Disproving a scientific theory is easy. To begin with, a theory cannot be proven; it can only be disproven. Those who want to show that global warming is false begin with a distinct advantage, because those who believe in it cannot prove it.
Disproving a scientific theory is easy.
The only thing necessary is to prove that any significant evidence about global warming is incorrect. The topic of global warming is very complex, and involves measurements of varying sorts, but all it would take to cast doubt on the entire subject would be compelling reason to doubt the essence of any important part.
That ought to be easy. Let’s begin with this: global warming is a worldwide conspiracy among scientists in order to get more grant money. Now, since this is a worldwide conspiracy, involving many thousands of scientists, there is a strong chance that one of them will slip up and spill the beans. Deniers thought they had found the smoking gun a few months back in an email from a scientist who was frustrated by political ineptitude, but his email actually proved nothing.
But wait a minute. Suppose there were a smoking gun, or many of them, proving that scientists worldwide were trying to get more grant money. That might prove that scientists were trying to get more grant money, but it says nothing about global warming. So deniers will have to move on to the science itself.
A smoking gun would prove that
scientists were trying to get more grant money,
but it says nothing about global warming.
Take a typical measurement, such as average air temperature over the globe, over extended periods of time. Here’s a chart from Planet Seed that presents temperatures since the 1860s (from research by the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, in the UK). The 1860s is when we started collecting this data. (Click on the chart for a clearer picture.)
The average air temperature during the entire period is shown by the central axis labeled zero. Annual average temperatures above and below the overall average are indicated by the small dots. The thick line shows the five-year average for every point up to the early 2000s. (This gives us a visual smoothing that doesn’t jump around so much.) It is very clear that temperatures have been rising since the early 1900s. So the deniers’ goal must be to prove that either the measurements over that 140+ years have been incorrectly recorded, or that the temperature variation is not statistically significant. But simply asserting it is so disproves nothing. We await their evidence.
Let’s look at water and land temperatures now. The following graph is from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It is constructed the same way the above chart of air temp is done. The dotted line represents annual variation, the solid line represents five-year averages. In addition, the green bar represents the range of possible statistical error, so the actual temperature could be a tenth of a degree warmer or cooler at any point—but not a whole degree.
Once again, we can see that land and ocean temps have been rising since the early 1900s, this time through 2010. So the task of those who want to prove the falsehood of global warming is the same—prove bad measurement or statistical non-significance.
Well, how about glaciers and snow cover? Glaciers are literally rivers of ice. Snow falls in the mountains, becomes compressed and heavy, and moves slowly downhill to the sea. Below is a Canadian National Archives photo of a Canadian glacier taken in 1919 followed by a 2005 photo of the same glacier taken by Gary Braasch (used by permission). Virtually every one of the 140,000 glaciers in the world shows the same losses. Chunks the size of Manhattan have fallen off of some glaciers. The famous snows of Kilimanjaro in Africa and the peak of Mt. Everest in Nepal are nearing a point of rock baldness. Melting in the Arctic has made the legendary Northwest Passage trade route a reality after millennia when it was totally icebound.
Water. Surely there’s no evidence. Well, perhaps, but two million people living on islands off of Bangladesh have been forced to move to the mainland as their land fell into the rising sea and was washed away. The Pacific state of Tuvalu is all but abandoned. Tides regularly wash over the few roads, and bubble up in people’s yards. Seychelles leaders are trying to work out a plan so they won’t have to abandon the islands. The same is true of Kiribati. Very low-lying areas of the US are finding themselves submerged in shallow water. Seashore homes are being moved or abandoned. Here are some pictures.
Some numbers from NASA: Arctic sea ice summer minimum: decreasing by 12% per decade; sea level: up 3.19 mm per year; global temperature: up 1.5˚ F since 1880; land ice (Greenland): 100,000,000,000 tons of ice lost per year; atmospheric CO2, 378 ppm in 2005, 393 in 2012.
A word about CO2. The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, claims that CO2 cannot be causing warming because it’s not a carcinogen. Other Republican politicians have said similarly stupid things. These people get an F in grade school science. Most elementary school students today know that added CO2 and other gasses cause warming by reflecting additional heat back to the Earth. It’s called the greenhouse effect. [Addendum: Boehner recently complained that reps are stupid.]
Republican climate-change deniers
get an F in grade school science.
So, yes, it’s actually very easy for climate change deniers to find support for their beliefs. All they have to do is find some legitimate evidence that disproves almost any major aspect of what the world community of scientists continues to show. So far, not only have they utterly failed to do so, but they have pretty much proven they have no interest in actually trying. That’s a good strategy, because the evidence is massively against them. Climate change denial is an issue of ideology. The science is clear and conclusive.