If you talk about climate change, you will inevitably run into climate change skeptics. These are folks that deny warming exists (a dying breed), cite competing theories, or see climate change as a hoax driven by big government and/or a conspiracy of grant-hungry liberal scientists.
Ignoring skeptics is a lost opportunity. Not only do skeptics vote but they make choices everyday that impact the climate. Our collective action—in politics and lifestyle—over the next few decades will have a major influence on the magnitude and rate of future warming.
A greater engagement in this issue is clearly needed. According to a 2006 Pew Global Attitudes Survey, nearly half of Americans (47%) and somewhat fewer Chinese (37%) express little or no concern about the problem. As the top producers of greenhouse gases we need to educate ourselves and others in how to be responsible for our sport—and all the carbon that goes up into the atmosphere so we can slide down hills.
So how do you deal with a climate change skeptic?
First, understand where they get their information. There are well-funded efforts like the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) that are financially supported by “environmental advocates” like ExxonMobil Corp, Amoco, Texaco, Inc. and Ford Motor Co. Much of the material on these sites work to support the illusion that the scientific debate on climate change means that there is not a broad scientific consensus on the issue. Skeptics can find lots of nicely written material at neutral-sounding websites like CEI’s globalwarming.org.
Next, respectfully encourage them to learn “even more” about the topic. You’ll find thousands of web pages and hundreds of blog dedicated to climate change. I think the best sites are those that keep the science of climate change separate from climate change policy. After all, it’s the “what to do about climate change” question that awakens the deep pockets and strongest responses. A resource list can be found on this SkiGreenGuide post. The first step of taking responsibility for our actions—skeptic or otherwise— is to understand the consequences of what we do as individuals.
Many of the conversations I’ve had end up being more about rhetoric than substantive scientific knowledge. SourceWatch provides an excellent list of common claims and rebuttals to climate change skeptics. Coby Beck’s series, “How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic,” provides responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming. His arguments are divided by, Stages of Denial, Types of Argument and Levels of Sophistication. Finally, the Environmental Defense Fund has a page summarizing the latest Myths and Facts on Global Warming.
Given these tools you may find that all but the most head-in-the-sand skeptics will concede that, even on top of the natural variability of the climate, something out of the ordinary is happening to our climate and humans do have some impact on the climate. The next phase of your conversation is to agree on how to take responsibility for the problem…