Critical Thinking about Climate - a video series by John Cook

This is a collection of videos based on individual blog posts on John Cook's Cranky Uncle website. The videos are part of a virtual grad class “Understanding and Responding to Climate Misinformation” that John Cook is teaching at George Mason University with Natalie Burls & Tim DelSole. Their class teaches climate & communication students the climate & comm research needed to debunk climate misinformation.

Part 1 - The five climate disbeliefs

The five climate disbeliefs: a crash course in climate misinformation (27 minutes)

You can summarize climate change in just ten words: it's real, it's us, experts agree, it's bad, there's hope. Climate change misinformation is like a bizarro world version of this summarized with five categories: it's not real, it's not us, experts are unreliable, it's not bad, there's no hope. Understanding the arguments of climate denial is the first step to countering it. This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality of climate change and delay climate action.

Part 2 - The Story of Climate Consensus

The Story of Climate Consensus (22 minutes)

The scientific consensus on human-caused global warming has been a fierce topic for decades. To understand why, you need to know the history of consensus. The first message the public heard about the consensus on climate change was that there was no consensus. Next, scientists published a series of studies quantifying expert agreement on human-caused global warming - multiple studies found 90 to 100% agreement with multiple studies converging on 97% consensus. In response, climate deniers continued to argue there was no consensus (as well as argue scientists should stop talking about it because science isn't done by consensus).

Part 3 - Anthony Leiserowitz talks climate communication

Anthony Leiserowitz talks climate communication (23 minutes)

An interview with Tony Leiserowitz from Yale University about climate communication, scientific consensus, the gateway belief model, & much much more. A very high quality, interesting, & informative interview! This interview was recorded in Paris back in 2015 - we were both at the COP21 climate summit. While the conversation is 5 years old, much of the principles are timeless. Indeed, subsequent research has strengthened the gateway belief model

Part 4 - How to debunk misinformation

How to debunk misinformation (10 minutes)

An effective rebuttal requires three elements. Fact. Myth. Fallacy. This video to explain how to tie these together into a cohesive debunking. First, you need to provide an explanation that neatly replaces the myth in people's mental model. Your fact needs to be plausible and it needs to fit all the causal links left by the myth. You also need to make your facts sticky - communicate your fact in a way that grabs people’s attention and sticks in the memory. The golden rule of debunking is fight sticky myths with stickier facts. Second, you do need to mention the myth when debunking, in order for people to tag it in their mental model as false. But warn them before mentioning the myth. This puts people cognitively on guard so they’re less likely to be influenced by the misinformation. Third, explain the fallacy or rhetorical technique the misinformation uses to mislead. Help people resolve the conflict between fact and myth by explaining how the myth distorts the facts. Note: for more details on the FLICC taxonomy shown at 8:25, the history of FLICC plus definitions and examples is given at

Part 5 - Six ways to make your science sticky

Six ways to make your science sticky (35 minutes)

This Critical Thinking About Climate video is an in-depth explainer on how to communicate science in a way that grabs attention, gets shared, and sticks in people’s memory. The six traits of sticky messages are Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotion, and Story ( SUCCES). Effective messages share some of these six traits. In this video, I offer a range of techniques to make your science more sticky, providing a number of science communication examples.

Part 6 - How to spot and tag misinformation

How to spot and tag misinformation (14 minutes)

How do you tell the difference between facts and misinformation? This Critical Thinking About Climate video explains how to deconstruct arguments so you can spot if it’s misinformation and tag any misleading fallacies. This is a skill we all need these days as misinformation is everywhere! This video is based on a paper coauthored by John Cook, Peter Ellerton and David Kinkead, outlining a step-by-step method to deconstruct denialist claims about climate change and identify reasoning fallacies. The paper is freely available at

Part 7 - 23 ways to mislead

23 ways to mislead (41 minutes)

This Critical Thinking About Climate video explains 23 rhetorical techniques used in misinformation. Understanding the techniques of science denial is like a universal vaccine against misinformation. Once you know these red flags, you’ll be able to spot attempts to mislead you.

Part 8 - Climategate and climate conspiracy theories

Climategate and climate conspiracy theories (34 minutes)

This video focuses on conspiracy theories, delving into the seven traits of conspiratorial thinking. Knowing these helps you spot the red flags of a baseless conspiracy theory. John Cook also delves into conspiracy theories about climate change and how they emerged from the dark corners of the Internet to briefly go mainstream during the "climategate" incident in 2009.


We'll add more videos to this blog post as they become available. To keep track of new videos added on YouTube, keep an eye on the playlist "Critical Thinking about Climate"!

Posted by John Cook on Monday, 5 October, 2020

Creative Commons License The Skeptical Science website by Skeptical Science is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.