Please note: the purpose of this article is not "How to persuade an AGW “skeptic”. If you want to do that, first watch THIS. Basically, you need to connect with her, find some common ground, get her to see you as a person, take off her intellectual armor. Show the “skeptic” that it’s ok to argue about the policy implications of global warming without appealing to fringe science, tired canards or conspiracy theory. And whatever you do, don’t mention the words “denialism”, “motivated reasoning” or…God forbid… Al Gore!
(Edit: and don’t put “skeptic” or “skepticism” in quotes, like I’ve quite correctly done here!)
But this isn’t my purpose here. My goal is to WIN THE ARGUMENT. Rest assured, this won’t do anything to change the mind of the guy who loses it. Honestly, who really cares? To paraphrase Sagan, the believer’s belief isn’t rooted in arguments and facts - it’s rooted in her need to believe. But convincing the “skeptic” isn’t my intent in such a debate… my goal is to influence the people reading the argument. Which means, of course, that it needs to be public! So if the fella wants to hash something out in PM’s, don’t waste your time.
Now on to the gist:
Having a debate with a typical AGW “skeptic” is difficult for the same reason that arguing with a 9/11 Truther or a Creationist is: it’s like fighting the Viet Cong – they come at you from every angle, seemingly everywhere at once, but yet never present you with a solid target to strike back against. The AGW science defender ends up constantly on the defensive against a never-ending stream of “Well what about THIS?”, playing a mentally-exhausting and emotionally-frustrating game of wack-a-mole that may make it appear to fence-sitting observers that she is losing.
Now, if as the AGW defender you just want to learn your arguments better and have the energy and time to play this game, it can in fact be very instructive. If this is the case, though, you must at least learn to use the following question:
“So you’re conceding the last point (about X), then?”
This should be used ~every~ time a “skeptic” tries to switch topics, which he will definitely do, often. When he gets cagey, press him on it. Refuse to debate further until he either concedes or grudgingly veers back to the original point.
Playing this game is really pointless, though, because what is seemingly the AGW “skeptic’s” greatest strength (and the Truther’s, and the Creationist’s) is in fact his biggest weakness. The reason he is able to attack from so many angles without presenting a target is that, in fact, he has no position of his own. (In Kung Fu, we’ d say he has no Structure.) He is, in fact, merely playing a game of what has been called “anomaly hunting”: nit-picking a position for apparent discrepancies without offering a position of his own.
So as early on as possible, the AGW defender needs to force the issue. She needs to flush the VC out into the open, so she can bring the full firepower of a well-tested and long-standing scientific capital-t Theory to bear.
To do this, start of by simply asking the “skeptic”:
- “Do you agree that the climate is warming?”
Now, if he says no (usually with a claim about ‘temperatures being flat since 1998’), he is a genuine, full-on AGW denialist. (It is my opinion that~all~ AGW skeptics are at heart AGW denialists, because given half a chance,they’ll nearly always try to get back to the original goalpost of “Globalwarming is a hoax!” But definitely don’t bring this up in the debate, or you’ll get a lot of tiresome whining about “the inevitable Ad Hominem” and maybe even get side-tracked into a discussion about semantics). In any case, if the“skeptic” is fully honest about his denialism, your job is now easy. Point him to the following information:
[quote=“Wikipedia”]The list of warmest years on record is dominated byyears from this millennium; EACH OF THE LAST 12 YEARS (2001–2012) FEATURES AS ONE OF THE 14 WARMEST ON RECORD.
Global temperatures are affected by the ElNiño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), with the extremes of El Niño and La Niñaleading respectively to unusually warm and cool years. 2010 as an El Niño topped the previous record set in the El Niño year of 1998. While 2012 as an La Niña year was cooler, it was still the 10th warmest year since records began in 1880. Over the more recent record, 2006 and 2009 are tied for the warmest “La Niña year” in the period from 1971 to 2012.
Although the NCDC temperature record begins in1880, less certain reconstructions of earlier temperatures suggest these years may be the warmest for several centuries to millennia.
10 warmest years on record (°C anomaly from 1901–2000 mean)
Year Global Land Ocean
2010 0.6590 1.0748 0.5027
2005 0.6523 1.0505 0.5007
1998 0.6325 0.9351 0.5160
2003 0.6219 0.8859 0.5207
2002 0.6130 0.9351 0.4902
2006 0.5978 0.9091 0.4792
2009 0.5957 0.8621 0.4953
2007 0.5914 1.0886 0.3900
2004 0.5779 0.8132 0.4885
2012 0.5728 0.8968 0.4509[/quote]
If he complains that Wikipedia isn’t a credible source, direct him to the footnotes, which show that the above data came straight from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/
- Now if the “skeptic”claims to agree that there is a warming trend, you simply need to ask him:
“So how do you explain this?”
Whatever he says, he’s going to need to supply an alternative hypothesis to the theory of global warming. And then you simply blow the shit out of it. Why should that be so easy? Because no viable one exists. Therefore, if he actually has an alternative hypothesis, a quick Google search – preferably with the words “Skeptical Science” tacked on at the end – will give you all the arsenal you could need, as against your naval armada, he’s just trotted out a leaky ol’ rowboat.
Now, if after watching his rotting tub get sent to Davey Jones, the guy has the nerve to claim that “The weakness of my argument doesn’t imply the strength of yours”, it’s time to show him what he’s up against. Bring up your big guns:
- This, in a nutshell, is what we know about global warming:
Increasing the level of a greenhouse gas in a planet’s atmosphere, all else being equal, will raise that planet’s surface temperature.
CO2 is a greenhouse gas (Tyndall 1859).
CO2 is rising (Keeling et al. 1958, 1960,etc.).
Therefore (given 1-3 above) the Earth should be warming.
From multiple converging lines of evidence, we know the Earth is warming (NASA GISS, Hadley Centre CRU, UAH MSU, RSS TLT, borehole results, melting glaciers and ice caps, etc.).
The warming is moving in close correlation with the carbon dioxide (r = 0.874 for ln CO2 and dT 1880-2008).
The new CO2 (as shown by its isotopic signature) is mainly from burning fossil fuels (Suess 1955, Revelle and Suess, 1958).
(And this to me is the kicker) Satellite data shows less warming is escaping to space, and more warming is being reflected back to Earth. In both cases, the heat bears the radiation signature of C02 (Harries 2001, Griggs 2004, Chen 2007 / Philipona 2004, Evans 2006, Wang 2009).
Therefore the global warming currently occurring is anthropogenic (caused by mankind).
In order for man-made global warming to be falsified, a physics-based alternative would have to exist (and survive scientific scrutiny) that explains the multiple lines of converging evidence we see that also explains why the physics of greenhouse gases works in every instance except for those GHG’s produced through the activity of man.
Decades later, no such theory is forthcoming.
(This beauty is courtesy of a poster in the comments section of Skeptical Science, with a little editing from yours truly!)
Ask your reeling “skeptic” to refute this. Then take out your brandy snifter, light up a cigar and lean back in your chair with your feet up on the desk. If he tries another, “Er…but what about…” tell him to talk to the hand until he can fulfill his impossible task.
Prologue: about the website “Skeptical Science”:
SS is by far the most useful source of information for refuting “skeptical” arguments. However, “skeptics” have recognized it as such, and now call it an “alarmist propaganda mill” (oh, the irony!) or something to that effect. They will therefore use this meme as an excuse to refuse to even look at anything you post from it.
This is easy to get around, however. Simply look up deni…er, skeptical arguments on SS (use Google with the tag, “Skeptical Science”; don’t use the website’s search engine, as in my experience it tends to suck), then paraphrase the response from SS and link to the actual research referred to in the article.
Wait - isn’t that plagiarism? Sure it is, but you aren’t defending a thesis - you’re arguing on the internet. Screw it!