Who are the denialists? (Part III)

Who are the global Warming Denialists?

A tougher question is, in a discipline as complex as climate science, how do you tell who the legitimate skeptics (those that ignore the reporting at the Independent for instance) are versus who are the denialists?

Again, it's simple, because denialism is about tactics. Which global warming critics are the ones alleging conspiracies, cherry-picking data, and incessantly moving the goalposts? Which organizations hire these hacks to denigrate legitimate science?

The most obvious example of a hack anti-science global warming denialist would have to be Steven Milloy of Junkscience, who was smoked out by TNR last year as having been on the payroll of the cigarette companies (he was long a denier of the smoking/cancer link) for decades as well has having his organizations financed by oil companies. To its credit, Cato fired him, but to Cato's eternal discredit, they hired the hack in the first place. Sourcewatch has a pretty fair characterization of his misdeeds, and if that isn't enough, our scibling and anti-denialist extraordinaire Tim Lambert has a whole category devoted to his shilling. He currently specializes in attacking anything seen as environmentalism, from panic mongering over CFLs, to perpetuating the DDT ban myths, to, alas, harping over the terrible science reporting of hacks like the Independent to undermine environmentalism. He is also an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, another fervent anti-environmentalist libertarian organization (their Al Gore-hatred is particularly bizarre) that runs the denialist site globalwarming.org.

The fact that Cato shoved Milloy out the door before he was outed as a shill doesn't excuse them however. After all, their current senior fellow in environmental studies is none other than the global warming denialist Pat Michaels, who is responsible for the world climate report anti-global warming website. (They also haven't been above promoting intelligent design from a "market" perspective.) One can also read their environment thread at Cato-at-liberty to get an idea where they stand, it's not denial of an actual increase in global temperature (a position that all but the most hardcore denialists have had to abandon), but more of a "if it's happening it will be: good for us, unavoidable, not US problem (we can't do anything without China!), etc.

Now, Pat Michaels, who I'm sad to say, is at the University of Virginia, is clearly a global warming denialist. Case-in-point, Tim Lambert's exposure of Michael's cherry picking of climate models. People familiar with the climate models showing a warming trend will know that multiple scenarios are usually shown. These range from very conservative - greenhouse gases holding steady at 2000 levels for instance, to very liberal - greenhouse gases increasing exponentially with a models of ever-increasing fossil fuel use and industrial expansion. How does a denialist make the models that he hates look bad? Well, just subtract out the conservative models! He recently was in the news around here as the Virginia State government and UVa were fighting over who was responsible for his bogus, "Virginia State Climatologist" title. I think they settled it by dumping him off as "UVA's state climatologist". We'll see how long that lasts.

Cato also likes to cite global warming denialist Richard Lindzen, who despite being supposedly the most "mainstream" global warming denialist being a professor at MIT and all, uses the tactics just like all the other cranks. He is also a favorite of the the WSJ editorial page, a denialist organization on its own merits. For an example of Lindzen using the tactics, see this interview in The National Post. Here he is in his own words showing he knows nothing about global mean temperature measurements and magnifying doubt:

Sure it's inconclusive. It's a very hard thing to analyze because you have to average huge fluctuations over the whole Earth, and 70% of the Earth is oceans where you don't have weather stations. So you get different groups analyzing this. And they're pretty close. One group gets over the last century a warming of about .55 degrees centigrade. Another group says it's .75 degrees.

Then conspiracy-mongering:

Q You charge that the hysteria that's been created around global warming is an enormous financial scam. It's all about money?

A Well, how shall I put it? It's not all about money, but boy, there's a lot of money floating in it. I mean, emissions trading is going to be a multi-trillion dollar market. Emissions alone would keep small countries in business.

Q Are you suggesting that scientists manipulate their findings to get in on the gravy train?

A You have to differentiate the interests of different groups. In the scientific community, your interest is for your field to be recognized so that it will have priority in government funding.

Then telling falsehoods (and Al Gore smears):

Q He [Al Gore] would appear to have the support of the majority of your scientific colleagues.

A Not really. This is an issue that has hundreds of aspects. The very thought that a large number of scientists all agree on everything is inconceivable. Among my colleagues, I would say, almost no one thinks that Gore's movie is reasonable. But there will be differences. Some believe it is possible that warming could be a serious problem. Others think it's very unlikely. People are all over the place.

Migrating to Al Gore conspiracies:

Q How cynical do you think Gore is?

A It's hard for me to tell. I think he's either cynical or crazy. But he has certainly cashed in on something. And 'cash in' is the word. The movie has cleared $50-million. He charges $100,000-$150,000 a lecture. He's co-founder of Global Investment Management, which invests in solar and wind and so on. So he is literally shilling for his own companies. And he's on the on the board of Lehman Brothers who want to be the primary brokerage for emission permits.

Q That sounds more cynical, less crazy.

A I think his aim is not to be president. It's to be a billionaire.

Finally landing an argument ad Hitlerum:

Q That's encouraging. Because I find the indoctrination at schools to be pretty relentless. On a recent Grade 7 test my daughter was asked something to the effect of, "How are you going to educate your parents about global warming?"

A I know. It's straight out of Hitlerjugend.

On the lighter side of Lindzen see RealClimate's fun with correlations.

Global warming denialism also tends to draw in the all-around cranks like DaveScot from Uncommon Descent and Michael Fumento super-crank. I'll be talking about Fumento again when it comes to stem-cell hype, but like Milloy he disparages environmentalism and global warming science at any opportunity. Sourcewatch's page again isn't as thorough as Deltoid's coverage of his endless blathering about things like the DDT ban myth and Rachel Carson being worse than Hitler etc.

Finally, some lesser, but still somewhat prominent denialists include SEPP - Fred Singer's denialist site, Envirospin - Philip Stott's denialist site, Friends of Science - Denialist Tim Ball's "grassroots" anti-kyoto organization, TCS Daily - mostly global warming crankery - but fairly versatile on other fronts, and for a very comprehensive listing it's worth checking out the list of organizations from Exxon Secrets.


Junk Science - Steven Milloy
The Cato Institute Global warming denialism and general pro-industry propaganda. Denialist Pat Michaels is their Senior fellow in environmental studies
Michael Fumento's Weblog - Global Warming denialist, general crank.
Competitive Enterprise Institute The bottom of the barrel of pro-industry anti global warming denialism and industry apologists, Stephen Milloy is an "adjunct Scholar".
The American Enterprise Institute - another denialist "think tank"
WorldClimateReport Patrick Michaels UVA's global warming denialist and state climatologist (although he's not really).
GlobalWarming.org - Run by CEI
SEPP - Fred Singer's denialist site.
Envirospin - Philip Stott's denialist site.
Richard Lindzen - the MIT prof all the denialists love - especially Cato and WSJ.
Friends of Science - Denialist Tim Ball's "grassroots" anti-kyoto organization.
Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit who harps endlessly about the hockey stick. See Deltoid's coverage as well.
TCS Daily - mostly global warming crankery - but fairly versatile.
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page - you name it, they deny it.
A Full list of organizations from Exxon Secrets


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He doesn't have a website or blog (that I know of), but doesn't Michael Crichton deserve mention?

By LogicallySpeaking (not verified) on 21 May 2007 #permalink

Crichton does deserve mention, and in that Lindzen article he actually suggests Crichton had more scientific legitimacy in his writing than Al Gore did. There's a bad sign.

Crichton basically ran around screaming the Galileo gambit at the top of his lungs to suggest there is no such thing as consensus science, a meme that definitely took hold as silly as it is. But he doesn't make that much noise, as far as I can tell, anymore.

It's not really possible, or at least worthwhile, to try to catalog every anti-global warming crank in existence. That would take a long time. I'm generally looking for the primary sources of the misinformation that tend to infiltrate the debate on global warming. Crichton doesn't really qualify under that guideline.

I did neglect to add the WSJ editorial page now that I think of it. I'll have to fix that.

Alexei Panshin had some choice remarks concerning Michael Crichton back in the days when Crichton was just a writer and not pretending to be a climatologist, too. I quoted Panshin here.

Many Denialists start out as skeptics.

Being skeptical is good. However, when your initial questions have been answered and you refuse to accept the answers or just raise a completely new set of questions then you move towards being a Denialist.

The demarcation between Denial and skepticism is blurry. There are some people that appear to have healthy skepticism but are open to new information and there are Denialists that will never change their mind.

By Chris Noble (not verified) on 21 May 2007 #permalink

What's the point of being an adjunct at a conservative think tank? I mean, if you're gonna sell out, at least demand a full salary...

Please take a look at the childish but still insidious crypto conservatism at Chris Mooney's Intersection. Mooney's guest blogger is a yuppie whorewoman from Hell and Duke's Nicholas School of Environmental whoring. I am fascinated by the depth of the propaganda charade. Worse than Pat Michaels or Fred Singer.

By gerald spezio (not verified) on 22 May 2007 #permalink

Well, I read her two posts. I'm not sure why it's engendered such anger there gerald. I certainly wouldn't write about climate change so imprecisely and flippantly (I also don't know the field enough not to carefully research and back up claims), and she strikes a strange kind of apathy there at the end, but I'd give her more rope before condemning her as some kind of crypto-denialist. Can't say I approve of Bob Dylan love either. Yuck.

What specifically makes you think she's working undercover?

it's not denial of an actual increase in global temperature (a position that all but the most hardcore denialists have had to abandon)

So, in other words, its not actually a "denialist" stance towards the science of global warming, but we're going to lump them in anyway.

Oh give it up Matt. Your beloved Cato institute promotes denialists left and right. Yes, they won't take a position in direct contradiction to all the data in the world. Neither does Lindzen or Pat Michaels. Does that mean that they're not denialists? Because they'll acknowledge one part of the field that is so well proven no one can deny it with a straight face any more?

No. They hired Milloy, Michaels, they promote Lindzen, if you read their crap it's the usual nit-picking, and amplification of doubt that you always see with a denialist anti-global warming organization. Cato is a joke on the environment, and defending them on it just looks ridiculous.


Way to shift the goalposts again. Apparently, I have to defend the content of the position of anybody if I object to them being labelled as "denialists". I personally don't put much stock in Cato's enviromental work, but that doesn't mean I won't call you on your willingness to lump disagreement on policy rather than technical issues into denialism.

Apparently, I have to defend the content of the position of anybody if I object to them being labelled as "denialists".

Well, yes, you do.

I won't forgive Cato on policy either, but that's for Chris to show in most venues. On climate science they promote denialism. I'm sorry that I even bothered to distinguish degree in this instance in that they do accept one single facet, despite being dogged denialists in every other.

I'll put it very simply. Cato has promoted and continues to promote the work of the worst global warming denialists there are. These are people who spew utter BS, conspiracy theories, cherry-picked data, goalposts moved to the moon and idiotic statements galore. Cato promotes this denialism because it suits them ideologically to do so in their general support of industry over the individual (that 1% of civil liberties promotion just isn't going to cut it). Cato is a denialist organization.

On a related note, but more from the non-scientific public's point of view, don't you just love the way deniers latch on to diversity of opinion among scientists who accept global warming and use it to shout "another scientist rejects global warming!"? I was reading an intervew with conservation biologist Josef Reichholf,


... and while I find his thinking insular and shortsighted, particularly on the hydrological consequences of global warming and its potential effects on species, I get that he at least believes warming is taking place.

Not so the blog reactions, which embrace him as a fellow denier. (You've also got to wonder at the happy campers who claim there is no global warming and besides, it's good for you.) I wonder if they will be so happy with their new bed-fellow when they realize the kind of large-scale conservation of habitat, and curtailment of certain economic activities, that his position really entails.

It also strikes me that the public conversation on global warming is so politicized that it's impossible for non-denying non-conformists to get a fair reading. The reaction distorts their point of view on all fronts, from the deniers who gleefully cite a new ally, to the activists who denounce the scientist for "playing into the hands" of deniers.

I, for one, would love to see some intelligent, focused rebuttal of Reichholf's statements. However, to do that, he must be acknowledged, and I think a mentality is prevalent (and I'm not criticizing scientists here, but the public conversation at large) in which even to acknowledge some views is verboten.

no lo se, I hope that criticism isn't verboten as you say. It certainly isn't here. The people I'm attacking aren't using a legitimate means of countering the science, however, and I will always mock them for what they are.

There are scientists, and I guess I have to suck it up and acknowledge Pielke as an example, who are very critical without alleging conspiracy theories and complaining about snowfall in some region of the country disproving global warming. As much as I disagree with him, he doesn't resort to using denialist tactics from what I've observed, and I don't think other people will call him such. Lambert and some others might think he's dead wrong, and fight with him, and call him a pain in the ass, but they don't tend to question his intellectual honesty. The others here, however, that I call denialists I can find specific examples (Lambert's blog is full of them) of their use of the tactics to sow confusion about legitimate science.

So I think dissent, criticism etc., is perfectly fine. The trick is just distinguishing between legitimate debate, in which both actors are honest brokers, (and from what you say about Reichholf, he might be an example - I'll have to check into his statements) and denialist debate in which one of the parties is just throwing BS into the discussion in an attempt to disrupt understanding of an issue.


My objection isn't to your opinion of Cato - you can hold whatever opinion you want on them and it doesn't really matter to me. My objection, which you didn't bother to address, is to you lumping economic arguments against regulation based on the costs/benefits in with dishonest sowing of confusion on the science. Some of the people working with or at Cato do this - Lindzen definitely does and Michaels good about it either.

My point is that "if it's happening it will be: good for us, unavoidable, not US problem (we can't do anything without China!), etc." is different from "conspiracy theories, cherry-picked data, goalposts moved to the moon". The lumping of a diverse range of actual views on GW into a single group so you can dismiss them as "denialism" based on vaguely defined set of dishonest tactics which are used on by somebody on pretty much every side of every political debate obscures legitimate controversies.

Apparently, I have to defend the content of the position of anybody if I object to them being labelled as "denialists".
Well, yes, you do.

Well, I can't honestly defend the content of the views of people who I disagree with, but there are people I disagree with who I don't consider denialists, so you're asking the impossible.

Again missing the point. Cato by promoting denialists as fellows is disseminating anti-global warming denialist BS.

If you actually read their environmental threads it's the usual BS where they latch onto anything they think casts doubt on global warming or mocks Al Gore.

I'd say they've got cherry-picks, fake experts and moving goalposts at the very least under their belts. If you read the post on Cato-at-liberty the most recent Pat Michaels post is full of red herrings and straw man arguments against Al Gore. It's the same denialist BS.

I gave as an example someone I disagreed with, but wasn't using the techniques, as Pielke, who is also very popular with the Republicans. He doesn't disparage the science, he's just all about mitigation instead.

Just for clarity -- by "the Independent" do you mean the London newspaper? I used to work there, and a friend of mine is still the science correspondent, left over from the days when it wasn't a tabloid. But I wouldn't disagree at all with the implied characterisation of its coverage today. I'd just like to be sure that's what you meant.


I gather that your silly neologism 'denialist' is supposed to mean 'naughty climate skeptic'?


'In psychiatry, the term is used to describe the creation of words which only have meaning to the person who uses them. It is considered normal in children, but a symptom of thought disorder indicative of a psychotic mental illness such as schizophrenia in adults. Usage of neologisms may also be related to aphasia acquired after brain damage resulting from a stroke or head injury.'

The Very Respected Doofinator

Is the neologism bit supposed to be ironic "doofinator"?

And yes it applies to climate change denialists like yourself. Nice blog by the way. Real cranky. Same old Al Gore = climate science nonsense, cherry picking, and illogical nonsense that justifies the inclusion of climate cranks as denialists.

'Is the neologism bit supposed to be ironic "doofinator"?'

Ummm. No.

It's literal scientific truth . . . about those solipsistic geniuses who created the 'denialist' neologism.

Hint: it's not about me.

The Respected Doofinator

By The Respected … (not verified) on 02 Aug 2007 #permalink

I certainly don't see how it can be considered a neologism under that definition, since the meaning of "denial" is pretty clear to anyone with a basic vocabulary. Then again, cranks tend to turtle up, get defensive, and forget a great many things (including words, I guess) when their beliefs are assaulted by mean ol' reality. Certainly Doof has conveniently forgotten to bring any sort of coherent argument (hard data, refutations of the links and arguments Mark posted, etc.) other than name-calling.

And of course it's all about you, Doof. Cranks are enamored of the sound of their own voice and the illusion of their own genius, far above the level of those silly "scientists" and "experts" who believe in evolution or AGW.

By minimalist (not verified) on 02 Aug 2007 #permalink

'I certainly don't see how it can be considered a neologism under that definition, since the meaning of "denial" is pretty clear to anyone with a basic vocabulary.'

How absurd!

An 'anti-denialist' denying that 'denialism' is a neologism.

OK. Show me the first usage of the term 'denialist' denoting the meaning you assert it has.

Prediction: it will be very recent, and hence, demonstration that 'denialist' is a neologism.

The Respected Doofinator

By The Respected … (not verified) on 03 Aug 2007 #permalink

Uggh, boring troll. Nothing to contribute, just bitching about neologisms since you can't argue on the merits.

A google book search shows it's been in use since at least 1943. Is that to soon? It was used in a different context, and began to be applied to holocaust denial in the 1960s. In the late 90s it began to be applied to HIV/AIDS denial, and more recently, evolution denial, global warming denial (by Monbiot), denying the link between cancer and cigarettes etc.

We did not make up this word. We merely pointed out that no matter what the denialist denies, the tactics are the same. Like yours.

Most pathetically obvious attempt to equivocate between definitions EVER. Use the psychiatric definition inappropriately; then when challenged, retreat to the common definition of "new word". So, uh... what's the point? Your poor grasp of the English language? Nothing new there, as I pointed out.

Sad. You'll have to try a lot harder if you want to rank with Mark's better loontrolls, Doof.

Or you could surprise us and pony up with a real scientific argument. Oops, you don't have one.

By minimalist (not verified) on 03 Aug 2007 #permalink

Global warming denialism is at least as dangerous as Holocaust denialism. By discrediting genuine scientific data, these people threaten the future of mankind!