It is certainly true that there are some skeptics that deny aspects of climate science–we remember folks like Doug Cotton and Oliver Manuel. My rough guess is that they comprise about 1% or less of the contrarian community. Sadly, for climate activists, these outliers serve as poster children for their anti-communication efforts.
But the activist community didn’t need much in the way of ammunition to start the ‘denier’ meme back in 2005. James Hoggan of Desmog Blog whispered in Ellen Goodman’s ear, and all of us were explicitly equated with skinhead Nazis who denied the Holocaust. As other mainstream journalists and more than a few scientists began to bang the drum, those of us who have no problem with science but dispute misguided policy initiatives found ourselves marginalized.
Of course the activists were bound to go a step too far–the term lost most of its sting when two of the climate activists’ useful idiots–James McKibben and Naomi Oreskes–appended the denier label to people like Barack Obama, James Hansen and Andrew Revkin.
But the campaign to tar and feather those of us who don’t fall in line with policy proposals like ending fossil fuel usage in 12 years actually served to obscure another type of denial, practiced mostly by many in the activist community.
This is denial of mainstream science that doesn’t serve their political ends. Primarily it consists of labeling the work of the IPCC as ‘too conservative,’ or saying that there are papers written after the latest Assessment Report of the IPCC that show that things are much worse than we thought–and much worse than what the IPCC has written.
We all know that the IPCC is not perfect. They are beset by governance issues, as was pointed out by the IAC years ago (and before their former head Pachauri was busted as a serial groper). Their selection process for lead authors of their Assessment Reports is questionable, and the behavior of some of those lead authors even more questionable. Their output contains mistakes. Their work on impacts is fraught, often regurgitating unchallenged the publications of activist NGOs.
And yet. They do represent the mainstream of climate science. Anyone wandering in from another universe who was totally ignorant of the issue would be best served by absorbing what they have written, especially if they intend to participate in public discussions.
The activists who deny their work, their authority or their currency in an attempt to portray our climate future as catastrophic (because the IPCC publications surely do not) are engaging in a propaganda exercise that is far, far worse than the bad science or ignorance that is evidenced in theories about the Iron Sun or other misguided skeptical propositions.
These are, after all, the same people that point to every other aspect of the IPCC’s work as gospel. Who quote from IPCC reports, who cite them…
But because the IPCC explicitly outlines the projected impacts of climate change on this planet, and because those projected impacts are not catastrophic (and indeed seem extremely manageable), we get conversations like this (from the comments section of And Then There’s Physics, a venue where I am once again no longer welcome.):
January 12, 2019 at 10:52 pm
“Perhaps to make it easier, here are the ‘key risks’ as identified in the Summary for Policy Makers in the report.
1) Unique and threatened systems: Some unique and threatened systems, including ecosystems and cultures, are already at risk from climate change (high confidence). The number of such systems at risk of severe consequences is higher with additional warming of around 1°C. Many species and systems with limited adaptive capacity are subject to very high risks with additional warming of 2°C, particularly Arctic-sea-ice and coral-reef systems.
2) Extreme weather events: Climate-change-related risks from extreme events, such as heat waves, extreme precipitation, and coastal flooding, are already moderate (high confidence) and high with 1°C additional warming (medium confidence). Risks associated with some types of extreme events (e.g., extreme heat) increase further at higher temperatures (high confidence).
3) Distribution of impacts: Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development. Risks are already moderate because of regionally differentiated climate-change impacts on crop production in particular (medium to high confidence). Based on projected decreases in regional crop yields and water
availability, risks of unevenly distributed impacts are high for additional warming above 2°C (medium confidence).
4) Global aggregate impacts: Risks of global aggregate impacts are moderate for additional warming between 1–2°C, reflecting impacts to both Earth’s biodiversity and the overall global economy (medium confidence). Extensive biodiversity loss with associated loss of ecosystem goods and services results in high risks around 3°C additional warming (high confidence). Aggregate economic damages accelerate with increasing temperature (limited evidence, high agreement), but few quantitative estimates have been completed for additional warming around 3°C or above.
5) Large-scale singular events:With increasing warming, some physical systems or ecosystems may be at risk of abrupt and irreversible changes. Risks associated with such tipping points become moderate between 0–1°C additional warming, due to early warning signs that both warm-water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts (medium confidence). Risks increase disproportionately as temperature increases between 1–2°C additional warming and become high above 3°C, due to the potential for a large and irreversible sea level rise from ice sheet loss. For sustained warming greater than some threshold, 35 near-complete loss of the Greenland ice sheet would occur over a millennium or more,contributing up to 7 m of global mean sea level rise.”
January 12, 2019 at 11:01 pm
“here are the ‘key risks’ as identified in the Summary for Policy Makers in the report.”
The SPM !!
You are aware that the language in that is carefully constructed to underplay the severity of impacts? Try comparing some of those statements withe the actual passages in the body of the report from which they are derived.”
Those furthest out on the spectrum of opinion on the climate conversation have managed to hijack the issue. Those most convinced that our emissions of greenhouse gases spell doom are not only willing to slander and sabotage scientists working in good faith, but are willing to throw the IPCC under the bus to get what they need. Complete control of the conversation.
Unlike these bomb-throwers, I’m happy to leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which set of ‘deniers’ is more threatening, more damaging to not only climate science, but science as a whole.