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Debunking Climate Myths from Politicians

Posted on 31 March 2011 by dana1981

Climate Myths from PoliticiansSkeptical Science readers know that the main purpose of our site is to debunk climate-related myths.  To achieve this purpose, we have created the Arguments Database, and examined what the scientific literature says about each argument.  We have subsequently used this database to respond when we've encountered these myths being repeated and propagated, for example by Christopher Monckton, PreventingDisease.com, and Reconsidering Climate Change.

At times we have also made use of the database to debunk myths and flawed arguments made by "skeptic" climate scientists, like Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen.  Recently we addressed a number of myths and misleading statements made by Dr. John Christy in his testimony to U.S. Congress.  In watching the associated Congressional hearing, we were disappointed to see many American politicians repeating the same myths which our database has debunked.  It appears that these myths have become very pervasive in American politics, and are being used to justify some very anti-science legislation.

As a consequence, we at Skeptical Science have decided that it would be a worthwhile endeavor to apply our Arguments Database to certain politicians who frequently perpetrate the myths we have debunked.  We have created a Climate Myths from Politicians Database which pairs quotes from politicians with the corresponding rebuttal in the Arguments Database, and the one-line summary of each rebuttal.  John Cook has also created a snazzy new button, as you can see above.  Here's a sample of the database:

  Climate Myth What the Science Says

Sarah Palin
"The e-mails reveal that leading climate "experts" deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to "hide the decline" in global temperatures."
The "decline" refers to a decline in northern tree-rings, not global temperature, and is openly discussed in papers and the IPCC reports.

Joe Barton
"There are just as many glaciers that are growing that are shrinking."
Most glaciers are retreating, posing a serious problem for millions who rely on glaciers for water.

Ralph Hall
"Recent events have uncovered extensive evidence from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England, which involved many researchers across the globe discussing the destruction, alteration and suppression of data that did not support global warming claims. Leaked email exchanges detail attempts to alter data that is the basis of climate modeling. These exchanges reveal actions that constitute a serious breach of scientific ethics."
A number of investigations have cleared scientists of any wrongdoing in the media-hyped email incident.

James Inhofe
"The claim that global warming is caused by man-made emissions is simply untrue and not based on sound science."
Multiple sets of independent observations find a human fingerprint on climate change.

Dana Rohrbacher
"The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, the OISM, released the names of some 31,478 scientists who signed a petition rejecting the claims of human-cased global warming."
The 'OISM petition' was signed by only a few climatologists.

Currently the database is limited to U.S. politicians, but in the near future we will expand it internationally.  We hope it will be a useful resource to continue debunking these long-lived myths, and help convince politicians to stick to the facts.  Never let it be said that we at Skeptical Science aren't optimists!

Readers are encouraged to add to the database by providing quotes and source links in the comments for any politician.  We did a thorough search for quotes from Democratic politicians, but were unable to find any which qualified (the myth must be debunked in our Arguments database); however, quotes from politicians of any political party are welcome and appreciated!

NOTE: The short URL for the Climate Myths from Politicians is:
http://sks.to/skepticquotes

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Comments 51 to 71 out of 71:

  1. This comment may again be off topic for a site such as yours, but if one is going to list politicians who denounce the science from the IPCC without knowledge, would it not, in the intersts of balance, be fair to also list those like Ross Garnaut in particular and also Keven Rudd, Greg Combet and many others who continure to assure us that the science is settled, when in fact they do not have a single clue about the science.
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  2. John Nicol "...when in fact they do not have a single clue about the science.

    Amateurs and novices don't need personal expertise when they rely on the results of 100+ years of scientific endeavour. (And I'm just accepting your characterisation of those particular people. For all we know, they might be quite knowledgeable about some aspects of the science.)

    It's only when people, scientists or otherwise, contest scientific findings that they must demonstrate expertise of their own. Commonly accepted science is occasionally overturned - steadily as with tectonics, all at once with stomach ulcers - but such events are rarely the result of non-experts producing the goods.
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  3. John nicol - we are not listing politicians speaking about climate science without "a single clue about the science". If we were, at the very least Ross Garnaut would not qualify, as I believe he has spent substantial time reading up on the subject. However, the point of this resource is to list politicians who are repeating long-debunked climate myths, and to provide a link to the discussion of why these myths are wrong.
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  4. Add former US Sen(R-PA)Rick Santorioum who is currently seeking the Repblican presidential nominmation.
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  5. Can you provide some quotes (with links) for Santorum that we can add to the database, badger?
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  6. "I believe the earth gets warmer and I also believe the earth gets cooler," Santorum said. "And I think history points out that it does that and that the idea that man, through the production of CO2 — which is a trace gas in the atmosphere, and the man-made part of that trace gas is itself a trace gas — is somehow responsible for climate change is, I think, just patently absurd when you consider all the other factors, El Niño, La Niña, sunspots, moisture in the air. There's a variety of factors that contribute to the Earth warming and cooling."

    Rick Santorum
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  7. "There’s a variety of factors that contribute to the earth warming and cooling, and to me this is an opportunity for the left to create—it’s a beautifully concocted scheme because they know that the earth is gonna cool and warm. It’s been on a warming trend so they said, “Oh, let’s take advantage of that and say that we need the government to come in and regulate your life some more because it’s getting warmer,” just like they did in the seventies when it was getting cool, they needed the government to come in and regulate your life because it’s getting cooler. It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life, and I’ve never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative."
    Rick Santorum on Rush Limbaugh
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  8. Is Texas Gov Rick Perry already in your database?
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  9. @Robert Murphy 56 & 57:

    Muchos gracias!
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  10. Thanks Robert. Santorum has been added. We don't have Rick Perry yet.
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  11. Dana;

    You'll find some good stuff on Perry in Rick Perry Asks Texans to Pray for Rain
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  12. Here is a refreshing change of pace from Republican Presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman:
    "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."
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  13. More on Guvna Perry

    The man is a buffoon (and I can say that because I live in his state).
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  14. I'd like a response to this comment,
    "I'll believe in climate change if they can explain to me why there are fossil fuels under the Arctic".
    The theory of this person seems to be that the earth cannot possibly be at record high temperatures as there must have once been tropical rainforests in the Arctic.
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  15. gavinabrown - unbelievable! Perhaps a short course on plate tectonics and fossil fuel generation is required... who made this comment?
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  16. Oh, but the earth HAS been warmer than now. In Pliocene, there was no glacial cycle and much still in more distant past. Probably warmer in the HCO as well in much more recent history but that was due to sun.
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  17. Hi scaddenp,
    The guy making the comment was a skeptic. I'm studying carbon management and as part of an assignment I had to ask him what he thought about offsets. That set him off in a 'friendly' tirade.
    So given that you mention plate tectonics, I assume you are suggesting that the fossil fuels were created from fossils which were originally from warmer areas and moved underground?
    And if the earth was warmer than now, is the common response that it wasn't so harmful as humans weren't around yet?
    Thanks.
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  18. gavin, First off, it a fallacy that you need tropical forests to produce oil. Oil source rocks come from a variety of sources. Type I and II (especially) kerogens are best oil producers, and originate from plankton and spores. Marine black shales are examples. I work at opposite end of planet and I am unfamiliar with arctic source rock but I believe Mesozoic black shales are common. Land sources (forest/peat) form type III kerogens and are gas-prone. They are minor players in the oil world.

    And yes, plate tectonics matter. Need to look at where arctic was when source rock was formed. No ice caps in mesozoic though so productive ocean enough to produce the required source rock even if it was in on the pole.

    Its a debatable question as to whether a warmer climate is better or not. What isnt debatable is that rapid climate change in either direction is bad. Our civilization and agriculture is deeply dependent on current sealevel and climate and changing it quickly would be expensive in many ways.
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  19. Thanks. I'll pass that to the skeptic - I'm sure nothing will change his mind but it may be a small start.
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  20. A ray of hope from Republican former Congressman Bob Inglis. Perhaps more conservatives will have the courage to speak about the conflict of Conservatism vs Science.

    "When it comes to energy and climate, these are not normal times. We’re following sentiment, not science, we’re turning a blind eye to accountability, and we’re failing to use the power of markets."
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  21. I nominate John Howard for saying during his launch of Ian Plimer's latest book that teachers should offer the view in schools that climate change is not man-made.

    Also the Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, who says that climate change “extremism” is the work of “pagans"
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  22. Why not include Tony Abbott's photo on this page:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/skepticquotes.php
    Why just limit these polis to USA?
    You have him here at:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/skeptic_Tony_Abbott.htm
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  23. The NSW Deputy premier ANDREW STONER: On ABC radio PM program 4 Jun 2012:-
    MATT WORDSWORTH: New South Wales' Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner recently voiced his concerns about climate science.

    Three weeks ago he attacked the Climate Commission's report, The Critical Decade, which predicted a rise in heatwave events and flash flooding.

    ANDREW STONER: This is alarmist, we've heard predictions of all our dams drying up in the past, we've heard predictions of the Central Coast and other coastal parts of the state going underwater, the polar ice caps melting.

    I'm sorry, none of this has happened so unless he's got some new evidence, I think the average person would be a little sceptical.


    An example of dismissing the issue by assuming an unrealistic timescale on the predicted possible occurrence of these dire events.
    He should be reminded of the planetary timescale on which climate change occurs.
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  24. On ABC radio PM program 4 Jun 2012:-
    MATT WORDSWORTH: The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority issued a report in 2009 citing anthropogenic climate change as a priority issue for the reef.

    But Queensland's Environment Minister Andrew Powell is not convinced about the role of humans.

    ANDREW POWELL: Look, I believe the climate is changing; I am still to be convinced of the degree to which we are influencing that. But having said that, are we polluting the environment? Certainly. Are we using a non renewable source of energy? Certainly. Do we need to address both of those factors? Most definitely.

    As environment minister he should be aware that scientists have positively identified (via carbon isotopes) the source of this additional CO2; it originating from the burning of fossil fuels.
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  25. John B - the Great Barrier Reef may be entering a time of great danger. Not only is ocean acidification bubbling away in the background, but a return to an El Nino-dominant period will probably bring on mass coral bleaching. Not good for a reef already losing coral cover year-by-year due to pollution, disease and crown-of-thorns outbreaks.

    You'd expect an Environment Minister to be.....concerned about the environment.
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  26. Could someone add some quotes from Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" that have been debunked?

    I have knowledgeable friends, UEs (Unconvinced by the Evidence) and CEs (Convinced by the Evidence) who think Al Gore's film was a "hit alpha amidships".

    I'm a CE since the 1990s (Lovelock's "The Ages of Gaia"). I'm not an Earth sciences guy (B.S. applied math / physics, M.S. computer science) with only a casual knowledge of climate science, but I spotted many over-reaching claims when "Inconvenient Truth" first opened. Not good!

    Gore politicized the issue & passed many alarmist messages based on some claims that were not true or misleading. The damage continues... ACC is too important not to acknowledge excesses on more than one side and send out the repair parties.
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  27. TomPain, see the existing thread on 'An Inconvenient Truth'.

    As various scientific and legal reviews have indicated, the film is largely accurate with only a few minor errors and a degree of spin (i.e. emphasizing some facts while downplaying others). The skeptic claims that it is 'full of inaccuracies' are themselves false.
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  28. CBDunkerson, thanks for the link! I'll check it out.

    Gore's film is “largely accurate”? Debatable. I thought it was 85% accurate when I saw it in 2006. Over time I've revised that estimate down. “Richard Muller on Climate One” (search for it on You Tube) gives it only 50% - the other half = wrong, misleading, or alarmist. Muller is a harsh critic, but many of the best scientists are.

    On Yahoo News comments, it seems more knowledgeable posters are Gore-averse.

    85% accurate was a poor grade for a film of Gore's budget and influence. His star has fallen in the U.S.
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  29. Gore's film got all of the fundamental science right. There were a few details that weren't correct, like about the Mount Kilimanjaro glaciers for example, but in my opinion getting the basic science right is the most important thing, and the film did that quite well.
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  30. Dana, maybe we can agree to disagree about Gore. I still remember the film's ten-minute tie to Hurricane Katrina. The science was better than its emotional alarm bells.

    But, enough of that! You live in the Bay Area? I'm in Merced. Give me a call [snip] There is a good chance we'll be cooperating on some rebuttal editing!

    Ciao. A piu tardi!
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    Moderator Response: [d_b] Phone number removed for everybody's best interest.
  31. TomPain, Muller made a lot of exceedingly stupid accusations several years ago. Then he put together a study to prove how the global temperature series data was all a big fraud... and instead wound up finding that he had been completely wrong. His science is fine... his assumptions on many issues where he has not done the science continue to be wildly incorrect.

    "I still remember the film's ten-minute tie to Hurricane Katrina"

    So part of the problem is that you remember things which never happened. For the record, it was less than three minutes and Gore never says that AGW caused Katrina. Rather he talks about how warm ocean waters strengthen hurricanes and how AGW warms the oceans... allowing a viewer to make the inference that 2+2=4 while carefully not actually saying it. He does not cover a lot of complexities where AGW effects could also weaken or decrease the frequency of hurricanes... but none of what he says in that segment is incorrect. That's the sort of 'spin' I was referring to. The movie is largely true... it just isn't the 'whole truth'. It presents only one side of the issue and doesn't state a lot of the uncertainties. It is absolutely a 'political' argument... but it is not the huge collection of falsehoods Gore haters and deniers claim. Gore set out to issue a call to action against AGW and used every manner of rhetorical and emotional manipulation to achieve that goal... while confining himself to the facts, other than a few minor errors.
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  32. CBDunkerson, you certainly know more about Muller than I do. It was only last week that I watched the interview “Rihard Muller at Climate One” on You Tube. That's the first time I've heard him speak.

    And no doubt your stopwatch (3 minutes) is more accurate than my six-year old memory of “An Inconvenient Truth”. The Katrina part SEEMED like ten minutes! I was squirming in my seat, thinking “Oh-oh, he's gone off base here.” It was so unnecessary. Obviously, our expectations differed. I anticipated more of an objective documentary, covering opposing aspects that highlighted uncertainties and something far less political. People walked out with the impression their beach-front real estate would crash in value by 2007 / 2008. (Actually, ALL California real estate crashed in value 2007 / 2008, but that wasn't Gore's fault.)

    Let me re-watch the film and get back to you.
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  33. For addition to Australian politicians denial list;
    Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (20:13): ( Ex Hansard House Reps AFP 18th June 2012)
    http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/8f9c3c2a-1ee7-4657-a602-aef97dd32610/0382/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

    Image url: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/handbook/allmps/99931/upload_ref_binary/99931.jpg

    Back in 2005, the United Nations Environment Program, with one of those 'the science is settled' predictions, asserted that global warming would create millions of climate change refugees. By 2010, it was said, these people would be forced to flee their homes because of rising sea levels from melting ice caps.

    Well, 2010 has come and gone and there has not been a single person made a climate refugee because of rising sea levels. However, here in Australia we now have some of the world's first climate refugees, forced to flee their homes not by rising sea levels but by government policies subsidising industrial wind turbines......

    ... Firstly, we need to be clear how little power wind
    turbines actually produce. You would need 3,500 giant steel windmills to produce the equivalent output of one
    single, medium-sized conventional coal or gas fired power station. Secondly, even if we built these 3,500 steel
    windmills, we would still need a gas fired power station as a backup—for when the wind doesn't blow, the power
    doesn't flow. It is that simple. And of course any gas fired backup power station needs to be ramped up and
    down to compensate for the intermittency of the wind. A gas fired plant runs inefficiently, burning more gas and
    having a shorter life span than a plant which is just working normally. It is like a car battling through heavy traffic
    —less fuel efficiency and more wear and tear. Overseas studies have suggested that we could actually lower
    our emissions of carbon dioxide if we did away with wind turbines altogether and just ran gas power stations
    inefficiently.
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  34. [repeated snips]
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    Moderator Response: [RH] I've deleted several posts here for off-topic and accusations of deception. If you wish to contribute to the conversation please first review the comment policies so that your voice can be heard.
  35. Moderator,
    I accept that the "snipped" posts may have strayed from the topic 'Climate Myths from Politicians', but the accusations of deception leaves me perplexed. Deception was never my intent.
    The content of the posts were verbatim extracts from Parliamentary Hansard, accompanied by a link to the source documentation.
    Any perceived deception contained in the texts were not of my making.
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  36. Surely acting Opposition Leader Warren Truss gets a mention for these two....

    ''Indeed I guess there'll be more CO2 emissions from these fires than there will be from coal-fired power stations for decades,''

    IT'S ''utterly simplistic'' to suggest there's a link between climate change and Australia's heatwave and bushfire crisis, acting Opposition Leader Warren Truss says.

    AAP
    January 09, 2013
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  37. An informative list of the known attitude of Australian federal politicians to climate change is here

     

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  38. I hope you extend your database to include Australians. " Maurice Newman, the chairman of the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Council discusses climate change and says that there is little correlation between carbon dioxide and the warming of the planet."

    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2014/s3990190.htm

    "MAURICE NEWMAN: They all come up with flawed methodologies. So we don't pay any attention to that. We know that there are a whole host of scientists out there who have a different point of view, who are highly respected, reputable scientists. So the 97 per cent doesn't mean anything in any event because science is not a consensus issue. Science is whatever the science is and the fact remains there is no empirical evidence to show that man-made CO2, man-made emissions are adding to the temperature on earth. We haven't had any measurable increase in temperature on earth for the last 17.5 years. If you look back over history, there's no evidence that CO2 has driven the climate either. So I know that this is a view which is peddled consistently, but I think that the edifice which is the climate change establishment is now starting to look rather shaky because mother nature is not complying."

    " I just look at the evidence. There is no evidence. If people can show there is a correlation between increasing CO2 and global temperature, well then of course that's something which we would pay attention to. But when you look at the last 17.5 years where we've had a multitude of climate models, and this was the basis on which this whole so-called science rests, it's on models, computer models. And those models have been shown to be 98 per cent inaccurate."

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