While the New Year brings with it a sense of optimism, for those of us in the climate change business it means another year competing against any schnook with money and a billboard to address the American people (see the Heartland Institute).

When it comes to the climate debate, those who invoke socialism and scientific conspiracy (see Fox News) have demonstrated the highest degree of effectiveness. At the very least, they have succeeded in clouding people’s common sense on the climate issue. At most, they've upped the ante on a game of chicken that pits the long-term best interests of humanity against an unforgiving Mother Nature.

So this year, when someone says that the science is inconclusive about whether humans are causing climate change, or that carbon dioxide is a “harmless gas” (see Rep. Michelle Bachmann), take the following five steps before nodding in agreement and moving along with your day:

1. Consider the source:  If someone decries climate change as a hoax, they tend to base their information on distorted facts cherry-picked from the press rather than their own experience, say, as a trained scientist who has spent their career analyzing climate data.  As Dr. Cameron Wake, climate researcher at the University of New Hampshire states, “because of the complex nature of climate change, it is much easier to sell the lie than it is to sell the truth.”

Sources commonly cited by skeptics in support of their stance include: “Climategate” – a series of emails between scientists taken woefully out of context (several independent investigations have since been conducted -- all have absolved those involved of any scientific misconduct); the Oregon Petition -- a collection of 30,000 signatories claiming that there is no scientific evidence to support human induced climate change (apparently all you need is a degree in basic science to sign on); and anything supported by the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who have spent billions on climate denial to protect their investment in the oil industry.