A Simple Pie Chart Shows Why Climate Change Denial Is Just Hot Air

Bad Astronomy
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Dec. 11 2012 8:00 AM

Why Climate Change Denial Is Just Hot Air

I was thinking of writing a lengthy post about climate change denial being completely unscientific nonsense, but then geochemist and National Science Board member James Lawrence Powell wrote a post that is basically a slam-dunk of debunking. His premise was simple: If global warming isn’t real and there’s an actual scientific debate about it, that should be reflected in the scientific journals.

He looked up how many peer-reviewed scientific papers were published in professional journals about global warming, and compared the ones supporting the idea that we’re heating up compared to those that don’t. What did he find? This:

Pie chart of global warming denier papers
The thin red wedge.

Image credit: James Lawrence Powell

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Oh my. Powell looked at 13,950 articles. Out of all those reams of scientific results, how many disputed the reality of climate change?

Twenty-four. Yup. Two dozen. Out of nearly 14,000.

Now I know some people will just say that this is due to mainstream scientists suppressing controversy and all that, but let me be succinct: That’s bull. Science thrives on dissenting ideas, it grows and learns from them. If there is actual evidence to support an idea, it gets published. I can point out copious examples in my own field of astronomy where papers get published about all manners of against-the-mainstream thinking, some of which come to conclusions that, in my opinion, are clearly wrong.

So let this be clear: There is no scientific controversy over this. Climate change denial is purely, 100 percent made-up political and corporate-sponsored crap. When the loudest voices are fossil-fuel funded think tanks, when they don’t publish in journals but instead write error-laden op-eds in partisan venues, when they have to manipulate the data to support their point, then what they’re doing isn’t science.

It’s nonsense. And worse, it’s dangerous nonsense. Because they’re fiddling with the data while the world burns.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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