This is a historical post.
In my last post, I started my sordid tale of my attempt to make sense of the global warming debate and gave two examples, one for each side of the debate, of how both sides use deception to advance their beliefs. I had found that the Believers aren’t above using grossly misleading generalizations (“one thing that jumps out at you is… do they seem to fit together?!””) and the Deniers are not above using strawmen that have nothing to do with the actual debate (CO2 vs. Water Vapor) yet have emotional resonance for people that don’t understand the actual issue.
As I continued to research AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) the examples of deceptive arguments continued to mount and my frustration grew. In this post, I’m going to concentrate on the long list of arguments that I found AGW Deniers using that had little or no merit. In the post after this one, I’ll balance things out by spending time covering AGW Denier arguments that do have merit. I simply couldn’t fit them into this post. Later I’ll cover examples of how the other side — AGW Believer’s — often behave in unethical and misrepresentive ways as well. So bear with me, I will do my best to cover all sides. So don’t get frustrated over the fact that I’m starting out with only bad arguments used by AGW Deniers.
Bear in mind that I’m only trying to give a good feel for what actually happened back when I tried to research AGW. I did go read websites both for and against and I am giving a truthful survey of the problems I found with the debate. I am not claiming to be an expert so I’m not claiming that I have considered all arguments for and against. Also, my survey back then did find that AGW Denier arguments tended to be somewhat more problematic than AGW Believer arguments. However, once I finally explain my own proposal on this subject, you’ll see that none of these arguments — for or against — actually ended up mattering anyhow.
The “CO2 is Mostly Natural” Argument
Another example of an anti-AGW argument that lacked merit is the AGW Denier claim that CO2 is primarily created by nature, not humans. Thus, they conclude, there is no need to take action to curb man made CO2.
I scratch my head over this one. This isn’t even a bad argument, it’s a non-argument.
Imagine someone, we’ll call him Bob, that makes $100,000 a month from an insurance settlement, plus $100 dollars a month from his job. Bob, who was hurt in an accident, happens to have expenses of $100,200 dollars a month. The insurance money and the expenses are fixed and Bob had no control over them. So obviously Bob has a problem because he is running a deficit and each month he is getting a bit more into debt. Over time this will grow into a significant problem.
Would you buy the argument that Bob should do nothing to increase his paycheck on the grounds that Bob’s paycheck is insignificant next to his insurance settlement?
Of course we’re concentrating only on the Anthropogenic (human-made) side of things. That’s the side we can control! Even if we could coax nature into “filling the gap” better for us, it would only be through Anthropogenic intervention – say growing more trees or cutting down fewer forests. The end result is the same. So this argument can be discarded.
Scientific Consensus vs. Manufactured Consensus – Is AGW a Conspiracy?
Another anti-AGW argument I hear a lot is that the existing scientific consensus, that global warming is human caused, is “manufactured.”
Unlike the last argument, this one actually does have some merit, though less than AGW Deniers think.
First of all, this argument openly admits one thing that is important. It admits that there is indeed a scientific consensus on AGW. A scientific consensus is a code word only used if there is a certain level of consensus. It generally means that overwhelmingly scientists agree on something, but does not imply that the consensus is total.
AGW Deniers argue that this consensus does not matter because it’s manufactured. Rather than being a consensus based on scientific merit, it’s based on political whim, conspiracy, misinformation, and desire to get lucrative grants.
So, first of all, let’s admit that it’s all true. And so what? This argument misses one major fact: that all scientific consensus outside of the SUPERB theories falls more or less into this description. 
Kuhn, in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, made the argument that science is a human endeavor. The myth of the cold and detached scientist that observes without emotion is just that: a myth. Scientific revolution has always depended at least in part on politics, misinformation, and lucrative grants. True though this maybe, it’s not a conspiracy – at least no more so than any human endeavor. 
So I believe we can discount any conspiracy theory here. We may not be used to just how messy science really is, but this is reality nonetheless.
That being said, does this mean AGW is the correct theory? Of course not. But we probably should put at least some weight on the fact that the vast majority of scientists that have looked at the global warming models are concerned and often profoundly so. Of course the majority may yet turn out to be wrong, and we shouldn’t forget that either.
The “Mars is Warming Up Too” Argument
I used to place this one in the AGW-Denier-arguments-with-merit category. Turns out I was wrong.
The argument goes that Mars has been shown to be warming too. There are no humans living on Mars. Ergo, global warming is natural (perhaps caused by solar flares) rather than human-made.
The argument is based on the rather shaky assumption that we actually do know that Mars is warming up.
One of the inconsistencies the AGW Deniers hold to is that we can’t trust the warming data on earth, yet apparently we can in the case of Mars. The data on earth is based on an amazing number of measurements. The ones on Mars are based on a very few really bad measurements that have way more margin for error than the earth bound ones.
You see the problem with this argument, right? So there is no need to give it any further consideration.
The “Earth is Actually Cooling” Argument
Speaking of inconsistent arguments, I often hear AGW Deniers in one breath claim that Global Warming is real but natural and not man-made (usually arguing that it’s caused by solar flares) and then in the next breath claim that the earth is actually cooling.
Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.
This is a case where the AGW Denier is using inconsistent arguments from different sources. There are a handful of scientists that believe the earth isn’t warming. There are a few more scientists that believe the earth is warming, but that it’s not being caused by human actions. (As previously stated, the overwhelming majority believe it’s warming and it’s being caused by human action.)
Just to make things even more confusing, there is a general scientific consensus that for the last 10 or 15 years or so the earth’s temperature has dropped. (Of course this claim has its deniers too. Bear in mind that ‘scientific consensus’ is never total.)
AGW Deniers have a bad tendency to latch onto any counter argument they can without realizing that the only argument worth latching onto is a full counter explanation. The three points of view above don’t tend to be compatible with each other. If you are denying that global warming is happening at all, you probably have major issues with the measuring methods being used, so you aren’t going to put any stock in the data that shows the earth has been cooling in the last 10 years.
If you believe there is global warming but it’s not human-made, you probably agree with the AGW Believers that the last 10 years is still part of a general upward trend.
Speaking of upward trends, I think it’s important to understand that AGW Believers have never claimed that global temperature will show only an upward tick every year. That would be a ridiculous claim. Having a 10 year cooling period (Due to water vapor the Deniers point out with glee! Not realizing that it’s besides the point) is not counter proof to the claims of AGW Believers.
To use an analogy, suppose I made the claim that the stock market has an upward trend. You could then show me that the last 10 years that the stock market has dropped. Did you disprove me? Or did you really just show that you didn’t understand my point?
When we are measuring trends over centuries, we do not draw conclusions based on short periods of time. This is why AGW Deniers got excited over this article and didn’t even notice that the authors upfront explained that the general upward trend was still positive. 
The “This is Just Like the Ozone” Argument
This argument is that a bunch of environmentalists once complained that the ozone was being destroyed by CFCs and they created a huge scare. Then, decades later, nothing went wrong and we were all happy. Therefore, global warming must be the same.
Fact is, the environmentalists successfully convinced the world to cut back on CFCs. Therefore, we might as well draw the conclusion that the environmentalists saved us all once before and they can do it again with global warming.
Of course not all AGW Denier arguments are as bad as the above ones. In my next post, I will cover some I came across that I feel have real merit.
 …all scientific consensus outside of the SUPERB theories falls more or less into this description. “SUPERB” is a term coined by Roger Penrose’s, the famous physicist. It is part of his “scientific theory classification system.” Penrose claims that only a handful of scientific theories that fall into the SUPERB category and they are the most famous ones, such as Newtonian Physics, Quantum Theory, or General Relativity. They have overwhelmingly proved their value beyond our wildest imaginations.
Oh, and all have been proven wrong in some measure. So “being right” isn’t the point. Being more right than everything else is what really matters. The other classifications are USEFUL and TENTATIVE. Penrose puts his own Twistor theory in the TENTATIVE category at this time.
 …it’s not a conspiracy – at least no more so than any human endeavor. But Kuhn was wrong, of course. Scientific revolutions are not entirely based on politics. If this were true, then there would not be the obvious scientific progress we’ve seen since Newton. The fact is that we do move, eventually, from worse to better scientific explanations. But it’s a messy process and sometimes you do have to wait for the next, and thus less entrenched, generation to take over.
However, the Scientific Community has a fairly good recent track record on this. For example, the standard model was adopted at, shall we say, light speed.
 …and didn’t even notice that the authors upfront explained that the general upward trend was still positive. I am simplifying a more complex issue here for the sake of space. In reality, this study did prove one thing that the AGW Deniers are right about. It proved the models being used by AGW Believers are imperfect and that we lack knowledge on many subjects that will turn out to be important. In this case, the models failed to take a certain type of water vapor into consideration. See this article for a balanced view of this issue. The bottom line is that the models need to be adjusted for these new findings, but probably won’t affect the anthropogenic nature of global warming predicted by the models. I will address the fact that the models are imperfect in a future post.