Climate deniers accuse reality of bad faith

  • Published on September 14th, 2021

Even as Murdoch media in Australia claims to be turning over a new leaf on its climate denial, and the fossil fuel industry pursues new discourses of delaylike “wokewashing,” as Amy Westervelt wrote about last week, the sad reality is that whatever you call it, as Nick Cohen wrote recently, “The arguments change. The intent remains the same.” It was true for pro-slavery arguments in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it’s true for pro-fossil fuel arguments in the 21st.

tom toles climate change reopening
(Cartoon by Tom Toles from the Washington Post – get his book on climate change co-written with Dr Michael Mann, The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy)

By Climate Denier Roundup

For example, the Republican Rep. John Curtis, who launched the Conservative Climate Caucus, just hired a new communications director straight from the gas lobby. There is no difference between supposedly climate-change-accepting Republicans, and the industry that sows the disinformation that obviously climate change denying Republicans repeat.

Similarly, when you look at the claims coming from professional deniers, whether they’re totally inaccurate climate denial or, at best, half true, the outcome is the same: deception. And their reaction to being called out? Doubling down.

First was the Willie Soon-led effort to try and blame the sun for warming instead of carbon dioxide. It’s a pretty classic example of the most obviously corrupt deniers;  Soon has rather famously received over a million dollars from fossil fuel companies to produce denial, and the Sun was basically the first thing climate scientists had enough information to rule out when looking for causes of warming. There just isn’t enough variation in the Sun’s output to cause the sorts of changes we’re seeing, at the rate they’re happening.

And that’s such a solid fact, that even the report Soon himself cooked up couldn’t justify a conclusion that it’s the Sun not CO2. Instead, he was left to say the question “has not yet been satisfactorily answered.”

Of course, that question has been satisfactorily answered, just not in a way that’s satisfactory to Soon, his co-authors, and whoever his funders may be. A ClimateFeedback fact check was as unequivocal as the IPCC in finding that Soon’s Sun-blaming claims are incorrect and misleading.

In response, Soon of course didn’t accept that his view of the science is wrong, and instead sent a lengthy letter to ClimateFeedback, which was posted to ClimateDepot on Friday. In it, Soon and two of his co-authors, the father-son denier duo Ronan and Michael Connolly, claim that it’s actually ClimateFeedback that’s making “false or misleading claims,” and “spreading the very misinformation” they claim to fight.

They go on (at length) to try and defend their work (without actually addressing the main problem, which is that it’s wrong) and invoke such wise incantations as “who will fact-check the fact-checkers?”

Who indeed?

Here’s an idea: whoever it is, it shouldn’t be the people who have made a career out of lying for money.

Not that it’s going to stop them from trying. Because the other example of deniers doubling down is from the more nuanced side of things, as Bjorn Lomborg’s recent WSJ column on Hurricane Ida received a “half-true” rating from Politifact.

As we pointed out at the time, deniers and their tools like Roger Pielke Jr. were (deliberately) ignoring the science showing warming is changing the proportion of minor to major storms, and instead focusing on the total frequency of storms, which hasn’t changed. So they can claim that a (strawman) alarmist or media outlet is claiming that climate change is making hurricanes more frequent, and then debunk that (unmade) assertion, positioning themselves as the smart and fair science-knower in the middle of lying alarmists and lying deniers.

It’s using a truth to mislead, half-true but fully deceptive.

And it seems that in conjunction with Politifact’s rating, Pielke took it upon himself to do a factcheck of Lomborg, who in turn had based his (half-true) take on Pielke’s graphs, and what a surprise! Pielke tweeted a whole thread basically repeating Lomborg’s frequency-feint and claiming that he was totally correct.

Which lays bare the problem with relying on fact-checkers at all, when it comes to people like Lomborg or Soon who do disinformation for their day job.

They’re not going to accept that they’re wrong and adjust their rhetoric accordingly. They’re going to double down on the deception, deny being wrong, and demand a never-ending debate and re-litigation of claims.

Delay is denial, after all.

(Originally appeared at DailyKos)

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