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The Frustrating Climate Change Memes That Just Won’t Die

Mandel Ngan, AFP

Whenever I write about climate change, deniers quickly respond that I have it all wrong. Global warming actually stopped over a decade ago, they say. Sometimes they even supply a chart. Yesterday, I wrote about why this argument is completely wrong and why this myth persists. I cited a NASA scientist in my defense. But the reaction was more of the same: On Twitter, some called me a liar or, at best, willfully ignorant of the giant hoax. 

Really, why don’t these memes ever go away? Climate deniers twisted NASA atmospheric scientist Norman Loeb’s words last week when he tried to explain that the recent slowdown in temperature rise, something scientists have observed for a while, is very much consistent with global warming. The reason: Oceans are heating up, while surface temperatures are still at their hottest. The deniers never tell that part.

It’s not the only climate denier myth that lives on despite reality. Deniers love to say that scientists predicted “global cooling” before they found global warming. Again, that was never true. The deniers are quoting a Newsweek story from 1975 on “The Cooling World” that the magazine later retracted. But “global cooling” wasn’t even accepted theory back then. Global warming trumped global cooling in the peer-reviewed literature from 1965 and 1979, with 2,043 citations for former and just 325 for the latter. The science writer behind the Newsweek article is baffled today that deniers still cite the story as proof of their views.

Lately, some new studies offered a little hope that the debate will not always be mired in this absurd debate over whether climate change is real. Climate deniers motivated entirely by ideology aren’t going to change their minds, but for most conservatives, according to these studies, simple education and pie charts on the facts may have an effect. It’s hard when these scattered, incorrect facts still get so much attention. But maybe one day soon U.S. policymakers can move on from disputing the science to what to do about it. 

Rebecca Leber

What happened yesterday:

ST. LOUIS SHOOTING: It was another day of protests—and a little unrest—in a St. Louis suburb on Monday, following the police shooting of an unarmed young man. Meanwhile, the FBI has said it is investigating what happened. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

ROBIN WILLIAMS: The acclaimed actor and comedian died on Monday at the age of 63. Authorities suspect it was a suicide. (Los Angeles Times) 

OBAMACARE: This winter, buying an Obamacare insurance plan won’t be as hard as it was last year. But, Sarah Kliff warns, it won’t be easy either. (Vox

SUPREME COURT During a fundraising speech, Obama mentioned that Senate control was important because “we’re going to have Supreme Court appointments.” Does he expect a retirement? Let the mindless speculation begin! (Politico)

FLORIDA: The Florida legislature approved its new redistricting voting map, after a court threw out the first for partisan gerrymandering (The Miami Herald). But the two versions don’t look very different from each other. (David Weigel, Slate) 

Things to read:

Just say these words: “President Cruz.” Jonathan Chait warns that a sweeping executive action on immigration could set a precedent for presidential power that liberals will come to regret. (New York) 

Changing the presidential term: Larry Summers thinks changing the presidency, so that it was one six-year term, would allow future presidents to govern more effectively. Jonathan Bernstein thinks Summers should stick to economics. (Financial TimesBloomberg View)

Surprise! Keystone XL is bad for the climate:  A study looks at whether the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will make the climate worse, like environmentalists argue. Fundamental economics says yes. (New Scientist)


Brian Beutler talks to a former CBO health care analyst who explains why Halbig truthers are full of it. Jonathan Cohn loves big cities, but worries that liberals lose political power when they cluster in them.