Who you gonna believe on climate change – 97% of scientists or random bloggers?

  • Published on November 12th, 2019

There’s a piece making the rounds in the deniersphere claiming to assess just how bad a worst-case climate scenario could be. The conclusion: there’s “no justification for describing climate change in terms of ‘crisis,’ ‘emergency,’ ‘catastrophe,’ or ‘existential threat’ rather than simply ‘threat,’ ‘challenge,’ or ‘problem.”

climate deniers aren't Galilio. They're just cranks.

By Climate Denier Roundup

So who is it that’s weighing in and offering their judgement on a vast body of science? Someone with the depth of experience in the field and understanding of the underlying science that allows them some unique insight?

Not quite. The piece is written by a Norweigan man named Dagfinn Reiersøl, a software developer whose expertise in climate seems to be some limited blogging on the subject. Not exactly someone who brings a whole lot of experience of first-hand working knowledge.

And the outlet? Is this piece published somewhere that would suggest it’s been rigorously fact-checked and presented in an unbiased manner free from ideological bias?

Uh, not exactly. It’s in Quillette. For those blessedly unaware, Quillette is an online outlet built to give voice to the reactionary right’s anti-feminist, anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-trans, and pro-white pseudointellectualism. You may have heard of it for targeting reporters that cover anti-fascists, or that time it fell for an obvious anti-DSA hoax, and, most meme-ably, when it defended phrenology, the long-debunked pseudoscience of measuring the cranium with calipers that was “at the forefront of scientific racism.”

If that’s not bad enough, one of its editors is Toby Young, the kind of person that has a “nine of the worst things Toby Young has said” entry in HuffPo. (All of his statements are awful, but none are as bad as that time he spoke at a conference alongside a guy who “who has written supportively about pedophiles being allowed to have ‘sex with a sleeping child’.”)

Still, it’s possible that an untrained author in a biased outlet can still raise good points, particularly if they cite legitimate researchers in opposing the vast body of scientific evidence that justifies calling it a climate crisis.

That is not what happened here. Over and over, the author contrasts peer-reviewed studies with garden-variety denier blogs, Bjorn Lomborg and Roger Pielke Jr. tweets, and the aforementioned Toby Young.

The piece has got all the intellectual depth of a child in DC fighting bedtime by claiming it’s only 6pm on the West Coast, and none of the adorable charm. It’s the epitome of lazy, biased thinking that pretends an op-ed has the same evidentiary weight as the IPCC or that a tweet is just as reliable as a peer-reviewed paper.

So yes, the piece is a hodgepodge of baseless rightwing denial points. But hey, at least they left the calipers at home this time.

(Crossposted with DailyKos. Cartoon by Tom Toles from the Washington Post – get his book on climate change co-written with Michael Mann, The Madhouse Effect.)

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