Handbook for fighting climate-denialism


From 2011, Skeptical Science's excellent Debunking Handbook, a short guide for having discussions about climate change denial that tries to signpost the common errors that advocates of the reality of anthropogenic global warming make when talking to people who disbelieve.

The Handbook explores the surprising fact that debunking myths can sometimes reinforce the myth in peoples' minds. Communicators need to be aware of the various backfire effects and how to avoid them, such as:

* The Familiarity Backfire Effect
* The Overkill Backfire Effect
* The Worldview Backfire Effect

The Debunking Handbook: now freely available for download

(via Dan Hon)

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  1. I'm glad someone took the time to do this, but I have to say I'm not optimistic about it doing a lot of good. Denialists are generally not likely to be convinced of anything they don't want to believe by empirical evidence, and, in my experience, are prone to simply repeating a lie louder when confronted with incontrovertible evidence that it's false.

  2. i hope it is a really thick handbook, i know a few people that need to be whacked over the head with it.

  3. The thing is that the problem isn't simply temperatures, but rates of change that ecosystems and civilizations have trouble adapting to. A very rapid increase or decrease is a bad thing. A rapid increase now to prevent a not-quite-as-rapid decrease later isn't actually a mitigation, it's only a different problem.

    Besides, now we know how to heat up the atmosphere within the span of a century or so. So if nobody expects an ice age within a few millennia, there's no reason to support doing that now. Quite the contrary; maybe in the future we'd be better at doing it, have an occasion that doesn't involve so many cases of droughts, extreme weather, and all sorts of other damage, or actually prepare for them, who knows.

    The idea that future problems mean we shouldn't worry about how many lives are being ruined right now, countries destabilized, ecosystems disrupted, and species extinguished is not part of taking the long view. It's being indifferent to present problems. After all, with hundreds of generations between them, we could easily worry about warming now and cooling in the distant future.

    An ice age is not going to be a problem for "Western civilization" if we can't be bothered to make sure it lasts that long, and fortunately, the idea that we somehow couldn't care about both is an entirely false dichotomy.

  4. One reason I'd be considerably less worried about an ice age is that, technically, we're living in one now, and humans evolved during this ice age. This is just a relatively warm period; humans have survived much colder periods, including the last glacial period, 110,000 to 12,000 years ago. We've evolved for the cold extremes of Earth's historical range of temperatures.

    Obviously, a new glacial period would require major relocations of population centers and significant changes to agriculture. But, renewed glaciation would develop over the course of centuries. We'd have time to adapt.

    If the Earth experiences a 5 C increase in average temperature over a century, that will be the most rapid rate of climate change in the last 50 million years.

    For most of the history of the Earth, it's been much hotter than this. I think we're significantly less likely to survive the effects of runaway greenhouse effects, which by the Clathrate gun hypothesis is what led to the Permian-Triassic extinction event, in which 70% of terrestrial species and 96% of oceanic species went extinct.

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