Franz Litz: Answering Climate Change Deniers


The 4th of July holiday is here and for many of us that means gathering with family and friends. Inevitably at these gatherings, the subject of work comes up. My work focuses on climate change. Like religion and politics, climate change can make for some lively conversation.

Every now and then, a climate change denier finds his way into one of our family gatherings. Maybe you’ve encountered one or have one in your family. Climate deniers refuse to believe the facts about global warming and climate change. They often raise one issue or claim that is meant to suggest there is debate about the science. 

Don’t fall for that tactic. It’s subterfuge. There is no genuine scientific debate about the key scientific conclusions related to climate change.

Here are the facts: global average temperatures are rising; and these temperature increases are caused by burning fossil fuels—coal, oil and natural gas—leading directly to rapid increases of carbon pollution in our atmosphere.

But while these two conclusions are fairly straightforward, climate science is not. A wide range of factors influence our climate—some natural and some man-made. Climate scientists have spent decades working to understand all of the factors involved. Over the course of those decades, they have heard lots of good quality skepticism and have addressed that skepticism in scientific studies.

I am not a climatologist, and so I don’t even try to keep all of the factors straight.  You don’t need to either. Instead, think of it this way:

·         In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that greenhouse gases are a pollutant subject to regulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

·         97% of working climate scientists agree that the huge volumes of carbon pollution coming from burning coal, oil, and natural gas have caused climate change and will continue to cause serious changes in the future.

·         The National Academy of Sciences—that venerated national institution created by Abraham Lincoln to advise the government on scientific matters—years ago concluded that climate change is real and caused by human activities. 

·         In fact, every national academy of science in the world has reached the same conclusion. Humans are causing climate change.

So there you have it. The U.S. Supreme Court.  97% of all climate scientists. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Every national academy of science in the world. 

Next time someone tells you climate is cyclical (it isn’t), or the sun is throwing off more energy than it did before (it isn’t), or water vapor will cancel out the impact of climate change (it won’t), tell them you are not a climate scientist, but 97% of the world’s climate scientists took those factors into account before reaching the conclusion that our carbon pollution, left unabated, will lead to dramatic climate change.  Tell them you trust every single national academy of science on climate change, and then get back to the barbecue. 


Franz Litz is the Executive Director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center and Professor of Law at Pace Law School.

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