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June 30, 2005

Why do people become climate change deniers?

Posted by Richard D. North

Richard D. North - the author of Rich is Beautiful: A Very Personal Defence of Mass Affluence - continues his series on G8 and Global Warming: G8 Gleneagles Fiasco: a sceptic's account of global warming and its humbugs.

Why do people become climate change deniers?
It is deeply pejorative to call someone a "climate change denier". This is because it is a phrase designedly reminiscent of the idea of Holocaust Denial the label applied by nearly everyone to those misguided or wicked people who believe, or claim to believe, the Nazis did not annihilate Jews, and others, in any very great numbers.

There is a relatively small group of climate scientists who disbelieve very much of the global warming (GW) hypothesis. Unpick that a bit and one finds that there are many varieties of climate change denial. There are those who believe that the planet will soak up much of the additional carbon which we now emit as part of our greenhouse gas cocktail. Professor David Bellamy is perhaps the clearest British example of one such. There are others who believe that man-made warming will have no serious effect, and others who believe (very differently) that it will be benign. Many believe that the mainstream "science" of global warming relies too much on computer modelling, which has never been very successful in predicting other parts of the real world.

It is often remarked that deniers are funded by industry. Certainly some of them work for or are in part funded by think-tanks which are part-funded by firms (and usually by philanthropic foundations and individuals as well). But of course, their arguments have to be made and are tested in the ordinary crucible of academic and journalistic debate. They are, I would say, often much more interesting than the "consensus" likes to admit.

Some people labelled as "deniers", aren't. For instance, Richard Lindzen seems to be a robust sceptic rather than a denier.

Why do people become "sceptics" or "contrarians"?
There are many more specialists who are well short of complete denial, but who are nonetheless sceptical that it will matter very much if mankind continues to emit increased amounts of greenhouse gas.

Such people are inclined to believe that it will be cheaper and easier to respond to whatever climate change throws at us, rather than attempt to stop it in its tracks. This approach involves both less reliance on prediction and less upfront effort than the approach favoured by the mainstream.

Some of these people are funded in the same way as deniers.

Richard D. North is the author of Rich is Beautiful: A Very Personal Defence of Mass Affluence.

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I totally agree with your article. I have not seen the term used in other fields of science though often there are different points of view. The main message that should be got across is that the science is not settled on climate change and there is no consensus of scientists. Solar scientists who think there is as likely to be global cooling in 15 years time could well be right. Some of us are old enough to remember global cooling from the last time.

Posted by: Nigel Worthington at September 19, 2007 04:00 PM
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