Climate Science Skepticism: 5 Controversial Claims

As Earth Day approaches, climate change is climbing back into the public consciousness. But though most climatologists agree that humans are driving global warming, surveys suggest that public concern about climate change is waning.

A Gallup poll in March found that 48 percent of Americans believe the global warming issue is "exaggerated," which is up from 41 percent in 2009 and 31 percent in 1997.

VIDEO: Part 4: Panelists debate the issue after recent winter storms in the U.S.

According to a recent survey from the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, a majority, 61 percent, of TV weathercasters think there is disagreement among scientists on global warming.

Although 54 percent said it is occurring, 25 percent said it isn't and 21 percent said they weren't sure.

Those inclined to skepticism don't necessarily subscribe to the same exact set of claims, but their arguments do seem to cluster around a few key points. Here are five of the most common ones.

How Can the Planet Be Warming When the Cold Weather Is Breaking Records?

As January's cold weather and blizzards set records, some politicians and pundits argued global warming couldn't be occurring given what they could see happening outside their front doors.

As the cap-and-trade debate heated up in Washington, D.C., the Virginia GOP used a January "snowpocalypse" to attack two Democratic candidates.

In the online video "12 Inches of Global Warming," the group mocked Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., and Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., for supporting cap-and-trade climate change legislation.

The video, which included snippets from local weather reports and footage of cars covered in snow, ended with the narrator urging viewers to: "Call Boucher and Perriello and tell them how much global warming you got this weekend."

Some Skeptics Confuse Weather and Climate

Coby Beck, a climate change blogger and author of an online climate debate series, "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic Guide," said he frequently encounters skeptics who conflate weather and climate.

"The argument that the temperature's not rising right now is a very easy one to dismiss, but it's also a very compelling one for the average person," he said.

The confusion arises as people observe short-term variability in the weather, but he said, "The climate trend is a very slow-moving and long-term thing."

Abnormally cold days or especially severe storms are just single data points, while global temperature trends are measured over long stretches of time, he said.

Climate scientists add that this past winter's East Coast storms are consistent with what climate models expect to happen as temperatures warm and the amount of moisture in the atmosphere increases.

So What If Climate Data Indicate Global Warming? The Records Aren't Reliable in the First Place

Beck added that during his five years blogging about climate change, he's come across skeptics who dismiss the theory on the basis of the temperature record.

A 2009 report written by Anthony Watts, a former television meteorologist who maintains a popular skeptical climate blog, reviewed the quality of data from the National Weather Service's network of stations and concluded that the U.S. record is unreliable.

The report found that 89 percent of the stations did not meet the weather service's requirements and argued that since the U.S. record was so poor, other countries must have similarly shoddy records.

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