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Why Some People Are Susceptible to Climate Change Denial

All-or-nothing thinking makes it easy to refute scientifically sound conclusions

A desire to see the world in black and white terms can make it easier to deny the reality of climate change caused by burning fossil fuels. Photo courtesy John Isaac / United Nations.

Cold spells often bring climate change deniers out in force on social media, with hashtags like #ClimateHoax and #ClimateScam. Former President Donald Trump often chimes in, repeatedly claiming that each cold snap disproves the existence of global warming.

From a scientific standpoint, these claims of disproof are absurd. Fluctuations in the weather don’t refute clear long-term trends in the climate.

Yet many people believe these claims, and the political result has been reduced willingness to take action to mitigate climate change.

Sen. James Inhofe brought a snowball to the Senate floor in February 2015 to argue that because it was cold enough to snow in Washington, D.C., climate change wasn’t real. That year became the hottest on record and has since been surpassed.

Why are so many people susceptible to this type of disinformation? My field, psychology, can help explain—and help people avoid being misled.

The allure of black-and-white thinking

Close examination of the arguments made by climate change deniers reveals the same mistake made over and over again. That mistake is the cognitive error known as black-and-white thinking, also called dichotomous and all-or-none thinking. As I explain in my book “Finding Goldilocks,” black-and-white thinking is a source of dysfunction in mental health, relationships—and politics.

People are often susceptible to it because in many areas of life, dichotomous thinking does something helpful: It simplifies the world.

Binaries are easy to handle because there are only two possibilities to consider. When people face a spectrum of possibilities and nuance, they have to exert more mental effort. But when that spectrum is polarized into pairs of opposites, choices are clear and dramatic.

Image of a person showing arrows pointing in opposite directions the person might take.
Most things don’t fall neatly into only two choices. eyetoeyePIX via Getty Images

This mental labor-saving device is practical in many everyday situations, but it is a poor tool for understanding complicated realities—and the climate is complicated.

Sometimes, people divide the spectrum in asymmetric ways, with one side much larger than the other. For example, perfectionists often categorize their work as either perfect or unsatisfactory, so even good and very good outcomes are lumped together with poor ones in the unsatisfactory category. In dichotomous thinking like this, a single exception can tip a person’s view to one side. It’s like a pass/fail grading system in which 100% earns a pass and everything else gets an F.

With a grading system like this, it’s not surprising that opponents of climate action have found ways to reject global warming research, despite the overwhelming evidence.

Here’s how they do it:

The all-or-nothing problem

Climate change deniers simplify the spectrum of possible scientific consensus into two categories: 100% agreement or no consensus at all. If it’s not one, it’s the other.

A 2021 review of thousands of climate science papers and conference proceedings concluded that over 99% of studies have found that burning fossil fuels warms the planet. That’s not good enough for some skeptics. If they find one contrarian scientist somewhere, they categorize the idea of human-caused global warming as controversial and conclude that there is no basis for action.

Powerful economic interests are at work here: The fossil fuel industry has funded disinformation campaigns for years to create this kind of doubt about climate change, despite knowing that their products cause it and the consequences. Members of Congress have used that disinformation to block or weaken federal policies that could slow climate change.

Expecting a straight line in a variable world

In another example of black-and-white thinking, deniers argue that if global temperatures are not increasing at a perfectly consistent rate, there is no such thing as global warming.

However, complex variables never change in a uniform way; they wiggle up and down in the short term even when exhibiting long-term trends. Most business data, such as revenues, profits and stock prices, do this too, with short-term fluctuations contained in long-term trends.

Charts showing Apple's changing stock price and global temperatures over time. Both have a saw-tooth pattern.
These two graphs have the same form: a long-term trend of major increase within which there are short-term fluctuations. CC BY-ND

Mistaking a cold snap for disproof of climate change is like mistaking a bad month for Apple stock for proof that Apple isn’t a good long-term investment. This error results from homing in on a tiny slice of the graph and ignoring the rest.

Failing to examine the gray area

Climate change deniers also mistakenly cite correlations below 100% as evidence against human-caused global warming. They triumphantly point out that sunspots and volcanic eruptions also affect the climate, even though evidence shows both have very little influence on long-term temperature rise in comparison to greenhouse gas emissions.

In essence, deniers argue that if fossil fuel burning is not all-important, it’s unimportant. They miss the gray area in between: Greenhouse gases are indeed just one factor warming the planet, but they’re the most important one and the factor humans can influence.

Charts showing impact of different forces on temperature. Natural sources have little variation, but the upward swing of temperatures corresponds closely with rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Influences on global temperature over time. 4th National Climate Assessment

‘The climate has always been changing’–but not like this

As increases in global temperatures have become obvious, some climate change skeptics have switched from denying them to reframing them.

Their oft-repeated line, “The climate has always been changing,” typically delivered with an air of patient wisdom, is based on a striking lack of knowledge about the evidence from climate research.

Their reasoning is based on an invalid binary: Either the climate is changing or it’s not, and since it’s always been changing, there is nothing new here and no cause for concern.

However, the current warming is on par with nothing humans have ever seen, and intense warming events in the distant past were planetwide disasters that caused massive extinctions–something we do not want to repeat.

As humanity faces the challenge of global warming, we need to use all our cognitive resources. Recognizing the thinking error at the root of climate change denial could disarm objections to climate research and make science the basis of our efforts to preserve a hospitable environment for our future.

Jeremy Shapiro is an adjunct professor of psychological sciences at Case Western Reserve University. This article was originally published at The Conversation.


  1. capnkent | | #1

    Great points you make. It makes a lot of sense but I still can't see how we'd convince them to look at it differently. There's a saying that goes somewhat like this - Arguing with an "insert title" is like wrestling with a pig in the mud. After awhile you realize they enjoy it, and you'll never convince them otherwise...

  2. sprockkets | | #2

    This actually has been expounded upon by Innuendo Studios in the video The Alt Right Playbook - I Hate Mondays. It's because conservatives have a mindset that if you can't solve something 100%, then you can't solve it at all. Climate change is just inevitable, natural, and nothing man does can change the climate in one way or another.
    Of course, that isn't true. But their denial is predicable. As the saying goes, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." Which, really, is another example of capitalism, because profits will always have to come first before people, the environment, the poor, or anyone or anything else.

  3. don5id | | #3

    Guys, the reason that many people aren't in agreement with most climate change activists isn't because they are prone to a conspiracy theory mindset or a "thinking errors." Believe me. It's because they simply don't trust the extremists/activists and their "true agenda". They believe that most climate change activists, and their financial supporters are really just trying to force a not so hidden anti-capitalist agenda on the world. A.k.a, leftist socialism.
    If both sides could and would be honest with each other, they should agree on two different sets of ideas that on their surface appear to be in opposition to each other. Number 1, the truth that climate change and most of the environmental catastrophes we are facing or soon will be facing are due to the maximization of capitalism (note the word "maximization"). Number 2, capitalism as a system has done a tremendous amount of good in the world, in many, many ways. However, when we humans try to maximize profits above all else, we wake up one day and half the rain forest is gone, and the half the ice caps have melted.

    1. sprockkets | | #7

      There is no good form of capitalism. Capitalism by its very definition, means profits aka, capital, first, which means no matter what, someone is going to do it (maximize profit to get ahead of the competition which usually involves treating workers poorly or cutting their pay or cutting corners in safety or other areas). The inevitability is always the same - money pooling into fewer and fewer hands and a consolidation of all companies. That's how you get Amazon, Google, Apple all dominating our lives.
      And as for point 2, well, sure, capitalism is better than feudalism. But once you learn that capitalism was a response to democracy taking power away from the rich elites, and that preserved the status quo, but in a different form, then no, really, it's a terrible system.
      You keep thinking conservatives think climate change is fake - that's a lie they tell their sheep to keep the grift going. They know very well it is real - even Trump does with how he shored up his properties. It's just not profitable to care about the environment.

      1. vap0rtranz | | #10

        >That's how you get Amazon, Google, Apple all dominating our lives.

        Amazon & Apple make money from consumerism and planned obsolescence. Google makes money from advertising. People could stop buying stuff and realize nothing is really "free". But the masses don't.

    2. vap0rtranz | | #11

      >It's because they simply don't trust the extremists/activists and their "true agenda". They believe that most climate change activists, and their financial supporters are really just trying to force a not so hidden anti-capitalist agenda on the world. A.k.a, leftist socialism.

      Yup. I'm a centrist who isn't bothered by watching a leftist news show and then listening to conservative talk radio, and it's pretty clear that "non-believers" do think there's unspoken agendas underneath climate change activism ... or most any activist activity for that matter.

      The problem for the left is wafting criticism aside instead of taking it seriously, and the problem for the right is always finding a BoogyMan lurking around even when none exists. In other words, the left thinks "it's all in their heads" and the right thinks "yes, it's all in YOUR heads". That's a challenging table to sit and as a centrist :)

      1. sprockkets | | #17

        Centrism just means right wing. There is no left wing party in America. And no, AOC is barely center left.
        When you listen to a "left wing" news show in America, like MSNBC, that's basically center right. It's watered down, ineffectual socialism. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty wrong with the "left" today, but really, people like Biden, Schummer, and Pelosi are all conservatives, ones who preserve the status quo and keep capitalism going. They are just better at hiding it than turnip.
        What you really are seeing going on is that conservatives, who mostly are republicans, don't like being sent down the capitalistic hierarchy. That's why it's always about power.

  4. BirchwoodBill | | #4

    The writer falls in the same trap that he accuses conservatives of following. Just because some of us don't accept all of the claims - does not make one a climate denier. It is like disagreeing with a policy and be accused of a racist. Aren't we beyond name calling?

    Most people do the best they can to reduce emissions and usage. Utilities are looking at mixing hydrogen with natural gas can create a cleaner burning fuel - which gives us time to beef up the electrical grid. Finding new sources of copper (and extracting) that material will be important. It takes capital and investment.;&title=&*URLENCODE(&TITLE;)&utm_source=&PUB_CODE;&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=&*URLENCODE({{*JobID}})&oly_enc_id=9341H8809012J6D

    1. sprockkets | | #6

      $20 you have no idea what conservatism as a political belief means.

      1. BirchwoodBill | | #8

        You would win that bet. But after working on engineering projects for the last 40 years - I believe in limited government and limited (focused) scope.

        1. sprockkets | | #18

          And that's not conservatism. Conservatism believes that

          1. Humans are inately inequal
          2. That humans natural state is a social hierarchy
          3. And your worth is determined by war or more often, capitalism.

          Which means that it's a system designed to continue the status quo in keeping the rich elites power, because "people with more dollars get more votes."

          Conservatives only believe in small government if it gives them power, aka, letting capitalism screw over the working class and prop up the capital class. If it benefits them, they'll have no issue doing big gov (fossil fuel subsidies, abortion issue, and other privacy issues they don't believe in).

  5. boxfactory | | #5

    Just my 2 cents, but I feel that the messaging in regards to climate change could be much better.

    I feel that we should be celebrating the creation of good jobs for people installing solar panels. We should be heralding the return of American manufacturing - in regards to said panels and wind turbines.

    We should bring electric vehicles to the people who like fast cars with big fossil fuel burning engines. Let them experience firsthand the instant acceleration and torque of an American made electric vehicle.

    Please show me the data that fancy graphs in regards to CO2 and average temperatures, change opinions of people who were originally climate change skeptics.

    This is America. Why are we not showing images or stories of good honest hard working Americans installing wind turbines, or in other words- being part of the solution, and spending their off time driving some of the most bad ass cars to ever be owned by the general public?


  6. nickdefabrizio | | #9

    This is an interesting article! Thanks.

    Evolution has made humans relatively good at solving immediate problems but relatively poor at solving problems with very long lead times (the boiling frog syndrom); especially when the solutions require immediate sacrifices. It has also made us bad at recognizing and resolving externalities (the negative impact of our behaviors that are suffered by unrelated third parties); especially when the "victims" are far away or distant in time and the solution requires behavioral change of large numbers of people. Markets and market based systems also tend to be relatively inefficient in dealing with these types of expansive and cross generational externalities.

    Climate Change is a prefect example of all of these. The consequences of our burning fossil fuels are hard to see immediately since the connection is not immediate and physically obvious (although the dirty air we currently are experiencing over the North East bucks that trend a bit). And the costs and sacrifices required to eliminate or drastically reduce fossil fuel use are great, given the enormous in place investment in fossil fuel extraction, transport and use and the energy density of these fuels.

    And so individuals vary in their willingness to recognize these externalities and take on personal sacrifices to resolve these externalities. This is true of most great societal issues, from climate change -to racial equality and inclusion -to economic fairness and justice. Over time, our political parties have tended to self sort on this axis to create a political divide between those eager to tackle these externalities and those who would prefer to ignore them or to leave it up to market forces.

    But few people are 100% one way or the other. For instance, I see myself closer to the progressive side when it comes to climate change. My wife and I have done a great deal to reduce our carbon footprint: airsealing, installing mini splits, heat pump hot water heater, large PV system, an EV and even an electric riding mower. This has cost us a great deal in terms of time, money and physical labor. On the other hand, my wife and I still live in a rural area and have decided not to move back into the city where our overall carbon footprint would shrink dramatically.. We also still want to travel in our retirement..So we can see some limit to what we have been willing to sacrifice so far.

    1. vap0rtranz | | #12

      >My wife and I have done a great deal to reduce our carbon footprint: airsealing, installing mini splits, heat pump hot water heater, large PV system, an EV and even an electric riding mower. This has cost us a great deal in terms of time, money and physical labor. On the other hand, my wife and I still live in a rural area and have decided not to move back into the city where our overall carbon footprint would shrink dramatically.. We also still want to travel in our retirement..

      Thank you for sharing Nick. I've had a similar experience.

      My partner and I retrofitted an old farmhouse -- with the help of forums like GBA. We went all electric with 8kW panels. We sold that house and are retrofitting our current one (again, an old farmhouse out in the country.)

      I'm critical of the activist climate agenda. My big concern is the cost and impact for lives the world around. We could afford to PV, PH/EV car, HPHW, mini-splits, spray-foam, etc. because of a large expendible income. Not everyone is so fortunate in this world.

      Activists realize, I assume, the financial reality of their climate agenda. The typical solution to the climate cost problem is usually to demonize capatalism. Well intentioned changes that individuals like me are willing to make dramatically morph into a socio-economic revolution. So I stop there. Peaceful revolutions have been very rare in history, so even more lives will probably be lost if alarmist activism goes forward as an overthrow of capatalism ... and probably democracy.

      Because I disagree with the activist on questions of cost and support a non-alarmist approach, I'm labelled a "climate deniar". My changes are too slow and work within The System of capatalism and democracy. Ironically, this "climate deniar" is still going to reduce my family's carbon footprint, and that should be common ground to come to the table and break bread. Evidently that isn't good enough.

      Limitations on liberty will be my litmus test for climate activism. Peronsally, I've made the *choice* to no longer fly. My partner chooses to keep flying. (I actually think Gretta made a great point when she -- or was it her parents?! -- decided to sail to that conference instead of fly, but that doesn't mean its right to force people not to fly or travel less or re-locate.) My partner and I won't be moving back to a city. Freedom and liberty are democratic ideals that will probably suffer at the hands extreme climate change activists. These examples are hypothetical extremes. As we all talk about this, States are deciding whether to allow new ICE cars to be sold. Just step back and look at this one change from a future historian a couple 100 years from now. That future historian will not get into details we talk about here but may simply remark something like this: "21st century governments banned the sale and use of fossil fuels". I would not be surprised if that future historians next remark would be a terse, "and citizens living near coastlines or in rural areas were re-located to State subsidized housing in cities". If any of our descendants are compelled to live in a city in the future, then the activists probably won their revolution -- but at what cost.


      1. nickdefabrizio | | #13

        I think the issues you raise are why many are hoping for technological solutions to that will allow us to drastically reduce carbon emmissions without drastic sacrifices to our lifestyle. Personally I am cautiously optimistic... We will see.

        We need to keep in mind also that a significant portion of the world population still lives without most modern amenities, and their carbon footprint is very low. Yet they want more of what the modern world offers-especially reliable electricity, clean water and internet. So their carbon footprint may soon increase rapidly. However, modern technologies may work quite well in these locales so that their carbon footprint will not grow as fast as it would had older technologies been instituted.

        For instance, in the villages in Rwanda and Kenya where my group works, they now have internet supplied over mobile systems that do not require thousands of miles of landlines or cable; and electricity supplied by small PV systems provide a modest but important amount of power while they wait for the national electric grid to reach the village. So kids in school can now access (on shared laptops) learning from an unlimited number of web based sources without the need to buy expensive books. And the intellectual abilities of people in these villages can be shared with the world, when just a few years ago people had to migrate to a large city to participate in the knowledge based economy of the outside world.

        1. vap0rtranz | | #15

          That is good news for the folks who've been living without the "developed world's" amenities and are out in rural communities.

          I'm also cautiously optimistic on tech solutions too. Take Musk's Starlink. It has great potential for the Rwandan and Kenyan example you gave. It's consumer cost, however, continue to rise. Maybe it shouldn't rise, and for that subsidies or market control or more public utilities are often said to be the answers. So the countrarian in me has the two-sided internal conversation: a) the Left would emphasize the emergency that if we don't do something now, then we're kicking the can, and b) the Right might emphasize the reality that if we expect future tech to fill these gaps, then we're kicking the can.

          Something else to keep in mind is when so-called developing countries opt to not wait and go with cheaper energy that's on the truck and ready to be deployed. It's hypocritical for people in the US to scold India for building cheap coal power plants unless we are willing to do something to help avoid it.

      2. Expert Member
        Michael Maines | | #14

        Justin, I share some of your viewpoints. I also live in a rural area and treasure my freedoms and liberty. But are we, or should we, really be free to do whatever we want? Should we be free to pollute rivers, with the resulting loss of life and ecosystems, and the freedom of others to enjoy the river? How is that different from polluting the atmosphere?

        1. vap0rtranz | | #16

          Yup, the energy gluttony for folks in the US. I get that.

          The easy answer is the problematic one that I think we're beating around the bush on. Make energy more expensive (with higher use tax), and big carbon footprint people, like Americans, will use less energy. Sounds easy.

          But how to selectively make energy more expensive within the US or EU or for whomever? That's a challenge because when energy prices rise for one group, there's a domino effect in global markets. The Ukranian War is the lastest example. More expensive fossil fuels, trickles all the way down to a farmers tractors, increases farm expenses, farmer needs to raise food prices; or if immediate ban on fossils happens, switch all farmers tractors to PH/EVs, demand for precious metals to build PV & batteries skyrocket (like crude oil there's only so much lithium ore on the planet), raising expenses again for the farmer, so again food prices rise. Et cetera ad naseum. Shielding so-called "developing nations" from those domino affects would be a challenge if the simple answer is taxes to make energy use less appealing to heavy carbon footprint users. A complete ban might avoid some of that domino crap but, like I said, I think that implies a complete socio-economic revolution.

          And yes your point is fair. We don't have the freedom to do whatever we want. That's one purpose of government.

          I'd just say that we live in a different world now than the Greenies and Hippies of the 60s. The EPA started in, what, 1970? And I think the EPA has made good progress on your questions. But instead of a 1960s Live-and-Let-Live world where the government responded to the Green movement with moderated regulation via the EPA, and when the motto sounded like "Hey man, I want to live in this commune off the grid with Nature and whoever I want"; the alarm bells on climate change now sound like Government-is-the-ONLY-Solution and individual action be damned. So a "You'll get this taxpayer incentive for moving into the city and this subsidy for a PV system that your apartment building must install by 2030". An activist on another forum told me that individual action is too late and communal action -- aka. government -- is the only solution for 2050. Wow! Talk about a demeaning way to gut each person's stake in this. It means that individuals on GBA choosing to retrofit or build with carbon footprints in mind doesn't matter. Only mandates matter. And who decides those mandates? That's a big difference in culture and approach from when the EPA started out with individuals staking their choice. Since this forum is GBA -- Green is in the name -- I think it's important to call out original, good intentions about the environment that may have fell into the wrong hands of authoritarians.

          1. Expert Member
            Michael Maines | | #19

            I am all for a free-market or individual response to climate change but I have zero confidence that it will be effective.

      3. maine_tyler | | #23

        "capatalism ... and probably democracy."

        You seem to conflate capitalism with democracy.

        "I would not be surprised if that future historians next remark would be a terse, "and citizens living near coastlines or in rural areas were re-located to State subsidized housing in cities".

        You also seem to make projective leaps as that last bit is entirely made up.

        Seeing as today is the past's future, perhaps a useful exercise is to look back on what happened and consider how we view it today. Do we scoff at the past for 'banning' unsanitary public septic regimes? Or do we celebrate a modern infrastructure that has dramatically reduced disease? D0 we scoff at the past for 'banning' gladiator fight-to-the-death style entertainment, or do we celebrate that we no longer need to get our kicks from watching people kill each other (sort of anyways).

        1. vap0rtranz | | #26


          Some of what what I said has been discussed and isn't all hypothetical, and something society should discuss to figure out the risks and changes. Coastline communities would need to relocate if sea levels rise accelerates. My comment about cities was in response to Nick's because demographics keep shifting to cities and carbon footprints decrease in communal buildings. I actually didn't know anyone was thinking of cities would be more climate resilient until Duluth was put on the map as most resilient. Some reporting on climate-smart cities has been more balanced ... that no place on Earth is immune from weather or climate change.

          I'm not following what your last paragraph means for climate change.


          1. maine_tyler | | #27

            "I'm not following what your last paragraph means for climate change."

            You were talking about future historians judging the actions of today. I was pointing out that you were projecting today's bias (your personal one, further) on that of the future.

  7. junglepete | | #20

    It's ironic to me that the article above critiques the black and white thinking of "climate change deniers", when the definition of "climate change denial" are those that cast any doubt on the climate change narrative. Turning "doubt" into a black and white situation.... either with us or against us.

    I think that the theory and the data showing that the increase in CO2 is warming the earth is sound. And rallying behind climate change activism would make me more popular among my peers. However, I have doubts about the climate change alarmism narrative. (by definition making me a "denier")
    Too many times I discover the climate change alarmists and even the large scientific organisations like NOAA pushing false information. It's particularly glaring when they try to push the narrative that the increase in forest fires is mainly due to climate change, ignoring the 100 years intensive fire suppression and it's inherent fuel loading. There seems to be a strange agenda that allows really crappy scientific papers to get published if they support a climate alarmist narrative and, according to Dr. Richard Lindzen, very difficult to publish anything deemed climate change scepticism. I'm not exactly sure what the motive is. Maybe they're just trying to divide us. Personally I'm more concerned with the nuclear reactor thats leaking into the headwaters of the Mississippi (though it barely gets any press).
    I try hard to keep a balanced perspective. A perspective that hopefully relates as closely as possible to physical reality. On the "Sceptic" side there are quite a few impressive SCIENTISTS that have strong arguments. Unfortunately, on the "Alarmist" side I can find very few. And among those I can not find ANY that present climate change as an existential threat. Perhaps my search algorithm is screwed up. Can anyone stear me toward a respected SCIENTIST that presents climate change as an existential threat?

    1. vap0rtranz | | #21

      Yup, the topic is painted black & white to frame it as a false dichtomy and squash discussion.

      Either the person will fall in line or the person is labelled as other and typical high school behavior follows. I noticed "they" / "them" was quickly used in this thread. It's disheartening to see this dichotomy happening in the 21st century on an important topic where we could find common ground. We're all here on GBA, where many members have shared experiences about making homes more energy efficient, and I find that a great place to start a discussion. Common ground is not valued or sought after.

      To answer your last question directly, scientists who've spoken to the public about the need for policy change and put that on record in public lectures or publications for the general public are Dressler, Mann, and Schneider. Schneider is, sadly, no longer with us but was a force to reckon. Scientists who've taken a critical view -- "denier"?! label -- in public are Coonin, Curry, and yes, Lindzen. For a broader answer, you could also look at the scientists that Oreskes reviewed in the concensus paper on climate change since those scientists are probably only in literature and not in the public domain. I've read some papers directly. Reading more than the abstracts requires library access to the paywalled scientific papers and then sifting through technical jargon, which is another problem even an educated public stumbles on.

      The IPCC itself is mostly readable too. It's online:

      One problem for the general public is it uses some unusual language that isn't even scientific jargon. Confidence levels, agreement, and likelihoods aren't summarized in statistical terms but transmuted to natural language. So a reader must know more words to decipher the IPCC's numerical degrees of certainty. This language results in some odd conclusions that aren't reported accurately.

      For example, here's the IPCC AR6 on Greenland ice melt -- a hot topic in the public. The IPCC certainty language as its best:

      "There is high confidence that total ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet will increase with cumulative emissions. There is limited evidence for low-likelihood, high-impact outcomes (resulting from ice-sheet instability processes characterized by deep uncertainty and in some cases involving tipping points) that would strongly increase ice loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet for centuries under high GHG emissions scenarios." pg 38

      OK, decipher that one. I'm no expert but the scientists in this working group appear to mean there's not much evidence ("limited evidence") that a large ice melt ("low-likelihood, high impact") would result in a catastrophic chain of events ("ice-sheet instability ... tipping points"). The reporting on Greenland ice melt to the public, however, is alarming. The AP reported earlier this year that melting is "devastating" going into to "hyperdrive": Emotive language doesn't help us figure out which policies or changes to make ... it all becomes alarming noise instead of clear guidance.

      A peer reviewed paper assessed scientists use of the IPCC certainty language for version (AR6), and though that paper says "it's the best we got", the authors also suggest that scientists could be better trained on the use of that language -- aka. the IPCC certainty language is not fully understood or used consistently by scientists. That paper is actually not paywalled: Of course, none of this level of detail is reported to the general public. And if anything, correct and consistent use of language is critical for us to know and discuss what the heck is going on.

      It's important for an educated public to be empowered with knowledge and discussion. We should have agency to inform each other rather than be shoved into false dichotomies that divide us. Proff Shapiro's article, sadly, does not help empower and unite us.

      1. junglepete | | #22

        Thank you vaportranz. This is an excellent post. I'll come back to this again and again. I wish this was published at an accessible location for everyone... a starting point for anyone to learn about climate change.

      2. maine_tyler | | #24

        I'm not sure I see what the point being made here (post 21) is.

        In summary, climate change science is complex and nuanced, so we should consider its existence uncertain? Certain futures are undoubtedly uncertain.

        Or that we should strive for the general public to be getting into the weeds over whether a certain predictive outcome will occur, is likely to occur, or won't likely occur?

        The discourse over climate change of the 'general public' is NOT the same as scientific discourse. Look at social media, general media, etc. and what you see are the most basic tribal arguments, not only not based on in depth and nuanced science, but not necessarily based in reality at all.

        Like most complex scientific topics, the public discourse will simply not be scientifically rigorous. This isn't to say there aren't people in the 'general population' that can endeavor on a path of understanding, but the granular details will not dominate the larger public discussion.

        What we're largely stuck with is a reliance on 'experts,' just like we rely on experts to send satellites and humans into space, to build nuclear power plants, etc.

        Trust in experts (whether true experts or only so-called) is drastically waning. Politically, the situation HAS become very dichotomous, with certain persuasions deciding that any piece of information deemed to be coming from an 'establishment' is false.

        Nuance of language in an IPCC report really has no bearing on the fundamental science any more than it has bearing on how the general populace decides whether they believe in climate change. It comes entirely down to political predispositions, which unfortunately is quite polarized.

        The forces responsible for polarizing us are not coming from 'one side'. The mainstream media certainly does a horrible job reporting on climate change/science. Much media is specifically designed on a business model of inciting hatred of some 'other.'

        Even so called moderates struggle with a plethora of ideas that might help fight climate change because they see these ideas as being counter to some core value—most prominently capitalism (as stated above). If we stepped back and attempted to view this as aliens, I think we would be astounded to see the self destruction of a society due to an unwillingness to seek solutions outside of a narrow, religious framework based on money flows. Capitalism is not inherently evil OR inherently good. It is an economic model and we should treat it as nothing more.

        As far as freedoms: many people have coopted the word freedom to basically mean that if you have money, power, and/or privilege, you can do what you want-- with the individual as the center reference for the discussion. Meanwhile, countless freedoms are either destroyed or never even conceived of because we have, again, too narrowly focused a religious idea on what 'freedom' means in terms of extreme individuality and with disregard for larger communal and global frameworks.

        1. vap0rtranz | | #25

          I was answering Pete (junglepetes) question about which climate scientists have spoken publicly and linked to publicly available documents.

          I don't think all establishment is to be distrusted.

          Actually I agree with you that a lot of this has become polarized. This article doesn't help. Basically a psychologist saying 'those people' have a mental instability isn't a great way to start a conversation.


          1. maine_tyler | | #28

            I won't defend the tone or specific language of the article, but the ways in which *non scientific* discourse is twisted via the methods he outlines seems pretty accurate. I'm even seeing it here in this thread.

            There is a difference between allowing/encouraging scientific discussion and saying people should be able to make up whatever nonsense reasoning they want to support their predetermined narrative.

            Picking apart minutiae that is out of context and not understood for lack of expertise is not the same as scientific discussion. The cart is too often before the horse and not genuine, yet it gets dressed up as "healthy discourse" or "healthy skepticism" when in reality it's intentionally looking to poke holes with a predrawn conclusion.

  8. Cowboy | | #29

    Here is why I endorse black and white thinking and deny the warmers' claims to "science". Science is the proper application of reason to aspects of physical reality in pursuit of identification and understanding. To become factual, meaning to establish any claim as true, requires proof.

    Proof demonstrates that a thing or process or connection exists. Science is supposed to demonstrate by the scientific method, whereby a hypothesis is tested in every conceivable way, to show that logically no other known explanation exists, than that of the hypothesis. In other words, true scientists who value truth routinely seek to refute any given hypothesis. A single refutation reveals the hypothesis to be false.

    Black and white thinking is rationality. Either a thing or process or connection exists, or it does not exist. There is no gray area between existence and non-existence.

    People who believe in gray areas sometimes unconsciously believe that reality is a social construct, a product of the mind, meaning quite often, the minds of officially anointed "experts". To many such folk, there are no facts and reasoning, only "official doctrine". Again, this world view would seem to lend itself to the conviction that truth is a social construct, rather than truth as a proven discovery and identification of some aspect of the world. In this view, or so it seems to me, the "gray" in belief derives from the "social aspect" of truth.

    I very much doubt the truth of the various "climate change and global warming" hypotheses, because none of them have been proven. There are problems with these models. For instance, no one knows with certainty what percentage of the skies is composed of CO2, but it is no more than a trace component, way less than 1 percent. Yet we're supposed to believe that man's productive activity will bring doom by increasing CO2. In past ice age periods, the onset was preceded by large leaps in CO2 concentrations, three or five times higher than earlier in history, as demonstrated in ice core studies. This was possibly because the natural warming trend that preceded an ice age released CO2 from the ocean, which is a carbon sink. Those pre ice age COs concentrations were much higher than today's guestimates.

    Similarly, the rising CO2 traces in the skies thought to be in progress could be traced back to natural warming from the last mini-ice age, which warms the seas which releases CO2.

    I could go on, but there is a broad point to be respected, which is that the thousands of studies that claim to bear out the CO2 plant food as dangerous pollutant have been commissioned mainly by entities dedicated to furthering this ideology. These studies are funded with tax dollars or money from wealthy foundations run by bureaucrats indoctrinated in green ideology.

    This ideology is riddled with logical problems.

    This is why I think "black and white" makes perfect sense and global warming ideology is false.

    1. maine_tyler | | #31

      "This is why I think "black and white" makes perfect sense and global warming ideology is false."

      You think that word salad you posted supports such a claim? You are framing with hollow words. No structure of reasoning exists in what you wrote; it is merely a veil for your political opinions.

      Things may exist or not exist, but agreement will never be 100%. That doesn't mean something has been proven wrong, despite your assertion. There is no such thing as settled science if 100% must agree.

    2. maine_tyler | | #33

      You're also misrepresenting science. If we ask "does gravity exist or not?" The scientific answer is not merely a yes or no. There is an observed phenomenon we call gravity, but the explanations for the fundamental nature of it are quite varied (e.g. Newtonian vs Einsteinian interpretations). Reality is complex and it can be understood as layers of truth.

      We attempt to predict the weather and we do so with a baseline of fundamental understandings about a very complex system with many compounding interactions. Then we build models. No model represents the real thing, for it would no longer be a model but the thing itself. We CAN predict the weather using them, but they are far from 100% accurate. Some events are more reliably predicted than others. So are the models "false" or "wrong"? Well, yes strictly speaking I suppose you could say they are at least incomplete because they have less than 100% accuracy, but that doesn't mean our understanding of underlying fundamentals is entirely incorrect or that the models don't function for a purpose. Any monkey who tunes into a weather forecast knows they have some predictive power.

      Climate predictions are likewise not 100% accurate. Using that as a claim that it is 100% totally false is a fallacy, and you appear to be the poster child for adhering to said fallacy. Or perhaps your post is satire; that would make more sense.

  9. Cowboy | | #30

    I do not know how many people who hold to gray areas in truth cannot be reached by facts and reasoning. "Some" is more appropriate than "Many", for this reason. I also do not know of any green study that proves its claim; maybe there are some out there. I would have to study the study to know, which is not going to happen re this issue.

    1. Expert Member
      Deleted | | #32


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