Climate Change: The Semantics of Denial

I was hoping to stage round four of the fight for the prestigious Christopher Booker prize for climate change bullshit this week,after the reigning world champion promised to come out of retirement to defend his title. But sadly David Bellamy, despite his extravagant promises to destroy the competition, hasn't yet weighed in, so we'll have to hold on for another tantalising week.

I hope he doesn't chicken out. He could be the only person who can now secure this beautiful trophy for the United Kingdom against the Michigan Mauler, John Tomlinson.

In
the meantime, I want to take issue with a comment by my colleague James
Randerson. In his excellent blog this week about our dear friend from
the Sunday Telegraph James said the following:

I
have always disliked the phrase "climate change denier". Global warming
will have extremely serious consequences for people around the world,
but making the link with the 20th century's most colossal work of
industrial-scale evil - the Holocaust - plays into the hands of those
who want to convince the waverers that this is purely a political
argument.

James's comment is already causing a measure of delight among
- ahem - the climate change deniers. That's hardly surprising: they
have spent the past few years furiously denying that they are deniers,
using the argument that James has adopted.

I use the term deniers
not because I am seeking to make a link with the Holocaust, but because
I can't think what else to call them. They describe themselves as
sceptics, but this is plainly wrong, as they will believe any old
rubbish that suits their cause. They will argue, for example, that a
single weather event in one part of the world is evidence of global
cooling; that the earth is warming up because of cosmic rays and that
the Antarctic is melting as a result of volcanoes under the ice. No
explanation is too bonkers for them, as long as it delivers the goods.

The
OED defines a sceptic as, "A seeker after truth; an inquirer who has
not yet arrived at definite conclusions." This is the opposite of what
people like Booker, Bellamy and Tomlinson are. They have their definite
conclusion and will defend it against all comers, however many
inconvenient truths might stand in the way.

There is another
class of people, whose materials these independent deniers often use:
those who are paid by corporations to defend definite conclusions. I have documented this trade extensively (see also my book Heat).
But many of these people still masquerade as free thinkers. Earlier
this month, for example, the Guardian's Comment is Free site published
an article by Patrick Michaels.
The Guardian described him as "a senior fellow at the Cato Institute
and author of Climate of Extremes". What it didn't say is that he has
been paid extremely well in the recent past to promote the views he
expressed here by interests which, as far as I can discover, he has
never voluntarily disclosed.

Take a look at this leaked memo
circulated by the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA) in
2006. IREA transmits electricity - most of which is produced by
coal-burning power stations - across the US midwest.

The memo
reveals that IREA was about to start buying electricity from a new
coal-fired plant, replacing some of the gas production it was using
before. But the cost advantages would be wiped out if a carbon tax were
imposed. In the hope of averting this prospect, IREA had:

decided to support Dr Patrick Michaels and his group (New Hope Environmental Services, Inc).
Dr Michaels has been supported by electric cooperatives in the past and
also receives financial support from other sources ... In February of
this year IREA alone contributed $100,000 to Dr Michaels. In addition
we have contacted all the G&T's [generators and transmitters of
electricity] in the United States and as of the writing of this letter,
we have obtained additional contributions and pledges for Dr Michaels
group.

I posted this information up in the comment
thread following Dr Michaels's article, but it was deleted by the
moderator. I'm not sure why.

Whether we're talking about people
who are paid to deny that climate change is happening, or those who use
the materials these flacks produce, denial is a precise and concise
description of what they do. Their attempt to wriggle out of it by
insisting that - by calling them what they are - we are somehow
debasing the Holocaust is as contrived as all the other positions they
take. We shouldn't fall for it.