First, I am not a climatologist but a veteran of countless exhaustive debates on this issue. Second, I am convinced that humans are very likely contributing to the planet’s warming. I note that for full disclosure and to avoid any token gestures to make this appear perfectly balanced between two sides. The purpose of citing the following five arguments isn’t to suggest that every skeptical argument is invalid, but to communicate several arguments that truly deserve to die. (AGW will refer to anthropogenic global warming or the belief that humans are contributing to the present warming trend.)
Conflation of Climate and Weather
This argument is presented in a myriad of ways, but most often in a sarcastic “Snow in April? Where’s your global warming now?” Inasmuch as this is presented as humor with full understanding of its banality, it can be overlooked. It becomes quite evident, however, that this is often referenced as airtight evidence that global warming adherents are idiots.
Without delving into the distinctions between the two, I would simply suggest a careful examination of both.
“What climatologists fail to admit/examine is that. . .” Argument
You can fill in the blanks with mulitiple variables here, but the variable in question is largely irrelevant. This is cited because it is inevitably an area that climatologists have written volumes about. It is certainly possible that skeptics will desire to lay out a case responding to what has been presented, but what needs to disappear are the frequent appeals to a supposed gap where one doesn’t exist.
The Headline Argument
This argument follows a very repeatable pattern where an AGW affirming climatologist has a quote extracted from its larger context and then memorialized in a conveniently misleading headline. The headline makes it appear the theory of AGW has been turned on its head. This then bounces along the blogosphere and becomes a one line, end all rebuttal to adherents of global warming. What is almost never referenced is the larger context or the fact the scientist in question has already laid out how his words were completely misrepresented.
The Al Gore Argument
This is possibly the most overused argument in dialogues about AGW. Several things have no relevance to the scientific foundation for global warming: a.) Whether Al Gore is a hypocrite. b.) Whether Al Gore profits. c.) Whether Al Gore has ever presented something that was in error. These are certainly questions that can be examined, but they cannot serve as stand-alone arguments refuting AGW.
As convenient as it is to make Al Gore a proxy for AGW and then consider any deconstruction of Gore, the deconstruction of the science, it is a faulty and misleading approach.
The Consensus Breaking Argument.
This argument usually involves appealing to some “list of thousands” that oppose the “supposed consensus” and renders the argument of consensus invalid. Without delving into the tenuous connections these lists generally make, it should be pointed out they tend to obscure fundamental questions that need to be answered. What field is in the best position to be knowledgeable on the issue of climate change? Within this field, should the opinions of those with the most education be respected? The opinion of someone with a bachelor’s degree in geography should not be equitable to a published scientist with a doctorate in climatology.
Any time a question of scope or proportionality is redirected toward sheer numbers divorced from context, you can be certain it is a distraction.