Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Common Fallacies in the Global Warming Debate

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 7, 2009

In the same vein as the Top 25 Creationist Fallacies, here are the top fallacies used in the great global warming debate. Many of the fallacies are indeed the same and in the same order. (The similarities between global warming deniers and creationists are alarming.)

This page is subject to frequent editing.

Foundational Bias
Foundational bias occurs when a debater has a presupposed opinion about the subject. This is common among both sides. Proponents are sometimes biased towards the majority opinion, while skeptics are biased towards the view that doesn’t require huge sacrifices.

Straw Man Argument
A person sets up a weaker representation, or ‘straw man’, of an argument, and then easily defeats it. Al Gore is easily the biggest straw man around, and he is self-built, which makes it that much easier for global warming “skeptics” to target him.

Quote Mining
Quote mining is taking some person’s (usually a climatologist’s) quote out of context to make it appear that the person is supporting your viewpoint. One common case is the Schneider quote.

Cherry Picking
This one is rampant, especially among global warming deniers (notice that this time I’m not calling them “skeptics” with quotation marks, because only true deniers do this). Cherry picking is essentially quote mining with data: show a bit of data, but only show the bit that favors your perspective. The most common instance? Global warming stopped in 1998.

Argument From Personal Incredulity
Though these arguments are often cleverly disguised, they are still fallacious. An argument from personal incredulity is one in which someone discounts a claim because he or she personally does not understand it or cannot believe it. Three classic examples (from users on World Net Daily) are “I don’t believe for a minute that a constituent of 0.03 % of the atmosphere is wreaking all this alleged havoc”; “I have photographs of 1 1/2 inches of snow in HOUSTON, TEXAS”; and, of course, “For anyone to suggest that humanity can destroy this planet is ludicrous in the extreme. Scientists have proven that there IS a cause for this ‘global warming’ and it is called THE SUN !!!!!”

Ad Hominem Argument
This is an argument made against a person instead of against a person’s argument. Though not quite as common as some other fallacies, this one is still a serious problem in any sort of debate. Here is something that BibleStudier said to me: “I still want to believe that you are naive and not here to purposely attempt to confuse conservatives.”

Misunderstanding of the Scientific Method
Even though I made up the name (somewhat modified from Top 25 Creationist Fallacies), this is a pretty common fallacy. People who employ this fallacy do not understand the true nature of science. A common example is the claim that scientists predicted an ice age in the 1970’s. The problem here is the assumption that since science was supposedly wrong once, they are not reliable. But the admittance of being wrong is crucial to the scientific method.

False Premise
An argument is rendered unsound because one of the premises of the argument is not a validated premise. For example, BibleStudier used the following argument in an attempt to disprove anthropogenic global warming: “My Father in heaven controls all weather. I know that because the Bible says so. I hope this is edifying for other Christians.” The Bible is a false premise, as its validity is unproven. (This also is a rather famous case of begging the question, but I won’t get into that.)

Correlation Implies Causation
If two events or trends seem related, then they are correlated. But it is fallacious to assume that the first event caused the second event. It is possible that the second event caused the first event, that some third event caused both, or, in some rare cases such as CO2/temperature, they cause each other. This is one of the few fallacies employed more often by uninformed proponents than by uninformed skeptics: they assume that CO2 increase causes temperature increase.

Non Sequitor
Latin for “does not follow”. This is when a conclusion is unrelated to the premise. For example: glaciers and ice-sheets melt and re-form annually, therefore models demonstrating melting glaciers are unreliable.

Outright Lie
This is the number one most common fallacy. There are countless outright lies out there: (taken from here) “There is no scientific ‘consensus’ that humans are the chief cause of global warming”; “The atmosphere is not warming in the way human-caused global warming theories would predict”; “There is no proof that greenhouse gases are causing global warming”; “The temperature record shows no consistent global warming trend.”


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