The notion of the Climate Change Hoax has recently been promoted by President-Elect Donald Trump, conservative politicians around the world, business leaders tied to the fossil fuel industry, and conservatives generally both in the USA and other Western nations.
Populist and nationalist politicians have attempted to exploit the claim that climate change is just a hoax in order to gain support from farmers, the religious Right, conspiracy theorists, the disenfranchised, and low-socio-economic sectors of society to bolster their polling numbers, particularly close to Federal and State elections.
This is despite the fact that the over-whelming weight of global scientific evidence collected to date shows that climate change is indeed not a hoax and in fact one of the greatest threats to humans today. Science clearly shows that global warming is not a threat that may confront humanity in the future, it is already impacting on millions of people and there is a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to act to avoid catastrophic future impacts.
Examples of current catastrophic effects of climate change include the already rising sea levels affecting island nations around the world, such as low-lying Kiribati, where rising sea levels are threatening the Gilberts group, composed entirely of atolls, and where the large majority of the population live, threatening its very existence within the next decade. Scientists estimate that mass bleaching has killed 35% of corals on the northern and central Australian Great Barrier Reef due to rising temperatures and ocean acidification, a sign that more fragile ocean life is already well on its way to another mass extinction.
The overwhelming majority of scientists have indicated that climate change is the greatest threat to the environment globally and have urged immediate action on the part of all people to support initiatives that will combat the human contribution to climate change. It is estimated that human activities such as burning fossil fuels account for 90% of the planet’s increase in temperature in the last 150 years, since the industrial revolution.
Climate Change Hoax Claims
A large number of websites infer that the notion that climate change is nothing more than a hoax or 'scam', inferring that scientists are part of an elaborate scheme to corroborate and intentionally mislead the public using 'fictitious' or modified climate data.
Most of these sources are either outdated, very selective in their use of data, or politically motivated, though often highly emotionally charged in their dismissal of climate science. They typically seek to discredit mainstream scientists, accuse climate change campaigners of belonging to the 'socialist' movement or supporting a ‘One World government’ agenda, or simply promote fictitious climate data, falsely indicating that the climate is in fact cooling rather than warming. A large number of those that refute climate change claim that glaciers globally are in fact growing, when it has been shown that they are not. Another favourite argument used by climate change deniers is that sea ice in the Arctic is growing rather than shrinking (again, the truth is quite the opposite).
Sometimes climate deniers suggest that climate change is something that has been made up to cover a deeper agenda (for instance geo-engineering or the use of ‘chemtrails’ of the UN’s Agenda 30 program). The US President elect has even suggested that the idea of climate change was made up by the Chinese.
Climate change hoax proponents typically entertain one or all of the following possibilities:
1. That climate change is occurring but is a natural process and merely a result of the earth’s natural rhythms
2. That climate change is not occurring and in fact simply a fictitious phenomenon invented by scientists for their own financial gain
3. The planet is warming however not nearly at the rate scientist’s claim and that any alarm should be quelled in order to pursue other agendas such as economic prosperity.
Climate Hoax Sources
Disinformation and propaganda sites
A number of websites, including the DailyWire, World News Daily and YourNewsWire have fictitiously claimed that tens of thousands of scientists across the world have reversed their opinion on climate change and now in support of the ‘hoax’ claim. The names of these sites are quite innocent, and they could be perceived as essentially being news sites for stories based on fact-checked sources. However, this is not the case.
According to Snopes list of hoax websites, World News Daily Report ‘frequently branches out to science-based fakery’.
According to Media Bias Fact Check, DailyWire is a conservative news site that “publishes misleading reports and omits reporting of information that may damage conservative causes. Sources in this category may be untrustworthy”.
YourNewsWire publishes many conspiracy orientated ‘news’ stories and seems to focus on ‘click bait’ headlines to attract more website traffic.
Some sites which often carry news stories about the ‘hoax’, such as Breitbart are more open about their far Right political positioning. Breitbart was recently soundly criticised by the Weather Channel for using some of their video out of context.
The phenomena of ‘fake news’ being generated during the US presidential election, where news stories were generated essentially to make money rather than for any political agenda is another reason there are so many stories circulating that claim that climate change is not happening.
Vested interests and allies of the fossil fuel industry
It has been estimated that donors linked to oil giant ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and other invested parties to the fossil fuel industry have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on propagating an angle of climate change denial by using ‘junk science’ to downplay the existence of, and human involvement in global warming. For instance, it appears that Exxon has for years “campaigned to sow uncertainty about climate science, undermine international climate treaties and block legislation to reduce emissions.”
Over 50 bodies exist in the United States alone that purport to either outright deny the existence of climate change, downplay the role of human causes, or discredit the scientists who carry out research and report on global warming. The website SourceWatch is a thorough resource to check on which organisations are actually funded by the fossil fuel industry or their allies.
In Australia, notable climate change sceptics include One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts and South Australian Liberal MP, Cory Bernardi.
Roberts has maintained that data produced by the broader scientific community including Australia's own scientific body the CSIRO, are a product of corruption in order to satisfy personal gain for the very scientists that undertake the research. This has been widely criticised by the CSIRO and broader scientific community, with all of Robert’s claims thoroughly debunked in a number of media items and news articles that provide independently reviewed scientific information from numerous sources.
The notion of Climate Change as a hoax or scam has often been tied to politicians that advocate for the mining sector or fossil fuels industry who are averse to the change in status quo that renewable energy seeks to provide. This is due to the perceived endangerment of jobs and in market superiority that current large energy corporations enjoy.
Mainstream media generally seeks to offer a ‘balanced’ view of news reporting. If a news item is looking at the question of whether a forest should be logged, it would be standard practise to have at least two voices in a story – one from a person or group who supported the logging and one who didn’t. This is common practise where an issue might be controversial or contested (the question of vaccinations would be another example).
But generally, once an issue becomes accepted broadly in society, media is less likely to have stories include ‘both sides of the story’. News items on car or bike safety would rarely contain an argument that seat belts or bike helmets are a bad idea, or that there should be no speed limits on city streets. In the same way, there is broad and resounding consensus amongst the clear majority of climate scientists that climate change is real, is largely caused by human activity and that it poses a serious threat to both humans and natural ecosystems. Yet because climate deniers are often well connected, represented in political parties and some parts of the media, space is often given to the deniers, which creates a perception in the community that climate science is contested, when in reality it is not.
The benefits of action
Almost all climate hoax proponents neglect to either understand or point out the many benefits that renewable energy has to offer. Both wind and solar energy have the potential to produce a large number of jobs, particular in reskilling mining workers who are put out of work by a declining coal and oil industry, while radically reducing our contribution to climate change. Science also shows us that ‘early’ action to reduce emissions will lead to less economic, social, public health and environmental impacts later on (for instance, in a statement from 2014, the President of the USA said that delaying action will lead to “greater damages from climate change or higher costs associated with implementing more rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
By continually calling into question the validity of climate science, deniers cause a cyclical debate in the media, which in turn, wastes time and energy that could be invested into transitioning energy supplies from fossil fuels to renewable sources.
Far from being a hoax, climate change is expected to dramatically change the dynamic of virtually every facet of life, from the economic to the environmental during the 21st century. The latest available climate science paints an even grimmer picture than that which can be found in ‘consensus’ documents like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. This is because consensus reports are often several years out of date by the time they are released because of the need for rigorous peer review. The website Climate Code Red, produced by David Spratt is constantly updated with the latest information on cutting edge climate science.
If humans today cannot see past the “climate change hoax” myth which has been perpetrated by those funded by the fossil fuels industry, our children’s generation and the planet will be much worse-off in the very near future.
The Earth’s Climate in 30 Seconds
The video below indicates a graphical representation of the global climate changing from 1880 to 2015. This is based on factual, empirical data collected by the world’s climate scientists.
Or check here for an animated map of the Earth's long term warming trend from 1880 - 2015.
Who wrote this?
This text was produced by Friends of the Earth Australia, a membership-based environmental organisation. Our policy positions are guided by mainstream climate science. We campaign against new fossil fuel developments and in support of a ‘just transition’ for people currently employed in the fossil fuel industries. We are funded by a mix of individual donations, some philanthropic grants, and also receive some support from individual companies. We report on who funds us via our annual reports, which are available here.
Transparency in reporting is a useful way of determining the bona fides of groups who hold a position on climate change. One of the main climate sceptic think tanks in Australia is the Institute of Public Affairs, which is generally unwilling to disclose which companies it receives funding from. If a website or organisation is taking a position that claims to be opposing the ‘myth’ of climate change, it is worth checking to see where their funds are coming from.