Some skeptics view climate science as a house of cards. You pull one card from the bottom and the whole thing collapses. But science is more like a jigsaw puzzle, assembled piece by piece over decades of research. Gradually, the overall picture emerges, until it's unmistakable. Remaining gaps or even a few misplaced pieces don't change the overall picture.
“I’m not a doctor, but I know not to drink arsenic.” – climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann responding to the “I am not a scientist” line used by top Republican leaders.
“I’m not a scientist either but I can use my brains and I can talk to one.” – former Florida Governor Charlie Crist in July 2014 responding to Florida Gov. Rick Scott's line, “I’m not a scientist.”
When you first arrive at the beach can you tell whether the tide is going in or out? No, not quickly: it would perhaps take you fifteen minutes of wave-watching before you could say for certain. And who's to say that a sudden big wave wasn't caused by a passing ship? It takes time to see the trend.Now let's adopt the scientist's method for determining the tide. This time bring a group of friends to the beach and position them 50 metres apart. When a wave lands, each person notes whether it reached further than the previous waves. If it does, that person shouts out , "a record!". So at first everyone is shouting out 'a record' very frequently—because the sample is so small. However, after 30 seconds or so the frequency will drop. Then after a few minutes the frequency of shouts will either noticeably decrease until they stop altogether (the tide is going out), or they will settle into a steady rhythm (the tide is coming in). Note that the more friends you take with you, the faster you'll arrive at an answer.
If 97% of experts say a mushroom is poisonous but 3% say it is safe, would you feed it to your kids?
‘Weather is what you see outside your window, climate is what you see from a satellite.’ – Scott Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences at Suffolk County Community College, New York.
Recent sea level rise is mostly due to thermal expansion, the same reason that mercury -- or alcohol with red dye -- climbs in a thermometer.
‘Looking at sea ice and not total ice is like your high school football team winning their game, but your NFL team loses the Super Bowl.’ — Ted Scambos, Glaciologist at University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center.
“You can’t change (climate science) facts by ignoring them. This is like trying to lose 20 pounds by smashing your bathroom scale.” — Mike Breen, Executive Director of the Truman National Security Project, and leader of the clean energy campaign, Operation Free.
Partial evidence can be very misleading. Remember the "blind men feeling an elephant" allegory? One feels a leg and says it's a tree. Another the trunk; i'ts a snake! Another pats the body and calls it a wall. The only way to figure out what's really going on is to look all the evidence together."Cherry pickers" deceive by getting you to focus on only one piece of evidence, ignoring the rest. Whether performed by magicians or lobbyists, the technique works until the audience catchs on.
'When you focus on just atmospheric heat to measure global warming, it's like tracking the tip of your dog’s tail to determine its location, instead of the body of the dog.' — Greg Laden, biological anthropologist and science communicator.
“We can’t go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don’t know it...It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth’s environment because this is the only place we have to live.” – NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
(With climate change) “we will see a shorter snow season, but more intense individual snowfall events. – Dr. Michael Mann, Climatologist at Penn State University
'Yes, the climate changed before. That's called an observation, but a scientist’s role is to explain why it changed before and now. — Peter Hadfield, retired British journalist and creator of popular science YouTube channel Potholer54,
'In a bizarre sense, to deny global warming is to question the ability of the Air Force to put the right sensor on a heat seeking missile.' — Dr. Richard Alley, climate scientist at Penn State.
‘What is dangerous is not a scientific decision. It is a decision we make based upon what is in our hearts.’ – Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, atmospheric scientist and associate professor of political science at Texas Tech University.
Telling the inhabitants of a coral that island that they're safe because sea level won't rise, is like a doctor telling a smoker, "stop worrying, you aren't going to die of lung cancer", while knowing full well that they're doomed to die from a coronary thrombosis. Ocean acidification (OA) and bleaching are killing coral and therefore—as a result of our unabated CO2 emissions —it's almost certain that all coral islands will disappear beneath the sea, whether sea levels rise or not.
Some skeptics conflate 'uncertainty' with 'ignorance'. This is the idea that because scientists are uncertain about some aspect [of climate science] they therefore know nothing about [that aspect], and any estimate of it is mere guesswork.