they chose for the label. IOW it’s propaganda. NOAA has said repeatedly that the hurricanes and typhoons are no worse than they have been for decades; it’s just the degree of damage is greater because of stupid human decisions.

        • Loader2000

          I don’t dispute that there has not been an increase in extreme weather events. AGW means an increase in temperature due, at least in part, to human causes, not necessarily an increase in extreme weather events, though some argue that the two are related. I meant exactly what I said I meant and no more. You are setting up a straw man an beating it with a stick.

      • rheddles

        Lots of argument, no facts. Too bad they all belong to the deniers.

        • Corlyss

          None so cagey as those who would profit from their predictions of doom and who promise if only we will turn over our energy policy to them, we will all be saved (while they become the new economic czars).

          Rheddles, you’re usually smarter than to fall for that kind of nonsense.

    • Corlyss

      I was relieved to hear Tyson say in his Cosmos update that we are in a temporary hiatus of a cooling arc that has existed for thousands of years and will continue in all likelihood.

      • Andrew Allison

        LOL! My opinion on Cosmos 2.0 is: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. One a more serious note, given the supposed effect of atmospheric CO2, the logical explanation for what’s been happening (nothing!) for the past 17 years is that our accelerating production of CO2 is holding off the next ice age. This winter suggests that we’re not doing enough. Burn baby, burn!

        • Corlyss

          Before the hysterics and the rice-bowlers drowned out the rational, climatologists (as they were called then) showed the downward arc of temps since the last ice age. Hypothetically, since I can’t draw in this site, if it were a 10″ line, the period representing the observed warming period was the size of a caret on a keyboard. Not enough to scare and to guarantee notoriety and endless streams of $$$ into research institutions.

          Cosmos Redux’s newer graphics and better music are a decided plus for the update. Vangelis’ music tires after the first 3 episodes. I pulled out my set of the old original, and still marvel at Sagan’s delivery and his ease in talking about this. I remember how excited I was when I saw it in the first go around, and how I marveled at it all together in one place. My mom watched with me and admitted it made her feel very small and insignificant. I just couldn’t identify with that reaction. The vastness of it was hypnotic.

          • Andrew Allison

            Substituting audio-visual potatoes for Sagan’s beef? Sagan wanted to impart knowledge and understand. Does Tyson want to do the same, or just to entertain?

          • Corlyss

            Yeah, that is kind of an odd spaceship he uses, isn’t it. Potato didn’t occur to me. Looked to me more like an upside down teardrop.

            His goal is to entertain and, I suspect, update the somewhat primitive looking graphics from the original. Druyan is in on the new project – Keeper of the Flame, don’t ya know. Tyson was one of the public faces of NASA before he decided to strike out on his own. IMO the redo basically says, “The first was so good we can’t really improve on it, just tweak it with sexier graphics and a multiculti face.”

  • Arkeygeezer

    I will grant you that their are “greenhouse” gasses in the atmosphere. According to the EPA, the current concentration of these gasses are as follows:

    Concentrations in parts per billion (ppb) parts per million (ppm) Percent

    Carbon Dioxide 398000 398 .0398%
    Methane (CH4) 700 0.7 .00007%
    Nitrous oxide (N2O) 270 0.27 .000027%
    Tropospheric ozone (O3) 25 0.025 .0000025%

    The EPA adds to the confusion as they report Carbon Dioxide in parts per MILLION (ppm) and the other gasses in parts per BILLION (ppb). When you convert these numbers into an average percentage in the atmosphere, the gases amount to a miniscule .04% , which is predicted to go as high as .05% by the end of this century. Some of that is contributed by man, but the rest is naturally produced in nature.

    I have a hard time believing that a rise in the amount gasses which compose less than 1/2 of 1% of the atmosphere can have such as a catastrophic effect on our planet.

    • Corlyss

      The most serious problem with AGW is how slowly the ordinarily suspicious and cynical American public is coming to the realization that the AGW crowd is a bunch of self-serving snake-oil salesmen who’s best weapon is not science but propaganda and bullying. I used to admire the environmental movement when it was stringy haired hippies gamboling naked in the forest. They are aren’t funny anymore. They’re a menace to civilization.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, testified in front of a Senate committee last month that “There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years.””

    • Corlyss

      Nice late conversion, but if he was just an amateur and activist with no authority to speak to the issue at hand, he’s still just that.

  • DiogenesDespairs

    Here are some basic, crucial, verifiable facts – citations included – about human-generated carbon dioxide and its effects that people need to know when thinking about this subject.

    The fact is, there has been global warming, but the contribution of human-generated carbon dioxide is necessarily so minuscule as to be nearly undetectable. Here’s why:

    Carbon dioxide, considered the main vector for human-caused global warming, is some 0.038% of the atmosphere[1]- a trace gas. Water vapor varies from 0% to 4%[2], and should easily average 1% or more[3] near the Earth’s surface, where the greenhouse effect would be most important, and is about three times more effective[4] a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So water vapor is at least 25 times more prevalent and three times more effective; that makes it at least 75 times more important to the greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide[5]. The TOTAL contribution of carbon dioxide to the greenhouse effect is therefore 0.013 or less. The total human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide since the start of the industrial revolution has been estimated at about 25%[6]. So humans’ carbon dioxide greenhouse effect is a quarter of 0.013, works out to about 0.00325. Total warming of the Earth by the greenhouse effect is widely accepted as about 33 degrees Centigrade or 59 degrees Fahrenheit. So the contribution of anthropogenic carbon dioxide is less than 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or under 0.1 degree Centigrade. Global warming over the last century is thought by many to be about 0.6 degrees Centigrade.

    But that’s only the beginning. We’ve had global warming for more than 10,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age[7]. Whatever caused that, it was not human activity. It was not all those power plants and factories and SUVs being operated by Stone Age cavemen while chipping arrowheads out of bits of flint. Whatever the cause was, it melted the glaciers that in North America once extended south to Long Island and parts of New York City[8] into virtually complete disappearance (except for a few mountain remnants). That’s one big greenhouse effect! If we are still having global warming – and I suppose we should presume we are, given a 10,000 year trend – it seems highly likely that it is still the overwhelmingly primary cause of continued warming, rather than our piddling 0.00325 contribution to the greenhouse effect.

    Yet even that trend-continuation needs to be proved. Evidence is that the Medieval Warm Period centered on the 1200s was somewhat warmer than we are now[9], and the climate was clearly colder in the Little Ice Age in the 1600s than it is now[10]. So we are within the range of normal up-and-down fluctuations without human greenhouse contributions that could be significant, or even measurable.

    The principal scientists arguing for human-caused global warming have been demonstrably disingenuous[11], and now you can see why. They have proved they should not be trusted.

    The idea that we should be spending hundreds of billions of dollars and hamstringing the economy of the entire world to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is beyond ludicrous in light of the facts above; it is insane. Furthermore, it sucks attention and resources from seeking the other sources of warming and from coping with climate change and its effects in realistic ways. The true motivation underlying the global warming movement is almost certainly ideological and political in nature, and I predict that Anthropomorphic Global Warming, as currently presented, will go down as the greatest fraud of all time. It makes Ponzi and Madoff look like pikers by comparison.

    [1] Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd Edition

    by Michael Pidwirny Concentration varies slightly with the growing season in the northern hemisphere. HYPERLINK “”

    [2] ibid.

    [3] HALOE v2.0 Upper Tropospheric Water Vapor Climatology Claudette Ojo, Hampton University; et al.. HYPERLINK “” See p. 4.The 0 – 4% range is widely accepted among most sources. This source is listed for its good discussion of the phenomena determining that range. An examination of a globe will show that tropical oceans (near high end of range) are far more extensive than the sum of the earth’s arctic and antarctic regions and tropical-zone deserts (all near the low end). Temperate zone oceans are far more extensive than temperate-zone desert. This author’s guess of an average of 2% or more seems plausible. I have used “1% or more” in an effort to err on the side of understatement.

    [4 NIST Chemistry Webbook, Please compare the IR absorption spectra of water and carbon dioxide. ] HYPERLINK “”

    [5] Three quarters of the atmosphere and virtually all water vapor are in the troposphere. Including all the atmosphere would change the ratios to about 20 times more prevalent and 60 times more effective. However, the greenhouse effect of high-altitude carbon dioxide on lower-altitude weather and the earth’s surface seems likely to be small if not nil.

    [6] National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. HYPERLINK “” The estimated 90ppm increase in carbon dioxide, 30% above the base of 280 ppm, to a recent reading of 370 ppm, equates to just under 25% of present concentration, the relevant factor in estimating present contribution to the greenhouse effect.

    [7] Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    [8] New York Nature – The nature and natural history of the New York City region. Betsy McCully

    [9] Global Warming: A Geological Perspective John P. Bluemle HYPERLINK “” This article, published by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency, is drawn from a paper by the author in Environmental Geosciences, 1999, Volume 6, Number 2, pp. 63-75. Note particularly the chart on p.4.

    [10] Ibid.

    [11] Wikileaks: Climatic Research Unit emails, data, models, 1996-2009 HYPERLINK “,_data,_models,_1996-2009”,_data,_models,_1996-2009.

    See also HYPERLINK “” and

    HYPERLINK “” and, more diplomatically: HYPERLINK “” Et al.


    What initially troubled me was the aberrant behavior of the climate research unit at East Anglia University, which has been the main data source for AGW arguments. They initially refused (!) to reveal their algorithms and data on the grounds that they were proprietary(!!). They responded to critics with ad hominem attacks and efforts to block their publication in scientific journals. Now, as I am sure you know, this is not how one does honest science, in which you PUBLISH your data and methodology and invite critical comment to ferret out error or oversights. It took the now-famous Wikileaks “Climategate” to pry loose the data and expose their machinations. Yet despite the devastating blow these revelations should have to their credibility, the AGW “cause” has taken on a life of its own.

    Fundamentally, the argument seems to rest on a logical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc – after this, therefore because of this. We see a rise in temperature and a rise in (principally) carbon dioxide, and therefore conclude one must have caused the other. It does not necessarily follow at all. There can be other causes entirely behind both phenomena, and as you see above, almost certainly there are. Beyond that, I have encountered numerous assertions of fact that cannot add up given the physical properties of water vapor and carbon dioxide that go unchallenged. One-sided arguments proliferate and people arguing the other side are frequently denounced as being employed by business interests rather than rebutted on the merits.

    In sum, I have not come lightly to the conclusion that the AGW argument as it applies to carbon dioxide is largely untrue and certainly does not account for more than a very small, nearly negligible part of the phenomena we are seeing. The implications of widespread assertions of and belief in such an untruth are staggering, and potentially enormously destructive. It is unwise indeed to let oneself be stampeded in this matter, and stampede is clearly what many have been and are trying to induce.

    I can understand politicians behaving this way; a carbon tax or carbon trading regime would allow enormous revenues to fall into their hands. I can understand “Progressive” ideologues; it logically leads to enormous expansion of government power over industry, the economy, and the daily life of individuals, which they regard as a good thing. I understand the environmentalists; they want to shrink the size and impact on the environment of modern civilization. But responsible citizens need to put aside such considerations.

  • Corlyss

    Let’s pray the Greens are too ideological to scale back their mythology.

  • charris208

    “trap” the sun’s heat in our atmosphere

    This simple ‘fact’ is not how greenhouse gases work. The surface temperature rise comes about because of the need to cancel out the back radiation from the green house gasses at the top of the atmoshere. Is it any wonder that folks have difficulty taking pronouncements on the subject seriously when few seem to know what they are talking about?

  • R_Young

    “Climate alarmism tops “big oil” money as the leading cause of climate skepticism.”


    It’s always cute when people rationalize facts away because they dislike the people pointing them out.
    Conservatives have been covering their ears and yelling “LALALA” as long as they can, but now their intelligentsia realize that the ship has sailed; they have to choose between accepting (at least a part of) the science, or forever side with the Flat Earth Society. But humans are amazing at shifting their opinions without admitting that they were wrong, much less than the other side was right.
    This is not limited to conservatives; the party on the left side has it’s own issues where group-think overwhelms any sort of sane policy (food-politics, some daft labor policies, etc).

    But an irrational preference for GMO-free food does not impede efforts to prevent inestimable damage to human infrastructure, lives and social fabric over the next two hundred years.

    • Corlyss

      Oy! Another Kool-Aid drinker . . .

      • R_Young

        I also vaccinate, AND believe that humans share a common ancestor with chimpanzees.

        I know I know; I’m hopeless.

        • Corlyss

          Gosh! With so much sense as to have accepted those knocks on human specialness, you should be less gullible about some poppycock that attempts to place human activity at such a high order of influence. AGW has no other purpose than to stampede scientifically ignorant and ordinarily skeptical people into surrendering control over their lives to the power brokers managing the useful idiots masquerading as science drones.

  • Bill Bradbrooke

    No wonder – terms like “settled science” and “irrefutable scientific fact” that turn up in speeches and articles about climate change are absolute contradictions, total rubbish and utter mischief. People aren’t fools and they resent being treated as such.

  • ljgude

    Carl Jung spent the second half of his career investigating medieval alchemy, not because he thought he could turn lead into gold but because he found that the alchemists unselfconsciously projected the contents of their unconscious minds into the processes taking place in the retorts. He thought that the alchemists were the last group to freely project their unconscious minds in this way, but I think it still goes on – most obviously in places like Hollywood and Bollywood. The dream factories where gods and goddesses clash in the same kind of epic battles as they did at the dawn of literature in works such as the Iliad. But, as Freeman Dyson points out much of the science in climate science is based on computer models and I think these models are a contemporary alchemical retort into which the scientists of our day project their beliefs and fears. We require double blind studies before a new medicine is approved because science recognizes the danger of unconscious bias influencing the results. I see no easy way to to create climate models free of bias and that is on top of trying to account for both known and unknown unknowns in the calculus of model making. The alchemists retort was, in its time, a magical process believed capable of transmuting base metal into gold. In our day computers are magical machines which are casually believed to objectively evaluate facts fed into them. But only the circuitry is objective – the software, the models are the creation of human beings who are not objective even with the best will in the world. So we put facts in and think we get science out. But the universal patterns of the human unconscious are plainly visible in the output and immediately familiar to any student of literature. Books on the ‘end times’ popular among Christians are of the same literary genre – the apocalypse – as the exaggerated claims put forward in the press by science journalists. The most famous apocalypse is the The Apocalypse of John which is the last book of the New Testament, but there were many apocalypses which never made it into the bible and they even predate Christianity being found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Scary stories motivate people. An old testament prophet of doom cited the highest authority of his time – God – to motivate his badly behaving countrymen to repent and todays’s prophets of doom appeal to the highest form of authority of our times – science. Our task as citizens is to learn to distinguish between the science and the theater and it is the computer models where much of the FUD and drama creeps in.

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