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Understanding Climate Change Skeptics or Denials

Jenkins Macedo
Kwabena Tweneboa
James Hansen Addo
September 20, 2013

            During this week, we read series of online articles, grey literature, and a peer reviewed journal article published in Nature Climate about the understanding of climate change among skeptics and or denials. The Ruckelshaus et al (2013) presents the Republican’s case that Earth’s climate is changing at an unprecedented rate. They argued that the debate of climate change is not a matter of partisanship, but a matter of taking precautionary actions that are cost-effective and that has the potential to significantly reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.  Ruckelshaus et al (2013) added that the same momentum that led the United States and other nations to act in mitigating the depleting ozone, which brought about global outcry against CFCs should be the same guiding steps based on “common-sense conservative principles” in protecting the general welfare of the American populace, the environment, climate systems, and the world at large. They suggested that the market-based approach or what some may term as cost benefit analysis regulatory framework of climate change mitigation over the years has proven to be effective and doable and has significantly improve our economy as well.
            Lindzen’s article “Climate science isn’t settled: confident predictions of catastrophe are unwarranted” takes a different direction from what Ruckelshaus et al. (2013) suggested that the reality of climate change is undeniable. Lindzen argues that globally over the last few dozen years, global average temperature anomaly (GATA) fluctuates. He argues the assertions that “climate change is accelerating are bizzare” (Landzen, 2009). He also added that the emergence from the period of the little ice age, which occurred between the 15th and 19th centuries and the commencement of the industrial revolution, which explains why global temperature increases as we migrate from a period of cold climate to warmer climate. He noted that in the midst of global climate change, which is a result of the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, CO2 is generally accepted as the prominent greenhouse gas emitted. He presented the case that Earth’s atmospheric systems “balance the incoming solar radiation by subsequently releasing thermal radiation, and the presence of high clouds and water vapor, which are “greenhouse substances” deters the system from cooling, which leads to “some” warming. He concludes that these factors (water vapor and high clouds) are major greenhouse substances, which can be differentiated from “minor” anthropogenic substances, which he states are anthropogenic greenhouse gases. He asserts, “doubling of CO2 would only offset the original balance within the system between incoming solar radiation and outgoing radiation to about 2%” (Lindzen, 2009), which is what is considered within the scientific literature as “climate forcing,” which is a natural process. He argues that the failure amongst climate change scientists to establish the linkages between observed warming and observed warming in minor anthropogenic warming makes the climate change vis-a-vis global warming discourse weak and unwarranted and there is no need for public outcry. He concludes by suggesting that natural disasters that are linked to climate variability are all confluence of multiples factors that we tend to link to our carbon footprint.
            Holdren’s article on “convincing the climate-change skeptics” highlights the three categorical approaches of climate change skeptics that tend to be factually untrue and supported with no evidence that earth’s climate is warming, but humans are not main cause of such warming (Holdren, 2008). He noted that national and international consensus that earth’s climate is rapidly change should set the score for the public to make objective decisions when they encounter climate change skeptics. He asserts that most climate change skeptics are Republicans a claim that I do not support and partially been reactionary than addressing the fact that climate change really matters.
Changes in the world and the way the world thinks is information and knowledge. This has not proven to be true in the case of science and the issue of climate change as Roberts notes in his article “More Science Will Not Cure the Climate Skepticism.” Roberts also mentions three things that could have been barriers to the lack of understanding of the dangers that climate poses to society: the people around us i.e. culture, education and the media, but Kahan et al. 2012 mentions that this it goes beyond that. The issue of people affecting believes and the article of Adam Frank in the New York Times nicely outlined perspectives. It gives statistics about creationist during his college ages. Probably the increased is due to knowledge or the kind of cultural training that younger generation have received from the older generations, meanwhile the issue of climate change has not seen anything to correlate to such belief. The factual problem of climate change has not gotten that much of attention like it was intended to. The issue has become highly politicized and people’s affiliation to a political party or a political figure also affects how he will view climate change. David wrote in his paper what is happening in North Carolina where state planners have been banned from using climate data in projecting future sea level rise. Politicians have risen to the point of explaining scientific issues with politic which Michael Man calls “scientization of politics.”
On the subject of education, it is evident that more education does not necessarily mean that people will take the subject of climate change serious. The ordinary person is said to belong to the SCT (Science Comprehension Thesis) group that is people with very little knowledge of science. If this is true then with the increase of the number of colleges and private institution all around us should make the subject of climate change more meaningful and taken very serious. The alternative group, CCT, (Cultural Cognitive Thesis) is a person that due to complex psychological mechanisms sees risk based on things that the group he belongs to sees it as such. So while “SCT emphasizes a conflict between scientist and the public, CCT stresses one between different segments of the public, whose members are motivated to fit their interpretations of scientific evidence to their competing cultural philosophies” (Kahan et al 2012, page 732). The challenge of this world as far as climate change is concern is a complex one, and involves not just the understanding of scientific processes, but also the way the scientific information is disseminated.

Works Cited

Frank, A. 2013. "Welcome to the Age of Denial." New York Times August 21, 2013.
Kahan, D. M., E. Peters, M. Wittlin, P. Slovic, L. L. Ouellette, D. Braman and G. Mandel (2012). "The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks." Nature Clim. Change 2(10): 732-735.
Roberts, D. (2012). "Once again, with feeling: More science will not cure climate skepticism." Grist Magazine
Lindzen, Richard.  2009. The Climate Science Isn’t Settled.  The Wall Street Journal. November 30, 2009.          
Ruckelshaus, W. D., L. M. Thomas, W. K. Reilly and C. T. Whitman (2013). "A Republican Case for Climate Action." New York Times August 1 2013.
Holdren, J. P. 2008. Convincing the climate-change skeptics. Boston Globe.  August 4, 2008 (and Holdren addendum and note in response to critique of the op-ed)



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