Semantics – Climate Skeptic vs. Denier

In a recent blog post By Adam Sobel, he mentioned that he doesn’t use the word “skeptic” to describe those who do not accept the idea that the earth is warming due to human activity. I had never really thought about my word choice on this issue, but I like his point and many others seem to share this notion. A skeptic has to be open to being proven wrong.

On the other hand, someone like Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe who is notorious for spouting misinformation about global warming is a clear example of someone who is unwilling to take the work of climate scientists seriously (unless you use bible verses to make your points), and outright denies the mountain of evidence.

Anyway, I don’t have much to say on the issue, except that I think we should use “denier” in place of “skeptic” where appropriate. I like the way Adam explains it in his blog, so here’s the quote of his footnote:

I no longer use the term “skeptics” to describe those who do not accept the basic conclusion of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists that humans are causing significant global warming. A skeptic is someone who needs to see all the evidence and consider it carefully before being convinced. I do not see how an intellectually honest person can deny the reality of anthropogenic global warming after carefully considering all the evidence. The only way I can see arriving at such a position is either to be unaware of the full body of evidence (intentionally or otherwise; but if someone with a public profile on the issue is ignorant of the evidence, it has to be at least partly intentional), to deny the validity of that evidence (“climate scientists’ jobs, funding etc. depend on scaring the public about global warming, so I don’t believe what they say”), or to be unable or unwilling to use logic to draw conclusions. Taking a public position on the basis of any of these is not skepticism, it’s denial.


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