5 Facts to Stump Climate Change Deniers

Nov 24, 2010
A six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, Jon writes about all things ocean.

It used to be that politics and religion were best avoided during family gatherings… like Thanksgiving. Add climate change to that list.

With 98 percent of the world’s climatologists agreeing that man-made pollution is hastening the Earth’s warming—and that it’s not a good thing—more and more climate skeptics are responding “Phooey!”

The other day, standing at a Starbucks in midtown Manhattan, a man from the U.K. matter-of-factly and unprovoked said to me, “That Al Gore, he sure got rich off scaring people, didn’t he?” (My unspoken response? “Phooey!”)

If complete strangers are tossing the climate gauntlet while in line for coffee, God knows what greenhouse bombs will be dropped by friends and family under the influence of too much turkey.

This cat from the Egyptian port city of Alexandria could be awash in the Mediterranean if the current rate of global warming is not reversed. (Photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

Prepare yourself for the warming skeptics in your life with five appropriate arguments to counter seasonal climate change deniers.

1)   Everyone agrees that the Earth warms and cools cyclically. But satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the bigger picture, collecting a variety of information types about climate on a global scale. The current warming trend is of particular significance. Most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.

2)   All 15 of the warmest years on record have come in the two decades since 1989, with the 10 warmest years occurring in the past 12 years.  

3)   Global sea levels rose nearly 7 inches in the past century. The rate in the past decade, however, is nearly double that of the rest of the century.

4)   The extent and the thickness of Arctic sea ice have declined rapidly over the past several decades. Glaciers are retreating in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa. Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 36 to 60 cubic miles of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 36 cubic miles of ice between 2002 and 2005.

5)   Taking all of those changes into account, many scientists now say that the sea level is likely to rise by as much as 3 feet by 2100. The sort of coastal flooding that now happens once or twice a century will occur every few years. The same calculations suggest that the rise could exceed 6 feet, which would put thousands of square miles of the American coastline under water and would displace tens of millions of people in Asia. Acknowledging that the studies are still primitive, scientists point out they could just as easily be underestimating as overestimating the severity.

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