Dealing with Climate Change Denial

Quote of the Day

Her favorite position was beside herself, and her favorite sport was jumping to conclusions.

— Danny Kaye, describing a woman he knew. I often meet people like this – they wear me out.

Figure 1: Plot of Global Sea Level Since 1900 (Source).

Figure 1: Plot of Global Sea Level Since 1900 (Source).

I have lunch with all sorts of people. Occasionally, I end up sitting with a climate change denier, which happened today. Usually, I do not say anything because I really do not want an argument.

Today, I decided to mention Figure 1, which summarizes a set of measurements made since 1900 that show that sea level is rising. I then asked the climate change denier if they can explain the fact that sea level is rising –a  fact has been confirmed by multiple measurements taken at multiple sites over more than 100 years.

Some people try to dispute the measurement and say it cannot be correct. I simply tell them that the data has been consistent between the numerous groups that perform the measurement, and this should minimize the possibility of systematic and random errors. I often mention that we have excellent evidence that there is a massive amount of glacial melt water entering the oceans (see this post) and that this water is one cause of the sea level rise.

Today, the climate denier decided not to refute the sea level data and changed his argument by saying that the climate may be changing, but no one can prove that it is because of human-related causes. The denier attributed the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels to natural events like volcanic eruptions. I then pointed out we have isotopic measurements that show that the CO2 rise is because of burning fossil fuels (see this post) and cannot be from geological causes. This fact bothered him – I do not think I will need to listen to any more climate denial at lunch.

I have to say that Minnesota's climate does seem different than when I was a boy – the outdoor hockey season is clearly shorter.

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One Response to Dealing with Climate Change Denial

  1. As co-Government Liaison for Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP dot org) I recognize that the only path forward with our burgeoning world population is nuclear power. Sadly, here in California, we are seeing the power of fossil fuel interests bent on protecting their fossil fuel franchise. They are pressing Pacific Gas & Electric to shut Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) by 2025. DCPP is by far, California's largest power generator, producing about 18 TWh/year - about five times the production of Hoover Dam and over 13 times the production of the new Topaz Solar Plant in eastern San Luis Obispo County. We already know that when San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) closed in January, 2012 as a consequence of a botched replacement of the steam generators, emissions climbed in California, per the California Air Resources Board (CARB.) More natural gas was burned in California and more deadly, dirty coal power (about 18 TWh/yr, per the California Energy Commission) was imported from out-of-state. Power rates, already some of the highest in the nation, soared. CGNP is uniting with other pro-environmental groups such as Mothers for Nuclear and Environmental Progress to prevent DCPP's shut down. I hope that you will cover this issue in a future installment of Math Encounters. Contact me at Liaison [at] CGNP dot org for details.

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