It is difficult to convince a skeptical public that climate change is real and is not to our advantage. There is definitely a well and well funded group of deniers whose purpose it is to subvert science. They are greatly assisted in this when someone makes very alarmist statements.
One of the principle alarmists has been James Lovelock, author of several books on the Gaia Hypothesis which asserts Earth is a living entity and will react accordingly to our actions. Under this line of reasoning, Lovelock came to the conclusion that Earth will react in an extreme manner due to the way we are changing the climate. He even claimed in an interview that the human race will essentially be wiped out by the end of the century with only a few remaining breeding pairs living in the arctic region where the climate would be milder.
This kind of alarmism appeals to a certain crowd, mostly the same kind of people that believe the world will end on December 21, 2012. But, the majority of people see it for what it is, something that has no basis in reality. The problem is that real scientists warning of the consequences of climate change have been painted with the same brush. Once an extremist has turned off the public, it is difficult for serious people to get them back.
Now, Lovelock has backed off and stated he was wrong. Does this help? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it makes the case even worse because now the deniers will take his statements and use them against anyone discussing the consequences of climate change. There’s that paint brush again. They will argue that, since Lovelock admitted he was wrong in his claims, this is proof that all of the other claims are also wrong. This, of course, is a totally false argument, but it will be an effective one. People will hear what they want to hear.
What is really interesting is that the data Lovelock used proves the deniers are wrong. Lovelock points out the data does not show the kind of temperature increase he claimed would be happening by now. A plot of average temperature, by year, since 1970 shows the temperature climbing. It also shows this rate of increase has slowed since 2000, but is still increasing. The deniers claim that there has been no temperature increase this century and will even claim it has been cooling. But, as we can see, neither claim is true. The temperature may be increasing at a slower rate, but is still increasing. See for yourself (CREDIT: Kevin Trenberth):