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Ironically, the more evidence there is to support man-made global warming, the fewer Americans believe it is true

Bill McKibben, who wrote the first book on global warming aimed at a general audience in 1989, notes that at the time even the Wall Street Journal and then president Bush (Senior) both generally agreed that there was a problem. Way back then, there were only a few dozen scientific studies that supported man-made global warming.

But now, two decades later, there are thousands of rigorous studies that confirm global warming, not to mention little things like the fact that the 15 warmest years on record have occurred during that time. And yet, the number of Americans who believe that global warming is man-made is decreasing.

McKibben makes an interesting analogy to the OJ Simpson trial. At the start of the trial everyone knew Simpson was guilty of murder, but the dream team of lawyers Simpson hired did everything to create doubt, any doubt, by examining any crack in the evidence, or anything done wrong by the police. And the more evidence there is, the easier it is to find cracks or mistakes.

And that’s the whole point. Because there are so many studies on global warming, it is easier to find one or two studies where some small scientific mistake was made, or at least some shortcut taken. As he says, the larger the haystack, the more likely it is to contain a needle or two.



  1. Effis wrote:

    I believe the proper term is ‘climate change’.

    Some places get hotter, some colder, some more rain, some much less rain. The ‘warming’ really depends on where you are. Witness Canada’s record high temperatures and melting arctic, while the southern US and Europe are in a deep freeze. Around the world, the same – things are wonky.

    Personally I think it was a conscious decision by some to use the term ‘global warming’ because they could deny it when things get cold….

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 1:55 am | Permalink
  2. starluna wrote:

    Effis: global warming refers to the overall increase in the earth’s average temperature near surface and in the oceans.

    Climate change refers to the effects that global warming has on the earth’s climate systems.

    Climate change varies by region. Global warming is a whole earth phenomenon.

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  3. James M wrote:

    Climate change or what ever…. It does not matter becuase the church of the GOP have come out against it and so all the true believers are sure it cant be true.

    To admit that it is real would be like admitting that hippies were right about the Vietnam war, or that the USSR do not eat their children.

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink
  4. starluna wrote:

    James, the words you use do matter. Just like the poll that found greater support for gays/lesbians serving openly in the military than for homosexuals, there is greater support for doing something about climate change impacts than for global warming. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham is promoting doing something about “this climate issue”. Go up to Maine where you will meet nothing but hardcore Republicans, and you will find people who can tell you in painful detail how the weather seems to be very different than when they were growing up. And they are open to doing something about it. When I talk with legislators, I know that I can’t use the term global warming and frankly it doesn’t matter. If I can get them to do something about climate change, I can get them to do something about global warming, whether they believe in it or not.

    Monday, March 1, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Starluna makes a very good point. Unfortunately, in the political world the words you use do make a difference.

    Personally, I don’t like either of the terms “global warming” or “climate change”. I think James M has a point, because if you call it “global warming” then Fox News goes nuts when it snows anywhere, but if you call it “climate change” then they trot out the (valid) scientific evidence that the climate has changed many times, even before man existed.

    I always liked “greenhouse effect” because it is very evocative. But you could also call it “carbon dioxide pollution”.

    Monday, March 1, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink
  6. starluna wrote:

    My favorite response to a self-identified conservative who asserted the “climate change is natural” rag was (I paraphrase): I thought conservatives didn’t like change?

    Monday, March 1, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink
  7. Chris wrote:

    Well, you shouldn’t really use the term “greenhouse effect” either, in place of climate change, because the greenhouse effect refers to the natural effect that greenhouse gasses have on the planet, which is to say they prevent a certain amount of heat from escaping and turning the whole planet into a frigid iceball. The term has nothing to do with whether the planet is getting even warmer.

    The greenhouse effect makes life on Earth possible, and isn’t something we’d want to combat. Global warming is an intensified greenhouse effect, or the greenhouse effect on steroids.

    So when climate change deniers deny the greenhouse effect, they’re actually claiming that it’s, like, -28 degrees outside.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Chris, you ironically make a very good argument *for* calling it “greenhouse effect” (or something similar, like “hyper greenhouse effect” or “hyper greenhouse syndrome”).

    Oh this is fun — now I’m looking up words in my thesaurus. How about “greenhouse fever” or “turbocharged greenhouse effect” or “overactive greenhouse disorder”.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  9. Chris wrote:

    How about, The Hyper-heated Mega-melting Inescacable Greenhouse Chamber?

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Permalink
  10. Rob Evans wrote:

    I think many scientists will agree that there is definitely warming, but many will disagree that it’s man-made. The main evidence for the causal link to man is computer simulations. And unfortunately the parameters of the computer models are calibrated with very incomplete data.

    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    Rob, you’re entitled to your opinions, but if you want to claim that many scientists disagree that global warming is man made, please back it up with some references. The overwhelming majority (97%) of scientists — who are actually working in the field of climate change — have no doubts that it is man made. See

    That’s a pretty strong consensus. There are so few scientists who oppose this viewpoint that Wikipedia has a list of them. See

    You could probably find more “scientists” who think the earth is flat.

    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  12. Iron Knee wrote:

    Oh, and this just out:

    Climate scientists have hit back at skeptics with the publication of a new paper that says the case for man-made global warming is now “stronger than ever.”

    An international team of scientists led by Britain’s Met Office — the country’s national weather service — has spent the past year reviewing 110 studies published since 2007 that tracked changes in the earth’s climate. Their paper, published in the journal Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, concluded that the possibility the world is warming because of natural variations in climate (such as increased volcanic or solar activity) is “increasingly remote.” Instead, they firmly pin the blame on man’s burning of fossil fuels.

    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink