Skeptics Are Not Deniers: A Conversation (part 1)
Robert Brown, a Lecturer of Physics at Duke University, had an essay up on Watts Up With That?. It was originally a comment, but Anthony Watts made it a full post, noting “as commenter REP put it in the update: ‘it is eloquent, insightful and worthy of consideration.’”
The comment came in response to the controversy over the use of the term “denier” in a Nature paper by Bain et al. as the category name for people who either “believed climate change was occurring, but that humans were not contributing substantially to it, or did not believe the climate was changing”.
Bain, in attempting to explain himself, digs a deeper hole. First he notes that those he would call skeptics and those he would call deniers are two distinct sets of people: “So in my mind we were ultimately challenging such “denier” stereotypes. But because we were focused on our target audience, it is true that I naively didn’t pay enough attention to the effect the label would have on other audiences, notably skeptics.” But then, he proceeds to refer to skeptics as those who believe AGW (anthropogenic global warming) is not occurring, which is precisely fits the definition of “denier” given in his Nature study!
Brown’s comment offers a different characterization of most skeptics, at least those who frequent WUWT, including himself: “they do not ‘deny’ AGW…What they challenge is the catastrophic label and the alleged magnitude of the projected warming on a doubling of CO2.” This seems to be cleanly outside Bain’s “denier” definition, but since Bain equated deniers with skeptics, Bain is tarring them both with a broad brush.
I must note here that Brown’s definition of “skeptic” also arguably fits most surveyed members of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union, of whom 57% regard global climate change as at most moderately dangerous.
The rest of Brown’s essay is a defense of (his own) skepticism, as he has defined it. It actually is very high-quality, as such things go, so it’s worth discussing.
So as to have an actual discussion, rather than merely a critique, I sent him my immediate responses, and he responded to them, and I responded to his responses, etc. Our conversation remained interesting (at least to me) even as it grew longer and longer. So I’m posting it in six parts, to be released in six consecutive days.
Here’s Part 1. The numbered points are summarized by me from his WUWT post. Note that none of the issues really get argued through to resolution, but you get a good sense of where we’re coming from.
See the full post at: