What does it take to change the mind of a climate “sceptic”? Reality…

Russia is burning*

Often I wonder what it would take to change the mind of a “sceptic”.   

A really good argument? A collection of the “right” scientific papers… name calling?   

Perhaps for some these tactics might do the trick. However, the one argument that trumps all the objections to the scientific evidence that the deniers throw out is reality.   

Because ultimately it is the reality of climate change that will convince even the most committed sceptic.   

Once the army of angry bloggers and spin doctors who deny climate change start to notice the world outside they’ll wake up to the fact that CO2 has raised global temperatures.   

Let’s just hope it’s not too late.   

However for an example of a former sceptic accepting the reality of climate change one only has to look at the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev. Late last year Medvedev was on record doubting climate change. 

However recent comments made by Medvedev in the last few weeks indicate he now accepts the reality of global warming.  

So what was the argument that changed Medvedev’s mind you ask?   

The reality of climate change.   

You see, Russia is literally on fire.   

Russian scepticism of climate change  

Medvedev is on record doubting climate change, calling it “…some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects.”   

The Russian’s official position on climate change mitigation was one of ambivalence, as noted in this article by Time:   

“Broadly speaking, the Russian position has always been that climate change is an invention of the West to try to bring Russia to its knees,”   

Indeed, mainstream media in Russia reflected this belief:   

“…Two months before Copenhagen, state-owned Channel One television aired a documentary called The History of a Deception: Global Warming, which argued that the notion of man-made climate change was the result of an international media conspiracy. A month later, hackers sparked the so-called Climategate scandal by stealing e-mails from European climate researchers. The hacked e-mails, which were then used to support the arguments of global-warming skeptics, appeared to have been distributed through a server in the Siberian oil town of Tomsk, raising suspicion among some environmental activists of Russia’s involvement in the leak.”   

This broad scepticism in both the government and amongst the public found expression at Copenhagen. Again, the “official” Russian position on climate change was one of scepticism:   

Then, at a preliminary round of climate talks in Copenhagen in late October, Russia sent an even more disappointing message. The head of the country’s delegation, Mikhail Zelikhanov, a parliamentary deputy for Prime Minister Valdimir Putin’s United Russia Party, questioned the basic premise of the fight against climate change. “Scientific circles in Russia and elsewhere still do not have a united opinion on the causes of global warming,” Zelikhanov told the group of lawmakers from 16 countries in the hall of the Danish parliament. He suggested that an international panel be created to study whether or not global warming was the result of human actions and whether it could be stopped by cutting pollution.   

The “official” Russian position on climate change was one of scepticism. 

But that was until the appalling heat wave of this year.   

Russia is burning   

Climate change is not a future problem: the world’s climate is changing with devastating effects. 

It’s not a problem for our grand children and children to deal with. 

It’s a problem for the here and now

At present Russia is currently experiencing its worst heat wave on record, with catastrophic fires raging across the country as crops wither and die in the heat. Indeed, Russia has placed a temporary ban on grain exports as a result of the worst drought on record. This will impact food prices across the globe.   

Nor is it Russia alone. 

Canada has experienced “excessive rains” leading to a 17% decline in wheat production. Poland, North Korea, China and Pakistan have experienced devastating floods.  Nashville Tennessee was flooded in a what has been described as a “once in a thousand-year storm”. 

To date the fires, heat wave and accidental deaths have killed almost 5000 people in Russia:   

Death rates have escalated steadily since the heat wave began, according to statisticians. “We recorded 14,340 deaths in Moscow in July, that is 4,824 deaths more than in July, 2009,” said Yevgenia Smirnova, an official from the Moscow registry office.   

Firemen are battling to stop the flames encroaching on the capital. Moscow’s landmarks, including the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral, were shrouded in a thick, acrid haze. Those workers not ordered to stay at home wore masks as they struggled through the streets.  

Russian President Medvedev in a speech to various international sports associations on 30 July noted the connection between climate change and the conditions the country where currently suffering under:   

We are in the middle of an unprecedented heat wave, but I hope that this has not spoiled your stay in Moscow. We have never had such record high temperatures before. At times I have the impression that I’m somewhere in Italy or in Egypt, but certainly not in Moscow.   

At the same time, this creates the opportunity to get a feel for all of the different faces of Moscow. I hope that Moscow’s hot climate has not tired you out, and that you have not lost faith in our ability to hold the Winter Olympics.    

Frankly, what is going on with the world’s climate at the moment should incite us all (I mean world leaders and heads of public organizations) to make a more strenuous effort to fight global climate change.    

As the Time article noted above, Medvedev’s statements on climate change are unequivocal: the temperatures and fires are unprecedented. It is climate change. We need to act.   

Medvedev now recognises the danger. 

But how have other climate change “sceptics” responded to the above facts?

By hiding their heads in the sand.

How do other deniers maintain their cognitive dissonance? Looking for information that will make them “feel better” 

Of course, the unfolding tragedy in Russia has not shaken the confidence – or delusions – of the most prominent deniers. 

As the world’s media is focussed on the fires, and Medvedev changes his position on climate change, the bloggers at the infamous “Watts up with that?” note it was really cold back in January:   

There has been a lot of talk about the hot weather in Moscow over the last couple of weeks. This normally gets reported as the “hot weather in Russia.” But Russia is a big country, and much of it has been experiencing cold temperatures.   

Yes, there indeed has been a lot of talk about the fires… but don’t worry, other parts of the country are cold!   

The Caucuses and nearby Kazakhstan have been getting hit by one cold wave after another…    

One could not find a clearer  example of the psychology of the deniers.  

Simply put, it’s about ignoring the world outside and looking for “facts” that soothe their anxiety.   

“Shhhhh!” whispers the denier, “…don’t talk about climate change! Here is some cherry-picked information to make you feel better… “   

* Sourced from Dawn.com   

The Caucuses and nearby Kazakhstan have been getting hit by one cold wave after anotherThe Caucuses and nearby Kazakhstan have been getting hit by one cold wave after another

11 thoughts on “What does it take to change the mind of a climate “sceptic”? Reality…

  1. Nick says:

    ..so far,26 days reaching over 30C in Moscow.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      It’s horrific… and this is with 0.8 degree’s warming.

      Let’s not forget just how insidious heat waves can be. Death tolls are normally not fully calculated until months after the events. It hits the old and young especially.

  2. Nick says:


  3. villabolo says:

    I’d hate to ruin someone’s hope for the future but it isn’t going to happen this way. Oh yes, some skeptics will convert, but the only thing that will happen with most, who are predisposed to deny, is that they will simply switch to other lies.

    Furthermore, NEVER, EVER, underestimate the Oil Companies and their desire to perpetuate the status quo. They, like the Deniers they puppeteer, will simply change their propaganda.

    What will soon happen is that the Official Lie will be Natural Global Warming and the Official Solution will be Geo-engineering. WHATEVER IT TAKES to take responsibility away from Man-read Oil & Coal Companies-and to perpetuate their profits by deflecting any issue of reducing emissions with pseudo solutions like Geo-engineering.

    It’s obvious what the Corporate motives are and there’s no further need to dwell on them. We need, however, to constantly remind ourselves of the psychology of the individual Denier.

    I’ve seen very little spoken off about the deep psychology of the Conservative Personality, Republican or Democrat. Just as important, at least in the USA, is the particular RELIGIOUS MENTALITY that influences a very large minority of the American Population. I’m referring to Fundamentalist Christianity (Pre-Millenial).

    From what I’ve heard about psychological tests of Conservatives they are egocentric and family centered with hardly any concern about the external world-Social or Natural. Humanity, outside their pseudo tribes are either to be ignored or conquered. The Natural World, much the same.

    It is not surprising then that they have no sense of responsibility of how their actions affect the outside world. It is this psychological predisposition (Probably genetic) and NOT, as most believe, a mere coincidence of having been taught such and such that drives them to formulate their opinions. Thus, we cannot fool ourselves into believing that we can solve anything by either attempting to re-educate them or having Nature teach them in that language that admits to no rebuttal.

    When the moment comes for them to recreate their Mythopoetic Narrative because their previous fairy tales are crumbling, rest assured, their basic egos won’t change. Therefore, “NATURAL GLOBAL WARMING AND GEO-ENGINEERING”.

    The “Born Again” will not give a damn. Jesus is coming, pronto, and will catapult his faithful up to the skies where he can snatch them and live happily ever after. After a few years of woe on us evil, Nature worshiping heathen, we’ll get slaughtered and the literal Earth itself will be molten and recreated.

    With this mentality, why bother about ANYTHING OF FUTURE IMPORTANCE? Worrying about Global Warming to them is like you or I worrying about painting our house a month before it is demolished. In fact, they will simply adopt Global Warming as one of the Apocalyptic signs of the end. How dare they try to solve Wars, Famines, Pestilence and Cosmic Pyrotechnics when it is their God who is providing these abominations to convince people to worship Him?

    Bottom line, we’re f***ed. At least as far as social reform is concerned. My hope, for what it’s worth lies in the creation of a new Civilization and a different type of Humanity which has had all predispositions for Dominance/Submission purged from its Genetic Soul.

    Unfortunately, if this were to ever happen, such Humans will not have much of an inheritance. But I think that’s infinitely better than actually solving this situation without addressing ourselves to the root cause of such evil.

    What would we save ourselves for? So that we can eventually leave this diminished planet and spread through the Galaxy like Gangrene?

    Question. What will we do in the Universe when we get out there?

    Answer. The same thing we’ve done on Earth.

    I am a Non Theist who thinks in Sociobiological terms, that is, the rootedness of our persona in our Genes. I am also hypermoralistic in general. Hence, my inevitable conclusion. We either transform our very psyches or we evolve (further) into a race of Psychopathic Vampires.

    I admit how unfeasible it sounds but it’s either that, in a distant future, or we simply get worse.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      What a great post. I tend to agree with some of your analysis. In fact, I’m considering converting this to a “guest post”.

      I’ve long suspected the conservative Christian denial of evolution and climate change as part of the same broad rejection of science.

      Interesting thoughts.

  4. adelady says:

    I’m afraid that “the conservative Christian denial of evolution and climate change” is just a concentrated form of the general social anti-intellectualism. We’ve always had a passive sort of scorn for ‘ivory tower’ thinkers, and historically there’s always been resistance to new scientific thought – hospital hygiene, relativity, evolution.

    But this is a particularly virulent example. And I think scientists are a bit shocked by it. Getting rid of London smog and eliminating CFCs were recent instances of governments taking appropriate action on the advice of knowledgeable people. They could have been lulled into thinking that people would listen.

    We now seem to be back in the days of surgeons proudly displaying their filthy labcoats as a badge of honour, figuratively speaking.

  5. saskboy says:

    As with any disaster, you only have to deny the severity in the media enough until the media goes away.

  6. Paul Pierett says:


    Well that needs to be defined.

    Man-made global warming is hog wash.

    We are probably in the last warming period before we slide 10,000 years into the first climate changes associated with the next ice age.

    The last 300 years of global warming is due to sunspots. Russia’s drought is due to the fact we have entered a solar sunspot minimum which last 30 years. This will cure your global warming sorrows.

    Most educated people don’t stay stuck on stupid. The look for better answers.

    That is why you are stuck on deniers. Enjoy the last days of global warming. 30 years of gold winters lay ahead.

    My work is posted at nationalforestlawblog.com
    Oct. Newsletter under my name.


    Paul Pierett

  7. adelady says:

    WtD, good response.

    (Deep down, how we all wish he was right. I expect grandchildren during the next few years, and I expect that their children will live until approx 2130+. I’d much prefer a kinder more stable world for them to live in.)

  8. Paul Pierett says:

    Have you read the latest Newsweek?

    In due time, YOU will see that I am right, not I, but Milankovich. Get on board.

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