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Background: At least in the USA, there are a lot of people who believe that anthropogenic climate change is a hoax.

One day an astronaut in the ISS is doing a live Q&A and taking pictures of the earth, and sees clouds forming a very clear message:

GLOBAL WARMING
IS (NOW) A HOAX

After he takes a picture (it turns out nice, with the message clear and easy to read), the clouds quickly go back to the formations they were in before.

The picture quickly goes viral and is seen by pretty much everyone who uses the internet or watches TV. The authenticity of the picture is easily verified - the live broadcast the astronaut was doing showed the message, and a few weather satellites managed to capture at least part of the message.

People watch the clouds fervently, but no further messages appear. There are also no immediate changes to the climate. All attempts to determine the source of the message will fail - there's no way to tell if it was an entirely random event, an act of God, or a message from aliens.

In the years after the message was seen, climate trends start reversing. After decades (maybe as long as a century), the climate looks much like what we know of the climate in the 1600s or so. Once again, there's no way to determine how this happened - there's no evidence that makes it possible to tell whether it is an entirely natural occurrence, divine intervention, or an act of benevolent aliens.

How would skeptics respond to the implication that they had been wrong but are now correct, and how would believers respond to the implication that they were correct but now are not?

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  • $\begingroup$ I really like the question (+1), but it seems a bit broad (people respond in many different ways) and a tad opinion-based (most interesting or unusual is a matter of debate). $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 28 '15 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 I tried getting some feedback about that in the sandbox, but didn't get any. Should I ask specifically about skeptics and believers? $\endgroup$ – Rob Watts Aug 28 '15 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ That could narrow it down a lot. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 28 '15 at 22:42
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    $\begingroup$ I think you're confusing denialist with skeptic. Quite the opposite, as they beleive it is not so, and are dogmatic about it. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 29 '15 at 4:10
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz skeptic is the term they use for themselves. $\endgroup$ – Rob Watts Aug 29 '15 at 4:14
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  • What the message actually says: "Global warning is now a hoax" is nonsense. Does that claim it was no hoax before, and now it is? A hoax is perpetrated by people to fool other people, so when something that was true becomes false it does not become a hoax. Circumstances changed and analysis of the evidence didn't catch up. "Global warming is a hoax" would at least make sense. As written, it is almost an ice cream koan ...
  • How the message says it: Why is it English and not, say, Latin or Chinese? Is it a message to the Americans? Does that mean they're the chosen people, or does it mean they're singled out for criticism?
  • Who wrote it? Accepting the message as truth has much wider implications than just global warming.
  • Could the message be a fraud after all? Within some limits, rain manipulation is established science. Could some nefarious plotters have better weather manipulation technology than publicly known? There are conspiracy theorists who complain about chemicals in contrails.

I believe the question of who wrote the message will greatly overshadow the content, or the climate change debate. There is the notion that God doesn't allow proof of His existence, because proof would demean faith. Did He change that policy, or was it wrong all along? If so, couldn't He bring a clear and convincing proof? The same goes for aliens. All those lightyears, and they didn't even introduce themselves?

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