How can some people still deny climate change?

In September 2015, The Associated Press revised its guidelines to stop referring to those opposing climate change as “skeptics”. This was done in order to differentiate them from actual skeptics, who are defined by the use of scientific inquiry, and critical investigation to challenge extraordinary claims. It implies that climate change deniers reject mainstream science. Meanwhile, 190 countries around the world are reaffirming their commitment to dealing with climate change.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference is hosted in Paris in December, and will see new international guidelines and standards established to fight the very real threat of global warming. So, why do some people still deny climate change? Well, in a nutshell, many climate change deniers disagree that human behavior has substantially increased the rate of global warming. A large number of Republicans in Congress, including Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, and former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, have voiced their opposition to bills designed to slow the rate of global warming.

A significant number of deniers are directly funded or linked to fossil fuel companies, which are considered to be the greatest contributing cause of climate change. In particular, those politicians vehemently oppose pollution regulations on the basis that they will hurt the US economy. Although 97% of climate scientists agree on the basic facts surrounding climate change, many deniers have relied on anecdotal evidence, pseudo science, or anti-science in an attempt to prove their argument. Several Republicans have argued that they are not scientists when asked about the consensus among scientists. In fact, many deniers, when challenged with this discrepancy, tend to rely on a specific series of arguments which concede certain ideas while remaining in overall opposition. So let’s breaks this down….

Deniers say that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are not rising. Scientists say that levels have risen by nearly 25% in the last fifty plus years. Deniers say that there is no evidence of impact by CO2 levels. Scientists say that Arctic ice levels have dropped by 12% every year. Deniers say that this is due to natural causes. Scientists say that the Arctic has actually been progressively cooling for over 2000 years, and only reversed around the time fossil fuels became a major pollutant. Deniers say that the changes in greenhouse gasses could be good for the world, and even if they aren’t, that humans are expert at adapting to new environments. Scientists say this is too risky of a bet to make. For many climate change deniers, the long term potential benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions are heavily outweighed by the costly investment in alternative energy.

This is especially relevant for those with ties to the fossil fuel industry, but also to the general state of the global economy, which itself is dependent on fossil fuel production and sale. But while it does seem reasonable to discuss the level of economic impact, it comes off as disingenuous when politicians actively deny climate change for economic protection. Climate change is terrifying, and it’s no wonder that it’s also Brazil and Peru’s greatest fear.