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“Climate Change is Fake!” - Three ways in which people deny climate change

Climate change is controversial. Not in science, but rather among parts of our society. In this article, we introduce three types of climate change deniers and explain some of their arguments.

1. Trend denier: “Climate change doesn’t exist”

It is often argued that the actual worldwide absolute average earth temperature has not increased at all. When looking at figures from different sources this might seem true at first glance. Additionally, the declaration of an absolute average earth temperature is frequently avoided by climate scientists - are they trying to hide something? The answer is that there is not one temperature that can be measured at a certain time on the whole earth. The reasons for this can be shown by using the example of the Alps: In this case, there is a temperature difference of 6 degrees Celsius per thousand metres of difference in altitude. Therefore, a measuring network would have to be set up in each tiny side valley to record the fine temperature differences in a forest, a glade and a stream. However, changes in temperature over longer periods of time can be measured much more accurately with scientific methods than absolute values. Using an absolute earth temperature therefore just doesn’t make sense when arguing about climate change.

2. Root cause denier: “Climate change does exist but is not made by men”

Over the past few hundred years, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of sunspots at the surface of the at the time when the Earth has been getting warmer. The data suggests solar activity is influencing the global climate causing the world to get warmer and not human activity. Might seem logical, right? However, in the last 35 years of global warming, the sun has shown a slight cooling trend. In the past century, the sun can still explain some of the increase in global temperatures, but a relatively small amount. Scientists know this of course and take this into account for their calculations. But even after considering natural factors such as solar and volcanic components and internal variabilities, an anthropogenic factor of 0.8 degrees Celsius remains.

3. Consequence denier: “Climate change does exist, it is made by men but it’s not too bad”

"Two thousand years of published human histories say that warm periods were good for people. It was the harsh, unstable Dark Ages and Little Ice Age that brought bigger storms, untimely frost, widespread famine and plagues of disease." (Dennis Avery). With such statements it is often argued that the current global warming mainly has a positive effect on the economy and therefore is not a problem anyway. Of course one can say: “Global warming increased cod fishing and, consequently, led to an improved economy in Greenland”. However, at the same time it caused economic damage to poorer, low latitude countries and generated billions of dollars of damage to public infrastructure. For instance, it reduced water supply in New Mexico and increased the risk of conflict including increased risk of civil war in Africa. Shockingly, the health sector in Germany alone is expected to incur costs of around 37 billion euros by 2050 as a result of climate damage. Overall, it is true that global warming has some positive effects but they are far outweighed by the negative effects not only on the economy but also on agriculture, health, nutrition supply and politics.

In a nutshell, it can be said that most climate change deniers can be divided into these above-mentioned three categories: trend, root cause and consequence deniers. In addition to these three basic categories, consensus denial is often added, in other words the denial that the different researchers agree on their core statements.

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Torben Vetter

Image © Feng Yu via shutterstock

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