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How to talk climate change with skeptical relatives during the holidays

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Here's how to talk climate this Thanksgiving
Don't let bad science get in the way of a productive chat on climate change this Thanksgiving. We're here to help.
Gonzalo Bacigalupe | Creative Commons via Flickr

John Cook's holiday parties kept turning into arguments with his father-in-law. 

The father-in-law didn't believe climate change was happening and would throw out "climate denial myths" in conversation, Cook said. 

Not one for losing, Cook girded himself for rhetorical battle.

"Like any son-in-law who doesn't want to lose an argument with his father-in-law, I started to list all the possible arguments I might encounter at the next family get-together," he said. 

He prepared a list of myths touted by climate change deniers and skeptics, then collected what the science has to say. 

Cook thought this information might be useful to others who have the same issue with a cranky uncle or an argumentative father-in-law. So, he created the website Skeptical Science as a digital home for his list. 

It's now 197 climate myths and scientific facts long. 

Cook works as a research assistant professor at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, so this type of thing is his job. 

The fact that 97 percent of climate scientists say humans are causing global warming is what Cook attributes to the growing acceptance of climate change as reality.

"Everyone's busy. We don't have time to become experts on everything," he said. "So we often defer to what do the experts think on an issue?"

As climate change becomes more urgent, Cook said teaching people about it through the lens of climate myths and misconceptions can help.

"Addressing misinformation about climate change can actually be a positive educational opportunity," he said. 

10 climate myths, and what science says about them

All information courtesy of John Cook and Skeptical Science.

Myth No. 1) The climate has changed before

The science: Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change at the time; humans are now the dominant forcing.

Myth No. 2) It's the sun

The science: In the last 35 years of global warming, sun and climate have been going in opposite directions.

Myth No. 3) It's not bad

The scienceNegative impacts of global warming on agriculture, health and environment far outweigh any positives.

Myth No. 4) There is no consensus

The scienceNinety-seven percent of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming.

 Myth No. 5) It's cooling

The science: The last decade, 2000-2009, was the hottest on record.

Myth No. 6) Climate models are unreliable

The science Models successfully reproduce temperatures since 1900 globally, by land, in the air and the ocean.

Myth No. 7) The temperature record is unreliable

The scienceThe warming trend is the same in rural and urban areas, measured by thermometers and satellites.

Myth No. 8) Animals and plants can adapt

The scienceGlobal warming will cause mass extinctions of species that cannot adapt on short time scales.

Myth No. 9) It hasn't warmed since 1998

The scienceEvery part of the Earth's climate system has continued warming since 1998, with 2015 shattering temperature records.

Myth No. 10) Antarctica is gaining ice

The scienceSatellites measure Antarctica losing land ice at an accelerating rate.

The interview with Cook aired on MPR News' Climate Cast. Follow the show's page for the latest climate news and analysis, and add it to your podcast feed.