Bad Astronomy

Global Warming: It’s OK to Be Smart About It

it's OK to be smart
It really is OK to be smart.

Photo by Joe Hanson, from the video

So you know the Earth is warming up—after all, it’s overwhelmingly obvious and the vast majority of climate scientists agree about it. But some people just can’t seem to accept that; in the loudest cases they’re ideologically driven (and/or fossil fuel–funded), but it’s possible that a lot of folks just don’t have the facts. 

When you talk to them at a cocktail party (or at family dinners, what with the holidays and all that), things can get ugly fast. Short of running away or having your head explode, what can you do?

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Here’s an idea: Show them this video from It’s OK to Be Smart, created by scientist and science communicator Joe Hanson.

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Not bad! He covers a lot of the basic knowledge you need to counter most of the silly global warming denier claims. If you need more, I suggest Skeptical Science’s amazing list of climate myth debunkings, and Hank Green’s video debunking of ten common claims.

And if they bring up the so-called pause in warming, well, there’s been a lot of noise about it, but when you look at the data carefully, the pause disappears. And when people talk about this faux pause they only look at atmospheric temperatures, and even then a limited set of them. When you look at the heat budget of the whole planet, including the oceans, things look a whole lot less pause-y.

Studies have shown that presenting the facts by themselves doesn’t usually work to change a person’s mind, especially if those beliefs are ideologically based. Worse, in some cases it an make them dig in. That’s one reason I generally don’t engage with deniers and such on social media (also, they typically aren’t interested in a real discussion anyway). But I think at the very least the facts need to be out there, and hopefully the information here will help.

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