Anthropogenic climate disruption: skeptics vs deniers

Posted on October 19, 2010


I’ve been struck repeatedly over the last few years by how fundamentally non-skeptical many self-proclaimed “climate change skeptics” actually are. Skepticism has a definition after all, and while I’ll have more to say on this later, today I want to introduce an analogy that I use to differentiate between a climate disruption skeptic and a climate disruption denier.

Let’s say that the state of modern climate science is like a piece of lacy swiss cheese – filled with small holes, but still pretty solid. There are no major voids in knowledge, although like any other scientific discipline, there are lots of places where we could know more.

A climate disruption skeptic sees all those voids and finds them more compelling than the meat of the cheese itself. This is fundamentally a scientific approach, and with time the climate disruption skeptic will see the voids that he or she has focused on gradually filling up with cheese.

On the other hand, a climate disruption denier rejects that the cheese (or large portions of it) even exists. This approach is fundamentally one that is anti-science, anti-knowledge, and anti-progress, and no matter how much work is done filling small voids, the climate disruption skeptic will never acknowledge that the cheese even exists.

A climate disruption skeptic can be reasoned with because they reasoned themselves into their skepticism in the first place. A climate disruption denier cannot be reasoned with because you cannot reason someone out of a position that they didn’t reason themselves into.

Climate disruption skeptics are worthy of respect because their ultimate goal is to improve climate science. The ultimate goal of climate disruption deniers is the destruction of climate science, and as such they are worthy of mockery at best.

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