Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Holocaust Denial and Climate Change Denial - part 1

Climate Change? - Its all down to sunspots, right
One thing that should be made very clear: any attempt to try to link the views of those who oppose the conventional climate science to Nazism in any form is misguided and unfair. Goodwin's law of Nazi analogies (sometimes stated as follows: as an online discussion grows longer, the probability involving a comparison with the Nazis or Hitler approaches 1) implies that such comparisons are overused and by trying to create guilt by association with the word "denial" is in my view an example of Goodwin's law and its corollary that we should avoid glib association of a point of view with the Nazis. Holocaust denial is often part of a strategy to disassociate the extreme right with the systematic murder of millions of people in order to make an extreme right wing or anti-Semitic agenda more attractive. Holocaust denial historians ignore evidence or rely on fabricated evidence and they imply the existence of huge conspiracy theory on the part of eye witnesses and conventional historians. Those who voice opposition to the conventional views of climate science do so for many motives, as I discuss elsewhere, but however superficially similar the methods of some opponents of the conventional climate science could ever be to those of holocaust deniers, they could never have the same sneer at suffering that exemplifies the nasty agenda underlying their falsification of history.  In short calling the opponents of the conventional view of climate science “deniers” as a smear strategy is wrong.

The reality, though, is that names matter, which is why name calling matters: coining the right name for your opponents, or the object of your opposition is crucial - in the UK the expression "Franken food" still resonates with the general public when considering genetically modified foods, and in the abortion debate, both sides control their image by stating they are pro something - and controlling your own name is an important part of controlling your image, which is why enhanced interrogation techniques are sanctioned, not torture, why politicians only ever misspeak, fudge or are economical with the truth, why the Climate Research Unit email controversy is framed as "Climategate" and why holocaust deniers prefer to be called revisionists. Pejorative names have been coined and applied to those who believe that anthropogenic climate change is a reality, including the climate scientists whose research illustrates a clear link: alarmists, warmists, true believers or team hockystick. The implication is clear: add a context to the opponents' view (alarm, warming rather than climate change, dogmatic, imply the hockystick graph is based on bad science) and extra ( negative) information is coupled to the label. Instead those who hold this view prefer the expressions "the consensus view" or express their beliefs in terms of the scientific consensus in general to indicate that the basic science is settled. The implication of this is also clear - the argument is over, the science says anthropogenic climate change is happening, reduce emissions or face the consequences.