argue with climate change skeptic

How to Argue for Climate Change With a Skeptic

Steve Russell - February 15, 2023

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Getting into a heated debate about climate change with a skeptic is the perfect way to turn any fun get-together on its head. As a believer in the changing planet, you might feel shocked by the lack of awareness and denial.

According to one public opinion poll, only 45% of people strongly trust climate research in the United States. Meanwhile, 12% and 6% of Americans trust climate science very little or not at all, respectively. 

Skeptics may resist climate change because facing it clashes with our comfort and lifestyles. Uncertainty about how economies will respond to climate initiatives and lower emissions may also lead them to suppress the truth. 

Undoubtedly, it’ll prove difficult to alter negative attitudes toward science. All you can do is try to understand why they feel a particular way and lay the evidence before them. Here’s how to argue for climate change when skeptics push these five common myths.

Myth: Climate Change Isn’t Happening

Climate change is happening — otherwise, city governments across the nation wouldn’t be ramping up resilience strategies to safeguard communities. Yet, research shows that skeptics — often leaning toward conservative political ideologies — reside where climate change will impact them the most, such as in Florida and Texas. 

For instance, Florida’s economy will likely experience a 15% to 25% loss by 2080 due to rising sea levels and Category 5 hurricanes that have doubled in frequency — compared to the economic stability expected in the Pacific Northwest and New England, where states take climate adaptations more seriously. 

Amid projections that sea levels will rise 10 to 17 inches by 2040, South Florida’s Miami-Dade County estimates it can avoid $3.2 billion in structural damage from climate change impacts with adaptations.

Myth: We Don’t Know Why It’s Occurring

Studies have long shown the effects of climate change — yet, even without scientific evidence, societies face grave consequences. For example, prolonged droughts and increasing precipitation hinder crop production, which will only worsen in the coming decades. 

The United Nations suggests human activity is the leading cause of climate change — notably the burning of fossil fuels. Other ways anthropogenic emissions create greenhouse gases include manufacturing everyday goods, food production, deforestation, over-consumption, and transportation. In fact, one-quarter of global carbon emissions derive from the transport sector. 

Further, modern industrial emissions have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide by 50% since 1750.

Myth: It’s a Natural Phenomenon

Skeptics will likely counter claims of human causes by saying climate change is a natural phenomenon. There’s some truth to this, of course. Throughout the last 150 years, recorded data shows natural changes to the earth’s climate, such as volcanic eruptions and variations in sunlight.

However, volcanoes only emit 130 to 230 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, whereas human activity has emitted 100 times more since 2005. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), humans are more likely to cause 95% of climate change, whereas natural changes account for the remaining 5%. 

Myth: Global Warming Is a Hoax

Climate deniers may not fully understand the difference between global warming and climate change. While the two terms are closely related, global warming is more like the cause, while climate change is the effect. 

When greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, etc. — are released into the atmosphere, the sun’s energy gets trapped, ultimately warming the planet. The outcome is seen as 16 of the hottest summers on record are from within the last two decades. 

Global warming impacts weather patterns and increases the frequency of climate-related natural disasters. The belief that global warming is a hoax is a particularly risky mindset for the 45% of Americans who don’t believe it’ll affect them personally. 

Myth: Not Even the Scientists Know

While scientists have sifted through facts regarding the earth’s climate since the 1700s, U.S. oceanographer Roger Revelle and Austrian-American chemist Hans Suess published the first evidence of industrial-induced carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere in 1957.

Despite backlash at the time, millions of studies have since sought to prove climate change’s existence, impacts, and causes.

To say that scientists are unaware of the ins and outs of climate change is the most significant myth of all. In fact, a recent survey of 88,125 climate studies suggests that 99.9% of peer-reviewed research points to human activity as the primary cause. 

The climate debate should no longer be. After all, climate scientists have devoted their life’s work to researching, analyzing, and demonstrating the changing planet.

Educate Others — Even If They Choose Not to Listen

You may not convince a skeptic that climate change is real and happening. However, how you argue for climate change could still make a difference by planting a seed. Continue spreading the truth about climate change, even when skeptics don’t want to listen.

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About the author

Steve Russell

Steve is the Managing Editor of and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.