Denial in more ways than one?

On Global Front, No Consensus Is a Consensus

The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, but there seems little chance that the 17th Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa, will end with an international plan on the next steps for climate change. The major sticking point remains how to split the responsibility for emission cuts between developed and developing economies.

But all the international wrangling in the world will not change how the accumulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere affects the planet. A new report by the Global Carbon Project reveals that global CO2 emissions took their largest annual jump upwards in 2010, while new analysis, by the International Energy Agency, indicates that if no action is taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature could climb by 11 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) by 2100. And the latest from the World Meteorological Association is that 2011 is expected to be the tenth hottest year on record.

Such news may make it seem as if the world has not yet reached a consensus on climate change. In fact, it does reflect a consensus: a consensus to do nothing and just proceed with business as usual despite the warning signs.

Score one for the deniers.

All Not Quiet on the National Front

In the United States, the deniers, not content with business as usual, appear to be aiming for the jugular. With calls to disband the Environmental Protection Agency and bills in Congress like the oh-so-cleverly titled “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny” — or REINS — Act to require Congressional approval of new regulations proposed by the executive branch, the deniers seem to be hoping to use their current political ascendancy to deal a fatal blow to even the possibility of a nationally coordinated climate change policy anytime soon. (For insight into Congressional members’ unofficial climate-denial caucus and their motivations, I strongly recommend checking out this recent article from the National Journal.) Score another for the deniers.

With news like this, it’s little wonder why deniers like those whose bylines frequent the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal are gleefully proclaiming victory. You can almost hear the corks popping from their CO2-laden Champagne bottles.

Don’t Pop Those Corks Just Yet

But just as Yogi Berra advises that “it ain’t over ’til it’s over,” declarations of denial victory may be premature. Consider the following:

  1. Congressional denial out of touch with America?

    Most people are surprised to learn that a healthy percentage of Americans (see here and here) accept the basic facts of climate change and favor the nation taking action to address the risks. Members of Congress (and presidential hopefuls) who have changed their climate stripes to garner votes may be in for a rude surprise.

  2. Deniers swimming against the investment tide?

    It may also come as a surprise that, according to a report by American Public Media’s Marketplace, 2010 saw, for the first time, more dollars poured into green energy investments than into conventional fossil fuel-based technologies.

  3. Deniers out of step with industry?

    Even more surprising is the pro-science, pro-taking-climate-action of some of the world’s largest energy companies. Take Exxon Mobil, for example, thought by many to be the ultimate dyed-in-the-wool corporate denier. Actually not true. To be let in on one of the best-kept secrets of the climate change story, check out the the energy company’s website, where you’ll see its position on climate change is largely in step with the message of the scientific community. To wit:

And Exxon Mobil isn’t alone. Shell, BP, and Chevron all have similar statements.

Deniers on one side; and voters, investors, and corporations on the other. Sure, the climate deniers are in a state of denial about the future course of our climate. They could also be in a state of denial about the direction America and the rest of the world are inevitably taking in response to climate change.


  1. Bernie Beckett
    Cambridgeshire UK
    December 12, 2011, 6:31 am

    Annual rings of very old bristlecone pine trees reportedly demonstrated that, before the onset of an ice age, the climate warmed and became favourable for growth.
    Is this a possible explanation for the current warming trend?

  2. Rustin Chrisco
    Bentonville AR
    December 9, 2011, 9:41 pm

    Some of us remember being taught in the early 70s that a global ice age was coming. It didn’t happen, or hasn’t yet. Forgive our skepticism , it is due to experience. Interesting that “global warming” has become “climate change”.

  3. Pablo
    December 9, 2011, 6:02 pm

    Denier? Believer?

    Them ain’ts scientific words.

    I defy anyone to provide the falsifiable hypothesis in a grammatically correct sentence.

    [cue crickets]

  4. Uncle Dave
    New Zealand
    December 9, 2011, 12:56 pm

    It’s probably fair to say that most people would agree that some kind of climate change is happening, based on the evidence they can gather from looking out of their own window. How it started is not exactly unimportant, but possibly less important than investing in infrastructures that will help us to cope with the consequences. Doing things like polluting less, make good sense anyway. Being sensible consumers who think about wasting less is just polite. When it comes to how we respond now though, fighting over semantics is a true waste of resources – lets get the people in the most need prepared for the new patterns in climate that we have already noticed.

  5. Jim S
    December 9, 2011, 12:38 pm

    Meanwhile in the real world, climate research funding does not depend on results, just a proposal for a project that will answer a valid question concerning the science. People who criticize research money generally know nothing about how funding works, apparently thinking that money is just handed to the individual involved. In addition they have no clue as to the actual scale of the research as the comment claiming that East Anglia provides most of the research in the field of climatology. This is nowhere near true. There are thousands of climatologists scattered all over the world and the raw data used by the researchers in East Anglia didn’t even originate with them. The raw data, despite the claims of deniers, was always available for that reason. In addition there is not a massive amount of disagreement within the field. When you actually ask climatologists there are two studies that came up with basically the same answer, which is that 97% of them agree on the basic premises that the climate trends indicate warming and that the only viable explanations for the existing rate of change is human activity. This is not to say that there are not natural reasons for some of the warming but that what is important is the rate of change and human activity has sped that up and that even if we begin to address the problem now it will continue for decades to come.

  6. Virginia
    Texas, USA
    December 9, 2011, 11:30 am

    In response to Pete:

    Scientific projects have always received grants from public and private firms. Some of these investments are from local, state and federal because they want their governed to be the forefront in leading technologies. The governments would also bring in scientist to work in top secret labs, which they would again pay with money, in advancement of technologies (ranging from biotech, physics, chemistry, geology, and meteorology).

    Another point is that science is not a lucrative industry. Science is what drives industry, it’s called innovation! Oil companies are a lucrative industry, aids them to be so by devising new drilling techniques.

    There are also other scientist that are given grants (which are monetary) for natural history preservation. Where they spend hours and hours in the field learning about how animals interact with the ecosystem. They then report the incline or decline of their population subsets to the scientific community. Than other members of the scientific community will take this data and build upon it. Some will even try to find reasons why the population shifted so dramatically. This has lead back, more often than not, to a change in climate. Either it being too cold or too warm. This is where climatologist pick up the pieces and work with data.

    It’s a really sad day when people see SCIENCE as an enemy, but really it’s the only reason why they’re alive. Every single thing that they have touched, tasted, and seen is due to one scientific advancement after another. Heck, most of the world’s population would not be here if it was not for science curing diseases and increasing overall yields of crops for more food.

    Maybe one day the average person will stop being mouth pieces for their news stations and start looking at the real picture that isn’t periscoped by a talking head.

  7. golem
    December 9, 2011, 2:17 am

    not to mention the fact that the main research used in both the IPCC and other global warming think tanks , which originated from the University of East Anglia, turned out to be fraught with highly biased and manipulative science. In a attempt to mold research to fit their political agenda, to the point of creating a mob like mentality., which sought to remove any research from scientists whose results didn’t fit into their “findings”

  8. Pete McLean
    December 7, 2011, 11:55 pm

    Well I don’t agree at all. There is no consensus. I want to believe that there is, but there isn’t. Ever since the Scientific community started getting monetary grants for anything to do with climate change, the truth was compromised & it turned from Science to an lucrative industry. Now, for every peer reviewed paper proving rising sea levels, there’s one to prove that levels haven’t raised at all. This is the case for every facet of climate change. I don’t know what’s real, or which “leading” scientist to believe. One thing I do know, is that the Scientific community are making a lot of money from it, & to me, they have lost their credibility for honesty. Why is there so much evidence to prove that it’s both true & false? Which Scientist is telling the truth & which is just going for the cash? I fear that we’ll never find out the truth because todays Scientists are full of it.