Climate Change Denial
Heads in the Sand
Foreword by Naomi Professor Oreskes
Routledge – 2011 – 192 pages
Humans have always used denial. When we are afraid, guilty, confused, or when something interferes with our self-image, we tend to deny it. Yet denial is a delusion. When it impacts on the health of oneself, or society, or the world it becomes a pathology. Climate change denial is such a case. Paradoxically, as the climate science has become more certain, denial about the issue has increased. The paradox lies in the denial. There is a denial industry funded by the fossil fuel companies that literally denies the science, and seeks to confuse the public. There is denial within governments, where spin-doctors use 'weasel words' to pretend they are taking action. However there is also denial within most of us, the citizenry. We let denial prosper and we resist the science.
Climate Change Denial explains the social science behind denial. It contains a detailed examination of the principal climate change denial arguments, from attacks on the integrity of scientists, to impossible expectations of proof and certainty to the cherry picking of data. Climate change can be solved – but only when we cease to deny that it exists. This book shows how we can break through denial, accept reality, and thus solve the climate crisis. It will engage scientists, university students, climate change activists as well as the general public seeking to roll back denial and act.
'Ignorance of science is one blockade to effective action on the human predicament. But corporate-financed disinformation campaigns, such as that claiming that climate disruption is a hoax, are equally important. This excellent short book will help solve both those problems.'- Paul R. Ehrlich, co-author of Humanity on a Tightrope
'Climate Change Denial reveals the crossroads we face as a society: do we let denial and confusion continue to derail solutions, leaving us vulnerable to runaway climate change, or do we accept reality and forge a truly sustainable path for future generations?'- James Hoggan, author of Climate Cover-Up and president of DeSmogBlog
'This is a major contribution to the growing body of well-reasoned analyses of climate change denial. It's a must read for anyone interested in understanding the tactics used by the 'denial industry' to attack scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change.' -Riley E. Dunlap, Regents Professor of Sociology, Oklahoma State University
'Climate Change denial is the biggest single obstacle to achieving a sustainable future. This book provides all the evidence and arguments you need to counter the campaign of misinformation. Read it, study it and spread its message widely.' -Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor, School of Science, Griffith University and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation
'The climate denial industry has worked effectively for years, hidden in the shadows, doing their dirty work of misleading the public, misrepresenting the science of climate change, and helping to condemn the world to now unavoidable and rapidly escalating climate disruption. No more: Washington and Cook shine a bright light on the charlatans, organizations, and funders behind the climate denial industry and on their tricks and tactics. While climate deniers are unlikely to disappear entirely, this clear and compelling book will make it easier for the general public to see through their tricks, and more likely that the world will move faster to take action on the most urgent environmental problem we have ever faced.' -Dr. Peter Gleick, hydroclimatologist, Member US National Academy of Sciences, MacArthur Fellow, President, Pacific Institute
'A refusal to accept valid scientific findings is a growing problem, and not only regarding global warming, although especially serious there. Washington and Cook offer the best available guide to recognizing and combating such denial. Their book is compact, lucidly written, and based on recent research in climate science, psychology and sociology. Anyone concerned with reality-based policy in any area can profit from reading this excellent work.' -Spencer Weart, author of The Discovery of Global Warming
'This book is a must have for anyone trying to understand the climate change issue. Washington and Cook use impressive skill to peel back the lies and deceit associated with a well oiled machine, used for selling tobacco and now selling manufactured doubt about climate change.'- Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of Global Change Institute, University of Queensland
1. Denial and the Nature of Science. What is Denial? Science – Uncertainty and the 'Preponderance of Evidence' 2. Climate Science. Probability. 'Forcing'. Natural and Human-caused Greenhouse Effect. The Carbon Cycle. Feedback. Runaway Climate Change. Is there a Safe Level of CO2? The Spinning 'Greenhouse Gamble' Roulette Wheel. So What? Is There Really a Problem? New Factors Emerging 3. The Five Types of Climate Change Denial Arguments. Conspiracy Theories. 'Climategate'. Fake Experts. 'There is No Scientific Consensus'. Impossible Expectations. 'Climate Models are Unreliable'. Misrepresentations and Logical Fallacies. 'Climate's Changed in the Past'. Cherry Picking. 'Temperature Measurements are Unreliable'. 'Global Warming Stopped in 1998'. 'The Hockey Stick was Broken'. 'It's the Sun'. 'Global Warming is Good' 4. The History of Denial. The Long History of Denial. Heaven and Earth 5. Do We Let Denial Prosper? Fear of Change. Failure in Values. Fixation on Economics and Society. Ignorance about Ecology and Exponential Growth. Gambling on the Future. The Media Despair, Apathy and Confusion. Denial within our Governments. Psychological Types of Denial 6. Rolling Back Denial – the Big Picture. Because We Let it. What Stops us Accepting Reality? Population. The Tragedy of the Commons Continues. How do you Go About Solving Climate Change? Changing our Economy. Getting the Message Across. Adapt or Mitigate? Sustainability Market and Civic Environmentalism Approaches. A Farewell to Coal 7. Rolling Back Denial – the Technological Solutions. Technologies – Appropriate and Inappropriate. Renewable Energy. Is Nuclear Power the Way Out? Is Carbon Capture and Storage the Solution? Summary and Conclusion
Dr Haydn Washington is an environmental scientist of 35 years experience. Originally a plant ecologist, he worked in CSIRO on heavy metal pollution for 7 years and did his M.Sc in that field. He later did his PhD 'The Wilderness Knot' in social ecology, looking at the tangled meanings (and denial) around wilderness. He has worked extensively on environmental and sustainability issues. This is his fourth book on environmental issues, and he has been researching climate change since his 1991 book 'Ecosolutions'.
John Cook studied physics at the University of Queensland, Australia. After graduating, he majored in solar physics in his post-grad honours year. His interest in climate science began when he was given a speech by prominent 'skeptic' U.S. senator, James Inhofe. Researching the various skeptic arguments presented by Senator Inhofe revealed many fundamental scientific flaws. This led Cook to begin cataloguing the full range of skeptic arguments and documenting what the peer-review science said about each topic. This work formed the basis of the skepticalscience.com website which aims to communicate the peer-reviewed science to a broader audience.