How to Talk to a Climate Change Denier

I'm still astonished that day after day we receive comments on our social media channels from climate change deniers. Firstly because, don't you have anything better to do with your time? More importantly because this is a conversation that we should no longer be having. It's that simple.

One of the comments we most often see is, "there's no evidence", so let's start with that one first.

There are two records we draw on to look at climate data that have a substantial enough (150+ years) bank of evidence.

They are the CRU direct surface temperature analysis and the NASA GISS direct surface temperature analysis.

I am loathe to write an article debunking climate sceptics that relies too heavily on graphs because I know that my eyes tend to glaze over when dense data is parroted back to me. But if you're dealing with someone who needs to see the evidence in this form then I recommend looking at the previously mentioned sources.

If you'd like the "too long, didn't read' version then this is it: global surface temperatures have significantly risen.

'Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.
- - The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007

These changes are observed via satellite temperature measurements, sea level rise, borehole analysis, and the two previously mentioned surface temperature analysis reports.

So that's that sorted….

We often see a lot of, "global warming is part of a cycle; it's happened before and it will happen again".

Just to avoid any attempted "gotchya" moments later on, it's a good idea to acknowledge that yes, there are natural cycles and variations in global climate. However the current and more substantial rate of warming is nothing natural. It's man made and there are no other external forces to explain it.

NASA states that: water vapour and clouds are the major contributors to the greenhouse effect, but a new atmosphere-ocean climate modelling study shows that the planet's temperature ultimate depends on the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide.

Since the signing of the Kyoto protocol in 1990 the earth has seen a staggering 35% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and experienced temperatures rises of close to 1.5 earlier this year. There is no wiggle room here; the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide and the rise in global surface temperature are intrinsically linked.

Yes, there have been times when the earth has warmed and cooled, but they are always explained by an external variant, such as the Milankovitch cycles

While we're on cycles it's a good time to address the "some parts of the world are colder, it's cold in my area, my weather patterns aren't warm" idea.

Astrophysicist and cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson and his dog are best at explaining this one. So I'm going to let them break down the differences between weather and climate change.

Next, "There is no scientific consensus". The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) said in 2014,

"Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks." In short: the world is warming, we've caused it, and only radical and immediate changes will be able to slow this process.

I love this representation from John Oliver and his team about the ratios we in the media see between climate change deniers and everyone else…

In 2016 it's both astounding and tiring that we're still having a conversation about whether or not climate change is real or man-made. We're in a climate emergency and the solution will require all of us getting on board.

You can do your part by starting a conversation with those around you, writing to people in positions or power, and making lifestyle changes. If you'd like more information and step-by-step guides on how to live a low carbon life then I recommend taking our carbon challenge. It's a free online tool that let's you track the impact you're having on the world as you make more and more positive behavioural changes.

Read this next: It was a woman that first discovered the greenhouse effect!

H/t Grist for their fantastic series on talking climate science

Banner image: Shutterstock

Bindi Donnelly Former Head of Digital Suggest an article Send us an email

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