Survival guide to holiday parties with climate deniers

Last year, UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon said it was time to “prove wrong” those who still have doubts about climate change at the climate talks in Doha.

Since it’s the festive season and you never know when you’ll wind up at the same holiday party as Donald Trump, we’ve answered Ban Ki-moon’s demand. Here are our tips for replies when you get hit with “it’s snowing in Israel and on the pyramids in Egypt” or “It’s extremely cold in NY and NJ, where is global warming?”

You’ve probably heard that one too many times to count. Global warming is just a hoax invented by environmental extremists and liberals who want strong regulations and big governments. But all major scientific institutions working on climate, ocean and atmosphere recognize that human CO2 emissions are the primary cause of climate warming. But what do scientists know?

Indeed, British Petroleum said that “There is an increasing consensus that climate change is linked to the consumption of carbon based fuels and that action is required now to avoid further increases in carbon emissions as the global demand for energy increases.”

Another one? Our favorite company Shell “shares the widespread concern that the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities is leading to changes in the global climate.”

Climate has always changed, this is a natural process and we can’t do anything about it. It is true, there are natural cycles with variations in global climate. But everyone agrees an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere will increase the greenhouse effect, and therefore warm the planet, right? And we’re producing more and more CO2.

So how do you explain that an increase of 35 percent in  greenhouse gasses doesn’t warm the planet? This warming is happening quite rapidly, which is rare in the geological record. It may not be entirely unprecedented, but we’re sure of one thing: whenever it happened and whatever was the cause, it was catastrophic for the biosphere.

If the person you’re talking with doesn’t want to talk about CO2, greenhouse effect and geological times, she may try to deny the reality of climate change by challenging its impacts. These are common arguments: the glaciers are not melting, Antarctic ice is increasing, extreme weather events don’t have anything to do with global warming.

Let’s start with glaciers. There are rumors saying some glaciers are melting but most of them are growing. Well, that’s simply not true. Studies realized by the National Snow and Ice Data Center or the World Glacier Monitoring Service are clear. There is an accelerating rate of glacial mass loss.

Now, the Antarctic. Yes, it is generally increasing but surprise, it is totally consistent with climate models which predict an increase in CO2 emissions will have a larger effect in the north. But the real question is: finally, does it balance Arctic ice loss? Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Sea ice in the Arctic is reaching dramatic low records.

Now let’s talk about extreme weather disasters. Climate change is fueling natural disasters, which means it increases their frequency and their impacts. For instance, rising sea levels make coastal areas more vulnerable. The broadening consensus is: “Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms. For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us.”, Mark Fischetti of Scientific American. So yes, global warming has a direct impact on natural disasters.  Take that, drunk uncle.

You probably know someone who just won’t recognize the reality of climate change and is ready to throw you any curveball he or she can find.  According to Fox News, global warming was so ’90s. Great news! We can add global warming to our pile of Friends DVDs and VH1. But where does that idea comes from? 1998 was a record high year, breaking the previous record (which was reached in 1997) by .2 degrees Celcius. If you use that year as a starting point, you can say that global temperature have been trending down since 1998. But this is what we call a cherry pick, my friends. You can’t extract meaningful information about trends from a single data point. And anyways,  2005 broke the 1998 record. Oh and 2012 was the warmest year yet.

Another example is the fact that scientists predicted global cooling in the 1970s, so why should we believe them now? Yes, there were scientists expecting an “imminent ice age”. A few articles were published, a book too, but no consensus, no United Nations treaties, no institutional announcements, no conference and no daily headlines. Today, we’re talking about a widespread scientific consensus: the earth is warming because of human activities.

But if we can’t even predict the weather, how can we talk about climate?  Actually, weather and climate are not the same thing. Climate is the weather average over a period of time and one of the attributes of an average is that it smooths the random and unpredictable behavior of weather. While not easy to predict climate, you can’t use meteorologist’s failures to put in doubt a climate model’s 100-year projection.

And last but not least, you’ve managed to prove the reality of climate change to the person sitting next to you, and while you raise your glass to celebrate your sweet victory, that person looks at you and say: “But what’s so wrong with global warming?”

Indeed, the earth is already warmer, and maybe a warmer world doesn’t sound so bad? Ask the Norwegians, even Africa is starting to send them radiators to survive cold weather! Norway has been one of the most active countries on climate change and acknowledge the issue is not solely temperature. The nature, the humans, everyone and everything on this planet needs time to adapt, and the rate at which temperature is rising today is unique in the history of our species.

Congrats! You have won the battle with your local climate denier (until next year).

Worried about answering these arguments when you’re “on the go?”  You can totally download Skeptical Science’s app for battling the biggest deniers this holiday season.

  • Steve

    Merry Christmas everyone … you know I couldn’t resist this xmas present you offered me with this article, so I have taken the bait …

    With reference to you debating points, the ones you provide may give pause to a ‘drunk uncle’, however a sober person who has researched the peer reviewed literature will have little difficulty fending off your glib arguments:

    “Global warming is a hoax”

    I don’t personally know anyone who believes global warming is a hoax. However, I do know dozens who are skeptical of the notion of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, and suspect the dire consequences predicted for the last two decades are exaggerated, and we resent the perversion of science inherent in said exaggeration, perpetrated by activist scientists and lobby groups.

    Anyone who has looked at the issue knows that the globe has been climbing out of the Little Ice Age which ended around the 1850s.

    As you well know, the warming periods between 1860 and 1880, and 1910 and 1940, according to IPCC adviser Phil Jones of the Hadley Climate Research Unit, had decadal warming rates of around 0.16oC, which are statistically the same as the recent warming period of 1975 – 2009.

    So, nothing to fear from that.

    My call for calm is reinforced by the UK Met’s recent announcement that the globe has not warmed significantly for the last 16 years, despite a very rapid increase in CO2 emissions from China and India (not, I emphasize, Australia).

    A ‘mistake’ that alarmists make when accusing skeptics of not accepting global warming is confusing the difference between global warming and Anthropogenic Global Warming, a mistake which many suspect is done on purpose. It’s akin to accusing us of ignoring the very natural warming that has occurred since the 1850s. That is clearly not so, and I had great fun at a recent Christmas party disabusing a boorish ‘true believer’ of this lamentable fact.

    “Climate has always changed”

    I’m glad you agree that; “It is true, there are natural cycles with variations in global climate.”
    These natural forcings are many and varied, sometimes reinforcing each other, sometimes cancelling each other out.

    Every skeptic I know agrees that CO2 is a ‘greenhouse gas’, so your statement that: “But everyone agrees an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere will increase the greenhouse effect, and therefore warm the planet,” is a given.

    The problem is, you neglect to mention that without feedback from water vapor, CO2 by itself will only warm the globe around one degree for each doubling.

    A one degree change is not something to be afraid of, and your answer is disingenuous if you do not discuss climate sensitivity, which refers to these feedbacks from the slight CO2 warming.

    There are many reputable climate scientists (Lindzen, Spencer most notable among them) who point to the negative impact of clouds and state quite openly in the peer reviewed literature and elsewhere that the globe is unlikely to warm much beyond one degree by the year 2100.

    Again, my boorish debating partner was not aware of these aspects of the issue, and was suitably embarrassed at his lack of knowledge of the term climate sensitivity, and the peer reviewed papers to that effect.

    He was also not aware of the diagram leaked from the IPCC’s report to be released next year that IPCC predictions (cowardly morphing into the weasel word ‘projections’ with the second report) are at the lower boundary of predictions, coinciding with the natural decadal rate of warming discussed above.

    So, even the IPCC realize that the exaggerated calamity they project is not on course!

    You say: “This warming is happening quite rapidly, which is rare in the geological record. It may not be entirely unprecedented, but we’re sure of one thing: whenever it happened and whatever was the cause, it was catastrophic for the biosphere.”

    I’m glad you agree such warming events while rare, are not unprecedented. This is an important concession on your part, and I applaud it. As I mentioned, the decadal rate of global temperature change is the same as it was between 1860 and 1880. Phil Jones says so! The current 16 year lack of warming pulls the rug from beneath your notion of rapid warming.

    If you concede that natural causes created similar warming in the past, then you must agree that natural forces are at play today (the IPCC does). In that case, how is strangling our economy with carbon dioxide taxes and green subsidies going to help today?

    “But there is still ice up there”

    Well, there is…

    I notice you don’t mention that the record low arctic sea ice this summer was the result of a storm … its true, read the peer reviewed paper (just like the previous record 5 years ago in 2007).

    You begin by: “Let’s start with glaciers. There are rumors saying some glaciers are melting but most of them are growing. Well, that’s simply not true.”

    Well, there may be a rumour going about, I haven’t heard it (I suspect there may be a straw man argument going on here) but people who look at the actual science agree that the Himalayas, for one, are not shrinking; peer reviewed studies show it, as reported by the Guardian:

    “Bristol University glaciologist Prof Jonathan Bamber, who was not part of the research team, said: The very unexpected result was the negligible mass loss from high mountain Asia, which is not significantly different from zero.\n

    You may recall the IPCC made a major PR blunder by claiming the Himalayas would be gone by 2035 and then ridiculing the scientist who disagreed, (Pachurri’s “voodoo science” diatribe) – so much for the respect for science.

    Even ‘skeptical science’ agrees some glaciers are growing, albeit due to localized conditions. Fair enough.

    But, as the world naturally warms since the Little Ice Age of the 1850s, I’d expect some extra glacial melting (note also that glaciers have always melted in the ablation zone at the terminus… that’s what they do).

    You say:

    “Now, the Antarctic. Yes, it is generally increasing but surprise, it is totally consistent with climate models which predict an increase in CO2 emissions will have a larger effect in the north.”

    Apart from the glaring point that impacts of global warming is supposed to be, well, you know, global … the growth of Antarctica sea ice is a problem … you say the models predict “a larger effect” in the north … but the real world effect is actually OPPOSITE!

    And for decades alarmists have been predicting dire consequences with a melting Antarctica … not one where sea ice is growing (which suggests colder air and sea temperatures).

    Speaking of models, I point to a very recent peer reviewed paper which states:

    “… GCMs suffer from temperature-dependent biases … This leads to an overestimation of projections of regional temperatures … We estimate that 10-20% of projected warming is due to model deficiencies …’

    20 % of projected warming is due to model deficiencies. Imagine the disasters if engineers used similar models to build bridges.

    Add this to the IPCC’s admission that:

    It is extremely likely that human activities have caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature since the 1950s. There is high confidence that this has caused large-scale changes in the ocean, in the cryosphere, and in sea level in the second half of the 20th century.

    So, not the entire 0.7 degrees rise over the 20th century was caused by CO2. The IPCC think it’s more than half. I would suggest they don’t think it over 66% because then they would have said CO2 caused two thirds of the temperature rise.

    Therefore I can only conclude that the IPCC think that CO2 caused somewhere between 50% and 66% of the observed global rise in temperatures … Now that is quite an admission. My rapidly deflating debating partner certainly did not expect that.

    You then go for the old chestnut:

    “Now let’s talk about extreme weather disasters…”

    Yes, lets. You know full well that there has been no observed increase in extreme weather events, and I am disappointed in you for suggesting it.

    The peer reviewed literature is quite clear … despite dramatically rising emissions of human CO2, weather has not become worse at all.

    Professor of Environmental Studies Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado states the following:

    “IPCC AR5 draft shows almost complete reversal from AR4 on trends in drought, hurricanes, floods and is now consistent with scientific literature…\n
    Bottom line, the IPCC admits that the science shows there has been no worsening in bad weather.

    “You can’t predict weather”

    Well, the IPCC can’t predict climate either. That damning graph in the leaked AR5 report shows that the IPCC exaggerated warming since 1990 by at least a factor of two and actual observed temperatures are at the bottom boundary of predictions/projections, almost identical to the warming period between 1860 and 1880.

    “What’s wrong with a heatwave?”

    Tell that to the pensioners who die in the UK because they cannot pay their heating bills because of green energy schemes. A recent report shows:

    An estimated 40,000 more people die between December and March in the UK than would be expected from death rates during other times of the year… It is estimated that there are 8,000 extra deaths for every one degree Celsius the temperature is below the winter average.

    I encourage everyone to check out the peer reviewed science that does not agree with the so called consensus, and there are thousands of papers, and you can find many of them here:

    I hope everyone at Greenpeace had a fantastic Christmas and I wish you all a great New Year!

  • Pingback: 2012 SkS Weekly Digest #52()

  • Hi, thanks for the great information. Climate change affects us also on the North Sea coast. Greetings from East Friesland

  • rodney

    climate change is the extremes of weather if it gets hot here it gets cold somewhere alse, the earth works like a fridge it uses pumps to compress gas witch heats up the gas and when the gas is allowed to expand it cools down the same thing is happening here if you allow for more heat input it will get colder some where alse this whole thing has been miss labelled it should be call global weather extremes as it is not just getting hot think about it and do your own research, if you just beleave what you told your a sheep, be a leader not a bleeder. I don’t trust any thing im told without doing the research, as I would be led by the nose like a bull being pulled by the rope in my noise trusting the guy holding the rope and if the guy holding the rope is a slaughter man i would be led to my death so if you want to know the truth do the research your self and if the research dont have testable referance numbers to test to see if it is correct then it is likely fake, since any good researcher gives the referances they used to get that info ( do the research your self and dont just trust what your told ) remember humans lie too

  • PrairieIce

    Rodney, I don’t know what kind of “research” you are suggesting people do. I see news footage of glaciers melting and crashing into the ocean. I see news footage of polar bears starving because they have to wait weeks or months longer than they used to for sea ice to form so they can get to their feeding areas. Scientists have tracked temperature change for decades and there has been a steady increase in temperatures, most rapidly in the arctic because the sun reflects off the snow and ice. Pictures don’t lie, and scientists have no reason to. The only people who lie or deny are oil companies, governments and people like you who don’t want to change their way of doing things. (And you may want to try some periods and caps. That’s the longest sentence I’ve ever read).

    • steve

      Glaciers are frozen rivers moron, they move. If they didn’t “crash into the ocean” then they would continue to extend out into the ocean until they hit land.
      I watch the news and see warmists jump in a ship to go see how little ice there is. Then get iced in to the point where the worlds biggest icebreaker cant get them out.
      Warmists have conceded that there HAS NOT been a steady increase in the last 16 years , then argue the heat has been going into the deep oceans.
      NASA have stated there has not been any increases in deep sea temps over last 16 years. Defying all predictions by warmists.
      Scientists will lie to get funding. Big Tobacco had many scientist claiming smoking was not harmful. Are you saying they were telling the truth?
      And you made fun of punctuation, but I think you will find that the brackets you put that sentence in, were not used correctly. (Moron).
      You are not supposed to use them directly after a full stop.

      • steve

        Sheeple should only refer to Warmists.
        The worlds greatest followers. Totally lacking independent thought.

      • PrairieIce

        Global warming is a fact, and an increasing amount of research is linking it to human endeavors. Time will tell, and I hope they’re wrong, but for now, I think the world should err on the side of caution and start changing the way we do things, like developing alternative energy sources, etc. I, for one, am going to believe the research done by world-renowned scientists over the “research” done by someone trolling the internet for people to call names. I’ll bet you wouldn’t talk like that to my face. No, you’re only that brave while sitting at your computer in your underpants.

  • Tony barber

    I have seen an increase of ice in the Artic whilst studying polar bears and the cubs. None is prepared to discuss this as it creates a question mark on the general consensus out there. I am concerned we are now not able to challenge our thoughts, our studies and hence better understand the world we live in.