Breaking down the conspiracy theory mindset at the heart of climate change denial

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.


An 84 to 97 percent chance of rain would have any reasonable person canceling their outdoor picnic plans. An 84 to 97 percent majority in any election would be an unprecedented blowout. If 84 to 97 percent of the people in a packed stadium stood up and walked out in protest, it would be an overwhelming statement of solidarity.

RELATED: A plaque addressed 'to the future' marks Iceland's first glacier lost to the climate crisis

So why do many people, especially in the United States, deny that climate change is real, perpetuated by human activity, and a serious crisis facing humanity?

There are multiple avenues by which people arrive at climate change denial, some of them more or less whackadoodle than others. Sometimes it's a lack of understanding of how science works. Sometimes it's a philosophical or political stance that supersedes science and reason. Sometimes it's a lapse in logic that leads people to listen to lone voices and ignore what most scientists say. Sometimes it's a misguided belief that questioning anything "mainstream" makes someone a critical thinker—a belief backed up by previously fringe voices who claim that the majority of people are sheep, and that the truth is constantly being obscured by evil forces.

But no matter which climate change denial road you go down, they all ultimately lead to the same kooky but practically impenetrable belief: That the majority of the world's scientists—the people who have made it their life's work to study and understand the world we live in—are part of some huge global conspiracy to control the masses and/or bilk the populace out of their hard-earned dollars.

It doesn't make sense, of course. But there's no convincing them of that.

If you point out to a climate change denier that the majority of scientists agree on the conclusion that climate change is happening, perpetuated by humans, and dangerous, they will point you to an article that explains why the study that came up with a 97% consensus was flawed. If you point out that multiple other studies have come to similar conclusions, just with slightly differing percentages, they'll point to a handful of individual scientists who have said that their work was misrepresented in one of those studies. When you point out that a tiny minority doesn't outweigh the majority, they'll try to point out all the ways that scientists' predictions in the past were wrong, how models are flawed, and how XYZ causes changes in the climate and not humans. When you point to the science refuting those claims, they'll start down the conspiracy theory road, and that's when the whole discussion falls apart.

It happens every time. What begins as a discussion of the science descends into a quagmire of political paranoia and conspiracy theory, which makes reasonable debate darn near impossible. Facts are "fake news." Majority consensus is "media manipulation." Academic arguments are an "agenda." Peer-reviewed publications are "politically-driven propaganda."

Climate change denial cannot honestly be maintained through any significant examination of the science, which is why when you get far enough into discussions with deniers, conspiracy theories always emerge. And at that point, continuing the discussion is an exercise in futility.

If someone believes that most scientists around the world have secretly sold out—that they have published inaccurate conclusions in order to put money into their own pockets—then that person hasn't known many scientists. If someone believes that the governments of the world, who have a hard time ever agreeing on anything, have secretly conspired together to create a global panic about the planet in order to implement some kind of globalist agenda, then that person has a screw loose. If someone believes that NASA is lying, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences is lying, and the American Chemical Society, American Physical Society, and American Meteorological Society, and Geological Society of America are lying, then there's no reasoning with them. If someone believes that this list of 200 scientific organizations around the world are lying, then no amount of evidence will convince them of the scientific consensus.

What do you say to someone who has decided that thousands upon thousands of scientists worldwide, who have used scientific methods of inquiry and analysis and come up with the same basic conclusions, are all part of some big hoax? What do you do when that kind of lunacy has been repeated by the person sitting in arguably the most influential position on the planet? How do you convince someone to listen to the majority of scientists on science matters, when that should simply be common sense? How do you convince someone who believes that the masses are deluded that they are, in fact, the one who has been duped?

Conspiracy theory thinking is notoriously difficult to undo. I can 100% guarantee that there will be commenters on this post who accuse me of being a shill for some political party, a liberal propaganda pusher, or a fake news proprietor who has fallen prey to the Marxist/communist/socialist/globalist agenda, simply because I wrote an article saying we should listen to the majority of scientists about science. What a time to be alive.

RELATED: Climate change is not a partisan issue. No seriously, it isn't.

Please note that there are some effective ways to debate a science denier, which you can find outlined here. And it is important to do so. But it's also important to recognize that such debates are for the lurking readers' benefit, not to change the mind of the person you're talking to. If they've gone so far down the climate change denial road that they've reached conspiracy territory, there's little chance of convincing them to listen to reason.

Conspiracy theories are like gila monsters—once one has taken hold, it's nearly impossible to get it to let go. Good luck, friends.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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