What do skeptics have to say about climate change?

In the scientific community, genuine climate change skeptics are vastly less numerous than those who see sufficient evidence to support immediate action to address climate change.  Two statements that do ring true from skeptics are:

  • It is unrealistic to expect impoverished nations not to develop, even if this increases their carbon emissions.
  • It is possible that for the United States, compliance with carbon emissions reduction protocols may, at some points, diminish GNP growth. 

Obviously, we would like to see technological progress that allows all nations to continue their economic growth while reducing carbon emissions, but there is no guarantee that this will occur.  These points only confirm the large moral dimension of the climate change issue for the United States and other nations with highly developed carbon dependent economies — if global carbon must be stabilized while developing nations must be allowed to increase their emissions, developed nations may need to absorb some painful reductions.  This, in turn, raises equity issues within the developed nations — affluent people within these nations have larger homes, driver larger cars, use more air travel and generally have much bigger carbon footprints than those less fortunate.

Senator James Inhofe is perhaps the leading political critic of climate change analysis.  In his speech on the Senate floor, he summarized his case that global warming is a “hoax”.  Running down the first half dozen references in Inhofe’s comments leads one to the conclusion that he is reckless in his choice and representation of his sources:

The Heidelberg Appeal (does not refer to climate change, but emphasizes need of developing nations to overcome poverty and argues for environmental policies that are primarily designed to protect humans).  Imhofe reads in to the Appeal a statement that “no compelling evidence exists to justify controls of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions” which is completely absent in the actual text.  In fact, many of the signatories to the appeal also endorsed a similar scientists’ appeal to governments to respond to the problem of climate change.  For more on the appeal, see wikipedia entry.

Fred Singer runs with his wife the Science & Environmental Policy Project, a group generally critical of environmental regulation.  See the Center for Media and Democracy or Union of Concerned Scientists for background and funding sources of this group.

Tom Wigley, quoted as minimizing the impact of Kyoto, is, in fact a contributor to the International Panel on Climate Change (leading consensus report establishing the risks)  whose ongoing research tends to confirm the reality of global climate change caused by human activity.  The gist of his research appears to be that more needs to be done.

Jerry Mahlman, quoted on the uncertainty of projections, is a former NOAA lab director who is actually a passionate advocate for facing the “looming mega-challenge of human-caused climate warming” who has publicly criticized about the muzzling of scientists by the Bush administration.

Richard Lindzen does appear to be a well-qualified actual skeptic embattled within his peer group. 

Gerald North is quoted as saying the IPCC report is baseless, but in fact has testified that, at a minimum, recent global warming is an established fact and is caused by humans and support action to reduce emissions and states further that we have perhaps a couple of decades to act.

Peter Stone is quoted as emphasizing the uncertainty of IPCC models, but in fact has stated that global warming is likely to continue for years as a result of the carbon dioxide already in the earth’s atmosphere even if humans stopped burning fossil fuels.


For a great overview of sources, see the  Society of Environmental Journalists.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.