This page at a glance
There is a strong scientific consensus that human activity is causing dangerous global warming, yet there is still great public controversy about the truth. Why is this?
Is there a conspiracy to present global warming as a fact when it is in fact a lie or a gross exaggeration?
Or is there a conspiracy to fight against the scientific truth for some devious reason?
I have looked at both claims quite extensively, and discussed online and in person with people holding both views. I conclude that there is indeed a conspiracy and on this page I set out my reasons for thinking this. I start with a brief overview for those who want a quick answer, then follow with a detailed outline of claims I have verified or found to be mistaken.
This page is only half re-written, but I have left it visible so you can see some of the information.
A global green conspiracy?
Those who oppose the scientific consensus on climate change generally do so on one or more of the following grounds:
- It isn’t really happening. This used to be more common but is less common now.
- Climate change has been exaggerated. It isn’t really that bad.
- It was warming for a while but now it’s stopped. This tends to be more popular when a cooler or wetter period is experienced.
- The climate is warming but this is natural, not the result of human activity – the climate has warmed and cooled many tikes before in the earth’s history.
- We should live with it, not fight it. This will be cheaper.
- The jury is still out, we need to collect more data.
- Sometimes the idea of global warming is simply mocked.
In support of their views ….
The most common arguments I have found:
Quotes from dissenting scientists
There are indeed reputable climate scientists who dissent from the consensus. And occasionally a group of scientists speaks out against the consensus. But it turns out that these dissenting scientists are a very small minority (less than 5%). Many of them are not climate scientists and so they are speaking outside their area of expertise. Many seem to be geologists with links to the fossil fuel or mining industries, or associated with organisations funded by the fossil fuel industry.
I have never seen a satisfactory reason given for why all of us should accept the dissenting view against upwards of 95% of scientists, with thousands of scientific papers supporting them.
I have checked many of these so-called facts, and I can’t remember a single one which was fairly presented. Often statistics or graphs are misrepresented by ignoring sections of the reports they came from, or carefully selecting a section of a graph that shows a trend contrary to the consensus (there is a lot of variability in the weather so there will always be contrary sections amid the overall larger trend). Occasionally apparently factual statements are made with no justification at all. I reference a number of examples in the Detailed check of claims (below).
The dissenting view as often presented, relies on the critic’s ability to interpret the data and graphs better than the experts can, and without the benefit of their detailed expert knowledge and the models they use to produce the graphs. This is so implausible, that it leaves the dissenter with little option but to claim conspiracy.
Accusations of dishonesty and conspiracy
This is a rather unsavoury aspect of the anti-consensus claims, for it amounts to a slander of thousands of climate scientists. It is all a Green or a Marxist plot, it is said, to undermine the capitalist world system. Or it is a leftist plot to take away our liberty. Climate scientists are telling untruths, it is said, so they can get grant funding.
Underlying these claims are further claims that dissenting scientists are being shut down, their papers cannot be published, or they are taken to court, or they lose their jobs.
There is very little to support these claims, as you can see by checking out Conspiracy? (below). No-one has explained how thousands of climate scientists in scores of countries and organisations have all been corrupted. I have never seen any credible evidence for the amount of funding, how much the scientists receive for themselves and whether funding is dependent on follow a particular line.
There have been a few cases where climate scientists have said silly things or made unjustified statement, but there are rare. Likewise there have been court cases and dismissals, but they have actually occurred on both sides of the question, and I’ve never seen one that is clearly based on whether a scientist holds a consensus or dissenting view.
In the end, christians are warned against slander (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Romans 1:29-31, 2 Corinthians 12:20), so we need to be specially careful about the motives we attribute to others.
This is the most unsavoury of all, I think. Of course people on both sides make private jokes about their opponents, some of it humorous and acceptable, much of it better left unsaid. But the public denigration and mockery of figures such as Al Gore and Greta Thunberg goes well beyond what should be acceptable in civilised society.
Christian claims about God and the world
Christians sometimes claim that God has promised not to destroy the world, based on Genesis 9:8-16, where God promises three times to never again destroy the earth and all life with a flood. But no climate scientist believes climate change will destroy the earth and all life, certainly not by flooding (sea level rise of only several metres is predicted).
An associated claim is that God controls the weather, and he won’t let things get too bad. This is a curious claim after the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 and many other natural disasters. A more Biblical teaching is that God often allows us to live with the consequences of our folly.
I can see virtually no merit in the anti climate-consensus arguments. The “facts” are almost always misrepresented and many claims are unsupported by any evidence. The slander and mockery suggest to me that emotion or bias, not logic or evidence, are the main drivers of the anti-consensus view. I can find nothing to recommend it.
A fossil fuel conspiracy?
The consensus view is built solidly on the scientific evidence, which speaks for itself.
- The rising global temperatures, the increases in the frequency and severity of storms, floods, droughts and hurricanes and the loss of ice at the poles, on mountains and in glaciers are all measurements that have been verified over and over.
- Predictions are gradually being refined as more data and better models become available.
- The conclusions that human development is the major cause, and that we need to act decisively and very soon to mitigate the problems, is the view of almost all climate scientists and scientific organisations. Total consensus is rarely achieved in science, but this consensus is telling..
On the basis that this is all true, researchers have investigated how such a strongly-opinioned movement has arisen. There seem to be several factors.
There is good evidence that climate change scepticism and obfuscation of the scientific facts is being funded and supported by those with the biggest investment in industries that produce greenhouse gases, or most idealogical commitment to reduce regulation by government.
It seems like it is the great tobacco industry hoax all over again. The tobacco industry knew for years that their products caused lung cancer, but denied this scientific and medical fact and fought against effective action for decades, thereby guaranteeing that millions more people died unnecessarily.
This time it’s the carbon energy business, and their political supporters, and it is interesting that some of the same players (individuals and lobby groups) are involved again. And some of the same tactics are being employed, including:
- Present as many “facts” as possible with minimal justification, knowing that it takes longer to debunk a false claim that it takes to make it.
- Cherry pick data and events to try to present the alternative view, even when the full data shows the opposite.
- Present the dissenting scientists as experts even when they are not, and make derogatory statements about the real experts.
- In all this, try to make it appear as if the scientific evidence is not yet complete and there are two equal contending views, when the reality is that the dissenting view has less than 5% of climate scientists.
Play to conservative political views, presenting climate action as a Green, liberal or Marxist plot to take away freedoms and control the general population. Many people, especially in the US where dissent is strong, and especially conservative christians, already share these fears regarding gun control, universal health care, freedom of religion, etc, so they are already attuned to such arguments.
Allege a conspiracy
With so little data on their side, the dissenters really have to discredit the consensus view, and alleging a conspiracy is a useful strategy, and builds on the conservative political views of most dissenters. Studies show that some people are more prone to believe conspir
Demonise the consensus advocates
In discussions, online and in newspapers, I see the same words and phrases – “alarmists”, “warmists”, “liberals”, “Marxists”, “the hard left”, etc. Greta Thunberg is called “disturbed and said to be suffering a mental or emotional illness. Very little of all this is factual, but is propaganda to avoid the hard evidence.
It is impossible for me to judge the motives of the consensus and the dissenters. I can only go by what I see, and what is written by experts. There is no doubt that fossil fuel interests are funding the dissenting view, against all the evidence. It seems that politicians and conservative people are accepting these views without checking it very thoroughly. I have no doubt that many of them have simply trusted people who weren’t trustworthy.
How should christians respond?
It seems that many christians in the western world are somehow predisposed to be climate change sceptics. I think this may result from their scepticism about the science of evolution, their fear that environmental care is somehow not godly, and their general tendency to listen to, and believe, conservative politicians and media.
We must do better than that. If we are going to be sceptical about climate change, we shouldn’t just believe the conservative pundits who have a vested interest and a poor track record on speaking the unalloyed truth. We must really want to know the truth and to act upon it. And if we do that, we will find that the truth does not point in the direction of scepticism.
Let’s choose to refuse the misrepresentations. As The Who sang: “Won’t be fooled again!” Too many people’s lives are at great risk, lives that we are called to care about.
A UK study has apparently shown that the simplest and cheapest way to combat global warming is a carbon tax. Australia is one of the countries which has introduced a carbon tax, but it has since removed it. We should be supporting this measure here in Australia, and in countries which don’t yet have it – not opposing it based on what the propagandists are saying.
Photo credit: Jennifer Boyer on Flickr (with a few additions by unkleE)