A global warming conspiracy theory invokes claims that the scientific consensus on global warming is based on conspiracies to produce manipulated data or suppress dissent. It is one of a number of tactics used in climate change denial to attempt to legitimize political and public controversy disputing this consensus.[1] Conspiracy theorists typically allege that, through worldwide acts of professional and criminal misconduct, the science behind global warming has been invented or distorted for ideological or financial reasons.[2][3]

Background

Temperature data: Global average temperature datasets from NASA, NOAA, Berkeley Earth, and meteorological offices of the U.K. and Japan, show substantial agreement concerning the progress and extent of global warming: pairwise correlations range from 98.09% to 99.04%.
Causation: The Fourth National Climate Assessment ("NCA4", USGCRP, 2017) includes charts[4] illustrating how human factors, especially accumulation in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, are the predominant cause of observed global warming.

As stated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the largest contributor to global warming is the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) since 1750, particularly from fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and land use changes such as deforestation.[5] The IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) states:

Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely (95–100%) that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century

— IPCC AR5 WG1 Summary for Policymakers[6][7]

The evidence for global warming due to human influence has been recognized by the national science academies of all the major industrialized countries.[8] No scientific body of national or international standing maintains a formal opinion dissenting from the summary conclusions of the IPCC.[9]

Despite this scientific consensus on climate change, allegations have been made that scientists and institutions involved in global warming research are part of a global scientific conspiracy or engaged in a manipulative hoax.[10] There have been allegations of malpractice, most notably in the Climatic Research Unit email controversy ("ClimateGate"). Eight committees investigated these allegations and published reports, each finding no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct.[11] The Muir Russell report stated that the scientists' "rigor and honesty as scientists are not in doubt," that the investigators "did not find any evidence of behavior that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments," but that there had been "a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness."[12][13] The scientific consensus that global warming is occurring as a result of human activity remained unchanged at the end of the investigations.[14]

Claims

Key claims

Alleged conspiracies by scientists who accept the reality of global warming

Alleged political conspiracies

Negative effects

Climate change conspiracy theories have resulted in poor action or no action at all to effectively mitigate the damage done by global warming. In some countries like the United States of America, 40% of Americans believe that climate change is a hoax [32] in spite of the fact that there is a 100% consensus among climate scientists that it is not according to a report in 2019. [33] President Donald Trump previously even pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement, which was set up in the hopes of reducing global warming.[34] There may be an ideology of climate change denial in some regions of the world, which would lead to disagreements over how to handle climate change and what should be done in the face of it.[35]

Criticism

Steve Connor links the terms "hoax" and "conspiracy," saying, "Reading through the technical summary of this draft (IPCC) report, it is clear that no one could go away with the impression that climate change is some conspiratorial hoax by the science establishment, as some would have us believe."[36]

The documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle received criticism from several experts. George Monbiot described it as "the same old conspiracy theory that we’ve been hearing from the denial industry for the past ten years".[37] Similarly, in response to James Delingpole, Monbiot stated that his Spectator article was "the usual conspiracy theories [...] working to suppress the truth, which presumably now includes virtually the entire scientific community and everyone from Shell to Greenpeace and The Sun to Science."[38] Some Australian meteorologists also weighed in, saying that the film made no attempt to offer a "critical deconstruction of climate science orthodoxies", but instead used various other means to suggest that climate scientists are guilty of lying or are seriously misguided. Although the film's publicist's asserted that "global warming is 'the biggest scam of modern times'", these meteorologists concluded that the film was "not scientifically sound and presents a flawed and very misleading interpretation of the science".[39]

Former UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs David Miliband presented a rebuttal of the main points of the film and stated "There will always be people with conspiracy theories trying to do down the scientific consensus, and that is part of scientific and democratic debate, but the science of climate change looks like fact to me."[40]

National Geographic fact-checked 6 persistent scientific conspiracy theories. Regarding the persistent belief in a global warming hoax they note that the Earth is continuing to warm and the rate of warming is increasing as documented in numerous scientific studies. The rise in global temperature and its rate of increase coincides with the rise of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activity. Moreover, global warming is causing Arctic sea ice to thaw at historic rates, many species of plants are blooming earlier than expected, and the migration routes of many birds, fish, mammals, and insects are changing.[41]

Funding

See also: Climate change denial § Lobbying, and ExxonMobil § Funding of global warming disinformation and denial

There is evidence that some of those alleging such conspiracies are part of well-funded misinformation campaigns designed to manufacture controversy, undermine the scientific consensus on climate change and downplay the projected effects of global warming.[42][43] Individuals and organisations kept the global warming debate alive long after most scientists had reached their conclusions. These doubts have influenced policymakers in both Canada and the US, and have helped to form government policies.[43]

Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless. "They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry," says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. "Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That's had a huge impact on both the public and Congress."

— The truth about denial, S. Begley, Newsweek[44]

Greenpeace presented evidence of the energy industry funding climate change denial in their 'Exxon Secrets' project.[45][46] An analysis conducted by The Carbon Brief in 2011 found that 9 out of 10 of the most prolific authors who cast doubt on climate change or speak against it had ties to ExxonMobil. Greenpeace have said that Koch industries invested more than US$50 million in the past 50 years on spreading doubts about climate change.[47][48][49] ExxonMobil announced in 2008 that it would cut its funding to many of the groups that "divert attention" from the need to find new sources of clean energy, although in 2008 still funded over "two dozen other organisations who question the science of global warming or attack policies to solve the crisis."[50] A survey carried out by the UK Royal Society found that in 2005 ExxonMobil distributed US$2.9 million to 39 groups that "misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence".[50]

Books written by conspiracy theorists

Fictional representations

The novel State of Fear by Michael Crichton, published in December 2004, describes a conspiracy by scientists and others to create public panic about global warming. The novel includes 20 pages of footnotes, described by Crichton as providing a factual basis for the non-plotline elements of the story.[51] In a Senate speech on 4 January 2005, Inhofe mistakenly described Crichton as a "scientist", and said the book's fictional depiction of environmental organizations primarily "focused on raising money, principally by scaring potential contributors with bogus scientific claims and predictions of a global apocalypse" was an example of "art imitating life."[52]

In a piece headed Crichton's conspiracy theory, Harold Evans described Crichton's theory as being "in the paranoid political style identified by the renowned historian Richard Hofstadter," and went on to suggest that "if you happen to be in the market for a conspiracy theory today, there's a rather more credible one documented by the pressure group Greenpeace," namely the funding by ExxonMobil of groups opposed to the theory of global warming.[53]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Pascal Diethelm & Martin McKee (January 2009). "Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?". European Journal of Public Health. 19 (1): 2–4. doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckn139. PMID 19158101.
  2. ^ Goldenberg, Suzanne (1 March 2010). "US Senate's top climate sceptic accused of waging 'McCarthyite witch-hunt'". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  3. ^ a b Achenbach, Joel. "The Tempest". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-03-31.
  4. ^ "Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I - Chapter 3: Detection and Attribution of Climate Change". science2017.globalchange.gov. U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). 2017. Archived from the original on 23 September 2019. Adapted directly from Fig. 3.3.
  5. ^ "Total radiative forcing is positive and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750." (p 11) "From 1750 to 2011, CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production have released 375 [345 to 405] GtC to the atmosphere, while deforestation and other land-use change are estimated to have released 180 [100 to 260] GtC." (p 10), IPCC, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis - Summary for Policymakers, Observed Changes in the Climate System, p. 10&11, in IPCC AR5 WG1 2013.
  6. ^ IPCC, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis – Summary for Policymakers, Observed Changes in the Climate System, p. 15, in IPCC AR5 WG1 2013. "Extremely likely" is defined as a 95–100% likelihood on p 2.
  7. ^ [Notes-SciPanel] America's Climate Choices: Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change; National Research Council (2010). Advancing the Science of Climate Change. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. doi:10.17226/12782. ISBN 978-0-309-14588-6. (p1) ... there is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that climate is changing and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities. While much remains to be learned, the core phenomenon, scientific questions, and hypotheses have been examined and found wanting, lacking consistent support in the face of serious scientific debate and careful evaluation of alternative explanations. * * * (p21-22) Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.
  8. ^ [Notes-SciAcademy Statement] "Joint Science Academies' Statement" (PDF). 2005. Retrieved 2014-04-20. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities (IPCC 2001). This warming has already led to changes in the Earth's climate.
  9. ^ Julie Brigham-Grette (September 2006). "Petroleum Geologists' Award to Novelist Crichton Is Inappropriate". Eos. 87 (36): 364. Bibcode:2006EOSTr..87..364B. doi:10.1029/2006EO360008. The AAPG stands alone among scientific societies in its denial of human-induced effects on global warming.
  10. ^ Goertzel, Ted (June 2010). "Conspiracy theories in science". EMBO Reports. 11 (7): 493–99. doi:10.1038/embor.2010.84. PMC 2897118. PMID 20539311.
  11. ^ Six of the major investigations covered by secondary sources include: 1233/uk-climategate-inquiry-largely-clears.html House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (UK); Independent Climate Change Review (UK); International Science Assessment Panel Archived May 9, 2013, at the Wayback Machine (UK); Pennsylvania State University (US); United States Environmental Protection Agency (US); Department of Commerce (US).
  12. ^ Jonsson, Patrik (7 July 2010). "Climate scientists exonerated in 'climategate' but public trust damaged". Christian Science Monitor. p. 2. Retrieved 17 Aug 2011.
  13. ^ Russell, Sir Muir (July 2010). "The Independent Climate Change E-mails Review" (PDF). p. 11. Retrieved 17 Aug 2011.
  14. ^ Biello, David (Feb., 2010). "Negating 'Climategate'". Scientific American. (302):2. 16. ISSN 0036-8733. "In fact, nothing in the stolen material undermines the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that humans are to blame"; See also: Lubchenco, Jane (2 December 2009) House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming (House Select Committee). "The Administration's View on the State of Climate Science". House Hearing, 111 Congress. U.S. Government Printing Office. "...the e-mails really do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus and the independent scientific analyses of thousands of scientists around the world that tell us that the Earth is warming and that the warming is largely a result of human activities." As quoted in the report published by Office of Inspector General.
  15. ^ "Antarctic Cooling Down; The Antarctic Ice Sheet is Growing; Hansen Downgrades Warming Threat". Cooler Heads Coalition. Archived from the original on September 18, 2007.
  16. ^ Gross, Tom. "Weather Channel boss calls global warming "the greatest scam in history"". National Review. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  17. ^ D’Aleo, Joe. "Weather Channel Founder: Global Warming 'Greatest Scam in History'". ICECAP. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  18. ^ Greene, R.; Robison-Greene, R. (2020). Conspiracy Theories: Philosophers Connect the Dots. Open Court.
  19. ^ McKie, Robin (Nov 9, 2019). "Climategate 10 years on: what lessons have we learned?". Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  20. ^ a b c d Uscinski, Joseph E.; Douglas, Karen; Lewandowsky, Stephan (Sep 27, 2017). "Climate Change Conspiracy Theories". Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.013.328. ISBN 9780190228620. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  21. ^ Seitz, Frederick (June 12, 1996). "A Major Deception On Global Warming". Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  22. ^ "James M. Inhofe – U.S. Senator (OK)". Archived from the original on 2007-03-28. Retrieved 2007-03-23.
  23. ^ Senator James Inhofe, Chairman of Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate.The Facts and Science of Climate Change
  24. ^ "Senate Environment And Public Works Committee". Archived from the original on 2007-03-28. Retrieved 2007-03-25.
  25. ^ a b c Douglas, Karen M.; Sutton, Robbie M. (March 1, 2015). "Climate change: Why the conspiracy theories are dangerous". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 71 (2): 98–106. Bibcode:2015BuAtS..71b..98D. doi:10.1177/0096340215571908. S2CID 144008955. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  26. ^ "Global warming labeled a 'scam' - Washington Times". washingtontimes.com. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
  27. ^ "The Rocky Road to a Sustainable Future". The Human Journey. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  28. ^ Harris, Tom (April 23, 2017). "Misleading Clean Power Plan fueled climate deception". The Spectrum. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  29. ^ Davenport, Coral (March 27, 2017). "Climate Change Denialists in Charge". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  30. ^ Schulman, Jeremy. "Every Insane Thing Donald Trump Has Said About Global Warming". Mother Jones. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  31. ^ Wong, Edward (November 18, 2016). "Trump Has Called Climate Change a Chinese Hoax. Beijing Says It Is Anything But". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  32. ^ Uscinski, Joseph E.; Olivella, Santiago (October 2017). "The conditional effect of conspiracy thinking on attitudes toward climate change". Research & Politics. 4 (4): 205316801774310. doi:10.1177/2053168017743105. ISSN 2053-1680.
  33. ^ Powell, James Lawrence (20 November 2019). "Scientists Reach 100% Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming". Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. 37 (4): 183–184. doi:10.1177/0270467619886266. S2CID 213454806. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  34. ^ Friedman, Lisa (2019-11-04). "Trump Serves Notice to Quit Paris Climate Agreement". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-02.
  35. ^ Collomb, Jean-Daniel (2014-01-02). "The Ideology of Climate Change Denial in the United States". European Journal of American Studies (in French). 9 (9–1). doi:10.4000/ejas.10305. ISSN 1991-9336.
  36. ^ "Steve Connor: Global warming is not some conspiratorial hoax - Independent Online Edition > Commentators". The Independent. London. 2007-01-29. Archived from the original on 2007-11-23. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
  37. ^ "Another Species of Denial". Retrieved 2014-01-02.
  38. ^ George Monbiot, Spectator recycles climate rubbish published by sceptic, 2009-07-09
  39. ^ Jones, D; Watkins, A.; Braganza, K.; Coughlan, M (2007). ""The Great Global Warming Swindle": a critique" (PDF). Bulletin of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society. 20 (3): 63–72. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  40. ^ "The Great Climate Change Swindle?". Archived from the original on 2007-03-20.
  41. ^ Than, Ker (2013-04-04). "Fact Checking 6 Persistent Science Conspiracy Theories". National Geographic. National Geographic. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  42. ^ Griffiths, Jenny; Mala Rao; Fiona Adshead (2009). The health practitioner's guide to climate change: diagnosis and cure. Earthscan. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-84407-729-8.
  43. ^ a b "The Denial Machine - synopsis". CBC/Radio-Canada. 24 October 2007. Archived from the original on August 14, 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  44. ^ Begley, Sharon; Eve Conant; Sam Stein; Eleanor Clift; Matthew Philips (13 August 2007). "The Truth About Denial" (PDF). Newsweek. p. 20. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  45. ^ "Exxon Secrets". Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  46. ^ Monbiot, George (2006-09-19). "The denial industry". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  47. ^ "9 out of 10 top climate change deniers linked with Exxon Mobil". 2011-05-10.
  48. ^ "Analysing the '900 papers supporting climate scepticism': 9 out of top 10 authors linked to ExxonMobil".
  49. ^ "Exposing the dirty money behind fake climate science".
  50. ^ a b Adam, David (2008-05-28). "Exxon to cut funding to climate change denial groups". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  51. ^ Mooney, Chris (2005-02-06). "Checking Crichton's Footnotes". Boston Globe.
  52. ^ Inhofe, James M. (4 January 2005), Climate Change Update Senate Floor Statement, U.S. Senator James M. Inhofe, archived from the original on 12 January 2005, retrieved 2011-03-07.
    Mooney, Chris (11 January 2005), "Warmed Over", CBS News, retrieved 2011-03-07. Reprinted from The American Prospect, 10 January 2005.
  53. ^ Evans, Harold (2005-10-07). "Crichton's conspiracy theory". BBC News. London. Retrieved 2007-11-16.

Further reading