VIDEO: Michigan man creatively unravels climate skeptics’ most popular arguments


Climate Denial Crock of the Week video debunking skeptics’ notion that natural temperature increases causes carbon dioxide to rise

By Matthew Cimitile, cimitile@msu.edu
Great Lakes Echo May 5, 2009

What can a prehistoric family, a scarecrow and Stephen Colbert tell us about climate change? For Peter Sinclair,  clips from The Flintstones, The Wizard of Oz and The Colbert Report are one way to grab your attention while delivering the science behind climate change.

Sinclair is one of thousands of volunteers personally trained by former Vice President Al Gore to educate the public about climate change. These presentations raise awareness about the climate crisis and potential solutions.

The 55-year-old nurse and graphic designer from Midland, Mich. has been involved with environmental issues since he was young. His desire to do something about climate change led him to Nashville for a week long intensive climate change seminar with Gore.

He has given hundreds of presentations on the causes, effects and solutions of climate change. He eventually condensed his presentations into YouTube mini-documentaries called the “Climate Denial Crock of the Week” where he attempts to debunk some of the most popular arguments made by climate change skeptics.

They generate a lot of heated discussion. Some have more than 4,000 views and many of the viewers cheer Sinclair for his work. Many others claim he presents biased arguments based on flimsy facts and attacks people simply because they are skeptical of climate change.

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Sinclair has made over 10 of these videos

That doesn’t bother Sinclair, who says he comes from a conservative area not too accepting of the idea that man causes the world to warm, which is why he dedicates his time to creating such videos.

The Great Lakes Echo recently interviewed Sinclair about his work.

MC: Explain how the Climate Denial Crock of the Week started

PS: I had developed a whole elaborate part of my presentation that responds to [climate change] skeptics’ talking points. While giving one of my presentations at a small local venue, it was videotaped and put on the local channel where many more people were able to see it than could have possibly seen it at the conference… From then on I began recording my presentations and chopping them up in 10 minute chunks to put on YouTube. But I realized that wasn’t fitting the format, you really need a short video that has a beginning, an end and a point. So I started using snippets of old movies, cartoons and whatever I could think of to keep people’s attention while delivering information that most people would not seek out, then make it appetizing enough to stick with it for 5 minutes.

MC: What do you hope people take from it

PS: That this is the actual science as it is understood at the top level. Most of this information comes from peer-reviewed sources like NASA and the National Academy of Sciences. My goal is to take the actual documents and show people what they say and string them together in a fast enough moving narrative with graphics and visuals so that it is easy to follow and swallow. So far I’m getting feedback from all over the planet – from college professors who want to use them in their courses to other people like myself who give educational talks.

MC: With an issue that has become so politicized like climate change, do you think most people have already made up their mind on the issue regardless of any new information?

PS: I think there is still an awful lot of room for convincing people. There is a hardcore group of people that you are never going to get to but there is a large number of people in the middle… There are people out there who are still on the fence because they may not understand the issue that well but these presentations can clarify the situation to where people leave feeling more confident about what is really happening. And even for people who already get climate change, there is value in preaching to the choir because many times these climate denial talking points are crafted so elaborately that even somebody who gets climate change can be sold by one of these arguments.

MC: If you were to give a presentation, what are the most important facts you want people to leave with about climate change?

PS: What I tell people everytime is that climate change in not this gradual, slow creeping process, because when we look back in history we see things happen slowly for a while and then they are punctuated by these violent quantum leaps. We are approaching a tipping point where we are in danger of pushing the planet into feedback loops where things happen really fast. A primary example is the northern polar ice caps, which are now entering a whole new phase of ice collapse. As the ice shrinks it reflects less light away from the planet and the dark ocean water underneath then absorbs more heat. As more ice shrinks, more heat is absorbed and continues this feedback loop… We may be on the precipice of reaching such a tipping point but we don’t know where it is.

Another point to take is how climate change will affect us all. The Himalayan Plateau and glaciers all over the planet are shrinking and these are sources of water for billions of people. We are within a decade or two of a billion or more people beginning to run out of water and when that many people start running out of water, not just in Asia but in the American West, they are going to be looking at us in Michigan who are sitting on top of one of the greatest concentrations of freshwater. That is going to be politically earthshaking.

See other “Climate Denial Crock of the Week” videos on YouTube.

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