Green Science: Debunking as an Essential Communications Skill

Countering deliberate misinformation hasn’t been a big issue for me in 12 years of professional business writing.

Spin? Sure. Advantageous positioning? Of course.

But no outright lying.

Moving into the Sustainability world has introduced me to a new level of complicated. I see fear-mongering, cherry picking, rewriting history, and what looks to me like plain old lying.

Considering what’s at stake, I’m not surprised. The Climate Change conversation combines fantastically detailed subject matter, ferociously entrenched viewpoints, and the howling wind of information overload. There’s a lot of money to be made and power to be retained. Winners and losers.

So what’s a communicator to do? Learn to state a strong case, call bull when I see it, and debunk with civility.


The Debunking Handbook is a guide to debunking myths, by John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky.

The Debunking Handbook, a guide to debunking misinformation, is now freely available to download. Although there is a great deal of psychological research on misinformation, there’s no summary of the literature that offers practical guidelines on the most effective ways of reducing the influence of myths. The Debunking Handbook boils the research down into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas (not just climate) who encounter misinformation.

Green Politics: Inhofe’s Climate Change Denial Book Drops

U.S. Senator and climate change denier Jame Inhofe aims his flamethrower squarely at the EPA in his new book.

The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future

The blurb:

Americans are over-regulated and over-taxed. When regulation escalates, the result is an increase in regulators. In other words, bigger government is required to enforce the greater degree of regulation. Bigger government means bigger budgets and higher taxes. “More” simply doesn’t mean “better.” A perfect example is the entire global warming, climate-change issue, which is an effort to dramatically and hugely increase regulation of each of our lives and business, and to raise our cost of living and taxes. In The Greatest Hoax, Senator James Inhofe will reveal the reasons behind those perpetuating the Hoax of global warming, who is benefitting [sic] from the general acceptance of the Hoax and why the premise statements are blatantly and categorically false.

Think climate change is going to be a hot topic for the next 8 months? You’re right. But there’s a twist.

Climate change isn’t about weather anymore, at least as far as Inhofe is concerned.

It’s not about the undeniable see it-taste it-smell-it extremes of floods and hurricanes and earthquakes (in New Jersey?) or crop-killing heat or tree-snapping ice storms.

Inhofe can’t win with facts, so he’s tacked to an emotional appeal that the government is out to get you.

Don’t let this pivot distract you. It’s a smokescreen of doubt and suspicion, designed to make you throw up your hands and say “It’s too complicated. It’s too big. It doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

But it does.

Climate change is close to home. It’s as close as your front yard and definitely as personal as your vote in November.

Just to review, via the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist:

2011 NJ Top 10 Weather/Climate Events
1) Wettest year for NJ (wettest station over a calendar year)

2) Tropical Storm Irene: August 27-28 (3rd wettest rainstorm, record flooding)

3) Wettest month on record for NJ: August (wettest two consecutive months: Aug-Sep)

4) Early-season snowstorm: October 29-30

5) Third warmest year for NJ (11 months above average; seven in the top ten for their month)

6) Second hottest month on record: July (including top ten hottest day: July 22)

7) Snowstorm: January 26-27

8 ) Snowiest January on record for NJ

9) Back-to-back rain storms March 6-7, 10-11 (major flooding)

10) Ice storm: February 1-2