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Alternative Views on Climate Change

Introduction

Many lawmakers, policymakers, and heads of major corporations worldwide have expressed a willingness to address climate change. They believe the scientific evidence is clear enough to warrant action. But some scientists, economists, industry groups, and policy experts continue to insist there is no need for policy changes. Others, conceding the trend, insist the entire problem has been blown out of proportion. The debate is at times acrimonious, with its seemingly endless series of claims and counterclaims on both the science and proposed policy solutions. They point to the uncertainty of climate models and predictions.

Much of the debate with skeptics subsided as policymakers began working on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, beginning with the UN Bali conference in late 2007. But it resurfaced in 2009 withthe "Climate-gate" controversy (WashPost) and gained steam in 2010 when doubts were raised about some findings of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Although alternative views of climate change often have been labeled denial--a few researchers say the world is cooling--most climate-change skeptics do concede the planet is warming. Instead, they debate the cause, its potential impact, and whether human intervention can affect it.

Mainstream View Versus Skeptics

Some environmental advocates and journalists accuse the most vocal climate skeptics of being "in the pocket" of the fossil-fuel industry (Guardian), the business sector most responsible for greenhouse-gas emissions. They portray the industry's counterarguments as a deliberate plot to obscure the truth. "Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks, and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change," writes Sharon Begley in a controversial Newsweekarticle, noting that industry's line of reasoning has shifted over the years from,...

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