Are they sceptics or deniers?

The recent escalation of controversy around the issue of climate change and the Copenhagen meetings has sparked another controversy. Are those people who argue against the scientific consensus that human activity most probably contributes to the observed global warming sceptics or deniers?

I say –  it depends. I certainly don’t want to call a genuine sceptic a denier. A genuine sceptic is honestly interested in the science – after all scepticism is the natural state of scientific attitudes. I expect all climate scientists are sceptics. I have heard the comment that about 70% of climate scientist accept the IPCC analysis of the situation. 15% think that it is too pessimistic and 15% think it too optimistic. Plenty of scepticism there.

But there are a group of people, especially those who are committed to a conspiracy theory, who outright deny any human influence on the climate. Or any global warming. They deny it whatever the evidence, and they will go on denying it whatever new evidence comes up.

These people desperately grab at headlines on the climategate emails. They don’t bother about the context, or even the content, of the emails. To them it is evidence supporting their conspiracy theory. So they will promote as much hysteria as possible in an attempt to destroy the credibility of honest scientists.

So, yes, I have no hesitation of calling these people deniers. And the recent bog activity promoted by attacks on the integrity of our local NIWA scientists has certainly brought out some very emotional deniers.

There was an article recently in The Guardian by science writer James Randerson discussing the issue of climate scepticism and denial (Coalition of denial: The sceptics who are trying to reshape the climate debate). He did this by introduce the more prominent people who have been speaking against either the science of climate change, or the political proposals aimed at mitigating the problem. Some of these are clearly deniers. Others are clearly sceptics. The prominent climate change sceptics/deniers do not speak with one voice

This brief analysis is interesting – especially when the reader ponders on which person would most represent local climate sceptics and deniers. A few of the locals remind me of Viscount Monckton. Here’s the gusts of the  article:

Bjorn Lomborg

Danish academic and author, director of the Copenhagen consensus centre

Key claim
Accepts that climate change is happening and is man-made but argues that the proposed solutions are expensive and would not address the problem.

Could it be true?
The Stern Report says that reduction carbon emissions will cost 1%-2% of global GDP, far less than adapting to it in the long run.

Viscount Monckton

Hereditary peer and former adviser to Margaret Thatcher

Key claim
Has denounced the Copenhagen negotiations as an attempt by crypto-communists to impose a world government bent on curbing individual freedoms.

Could it be true?
The negotiators in Copenhagen are having trouble creating a weak “political argument” let alone a world government.

David Bellamy

Television presenter

Key claim
Has denounced global warming as “popycock” and “lies” and said he was stopped from making TV programmes because of his views on climate change.

Could it be true?
Bellamy stopped making programmes in 1994 but his first sceptical public statement about climate change was in 2004.

Nick Griffin

Leader of the British National Party

Key claim
Believes the climate change is a conspiracy by environmentalists and politicians to impose an “anti-human utopia as deadly as anything conceived by Stalin or Mao”.

Could it be true?
Development groups such as Oxfam say that climate change is a much bigger problem for humanity (in terms of poverty, civil unrest, food security, natural disasters) than for the Earth itself.

Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

Authors of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics

Key claim
They argue that reducing carbon emissions in prohibitively expensive and hugely disruptive to the world economy. They favour “geo-engineering” the planet by injecting sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere in order to bounce back the sun’s rays.

Could it be true?
Scientists say it is a risky option with other potentially profound side-effects.

Lord Lawson

Former chancellor of the Exchequer

Key claim
The science of global warming is not settled and the world should not jeopardise economic growth in order to tackle climate change.

Could it be true?
The government’s Stern Report argues that the costs of not acting to curb global warming will prove to be far more costly in the long run.

Dr Benny Peiser

Social anthropologist and director of Global Warming Policy Foundation

Key claim
The GWPF does not exist to challenge the scientific view that humans are largely responsible for climate change but advocates a “more flexible and long term” approach to the problem.

Could it be true?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we do not have the luxury of time. It says that annual CO2 emissions must begin falling by 2020 if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.

Prof Ian Pilmer

Academic at the School of Civil Environmental and Mining Engineering, University of Adelaide

Key claim
His book Heaven and Earth attacks the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity. He has called the scientific consensus a “fundamentalist religion”.

Could it be true?
The IPCC, which reviews all the evidence on climate change for governments, say that climate change is “very likely” (meaning a greater than 90% chance) to be caused by human activity.

James Inhofe

The senior Republican senator for Oklahoma, who is the most prominent global warming sceptic in Congress

Key claim
Has called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”.

Could it be true?
Opponents point out that he receives more money from fossil fuel companies than any other sector.

Vaclav Klaus

President of the Czech Republic

Key claim
Told US Congress that “manmade climate change has become one of the most dangerous arguments aimed at distorting human efforts and public policies in the whole world”.

Could it be true?
His view that climate change is caused by natural processes such as solar activity has been disproved by scientists.


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