National Center for Science Education, have described climate change denial as pseudoscience. However,IMHO there are some valid arguments based on empirical data that contradict the "hockey stick" plot that happens to be the core of the attribution of climate change to human activity.

Moreover, I personally find some of the methods employed by climatologists themselves nonscientific, the prime examples of that being silencing the skeptics by non-scientific methods such as personal attacks, brushing off evidence that contradicts their findings (such as the existence of medieval warm period), popular appeals by non-experts (Greta), etc.

Is, in your opinion, either the theory of human-caused climate change or its denial a pseudoscience?

  • I wonder if there's a way to frame this without polling, i.e. asking for "your opinion"? It seems like the core problem is whether the assessment from NCSE is philosophically sound, maybe that could be the focus. Some criteria on what you're looking to evaluate could help start the conversation too. (Especially given your own evaluation, I'm wondering why you might think it's plausible, "even metaphysically" as it were, that such propaganda is legitimate science?) – Joseph Weissman Jan 16 '20 at 18:23
  • 1
    @JosephWeissman — Science walks softly but carries a really big stick. No worries about temporizers. – Ted Wrigley Jan 17 '20 at 6:32
  • This scepticism appears to be nothing to do with science. I'd just call it ignorance. Calling it 'pseudo-science' makes it seem more sensible than it is. – user20253 Jan 17 '20 at 12:16
  • @Michael On both sides of the philosophical argument (the science is settled), some parties show poor form. What is at stake is what is scientific or not. Many people who claim to understand "science" simply do not. Many critics of Mann's work, for instance, when confronted with questions about technical knowledge of PCA are clueless. The FACT is that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists (not geologists, not chemists, not politicians) have concluded people are to blame. – J D Jan 18 '20 at 18:06
  • 1
    Have you even read the article on the controversy? Then you should be aware of the fact that any and every argument brought forward against the hockey stick reconstruction, including middle age warming period, has been shown to be of little to no importance with regard to the overall shape and conclusions. Even reconstruction of longer periods (up to 11,000 years), using various different methods, always ended up showing the same results....so what you find scientific seems of little importance here... – Philip Klöcking Jan 18 '20 at 23:02

First, let me point out that the term 'pseudoscience' is badly misused in the modern world. Pseudoscience points at a particular activity: the attempt to portray something as a scientific result without actually engaging scientific methodologies, procedures, or reasonings. You can think of it as an effort to obtain the political/social authority of 'being scientific' while avoiding the actual work of doing scientific research. It's almost impossible to find true pseudoscience that is not tied up in conspiratorial thinking. An advocate of pseudoscience (almost by necessity) has to point at some cabal of 'conventional' scientists who refuse to acknowledge the pseudoscientific principle in question for nefarious reasons of their own.

Denialists, as a rule, are not pseudoscientists, because they don't propose alternate or outré theories of their own. Instead, they are anti-science: they deny the principles on which science is based, deny the evidence that science relies on, deny the logic that leads from evidence to conclusions... There is certainly room within the scientific community for people who argue against the climate change models. Such people are an important part of the scientific community; they keep the debate intellectually honest by continually raising objections that other scientists must respond to. But even naysayers must respond to and accommodate the evidence that is available in the scientific community, and must (in a limited way) bow to the consensus of the community even as they look for ways of tearing the theory down. Science is often conflictive and aggressive, but that is how it progresses.

Neither the theory of anthropogenic climate change nor the major scientific objections to it are pseudoscientific. The objections are (to date) fairly weak on evidentiary grounds and so the scientific community (currently) embraces the anthropogenic model, but that could conceivably change in the future. Science always recognizes the best current models and always leaves itself open to the possibility of change. Within the climate change denialist camp there are a number of people who do engage in pseudoscience — spouting out half-baked theories with almost no rational or evidentiary basis, and complaining incessantly that scientists are railroading the discussion for political ends — but for the most part opponents of climate change are merely anti-science.

Please keep in mind that although this is presented as a scientific conflict, it isn't. The science is clear, and the models that might explain the observed data without invoking anthropogenic causation are ridiculously convoluted and highly improbable. While nothing is written in stone in science, a betting man would be a damned fool to bet against human causation, and we'll all be damned fools if we don't take steps to rein in our own behavior. That is where the real political issue lies. People do not like to self-moderate, and they like less to have someone else moderate them externally, so lots of people are trying to deny that there's a problem in the first place (as in horror movies, where characters are always desperately trying to reassure themselves that there is not a psychotic monster stalking them). They know if they embrace the problem as real, then they are going to have to be responsible and do something about it, and no one really wants to be responsible in that way. It's a commentary on human nature, I suppose, but it's a commentary that could have severe and desperately fatal consequences.

  • Unfortunately, neither anthopogenic nor non-anthopogenic models correlate well with reality. In particluar, the "hockey stick" plot contradicts well-known historical data, such as the medieval warm period which is completely missing from the anthropogenic models, see also Ball v Mann. From political point of view it makes sense to side with anthopogenic theory and curb emissions for Pascal reasons (less trouble if you are wrong), but erroring on the side of safety the only clear reason I see so far: IMHO the science is not very clear on causation. – Michael Jan 17 '20 at 17:44
  • 1
    @Michael — I'd like a scholarly source for that graph please. And I'll point out that the graph is comparing apples and oranges: the average temperatures in Europe vs average global temperatures. limited regions are bound to show far greater variability than global averages, so unless the data is adjusted statistically that chart is practically meaningless. – Ted Wrigley Jan 17 '20 at 18:12
  • Ball's graph is based not only on European records (which are numerous and span centuries) and European archeology; there are also records from China and other places around the World. Historical climatology by Ball and others is only a part of the "hockey stick' problem; another one is that Mann juxtaposed two completely different sets of data: tree grown based before 20th century and actual temperature records for 20th century, and these pieces of data don't correlate well. The omitted tree growth data for 20th century disagrees with temperature record; that makes the graph unreliable. – Michael Jan 17 '20 at 18:33
  • 1
    @Michael — It literally says on Ball's chart "Climatic changes in Europe," so what am I supposed to take from that? And I haven't seen this tree-growth discrepancy you're talking about, but scientists are (as a rule) careful about making extensions across data sets. I sincerely doubt that his research would have survived the kind of critical analysis is was bound to receive in academic circles (even before the climate crisis started to loom), if he did not have very good justification for working it as he did. – Ted Wrigley Jan 17 '20 at 20:00
  • @Michael — I'm really not interested in this kind of opinion-mongering. Don't bother telling me that data sets do not correlate; that's boring. Show me the research that demonstrates they do not correlate; that's interesting. I get that you have a 'tude about climate science, but attitude and $5 will get you a latte at Starbucks (maybe). They won't get you very far with me. – Ted Wrigley Jan 17 '20 at 20:06

First, there was outright denial. People didn't believe the climate is changing. (Back then, climate change was commonly called "global warming," though that term was a little simplistic.)

As the evidence became ever more overwhelming, people were forced to admit that climate change is real. So they tried a different approach; they simply described it as a natural process.

It's a clever argument. The climate does change over time, and how can one distinguish between natural and human-caused climate change?

First, it's important to appreciate the fact that we really do have the ability to alter the climate. In fact, humans began modifying the climate centuries ago, maybe even thousands of years ago.

Second, I have substantial faith in the scientific community - or the scientific method. There are many scientists who have sold out to corporate interests, but what would the global scientific community have to gain by making up a fairy tale about climate change?

The following paragraph raises a lot of red flags:

Moreover, I personally find some of the methods employed by climatologists themselves nonscientific, the prime examples of that being silencing the skeptics by non-scientific methods such as personal attacks, brushing off evidence that contradicts their findings (such as the existence of medieval warm period), popular appeals by non-experts (Greta), etc.

It sounds like you're suggesting a conspiracy. As I stated above, the scientific community is generally more honest than politicians. I've heard many politicians engage in personal attacks and brush off inconvenient evidence when discussing (or attempting to NOT discuss) climate change. I'm rather surprised to hear that these are common strategies among scientists. Can you give us some examples?

A little logic can be a big help.

First, we know climate change is real.

Second, we know humans are capable of causing climate change, a belief supported by scientific research.

Corporate interests would not like to see their profit margin compromised by public concern over environmental woes. So if you want to talk conspiracy, you might want to consider the possibility that propagandists working for corporate interests cooked up the pseudo-theory about our current climate change event being nothing more than a natural event.

Is, in your opinion, either the theory of human-caused climate change or its denial a pseudoscience?

In my opinion, the theory of human caused climate change is science. Its denial is simply propaganda. Perhaps we could all it a combination of propaganda and ignorance. After all, many people with little understanding of science may simply be misled.

  • "It sounds like you're suggesting a conspiracy." Well, not necessarily conspiracy as in "let's conspire together and knowingly lie about facts", but certainly individual motive to exclude observations that contradict the accepted theory. It has been established that the original "hockey stick" paper was flawed; it's also known that Mann's model contradicts historical evidence. It's not that outlandish to suspect that's something fishy when an established theory bashes the deniers, see Lysenko theory in biology. – Michael Jan 17 '20 at 17:36

An interesting parallel here is with the debate on an earlier global climate problem. This was the effect of CFCs on the ozone layer and motivated an international consensus to limit and phase out their use. This was achieved within a relatively short time frame and without a great deal of controversy of about the scientific evidence.

Since the 'debate' on climate change is driven by scientific data, climate denialists to fight 'fire with fire' would need to marshall their own evidence for such. This is what the NCSE is calling pseudo-science given the very high scientific consensus by serious scientists on anthopogenic climate change.

The CFC industry, at a rough guess, is valued in the low billions and is a relatively new industry. Whereas the fossil fuel industry is valued in the trillions and was established during the early period of the industrial revolution.

Given this, one really ought to say that this is politically driven 'bullshit', deliberately designed to obfuscate the very real issues, and mainly driven by capital, notwithstanding, for example, the recent statement by Microsoft on their green strategy. This is what would normally be termed green-washing.


Whether the climate change being currently observed in various geographic areas of the world is, in every case, caused by human carbon loading of the atmosphere is one question. The other question is, what is the scientific basis for the claim that human activity has caused such an imbalance within the relative bounds of climate change that a tipping point has been reached and catastrophe is guaranteed in the near future if nothing is done in a concerted world-wide initiative? The following is a summation from a scientific report which appeared in National Geographic a number of years ago.

I happened to come across an extremely detailed report, in National Geographic, no less, about 8-10 or more years ago. In extreme detail it explained each and every type of measurement across the surface of the planet, which was being employed to measure the possibility of a uniform event called planetary wide, 'Climate Change'. It showed precisely what was being measured, the duration of the trials, the comparative analysis with all historically previously gathered data and much more. It detailed the presence and amounts of carbon tracings, etc. The overall conclusion was that the total area measured, roughly 0001% of the earth's surface, along with the limited duration of the research and the fact that the temperature had been steadily rising and falling as a mean average over the preceding decade, pointed to no evidence of any form of collective or anticipated 'event' which could be laid claim to. Now whether this is 'true' or not, makes little to no difference whatsoever. This is what can be termed a 'useful fiction'. It, 'manmade climate change', has begun to motivate governments to enact carbon restriction laws which are much needed. It has caused corporations to begin the effort to curb emissions and has engaged numberless citizens everywhere to clamor for constitutive change to 'save' the planet. So whether or not the 'science' is entirely accurate is by now a moot point. At the same time those who vilify anyone who holds the opposing view, that scientific evidence does not prove anthropomorphic responsibility for climate irregularities, could tone it down a bit and just join in the effort to affect the appropriate change. Charles M. Saunders

  • 2
    Either you find and cite the issue of NG, or this post is mere hearsay. I, personally, think it improbable that they wrote "there is no (anthropogenic) climate change" as opposed to "the current models have a hard time to catch the varieties measured in the given time frame". – Philip Klöcking Jan 18 '20 at 22:49
  • @PhilipKlöcking- Sorry, made my best effort to re-locate the article and could not. There does not appear to be any NG archive. But perhaps on the other hand you might identify any reputable article which matches the line by line detail in measurements, timelines, etc. that clearly demonstrates that 'climate change' is a bonified planetary wide phenomenon and is entirely attributable to human causation. Cheers, CMS – user37981 Jan 19 '20 at 23:53
  • The second link in the question contains a number of such articles. The main problem with precise measurements across a considerable amount of area is that they have just not been able to show climate change 10 years ago since they could not possibly had been over long enough a time frame. The questions whether there is a significant change of global climate (not weather) and whether this is anthropogenic can only be answered by looking across thousands of years. – Philip Klöcking Jan 20 '20 at 8:40
  • Thanks for clearing that up. Meanwhile the mobilization of forces worldwide to combat the deleterious effects of so much carbon will go a long way to moving forward the agreements in the Paris accord. Cheers, CMS – user37981 Jan 20 '20 at 16:24

In the United States our east coast is sinking while the sea level is rising so there are already problems we are dealing with today. Problems at the Norfolk Naval Station, problems in Miami, Florida, both with flooding at high tide. People are dealing with this now.

Civil engineers can do amazing things (we have all probably heard of the Dutch engineers) but this work requires money. Money means usually municipal bonds. There will always be buyers at the right interest rate/price but the existing financial system is based upon the future being better than the past, and the future will not be “better” in the way we define better now. So our entire present financial system faces extreme, extreme challenges.

As far as man-made climate change we have known about its possibility since at least 1956. see Plass https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.2153-3490.1956.tb01206.x

Now on the positive side (if we can call it positive) we get weird unexpected effects. These recent fires in Australia have in some cases created their own weather. To the point where they have been compared in some areas as volcanic eruptions. What does this mean? I don’t know but if it means particulate matter we could actually get some global cooling in a tiny amount.

Of course the fires cause extreme inconvenience and much worse to locals, loss of life, property money to remediate. Loss of animals. I merely bring this up because there could be some countervailing effects we don't fully understand yet, though I would not bet my life, or the life of my children on them.

There is plenty of material available for research and study in any good library/science library.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.