Climate Change

Published on May 2nd, 2016 | by Michael Barnard


Climate Change Deniers Are Getting Angrier, & Here’s Why

May 2nd, 2016 by  

Climate change deniers are getting angrier and angrier because there is less and less ground that they can even moderately stand upon. They are being forced off of multiple positions and the world is ignoring their opinions en masse.

People used to be able to believe that warming wasn’t occurring without much cognitive dissonance.

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas, or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.

More and more, their position is being challenged in multiple ways, and they are being forced to greater and greater mental leaps in order to hold on to their position. But even when they move, it’s stressful and embarrassing, leading to more anger.

Cognitive dissonance makes people mad. Being forced to change makes people mad. Being forced to admit, even subconsciously, that they were wrong and were often wrong publicly and loudly, makes people mad.

I created this continuum of positions on climate change a while ago. It ranges from the extreme of not believing that any warming is occurring at all, to believing in impacts above the range of IPCC scenarios.

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 10.25.16 AM


Some people, in the face of overwhelming evidence, continue to hold to the position that warming isn’t occurring. Most who held it have been forced off of it. They have been forced to change by the sheer weight of evidence which says that they are wrong. But usually they just move slightly to the right on the continuum.

CdjaEE1UIAELtID.jpg-largeA lot of people who firmly held the belief that CO2 emissions from humans were insignificant have been forced off of that position too. And every position to the left of the chart. Basically, the leftmost positions are intellectually and empirically untenable, so anyone with a fragment of intellectual self-respect who holds them is confronted daily with evidence that gives them cognitive dissonance, and if they move to a slightly more moderate position for relief, it doesn’t help much.

What evidence of the shift to the right exists? Well, an Australian organization has surveyed people about their positions since 2010 and finds regular movement, and an acceleration in it.

And in the USA, climate change is shaping up to be a game-changing election issue, with denialists increasingly unable to get elected, and once again with recent rapid strides.

The new survey found a growing number of registered voters understand global warming is happening: “Three in four (73%, up 7 points since Spring 2014) now think it is happening. Large majorities of Democrats — liberal (95%) and moderate/conservative (80%) — think it is happening, as do three in four Independents (74%, up 15 points since Spring 2014) and the majority of liberal/moderate Republicans (71%, up 10 points).”

A counter-example of someone who has made lemonade out of the lemons they keep getting handed is Bjorn Lomborg. He has made a good fiscal career out of asserting a succession of positions on climate change from the left-hand side of the graph up to his current position of stating that we should be doing geo-engineering and continuing to burn fossil fuels. At the beginning of 1998 he claimed, “The greenhouse effect is extremely doubtful.” Later that year, after much intellectual abuse, he admitted that CO2 was causing some tiny rises in temperature. In 2001, he slipped to some warming, but no need to do anything about it. By 2010, he’d shifted to continued use of fossil fuel and geo-engineering, with maybe some token efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Why do I say he’s made lemonade?

Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC), though long associated with his native Denmark, actually registered as a US-based non-profit organization back in 2008. That’s how we know Lomborg walked away with a cool $775,000 in pay from the CCC in 2012.

As a note, he hasn’t made academic lemonade out of this. He has actually backslid academically from an Associate Professor on tenure track, to an adjunct professor off the track, and recently a $4 million AUD governmental grant was refused by every university in Australia if it involved Lomborg setting up a ‘research’ facility among academics with actual intellectual integrity.

But most people aren’t as effective at happily getting their palms greased while being forced off of one intellectual position after another by cold, hard facts.

Patrick Moore is a fairly sad example of that. At one point he was president of Greenpeace Canada, although not a founder, as he continues to insist. He shifted to a potentially reasonable path of forming a consultancy to work with forestry industry firms to find more sustainable means of harvesting trees. However, over time he’s been fully co-opted by fairly egregious concerns, and has been denying climate change exists since at least 2006.

there is no scientific proof of causation between the human-induced increase in atmospheric CO2 and the recent global warming trend, a trend that has been evident for about 500 years, long before the human-induced increase in CO2 was evident.

More recently, his tone is increasingly angry.

“there will be a whole generation of people who are just blindly following this climate hysteria.”

And angrier.

What’s particularly absurd about this leftist conspiracy is that it is currently doing the exact opposite of the things left-wing people profess to care about: it is enriching crony capitalist fat cats at the expense of the world’s poor.

The rest of the world is strongly centered on the right side of the graph, within the IPCC range of scenarios. So much so that 195 countries agreed in Paris in December of 2015 to hold warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels with an aspirational target of 1.5 degrees.

Marc Morano is another strident climate change denialist. It’s hard to say if his nastiness is actually increasing though, as he was an early adopter of the vicious Swift Boat allegations against John Kerry. Like Moore, he showed up at the poorly attended denialist counter-conference in Paris in 2015, mostly to pretend that his faux documentary was premiering to capacity crowds. Certainly his publishing the addresses of climate change scientists on his site is a very hostile action with no discernible redeeming qualities, and the actions of an increasingly isolated and embittered person.

All of the 170 COP21-signatory world leaders are showing in the starkest terms that they fundamentally disagree with the person holding positions on the left side of the chart. That exacerbates the cognitive dissonance of course, because in general, most people think that leaders of countries are often respectable and well-advised people, so their opinions likely hold weight. But it also makes them mad because they see an overwhelming majority of the world doing something that they think is unnecessary because of their un-empirical position.

They are being forced into an ugly corner. And they are painting themselves into it daily and weekly and monthly. And it’s painful. So they lash out.

A very similar dynamic is playing out with anti-wind energy advocates. The positions that they hold on issues like impacts on human health, livestock, real estate values and the like are just not supported by any facts, and study after study proves that they are wrong, so they get increasingly angry and bitter and hostile. And they are smaller in numbers as the sensible ones migrate to healthier mental positions.

Basically, the further to the left on the chart you are, the more likely you are to be bitter and angry. But anyone to the left of the low-end IPCC projections is likely to be annoyed and dismayed and lash out occasionally.

As to why they are so common, that’s simple. A group of self-interested companies and individuals set out on a course of creating uncertainty about climate change far beyond any that existed a couple of decades ago. It worked. Sadly.

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About the Author

works with startups, existing businesses and investors to identify opportunities for significant bottom line growth in the transforming low-carbon economy. He regularly publishes analyses of low-carbon technology and policy in sites including Newsweek, Slate, Forbes, Huffington Post, Quartz, CleanTechnica and RenewEconomy, with some of his work included in textbooks. Third-party articles on his analyses and interviews have been published in dozens of news sites globally and have reached #1 on Reddit Science. Much of his work originates on, where Mike has been a Top Writer annually since 2012. He's available for consultation, speaking engagements and Board positions.

  • DoRightThing

    Spot on!

  • nicsmurth

    Great article.

  • patroy75

    I simply have seen no un-manipulated data that warming is occurring. There certainly isn’t any sea level rise associated with it because I’ve been scouring old photos from all over the world and there simply has been no rise. So mostly it’s all about control and nothing more.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Go read some climate science and don’t bother us with your foolishness.

  • Susan Anderson

    Unfortunately, the anti-wind people have got a hold of Osborne / David Cameron in the UK, and they’re forcing fracking on communities that don’t want it. Two steps forward, one step back.

    • TedKidd

      Thank HRC, she did an excellent job of selling Fracking to the world.

      • Bob_Wallace

        So you’re a supporter of coal, Ted?

        • TedKidd

          So you’re a supporter of interventionist wars and global hydrofracking Bob?

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think we did a good thing helping Europe with their Hitler problem.

            And I’m all for using natural gas as a fill-in for wind and solar while we develop better storage technology. It makes no sense to me to keep burning coal and killing 7 million people a year.

            Cutting overall CO2 output is a good thing too. Don’t you think?

          • TedKidd

            Bob, really? World War 2? That was an interventionist war? What country is Pearl Harbor in?…

            Is this a representation of how dated your critical thinking and discussion skills are? How about Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, and all the other BS wars we’ve been involved with since. You know, wars more representative of the conflicts we find ourselves in TODAY?

            And are you really so unsophisticated to have bought the “bridge” argument? You really think building natural gas infrastructure will lead to a “temporary bridge” to solving our carbon problem rather than creating brand new infrastructure that will be hard to stop using?

            You really don’t see it’s better to run a fully depreciated 40 year old coal plant for a few more years, redirect money earmarked for gas instead to accelerate renewables? You’d really rather frack the snot out of the world, hope gas prices stay cheap, build pipeline infrastructure all over the country, build brand new gas plants that compete with renewables on price while requiring brand new depreciation schedules (40 year commitment to burning), and claim “gas is clean and green”.

            Is that the position you are supporting?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Germany bombed Pearl Harbor? Is that what you think, Ted?

            Our involvement in foreign wars is complicated. They run from the totally appropriate (IMO) intervention in the Bosnian War to the, I think, well intentioned but misguided Vietnam War to the absolute inappropriate invasion of Iraq.

            I think we made a huge error in not intervening in Rwanda.

            I am not an isolationist. And neither am I pro war by any means. I simply think that there are times at which evil people start hurting others and as humans we have a requirement to help each other.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Now, as to which of us is sophisticated enough about energy and grid operation….

            Here’s the deal, Ted. Utilities must keep the power flowing almost all the time. The general public will not stand for electricity outages on a large scale.

            I understand that. Do you?

            As some people like to point out, the Sun does not shine 24 hours a day and the wind does not always blow. You’ve got that concept on board, do you Ted? Hopefully.

            So what happens if we install a bunch of solar panels and a bunch of wind turbines and close some coal plants? What to do, Ted? Can’t let the grid go dead. Got to fill in somehow.

            What options do we have? We don’t have affordable storage. We can’t dam up a bunch more rivers is a hurry and create hydro. We don’t have enough methane from landfills and municipal sewage systems. What’s left?

            Natural gas.

            Not the nicest thing in the world, but it is 1) affordable, 2) highly dispatchable, and 3) a much lower CO2 producer than is coal.

            Here’s what I see happening, Ted. We build (may have already built) enough NG generation capacity to keep the lights on during extended periods of low solar and wind input.

            When the Sun is shining or the wind blowing we turn off the NG. Which makes huge sense because that saves fuel costs. When the Sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing we turn on the CCNG plants.

            What does that mean to out CO2 output? Well, per unit electricity generated CCNG plants emit about half as much CO2 as coal plants. A straight switch from coal to NG would cut CO2 levels by about 50%.

            The Sun shines during hours of high demand. We could probably get 30% of our electricity direct from solar.

            The wind blows a lot of hours. We could probably get 40% of our electricity direct from wind.

            That leaves NG providing 30%. Since NG is about 50% as CO2 ‘rich’ as coal replacing coal with 30% solar + 40% wind + 30% NG would cut our CO2 emissions to about 15% what they were when we were using coal. (0.5 * 0.3 = 0.15)

            Now, is natural gas a nice thing? No it is not.

            If we don’t control leaks at the well and during distribution to the gas plants we could leak enough methane to offset our 50% CO2 gain. That would take us from 15% up to 30%.

            Still a lot better than 100%, but we don’t need to leak. We have the technology to prevent almost all methane leaks. And we have emerging EPA regs which we require that methane leaks be plugged.

            If we use the wrong chemicals we stand a small chance of having some of the fracking chemicals enter aquifers. We need to control the fracking chemicals and keep the really problematic substances out. But let’s remember, coal really damages a lot of our water. NG is potentially changing the locus of the problem but it’s a problem we already have.

            So, do I believe in using natural gas as a bridge? Yes.

            I’m all for cutting our greenhouse emissions as quickly as possible and NG gives us an affordable fill-in for wind and solar while we develop better alternatives.

            I just don’t see any sense in continuing to burn coal while we wait for an acceptable storage solution. YMMV.

          • TedKidd

            No Bob, Germany did not bomb Pearl Harbor.

            Wow, if not really sure why I should waste time talking with you if you have so little knowledge, and so clearly lack integrity in your approach to debate by jumping in with blatant fallacy.

            I did not say I support coal.

            You really don’t know how we got into WW2?

            Typical low integrity thinking you get from Hillary supporters.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ted, let’s review…

            Bob – “I think we did a good thing helping Europe with their Hitler problem.

            Ted – “Bob, really? World War 2? That was an interventionist war? What country is Pearl Harbor in?…”

            Bob – “Germany bombed Pearl Harbor? Is that what you think, Ted?”

            Ted – “No Bob, Germany did not bomb Pearl Harbor.

            Wow, if not really sure why I should waste time talking with you if you have so little knowledge, and so clearly lack integrity in your approach to debate by jumping in with blatant fallacy.”

            Ted, the US intervened in Europe prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. Read up on Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease program which furnished war materials to Free France, the UK and the USSR for their use in the fight against Hitler.

            When Japan bombed Pearl the US declared war against not only the country which attacked us but also against Germany and Italy which had not attacked us.

            According to your rules of engagement, as I read them, we had no business fighting Hitler. He had done us no harm.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ted if you don’t support coal and you are opposed to using natural gas then please tell us how we close coal plants while we no affordable fill-in for wind and solar except natural gas.

            Remember –

            1) Keep the lights on

            2) Keep the lights on at a cost that does not harm the economy

            Those are the rules one must follow when closing a coal plant.

            Your solution?

  • Wayne Wilhelm

    Well, anyone wanting to promote solutions to climate change should hate this author. When those writing on your behalf prove to be as ignorant as they come and to be producing documents which clearly reveal that ignorance, any support they might have had can only decrease.

    How so? As everyone knows, there isn’t any such thing as a climate change denier. Everyone knows the climate changes and everyone knows mankind affects to some extent how much the climate changes.. Yet, to read the referenced article, the author goes on and on in a massive rant about people who don’t exist, climate change deniers.

    That doesn’t say much for the author.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Wayne, Wayne, Wayne…

      That is such a stupid argument you make. (And you, interestingly, understand why it’s stupid.)

  • This is sad – when someone that claims intellectual superiority has to revert to passive aggressive accusations of cognitive dissonance. This article was written my a non-scientist with a political agenda and a desire to provoke the very response he wants. Typical bullying from the left and pitifully picked up by those who GENUINELY suffer from cognitive dissonance as being the “gospel” in the scientific community. If there were someone here who was genuinely interested in debating the “settled science” of climate change, I would be more than happy to take them on. As it stands, I doubt there is anyone here with the intellectual capacity to take on such a challenge. Therefore, this will be my ONLY post on this clearly left-leaning, mentally disturbed, bitter and angry website!

    • Bob_Wallace

      We are devastated…..

    • Calamity_Jean

      Bye, bye! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

  • Bob_Wallace

    I really don’t know how that “consensus” argument got started. It’s absolutely bogus.

    Science has always operated on consensus. Scientists who are knowledgeable about a specific issue look at the data available and arrive at some consensus that a specific explanation (based on the data) is the best explanation at that moment in time.

    Scientists, good ones at least, leave the door open for new facts to come in. A wise scientist avoids using “never” and “always” but talks in probabilities less than 100% and more than 0%. They know that new facts are discovered and explanations may be improved.

    If someone presents new data that invalidates the previous scientific opinion then the data is studied and if found valid scientists change their opinions. A new consensus arises.

    We’ve seen that in recent history with continental drift and the acceptance of prions.

    Science is a branch of philosophy. Science arose from the idea of empiricism, that knowledge is valid only if it is based on what can be observed. Empiricism did not arise until the late 1500s, after Columbus’s voyages validated the round Earth theory. Scientific opinion never held for a flat Earth, that was an opinion of some operating without data.

  • Antony Milne

    Carbon dioxide remains at a fraction of one percent – 0.03%, or about 390 to 400 ppm. In about 1850 it was 0.02 % – say about 285 ppm. This is STILL a fraction of one percent ! Even if CO2 was to double overnight to .08% (800 ppm) its concentration in the air would still be a fraction of one percent !!
    The two radiation bands at which CO2 is said to retain or reflect heat are saturated, and no longer do so. (See Wikipedia, ‘Carbon Dioxide radiation bands’). The wrong model of the Earth is being used by the climate-changers. The CO2 model is a ‘radiative’ model, whereas the standard model of climatology until about 20 years ago relied upon the Milanknovitch tilt cycles, which explain how Ice Ages and interglacials occur over time.This doctrine has not been renounced, and nor has any theory about solar radiation fluctuations. Mainstream meteorological theories explaining how the weather changes and goes through cycles – using the correct ‘convective’ model – still applies. See my ‘Earth’s Changing Climate’ (1989).

    • Ross

      Routine denier nonsense.

    • Bob_Wallace

      225 ppm is fine. We should have stayed there.

      400 ppm is a huge problem. We should have not gone there.

      You are full of bull when you claim the “wrong model” stuff. A useful model has to take into account all factors including changes in Earth’s tilt, solar output and changes in the Earth’s greenhouse gas blanket.

      Now, please don’t post any more crap like that here. And go educate yourself, it’s no longer last century.

    • stuart21

      “Even if CO2 was to double overnight to .08% (800 ppm) its concentration in the air would still be a fraction of one percent !!”

      So maybe we could call ‘atmospheric plutonium’. Doesn’t need much.

      ‘Dial a CO2 level’ is ‘dial a temperature’ is ‘dial a sea level’.

      I am quite happy with the old sea level, Antony. Where do YOU think sea level should be?

  • vensonata .

    The best response is to breezily defeat denial with cheap clean energy. Denialists may not be so enthusiastic if it costs them their coal stock portfolio. Suddenly they are thinking “that PV investment may pay for my retirement, hmmm.”

    • neroden

      Being in the investment biz myself, I can say that this astoundingly does not work. There are massive numbers of people who will blow their retirement portfolio on oil and gas and coal stocks even if they have been warned.

      *After* they lose their portfolio, they *might* change their views. Maybe. Peabody stock is still being bought, even though they’ve already gone bankrupt…

      • vensonata .

        Well, that is their “karma” ain’t it? There has to be a penalty for willful ignorance. Ten years of reasoned and patient education seems to have failed with these people, and so they reap the results in a strangely biblical way. Ironic that.

  • J.H.

    ANGER, appears to be the theme for today’s republican party. I have a few republican friends that are still deniers. Lets just say that “we agree to disagree”, and I’ve learned not to talk about politics and climate when I’m sitting at their dinner table. But their anger over politics comes from the fact that, in their words ” they have been lied to”. So, as I try to persuade them about climate issue with data like the new facts about Exxon Oil, I use their own words ” they lied to you”. Their anger is real. And the irony is they have decided not to vote for a career politician. They are going to vote for Trump ? Their new argument is its Chinese propaganda. This is a very steep hill.

    • Harry Johnson

      Willful ignorance simply cannot be logically explained.

      • Ross

        There’s the great Upton Sinclair quote

        “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

  • Freddy D

    We now have the ability to dissolve the anger and opposition with a win win approach. Attack someone with an “I’m right and you’re wrong” approach and they work even harder to win. Climate change is inherently difficult to prove so flip the argument to the solution.

    Some amount of the opposition comes from a perceived lack of solutions to the climate change problem. Comes down to three things required:
    1). Technical feasibility. Perception that renewable energy is too feeble and intermittent. Wrong. Cite numerous examples from this thread. Most new generation is now renewable, 30% of California’s power coming from solar this very moment ( if daytime), or wind in Texas, etc. Tesla.
    2) Economic feasibility. It will cost more to address climate change. Wrong. Focus on short term cost savings. Solar power and wind now cheaper than coal. Use terms that play to thier Preconceptions: “coal can’t compete any more because it’s too expensive”
    3) Human will to act. What this article is about. This is the hardest. So glad to see analysis on this topic of human awareness and persuasion, which the worlds rational minded people have apparently failed at for the last two decades.

    Flip opposition to support through the solution side.

    And it’s not “alternative” energy any more. 🙂

  • Brian Cartwright

    The article describes a one-dimensional scale; you’re either right or wrong, and if you know you’re wrong it makes you mad. OK…

    There is, however, room for diversity when it comes to solutions, and maybe that offers a way to engage the alienated “deniers”. The crowd that has been shouting, “we’re right!” about CC has been focused on causes (atmospheric CO2) and rather lazily assuming that the solutions are obvious and adequate: conservation and clean energy. But those solutions, while necessary, are VERY slow at actually cooling our baking earth.

    Bringing back life in the form of green plants and healthy soil, and revitalizing water cycles, is how we can DIRECTLY cool the earth (and meanwhile bring down CO2 levels) and provides many side benefits for climate and health. Makes a much more constructive climate discussion than this squabbling over who’s right.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Brian, I do not think science supports your claims that we can deal with climate change by “Bringing back life in the form of green plants and healthy soil, and revitalizing water cycles, is how we can DIRECTLY cool the earth”.

      We can remove some of the problematic CO2 but not enough to stop global warming and certainly not enough to lower CO2 levels.

      Stopping CO2 (and other GHG) emissions is mandatory.

      Then we have to find ways to pull some of the GHG out of the atmosphere. Increased planting can be part of the solution, but only part.

      • Brian Cartwright

        I see. You don’t think science supports photosynthesis as a proven method of pulling CO2 out of the air? Bob, that’s what it has been doing for a long time now.

        Do you want to do a little token effort perhaps in eco-restoration, but not until we stop GHG emissions? Can we not walk and also chew gum?

        Have you looked into how long it will take for CO2 levels to come down even if ALL emissions stop? Because the ocean needs to re-equilibrate its stored carbon too. This is a story we don’t hear about, but the warming curve does not come down, it only continues to rise.

        So here we are shouting down the deniers and pooh-poohing the solutions that nature has been demonstrating to regulate the climate for billions of years. Doesn’t inspire hope.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Brian, try reading with comprehension. See if you can find any place in my comment where I stated I “don’t think science supports photosynthesis as a proven method of pulling CO2 out of the air”.

          • Brian Cartwright

            Nope. This exchange has gotten too deeply indented for me.

        • Ross

          At the scale of the planet we can only directly start cooling it by turning the energy imbalance from positive to negative.

          Think of Earth as a Planck Black Body where the most significant (allowing for all lower order factors) dial we have to turn is the quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

          Deniers try to make it more complicated that it is.

    • ” To cover this year’s CO2 emissions alone, we would have to cover 2.7% of the Earth’s surface with newly planted trees, just under 40 billion of them or about 5.4 trees for every human on Earth. We would run out of Earth to plant trees on in under 20 years. To bring us back to pre-Industrial Revolution levels of 250 ppm, we would have to plant about 353 billion trees covering 24% of the Earth’s surface and stop burning all fossil fuels right now. In both cases, it would take 40 years before the trees absorbed the CO2.”

      In fact, global green land biomass increased roughly 3% between 2003 and 2012 due to ongoing shift of rural subsistence farmers off of the land and into cities along with industrial agriculture consolidating land and farming less land more effectively.

      Vegetation is good. Trees are good. I’ve planted about 12,000 in my life. But it’s a tiny wedge compared to stopping burning fossil fuels. It’s also part of the carbon cycle and much of the CO2 is returned to the atmosphere eventually.

      • Brian Cartwright

        Well, you can look at the source side too – soil degradation is much ignored as a source of emissions. The emissions from chemical agriculture killing off the soil food web is very substantial, and there’s the thermal effect of sun hitting bare dry soil, whether on farms or on desertified grasslands, and the impossibility of water vapor then having an effective cycle and producing rainfall, a cascading drought generator. The benefits of vegetation are greater than just the carbon – it also provides an immediate climate cooling effect while we’re waiting for CO2 levels to come down.

        My point in the context of this article is that by having our blinders pointing us only to the clean energy solutions, we miss the crying need to heal our lands, grow healthy food and stabilize water cycles away from drought and floods. That makes for a constructive discussion with room for diverse, local and positive solutions. What’s not to like there? Why the urge to dismiss?

        • Apologies, but large-scale agriculture is part of the solution, not part of the problem. Total emissions per calorie have dropped by a significant amount due to corporate agriculture more efficiently farming larger plots of land and subsistence farmers leaving the land.

          The rural poor are a much worse challenge for emissions than large scale agriculture. That’s what the green biomass reference asserts.

          There’s a rural agrarian fantasy that many people ascribe to which is incompatible with the number of people we have on the planet, human nature and combatting climate change. One of the reasons why people who have run the numbers — not my running of the numbers above — tend to be dismissive of greening schemes is that they are often poorly disguised ideology, not practical solutions. Not saying that’s where you are, but you have some signifiers in your choices of words which indicate you might lean that way.

          As I said, I’ve planted 12K trees personally and celebrate the increase in global green biomass. I’m very happy that Brazil stopped clearcutting the Amazon for cattle herds, and very worried with their current descent that they’ll start again. I’m pretty unhappy with Indonesia’s stance on burning forests for palm oil plantations too, (and lived through a couple of haze seasons in Singapore due to it.)

          But it’s small potatoes compared to decarbonizing the grid and transportation. My preference is to get the big tickets right fast, then work on the small tickets. That said, there’s lots of good work to do on the small tickets. Wave energy, for example, is a small ticket and I would be flabbergasted if it ever rose to 0.1% of global electrical generation. But 0.1% is 30 TWH of carbon neutral electricity, which is a lot.

          The problem is huge. The numbers are mind-boggling. The solutions are hard.

        • neroden

          Brian, the source of the problem is that we are digging up and burning fossil fuels. In order to stop the problem, we have to stop digging up and burning fossil fuels. (“When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”)

          This dominates every other effect related to global warming. Once we’ve stopped making the problem *worse*, we can start working out how to suck the CO2 back out of the air, which will probably involve lots of algae blooms and other plant growth.

          • Brian Cartwright

            Along with all the others in this thread, you want to wait and only reduce emissions first? Why?

            Is it a distraction from reducing GHGs if we also restore ecosystems? I should think that any activity that relieves the symptoms of AGW should be pursued if it does not have harmful side effects. Regenerative agriculture, reforestation, water cycle restoration, all bring side benefits and can win allies for reasons outside the climate debate.

            Why wait? These methods bring relief. Just cutting CO2 emissions is necessary but the relief takes much longer because of ocean re-equilibration.

            Again, the article is about the extreme polarization of the debate. The way to relieve that is to diversify the field of solutions. You folks have an echo chamber going in which diverse points of view are being reflexively dismissed.

          • Ross

            No one suggested that we should not in parallel address issues like soil degradation, deforestation, overuse of water and fertiliser in agriculture, excessive meat in our diets and overfishing. We can and we should.

            However those won’t by themselves be sufficient to address climate change.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Along with all the others in this thread, you want to wait and only reduce emissions first? ”

            Brian, why are you making stuff up?

        • Carl Raymond S

          My knee jerk reaction was to dismiss your post as a distraction. There are a lot of people earning a living from obfuscation of the carbon problem and, unfortunately Brian, they use similar methods – “don’t look there, look over here”.
          However I clicked your profile and read a collection of your posts. You are undeniably passionate about soil Brian, and yes, putting more carbon in the soil is part of the solution. Many years ago I read the story of “Terra preta”, and had almost forgotten. Upvote from me – so long as soil carbon is always offered “as well as”, not “instead of” phasing out fossil fuels. I don’t think anybody will fight you regarding better soils. I think it’s in our DNA to be drawn to rich dark soil. Certainly there’s a Darwinian force there – any tribe attracted to poor soil would not fare so well.
          The fight against fossil fuels however is David and Goliath stuff. I hope you understand why the Davids can’t afford to look away from Goliath.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well said, Carl.

            Certainly we need to be doing what we can do to re-sequester carbon now. But the monster task is to cease putting more carbon into the atmosphere.

  • JamesWimberley

    The denialists have given up here, or maybe the moderators have booted them off. At Climate Progress, where comments seem effectively unmoderated – it allows scam emails from young ladies promising racing cars for work at home – the denialist comments have been getting more childish, often semiliterate simple abuse. Has the funding gone down?

    Note the continued absence of trolls denying the $3.5 trillion a year health damage of fossil fuel pollution. Have the Kochs gone low-energy? I could knock out a half-dozen talking points against the OECD’s value-of-life methodology over a weekend for a $50,000 fee. The problem is, I think they are winging it on morbidity, and almost certainly underestimating the costs of illness.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Crackpot deniers have been given the boot. But new ones seem to turn up less and less. I’m also seeing far fewer denier-posts on all sorts of sites.

      I think we’re reaching the point at which most people understand what is happening and the denier pool is shrinking.

      It takes awhile for the greater public to take in new scientific findings. Look at the OJ Simpson murder trial 20 years ago. The public didn’t know what DNA was and the evidence presented seemed to have no impact on either jury or public. Now when I crime occurs the first thing people look for is DNA evidence.

      • bwollsch

        Crackpot deniers are still out there. I had a “discussion” with a denier on the denverpost website about SunEnergy filing for bankruptcy. He was compaining about all the tax money that was lost on this boondoggle. I reminded him that Peabody energy had also gone bankrupt even with the massive subsidies FF companies have gotten for years, but he blamed that on the EPA instead of natural gas.

        He then proceeded to tell me that all solar and wind was a money losing farce, not ready to be deployed, etc. I countered that renewable energy investments around the world are growing while fossil fuel investments are shrinking. I asked him why Warren Buffet would invest $3.6B in Iowa on renewable energy if renewable energy was losing money. His answer: “BS.”

        • Bob_Wallace

          They are there.

          It seems that there are less there now than there was back then.

  • egriff5514

    Yes, they are getting madder – but they now seem to have a perfect solution to any dissonance arising – they just claim it is fraud.
    Recently the DMI discontinued a view of sea ice extent – long publicised.
    Reaction of deniersphere? Say it was to hide true extentit was removed.
    Also NSIDC ice extent satellite sensor has bust – reaction on Watts, Godaard etc? You guessed it.
    Sat temp series don’t show pause? Yes, fraud. And surface temps – still multiple ‘fraud’ postings.
    Even seen postings on how record UK Cumbrian rainfall was no such thing.
    Once you have this magic solution, no amount of cognitive dissonance can make you change your view.
    In my opinion, we just have to have someone called a fraud sue to make progtress here…

  • Baan Tiwa Bophut Samui

    I fully agree with this article, many do get more frustrated losing ground under their feet. What would make our position more strong though is if we make sure to always use the right terminology. In this case we should talk about ‘man made climate change’. To be honest I get tired to see just ‘climate change’ like already in the titel of this article, we all know climate is not static, it has always changed and will always change. It is about what we as mankind do to our climate so let’s stay sharp and make clear that is on the table

    • Great point. I often have the same reaction.

      And would go a step further and say “catastrophically fast human-caused climate change” — but that’s a bit long for titles and every instance. … Maybe CFHC climate change 😀

      • OneHundredbyFifty

        Hmmm, how about:

        CRACC – Catastrophic Rapid Anthropogenic Climate Change – Something about saying the deniers being addicted to CRACC or are in favor of CRACC is perversely satisfying.

      • Catastrophic climate change is a denialist meme used constantly by Watts, Curry, etc. It has a history and it’s not a pretty one.

        Let’s keep it reasonable and not adopt denier’s bad language.

        Anthropogenic or human-caused is unnecessary in my opinion. There’s a denialist distraction of pretending that they don’t know that we mean human-caused climate change when we say climate change, but context is almost always dead obvious.

        Changing understood language to pander to deniers is a losing game.

  • swaan

    Well the problem comes from out-dated schooling and externalization of knowledge. Reading a book gives you data, it does not make anything true or false but we are taught that authority = truth. Sadly people are full of data that they call facts but they lack wisdom and first hand experience. This is why someone you believe as authority (be it a popstar, politician, jesus or allah, words of a scientist) can override your perceived reality (that environmental issues are increasing).
    It does not help however to attack any deniers or to educate them as you are only forcing them to build a bigger wall. Even if you manage to convince them you haven’t solved their underlying problem of externalization of knowledge – they will flip sides again when a new popular authority arises. Take someone to poverty and trash struck African country, the smog of Beijing or to see Amazon deforestation and NOTHING anyone will say or do can change their minds again on the subject.

    • onesecond

      Well, I challenge and destroy every climate denier who spreads false information on the internet that I happen to come across, not for changing his views which most likely won’t happen, but for the passerbys who shouldn’t read climate denier garbage without a corrective responds attached to it.

    • Rick Thurman

      I suspect people looking for that kind of authority will only change when they see physical evidence that sustainable clean tech is working at scale. Then they can “switch authorities”.
      That’s one reason I pay particular attention to examples of sustainable tech being built out at local and regional scale. Statistically, it will be good to see the US as a whole reduce carbon-loading by another 5 percent… but seeing one or two states get the majority or all of their electricity from wind plus solar will go a long way to showing there really is a path forward. My personal favorite area for this would be the South Plains: New Mexico, west Texas and Oklahoma could probably complete a fairly rapid switch to majority wind-plus-solar in the next decade or less.

      • neroden

        Do you think the residents of Oklahoma will (for the most part) even *notice* that all their power is from wind?

        I get people here in upstate NY saying “Oh, but isn’t your electric car powered by electricity from coal”. No, it’s not, it’s largely powered by electricity from *Niagara Falls*, which has been producing power for over 100 years. But amazingly people just don’t realize that.

  • Carl Raymond S

    There’s a new art to being a politician now that denial has lost plausibility. It’s the art of being seen to be doing something, whilst behind the scenes ensuring that every announced program achieves as little as possible.

    • Yup…

      And that was the story when George W was in office. Then Obama was elected and right wing extremists decided the best thing to do was get off-the-wall crazy and force everyone in their party to fall in line.

  • You mentioned the anti-wind people. “A very similar dynamic is playing out with anti-wind energy advocates.”. This also seems to apply to anti-solar and even pro-nuclear people. See especially the depth of feeling about Ivanpah, Diablo canyon and so on. And made worse by the sheer quantity of misinformation spread via AP to outlets like WSJ and Forbes.

    The bullshit was piling up so high, you needed wings to stay above it.

  • globi

    Btw, Patrick Moore was also the guy who demanded new nuclear power plants (no matter the costs) in order to save the climate…

    Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.

    • Rick Thurman

      There seems to be a cognitive bias against low-level, distributed, evolutionary solutions. We got into this mess because of large-scale, top-down, centralized strategies, so we’ll need the same to get us out, seems to be the idea. What they ignore is that this carbon made it into the air and water one oilwell, one tailpipe at a time… and that seems to have done the job. So one rooftop, one battery-set at a time will probably do as well, once we get rolling.

      • Guy Hall

        Speaking from a 2 ev family, I agree.

    • Bob_Wallace

      There seems to be a small group of people who are very concerned about climate change but are very poorly informed when it comes to our energy options. They apparently support the myth among themselves that renewables are ineffective and only nuclear energy can power grids.

      • J.H.

        And natural gas, the frackers

      • Guy Hall

        How about people that strongly believe in renewables, but that the problem and transition is large enough that we need help from nuclear energy. I’d be glad to start winding down nuclear power as soon as we’ve eliminated the carbon based sources. The immediate danger and damage being done is from coal and gas. We need as aggressive program as possible. More wind, solar and nuclear power ASAP.

        • globi
          • Bob_Wallace

            Too expensive –

            “’It would be very difficult for any company to make a decision to try to build a new nuclear plant,’ says Mike Twomey, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, which runs nuclear power plants.

            Entergy has already taken one unprofitable reactor offline in Vermont and plans to close two more plants that are losing money in upstate New York and Massachusetts.”

            Entergy is the largest nuclear plant operator in the US.

            “’We think that the costs of new nuclear right now are not competitive with other zero-carbon technologies, renewables and storage that we see in the marketplace,’ says Joe Dominguez, executive vice president for governmental and regulatory affairs and public policy at Exelon, a nuclear power company that has announced plans to close one of its existing reactors in New Jersey.

            Three other plants that are losing money in Illinois and upstate New York are also being reviewed for possible closure, Dominguez says.

            ‘Right now we just don’t have any plans on the board to build any new reactors,’ he says.”

            Exelon is the second largest nuclear plant operator in the US. Entergy and Exelon own and operate about 25% of all US reactors.

            “Mycle Schneider, a nuclear industry analyst, says nuclear also faces growing price pressure from wind and solar. Renewable energy is so cheap in some parts of the U.S. that it’s even undercutting coal and natural gas.

            ‘We are seeing really a radical shift in the competitive markets which leave nuclear power pretty much out in the rain,’ Schneider says.’”


    • Guy Hall

      I don’t see him as schizophrenic at all, or that he has a dislike of renewables. In fact in the article you reference he says: ” I argued that the only way to reduce fossil fuel emissions from electrical production is through an aggressive program of renewable energy sources (hydroelectric, geothermal heat pumps, wind, etc.) plus nuclear”

      • globi

        Patrick Moore is schizophrenic because according to the article above he said:
        there is no scientific proof of causation between the human-induced increase in atmospheric CO2 and the recent global warming trend, a trend that has been evident for about 500 years, long before the human-induced increase in CO2 was evident.

        And he dislikes solar and wind otherwise he wouldn’t claim that they are unpredictable and would emphasize the baseload myth.

        Especially given the fact that the opposite is true as many nuclear power plants have failed for months on end without warning, while wind and solar farms have not.

  • Kiwiiano

    That Morano doco really was to capacity crowds. The phone box was totally crammed!

  • GeorgeMokray

    When it becomes completely untenable, the angriest will blame the greens for not warning us loudly and effectively enough. “If only you’d TOLD ME!!!”

    Lomborg’s business is registered to a POBox in Cambridge, MA if I recall correctly.

    • Ross

      That’s also the “it is too late to do anything” argument.

      • Rick Thurman

        There’s probably a decade’s worth of earnings available in leading a certain share of the market down the “it’s God’s Will, we shouldn’t do anything about it” path. In fact, you could probably work that meme along several different angles, at least one per religious tradition…

        • AaronD12

          Or take it to an extreme: Our building manager says we can’t have EV chargers installed because “god put enough oil on the Earth to last until the rapture”. She intentionally drives a gas-guzzing truck, too. Ugh.

  • J_JamesM

    I can’t even imagine how to “sell out” on quite so much of a global scale as Lomborg. Dude literally sold out the planet. On some level, it’s sort of impressive in its loathesomeness.

    • Ross

      That guy used to be listened to. He really has been pushed aside. He is a nice proxy measurement for how the deniers are losing the argument.

      • Carl Raymond S

        I remember when that $4 million was put up for grabs to the universities by the Abbott govt. I wasn’t aware till reading this they all declined the offer to be tainted by Lomborg’s name.
        To every staff member who said nay, I salute you – a rare occasion to be proud of my country.

      • Good point. Remember when new pieces from him would get broad and serious attention. Now it seems non-Murdoch media outlets won’t run his stuff and it gets seen as ridiculous by more and more people. (But I may be projecting… since I seriously don’t give enough of a crap to deal with his articles any more.)

  • Stan Hlegeris

    It will be interesting to watch how this chart evolves.

    The extreme right-side position, which the author places at the “alarmist” end of the spectrum, could soon be right in the middle.

    • Ross

      The current mantra from the deniers uses “alarmist” as a term of abuse. So I would not have used that word in this chart.

      • Dragon

        I’d be proud to be called an alarmist because, really, we should all have an alarm ringing in our ear until we change our ways on a World War II scale of effort. Maybe it’s time to embrace the term instead of letting the deniers insinuate that we’re crying wolf.

        • Ross

          I can understand the let’s own the term of abuse argument. But fundamentally the latest evidence is suggesting that above IPCC is not alarmist. So I would stick to the dictionary.

          • onesecond

            Well, the term is a neologism, so it is still getting shaped. In German, according to the Duden, which is the language authority here, it is someone who is sounding the alarm very loudly and in an inconvenient manner but there is no assessment in that word, if or not there is cause to ring the alarm. Someone ringing the alarm wrongfully is a “Panikmacher” in German. So I tell everyone, that everyone should be an alarmist, given the newest evidence where climate scientist increasingly use the word “shocking” to describe their latest finding.

          • Ross

            Alarmist is not a new word or meaning. People should raise the alarm based on the evidence.

            The Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun

            ” A person who is sensitive to potential dangers, esp. in political, social, or financial matters, and quick to express fears or concerns publicly; esp. one who exaggerates such a danger and so causes needless worry or panic; a panicmonger.”

            earliest example “1792 Oracle 7 Dec. That the Stockbrokers are in a small degree still under the influence of the Alarmists, cannot be denied.”

          • ThisNameInUse

            When the building is actually on fire, the person who pulls the fire alarm that brings the fire trucks and hoses, is the rational one on the scene.

  • Modok EvilMastermind

    Partially related to this is the idea of satisficing ( People increasingly look at every fragment which can continue to support what they believe until obviously it is impossible to satisfy and suffice.

    After this point, people have to abruptly change positions. I suspect this is very emotional and can make one angry especially right before the come to grips. If so, then we are making some progress…

  • vensonata .

    Add evolutionary theory, gender equality, racial equality and the effect of science on religious literalism and you have the same cognitive dissonance in all these denialist groups. Not rarely an individual will belong to all 4 of the above groups and be a staunch human caused warming denier.

    The term “anger” is used in the article. I am not sure what their emotional state is. Certainly the tone of their writing sounds angry. Unfortunately many who accept warming are also angry at the denialists. Anger burns you out. There are other emotions which are effective at getting things done which aren’t self destructive.

    • onesecond

      Your first paragraph sounds an awful lot like Republicans, especially their frontrunners.

      • “Unfortunately there is a study that claims that males get credibility by being angry.”
        — Hmm, hadn’t seen that, but very believable (and interesting). Look at Trump, his main way of rallying the crowds is spreading/stimulating anger. Even the rhetorical devices he routinely uses are inherently about that:

        • neroden

          Nothing wrong with a measured amount of anger in a good cause; keeps you motivated. Easy to have anger in a bad and dumb cause, though.

  • Dragon

    Of course, I’ve been on the far right side of the graph for decades and I’m also bitter and angry that we could have solved this so much more easily back when scientists started warning us and we could have avoided all the death and destruction we’ve now experienced and will continue to experience during my lifetime.

    Bitterness and anger for everyone! >=b

    • Matt

      In 78-79 in my 3rd co-op quarter, back when FE models were built by hand. We had to redo a model on a offshore platform, the oil company was worried that of if life the waves would be higher. So they wanted it 10 meters higher.

      • Dragon

        It’s ALMOST like they KNEW…

        …which, of course, they did. Funny I can’t get my dad to believe oceans could rise as much as the oil companies are planning for.

        • Ross

          My dad is a little on the denier side. Unfortunately he has denier friends that email him denier propaganda. I get the sense they’re collectively becoming less sure of themselves.

          I get annoyed at them because they’ll be dead when the problem get really bad.

          • Brett

            Classic echo chamber effect. Kinda like how anti-vaxxers will go seek out a forum where a bunch of other anti-vaxxers are posting their ‘evidence’ and they become somehow convinced that their position is somehow rational. Once people dig in and become ideological about their positions, the weight of evidence to the contrary falls significantly.

    • Analogue Girl

      Amelioration will take time and wilfulness the calculations are till 2050 to repair the climate if we stop releasing more energy today.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I’ve seen nothing that claims we could reverse global warming and bring the climate back to where it was in only 35 years after stopping GHG emissions.

        Do you have any studies which support that claim?

    • nakedChimp

      “Too bad” deep down in your core you’re a good guy.. you’ll never be able to the atrocities that people on the left hand side of that spectrum are capable of.

      I got a help for you – just put yourself above it all.. imagine the solar system as seen from another star.. or the Milky way as seen from Andromeda. See.. it’s absolutely negligible what we naked chimps do on this round rock to our environment, ourselves and all other living creatures.
      If we don’t keep/get this working it will be humanities and some creatures on this planet that will cease to exist and maybe the galactic zoo won’t have exemplars from life that originated from Sol3, but that’s it. No real harm done.

    • Deborah Marie Flower Power

      Yep..very sad and very very true.

  • Guy Hall

    Nicely written. Lets’s also note that the Skeptics Society has asked the media to stop using the term skeptic when refering to denialists. Skeptic is a ĺabel for people who refuse to believe assertions until the assertions are scientifically proven, which in the case of climate change has been done.

    • Thanks. Great point. We’ve stopped using it here, but this is the best concise statement I’ve seen on why we shouldn’t label them that way.

  • J.H.

    I can’t wait for the responses.

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