Turning the Denial Up to 11

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Feb. 25 2014 7:30 AM

Climate Change Deniers Lose Their Cool

What the heck, climate change deniers? I mean seriously, what the actual heck?

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Shouty things! Noise! Ignore the real science!

Drawing by Shutterstock/maraga

For some reason, the past week has seen some climate change deniers totally lose their [expletive deleted]. I keep up with this stuff, so I’m used to seeing forehead-slappy moments, denial so abrupt and profound it’s hard to imagine the promulgator lives on the same planet the rest of us do. I mean, c'mon, the bar has already been set by comparing a climate scientist to a child molester and saying more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is just fine because plants love it.

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But this week has seen the dumbosity go up a solid notch. If I went into details this post would eat up half the available electrons on the Net, so let me give you just a taste of outrage permeating the anti-science realm with a brief commentary.

1) A Hoary Op-Ed

Charles Krauthammer, writing an op-ed in the Washington Post, managed to cram in something completely wrong about climate change and global warming into nearly every paragraph. It’s practically a how-to of, um, how to deny reality. His nonsense is sensibly dismantled by scientist Scott Mandia, in detail by Jeffrey Kluger at Time, and ironically by Stephen Stromberg at, you guessed it, the Washington Post. It would be hard to pick the most head-desky moment, but calling climate scientists (and science journalists) “whores” is way up there. Claiming he’s neither a believer nor denier is another. It’s pretty clear where he falls.

Bonus: biblical quotations about whoring.

2) Autogodwinization

Dr. Roy Spencer is in a teeny majority; the 3 percent or so of scientists (he has a degree in meteorology) who think global warming isn’t real and human-caused. Since he is a scientist you’d think that would give him leverage—certainly Republicans in Congress think so, since they keep empaneling him in their hearings—but when you actually read his claims, they tend to fall a bit short of reality.

And when you read his latest screed, your eyes might roll so far back in your head you can see the inside of your skull.

Why? He says that people who use the word “denier” are … wait for it, waiiiit for iiittttt … “global warming Nazis”.

Yup, you read that right, he went there. He goes on and on about the use of the term “denier,” claiming it’s associated with Holocaust denial. However, that’s just hooey. It’s used in lots of ways by lots of people because it means “one who denies,” and I’ve been very clear about that. More than once.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Spencer’s claims in that article are wrong and have been ably shown to be so by John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli at the Guardian, DeSmogBlog, Real Sceptic, and Media Matters for America.

And if you think this doesn’t matter, remember that Spencer is a darling of the denial community. Also, shortly after I posted about Spencer on Facebook, a guy actually used the comments section there to call me a Nazi. Nice, eh?

Bonus: Spencer himself (with David Legates) wrote an op-ed in the Christian Post saying, “we deny ‘that most of it is human-caused, and that it is a threat to future generations that must be addressed by the global community.’” [Emphasis mine.] Huh. Doctor, heal thyself.

3) Defending the Status Erratum

Also among the 3 percent are atmospheric scientists John Christy and Richard McNider, who took to that Mos Eisley tavern of global warming media, the Wall Street Journal. As usual for a climate change op-ed in the WSJ, the account they weave is perhaps not an accurate representation of reality, as is made clear by Our Changing Climate and Climate Science Watch. From what I could gather not much they say in the op-ed is really new, either; they use long-disproven arguments about atmospheric heating and cooling. In fact, their claims were debunked before they even made them by John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli in an article last year in the Guardian. The article they recently wrote about Spencer pertains to the WSJ op-ed, too.

Bonus: Christy and McNider get their flat Earth and scurvy history wrong.

4) … And the Rest

Round and round we go. Fox News still claims global warming can’t be happening because 2 percent of the planet is cold. Ted Cruz concurs. There was a “debate” between Bill Nye and Marsha Blackburn; guess who had the facts on his side?

And I could go on and on, et cetera ad nauseum.

Bonus: There is no bonus here. Just an unending torrent of anti-science.

If anyone should be losing their minds, it’s those people who have been predicting all this for years only to be met by partisan and fossil-fuel-funded resistance. Yet they are the ones who are level-headed, and it’s the deniers who seem to get more shrill and more outrageous with every article written. I’m not a huge fan of the idea of “moving the Overton Window,” but sometimes I wonder.

Maybe it’s just because it’s an election year. Maybe it’s because without facts on their side, all they have is volume. But as the temperatures continue to go up, you can bet the noise will, too.

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