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Welcome to Skeptical Science

Posted on 29 April 2021 by John Cook, BaerbelW

Welcome!

TeamCollage

Skeptical Science is based on the notion that science by its very nature is skeptical. So what is skepticism? Skepticism is not doubt! Skepticism is the open-minded consideration of something based on the evidence. A skeptic doesn't have a preference for what the truth is, a preferred answer. They want to discover what the truth is based on the balance of all evidence. You look at all the facts before coming to a conclusion. In the case of climate science, our understanding of climate  comes from considering the full body of evidence and being 'skeptical' for well over a century.

In contrast, climate denialism is closed minded. It thinks it knows the truth and wants to interpret the evidence to suit that. It has a preferred answer and wants to look at everything in that light. So it looks at small pieces of the puzzle while neglecting the full picture. Climate 'skeptics' vigorously attack any evidence for man-made global warming yet uncritically embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that supposedly refutes global warming. If you began with a position of climate 'skepticism' then cherry pick the data that supports your view while fighting tooth and nail against any evidence that contradicts that position, that's not genuine scientific skepticism.

If 99 pieces of evidence support an idea and 1 doesn't, a skeptic says 'that idea is probably true'. A denier says 'Ahah, that idea is false'.

Skepticism is a process, denial is a position.

So the approach of Skeptical Science is as follows. It looks at the many climate myths, exposes the techniques and fallacies used to distort the science and then puts them in their proper context by presenting the full picture. The climate myths are listed by popularity (eg - how often each argument appears in online articles) or with fixed numbers you can use for permanent references. For the more organised mind, they're also sorted into taxonomic categories.

Good starting points for newbies

If you're new to the climate debate (or are of the mind that there's no evidence for man-made global warming), a good starting point is Warming Indicators which lays out the evidence that warming is happening and the follow-up article, 10 Human Fingerprints on Climate Change which lays out the evidence that humans are the cause. More detail is available in empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming. Contrary to what you may have heard, the case for man-made global warming doesn't hang on models or theory - it's built on direct measurements of many different parts of the climate, past and present, all pointing to a single, coherent answer.

Another good starting point is the SkS climate graphics page, with each graphic featuring links to informative SkS material. Good introductions to climate science can be found at Global Warming in a Nutshell and The History of Climate Science. You could lose yourself for hours in those pages!

Smart Phone Apps

Note (December 2019)Our apps are currently "out of order" as they unfortunately are no longer maintained. They may still work if already installed but have vanished from the app stores. We are looking into options to make them available again. Please directly use the list of most used climate myths instead for the time being or download PDF versions via zip-files provided here. Thanks!

For smart phone users, the rebuttals to all the skeptic arguments are also available on a number of mobile platforms. The first Skeptical Science app was an iPhone app, released in February 2010. This is updated regularly with the latest content from the website and very accessible in a beautifully designed interface by Shine Technologies. Shine Tech then went on to create a similar Android app which has some extra features missing from the iPhone version. A Nokia app was also created by Jean-François Barsoum (this was one of the 10 finalists in the Calling All Innovators competition).

As well as the list of rebuttals, Skeptical Science also has a blog where the latest research and developments are examined and discussed. Comments are welcome and the level of discussion is of a fairly high quality thanks to a fairly strict Comments Policy. You need to register a user account to post comments. One thing many regulars are not aware of is you can edit your user account details (to get to this page, click on your username in the left margin).

Keep up to date by email, RSS, Facebook, Twitter or - since Nov 2022 - Mastodon

To keep up to date on latest additions to the website, sign up to receive new blog posts by email. There's an RSS feed for blog posts and for the engaged commenter, a feed for new user comments. We recommend you follow Skeptical Science on Twitter to keep up with the latest blog posts and other interesting climate links. In November 2022 we also set up a presence on Mastodon. Blog posts from Skeptical Science and relevant articles from many other reliable sources are also shared in a steady stream via our Facebook page.

About John Cook

For those wondering about who runs Skeptical Science, the website was founded by John Cook, a Research Fellow at the Climate Change Communication Research Hub at Monash University and adjunct faculty at George Mason University. John originally obtained a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland, achieving First Class Honours with a major in physics.

John is the author of a number of books and scientific papers including being lead-author of the paper Quantifying the Consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature, which was tweeted by President Obama and was awarded the best paper published in Environmental Research Letters in 2013. In 2014, John won an award for Best Australian Science Writing, published by the University of New South Wales. In the summer of 2016 John finished his PhD in cognitive psychology, researching how people think about climate change.

The SkS Team

There are many more who make invaluable contributions to Skeptical Science with a number of authors who write blog posts, rebuttals and other articles. They contribute by moderating the comments sections, editing and proofreading posts, sharing information with visitors, responding to emails, and providing technical support. There are also many regular commenters whose feedback has helped to improve and hone the website's content. Translators from all over the world have translated selected content into 20 different languages.

In 2011, Skeptical Science won the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge. In May 2016 Skeptical Science received the "Friend of the Planet" award from the National Center of Science Education (NCSE).

There is no funding to maintain Skeptical Science other than user contributions to cover operational expenses. John Cook has no affiliations with any organisations or political groups other than academic institutions such as Monash University. Skeptical Science is strictly a labour of love. The website design was created by Wendy Cook.

Update April 2021 - An interactive version of The Story of Skeptical Science

For the 2020 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) John Cook and Bärbel Winkler submited an abstract to session SY043 - Communication of Science - Practice, Research and Reflection convened by Heidi Roop, Priyanka Kushwaha, Kristin Timm and Erin Leckey. It seemed a good fit to submit "The Story of Skeptical Science" to, something we had also done earlier in 2020 for a comparable session at the European Geosciences Union (virtual) meeting. The EGU-presentation consisted of a "display" - basically a PDF created from a PPTX-presentation accompanied by a live chat-session. At AGU it was an "eLightning" session, which was a combination of a 3 minute talk and an interactive "iPoster". So, while the content is basically the same, the format of the presentation is completely different. You can check it out yourself here or by clicking on the poster's screenshot. If the iPoster doesn't load, you can try this "mock up" PPSX-version instead.

iPoster-SkS

As the presentation shows, Skeptical Science has evolved from a small blog into a community of intelligent, engaged people with a commitment to science and our climate since its creation in 2007. Many of the contributors are working scientists who have many published scientific papers to their name. All the work is done as volunteers and a running joke among the author community is that we are being paid peanuts and they haven't even been delivered yet!

In August 2017 we published a series of posts to highlight SkS' 10th birthday. This series of short articles gives a good overview of how SkS evolved from a one-author-blog to the global volunteer effort it is today.

Note: to access the earlier version of this post and to read the comments posted until April 2015 please check out Newcomers start here

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Comments 101 to 117 out of 117:

  1. Thank you so much for this site. I am in search of answers to solutions and reading through the comments this seems like a well-knowledgeable audience. I am a current student and would love some really great data on Nuclear Fusion, how far they have come and predictions on how long it would last the world. I have read a couple of articles and I would love some great opinions on the matter. I think it could be just what the world needs. If everyone could come together and make changes to completely eradicate fossil fuels. The problem would be, of course getting every country to follow suit. Not just from closed mindedness but poverty as well.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Welcome to Skeptical Science.

    It looks like we have quite a few new users posting here on the Welcome thread - almost as if it is a class project or assignment.

    In general, we try to keep discussions focused, so that all readers and participants can find on-topic conversation and help each other understand the issues. I'll remind all participants that we have a Comments Policy that helps guide participants. You can always find a link to it above the text box where you enter your comments.

    That being said, nuclear energy is a topic that often creates somewhat heated discussion. Skeptical Science does not have team members that are experts in this area, so we do not have a lot of posts that cover the topic. We do have some reasonably-well-informed commenters, but we also have some discussions that include not-so-well-informed participants! (Welcome to the Internet!)

    You can use the Search box on the upper left of each page to find posts related to any search terms you like. You will find the results broken into two categories:

    1. Posts that are in our "rebuttal" section - our bread-and-butter responses to the most common myths about climate change. The top 10 and a link to all arguments are found just below the search box on the  upper left of every page.
    2. Individual blog posts that have appeared over the years.

    You also have the option (on the search results page) to extend the search into the comments. That can return an awfully long list, though.

    Searching for "nuclear", a few posts that might be of interest are:

    https://skepticalscience.com/small-modular-nukes.html

    https://skepticalscience.com/wrong-nuclear-energy-debate.html

    https://skepticalscience.com/NuclearEnergy.html

    https://skepticalscience.com/GND-nuclear-power.html

    Reading the comments, as well as the post, can be informative.

     

  2. While studying climate change, it is important that we have a skeptic mindset and not a denial mindset. Skeptics look for a definitive answer backed by evidence while peopel with a denial mindset shut down anything that is not proven correct. All the data with climate change should be viewed with skeptic mindset, not denial. This is so any theory or data that is not 100% proven is still accepted. A denialist would shut down anything that is only 99% correct. A skeptic would say that 99% is probably true. Not everything always lines up or makes sense to us, but that does not mean it is not true and can be denied. 

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  3. As global temperatures rise it becomes more and more apparent that the reduction of our carbon footprint is essential for the planets survival. Temperatures are trending upward due to all the excess carbon in the atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels and deforestation is also aiding in the extra global carbon output. Forest are mother nature’s carbon filter, but due to forest loss the planet cant keep up. I feel as a society we are capable of amazing feats of science. We need to focus the worlds greatest minds to build and develop atmospheric filters to manually reduce the amounts of carbon in our atmosphere. We are responsible for the extra gasses so we should do our best to find a solution. Thankfully the technology to do this is being developed currently. Just outside Zurich, more than a dozen massive fans are fast at work, cleaning the air of carbon dioxide. So-called direct air capture is the leading edge of what could become the largest environmental industry aimed at saving the planet. The company behind it, Climeworks, is one of the few offering the technology to basically vacuum the atmosphere of carbon. The plant in Switzerland removes about 900 tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to Climeworks policy chief Chris Beuttler. To put it in perspective, globally we are emitting 40 billion tons.

    DianaOlick. (2021, July 29). These companies are sucking carbon out of the atmosphere - and investors are piling in. CNBC. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/23/these-companies-are-sucking-carbon-from-the-atmosphere.html

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  4. Clearly climate change is a pressing issue for the health of our beautiful Earth, and I am delighted to see such a website dedicated to hosting a plethora of insightful information that can be used to better understand this issue. I mostly look forward to reading the rebuttal section which deals with the most common climate change myths. Understanding the key arguments that are connected to the most commonly said climate change myths is one of the biggest keys to understanding the climate change situation in my opinion.

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  5. I think it is beyond healthy to differentiate between skepticism and denial as described in this post, as there are many who may claim to be "skeptical" in regards to climate change but, in reality, believe that climate change is almost completely natural or an outright falsity. Sure, there are some natural effects that may cause a very slight and negligible effect on Earth's temperature, such as the mildy fluctuating temperature of the Sun or orbital pattern of Earth, but these phenomena do not appear to be the cause of the sudden and rapid increase in temperature worldwide. There is also an argument that the Earth experiences natural heating and cooling cycles which, while true, is pretty irrelevant considering these cycles take thousands upon thousands of years to develop and create significant impacts to Earth's temperature anomaly. The changes in climate that we are seeing now have been developing more and more since just the Industrial Revolution, and they have only been getting worse in the past several decades. Humans are technically not the only cause of climate change, as there are natural forces that can change Earth's environment in such a way, but it is important to understand that these natural factors are, again, negligible, and humans have done most of the heavy-lifting in contributing to global warming, especially through carbon dioxide emissions. I haven't been the most well-researched person when it comes to climate change, but in no way have I ever once thought of denying the possibility that maybe, just maybe, humans are a direct cause for the plethora of climate related problems we are facing to today.

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  6. I just don't really understand how we can expect to stop using fossil fuels and survive as a society unless we want to go back to monthly grocery trips on horse and buggy on our 4 hour journey to the supermarket, or own a self sustaining farm. Especially with not enough solid proof that you have to put "skeptical" in your group title because of being unsure. The Earth has heated and cooled as long as it has been around. We need fossil fuels to function in the society we live in unless we just want to throw everything away that we have built and manufactured.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] I think you misunderstand the meaning of "skeptical" in the name of this site. Good scientists are always skeptical - science does not produce 100% certainty in its results. As new evidence comes out, a good scientist will be willing to change his/her mind. New evidence can either increase or decrease our confidence (or uncertainty, if you prefer), but don't expect 100% confidence.

    Many who disagree with the mainstream understanding of climate have co-oped the label "skeptic" for a mind-set that is rarely truly skeptical. As it says under the masthead of the Skeptical Science web pages, this site is about "Getting skeptical about global warming skepticism". Our goal is to examine the claims of these false "skeptics" and hold them up to the light of evidence available in the published literature. Most of these claims by the "skeptics" fail under a truly skeptical review.

    You may find this recent post of interest:

    https://skepticalscience.com/science-what-it-is-how-it-works-and-why-it-matters.html

     

  7. There is no doubt that climate chnage and global warming are happening all around us. I understand there are skeptics but how could you look at all the research and evidence and still go hmmmm maybe not? There are articles about icecaps melting, wildfires due to drout, warmer climate due to moisture in the warmer air. I think it's time we come together as a people and try to cut down our carbon emissions worldwide. We've been gifted this wonderful planet that takes care of us, lets take care of it in return! 

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  8. LarryCorbett:

    I agree with about needing to invent a better Mouse Trap if we are wanting to do anything to "fix" climate change. I think the first step is to stop having denial about climate change. The second would be to find alternatives to things that we use everyday. For example, back home we have a gas station that has unleaded 88 gas this is made up of more ethanol which causes it to burn cleaner than normal gas. Last step is that we have to relaize that we can not simply "fix" climate change as we can not undo the permanent damage that it has already cause. Instead we learn from these mistakes and hopefully pass it on to our future generations.

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  9. Climate change is important to understand and should be viewed with a skeptic mindset. That way any theory isn't immediately shut down, but isn't viewed as 100% true. Any individual with a denial mindset shuts down a theory that isn't 100% true which isn't right when it comes to the topic of climate change.

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  10. Personally I think to deny that there has been any type of climate change is to willingly blind yourself to the events happening around the globe and the earth's past. Not only is there significant evidence that the global warming is happening but climate changes such as this are nothing new. It does happen and there's a pattern of ice ages and the inevitable heating that comes after. However, it's important to note that the global warming that is currently hpapening is occurring at a rate that eclipses the previous events by a significant margin. What people need to understadn is that whiel climate change occurs regularly, what the earth is experiencing right now is not normal.

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  11. Denying vlimate change because it seems like way to big of a problem to fix is a very lazy mindset. We all live on the same planet and have to deal with the consiquences of a heating planet regardless of our own personal impact. We should all care more. I think a great way to combat rising carbon dioxide levels is to plant more plants. Plants turn carbon dioxide into oxygen. Planting more plants will help the problem. It will not solve the climate crisis but it can significantlyt help.

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  12. It is easy to be a skeptic when discussing global warming. There is no doubt that global warming is real but without concrete evidence as to why/how, it remains one of our biggest mysteries. It is never easy to convince someone with doubts or reservations that a theory is at all credible without at least a certain amount of evidence. Of course there are studies related to the most obvious, the sun and global warming. The Sun's effect on the oceans, the ocean's effect on the glaciers, and so on... There is a lot of talk that such normalization procedures have increased global warming although most of this site seems to be skeptical of this claim and does not agree. Also, what about the extreme tempature from earths core? It is very interesting that the question was raised to how big of a fissure or fault it would take to open up our ocean floor, allowing the earths core to warm up our oceans; resulting in all the same global warming concerns.

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  13. This was a very interesting read. The idea of Skeptical Science I feel can apply to other fields of interest, such as design or safety. In regard to climate change, I believe that we have solid evidence that shows a correlation between greenhouse gases and global warming. Ignoring that evidence to pursue alternatives is a good way of theory testing, but not a good way to view the problem overall. I'll make sure to bear what I've read here in my future career as best as I can.

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  14. Skepticism to my understanding is to doubt something. In the article, the author states that skepticism is a good thing in regards to global warming but I disagree. I believe that climate change and global warming does exist. I believe this without being skeptic because there is enough data out there to prove that humans, burning coal and fossil fuels releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, are that the roots of global warming. Why would one decide to be skeptic about this, when there is proof showing that nothing other than greenhouse gasses are the cause of the planet heating up. Looking into other subjects like "do ghosts exist", i can say that being skeptic about the data is fair, because no one truly understands the topic, but in this case, I believe that the author has the wrong idea and isnt very knowledgeable about global warming.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL]

    DL. (May I call you DL?)

    Within the article, "skepticism" does not mean "doubt" in the sense of "this is probably wrong". It means reserving acceptance of an idea until sufficient evidence is provided. In a court, this is usually expressed as "proven beyond a reasonable doubt" (for U.S. criminal court) or "in the balance of probabilities" (U.S. civil court).

    In science, it becomes a case of "where does most of the evidence lead?". Unlike a court of law, the scientific judgement always remains open to challenge (there is no "double jeopardy"). We slowly transition from speculation, to uncertain, to more confident, to almost certain - as more and more evidence accumulates. We remain "skeptical" in the sense that new evidence may be found that tells us we have something wrong - but with all the available evidence we can still be pretty certain (although not absolutely certain).

    "Reasonable doubt" does not mean "no doubt at all". But "doubt' needs to be reasonable - and also needs to follow the evidence.

    We agree that there is lots of evidence in support of our scientific conclusions that humans and fossil fuel combustion are heating the planet. Although many details remain to be figured out, the broad pattern is something we have high confidence in.

    The main "skepticism" here is being skeptical of the claims that humans are not affecting the climate - these claims fail when compared to the evidence.

     

  15. Its very helpful this article includes starting points for newbies studying global climate change. Its very easy to spread false information so having a reliable source and different methods to keep track is helpful. The only way we as a country will be able to solve this problem will be to stop denying that the problem isnt real. 

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  16. the whole prospect of climate change is scary. I mean it made it look scary if we don't do anything now people are saying that our planet is in danger and so are we. I do believe in climate change it is something that I have felt over the years. I am someone who likes to question and find the answer to things that I do not know. So I understand how there are skeptics out there when the evidence isn't solid. all I can do is form My opinions. I want our climate to get better but I need more knowledge on the subject before I can say anything. 

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  17. Thomas Bevins @112,

    It is not clear what you are specifically referring to when you say "Of course there are studies related to the most obvious, the sun and global warming. The Sun's effect on the oceans, the ocean's effect on the glaciers, and so on... There is a lot of talk that such normalization procedures have increased global warming although most of this site seems to be skeptical of this claim and does not agree."

    This site specifically presents reasons to doubt "unjustified beliefs", which is different from having a "healthy skeptical curiosity that leads to constantly improving justified understanding".

    Perhaps the most appropriate, but not the only, Sun related presentation is the Number 2 Most Used Climate Myth "Its the Sun" (Number 2 on the thermometer at the top left-hand side of the SkS pages).

    And, indeed, SkS presents many other well presented reasons to doubt the robust diversity of myths (unjustified beliefs) that many people encounter and can be tempted, out of personal interest, to incorrectly believe "must be" valid claims.

    As for the splitting open of the earth's crust, indeed, should something happen that opens a large gash in the Earth's crust the consequences for life on the plant could be significant. But that has not happened. The actions of humans are clearly understood to be the most harmful current impacts on life on this planet.

    Some say a massive asteroid striking the planet could open such a gash. Even if a large asteroid strike did not open a gap in the crust, the results of such an impact could significantly harm life on this planet. But right now it certainly appears that the collective actions of callous self-interested humans is adding up to be as bad as a large asteroid hitting the planet ... don't worry about an asteroid ... try to learn how to help limit the harm done by callous self interested humans ... learn the difference between "unjustified beliefs" and "justified understanding".

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