One of the bones of contention in political discussions of climate change is how to refer to those who reject climate science. Three terms offer themselves: Skeptics, Contrarians, and Deniers, but which to use?
‘Contrarian‘ is easily rejected as it seems to be a term used mostly within the investment community for a specific investment behaviour, and hence to broaden the definition just confuses things.
‘Denier’ is deeply resented as it is claimed that it is meant to suggest ‘Holocaust Denier’, although that is not true. ‘Denier’ simply means ‘Denier’, hence the necessity of a qualifier such as “Holocaust” or “Climate Change”.
Differentiating between ‘Denier’, “a person who denies” and ‘Skeptic’ “a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual” hinges on their behaviour. Do they simply deny the science of climate change? or do they seriously question it? citing specifics and arguing logically that there is a rational basis for doubt. The only way to know is to check. In the interim I will use the term NCCP (No Climate Change Proponents) as a neutral term.
A survey of the standard NCCP websites, of which these are a good sample:
gives us a host of arguments that range from facile to fraudulent. They rely on distortions, misrepresentations, straw man arguments, cherry picking data, and in some cases, blatent lies.
In almost no case is there actual acknowledgement of the real climate science, much less questioning of it based on fair and accurate presentation of the science. Pretty much everything on these sites is easily debunked and has been repeatedly (see “Debunking Denier Nonsense” links on right sidebar), as the site authors are well aware.
Indeed only a couple of sites even approach legitimate skepticism in the sense that they attempt to deal with the reality of the science as it is. Both http://climatesci.org/ and http://www.climateaudit.org will advance arguments that require rather a more sophisticated and educated response, which they do get from sites like http://gristmill.grist.org/skeptics and http://www.realclimate.org.
If we survey the average NCCPers such as I have been doing at the news sharing site Digg.com or youtube.com we find the situation is even worse. Simply search for articles or videos dealing with “global warming” or “climate change” and have a look at the comments.
The NCCPers overwhelmingly offer no specifics, argument or rationality, instead seeming satisfied that declarative statements denying climate change or any scientific basis should suffice. In some cases they merely parrot the aforementioned debunked arguments and often refuse to even look at the actual science.
What is particularly ironic is that they accuse those who offer evidence and facts of “having a religion” while their own evidence-free beliefs are ‘science’. They claim to be skeptical of the mountains of evidence while embracing the most absurd conspiracy theories without any evidence whatsoever . They reject the plethora of climate models out of hand as “just models”, yet wildly embrace any new model that claims to cast doubt on the specifics of climate science. The flagrant contradictions and hypocrisy is breath taking.
In a matter of only a few weeks over this past summer we saw the appearance of three particularly outrageous hoaxes: “Global Warming Has Officially Ended” , “NASA Backtracks on 1998 Warmest Year“, and Myth of Consensus Explodes: APS Opens Global Warming Debate .”
Frauds so transparent that a lobotomized squirrel would feel an inkling of suspicion about their validity and feel some inclination to fact check. In all three cases fact checking was easily done, and in the case of NASA and APS required no more than a visit to the appropriate home page, easily found with a search engine.
And how did the NCCPers respond? They fell all over themselves blogging and digging and spreading the hoaxes. They damn near peed their pants in excitement to post the fraud de jour “coffin nail for global warming”. In fact, it seems that if a story sports any claim of climate denial they will believe it no matter how absurd or idiotic. Their politically motivated credulity and gullibility seem bottomless.
And we should call them skeptics? That would completely debase the word. I reserve ‘skeptic’ for those who acknowledge the scientific evidence, but thoughtfully maintain doubt based on some small evidence or logic that, though meagre, is nonetheless reality based. They are honourable people who push science forward through their constant, reasoned questioning and thoughtful critiques of the dominant paradigm.
The hysteric paranoids who rant, distort, and lie, who have no evidence or rational logic for their position but persist in denying the very existence of the overwhelming scientific evidence, who dismiss the mountain of evidence for climate change while embracing the most pathetic conspiracy theories and lame hoaxes based on no evidence whatsoever, can be called only one thing: Deniers.
Through their behaviour they have earned it, they deserve it, let us not deny them that.
And for those who resent the term ‘Denier’ and would prefer to be called ‘Skeptics’ – it’s very simple … start behaving like a skeptic.