The Contrarians? Full article with references


Climate Contrarians

AKA climate science deniers or climate "faux" skeptics spread disinformation about climate and try to prevent responsible climate risk management. Information for this rather comprehensive article is drawn from the many sources and links in the text.


  • What's this Picture? (Answer: A  contrarian fallacy regarding the "Hockey Stick")

  • Here are some Videos on contrarians

  • Here is a Presentation

  • Finally, what about a little Humor?

    • John Oliver holds a "real" climate debate between 97 scientists vs. 3 science deniers,

    • Plus a rap Video and some Comic Strips


 Who are the Contrarians?

The "contrarians" or "climate science deniers" or "climate risk deniers" or "faux skeptics" are a loud vocal minority. They include some scientists, but who with rare exceptions are not professional practicing climatologists. HERE is evidence that contrarians in general have far less expertise in climate science than mainstream climatologists. The conservative MIT climatologist Kerry labels contrarians as "mavericks" and "charlatans", see HERE.

Climate science deniers are closely associated with "climate risk deniers" who refuse to endorse climate risk management and misunderstand risk management in general.

Some contrarians are politically or financially motivated. Here is the LIST of Climate Science Deniers / Climate Risk Deniers in the US Congress.

Many fields of science have fringe “mavericks”, generally without appropriate qualifications, who rail against established science. Usually these people are demonstrably wrong, violating some well established data or scientific principle, and are ignored. Their arguments do not constitute legitimate scientific debate. An example is Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, whose validity is established beyond question, but nonetheless following an initial period of legitimate scientific discussion, has had a 100-year parade of cranks claiming it is wrong; see here. With climatology, such cranks are given wide publicity, generally by right-wing libertarian media, producing a false appearance of controversy.

Right-wing politicians promote contrarian/denier fallacies from bully pulpits. HERE is a documented example of a contrarian/denier Minnesota State Senator who claims to have a scientific background, but actually never graduated from college. Other examples are below.

HERE is a list of "climate disinformers", what they say, and why they are wrong (Skeptical Science). HERE is RealClimate's "index for debunking of various popular media occurrences of climate-related nonsense".

Comparison of a real climate scientist (Prof. Julia Slingo) and a climate contrarian (Lord Nigel Lawson):

Credit for graphic just above: Thomas Pride
What is the Contrarian Agenda?

The general agenda of contrarians is to derail meaningful discussion and action on global warming by sowing confusion and influencing public opinion. Some contrarians do not have an overt political agenda but rather have an incomplete understanding of the relevant science. Regardless, the right-wing media push contrarian claims, and have unfortunately succeeded in the U.S. in trapping the Republican party into rather complete climate denial, even including those who previously had realistic climate viewpoints. Science for the right wing fringe is filtered for political expediency, potential impacts are minimized, and cost estimates for risk management mitigation and adaptation are maximized.

The economic agenda driving this other-world irresponsibility is the very real financial interest of the immensely powerful fossil fuel industry. Oil/gas/coal have zero economic value to the fossil fuel industry if left in the ground. Therefore the fossil fuel industry is determined that all accessible fossil fuels should be extracted and burned, independent of the consequences. The fossil fuel industry opposes attempts to limit fossil fuel consumption which could depreciate the value of fossil fuel reserves (thus resulting in lower fossil fuel stock value). This includes opposing the risk management mitigation of global warming / climate change by transitioning to a renewable energy future. 

A parallel political agenda is that of right-wing libertarians who want to minimize the role of government generally, and want to eliminate the role of government from climate change action in particular.

The agendas of the the climate change contrarian/denier pseudo-scientists ("mavericks and charlatans" as Kerry Emanuel calls them, see HERE) are varied. Many are simply out of their fields of expertise, some are paid by the fossil fuel industry, some are right-wing libertarians, and some appear egoistically motivated. Characteristically they distort the facts of climate science. They often misunderstand the nature of real science in general. The fossil fuel industry and right-wing media push contrarian/denier pseudo-science to justify their own agendas, as just described.

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What do Contrarians say about Global Warming? The "Four Fallacy Trenches"

Various contrarians/deniers/faux-skeptics hold mutually inconsistent beliefs and positions. There are four categories, rather like four "trenches".

Fallacy Trench #1. Some contrarians deny that recent global warming exists (they distort the meaning of global warming, which is a globally-averaged upward temperature trend seen in the data since 1975, and instead invoke irrelevant fluctuations).

Fallacy Trench #2. Other contrarians do admit that recent global warming exists but claim it is not largely caused by humans (they ignore or distort the attribution provided by current data and climate models, and they emphasize irrelevant ancient data).

Fallacy Trench #3. Other contrarians admit both that recent global warming exists and that it is largely caused by humans, but deny harmful impacts (they ignore current data and expert forecasts).

Fallacy Trench #4. Finally some contrarians admit that global warming exists, is caused by humans, and indeed has harmful effects, but assert that it is too expensive to try to mitigate global warming (they use hand-picked economic scenarios that ignore benefits of new technologies, and they ignore the immense potentially devastating economic costs of unbridled global warming). 

Variations exist for contrarians in all these categories. Keeping up with these variations is difficult.

Common contrarian end goals are opposing climate risk management and stopping effective climate action.

A few years ago, contrarians deliberately changed tactics from arguing about economic costs/benefits of mitigation (#4) to attacking the actual science (#1), the attribution (#2), and the severity of impacts (#3).

However this contrarian/denier diversionary strategy has backfired even for conservatives for two reasons:

  • The "BEST" (Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature) project, which was ironically partially funded by the right-wing Koch Foundation, ended with this statement by project leader Richard Muller: "I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause." In one stroke, Fallacy Trench #1 and Fallacy Trench #2 were thus demolished.
  • Fallacy Trench #3 was destroyed by the horrible impacts of Hurricane Sandy, since extreme events are arguably made worse by global warming which puts more energy into the weather system.

So now, attention has returned to Fallacy Trench #4. Mitigation of climate change, and adaptation when necessary, is where the attention should be, and where it was when the IPCC and Al Gore won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

A good example of a contrarian who propagates Fallacy Trenches #3 and #4 is Bjorn Lomborg, who has no credentialed expertise in climate (his degrees are in political science). Lomborg is a popular right-wing-contrarian-media personality. Dr Peter Raven, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002 said of Lomborg [ref. SourceWatch]: "...he's not an environmental scientist and he doesn't understand the fields that he's talking about so in that case, if you have a point to make and you want to get to that point, which is: everything's fine, everybody's wrong, there is no environmental problem, you just keep making that point. It's like a school exercise or a debating society, which really doesn't take into account the facts". Lomborg was formally accused of scientific dishonesty by a group of environmental scientists regarding a book he wrote. In January 2003, the DCSD [Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty, a Danish government body] released a ruling that [found] the book to be scientifically dishonest through misrepresentation of scientific facts, but Lomborg himself not guilty due to his lack of expertise in the fields in question. Some procedural events followed this ruling, including a complaint that Lomborg's book was not science at all but merely an opinion piece by a non-scientist. [ref. Wikipedia].  References:

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What about Real Scientific Skepticism and Contrarians? 

It is worthwhile noting that scientists, by nature, are skeptics. It takes a long time, with evidence from many sources, with peer-reviewed journals as a filter, for scientists to become convinced. However, once a scientific result becomes established, contrary claims are treated with with the same skepticism. Contrarians misinterpret this fundamental aspect of science. They misrepresent scientific standards by complaining that their ideas are suppressed by a "scientific establishment". 

For a real-life example of skeptical scientists, click HERE. For a great comparison of real scientific skepticism and contrarian faux-skepticism see HERE.


 What are some Contrarian Tactics and logical Fallacies?

The contrarian pseudo-scientific product often resembles Feynman's "Cargo Cult Science". Sometimes this is because of an incomplete understanding of the relevant science. Indeed, some contrarians seem to misunderstand the very nature of science, which consists of a web of facts and theory, different from a mathematical "proof". Science and mathematics are very different. A single incorrect point can invalidate a mathematical proof. However science is "knowledge" and knowledge does not "prove" as in mathematics. This does not mean that scientific results cannot be well established. The fundamentals of climate science are well established. Also, science is not equivalent to legal argument. Legal arguments can focus on a single point. However generally nit-picking some point - as contrarians often do - generally does not imply much of anything, and scientifically does not "disprove" anything. This false, deliberate confusion of science vs. mathematics or science vs. legal argument is a prime contrarian tactic and fallacy.

Many contrarians and contrarian media routinely engage in various distortions of science, data, and logic. Their tactics and fallacies include ignoring or distorting mainstream scientific results, cherry-picking data and falsely generalizing, bringing up irrelevant red-herring arguments, demanding unachievable "precision" from mainstream science with the motif “if you don’t understand this detail you don’t understand anything”, overemphasizing or mischaracterizing uncertainties in mainstream science, engaging in polemics and prosecutor-lawyer Swift-Boat-like attacks on science - and even scientists, attacking the usual scientific process, misrepresenting legitimate scientific debate as "no consensus", and overemphasizing details of little significance.

Contrarians generally will not admit they are wrong or that they could be wrong, even when presented with evidence that they are wrong. Real scientists will change their minds when presented with scientifically convincing evidence. Some contrarians have limited understanding to evaluate real scientific evidence, and some are politically or financially motivated and do not want to evaluate scientific evidence that contradicts their position. On the other hand, contrarians routinely present "evidence" in non-scientific ways, taken out of context, falsely generalizing, that is not scientifically convincing.

Discussions of scientists with contrarians (in print or in person) often resemble a tennis match. The contrarian will lob a pseudo-science fallacy over the net, the scientific rebuttal of the fallacy is ignored by the contrarian, and then the contrarian lobs over another fallacy. Some contrarians are skilled debaters and love publicity of debating in front of audiences. Scientists on the other hand present evidence carefully, which often does not go over to audiences as well as the colorful presentation tactics of some contrarians (a good example is C. Monckton whose picture appears above). As a good analogy, the climate contrarian is often like a medical quack dressed up in a white coat to look like a medical specialist. The general population cannot tell the difference. The audience leaves confused, thinking that there really *must* be a debate on climate science, when in fact the fundamental climate science has been long settled. Indeed generating doubt and confusion is the tactical goal of contrarians in wanting debate, because confused people will not act on climate, and a main end goal of contrarians is to prevent responsible climate action.

Contrarian fallacies can be in any of the four categories (#1. "No Global Warming", #2. "Little or no human influence", #3. "No harmful impacts", #4. "Too expensive to act").

On the other hand, and although there are a few exceptions, contrarian claims constitute fringe science (see below) or pseudo-science that routinely contain flagrant errors and huge uncertainties that contrarians hypocritically persist in ignoring. Contrarian claims are often just misapplied illogical conjectures using irrelevant data, unwarranted generalizations, and sometimes mathematical mistakes. The contrarian strategy is similar to, and arguably derived from, the old propaganda strategy of the tobacco lobby. Contrarians generally do not publish in peer-reviewed journals, mostly because of the generally low quality of their work. Instead right-wing blogs and media loudly proclaim contrarian claims, often in lock-step. A few contrarians publish quality climate papers, but they also sometimes give unpublished talks repeating incorrect contrarian claims.

HERE is a long list of logical fallacies. Contrarians make all of them. Wikipedia says: By accident or design, fallacies may exploit emotional triggers in the listener or interlocutor (e.g. appeal to emotion), or take advantage of social relationships between people (e.g. argument from authority). Fallacious arguments are often structured using rhetorical patterns that obscure the logical argument, making fallacies more difficult to diagnose. Also, the components of the fallacy may be spread out over separate arguments. HERE is a great summary of dishonest illogical tricks in argumentation from The Art of Being Right by Schopenhauer, the original is HERE and HERE. The right-wing media that push contrarian arguments are masters of these tricks.

There are examples backing up all these statements, see the references below, and in particular RealClimate's critiques of contrarian claims. HERE is another good description.

The climate denier website "WUWT" run by one Anthony Watts publishes pseudo-scientific posts like THIS in 2010: "Freaking out about NYC sea level rise is easy to do..." . Here is a picture of Hurricane Sandy's flooding of Avenue C in Manhattan (Wikipedia) two years later, just before a massive explosion at the local power substation:


HERE is a a great rebuttal to a flagrant case of fallacious data cherry picking by the Heartland Institute. In the drawing below, one data point was used in a false argument about arctic sea ice area. This is an example of the classic logical fallacy of false generalization often used by climate deniers.

Aside from being factually wrong, the contrarian argument is a red herring, because the area of extent of sea ice is not as important as sea ice thickness, and sea ice in the Arctic has become very thin. HERE are the data.

The website has easy-to-assimilate responses to contrarian fallacious pseudo-science. For example, for a response to the contrarian fallacy "no global warming since 1998" see HERE with advanced details HERE.


What about "fringe" contrarian ideas?

Fringe contrarian ideas constitute a difficult and potentially confusing topic. A fringe idea is generally off the established science track but not a-priori obviously wrong. Fringe ideas can a-priori turn out to be true or false. For an introduction to fringe science, see HERE.

Contrarian media/politics focus on contrarian climate science because attacking mainstream climate science has been their primary strategy, so we need to talk about climate science or science more generally. For an introduction to the philosophy of science, see HERE.

We first need to keep separate the originators of contrarian fringe ideas from the (mostly right-wing) media and politics using contrarian fringe ideas as a weapon to push a mainly pro-libertarian/fossil fuel agenda and oppose climate risk management. A few contrarians constructing fringe ideas have real climate science credentials.

The scientists with expertise in the appropriate field decide which idea is "fringe" and which idea is "established" through the process of examination and testing over a period of time. Eventually a consensus may or many not be reached by the experts on a particular idea, and this may change over time. For example, regarding the validity of the evidence that the basic greenhouse gas mechanism is causing recent global warming, there is near-unanimous scientific consensus among the experts that have real climate credentials, are working in the field with a position in a recognized scientific department at a university or laboratory (not a right-wing think tank), and who publish in the peer-reviewed scientific literature (non-peer reviewed think tank papers don't count). Opinions of non-experts on what is "fringe" and what is "science" don't count.

There is no problem with fringe ideas per se. Fringe ideas are common in all areas of science, and through the scientific process fringe ideas may either be discarded or sometimes eventually incorporated into mainstream science.

There is a big difference between a "basic" fringe climate idea with the intent to displace or minimize the well-established dominant greenhouse gas cause of recent global warming, and a "detail" fringe idea regarding some detail of climate science, keeping the dominant greenhouse gas warming mechanism in place.

Typically these "basic" climate contrarian fringe ideas have turned out to be demonstrably wrong, being in enough contradiction with data to rule them out. Other basic contrarian ideas do not have convincing physical mechanisms, or any physical mechanism at all.  

An example of an intent to displace established climate science is the incorrect contrarian "basic" fringe claim that variations in solar activity are mostly responsible for recent global warming / climate change; this contrarian claim is demonstrably wrong if only because it disagrees with the data on solar activity. On the other hand, solar effects are included in scientific analyses, to the extent they are relevant, using the relevant data of measured solar intensity.

In contrast to the established basic science, scientists discuss and argue over the details all the time.

New theories often start with a non-established fringe idea or a variant of an established scientific theory (using the scientific definition of theory, not the popular definition). However that does not mean that fringe ideas are automatically productive - quite the contrary. As mentioned above, most fringe ideas turn out to be demonstrably wrong or inconsistent with data or established theory, or are unacceptably flawed outright, or are otherwise non-productive.

Mainstream climate scientists are quite aware of fringe contrarian ideas and consider them. Demonstrably incorrect fringe ideas are rejected by the scientific community specializing in that area. However flawed/incorrect fringe ideas can hang on with people who are not specialists or who do not recognize the problems or who ignore them.

In the end, estimates of uncertainties are one key to understanding. But uncertainty estimates themselves have some uncertainties. Here contrarians routinely overstate uncertainties or cherry pick large uncertainty estimates, with the aim of attacking mainstream science.

Some contrarian claims (usually made by people with few or zero climate science credentials) are so grossly wrong with flagrant errors that they cannot be said to achieve even the status of fringe ideas; these ideas simply constitute pseudo-science. Pseudo-scientific claims routinely exist in many branches of science and in the absence of distortions by media, are simply ignored. For an introduction to pseudo-science, click HERE.

Many examples of climate fringe ideas and pseudo-science with responses can be found on and on

BOTTOM LINE: Again, the problem is not really with climate contrarian fringe ideas. The real problem is that contrarian media/politics distort the scientific process for climate by regularly trumpeting contrarian fringe ideas and pseudoscience with the tactic of attacking established climate science. The underlying contrarian media/political strategy is to push a right-wing pro-libertarian/fossil fuel agenda goal and fuel opposition to climate risk management action.


What are "Appropriate Climate Credentials"? There are some - actually only a few - contrarians with appropriate climate credentials. Appropriate climate credentials means holding a position in climate science at a respected university or lab and having done substantial research published in respected peer-reviewed climate journals. Appropriate climate credentials are not possessed by those who have positions in other fields, or who have only published in journals that are not respected peer-review climate journals, or who have not published anything in many years, or who only publish material for right-wing think tanks, or who have expertise only in non-climate-related fields, or who have no scientific expertise at all. For  example, weather reporters do not generally have expertise in climate science, and have much less scientific training than climate scientists. A weather reporter speaking about climate is like a chiropractor speaking about cancer. Most physicists, most engineers, most geologists, and most mathematicians do not have appropriate climate credentials. A scientist out of his/her field does not speak with the same authority.  Some (like C. Monckton, pictured above) who have been brought in to testify as climate experts by right-wing politicians and who speak on climate science regularly, have no scientific credentials at all.

NOT "disproving" mainstream climate science: First, science is not mathematics and cannot be either "proved" or "disproved". Second, the arguments made by those few contrarians with appropriate credentials do not actually attempt to attack the main fundamentals of climate science. What they do is to argue about the details - notably how much global warming can be expected and how much global warming is attributable to humans. The "contrarian" label is applicable since they search for arguments minimizing the amount of future global warming/climate change and/or minimizing the amount of past global warming/climate change attributable to humans. These contrarian arguments have been singularly unsuccessful, e.g. containing major flaws or unsupported claims or being in contradiction with data. The contrarian arguments have not been widely accepted by most other climate scientists with appropriate credentials.

Essentially the contrarian arguments constitute "fringe science", discussed above.

Bottom Line: Any field of science has its mavericks arguing against the prevailing scientific paradigms. The scientific process and data weed out the arguments. The real problem here is not the contrarian arguments per se. The problem is that right-wing media and politicians use contrarian arguments as weapons to argue against acting responsibly for risk management of climate change.

The Tobacco Analogy and the Oregon Petition

We have seen the tactics of climate contrarians before with cigarette propaganda tactics, as noted HERE: "An identical strategy succeeded in delaying government action against tobacco companies for years despite overwhelming evidence of the hazards of cigarettes". HERE is a University of California paper using the words of the tobacco industry, including this on page 9: "A demand for scientific proof is always a formula for inaction and delay". The same tactic is used by climate contrarians. Convincing evidence documenting the ties between the tobacco attack on medical science and the climate contrarian attack on climate science is in the second half of the video "The American Denial of Global Warming"  by Naomi Oreskes.

Here is a video explaining the connection of a tobacco proponent (the physicist Frederick Seitz) with the so-called "Oregon Petition" (an attack on climate action and science, signed mostly by holders of bachelor degrees and others without credentials in climate science).




What do Contrarians Misunderstand about Climate Risk Management?


Climate Risk Management deals with mitigation and adaptation as procedures to ameliorate the risks of future impacts of global warming / climate change. To do risk management in any setting, risk estimation must first be carried out. This requires the best available input, including models, scenarios, backtesting, and statistical analysis. By definition, risk includes uncertainties. The 2007 IPCC reports and other expert reports summarize the best available information for a sensible climate risk-management framework.

Contrarians misunderstand (either by omission or deliberately) all aspects of climate risk management. First they mischaracterise the expert information for input to risk management. Instead they propagate the message "there is no climate risk". Contrarians have absolutely no evidence for this statement. Also notice that "no risk" has "no uncertainty", so contrarians oppose risk management for the very uncertainty they continually emphasize exists. This is simply fraudulent. Risk management is largely about coping with uncertainty.

Example - Contrarian misuse of uncertainty and temperature sensitivity to argue for no action: A good example involves 1. Overemphasizing uncertainty generally, and then 2. Cherry picking a low improbable value for the CO2 temperature sensitivity (how much the global surface temperature increases when atmospheric CO2 increases) - and then illogically not mentioning the uncertainty in the sensitivity. This ploy is deceptive, frequently used by contrarians, broadcast by right wing media and politicians, and used to justify not acting on climate change.

Contrarians and their media outlets routinely denigrate scientific forecasts of harmful effects of global warming as "alarmist". Above all they oppose any sensible proposals of risk management of harmful climate impacts.

Naturally, risk management comes with a price tag. Ignoring risk management comes with a price tag also. Contrarians overemphasize the price of risk management, and underemphasize the price of ignoring risk management.

As an imperfect but instructive parallel, the attitude of contrarians toward climate risk is similar to the attitude of unprincipled traders on Wall Street who insisted on short term profits at the expense of sensible bank capital requirements against high-risk events, an attitude that lead to the recent financial crisis. The contrarian attitude of ignoring and even sabotaging climate risk management is leading humanity toward a climate crisis.

It can be argued that contrarians (mostly in the US) are currently the main obstacle to beginning the process of implementing sensible risk management actions against the increasingly severe impacts of global warming / climate change. Future generations will look back with an extremely harsh eye at this contrarian myopic, destructive behavior.


What are some Disturbing Elements regarding Contrarians?

From ClimateScienceWatch"Senator James Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has gone a step beyond promoting his long-notorious global warming denialist propaganda. He is now using the resources of the Senate committee to seek opportunities to criminalize the actions of 17 leading scientists who have been associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports."  Inhofe believes that global warming is a "hoax".

This is not the first time that right-wing US politicians from oil states (again notably Inhofe) have attacked climate scientists. Here is Michael Mann's 2003 Senate testimony. Because of his prominence in producing the first so-called "hockey stick" that shows recent temperatures are unprecedented in at least the last 1000 years, climate deniers regularly attack Mann. HERE is some commentary.

Similar disturbing history is in the article by Rich Piltz called "The Denial Machine - Science, Censorship, and the White House" examining contrarians and the Bush Administration HERE.

HERE is a professor who says: "At the American Association for the Advancement of Science meetings last month in San Diego, I was amazed at the number of my mild-mannered scientific colleagues who admitted, in private conversations, the pressures and/or threats they've received."
HERE is another article called "Climate Debate gets Ugly..." that says: Climate scientists, used to dealing with skeptics, are under siege like never before, targeted by hate emails brimming with abuse and accusations of fabricating global warming data. Some emails contain thinly veiled death threats...  
HERE is testimony by Benjamin
 Santer, a
 scientist at
 California at hearings of the House
 on May 20, 2010: "I


While contrarians are mostly a US phenomenon, disturbing developments in Australia are reported HERE and HERE, including DEATH THREATS and one high-level Australian politician in an outrageous speech accusing climate scientists of totalitarianism.

A vicious polemic by the contrarian/denier James Delingpole in the mass-media UK Telegraph under "news > environment" on 4/7/13 started this way: "Should Michael Mann be given the electric chair...?",  continued with "Indeed, it would be nice to think one day that there would be a Climate Nuremberg", and ended with "The climate alarmist industry has some very tough questions to answer: preferably in the defendant’s dock in a court of law, before a judge wearing a black cap", which implies a sentence of death. There can be no mistaking the message, regardless of his disclaimer that he didn't really mean any of it. Thugs reading inflammatory material sometimes carry out violence, and pieces like this will then bear responsibility.


What about the IPCC?

The IPCC and its work is described HERE. The 2007 "AR4" IPCC reports consist of summary but detailed accounts of the best up-to-date scientific and economic research on climate change and global warming, containing 3000 pages in 3 volumes. A few small mistakes were found, including one isolated erroneous paragraph on glaciers in the Impacts 2007 IPCC 1000-page report. This was used as a pretext by right-wing contrarian media to manufacture a destructive attack on the entire IPCC structure.  Actually, the IPCC has been under attack for many years by right-wing contrarians. It should be noted that no human endeavor is guaranteed 100% error-free, not even published papers.

For analysis, see RealClimate's discussion called "The IPCC is not infallible (shock!)". More RealClimate analysis is at: "IPCC errors: facts and spin". HERE is the analysis of the Union of Concerned Scientists. HERE is documentation of contrarian misreporting on IPCC coverage of rain forests.
The few minor glitches in the IPCC reports should be contrasted with the contrarian products, which are full of glaring errors.
A common misleading attack on the IPCC promoted by right-wing media and politicians claims that IPCC authors and reviewers disagree with the IPCC conclusions. Explicit documentation shows that this applies to at most 1% of such people.
In December 2012 part of an unreleased AR5 IPCC draft report was leaked by someone with no science credentials, who misinterpreted a cherry-picked section and mistakenly arrived at the opposite conclusion from the scientist authors. Denier media promptly publicized the false conclusion, ignoring the scientists. See HERE, HERE and HERE.

What about the Hacked Emails and "Climategate"?

The hacked email incident, propagandized as "Climategate", has been blatantly distorted by right-wing media in a destructive frontal attack on climate science and climate scientists. Independent investigations concluded that "Climategate" had no scientific content. Examples:

  • Prof. Phil Jones, at the center of the controversy, was  exonerated by the Science and Technology Committee of the British House of Commons; see HERE.

  • The definitive rebuke to the attempt by right-wing contrarians to exploit this incident was provided in the exhaustive Sir Muir Russell report, which emerged after six months of inquiry, clearing scientists in the Climategate affair. HERE is the full report. The professional climate website RealClimate has a description. HERE is a report from the Guardian UK, which says in part: The climate scientists at the centre of a media storm were today cleared of accusations that they fudged their results and silenced critics to bolster the case for man-made global warming. Sir Muir Russell, the senior civil servant who led a six-month inquiry into the affair, said the "rigour and honesty" of the scientists at the world-leading Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) are not in doubt. They did not subvert the peer review process to censor criticism as alleged, the panel found, while key data needed to reproduce their findings was freely available to any "competent" researcher."


What did Kerry Emanuel Say about "Climategate"?

The MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel wrote a very hard-hitting essay: "Climategate": A Different Perspective, posted on the politically conservative National Association of Scholars NAS website. Emanuel castigates the right-wing attack on climate science that uses the pretext of the hacked emails and the minor IPCC report errors. This essay is extremely important. Here are a few quotes (more extensive quotes are HERE):

...the scandal I see is very different from the one that has been presented to NAS members. Climategate is merely the latest in a series of coordinated, politically motivated attacks that represent an aggravated assault on scholarship...

At the time of this writing, three separate panels convened in Great Britain, and two investigations conducted by the Pennsylvania State University have cleared the authors of the controversial emails of any serious wrong doing, and with good reason. Meanwhile, the gross mischaracterization of what those emails actually contain continues unabated...

The sin of those responsible for simplifying the summary figure pales in comparison to that committed by all those who have sought to elevate this to the level of a grand conspiracy among climate scientists and thereby to discredit a whole field of scholarship...

The allegation that the researchers actually destroyed data has been shown to be false, but it is repeated endlessly.

...several factual errors were discovered in the most recent assessment report of the IPCC. These include a permutation of digits in the year in which certain Himalayan glaciers were predicted to vanish...While errors of this kind are regrettable, the attempt to leverage them into a sweeping condemnation of the whole report betrays such obvious political skullduggery as to be unworthy of further remark..

This deployment of inflammatory terminology has a distinctly Orwellian flavor. It originates not in laboratories and classrooms, where ideas are the central focus and one hardly ever hears labels applied to researchers, but in the media, the blogosphere, and political think tanks, where polarization attracts attention and/or turns a profit...

But it turns out that there are not enough mavericks in climate science to meet the media’s and blogosphere’s insatiable appetite for conflict. Thus into the arena steps a whole host of charlatans posing as climate scientists...

While the climategate email authors are castigated for not being paragons of virtue, the sins of others go unremarked. In the summer of 2009, a one-page letter was sent to Congress, signed by one actual climate scientist and six physicists with little or no background in climate science, three of whom were retired. Among other untruths, it contained the sentence, referring to evidence of anthropogenic global warming, “There is no such evidence; it doesn’t exist.” I confronted the sole climate scientist among the authors with this statement, and he confessed that he did not hold that to be the case. Last I checked, lying to Congress was a federal crime. [See the Nb below].

Kerry Emanuel is a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes, (2005, Oxford University Press). In May 2006 he was named one of Time magazine's "Time 100: The People Who Shape Our World."


Nb: Who was the climate scientist that Emanuel implied lied to Congress above? It seems to be Richard Lindzen, the "sole climate scientist among the authors" who signed the above letter (which is HERE on Marc Morano's contrarian website). The six physicists referred to by Emanuel "with little or no background in climate science" who signed the above letter are Robert H. Austin, William Happer, S. Fred Singer, Roger W. Cohen, Harold W. Lewis, and Laurence I. Gould.

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"Climategate 2011" - What Again?

Right on cue, just before the 2011 Durban IPCC Climate Conference as for the 2009 Copenhagen Conference, another batch of stolen climate emails was released. See HERE for analysis. As before, selected emails were taken out of context and blatantly distorted by right-wing media, clearly aimed at preventing sensible risk management of climate risks. HERE is an excellent video summary with specific examples of this distortion. See also: We are smarter this time around and Snippets of stolen e-mails cannot make the Earth flat.

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Why do we Hear So Much from the Contrarians?

While the history of science is littered with discarded or crank ideas, contrarians producing such ideas today have the unprecedented advantage of being supported notably by powerful energy and right-wing libertarian interests. The media, in order to "present both sides", gives the contrarians unwarranted coverage. In addition there are contrarian Internet bloggers, right-wing politicians, and some influential newspaper editors and TV “news” shows that present only contrarian arguments. 

See the great video by John Oliver below.

HERE is the way one professor put it: "What really bothers me is the stunning lack of balance in U.S. media reports on climate science. In Europe, newspaper coverage gives a pretty accurate reflection of what the leading scientists are saying. In the U.S., the scientific findings are “balanced” against the views of people who know how to spin juicy quotes but can’t even spell “climatology.” When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases a major report, its main conclusions get a few stories, while most of the attention goes to small errors that don’t affect its substance – and that show up about once every 1000 pages."

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What about Media Inaccuracy in climate reporting

The right-wing media chronically, purposely, and blatantly distort climate science.

A Fox News e-mail was leaked confirming Fox News deliberate editorial interference with its climate reporting; it is from Bill Sammon, the Washington DC managing editor. It was sent last December to Fox News producers just as the UN Copenhagen climate conference was beginning. Sammon wrote, "we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts..."

Here are the statistics, compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists:  over 3/4 of the right-wing Fox News coverage contained misleading statements on climate science, as shown in RED in the picture below:

The most influential contrarian-biased paper is the Wall Street Journal. Here is a revealing graph by Prof. Scott Mandia showing that WSJ editorials/op-eds supported consensus climate scientific findings only 7% of the time!

HERE is a paper by William R. Freudenburg , UC Santa Barbara, which discusses the "... growing realization that media coverage of supposed debates has been strongly skewed by a tactic so widespread that it has its own name -- "Scientific Certainty" Argumentation Methods, or SCAMS ".

HERE is a paper "Exaggerating Denialism: Media Representations of Outlier Views on Climate Change" by  Maxwell T. Boykoff , U.  Colorado.

HERE is a video of Prof. Carl Wunsch of MIT complaining about the contrarian film "Global Warming Swindle", which "completely distorted" his comments. He called the film "as close to pure propaganda as anything since World War Two."  Although Wunsch is sometimes quoted for support by contrarians (e.g. see page 7 of Richard Lindzen's 2010 Heartland speech), Wunsch wrote in a letter dated 15 March 2007 that he believes climate change is "real, a major threat, and almost surely has a major human-induced component".

HERE is a point-by-point refutation of an wildly inaccurate contrarian report in a British newspaper.

HERE is a great video on the chronic distortion of climate science by Fox News.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the ultra-conservative group funded by the Koch oil billionaires, is launching a series of adverts that target Democratic senators and aim to block action on climate change, see HERE.

Media inaccuracy on climate has been moving into the mainstream. Here is a RealClimate article discussing an example of misleading media, through incompetence or intent or both; see also "Whatevergate". Part of the problem is that mainstream media have been firing their science writers.

Some Positive Signs in Media Coverage

A "full comment" by Jonathan Kay in the right-wing National Post (Canada) appeared: "Bad science: Global-warming deniers are a liability to the conservative cause".

RealClimate reported that the Sunday Times (UK) retracted a story by Jonathan Leake on a supposed ‘Amazongate’ and published an apology. This is in response (see HERE) to an official complaint to the Press Complaints Commission by Simon Lewis, an expert on tropical forests at the University of Leeds, over the above "inaccurate, misleading and distorted" newspaper story; the story falsely reported a supposed mistake made by the IPCC .

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Are the Scientists Hitting Back  against the Contrarians?


The Climate Science Rapid Response Team CSRRT is a match-making service to connect climate scientists with lawmakers and the media. The group is committed to providing rapid, high-quality information to media and government officials.

HERE is a UK Guardian article that says: "Leading climate scientists have given their support to a Freedom of Information request seeking to disclose who is funding the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London-based climate sceptic thinktank chaired by the former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson. James Hansen, the director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies who first warned the world about the dangers of climate change in the 1980s, has joined other scientists in submitting statements to be considered by a judge at the Information Rights Tribunal on Friday...James Hansen told the Guardian: "Our children and grandchildren will judge those who have misled the public, allowing fossil fuel emissions to continue almost unfettered, as guilty of crimes against humanity and nature... If successful, the FOI request may, by exposing one link in a devious manipulation of public opinion, start a process that allows the public to be aware of what is happening, what is at stake, and where the public interest lies." "(1/22/12)

HERE is an extraordinary letter published in the journal Science, signed by 255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences, including 11 Nobel Prize laureates. It says: "Many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence."

Further, "We also call for an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them."

HERE is an account of the courageous efforts of three climate scientists to cope with personal attacks on them, including for one of them, 91 pages of abusive emails.

Read The 2011 Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards [*B.S. means “Bad Science.”], and the  2010 Climate B.S. of the Year Award.

The Union of Concerned Scientists UCS has announced a program to organize scientists from around the country to beat back misinformation and educate decision makers and the public about the real facts on global warming. A recent UCS email states: "The Union of Concerned Scientists is leading a campaign to promote climate science facts and return the public’s attention back to the urgent need to rein in global warming emissions and implement common-sense solutions to our country’s energy needs." 

Academics are speaking out against a recent attack against the climatologist Michael Mann by the Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli; see HERE and HERE. This attack has disturbing academic freedom implications and is clearly politically motivated. U-Va. has gone to court to stop the AG. 39 school faculty members urged the administration to fight Cuccinelli. A UCS analysis HERE shows that the attack makes basic factual errors. Cuccinelli's demand was denied by the circuit judge on August 30, 2010.

The MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel wrote a very hard-hitting essay: "Climategate": A Different Perspective, which is discussed above

A remarkable series of rebuttals to climate contrarians/deniers/"faux-skeptics" has appeared on The Conversation, an Australian academic site.

HERE is the book Global Warming and Political Intimidation - How Politicians Cracked Down on Scientists as the Earth Heated Up by Raymond S. Bradley (University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences and director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst).

From the article "Playing Rough": Bradley is depicted by contrarian websites "as a ringleader in a conspiracy to orchestrate panic over climate change, one of a cabal intent on making themselves rich and famous, taxing the free market to death, and instituting a new world order headed by Al Gore."

Prof. Andrew Weaver, Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling at U. Victoria and author, filed a lawsuit against the right-wing newspaper The National Post, for libels based on published falsehoods. He also filed suit against the well-known climate contrarian Tim Ball for defamation.

HERE is "A Response to Climate Change Denialism" by Richard Somerville, a distinguished professor emeritus and research professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

HERE is a AAAS Symposium at it's 2010 annual meeting on "Understanding Climate-Change Skepticism: Its Sources and Strategies".

In the UK, Prof. John Beddington, the government's chief scientific adviser, hit out at climate sceptics who attack global warming science on spurious grounds, see HERE and HERE. Beddington said he intends to take this agenda forward with his fellow chief scientists and also with the research councils. “I really believe that... we need to recognise that this is ... an increasingly pernicious influence and we need to be thinking about how we can actually deal with it."

Also in the UK, Simon Lewis, an expert on tropical forests at the University of Leeds, said regarding a false subsequently retracted article on the Amazon in the UK Sunday Times due to Lewis' official complaint to the Press Complaints Commission: "There is currently a war of disinformation about climate change-related science, and my complaint can hopefully let journalists in the front line of this war know that there are potential repercussions if they publish misleading stories. The public deserve careful and accurate science reporting."

HERE is an analysis of the problem in the journal Nature.

Google announced a new program of Science Communication Fellows, initially focused on climate change. Google says: "we chose scientists who had the strongest potential to become excellent communicators. That meant previous training in science communication; research in topics related to understanding or managing climate change; and experience experimenting with innovative approaches or technology tools for science communication." 

Part of the climate communication problem, besides media inaccuracy, is the chronic inability of many scientists to communicate in a simple effective fashion with the media and the public, as discussed HERE.

A sad special case consists of scientists, often retired, who for whatever reason distort climate science. One such case is Don Easterbrook, whose testimony in front of a Washington State Committee in March 2013 so distorted the scientific facts that most of the members of his department (WWU geology) wrote a public letter, saying "[his views] are neither scientifically valid nor supported by the overwhelming preponderance of evidence on the topic".

Read more here:

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What is the Psychology Employed by Contrarians? 

Fallacious tactics used by contrarians constitute a deliberate psychological agenda to influence the public. 

HERE is an excellent essay that says: "People are only too happy to accept a message of denial: you do not need to change, it will all be fine".

One problem is "Confirmation bias" which hampers people from changing beliefs if they first hear contrarian disinformation - cf: Persistence of discredited beliefs and Preference for early information. Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain or strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Hence they can lead to disastrous decisions, especially in organizational, military, political and social contexts.  

HERE is the description of a good article by Clive Hamilton on "Why we Resist the Truth on Climate Change", download HERE. Interestingly, he says "...the campaign in the 1920s against Einstein’s general theory of relativity provides an uncannily complete template for the conservative attack on climate science eight decades later."

The biggest psychological ploy is simply confusion, using right-wing media to propagate the illusion that climatologists are so uncertain about the basic science that no action on mitigating climate change impacts should be taken.

Listen to this Scientific American audio clip with Jay Ingram, host of Daily Planet: Your Opinion of Climate Change Depends on Your Social Psychology.

Here is an article that reviews psychological barriers to acting on climate called “dragons of inaction”:
  • limited cognition about the problem,
  • ideological worldviews that tend to preclude pro-environmental attitudes and behavior,
  • comparisons with key other people,
  • sunk costs and behavioral momentum,
  • discredence toward experts and authorities,
  • perceived risks of change, and
  • positive but inadequate behavior change.

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Where do Contrarians get FUNDING?

An excellent reference for right-wing and fossil fuel opposition to climate science and climate risk management can be found at Greenpeace’s website ExxonSecrets, which documents “Exxon Foundation and corporate funding to a series of institutions who have worked to undermine solutions to global warming and climate change.” This article documents that 9 out of the most prolific 10 contrarians is linked to Exxon Mobil. See also HERE and HERE.

A 2013 report documented that Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change. "I call it the climate-change counter movement,” said the author of the study, Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle. “It is not just a couple of rogue individuals doing this. This is a large-scale political effort." Here is identified funding from foundations:

A Greenpiece report "Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine" is described HERE, and the report can be downloaded HERE. That report says: "Koch has out-spent ExxonMobil in funding these groups in recent years. From 2005 to 2008, ExxonMobil spent $8.9 million while the Koch Industries-controlled foundations contributed $24.9 million in funding to organizations of the ‘climate denial machine’." THIS article in the LA Times regarding an attack on the California state greenhouse gas law says: "The money from David and Charles Koch could significantly help the campaign for the ballot measure, which has been trailing in most polls. They have founded a web of libertarian organizations and think tanks dedicated in large part to fighting what they see as excessive government regulation. They also have helped finance efforts to develop arguments denying that global climate change is a real phenomenon." And from the NY Times, Charles and David Koch, the billionaires from Kansas who have played a prominent role in financing the Tea Party movement, donated $1 million to the campaign to suspend the [California] Global Warming Solutions Act...


ExxonMobil Gave $1.5M to Climate Denier Groups Last Year, Breaking Its Pledge To Stop Funding Denial Machine (2010)



HERE is a smoking-gun 1998 document from the American Petroleum Institute detailing a plan to influence public opinion by sowing doubt about the science, complete with multi-million dollar budget figures.

HERE is a useful site called DirtyEnergyMoney that documents the contributions of big fossil fuel interests to politicians who deny the science of global warming.

The Case of Patrick Michaels

An op-ed by one of the most vocal contrarians, Patrick Michaels, was refuted HERE by the AGU (American Geophysical Union). The AGU said: "Mr. Michaels's op-ed reflects a political strategy to sway popular opinion on climate change without regard for facts or the enormous body of scientific evidence...The result damages the scientific community and is a disservice to the public." HERE is a report indicating perhaps why Michaels makes such misleading statements; it says: "And a 2006 leaked industry memo revealed that he received $100,000 in funding from the Intermountain Rural Electric Association to fund climate denial campaigning around the time of the release of An Inconvenient Truth." You can download an IREA memo here. Michaels currently works for the Cato Institute, founded by the Koch Brothers.

Michaels admitted in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Aug 15, 2010 that around 40% of his funding comes from the petroleum industry, see the video HERE. Now Michaels submitted a "revised" CV to the US Congress that lists $4.2 million in cumulative income from sources over $10,000 (he did not reveal his total income). Michaels claims that only 3% is attributed to energy sector industry sources, which is manifestly inconsistent with the 40% figure he gives in the above 8/15/10 video. Henry Waxman has asked for an investigation of Michaels for this inconsistency, which if true could constitute a federal offense of lying to Congress punishable by jail and fines; see HERE for examples.

Dr. Peter Gleick (member of the National Academy of Sciences) exposed fallacies in two denier articles in Forbes Magazine by "serial climate science conjurer Patrick Michaels with egregious and outrageous claims and errors. This falls well into the category of climate B.S. (bad science)."

See HERE for a scathing review of Michaels' activities, including this gem: Michaels "co-operated with Ross McKitrick on a paper that managed to "prove" that global warming wasn't happening by mixing up degrees with radians." See the RealClimate commentary on this "egregious basic error" HERE.

The Case of Willie Soon

Willie Soon admitted to receiving over 1 million dollars from petroleum (oil) and coal companies since 2001. As documented on, his writings on climate are strictly contrarian. One of his papers led to the resignation of 6 editors in protest at the failure of peer-review that led to its publication.

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What about the Right-Wing Connection with contrarians?

The contrarian Roy Spencer gave this blatant admission on his blog: "I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government." Spencer's climate views are reviewed here. It is worth noting (see HERE) that Spencer is on the board of directors of the George C Marshall Institute, a right-wing thinktank critical of mainstream climate science, and an advisor to the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, an evangelical Christian organisation that claims policies to curb climate change "would destroy jobs and impose trillions of dollars in costs" and "could be implemented only by enormous and dangerous expansion of government control over private life".

Jeremy Grantham, whose firm GMO manages over $100 B, writes Everything You Need to know about Global Warming in 5 minutes: ...right-leaning think tanks...have allowed their drive for desirable policy to trump science... I have a...plausible “conspiracy theory”: that fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results...Challenging vested interests as powerful as the oil and coal lobbies was never going to be easy... Scientists are not naturally aggressive defenders of arguments...The skeptics are far, far more determined and expert propagandists to boot. They are also well funded. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: “Have they no grandchildren?”

HERE is an editorial in Nature Magazine entitled: Science Scorned: The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge. Denialism over global warming has become a scientific cause célèbre within the movement. [Rush] Limbaugh, for instance, who has told his listeners that “science has become a home for displaced socialists and communists”, has called climate-change science “the biggest scam in the history of the world”.

HERE are the results of a Gallup poll showing most conservatives doubt that global warming is even occurring. And HERE is a Guardian article on a report documenting that all but one of the Republican candidates for Senate "are skeptical about climate change". Anyone doubting the connection of climate contrarians with right-wing politics is invited to click HERE.

HERE is an interesting article by Sherwood Boehlert, NY Congressman (1983-2007) who says "...My fellow Republicans should understand that wholesale, ideologically based or special-interest-driven rejection of science is bad policy. And that in the long run, it's also bad politics...The National Academy reports concluded that "scientific evidence that the Earth is warming is now overwhelming." Party affiliation does not change that fact."

In a report, 58 percent of Republicans think global warming is a hoax, whereas just 24 percent of Democrats said the same.

The rest of this essay is full of connections of the right wing with contrarians.

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Where can I get More Information on Contrarians?

The most complete resource is RealClimate's Wiki, which is “an index for debunking of various popular media occurrences of climate-related nonsense”. The RealClimate Wiki has a long list of contrarians along with links to their articles and rebuttals to these articles. HERE is the list of responses to common contrarian arguments at RealClimate. RealClimate is the go-to scientifically accurate website run by professional climatologists. 

Another excellent site debunking contrarians is John Cook's Skeptical Science with organized lists of contrarian arguments and responses (including one-liners). HERE is the Skeptical Science iphone app.

More useful information refuting contrarian claims is at the UK Met Office, the Union of Concerned ScientistsCoby Beck’s How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic, DeltoiddeSmogBlog (which has a LIST of contrarians with background information), Grist, Prof. Stephen Schneider's websiteNERCEDFIsland of Doubt, Climate Science Watch, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (these are true skeptics, not contrarians), Climate Progress, Scott Mandia's site, Fool Me Once, the OSS Foundation, and an essay by D. Chivers that also discusses effective climate communication. 

A great summary of climate change denial on Wikipedia is HERE.

The MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel wrote a very hard-hitting essay: "Climategate": A Different Perspective, which is discussed above.

A very long and detailed response to myriad contrarian attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency made during the EPA's public hearings in 2009 is HERE.

Here are three great videos debunking contrarians with excellent historical overviews of the science by Dr. Naomi Oreskes:  "The American Denial of Global Warming""Merchants Of Doubt" ,  and "Answering Climate Change Skeptics". The case is convincingly made that the contrarian attack on science has nothing to do with science, but has its roots in the right-wing political distaste for government regulation.

An excellent review is in Scientific American: "Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense".

Hard-hitting videos from the Climate Denial Crock of the Week are instructive, including THIS one.

HERE is the Union of Concerned Scientists "Fact-checker" site debunking contrarian claims.

A persistent and incorrect claim of contrarians is that solar effects are responsible for recent global warming; HERE is a paper debunking that contrarian claim, with documentation of the "flawed science" behind it.

The CLIMATE DENIER ROUNDUP site contains information on a variety of contrarian/denier topics.

Here is an essay "The Attack on Climate Change Science" by Bill McKibben, founder of These attacks use Swift-Boat tactics. HERE is a report on a well-known contrarian who admittedly played a part in the Swift-Boat incidents attacking John Kerry and John Murtha.

Here are two great essays by Al Gore, "We Can't Wish Away Climate Change" and Climate of Denial: Can science and the truth withstand the merchants of poison?

HERE is an excellent interview with Prof. Stephen Schneider discussing the contrarians.

Mostly, climate contrarians are not climate scientists who publish in peer-reviewed climate journals. HERE is documentation.

HERE is an excellent summary "Global Warming Contrarians and the Falsehoods they Promote" on the State of California AG website. Contrarian positions used by Republicans are affecting California state politics, the state climate change law AB32, and green economic initiatives in Silicon Valley; see HERE.

Although the denial industry is largely American, there are a few European contrarians. HERE is an article in Le Monde documenting numerous contrarian errors.

Here is the Australian Climate Institute's "Debunking the Deniers" site.

It is telling that one of the most vociferous countries with an official contrarian view is Saudi Arabia. The Saudi's lead climate negotiator told BBC News that "...there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change." NotablySaudi Arabia  blocked a call by vulnerable island states at climate talks for a study...  A Fox News / AP article says that Saudi Arabia has a long history of playing an obstructionist role at climate conferences. Indeed, Saudi Arabia wants reparations  if a climate treaty is adopted, which would be inimical to oil consumption. There is a blatantly obvious connection of this fact with the anti-science contrarian Saudi stance.

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What about Contrarian Connections with Crackpot Pseudoscience in other fields?

HERE is an article by the climate contrarian Tim Ball entitled Scientific Reaction To Velikovsky Symptomatic Of Climate Science Debacle. Velikovsky was a Russian psychiatrist who produced wild fallacious conjectures on astronomy. 

HERE is documentation that links creationists and contrarians in right-wing politics and attacks on science in school curricula. Here is a 4th grade science test in S. Carolina that got an A+:

A resolution passed the House of Representatives of the 85th Legislature of South Dakota specifying astrology as a topic for instruction in the public schools related to global warming.

Texas, in a horrible record 2011 drought that is made worse by global warming, has a contrarian Governor - Rick Perry - who issued a State Proclamation urging people to pray for rain. Perry also supports teaching "intelligent design", anti-evolution pseudoscience.

A good paper describing how the tactics of climate contrarians fit into a general pattern of pseudoscience is HERE.

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What about Contrarian Published Articles in peer-reviewed journals?

Generally contrarians do not publish in reputable peer-reviewed climate journals. This is partly because their "work" is generally not up to the scientific standards set by these journals. In any field of science there are cranks that produce pseudo-scientific material, and climatology is no exception. In fact publication in journals is not of much interest to contrarians. Powerful right-wing political media publicize contrarian material, providing far more exposure to the public than would reputable scientific journals.

There are a few contrarians that do publish in reputable climate journals and some that publish in fringe non-climate journals. The reliable website has descriptions and critiques of some contrarian papers.

When contrarian articles get published, they are often controversial in content or process. Here are four examples.

1. WEGMAN: As USA TODAY reported in May 2011, a statistics journal decided to retract a federally funded contrarian paper due to plagiarism. One of the authors is Edward Wegman. His earlier "Wegman Report" is also under investigation for plagiarism.

2. SPENCER: Roy Spencer, a contrarian with a university position and a NASA medal, but also with a track record of bad mistakes, co-published a defective paper in a non-climate journal (HERE) in July 2011, claiming that some predictions of climate models are wrong. The chief editor Dr. Wagner resigned in protest, saying in a published editorial that Spencer's paper was most likely problematic with fundamental methodological errors and false claims, "fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal". Peer-review was corrupted, with contrarians selected as referees in a biased process. Wagner also protested "against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper's conclusions in public statements", including headlines such as "New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism" on the Forbes magazine website and "Does NASA data show global warming lost in space?" on  It is interesting to note Spencer's right-wing connections; he is also said to be a creationist. Excellent commentary on this sordid event by the scientist Dr. Peter Gleick is HERE.

3. SOON and BALIUNAS: An earlier 2003 contrarian paper by W. Soon and S. Baliunas was fallacious, published under an abuse of peer review, and is used as support for incorrectly denying that humans are the cause of recent global warming (see HERE). Denier right-wing politicians (e.g. Senator Inhofe) use the paper to attack climate science with the aim of sabotaging climate negotiations. Although fallacious (see HERE, HERE, and HERE), the paper was accepted for publication by a known contrarian, following which the journal's chief editor and others on the editorial board resigned. The publisher subsequently admitted that the conclusions of the paper could not be supported by the evidence and that the journal should have requested appropriate revisions prior to publication. The paper was funded in part by the fossil fuel industry, and both authors at the time were paid consultants for a right-wing think tank. Neither Soon nor Baliunas have any climate credentials; they are astrophysicists. An excellent video by Peter Sinclair putting all this into perspective is HERE.

4. ENERGY and ENVIRONMENT: Contrarians publish in a non-climate-science journal called Energy and Environment. The editor Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen posted on  04/26/2011 04:36 PM: "E&E is an interdisciplinary academic journal publishing on relevant economic, social and technological subjects. Climate science is only of importance because of the growing role this alleged threat has played in policy justification and regulatory efforts. The demonisation of greenhouse gas emissions has encouraged me to publish so-called climate sceptics, with the helpful support of my publisher, since the early 1990s."   She also said: "I'm following my political agenda -- a bit, anyway. But isn't that the right of the editor?"

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What about Contrarian Unpublished Material from right-wing think tanks?

The "NIPCC" reports, issued by the right-wing Heartland Institute, attack mainstream climate research. The NIPCC name and format resemble authentic IPCC reports. These contrarian NIPCC reports do not contain reliable information. A critical review of the last NIPCC report by RealClimate in 2008 is HERE. The next NIPCC report is timed to be issued with the September 2013 release of Vol I (Science) of the AR5 IPCC report

Heartland also distributed thousands of copies of a flawed climate book to environmental science professors around the country; the book is full of elementary errors as documented HERE by Prof. John Abraham. The author of the book has an electrical engineering degree but no climate credentials.

The right-wing nature of Heartland is easy to establish with THIS list of Tea-Party books for sale on their website.

The right-wing Cato Institute, a "free market think tank" and originally the Charles Koch Foundation with no scientific standing, issued a so-called "addendum" to the authentic scientific 2009 "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States" report. This "addendum" has no scientific merit; see HERE.

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What's all this about Principal Components and the Hockey Stick?

The "hockey stick" is an iconic graph of inferred temperature data, see below. It shows that recent temperatures are unprecedented in the last 1000 years. Therefore it has been under attack by contrarians, who do not like the inconvenient truth that recent global warming is occurring.

Importantly, the Wegman Report just discussed (page 3) contains erroneous criticism of the original hockey stick methodology. Wegman was chosen by the right-wing representative Joe Barton to testify before Congress, where Wegman repeated the same erroneous criticism.

Wegman's erroneous criticism just mentioned is actually a non-issue. It involves a "centering" convention used in a mathematical technique of data analysis called principal component analysis. Centering is usually done in a particular way, but in fact centering can be done arbitrarily provided that an appropriate number of principal components, which depends on the centering convention, is retained (see RealClimate and Wahl-Ammann). It should be noted that if ALL principal components are used for any centering convention, the data in question are described exactly. A WRONG procedure does not retain enough principal components using some centering convention to accurately describe the data, and that wrong procedure is PRECISELY what contrarians/deniers do. It is a contrarian fallacy.

The hockey stick is found regardless of the technique used, provided this contrarian mistake is not made. Contrarians butcher the mathematics with this mistake and erroneously conclude that there is no hockey stick. The hockey stick is present even if NO principal component analysis is made at all. Many groups independently have shown that the hockey stick is really there (the graph is below).

A whole industry of contrarian pseudoscience, loudly trumpeted by right-wing media and politicians attacking climate science and scientists, has arisen over this contrarian fallacy. The attack by Cuccinelli against Michael Mann (see above) is a blatant example.

Historically, the above fallacious principal component analysis was begun by McIntyre and McKitrick, with zero credentials in climate science, but with full backing of the right-wing denier media.

Another contrarian/denier claim, somewhat more obscure, was that statistical red noise generally produces a hockey stick under Mann's assumptions, a claim which is false.

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What Political Effects have Contrarians Produced?

For an update of the Trump Administration and obstruction of climate action, see HERE.

Contrarian pseudoscience pushed by right-wing media has now essentially trapped the US Republican Party into denial. This includes Republicans who previously asserted the mainstream scientific consensus that recent global warming exists and is caused by humans. Some Republicans also asserted that global warming will have increasingly bad impacts, and were willing and ready to take risk management mitigation steps.

A good example is John McCain. In October 2003, McCain co-sponsored the Climate Stewardship Act that would have introduced a cap and trade system aimed at returning greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels; see HERE. McCain later abruptly abandoned his support of a climate bill, see HERE.

A noticeable retrograde change in US attitudes toward climate likely due to contrarians is documented HERE in the document American Climate Attitudes (2011). 

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What about a Contrarian Quotes?

To give an idea of the rampant distortion of climate science by contrarian media, HERE is a popular right-wing blog that states:  "Another global warming myth comes crashing down. No warming since at least 1995, no melting glaciers and now no rising sea levels. Basically this leaves the warmers with no credibility..." All these assertions are simply wrong.

HERE is a list of contrarians and what they say. HERE is a list of contrarian links, organized by topics. HERE is background information on contrarians. HERE is a list of contrarians with reference links.

HERE is a list of common contrarian arguments, along with one-liner easy-to-use rebuttals.

The right-wing Heartland Institute organizes contrarian conferences supposedly for science, but actually highly politicized. The BBC report on the latest such said that Heartland's libertarian president Joseph Bast declared climate change is being used by governments to oppress the people. There was cheering when a member of the audience demanded that the "Climategate criminals" - the scientists who wrote the University of East Anglia hacked emails - should be jailed for fraud. HERE is an account of the 2011 Heartland Conference including this gem: George Mears, a former navy flier... is politically active in the Norfolk, Va., area, where he promotes limited government and fiscal restraint. He opposes things like light rail and all the "green crap." This conference was analyzed HERE in a Nature editorial. The appropriate summary word in the editorial is "Absurdities".

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Case study: Attack on climate science in right-wing NewsMax interview

A good example of denier climate pseudo-science is the video of a climate scientist Dr. Edward Hawkins being attacked by one climate denier fallacy after another in an interview by the right-wing NewsMax:

What is NewsMax? NewMax Media is so extreme that in 2009 it published an article suggesting a coup against President Obama, although the article was subsequently removed. An early investor was Richard Mellon Scaife, a billionaire large financial contributor to right-wing libertarian organizations who sends his money through Scaife foundations.

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Cargo Cult Science Reference 

See Prof. Richard Feynman's famous talk, "Cargo Cult Science". The contrarian/denier/faux-skeptic pseudo-science is well characterized by this term, which is "form over substance".

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The Galileo contrarian canard

Galileo played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His championing of heliocentrism was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, and the Inquisition concluded that the idea that the earth goes around the sun could only be supported as a possibility, not as an established fact. An excellent analog of Galileo's science to climate science is that right-wing attacks on climate science are acting quite similarly to the inquisition attacks on Galileo. This analogy is fallaciously turned on its head by contrarians to become the canard that contrarians are like Galileo railing against established science. This absurd idea is promoted by the right-wing; see e.g. HERE. The "Galileo movement"  in Australia shows its true colors on its front page: "Stop the carbon tax". 

Here is a painting of Galileo facing the inquisition. The real analogy is to substitute right-wing politicians for the Inquisition on the left and mainstream climate scientists for Galileo on the right.


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 Bottom Line: Quacks, Tobacco, Right-Wing Think Tanks, and Contrarians

Here is the bottom-line summary. Some contrarians, without professional climate science credentials, assume the role of a climate scientist and mangle the science to arrive at pre-ordained contrarian conclusions. As emphasized by the climatologist Kerry Emanuel HERE, "a whole host of charlatans posing as climate scientists" now exists. This is effective because detecting the errors in contrarian pseudo-science often requires real expertise. Think of a medical quack without an MD who puts on a white coat and starts talking about cancer using scientific jargon, while criticizing peer-reviewed medical research in medical journals.  Sometimes the contrarian is a scientist paid by the fossil-fuel industry (see HERE) who, although knowing better, hypocritically misrepresents the science - think of scientists who defended the tobacco industry by claiming tobacco wasn't dangerous. Others with an ideological right-wing libertarian philosophy and funded by right-wing think tanks, distort the science to influence public opinion with the real goal of preventing governments from acting against global warming. Their arguments may change, but contrarians invariably arrive at the same conclusions. The full panoply of contrarian tactics and fallacies are employed, with the four trenches of contrarian attack.

Layered with distorted commentary and op-eds, contrarian pseudo-science is broadcast in lockstep on the powerful right-wing media machine: TV, radio, newspapers, and blogs.

The contrarian goals are to sow confusion and doubt, hampering mitigation efforts, facilitating attacks on legislative attempts, opposing greenhouse gas regulation, and fighting the adoption of a binding climate treaty. The primary motivations are protection of fossil-fuel profits and libertarian anti-government sentiments.

The results are simultaneous attacks on social justice, intergenerational equity, and long-term human preservation. Not to mention the animal species that will disappear.

The contrarians no doubt believe that they can survive, casting all others (apparently including their own grandchildren) to their fate.  

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Price on Climate Denial (VIDEO Click HERE)


What's this Picture? A contrarian fallacy regarding the "Hockey Stick"

The notorious contrarian comparison in the misleading picture with two graphs on the right exhibits confusion manufactured by contrarians and provides an instructive example of contrarian fallacy. Contrarians use an apples-and-oranges comparison of the two graphs, which correspond to entirely different geographical regions, in a fraudulent argument that the current global warming over the last 30 years is not caused by humans..

Current global average temperatures are actually the hottest in 1,000 years and the current temperature trend is UP. Besides, there was no pronounced global "medieval warming period", contrary to the implication of the bottom graph. HERE are relevant data. A great video is HERE.

Actually this contrarian argument, besides being wrong, is a red herring.

Attribution of the observed global warming trend since 1975 to human activity is completely different, as explained HERE.


Current global average temperatures are actually the hottest in 1,000 years and the current temperature trend is UP. Besides, as explained below, there was no pronounced global "medieval warming period", contrary to the implication of the bottom graph. HERE are relevant data. Here is a great video called The Medieval Warming Crock.
The upper "hockey stick" scientific graph of the contrarian picture shows temperatures over the last thousand years averaged over the entire Northern Hemisphere (although this essential fact is deliberately avoided), and this upper graph shows the recent observed global warming since around 1970. The upper graph is simplified but is essentially correct (the real graph is pasted below, see HERE, from the work of many groups of professional climatologists).
The lower graph in the above picture is wrong and is moreover used in a fraudulent manner, because it does NOT correspond to the entire Northern Hemisphere, as does the upper graph. The lower graph in the above picture is based on an outdated graph from an old 1990 IPCC report that contained an even earlier temperature estimate in medieval times by Lamb only from a few places that happened to be warm (mostly from Central England; a few other places like Greenland were also warm); the graph was labeled as a "schematic", all documented HERE (p. 36). The old 1990 graph was then incorrectly extended to 2000 by a German high school teacher (analyzed HERE).
Since this outdated graph does not include data from medieval cold places that largely canceled out the warm places, there is not a big bump in Northern-hemisphere medieval temperature - there was no pronounced global "medieval warming period". Nonetheless, this fallacious contrarian analysis has been and continues to be widely disseminated in right-wing newspapers and contrarian blogs. All this is similar to claiming the earth is flat by looking at an ancient map. Here is the

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VIDEOS on contrarians

 Frontline Report on Exxon Mobil

General Description of Deniers

Attacks On The Global Warming Consensus (M. Mann)




Video from HOT


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The Contrarians  - Click on the right side of each page to advance to the next page

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John Oliver holds a "real" climate debate between 97 scientists vs 3 deniers:


See Stephen Colbert's video of Fox News (at 2:43) saying winter snowstorms "disprove Al Gore's theory of global warming". Colbert uses the same cherry-picking illogic to "prove" - because it is nighttime - that the sun has been destroyed.

HERE is a hilarious article by George Monbiot exposing fake weather forecasters quoted by several British newspapers as women with skills including "mail-order bride".


And what about this classic?

Also, what about naming hurricanes after politicians who are climate science deniers

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And how about this great 2-minute climate science rap VIDEO -


Comic Strip (Bush era)


Doonesbury weighs in:


From Peter Sinclair's Climate Denial Crock of the Week, what about THIS cartoon?


HERE is a great cartoon strip by Darryl Cunningham on global warming deniers, which starts as:


To wrap it all up, here is the REAL STORY told in this cartoon by Ed Fischer:

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Last edit 25Oct2018



NA, N. (2018). The Contrarians? Full article with references. Retrieved from