NewScientist on Climate change: A guide for the perplexed

May 16, 2007 at 4:06 pm | Posted in Climate change, TGGWS | 6 Comments

A quick cut&paste is all I have time for now, sorry. Enjoy!

Climate change: A guide for the perplexed

  • 17:00 16 May 2007
  • news service
  • Michael Le Page

Our planet’s climate is anything but simple. All kinds of factors influence it, from massive events on the Sun to the growth of microscopic creatures in the oceans, and there are subtle interactions between many of these factors.

Yet despite all the complexities, a firm and ever-growing body of evidence points to a clear picture: the world is warming, this warming is due to human activity increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and if emissions continue unabated the warming will too, with increasingly serious consequences.

Yes, there are still big uncertainties in some predictions, but these swing both ways. For example, the response of clouds could slow the warming or speed it up.

With so much at stake, it is right that climate science is subjected to the most intense scrutiny. What does not help is for the real issues to be muddied by discredited arguments or wild theories.

So for those who are not sure what to believe, here is our round-up of the 26 most common climate myths and misconceptions.

There is also a guide to assessing the evidence. In the articles we’ve included lots of links to primary research and major reports for those who want to follow through to the original sources.
Human CO2 emissions are too tiny to matter

We can’t do anything about climate change

The ‘hockey stick’ graph has been proven wrong

Chaotic systems are not predictable

We can’t trust computer models of climate

They predicted global cooling in the 1970s

It’s been far warmer in the past, what’s the big deal?

It’s too cold where I live – warming will be great

Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans

It’s all down to cosmic rays

CO2 isn’t the most important greenhouse gas

The lower atmosphere is cooling, not warming

Antarctica is getting cooler, not warmer, disproving global warming

The oceans are cooling

The cooling after 1940 shows CO2 does not cause warming

It was warmer during the Medieval period, with vineyards in England

We are simply recovering from the Little Ice Age

Warming will cause an ice age in Europe

Ice cores show CO2 increases lag behind temperature rises, disproving the link to global warming

Ice cores show CO2 rising as temperatures fell

Mars and Pluto are warming too

Many leading scientists question climate change

It’s all a conspiracy

Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming

Higher CO2 levels will boost plant growth and food production

Polar bear numbers are increasing

Polar bear adapting to global warming by taking to a rowing boat

This polar bear climbing into a rowing boat is doing both: reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and preparing for the impacts of climate change!


Since I wrote this yesterday, I came home today to a NewScientist wrapped in its recyclable Polyprint Mailing Film on my doormat. (Yes, kids in CA, I know you think it is highly amusing that we have letterboxes slap bang in the middle of in our doors here in the UK.  Our post is delivered and falls through right onto the mat, which means we either skip for joy or groan as we open our front door to the sight of our welcome home bundle of post.) Well, look what else was in that issue No. 2604 of New Scientist ~ this letter:


Warming swindle

[Cartoon: “Global warming arguments always raise the temperatures.”]

From Martin Durkin

Alan Thorpe, attacking my film The Great Global Warming Swindle, tells us not to “play games with the evidence” (17 March, p 24). Right ho. Let’s not.

He says: “There is no question that the more CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet becomes.” Perhaps Thorpe is too young to remember the post-war economic boom. To remind him, it was the biggest explosion of economic activity in the history of human civilisation up to that point; an unprecedented volume of CO2 was pumped into the atmosphere from lots of factories. What happened to the temperature? It went down. According to most temperature records, it went down from 1940 to about 1975.

Coincidental with the post-war cooling was a marked downturn in solar activity. Yet Thorpe boldly asserts, without any supporting evidence, that solar variations have an insignificant effect on the Earth’s climate. I refer interested readers to the work, published in 2005, by Jan Veizer (GeoScience Canada, vol 32, p13) and Willie Soon (Geophysical Research Letters, vol 32, L16712).

Then Thorpe admits, reluctantly, that in the ice core data, the temperature variation is followed, rather than preceded by changes in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. So carbon dioxide is clearly not driving climate. Awkward. So what is driving it? Thorpe says it’s the sun (mighty powerful thing, the sun), but then he tries, feebly, to salvage his CO2 argument by suggesting that maybe the resulting changes in CO2 amplify the temperature changes still further.

Oh really? As it happens, there is no evidence at all that this is true. Very often in the ice cores CO2 rises like a rocket, while the temperature plummets. So who is playing games? Thorpe implies that I think there is a global warming conspiracy. I don’t. But I know that lots of scientists (like Thorpe), and journalists too, have staked their reputations on this theory being true. Many have built their careers on it. I sympathise with them.
London, UK

The editor of NewScientist writes:
For full discussion of climate myths, turn to p 34 and — and comment on Veizer’s paper is at



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  1. Hi Inel
    It’s me Kelly
    thank you for helping me by supplying graphs and images. i really appreciate it.


  2. Hi Kelly,
    Nice to hear from you. I will be out today, but as soon as I get back to my computer, I shall do one post specially for you with some graphics OK?

  3. Hi – Some good links here. I now have a lot of reading to do (I must not frown) but all look like measured and well laid out explanations. Well done.

  4. Thanks – extremely helpful links to NewScientist articles! – going to post an echo on my blog. peace,


  5. Hi Andrew,

    Your blog is cool. I think the NewScientist articles are brilliant for those who want to get into the science in detail.

    Hello again Kelly,

    For you and your fellow students, you might like to check out the Royal Society pages that explain in simpler, but still accurate, terms the answers to the main climate change controversies. You can show them to your teachers, OK?

    Climate change controversies: a simple guide


  6. […] Scientist :: countering climate change skeptics So inel’s post here hipped me to the New Scientist’s feature that details climate change myths, and the evidence […]

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