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Climate alarmism

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An alarmist is "a person who needlessly alarms or attempts to alarm others, as by inventing or spreading false or exaggerated rumors of impending danger or catastrophe."[1] Climate alarmism is thus the spreading of false or exaggerated rumors of the effects of climate change, usually anthropogenic global warming. The phenomenon followed the rise of legitimate concern starting in the 1970s that human emission of CO2 and other gases could globally raise temperatures with adverse consequences.

The opposite phenomenon is climate denialism, in which faulty evidence or arguments are used to claim that anthropogenic climate change will be insignificant or beneficial. Both phenomena should be distinguished from the range of opinions that are normal in a scientific debate with many unknowns.


Defining the issue

Nearly everyone accepts that the climate changes, and that human activity can have an influence on the climate, in particular that burning fossil fuels releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect that tends to heat the planet. The disagreement is over how much influence human activity has, how much it is going to change, and what should be done about it.

Treatment of sceptics

As in the creation-evolution controversy, climate alarmists resort to vilification.

Terminology: Denier vs. Skeptic

People who reject the existence of anthropogenic global warming are often referred to as "deniers" or "denialists."

This choice of terminology that has been criticized as implicitly linking such sceptics to the likes of holocaust deniers:[2] In some cases the link is explicitly affirmed.

Instead of dishonouring the deaths of six million in the past, climate deniers risk the lives of hundreds of millions in the future. Holocaust deniers are not responsible for the Holocaust, but climate deniers, if they were to succeed, would share responsibility for the enormous suffering caused by global warming… So the answer to the question of whether climate denialism is morally worse than Holocaust denialism is no, at least, not yet.[3]

In other cases, the link is disavowed, and a distinction is emphasized between "skeptics" and "deniers".[4][5][6][7]

Denialist has been used to refer to those who deny the link between HIV (as a virus) and AIDS (as symptoms resulting from it); the smoking-lung cancer link; and those who deny evolution, and paralells between these cases and climate change denial have been described.[8] Further, another author points out:

Second, they [denialists] convinced journalists that "denier" is associated with the Nazi Holocaust and is purposefully used by scientists and their allies as a slur to dehumanize critics and silence debate. Never mind that it's a word whose meaning hasn't changed since the Middle English era. Editors and reporters were intimidated into avoiding it, as if it were an offensive racist or sexist curse.


10:10 "No Pressure" video

Climate change campaign group "10:10" professionally produced a bizarre four-minute "mini movie" that made other attacks on sceptics seem mild. Titled "No Pressure" the film, made with the assistance of prominent names in the entertainment industry, showed climate change sceptics, including school children, being told that there was "no pressure" to help with combatting climate change, then, for not toeing the line, being blown up, splattering flesh and blood all over the place.[10] Descriptions of the film included "unbelievably vile", "the most disgusting climate and carbon reduction video ever"[10] "noxious", and "beyond tasteless",[11] and supporter Sony U.K. withdrew their support of the organisation due to the violent nature of the film.[12] Public pressure forced 10:10 to withdraw the film from their web-site within a day of its release, although they decided to make no attempt to remove copies circulating on the Internet.[13]

Apart from the violent way their message was portrayed, the other bizarre aspect was that the message seemed to be "We environmentalists will tell you that you are free to disagree, but we lie, because we'll punish you for disagreeing", a message one would expect more from critics. Furthermore, those "punished" by being blown up were not (with one exception) those publicly expressing opposition, but merely people who, when asked, conceded that they weren't quite convinced yet, or, in the last case, a supporter who didn't do enough. This was actress Gillian Anderson who was portrayed as herself recording a voice-over on the topic, and who was portrayed as expressing the view that her contribution was doing the voice-over. But this was insufficient, so she was blown up also.

Sceptic Warren Meyer saw the chance for some good to come from the film.

Rather than an isolated aberration, then, the 10:10 video can be seen as the end result of years of ad hominem attacks meant to marginalize skeptics and make it unnecessary to actually address their concerns about the science. Perhaps this video will mark a turning point where we can finally start talking about the science rather than attacking motivations.[14]

Many supporters of global warming science withdrew their support of the film.

Suggestions of Totalitarianism

Alarmists even suggested or hinted that the problem is so serious that democracy should be suspended.

Scientist David Suzuki called for the jailing of politicians who are dissenters.[15]

Australian Professor of Public Ethics Clive Hamilton claimed that the consequences of climate change

are so horrible that we look to any possible scenario to head it off, including the canvassing of "emergency" responses such as the suspension of democratic processes.[16]

United Nations climate official Christiana Figueres praised China's attempts to combat global warming, pointing out that they didn't have the same legislative hurdles as exist elsewhere, at the same time lamenting the situation in the U.S. where the a lack of agreement in Congres was "very detrimental" to such efforts.[17] In response, former Harvard Physicist Dr. Lubos Motl said that "The actual goal of the climatism is to liquidate democracy, freedom, and prosperity in the world."[18]

Exaggerated claims of consensus among the relevant scientific specialists

See also Global warming#Support and dissent.

NASA made the claim that "Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities",[19] citing, among other sources, Zimmerman and Doran and Oreskes. Oreske, as well as Cook et. al., reports proportions between 75% and 100%, depending on exactly what question is being asked. More to the point in the context of the NASA claim is that she does not count "climate scientists" at all, but published papers. This is one way to quantify a scientific consensus, but it has only an indirect relationship with the proportion of climate scientists who endorse AGW. Zimmerman and Doran, in contrast, actually did ask climate scientists the question, "Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?" This question is close to the NASA claim, although there may be significant differences between "very likely due to" and "a significant contributing factor". The main issue in the Zimmerman and Doran survey is exactly which population is being considered. Of the 3146 respondents in the full sample, who were already selected to be "earth scientists" employed at academic and government institutions, mostly in the United States, 82% answered yes to the question posed above. While still showing a strong consensus, the 18% excluded from this figure is 6 times larger than the 3% excluded in the NASA claim. Only by restricting the sample to 79 respondents - those who identified their area of expertise explicitly as "climate science" and who also published more than 50% of their peer-reviewed papers in the last five years on the subject of climate change - could Zimmerman and Doran report 97% supporting AGW. Because of the very small number of negative replies, the actual percentage could be a few points higher or lower than 97%. When NASA simply says "climate scientists", it is not obvious that that term must be narrowly defined in order to be able to speak of a 97% consensus.

Claims of consequences

Climate alarmists have made a range of claims about the consequences of AGW, especially if governments fail to respond in the way they believe appropriate.

Polar ice melting

In 2007, a group led by Professor Maslowski which included scientists from NASA, the Institute of Oceanology, and the Polish Academy of Sciences predicted that the Arctic would be ice-free in summer by 2013, a prediction he described as arguably "too conservative".[20][21]

The following year (2008) James Hansen, who is said to have first drawn attention to global warming, said that the Arctic would be free of ice in the summer in five to ten years.[22]

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in 2008 claimed that the "entire north polar ice cap will be gone in five years".[23] The following year he claimed that there was a 75 percent chance of the entire arctic ice cap melting during the summer by 2014.[24]

Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor at the British newspaper The Independent, reported that the Government's chief scientist, Professor Sir David King, believed "Antarctica is likely to be the world's only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked". In context, King was talking about the era 60 million years ago, when the level of CO2 in the atmosphere was at 1,000 parts per million, there was no ice on the planet, and the conditions on most of the planet were hostile to mammalian life. The direct quote reported was "we will reach that level by 2100". The alarmist statement may have originated with the journalist Lean, rather than the scientist King, through confusion over whether the statement referred to the level of CO2 or an ice-free state at the end of the century.[25]

There has been a downward trend in Arctic summer sea ice, but it is a long way from being ice free in summer.[26]

Rising sea levels

Scientists have observed a sea level rise of 8 inches since 1870,[27] and, if left unmitigated, is considered by experts likely to rise 0.4-0.6 m by 2010.[28]

Professor Michael Archer, paleontologist and former dean of the science faculty at Sydney's University of New South Wales, claimed in 2007 that "[With the ice sheets at the poles and Greenland melting] the sea levels will be 100 meters (330 feet) higher than they are today".[29] There is general agreement that the volume of water locked in the ice sheets would be sufficient to raise sea level by roughly 100 metres, but it would take several degrees of warming and several centuries to melt them completely. In an exchange between the journalists Andrew Bolt, political blogger and columnist at the Herald Sun and other newspapers, and Robyn Williams, science presenter at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation,[30] Bolt paraphrased Archer as claiming that the rise in sea level would occur "this next century". Williams did not question this interpretation of Andrews' statement and endorsed the content:

Andrew Bolt: I ask you, Robyn, 100 metres in the next you really think that?
Robyn Williams: It is possible, yes.

Climate refugees

The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR claims that climate change will lead to an increase in the number of people seeking refugee status. Other claims link this to rising sea levels brought on by climate change.[31]

In 1997 Oxford University Professor Normal Myers said that by 2010 there would be at least 50 million environmental refugees. This was taken up and quoted by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)[32] who also gave the media a map of where the refugees would come from. When the prediction was shown in 2011 to be false,[33] UNEP removed the map and claimed that the information and map did not come from them, although their Cartographer was the one who drew the map for a newspaper.[34][35][36][37] In fact UNEP had funded Myer's study.[38]

See also



  1. American Heritage Dictionary, as cited by
  2. 'Andrew', Skeptics Smeared As Holocaust Deniers, ADL Silent, Popular Technology, Fri. 28th February, 2014Fri. February 28th, 2014.
  3. Hamilton, Clive, Hamilton: Denying the coming climate holocaust, Crikey, Mon. 16th November, 2009Mon. November 16th, 2009.
  4. David Brin, Climate Skeptics v. Climate Deniers]
  5. Climate Denial Video #1: The Difference between Skepticism and Denial
  6. Ashutosh Jogalekar, Climate change “deniers” and “skeptics”: What’s the difference?: "I don’t want this discussion to even remotely turn into one comparing climate change denial to Holocaust denial; in my book there’s no comparison whatever, and any person who does this will have their comment removed. That being said, “denier” has a legitimate place in the English language, you can find it in most dictionaries independent of the vile context in which it’s used today, and it did exist before it was hijacked by Holocaust deniers."
  7. Michael Shermer, Skepticism vs Denialism, excerpt from Living in denial: When a sceptic isn't a sceptic
  8. Diethelm, Pascal; McKee, Martin. "Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?" European Journal of Public Health 2009(19): 2-4.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Watts, Anthony, O…M…G – Video explodes skeptical kids in bloodbath, Watts Up With That, Thu. 30th September, 2010Thu. September 30th, 2010.
  11. Bill McKibben, Days that Suck, ClimateProgress, Fri. 1st October, 2010Fri. October 1st, 2010.
  12. Ariel Schwartz, Sony Drops Out of Climate Change Campaign After Exploding Kids Ad, Fast Company, Wed. 6th October, 2010Wed. October 6th, 2010.
  13. Bolt, Andrew, Life suddenly too hot for the eco-fascists of 10:10, Sat. 2nd October, 2010Sat. October 2nd, 2010.
  14. Warren Meyer, Why Blowing Up Kids Seemed Like A Good Idea, Forbes, Thu. 7th October, 2010Thu. October 7th, 2010.
  15. "Shady", More Transparent: Totalitarian Regimes Or Climate Science?, Sun. 1st June, 2014Sun. June 1st, 2014.
  16. Clive Hamilton, Hidden Doom of Climate Change, The Courier Mail, Sun. 9th September, 2007Sun. September 9th, 2007.
  17. Sangwon Yoon, Biggest Emitter China Best On Climate, Figueres Says, Bloomberg, Wed. 15th January, 2014Wed. January 15th, 2014.
  18. Luboš Motl, Unfcc Boss: Democracy Is "very Detrimental" for War On Agw, The Reference Frame, Tue. 14th January, 2014Tue. January 14th, 2014.
  19. Amber Jenkins (Ed.), Consensus: 97% of climate scientists agree, NASA.
  20. Jonathan Amos, Arctic summers ice-free 'by 2013', BBC News, Wed. 12th December, 2007Wed. December 12th, 2007.
  21. David Rose, And now it's global COOLING! Return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 29% in a year, Daily Mail, Sun. 29th September, 2013Sun. September 29th, 2013.
  22. Seth Borenstein, NASA scientist: 'We're toast', The Argus-Press (Owosso, Michigan), Tue. 24th June, 2008Tue. June 24th, 2008.
  23. Al Gore: “Entire north polar ice cap will be gone in 5 years”, An Honest Climate Debate, Sat. 13th December, 2008Sat. December 13th, 2008.
  24. Murray Wardrop, Copenhagen climate summit: Al Gore condemned over Arctic ice melting prediction, The Telegraph, Tue. 15th December, 2009Tue. December 15th, 2009.
  25. Geoffrey Lean, Why Antarctica will soon be the only place to live - literally, The Independent, Sun. 2nd May, 2004Sun. May 2nd, 2004 (on the Wayback Machine).
  26. Arctic Sea-ice Monitor.
  28. Horton, B. P.; Rahmstorf, S.; Engelhart, S. E.; Kemp, A. C. "Expert assessment of sea-level rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300". Quaternary Science Reviews 84 (15 January 2014), 1-6.
  29. {{{1}}}
  30. Bolt, Andrew, Warming Williams exaggerates again, Sun. 18th March, 2007Sun. March 18th, 2007.
  31. Climate Refugee, National Geographic.
  32. Natural Disasters Contribute To Rise In Population Displacement, United Nations Environment Programme, Fri. 20th June, 2008Fri. June 20th, 2008.
  33. Hannah Barnes, How many climate migrants will there be?, BBC News Magazine, Sun. 1st September, 2013Sun. September 1st, 2013.
  34. Gavin Atkins, Cover Up: Un Tries To Erase Failed Climate Refugee Prediction, asian, Sat. 16th April, 2011Sat. April 16th, 2011.
  35. Gavin Atkins, 50m Climate Refugee Claims: It’s All About Money for the Un, asian, Tue. 19th April, 2011Tue. April 19th, 2011.
  36. Gavin Atkins, Reaction To the 50 Million Climate Refugee Prediction, asian, Fri. 22nd April, 2011Fri. April 22nd, 2011.
  37. Gavin Atkins, The Origins of the 50 Million Climate Refugees Prediction, asian, Sat. 23rd April, 2011Sat. April 23rd, 2011.
  38. Gavin Atkins, 50m Climate Refugees? New Scientist Can’t Find Them Either, asian, Thu. 5th May, 2011Thu. May 5th, 2011.
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