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Sunday, April 14, 2024 — Houston, TX

Rice alum gives lecture on climate-change skepticism

By Sarah Frazier     10/7/14 5:19pm

Andrew Dessler (Lovett ’86), a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University, gave an overview of the rhetorical practices used by climate change skeptics at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy on Oct. 1. 

Dessler said a small number of scientists are cited frequently by skeptics, giving the impression that there are more skeptical scientists than there really are. The idea of climate change as primarily human-caused is supported by 97 percent of climate scientists, he said.

“There are so few of these [skeptical climate scientists] that they’re endlessly recycled,” Dessler said. 

According to Dessler, climate change skeptics put out alternative publications to share their ideas. However, Dessler said the body of reports supporting the science of climate change outweigh the relatively few skeptical reports. 

“There are so many of these reports written, and they all say the same thing,” Dessler said. “It is extremely likely that human influence is a dominant cause [of global temperature increase].”

Dessler said it is unlikely climate change skeptics are motivated by money. 

“In the debate — on both sides — very few people are getting rich,” Dessler said. “People see the facts they want to see. Giving people facts is not the solution to this issue.”

According to Dressler, the risks of rising temperatures make climate change a pressing issue.

“I’m not sure [the effects of climate change are] going to be bad, but there are lots of ways it could be really, really bad,” Dessler said. 

Dessler said rhetoric that emphasizes doubt about climate change tends to delay policy changes that could stave off negative effects of climate change; however, scientific doubt of climate change is overstated

 “Everyone basically agrees,” Dessler said.  

Sid Richardson College senior Maddie Camp said she thinks it is important to examine skeptics’ viewpoints to make progress on climate policy.

“Because climate change is really a policy issue, skeptics bottleneck the whole process of beginning to address climate change, so it makes sense to understand that barrier and think about how we can move past it,” Camp said.

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