According to the Ministry of Labels over at the Associated Press, I am now officially a climate change “doubter.” Choosing to avoid the inflammatory “denier” label, but not willing to crown me with the honored laurel of “skeptic,” the AP style guide recommends that I be called a climate change doubter instead. Not everyone is happy about this.
Many people think denier is more appropriate even because it links all those “flat-earthers” to those equally extreme tin-capped Holocaust deniers. In fact, according to Paul Rosenberg, climate change denial is worse than Holocaust denial. Here’s his argument:
. . . Climate change denial is actually much worse than Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial deals with the deaths of millions in the past, which it did nothing to cause, however morally odious it surely is. Global warming denial deals with the deaths of millions in the future, which it helps to cause, by crippling efforts to prevent them. And that’s something much worse, as is reflected in law: It’s not a crime to lie about murders in the past, except to hinder a police investigation, or prosecution; but it is a crime to tell enabling lies about future murders—it’s called conspiracy to commit murder.
Yeah. This argument, like most arguments concerning climate change, skates on thin ice (pah-doomp-tsh). It hardly needs to be pointed out that lying about future murders is only conspiracy to commit murder if and only if people are actually murdered. Climate change “deniers” are not attempting to kill anyone, and as far as I know, you can’t prosecute someone on the potential deaths their beliefs might cause. I mean, how arrogant do you have to be? Prosecuting climate change “doubters” now for the presumed impact you are sure they will have in the future is begging the question at the very least.
Furthermore, Holocaust denial nearly always influences future action and behavior. As Santayana famously said, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I would include those who deny history to the group of people who can’t learn from it. Rosenberg’s entire argument—though typically alarmist, arrogant, and demeaning—is also typically fallacious.
And aside from all of this, none of the labels for people who deny, or at least downgrade the central importance of, anthropogenic climate change are accurate in the least. None of us, that I know of, deny that there are fluctuations in global weather. None of us deny that perhaps a few decades into the past, temperatures have been warmer than usual. The real thing we are skeptical about is this: Did humans have anything to do with these fluctuations? And more importantly, are humans able to do anything terribly significant to reverse those trends—even if we are responsible for them?
Neither of those questions has been incontrovertibly settled. And furthermore, climate scientists focus on climate change while real environmental concerns we could do something about go largely unaddressed. Why aren’t they more vehement concerning unsustainable farming practices, pollution of water, and irresponsible forestation, all of which contribute much more directly and presently to global drought and famine?
And most of the claims coming from climate change “scientists” and activists are merely appeals to authority meant to shout down and silence any dissenting voices. Climate change conformists don’t promote dialogue. They promote dogma. These tactics are the traditional touchstones for authoritarian regimes, not scientific communities. Consider this comment from leading climate “scientist” Michael Mann, which rings out with the zeal of a true believer—a religious fanatic:
To call them anything else [than “science deniers”], be it “skeptic” or “doubter,” is to grant an undeserved air of legitimacy to something that is simply not legitimate.
Simply not legitimate. That is all. There is no argument here other than to say that no argument is necessary. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That any fool who questions the consensus perspective on climate science thereby denies science altogether in his heart. By common declaration, these are to be hitherto cast into abject darkness and perdition, counted among the infidels, and hereby cut off from the communion and resources of our blessed mother Science, may she live forever.”
Right. I mean, obviously the last thing you might want to do is allow for someone to disagree with the consensus on what is “settled science.” Sarcasm. Speaking of denying history, I think these people must have completely overlooked the entire history of scientific progress. Consider any scientific discovery ever. Seriously. Ever. Pretty much every great scientific discovery has overturned the “settled” science of its time. From Galileo to Pasteur to Einstein to pretty much any other name in science. The history of science is riddled with paradigm shifts championed by a single voice, or at least very few voices. And incidentally, every single one of those lone voices was told to shut up by dogmatic proponents of the then settled scientific consensus. Ironically, siding with “consensus science” is, historically speaking, tantamount to denying science altogether. And, by the way, people who believed in geocentric cosmology, spontaneous generation, and strictly Newtonian physics all had plenty of evidence to support their side. It just turned out that their interpretation of the evidence was limited by their short-sightedness.
All of that said, it hardly even matters what the content and substance of climate change science actually is when it’s going about scientific discourse in such a heavy-handedly preclusive way. Climate change “science” sounds like it was produced by a bureaucratic committee tasked with developing a convincing story adapted from carefully selected scraps of half-truths. I know a rat when I smell one. And this is a rat. Call us whatever you want to, but I refuse to refer to climate change “science” with anything other than scare quotes.