While the key facts regarding global warming have long been agreed upon by an overwhelming majority of scientists, political and popular debate about the existence and cause of climate change continues on, especially in the United States. Sustainability science students and graduates have likely encountered climate skeptics and deniers in their own families or social circles.

Graduates with an M.S. in professional science, who are responsible for developing mitigation, adaptation, and resilience strategies to deal with climate change, need to understand the latest scientific evidence so they can communicate it to a wide variety of audiences. It is too urgent an issue to be stalled by misinformation campaigns.

Here’s how sustainability professionals can respond to climate change skeptics:

Use Your Sustainability Degree to Understand the Motivations of Climate Change Deniers

Although there remain some uncertainties about climate change, such as the extent of aerosols’ cooling influence, a near consensus of international scientists have concluded that most warming of the last 50 years is due to human activities. Skeptics who continue to deny this mounting evidence generally use weak or long-disproven arguments in the media and political discourse to delay meaningful action on climate change. In fact, most who call themselves skeptics are more appropriately labeled deniers, as the former term perpetuated by the media grants undeserved credibility to those rejecting science and scientific inquiry.

Unsurprisingly, lobby groups from the well-connected fossil fuels industry are the primary funders of efforts to undermine or discredit the scientific consensus—according to one leaked memo, to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” Coal and oil companies, such as ExxonMobil, financially support climate-change-denying websites, media, and politicians, even leveraging their influence to censor and suppress scientific data. As the scientific studies become increasingly definitive, some former deniers have changed their positions, no longer denying climate change is happening but using other false arguments or obfuscations to prevent action.

How Grads with a Professional Science Masters Dazzle Skeptics with Truth

In the environmental science and sustainability core curriculum of a Professional Science Masters, students acquire a comprehensive understanding of climate change science. This includes analyzing the history of the earth’s climate, biological consequences of global surface temperature increases, and the efficacy of mitigation strategies. They learn how ice cores can reveal the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere hundreds of thousands of years ago to illustrate how far we are outside of the planet’s normal climate variability.

With this knowledge, sustainability science grads can respond to common myths presented as “skeptical arguments”. For example, predictive models have successfully reproduced global temperatures since 1900, by land, air and ocean. Record temperatures, rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers, and extreme weather events are clear evidence of climate change. The growing economic benefits of clean energy industries have created new opportunities for bipartisan cooperation that can be built upon.

In sustainability graduate programs, students combine scientific research with the organizational and communication skills necessary to advocate climate change science and policy to diverse audiences. There is a special emphasis on addressing the mass media and public’s understanding of science, strategic message development, and conflict resolution. By critically analyzing materials in scientific and popular science texts, students develop a profound understanding of effective communication techniques, respect for diverse global perspectives, and appropriate expression of personal and professional convictions.

Are you interested in pursuing a sustainability degree?

Contact Unity College Online to learn more about our world-class sustainability science Masters programs online.