Not so long ago, the term denier was reserved for right-wing ideologues, many of them funded by fossil fuel companies, who claimed that global warming either wasn’t happening at all or wasn’t caused by humans...
As frustration grew after the failure of legislative efforts to cap US emissions in 2010, demons kept appearing wherever climate activists looked for them. In 2015, Bill McKibben argued in the New York Times that anyone who didn’t oppose the construction of the Keystone pipeline, without regard to any particular stated view about climate change, was a denier.
Then in December 2015, Harvard historian and climate activist Naomi Oreskes expanded the definition further. “There is also a new, strange form of denial that has appeared on the landscape of late,” Oreskes wrote in the Guardian, “one that says that renewable sources can’t meet our energy needs. Oddly, some of these voices include climate scientists, who insist that we must now turn to wholesale expansion of nuclear power.
Oreskes took care not to mention the scientists in question, ..... included Dr. James Hansen, who gave the first congressional testimony about the risks that climate change presented the world, and has been a leading voice for strong, immediate, and decisive global action to address climate change for almost three decades.
The others—Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira, and Tom Wigley—are all highly decorated climate scientists with long and well-established histories of advocating for climate action. The four of them had travelled to the COP21 meeting in Paris that December to urge the negotiators and NGOs at the meeting to embrace nuclear energy as a technology that would be necessary to achieve deep reductions in global emissions.
So it was only a matter of time before my colleagues and I at the Breakthrough Institute would be tarred with the same brush. In a new article in the New Republic, reporter Emily Atkin ... accuses us of engaging in a sleight of hand “where climate projections are lowballed; climate change impacts, damages, and costs are underestimated” and claims that we, like other deniers, argue “that climate change is real but not urgent, and therefore it’s useless to do anything to stop it.”
None of these claims are true. For over a decade, we’ve argued that climate change was real, carried the risk of catastrophic impacts, and merited strong global action to mitigate carbon emissions. We have supported a tax on carbon, the Paris Agreement, and the Clean Power Plan, although have been clear in our view that the benefits of these policies would be modest. We have supported substantial public investment in renewables, energy efficiency, nuclear energy, and carbon capture and storage.
Welcome to the club, Ted. In the halcyon days when gold geologist turned academic politician Oresekes was simultaneously Provost of UCSD, and anchorwoman for Al Gore's Climate Reality telethon, she broke through the rhetorical glass ceiling by styling climate scientists who publically doubted the policy authority of antiquated 1-D models in right-wing rags like, er, Nature , and Foreign Affairs "Anti Science" too. But Oreskes shrewdly stopped short of damning Steve Schneider with that epithet. It would have been a career ending move, for on the eve of the greenhouse modeling debate, the founder of the journal Climatic Change soberly condemned Carl Sagan's "Apocalyptic predictions" of nuclear winter as being of "vanishingly low probability"
Since then, a TV movie has been made of Oreskes' book, Merchants of Doubt, with a beginning that seems ironically appropriate. It opens on a carnival midway montebank demonstrating his sleight of hand.