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Climate Hustle

Debunking Climate Myths from Politicians

Posted on 31 March 2011 by dana1981

Climate Myths from PoliticiansSkeptical Science readers know that the main purpose of our site is to debunk climate-related myths.  To achieve this purpose, we have created the Arguments Database, and examined what the scientific literature says about each argument.  We have subsequently used this database to respond when we've encountered these myths being repeated and propagated, for example by Christopher Monckton,, and Reconsidering Climate Change.

At times we have also made use of the database to debunk myths and flawed arguments made by "skeptic" climate scientists, like Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen.  Recently we addressed a number of myths and misleading statements made by Dr. John Christy in his testimony to U.S. Congress.  In watching the associated Congressional hearing, we were disappointed to see many American politicians repeating the same myths which our database has debunked.  It appears that these myths have become very pervasive in American politics, and are being used to justify some very anti-science legislation.

As a consequence, we at Skeptical Science have decided that it would be a worthwhile endeavor to apply our Arguments Database to certain politicians who frequently perpetrate the myths we have debunked.  We have created a Climate Myths from Politicians Database which pairs quotes from politicians with the corresponding rebuttal in the Arguments Database, and the one-line summary of each rebuttal.  John Cook has also created a snazzy new button, as you can see above.  Here's a sample of the database:

  Climate Myth What the Science Says

Sarah Palin
"The e-mails reveal that leading climate "experts" deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to "hide the decline" in global temperatures."
The "decline" refers to a decline in northern tree-rings, not global temperature, and is openly discussed in papers and the IPCC reports.

Joe Barton
"There are just as many glaciers that are growing that are shrinking."
Most glaciers are retreating, posing a serious problem for millions who rely on glaciers for water.

Ralph Hall
"Recent events have uncovered extensive evidence from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England, which involved many researchers across the globe discussing the destruction, alteration and suppression of data that did not support global warming claims. Leaked email exchanges detail attempts to alter data that is the basis of climate modeling. These exchanges reveal actions that constitute a serious breach of scientific ethics."
A number of investigations have cleared scientists of any wrongdoing in the media-hyped email incident.

James Inhofe
"The claim that global warming is caused by man-made emissions is simply untrue and not based on sound science."
Multiple sets of independent observations find a human fingerprint on climate change.

Dana Rohrbacher
"The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, the OISM, released the names of some 31,478 scientists who signed a petition rejecting the claims of human-cased global warming."
The 'OISM petition' was signed by only a few climatologists.

Currently the database is limited to U.S. politicians, but in the near future we will expand it internationally.  We hope it will be a useful resource to continue debunking these long-lived myths, and help convince politicians to stick to the facts.  Never let it be said that we at Skeptical Science aren't optimists!

Readers are encouraged to add to the database by providing quotes and source links in the comments for any politician.  We did a thorough search for quotes from Democratic politicians, but were unable to find any which qualified (the myth must be debunked in our Arguments database); however, quotes from politicians of any political party are welcome and appreciated!

NOTE: The short URL for the Climate Myths from Politicians is:

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 92:

  1. How about adding a few local ones:
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    Response: [John] We very likely will be releasing a collection of Australian politician quotes also. We've already started collecting some so thanks for these links.
  2. Chemware, technically, Steve Fielding is right: the science on both sides of the debate isn't conclusive.

    Remember that "conclusive" is defined as evidence that serves to prove a case, is convincing or decisive. The truth of the above statement is readily apparent when you look at the science.

    The science that says global warming is real, and that humans are very highly likely the cause, definitely is conclusive.

    However, the science that says it's not real, and/or that even if it is humans aren't the cause - well, that's most definitely not conclusive...

    So, you see, Senator Fielding was right when he said the science on both sides of the debate isn't conclusive...

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  3. Umm, the button is not that snazzy :-) BTW, should give credit to everyone who added quotes to the database, including Dana who did the lionshare of the effort.
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    Response: [dana1981] it is too snazzy!
  4. It just amazes me that the Oregon Petition is still being used as a talking point. The signatories I know (not one of them could be called a "scientist") signed for selfish reasons. They knew that the Kyoto accord could be the beginning of CO2 abatement rules and regulations, and that such regulations could put a damper on their own personal line of business, and therefore would impact their personal wealth. They received the survey from inside of a trade journal targeting engineers that design/build new construction.

    Why don't they put together a demonstratively accurate petition/survey, instead of this sort of haphazard shotgun attempt? Could it be that they wouldn't like the results? Or maybe its because they aren't interested in truth, but only in building up a talking point, in which case they have achieved 100% of their goals already?

    It seems that after the Kyoto accord fizzled, the petition took on a life of its own and (apparently) is going to live forever!

    As a side-bar, one of the authors of this petition, Art Robinson, ran for congress recently and even WUWT gave him some free exposure. He made a pretty good run against a popular Democrat incumbent, but lost by a relatively small margin. More recently though he's been making political waves by claiming that Oregon State University is treating his children unfairly because of his personal political views. In less than 24 hours WUWT posted his story to trump up the suggestion that another climate denialist is being unfairly persecuted. So far however, no one has been able to uncover an ounce of facts to support Art's story. Some people are now of the opinion that Art has gone off the deep end.
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  5. These are not scientific statements - they are PR sound bytes designed to influence opinions.

    It is very civil of you to regard this as a scientific debate, but it takes place in the political arena, the rules are political - not scientific. To see the abuse of discourse in our democracy seems pitiful and pathetic.

    This form of political assassination of science is immoral. These are deliberate deceptions and misdirections demanded by carbon fuel constituencies.
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  6. If you're going to tackle some of the locals please don't forget Abbott's latest 'interpretation' of Tim Flannery; "It will not make a difference for 1000 years"!
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  7. @Pete

    Did you know that the state of South Dakota even cited that Oregon Petition Project nonsense in recent legislation...essentially making it clear that the state is officially an AGC denier. Check it out...

    It reminds me of the politician that, years ago, tried to pass legislation making "pi" exactly 3. LOL...get this...I was thinking it was back in the 70's...or earlier maybe. When I just tried to look it up to quote facts, I found that the issue has been raised AGAIN...This time in Alabama...LAST WEEK!!!!

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  8. For the Netherlands you can add lots of politicians to the database. I commented upon the statement "we can not rely on scientists who don't speak the truth" once made by Jacqueline Cramer in my blog: here

    The bad thing is, Jacqueline Cramer is from labour and from that part in the political spectrum you would expect support for climate polities. Climategate left a lot of damage, and in this case some politicians (such as Jacqueline Cramer but also RIchard Mos) simply repeat that the IPCC is lying, to put it bluntly. So where does this fit in the arguments database, perhaps that temperature records are inaccurate and that tree-ring proxy temperature series were manipulated?
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  9. With regard to my previous post...

    I believe I called the Alabama "pi" fiasco a little too soon. Upon further research, I have concluded that the article, and subsequent rewrites were in fact satire...but indeed brilliantly written. The instance I was trying to find in the first place happened in Indiana in 1897.

    The original piece, with "disclaimer" at top is linked below...not real, but all too funny!

    My apologies!
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  10. Dana, John

    Congratulations on setting up this very useful tool. I have long toyed with the idea of setting up a “rogues gallery” that profiled people in public life (politicians, journalists, etc.) who are climate change deniers. The idea was to shame them over time as the increasing impact of climate change forced them to eat their words. But I realised that many of these “rogues” were actually decent people who just had climate change “blind spot”. I decided that belittling them in itself did not advance the public debate. Your approach however, targets the words rather than the man. In rebutting their specific statements, it serves the public good and has my full support.

    I endorse Chemware’s list of quotes by Australian politicians, and will be adding a few more names myself. Photos of Australian politicians can be found at

    Is it necessary to restrict ourselves to current politicians? If former politicians, such as George Bush, have in the past made misleading statements, and have not since corrected them, are they fair game?
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  11. MidwestHES, yeah the 'Alabama pi' thing was a spoof on congressional Republican efforts to legislate that global warming doesn't exist.

    BTW, Alan's aside about citing 'journalists' who spread these myths might not be a bad idea either. Of course, if you went as far as including blogs among the 'journalists' you might have more material than you could handle.
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  12. Should We Include Journalists?

    In Australia, they are the worst peddlers of misinformation. Would it be useful to include them in the database?

    For example, the ABC program Media Watch, which monitors the quality and accuracy of broadcasting in Australia, recently took to task Sydney radio talk-back host Alan Jones for the following comment:

    Nature produces nearly all of the carbon dioxide in the air. Human beings produce point 001 percent of the carbon dioxide in the air...

    It is not as if this was just a passing ignorant comment. It is part of an orchestrated political campaign by Jones against the government’s proposed carbon tax. On such an important reform, people in the media are entitled to express their opinions, but they are not entitled to mislead the public with blatant falsehoods.

    The organisation Getup has launched proceedings with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), demanding Jones correct his statements.

    I also pass on the following comment made by a visitor to the Media Watch site:

    .... anyone can make a complaint under the ACMA commercial radio code of practice directly to the radio station involved. You should find a web form or similar for complaints on each radio station's website. The station is obliged to respond to you within 60 days. If they do not, or if you are not satisfied with the response, you can then complain directly to ACMA.

    For those of you stateside who enjoy the impartiality of Fox News, the same media baron owns “The Australian” and other newspapers in Australia. They like to regularly publish articles by Bjorn Lomborg. Prominent skeptic journalists with these newspapers who deserve scrutiny include Pies Ackerman, Christopher Pearson and Andrew Bolt.
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  13. Re Rohrbacher:
    I've posted this point several times to various "pro AGW" sites, including this one but nobody seems to have appreciated it yet.

    Basically, the OISM petition is worded so that even Hansen or Schmidt could just about sign up to it legitimately (certainly the second paragraph). The operative "sleight of hand" is that the OISM gets one to sign that human release of green house gases "is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic global warming".

    As we should know, the science is not *certain", just extremely probable but the OISM uses the terms "is" or "will" as an implication that climate science has made an absolute declaration and tens of thousands have blown the whistle on that. Rhetorically, those behind the OISM are implying that because even a legit climatologist could sign (because the scientist knows the science isn't 100% certain) that the 31,000 signers are disputing that there is any "convincing scientific evidence" at all

    Text from the second paragraph of the OISM:

    "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate."

    I also think that the results that someone came up with that over two million US citizens (qualified by the OISM's terms) could have signed the OISM (but didn't!) should be far more widely trumpeted
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  14. Thank you for another terrific resource to counter mythical climate arguments. Skeptical Science might consider posting the links to politicians supporting evidence based climate policy (are there any?)in response to anti science/education politicians. These climate myths espoused by anti science/education politicians often occurs in the political arena therefore should be answered by other politicians supporting evidence based policy. The former need support and publicity from sources such as Skeptical Science. The denier journalists and politicians already get far to much attention. It is all well and good that scientists step up to the plate but that isn't enough. There needs to be confident well informed politicians to counter the myths of climate change. Is Obama up to the task?
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  15. With regards to creating a resource for poor climate science and/or unreasonable contrarian positions espoused or propagated by journalists, Deltoid over at ScienceBlogs has long been chronicling the misbehaviour of the Australian newspaper The Australian.
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  16. @Nick Palmer #13

    I also think that the results that someone came up with that over two million US citizens (qualified by the OISM's terms) could have signed the OISM (but didn't!) should be far more widely trumpeted.
    That was right here on SkS, and the number was actually over 10 million:
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  17. Thanks Chrisd3. I'm glad the actual figure was 10 mill, even though 2 mill is still a lot bigger than 31 k...

    I also see that I made my point above there too in comment 1!
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  18. The Koch's have hired a new physicist who is willing to say the climate problem does not exist. The Los Angeles Times had a story today about Berkely Physicist Richard Muller, who has been hired to disparage the surface temperature record. He will testify in congress next week, even though he has not yet published anything on climate science. Among his other claims is that "Not a single polar bear has died because of receding ice." Apparently he has not read this article Record Polar bear swim where the cub drowned as the mother searched for food.

    It is certainly easier to find an expert when they do not have to publish a single paper or read the background information! Does he count as a scientist or a politician?
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  19. @michael sweet : More on Miller in my blog link I will add new information here because I saw various tweets relating to Miller. If you watch his lecture then you see he violates nearly every rule in the arguments database in an eloquent way.
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  20. Here is one from the UK - Labour MP Graham Stringer:

    Climate jiggery-pokery

    The whole article is packed with conspiracy theory, smears and innuendo, but the low-point is probably the assertion:

    "We now know that the work done at Climatic Research Unit barely qualified as science"
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  21. SkS should adopt a slogan similar to The Straight Dope.

    "Fighting Ignorance Since 1973.
    (It's taking longer than we thought)"

    Keep fighting the good fight.
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  22. I think you've really hit something with the format here. I think it would apply perfectly to:

    -climate scientists
    -news publications
    -climate bloggers
    -none of the above (though monkton already has his own page :)

    Wish I had more free time to contribute - vacation is just around the corner!
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  23. Nicolas Sarkozy, Président de la République Française (in French)

    "le monde va à sa perte si on continue à émettre du carbone qui crée un trou dans la couche d'ozone et qui brise les équilibres de la planète, ça c'est un constat"

    "The world goes to its destruction if we keep emitting carbon that creates a hole in the ozone layer and breaks all the planet equilibria, this is a fact"
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Thanks for bringing this to our attention; you've just given us a great idea for a new post: Politicians-who-get-it-right. Understandably, a short post right now.
  24. @Michael Sweet #18:
    Berkely Physicist Richard Muller, who has been hired to disparage the surface temperature record.
    That may be a problem for Dr Muller. Apparently his own forthcoming temperature study (Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature, or BEST) is going to say that the reconstructions by NOAA, NASA, etc., are right on the money.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Indeed. It is already a problem, for several parties:
  25. My notes from today's (March 31 in US) climate hearing in the House Science Committee, on arguments made. We'll need to put these into the quotes database when we have an online source for the actual quotes, hopefully in the congressional record?

    * Cravaack (MN) - global cooling in the 1970's
    * Hall (chairman) - IPCC predicts only 7-23 inches.
    * Brooks - global cooling
    * Rohrabacher - "case closed"?? and a variant on "it's the sun"
    * Hall again - closing comments that we've spent so much money and it's all still so uncertain...
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  26. apsmith - we will be doing an extensive response to today's House climate hearing. One aspect will be collecting all of the politician myth quotes.

    If somebody knows how to get a hold of a recording or transcript of the hearing, please let us know.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] In days of yore, they were required to provide an official transcript of these. If they are made available online, let alone in a timely fashion, I no longer know.
  27. @apsmith #25

    It just makes you want to start banging your head on the desk, doesn't it?
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  28. This seems like a great idea. Keeping tabs on what politicians say and what their viewpoint on climate happens to be is important information for the public.

    I concur with some of the ideas already mentioned in the comments so far. I follow Skeptical Science, Climate Crocks, and Desmog blog occasionally, and I think having information that complements Desmogblog would be awesome. Maybe a joint venture?

    It would be nice for the layperson to be able to determine which sources of climate science information have been incorrect in the past, and why. In this way, one can more easily determine which sources have a poor record, and get a better picture of the overall reliability of that source.

    For example, my father believes that the Heartland Institute, Sarah Palin, and Sean Hannity are "good people with good morals and political views". Now, that is his overall opinion of them, which is fine, but he also gets a totally skewed view of climate change from them. This database already looks like a great resource to help me show to him that he can't always trust political persons with climate science facts.
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  29. @dana1981 #26

    Here is the written testimony of the speakers (not a transcript). Click the speakers' names.
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  30. Thanks chris. We need to get a hold of a transcript of the proceedings too though. That's where things got really bad in terms of myth propagation.
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  31. I recommend Graham Stringer (Labour and mentioned @20) and John Redwood (Conservative) as UK entries.
    Probably the whole of the UK Independence Party as well (Monckton joined them). I don't have time to find quotes and rebuttals.
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  32. The exact same thing that is happening with the debate on AGCD happened with the debate on the Ozone hole, starting in the early 1970's...The same groups and people that are denying this denied that as well...but for some reason, no one seems to remember and we are unfortunately repeating our history, having not learned anything from the previous fiasco.

    I read something the other day, not sure if it was someone "important" that suggested it, but either way, it was a great idea.

    Someone needs to erect a huge monument somewhere here in the U.S. The monument would garner a giant plaque, with the names of every prominent politician, political party, corporation, scientist, journalist, state government, etc. that denies Anthropogenic Global Climate Disruption. We'll leave the title plate on the monument blank so that in 15-20 years, when this "debate" has FINALLY gone the way of the dodo, there will be empirical evidence of whom was right, and who was wrong. If they are correct, the title would read something like "Saved us from the alarmist environmental wackos, and made a lot of money doing it!". If they are wrong, as we suspect, it will say "These people are NEVER to be trusted again, with anything". I'm fairly sure that our side would be willing to take that theirs?
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  33. Nigel Lawson is another prominent UK climate change contrarian politician (with his hands now reassuring far from the levers of power).

    Wasn't Monckton was once deputy leader of UKIP ?

    It has struck me just how few mainstream UK Politicians are sceptical. We seem to specialise in washed-up celebrities: People like Clive James (who may be familiar to Australian readers), David Bellamy and Johnny Ball.
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  34. DB, if Sarkozy said:

    "The world goes to its destruction if we keep emitting carbon that creates a hole in the ozone layer and breaks all the planet equilibria, this is a fact"

    Well, it can't go in a list of policians-who-get-it-right (I don't know if you were implying that it would).

    We can applaud his acknowledgement that something has to be done, but I reckon his chief science advisor cringed at that statement!
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  35. If we're doing getting it right, Gillard has to get a guernsey for -
    The scientific consensus is stronger than ever. Given these realities, I ask: who would I rather have on my side? Alan Jones, Piers Akerman and Andrew Bolt, or the CSIRO, the Australian Academy of Science, the Bureau of Meteorology, NASA, the US National Atmospheric Administration and every reputable climate scientist in the world.

    Spot on, names the worst offenders, and no embarrassing mentions of the ozone layer!

    and Phil @33; two word summation of the general attitude in the antipodes; 'Clive who'? Feel free to hang on to him...
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  36. @ Stu (34)

    Compared to our American politicians Sarkozy did get it right. If you were to cast Inhofe and Sarkozy in a movie as rival bloggers, Sarkozy would be Romm and Inhofe would be Watts. And that's in no way intended as a slam on Romm, as I have great respect for Sarkozy.

    For those who fails to appreciate me sense of humor...go read some of SG's fine work, like his opus on CO2 snow...

    The Yooper
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  37. Ooh yes Goddard did provide plenty of entertainment. When you're so consistently, persistently and embarrassingly wrong that even Anthony Watts 'fires' you, well really you should take a good long look at yourself.

    Some took SG's departure from WUWT as a sign that perhaps Watts was going to clean up his act... but the avalanche of truly appalling 'guest posts' that have come since certainly dispove that notion. Oh well!
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  38. chrisd@27 I'm starting to think there might be a business opportunity - skincare for climate bloggers.

    With all the face-palming, head-desking and jaw-dropping, a soothing concoction to take away redness and soften callouses should be a runaway success.
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    Response: [John] Well, 4 years of climate blogging have ravaged my once youthful good looks so you might have stumbled upon a lucrative niche industry there!
  39. I believe Mr. Sarkozy is technically correct. Greenhouse gases cause stratospheric cooling. A colder stratosphere is more conducive to ozone depletion (which is why we see ozone holes over the poles). The ban on the primary cause of the holes, CFCs, is intended to promote the recovery of the ozone layer. The net effect is probably a longer recovery period.

    I would agree that ozone depletion is not a first order consequence of greenhouse gas emissions.
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  40. That's correct SoundOff, that's why there was an Ozone hole over Antarctica.
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  41. MidwestHES wrote: "The exact same thing that is happening with the debate on AGCD happened with the debate on the Ozone hole, starting in the early 1970's...The same groups and people that are denying this denied that as well."

    My favorite example of this is Will Happer's constant complaint that 'Al Gore fired me for disagreeing with him on global warming'.... but if you go back to news articles at the time his claim was, 'Al Gore fired me for disagreeing with him on ozone depletion'.

    It's not just the same people using the same sort of misinformation campaigns... it's even the same events (if it ever happened at all) retroactively re-written for a new topic.
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  42. "I believe Mr. Sarkozy is technically correct."

    The best kind of correct! Cheers Futurama.

    However, that doesn't mean he's not also wrong, sort of, cos it misses the point. Colder stratospheric temps would have only a small effect on ozone concentrations were it not for all the halogenated compounds we put there.

    I've been struggling for a decent analogy... maybe it's like leaving you freezer open and worrying that your kitchen is now a bit chilly, ignoring that all your food has gone off and the floor's just about flooded. Erm... yes?
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  43. Lawson was at it again recently, in the Spectator 'debate' in London. As usual it was non-scientific so-called skeptics (Lawson and Peiser from the GWPF, plus a Labour MP), arguing against scientists (Tim Palmer, David King, Simon Singh). Although the audience was mainly Spectator types, it would appear that more people were convinced of the dangers of AGW after the debate than before.
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  44. In addition to the above, there is no need for this site to debunk Lawson (as if it was even necessary, I know), because the British chief scientific advisor, Sir John Beddington has already done so, as seen in letters that have just been released.
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  45. @31

    Regarding John Redwood, I had a look through his blog and it is an absolute goldmine of badly constructed straw men. Here is a quite bizarre quote from last year:

    "It was good to hear the scientific establishment today concede what some of us have been saying for a long time – that changes on the sun can have an impact on our climate. I look forward to sun variations being included in models forecasting changes to earth temperatures."

    Time to revise climate change models?

    Another UK politician to watch out for is one time Conservative Party leadership contender David Davies:

    Why this ferocious desire to impose hair-shirt policies?

    "The case is not helped by the fact that the planet appears to have been cooling, not warming, in the last decade."
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  46. That House Climate Hearing seems to be available here, but having read some of the transcripts available at the link provided by chrisd3, it seems that the same old nonsense was repeated by all the usual so-called skeptics : including Christy's constant reliance on his own work and references to such 'authorities' as ClimateAudit, McIntyre (who he positively seems to idolise) and McKitrick; Armstrong's constant use of the terms 'alarm' and 'alarmism', and reliance on Soon; and Muller's references to Watts and his supposedly soon to be published (any day now, honestly) paper, while also showing how what Watts is claiming is actually disproved by the work being done by BEST. Same old, same old.
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  47. Thanks JMurphy. Now we can get to work responding to the hearing.
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  48. John, I am thrilled to see this new page, and this is a great way to get started. One of the truths in U.S. politics is that the debate is led not by the politicians, but by their "bosses" in the extremist media (Thanks again, Australia ... just kidding!). The politicians follow, because they know that these media networks reach a lot of voters, and the vote of a misinformed dupe counts the same as any other. Remember that just a few years ago, many of these same politicians supported positive steps to curtail climate change, and have only recently reversed their rhetoric. Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan is a stark example, who made a very well-documented about-face on this issue in the last two years, after he saw the outsized influence of the tea parties in the 2010 mid-term debacle. The good news (I guess) is that the commitment of most of these individuals to their current position is about an inch deep, and thus can be reversed if they perceive public opinion again turning against them. And thus, any effort to educate potential voters on the counter-arguments against the nonsense they have been fed by the denier movement could be a valuable tool in changing these easily changeable politicians' minds.
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  49. Re Sarkozy

    Well, technically, CFCs include carbon too, so he IS correct... even if unknowinlgy, it seems.
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  50. If memory serves, there was something similar to the Oregon Petition "debunking" evolution. The response from the biological community was "Project Steve": Perhaps something similar from the climate community would be appropriate...
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