One morning about 10 years ago, a discussion in my literature class had gone off track. This was not unusual. Often, straying maps the path, as a poet long ago observed.

In this particular class, though, discussions tended to unravel into parts unknown almost immediately all semester long. Most of the students were very young and distractible, and a small, but disheartening contingent was aggressively bored. But, you know, you keep going. You try to hear from everybody, bring things back to earth as best you can, when necessary. It takes a lot of patience.

Anyway, in the midst of this off-track discussion, someone contributed a non sequitur about global warming. A guy seated in the middle of the room responded immediately, saying with complete informative confidence, “That’s been disproven.”

I was taken aback. This student was one of the few in the class with the self-discipline to pass it without being cut slack. He was in his 30s, had served honorable time in the military, and now was intently applying himself to college to improve his and his family’s life. He was a really nice guy, too.

I did not know how to respond.

“Wait, what?” I said.


He explained that the whole notion of global warming had long since been disproven, with supporting generalizations that I cannot now remember beyond the fact that they were false. He wasn’t lying, mind you. He was simply imparting information he thought he knew to be true.

I remember looking out the classroom window, wondering what I should say. I had not prepared for an impromptu debate about global warming. The short story under discussion had already disappeared in the puckerbrush of our minds, and it looked like this whole new (and contentious) topic would lead far further astray. So I suggested we move on to the next story.

What I remember most vividly about this is my shock. Not at what he said, but at his complete confidence in it. I had been thinking and writing casually about climate change (aka global warming) for some years. Every indication — including raw data and well-informed scientific and journalistic sources — was not that global warming had been disproven, but the diametric opposite: That the warming of the air and oceans was not only happening, but it was well on its way to becoming a critical problem.

It’s so easy to get into a bubble where you think the obvious is so obvious that you subconsciously assume most everyone else thinks it too. Especially the well-meaning and reasonably intelligent people you cross paths with. With climate change, the evidence is everywhere to be seen, even in your own backyard. It was visible 10 years ago — 40 years ago if you were paying attention.

Recently, it has looked on the surface like the corner has turned on the notion that global warming is “disproven.” Increasing numbers of people are driving electric vehicles. Laws are finally being enacted to further the economics of reducing carbon emissions. Some TV meteorologists have dropped the carefully crafted phrases about unusually warm temperature trends, and now speak of global warming as a known scientific fact. It seems so obvious that you lapse into thinking that most everyone else, apart from a few crackpots hypnotized by oil company propaganda, is recognizing this fact.

Which would be a good start, if it was actually happening. But it’s not, exactly.


Early this year, Maine’s Republican legislators stridently opposed a resolution to support the Paris Agreement on climate change. One of their representatives made a speech in which he stated the climate crisis is “a hoax.” This incident shocked me in the same way I felt in that classroom 10 years ago.

Where does the confidence come from to assert a falsehood so obvious? The same thing that gave my student the confidence to pronounce global warming disproven and that produced my own shock: the chatter inside your bubble. When you hear something repeated over and over, you guess it must be true. Even when facts in the real world demonstrate it’s unequivocally false.

The hoax is the idea that global warming is a hoax. And a lot of people remain fallen for it.

Our recent ravaging storms were so intense because of weather patterns disrupted by climate change. They wreaked especially shocking havoc on the coast because the ocean has warmed over the last 150 years, and is expanding. On Feb. 13 the National Weather Service (@NWSCaribou) posted a photo with the caption: “Open stretches of the St. John River at Dickey Bridge in Allagash. This is normally 15″+ thick ice.”

January 2024 was the warmest January ever recorded for Earth. The first two weeks of February were the warmest on record in Maine, according to a TV meteorologist. Statistical heat records like this have been superseding each other globally for the last 10 years at least.

My well-informed journalistic colleague Annie Ropeik in her climate blog reports that “data from the Maine Climate Office at the University of Maine shows that Maine’s average winter low (temperature) is rising. Last year’s winter, overall, was 7.7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th-century baseline on average.”


This graphic shows that Maine’s average winter temperature (December through February) has been above the 128-year average for most of the last 25 years. Graphic courtesy of Climate Change Institute, University of Maine

Our two centuries of poisoning the atmosphere have pretty much caught up with us. What might be a preponderance of people are noticing, finally. But also, a lot of people are failing or aggressively refusing to notice. This tends to derail discussions about how to curb the worst climate-change effects, and obstruct efforts in the real world to salvage what we can of the next thousand years for our kids.

The climate scientists have been right all along, this much is proven.

We have to get back to earth. There’s basically no time left to be patient with people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

Dana Wilde lives in Troy. You can contact him at Backyard Naturalist appears the second and fourth Thursdays each month.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: