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Why the Climate Debate is on a Road to Nowhere

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMarch 15, 2012 8:00 PM


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Last summer, when Rick Perry mania was cresting and he was spouting nonsense about climate science and evolution, I said this:

Serious, science-based climate skeptics have a chance to separate themselves from the foaming-at-the-mouth lunacy that defines their public image.

Of course, in that same post, I also that the Texas Governor

will likely saddle up the congealed Republican discontent, anger and culture war politics, and ride all the way to the GOP Presidential nomination.

Hey, nobody bats a thousand. Anyway, at the time, some of you who are in the climate skeptic camp chafed at being lumped in with the mouth foamers (climate science is a hoax!) in your midst. My point was that, fair or not, the crazies (there is no greenhouse effect!) had come to be the representative face of the climate skeptic position. It now appears that some well known climate contrarians are coming to this conclusion, too. In the American Thinker (which is no climate science friendly precinct), Fred Singer recently penned an essay titled,

Climate Deniers are Giving us Skeptics a Bad Name

Wait, did he just say climate deniers? And he repeats it a bunch of times in the piece! I thought that term was verboten in the climate skeptic universe? What's going on here? It seems that Singer wants to put some distance between him and the crazies (he identifies two different groups of "deniers"). Interestingly, he sees only one position on the other side of the spectrum--the "warmista," who has "fixed views about apocalyptic man-made global warming." True, the climate doomer is the public face of the climate campaign, but it is by no means the only position in the climate consensus universe. Conveniently, Singer places climate skeptics "somewhere in the middle" of the climate landscape, between "climate deniers" and "warmistas." That middle ground exists only in Singer's head. But to be fair to Singer, he also says that "these three categories" [denier, skeptic, warmista] "do not have sharp boundaries; there are gradations." After making his case against what he considers the two extremes, he ends on this note:

I have concluded that we can accomplish very little with convinced warmistas and probably even less with true deniers.

Well, so long as climate "deniers" and doomers remain the de facto public representatives of the climate debate, their mutual antagonism and contempt will continue to shrink the space for rational discourse, and very little will be accomplished.

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