Some people believe that climate change is happening because of humans, and some believe it is based on nature. What I don't understand is why the people who believe that it is caused by nature are so ambivalent. Climate change is still happening and even they agree. Shouldn't they want to do something about it?

Why do people believe that efforts against climate change are futile even though they accept that the climate is changing?


I didn't expect, and really don't appreciate, all the attacks on persons or beliefs that responded to this question. Some people think my question is biased, but I am simply trying to reflect the politics of the people where I live. I would appreciate comments that concern why people believe what they do other than comments that try to prove that the other person is wrong.

closed as off-topic by Drunk Cynic, Alexei, user4012, Machavity, Bradley Wilson Apr 5 '17 at 9:13

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Sam I am Apr 4 '17 at 17:07
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    A lot of people just don't believe that a moral crusade or some form of Marxism is an appropriate response to climate change, man made or natural. – user1450877 Apr 5 '17 at 15:44
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    Part of the problem is that there is a history of proposed futile efforts – user4012 Apr 6 '17 at 15:11

Why do people believe that efforts against climate change are futile even though they accept that the climate is changing?

There can be many reasons, as each individual can have their own reasons. But there are some common patterns.

People who believe that human activities have no impact on climate believe that human activities have no impact on climate (tautologically). They believe that nature will do what it wants and humans can't change that. Regardless of whether there is proof that they are wrong, that's what they believe. Consistent with that, they don't believe that human activity can cause global cooling any more than they believe that it can cause global warming.

This seems the best fit for the pattern that you describe, where people see the Earth as warming but feel it is futile to try to stop it.

There are other patterns. People may acknowledge warming but not care. The seas could rise and the Earth warm quite a bit without impacting the people in the hills of West Virginia. On a cold winter day, it might sound pleasant.

Some may find the costs of mitigating climate change to be more expensive than the costs of climate change. They may be wrong, but it remains something that people can believe. There is no requirement that people believe only true things.

Some people may not acknowledge warming at all. I'm not going to reprise their arguments. You can find them elsewhere.

Anyway, all those different groups would be opposed to efforts to combat global warming, particularly those efforts that cost them money.

Sometimes, people may simply feel that the particular policy under discussion won't be effective. Or not effective enough to justify their price. For example, computers use electricity, some of which is provided by fossil fuels. One policy that could be proposed would be to stop using computers. It seems that no one here agrees that the reduced use of fossil fuels that would result from that policy is worth the loss of benefits from using the computers.

You could have many reasons for such a belief. You could value the benefits highly. You could feel that the reduction is too small. You could feel that your electricity comes from sources that do not contribute to global warming (rightly or wrongly). You could be saying, "You first." But whatever your reasons, you are choosing not to take that particular step by reading this post. Whatever that reason or those reasons may be, you should consider the possibility that the reasons of others are as valid as yours.

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    +1, but you are missing some other options (e.g. "people believe that the models are wrong for a variety of more or less logical reasons", "people oppose government being given that sort of power", "people oppose Marxist approach of most climate change combat proposals that are all about 'give us your money'", "people ascribe low credibility to climate scientists due to remembering a fairly recent prediction of 'earth will freeze'", "backfire effect" based on political affiliation; etc...) – user4012 Apr 3 '17 at 15:21
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    @user4012 even if people do not trust scientific reports... what reason do they have to support just the opposite of what scientists (almost unanimously) say?. If I think my clock does not work and I have absolutely no other mean of knowing which time is it, I say "my clock is not to be trusted so I do not know which time is it"; I do not say "my clock is no to be trusted so it is 5:00 pm". – SJuan76 Apr 3 '17 at 21:41
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    @user4012 but scientists only say "reduce CO2 emissions", they do not tell how to reduce them; the political/economical mechanisms are not theirs. And are you implying that (let me quote the earthscience answer) 97% of climate scientist are, in some degree or another, part of some kind of (let me quote you) "marxist" conspiracy with a strange fixation on CO2, despite the scientific culture of the time (you mean, peer review, public data, etc.). Well, could you explain what is your basis for that? Which are your qualifications (other than "whoever does not agree with me is a Marxist")? – SJuan76 Apr 3 '17 at 22:00
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    @user4012 In a different time, the visceral reaction was under the context Does smoking cause cancer. It just so happens to be that, while there's plenty of evidence, finding the 'smoking' gun could be impossible depending on how you choose to frame the question or ignore other evidence and call it 'zero proof'. – Jeff Lambert Apr 3 '17 at 22:04
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    @user4012 sorry, but you cannot claim something like Marxist approach of most climate change combat proposals or imply scientifics lying out of self-interest and then complain about ad hominem. You keep on claiming/implying a conspiracy/self interest/call it what you want, to smear the scientists that happen to say what you do not like them to say. And it is not as if the study of the climate is something new that has been developed only because of the climate change; knowing how to better predict weather is something of extraordinary value by itself (check military efforts at it). – SJuan76 Apr 3 '17 at 22:44

There are already many questions in http://earthscience.stackexchange.com about the technical details of the claim. For example this one, found by Panda. Here I will address the body of your question (I suggest you change the title to match); why some people, politicians (and some political parties) favour this kind of idea without much of scientific basis.

The issue is that the claim is not only that climate change is natural, but that it is part of a natural cycle and as such "there is no need" to take measures to prevent it. Most of the cases, it is just a a posteriori reasoning to justify their unwillingness to do anything towards avoiding climate change.

The basis of the idea is that "this has happened before, so we do not need to worry about/do any effort to prevent it". It is in this not much different from flat-out refusal of climate change, but denialism seems to have been lost favour after being thoroughly examined so "natural climate change" seems its new incarnation.

You see, there have been natural climate changes through the geological eras, and even through the recorded history of mankind. Of course, the corollary of "natural climate change" is "being natural we should do not worry and do nothing to stop it"1.

So this idea is the new "reason" for refusing any effort in doing anything to prevent climate change (specially CO2 and methane release to the atmosphere), much to the benefit of people at the top level of oil, gas and coal industries, and other industrial activities2.

1Of course, they fail to comment that even those "natural" changes caused great changes in many of the human societies of their time(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Ice_Age#Europe).

2Here I want to explain that I am not claiming that everybody supporting these claims are top-level oil/coal/gas executives, or their relatives, or paid by them or in some sort of conspiracy. People are strangereference and not completely rational, and often reacts negatively to anything that changes (or simply appears that could change) what they are used to; whatever the reason they have to do so.

  • As an aside, some people believe that efforts are futile out of a sheer cynicism/pessimism about humanity actually fixing its behavior. Not the kind of people OP is asking about, but maybe worth alluding to in a comment for completeness. – mtraceur Apr 2 '17 at 17:25
  • @mtraceur As I see it, a pesimist would not try to convince people that climate change is natural, because that would be "good news" (it is natural -> it will solve itself). His line would be more like "climate change cannot be stopped (either because mankind is powerless or because particular interests will prevent any meaningful action before it is too late)" – SJuan76 Apr 3 '17 at 21:37
  • @SJuan76 Never said they would try to convince people it's natural or good - I explicitly noted that they're not the kind of people the OP is asking about (while the question text explicitly elaborates that OP Is interested in the "it's natural" denialism, more so than the "it's futile" part, the title solely expresses futility, and search engines will lead people looking for answers to the question as worded in the title too). I had hoped it would've been obvious that pessimism about fixing a problem implies recognition of a problem, but perhaps I could've been clearer with my wording. – mtraceur Apr 4 '17 at 10:27
  • @SJuan76 - Why should a natural thing solve itself? ;) The natural global warming our planet will experience in a few billion years isn’t going to solve itself. ;) – Obie 2.0 Nov 3 '17 at 5:00

Quick note. @Brythan gives a very good answer on personal choice. Political choice is somewhat different.

Politicians are different. They have advisors. They have experts and it's just not possible that so many on the right actually believe what they say they believe on Climate change.

Politicians lie and they spin. This should be news to nobody.

Politicians also have a staff and the better ones, have a staff that studies the facts, not a staff of yes men. That's politics 101 going back to Machiavelli. Lincoln was also big on having people who disagreed with him near him. And whatever some people say and whatever individuals believe, the evidence is very strong that climate change is real and man made. It's simply not possible that most congressmen don't know this.

So when they talk about it and they say there's no proof, or they say it might be natural, or when James Inhoff brings a snowball inside and throws it on the floor - they are lying. Period. Straight up fact. At least the smart ones are.

Why do people believe that efforts against climate change are futile even though they accept that the climate is changing?

Now, they can claim in a Bill Clinton I didn't have sex way that "it could be natural, not man made", and statistically, there's about a one chance in 10,000 that this is the case. But at the very least, it's spin.

So, why do they spin?

It comes down to, approach/desired outcome over truth. Very few politicans say everything they believe. They will often say things to work towards an outcome they are after. "You can keep your doctor" for example. Which was actually true, if your company kept the same plans (many didn't).

In 2001, when IPCC-TAR came out, and the scientists behind the report said "We're 99% sure it's real and man made", I guarantee that President George W. Bush's advisors told him that the scientists were probably right and that climate change was probably real and man made. (Maybe not Cheney). Bush in 2007 or 2008 said Climate change was real. Donald Trump in 2009 endorsed a memo to the president that said climate change was real and action needed to be taken towards clean energy. The evidence that climate change is real and man made has grown stronger since then

Why do they spin it this way?

1) For their constituency (and lets not forget special interests).

2) Because if they admit it's real, that implies that action should be taken and relevant actions involve things conservatives generally don't like. Regulation, Taxes and 3rd world financial support.

A related problem is that Climate change is very big and the solution requires enormous change and huge financial effort. It's not a simple fix at all. A 75% reduction in Co2 footprint, globally, combined with desired 3rd world economic growth, that's just bonkers difficult.

So it's much easier to say "It's not real" or "it might be natural", or "more study is needed", because admitting it's real and fixing it, is a big noisy mess. Much harder than healthcare.

So "It's not real" - it's the easy way out. It's a lie, but it wins points with their constituency and it steers the conversation and political actions closer to what they want.

Problem - it's a lie that's not going to work forever. Man made climate change is real and it's progressive. We will see it get worse. so the "We don't know", isn't going to fly forever, but it's a short term fix.

There were oil company memos that address the reality of man made climate change that are 40 years old. Doubting the science is foolish. The science remains unchallenged for 40 years, not in any peer reviewed or evidence backed way and if it wasn't true, finding evidence to the contrary would be fairly straight forward. It's just temperature and circulation. It's not magic.

Any interesting question that may arise in the not too distant future, is "why did they lie". The denial can't go on forever, not for something that's real and growing.

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    Way too long, I'm afraid, and your examples distract, IMHO. They may be valuable, so I would suggest moving them to the bottom of your answer to emphasize your main points, making your main points easier to digest. As it is right now, I stopped reading after the third example and didn't even bother reading your other points (read the last sentence by chance). – DarkDust Apr 2 '17 at 19:28
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    @DarkDust I tried to clean it up, make it a bit more to the point. Still long, I tend to write long I'm afraid. – userLTK Apr 3 '17 at 11:28
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    Sometimes important points and information can't be reduced to tweets or sound bites. I thought it was an interesting answer- with the examples. – BobT Apr 3 '17 at 15:31

1) Political corruption is a major reason. Consider the way the U.S. supported the Kyoto Protocol - NOT. Even the scientific community is largely manipulated by "establishment" forces, which make bizarre claims like "There's a scientific consensus that genetically modified food is OK!"

In this spirit, some of the theories about climate change being natural are suspect. The climate DOES change over time, but it's hard to imagine how this natural change could not be mitigated by the extraordinary impact humans have on the ecosphere.

2) Public inaction. The government certainly won't do anything without significant public pressure, and people in the U.S., at least, are remarkably apathetic or reluctant to pursue what they view as a lost cause.

3) "Too Late Syndrome" Some people believe that we've reached a point where we can no longer turn back. If all humans vanished today, it might still take years for the climate to return to "normal." (See It's too late to halt climate change, for example.)

I'm not saying I personally agree with the above. I believe in fighting back. But it does seem like a lost cause at the moment; nothing like the 1960's, which effectively gave birth to the Environmental Protection Office (but which has become increasingly corrupt and ineffective since then).

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