11 Things Climate Change 'Dismissive' People Say On Social Media

ForbesMarshall Shepherd

 Marshall Shepherd
Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, a leading international expert in weather and climate, was the 2013 President of American Meteorological Society (AMS) and is Director of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Atmospheric Sciences Program. Dr. Shepherd spent 12 years as a Research Meteorologist at NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center and was Deputy Project Scientist for the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission.
It is clear that climate is changing, and there is a human component on top of the naturally varying system. Most climate scientists understand this, and most logical people do too. The 4th National Climate Assessment report is a good place to find affirmation for these statements. Each year, the Yale Climate Communication group and George Mason University scholars query the American public about their views on climate change. Within this study, there is always a certain percentage that fall into a category called "Dismissive." According to the study authors,
the Dismissive are very sure it (climate change) is not happening and are actively involved as opponents of a national effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Currently, the percentage is roughly nine percent. While their numbers are small, they are often very loud, persistent, aggressive and vitriolic in social media. Over time, I have noticed 11 "Dismissive" tactics on social media.

2018 Six Americas results Yale Climate Communication

Ice Ages. Ice ages always seem to come up and some statement about natural cycles. It is honestly stunning this happens since most climate scientist are very aware of the various ways that climate changes naturally. The discussion about climate change is not an "either/"or" discussion. It is an "and" discussion. Grass grows naturally, "and" it grows differently with fertilized soil. Trees fall naturally in the forest, "and" they can be cut down by a chain saw.

That magazine article from the 1970s. Apparently there was an article in Newsweek in 1975 that ran a story about a "cooling world." It is amusing to see how often this is cited in social media. As I wrote previously in Forbes,
No, a magazine article, a few people, and some literature said this not the majority of scientists or scientific studies. The writer of that magazine article has even debunked this himself.
Citing one random study. I call this 1-study mania. Over the years, I have seen people criticize the peer review literature. They talk about how it is unreliable or biased. While there are certainly issues with the literature, it is still an important gatekeeper against bad science in the same way the FDA is for bad food or drugs. Here's the kicker though. As soon as a study appears that supports a "confirmation bias viewpoint", they are quick to cite the study to support their point.

"Grand Poobah" effect. I observe this often in social media. A person doesn't necessarily have a strong background in climate science but relies on some  scientist or personality for talking points or to validate their positions. They will often even mention or tag that person in their social media post. I call it the "Grand Poobah" effect and have written about it previously.

Doubt and its merchants. There is typically some sample of comments about scientists and grant money. That statement illustrates a lack of understanding of the science grants process. Here is a good "101" at this link. There are rigorous processes for attaining grants based on science inquiry and review. There are also "other" funding models and grey literature publications designed to advocate certain positions or misinformation. Merchants of Doubts by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway is a good book to dig deeper into the latter.

Credentialing. This is the era in which a "Tweet" is presumed to carry as much weight as a degree or years of scientific inquiry. The "Dunning - Kruger Effect" is in full-effect on social media. An oft-used strategy is "I have a degree in (fill in favorite discipline that is not climate science or climatology)" or "I study this in my spare time while in my basement eating cookies."

Deflection. Another tactic that I notice is lobbing questions of deflection. This is usually some random, "seemingly" intellectual, provocative or irrelevant question that has the intent of "public gotcha" to the climate scientist.

It's cold. This winter I am certain that you have seen this one: "It's cold or snowing so global warming must not exist." Nope, it means the day or week is a manifestation of weather. It is not "where you live" warming. It is not "my little part of the planet on this particular day" change.

They changed the name. Speaking of global warming, there are always a handful of folks that finds devious intent in the use of climate change or global warming. I discussed the reasons why that is another "smoke and mirrors" tactic in a previous Forbes piece.

No profile and few followers. Many of the dismissive comments come from accounts with few followers (less than 10) or no profile picture. I am guessing these are "bots."  I suppose this is technically not "saying" anything as the article title indicates, but you get the point.

Storms always happened. This is a very common one. Aforementioned comments about trees falling in the forest or the grass-fertilizer relationship address such statements.
I am sure you can name others that I missed, and I certainly hope I caught all of the "typos" because they hyper-focus on those like a laser too.

Enough of this, it is time to watch some college hoops.


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