Everyone Should Be a Denialist!

Sometimes I get the impression people simply don’t think about what they say. For example, who would mock “denialists” then say everyone should be one? More than I care to think.

I recently stumbled across a post by Marc Hudson which had an… interesting video he made. Hudson begins it by saying:

This video covers what is denialism, a typology of climate denial, idle and unhelpful speculation on the motivation of denialists, and some unsolicited advice on what is to be done.

Normally I wouldn’t think much of what is obviously a heavily biased video. However, this one made me laugh because of how stupid it is. For example, it says:

If you do engage, expect a gish-gallop or three. And if you don’t know what a gish-gallop is, you definitely shouldn’t be entering the fray.

This is a remarakbly stupid statement. Hudson says you definitely should keep quiet (or shtum, as he calls it) if you “don’t know what a gish-gallop is.” Why would not knowing what one term means mean you definitely shouldn’t participate in discussions? I have no idea. Neither did Rachel, a moderator for the blog AndThenTheresPhysics, who responded:

Why not explain what a gish gallop is rather than telling people they shouldn’t be involved if they don’t know what it means? I didn’t know what it meant when I first started debating climate science contrarians. Does that mean I should not have debated them at all? A bit hard really when they’re members of my family and can’t be avoided. The more people engaged in the debate from the science side the better. It really shouldn’t matter whether they know what gish gallop means.

Marc Hudson immediately responded by saying, “Yes, you are right!” Now, I appreciate he corrected his stupid remark. I do. However, I have to wonder, why did he say it in the first place? More importantly, why did he say it was definitely true if he’d buckle on it the moment it was challenged?

Whatever though. He corrected the stupid remark. Let’s look at something he hasn’t corrected. According to Hudson:

it’s useful to think of four kinds of denialism:

1) Trend denialism would not be convinced there is global warming.
2) Attribution denialism is about how much is manmade.
3) Impacts denialists would say we don’t know how much or enough about what the impacts are and how severe they’ll be. This would include the lukewarmers.
4) And policy skeptics, let’s give them that, would take issue with how to tackle the problems.

There are more problems with this than I care to count. I’ll just focus on a couple big ones. First, and most importantly, why are “policy skeptics” on a list “of four kinds of denialism”? What policies would someone have to endorses to not be a denialist? I don’t know. The video doesn’t help. Its description states:

I am deadly serious that we should all be policy skeptics.

Marc Hudson thinks “we should all be policy skeptics,” yet he lists policy skepticism as one of “four kinds of denialism.” According to that logic, everyone ought to be a denialist. I tried to clarify this issue with Hudson, but despite him responding to me a couple times, no progress has been made.

Whatever. Let’s consider the third type of denialism he listed, impact denialism. These “denialists” don’t dispute global warming is real or that man is responsible. They merely question how bad it’ll be. What’s wrong with that? Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which supposedly reflects the consensus on global warming, is highly uncertain on this issue.

And why does Hudson single out lukewarmers? Lukewarmers are just people who accept global warming is real, but think the Earth’s sensitivity to a doubling of carbon dioxide is on the lower side of the IPCC’s estimated range. Their position falls within the consensus’s views of possible. How does that make them denialists? A bit of insight can be found in Hudson’s video where he says:

Sometimes don’t feed the trolls. Especially when having a debate would make it look like there is scientific uncertainty when there isn’t. On the details, of course there is. But the big picture? This is 19th century physics guys.

By his own position, the “big picture” is “19th century physics.” That means details like just what effects global warming will have are not part of the “the big picture.” Questioning things like sensitivity and impacts is fine. There’s uncertainty in those issues.

But he doesn’t acknowledge that. Instead, he paints anyone who disagrees with him about anything as a denialist. He categorizes types of “denialism” in such a way he can label anyone, including himself, a denialist. And people eat it up. Here is Andy Skuce, prominent member of Skeptical Science:

Blogger AndThenTheresPhysics wrote a post praising the video, even stating:

However, Marc has quite clearly defined climate denialism

With a number of mildly notable figures commenting in favor of it, including Victor Venema, John Mashey and Pekka Pirilä.

Nobody commenting on this video complained it describes “denialism” so broadly as to include basically everyone. Nobody complained Marc Hudson said everyone should be part of one of his categories of denialism. It seems they’re just unaware they could reasonably be called denialists based upon his standards.

But absurdity aside, lets remember Marc Hudson implies anyone who doesn’t agree with him is a denialist. It doesn’t matter if you think global warming is real and poses a serious threat. If you disagree with him about anything, you’re a denialist. If you say climate sensitivity is 2C, not 3C, you’re a denialist. If you say humans are responsible for 80% of the observed warming, not 100% (or 120% as some claim), you’re a denialist.

Who is Marc Hudson? I don’t know. I don’t know who any of the people praising this video are either. What I do know this: They’re endorsing a standard which lets them call people like Judith Curry and Roger Pielke (Sr and Jr) denialists, as well as hundreds of other scientists.

And they sound like idiots while they do it.


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