Firstly I will use this rather old fashioned name rather than the more common “denier” to avoid any implication of nastiness. From the Oxford English Dictionary “One who differs from the opinion of the majority”. However I do agree with George Monbiot’s comment that most seem in denial and should definitely not be called sceptics (a seeker after truth).
Most of them are not part of the scientific community, and have written very few peer reviewed papers. Again there are very few climate scientists among them, who are the ones you would expect would know their subject. They are still very active and are commonly reported in the media. A number of them appear to be funded, usually indirectly, by large energy companies.
Most folk don’t have the time to stay up to date with the science, and so you may get the impression from the press that some of the “denier’s” recent points are valid. Usually a few hours work on the web is enough to convince you that it amounts to choosing the data to suit the theory or complete bullshit, and there are some useful links at the bottom of this page if you want to review any particular point of view.
You may wonder how you can tell who is right in these arguments, so I will quickly review one of the current denier favourites, the “It stopped warming in 1998″.
The world hasn’t warmed since 1998
There are two main temperature records, Nasa’s Gistemp and The UK Met Office Hadley Centre’s HadCRUT3. They are both respected, but vary in their treatment of the Arctic where there are few measurements.
HadCRUT3 has 1998 as the warmest year on record while Nasa shows 2005 as slightly warmer. 1998 was the most intense El Nino year on record, which tends to transfer heat from the oceans to the atmosphere while 2008 was a La Nina which does the opposite.
You can therefore choose the HadCRUT3 graph, and draw a descending line from 1998 to 2008 and claim we are cooling. It’s important to choose 1998 as your start point as both 1997 and 1999 show warming trends, and this is the obvious fault in the claim. This “cherry picking” seems very common to denier’s claims.
Obviously the weather does vary year to year, and so most scientists use 10-15 year averages to determine trends. If you do this it becomes obvious we are continuing to warm. Peter Sinclair’s video on Climate Denial Crock of the Week explains in simple language and in 6 minutes why it didn’t stop warming in 1998. I recommend you look at a few of his other videos if you harbour any lingering doubts.
Websites that specialise in debunking dissentient claims:
Climate Denial Crock of the Week is a set of videos that debunk many of the deniers claims in language simple enough for anyone to understand.
RealClimate Wiki A supplement to the RealClimate which has notes and links to articles on many of the common claims.
DeSmog Blog looks at industry responses to the issue.
Global Warming Debate includes flash presentations on the subject