There are a number of so-called “skeptical” arguments against climate change that they require some knowledge of climatology and understanding complex systems in order to refute. That doesn’t make them right; it just makes them more difficult for the average person to argue against.
These aren’t those arguments.
No, these are the arguments your teabagger uncle thinks are clever and trots out every Thanksgiving. These are the sort of arguments that most people couldn’t refute; not because they aren’t wrong, but because they’re so wrong the average layperson wouldn’t even know where to start.
Accordingly, these are the Not Even Wrong arguments against climate change — and here’s how to refute them.
#1. Trees Love CO2, So The More CO2 We Have, The Happier Trees Will Be!
One of the things you’re going to find with these arguments is that they’re anchored in “common sense” — or what right-wingers pass off as “common sense,” and that’s what makes them so insidious. Coincidentally, these are part of the reason why I hate the term “common sense” and rarely use it.
The best response to this argument is: “So I’m sure that trees would love it on Venus, right?”
Too much CO2 is bad. And as a demonstration, look at Venus. Venus’ atmosphere is 96% CO2, and it’s very hot. Liquid pools of melted zinc and lead hot. This isn’t because of Venus’ proximity to the sun, either; very little of that sunlight reaches the surface of the planet. Most of it is reflected back into space (making it one of the brightest bodies in the sky). Venus is hot because of the greenhouse effect, which is what happens when CO2 traps heat. And CO2 is really good at trapping heat.
But do you know what an even better greenhouse gas than CO2 is? Methane. Which is why we’ve also seen the greenhouse effect on Saturn’s moon, Titan. And just as an additional middle finger to your “common sense,” Titan also has an antigreenhouse effect going on at the same time it has its regular greenhouse effect happening.
Do you know what gases humanity has generated an excess of? CO2 and methane.
Trees do play a role in regulating CO2. This is one of the reasons why deforestation and logging are bad. So are conservatives arguing governments should stop big businesses from destroying world forests? Not hardly. That’s consistency, and shame on you for expecting that.
#2. Uh-huh. And in the 1970s everyone believed it was Global Cooling.
Back in the 1970s, the idea that the Earth was cooling gained some traction in the scientific community, but mostly in the media. Now, the media has never been good at reporting science stories, and so they ran off with the idea that there was some “consensus” regarding global cooling.
This consensus never existed, and modern data shows the exact opposite is happening. And yet, because right-wingers are still stuck in the 1950s (just ask them which party is aligned with the KKK – you’ll see), they’re still making this point like it proves something more than their inability to update their knowledge.
Interestingly, I’ve read hypotheticals that posit the sudden addition of fresh water to the oceans from melting ice due to global warming might disrupt or even shut down thermohaline circulation. This would mean no heat gets spread to the North Atlantic, which might just trigger a new ice age. So again, as a big middle finger to your “common sense,” global warming might actually lead to catastrophically sudden global cooling.
#3. Yeah, well, it’s snowing outside right now, so clearly the globe isn’t warming.
Senator Inhofe gave a good demonstration of this “argument” when he “refuted” climate change by making a snowball and showing it to the Senate.
This argument is parochial bordering on the solipsistic. Just because it’s not raining where I live doesn’t mean it isn’t raining somewhere else.
And while the planet is warming, it’s going to have counterintuitive effects on the weather. I hope I’ve demonstrated by now that reality has a thing for being counterintuitive. Thus, while it might be boiling hot in Mumbai, it might be frigid in Denver. Neither proves nor disproves global warming or climate change. It’s the gradual shifting of the weather curve towards more unpredictable and violent weather that proves it, and that curve includes a whole lot more than the weather in your backyard.
#4. Climate Change? Nah, it’s just air conditioning units.
This prime rib of stupid comes to us courtesy of Rush Limbaugh, who basically argued that global warming is a result of perception. According to him, 30 or 40 years ago, most homes didn’t have air conditions so people were more acclimated to the heat. Now that air condition is more common, though, people step outside and it feels hotter because they aren’t used to it.
Related: LISTEN: Limbaugh Thinks Hurricanes Are A ‘Deep State’ Plot To ‘Advance Climate Change Agenda’
When you get right down to it, this is a rehash of point three, with a “these darn kids today and their technology” tossed in for flavor. The weather you experience is a result of a shift in climate, but as I said under three, the shift leads to counterintuitive effects on weather. That can make it really hot, or really cold, but to blame it on people using air conditioning is just stupid — not least of all because your body will eventually adjust to the external temperature.
And I’m pretty sure that no combination of oxytocin and stupidity inhibits that process.