Medhi Hasan, former editor of the New Statesman and now political director of the Huffington Post, writes,
Depressingly, you can draw no other conclusion from these facts than that the conspiracy theorists are winning. The deniers of global warming have come in from the cold. The “merchants of doubt”, to borrow a phrase from the science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, seem to have perfected the dark art of “keeping the controversy alive”, sowing seeds of doubt and confusion in the minds of politicians, journalists and voters, in spite of the scientific consensus.
Thus, I use both the terms “denier” (rather than “sceptic”) and “conspiracy theorist” advisedly.
If so, Mr Hasan, you are getting bad advice. As it happens I am a “lukewarmer” but if I were as anxious about anthropogenic global warming as Mr Hasan is, the last thing I would do is make a habit of directing public insult upon the heads of people who disbelieve in it.
Not just because it is nasty to compare people to Holocaust deniers, though it is, but because you will make people wonder whether the famous consensus is based on scientific judgement or fear. As I said in 2006 and still say seven years later:
The consensus convinces because there is no good reason to suppose that so many eminent scientists are lying or deceiving themselves when they say climate change is happening. But if you give me cause to believe that departure from the consensus gets a person ostracised, then there is a good reason.
I was rather prescient, wasn’t I? I supplied in advance the answer to Mr Hasan’s next point:
As for the “conspiracy theorist” tag, let me be blunt: climate-change deniers are the biggest conspiracy theorists of all. In order to embrace the delusions of the deniers, you have to adopt the belief that tens of thousands of researchers, some of them awardwinning scientists, from across the world (not to mention the political spectrum) have conducted behind the scenes, undetected by the media, a campaign of peer-reviewed deceit in defiance of empirical data.
One does not have to believe that tens of thousands of researchers consciously carried out an organized deceit in order to become a “denier”. One only has to believe the much more likely scenario that tens of thousands of researchers separately looked around them, noted that opposing the consensus gets you compared to a Nazi and duly – and quite possibly unconsciously – followed the proverbial advice “don’t stick your neck out”.