The Language of Climate Combatants

By Keith Kloor | November 17, 2011 11:33 am

While I personally don’t use the term “denier” in my writing on climate issues, I’m not moved by the crocodile tears of many who claim to be offended by it. Why? Well, I could point to a few loaded, pejorative terms commonly used at popular climate skeptic websites. But to understand the hypocrisy I’m getting at, let’s go to this new Fred Singer post at American Thinker, which starts off (emphasis added):

Global warming has re-entered public consciousness in recent days, partly because of the buzz surrounding the release of warming results from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project. The reaction of the “warmistas” has been jubilant, yet hilariously wrong.  Will they ever learn?

Do you get the association implied here? Let me just say that as a huge Clash fan I resent this effort to despoil my memory of a treasured boyhood album. But I digress.

A few paragraphs down, Singer says something I agree with (emphasis added):

Unfortunately, it has become expedient (for those who condemn CO2 as the cause of warming) to deride their opponents with terms like “climate deniers.”

Alas, the self-proclaimed global warming “doubter” doesn’t see when he’s being expedient, for just two paragraphs later, we come to this (emphasis added):

Their hearts filled with bubbling joy and their brains befuddled, none of the warmistas have apparently listened to the somewhat skeptical pronouncements from Prof. Muller.

In case you weren’t getting the message, a little further down, Singer writes (emphasis added):

None of the warmistas can explain why the climate hasn’t warmed in the 21st century, while CO2 has been increasing rapidly.  It’s no wonder that Herman Cain, a former math and computer science major in college, says that “man-made global warming is poppycock” (NYT, Nov. 12). He blames climate fears on “scientists who tried to concoct the science” and “were busted because they tried to manipulate the data.”

Yes, citing the accused serial sexual harassment offender and all-around brainiac who recently caught a bad case of brain freeze himself, should add some intellectual heft to that argument.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change, climate politics
  • NewYorkJ

    Well if Herman Cain says so…

    Singer knows his target audience.  Readers of American Thinker are fiercely political, right-wing and partisan, so Singer figures Cain is a legit authority among them.

    Singer ceased being a scientist long ago.

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=S._Fred_Singer#Tobacco_Industry_Contractor

    Some analysis of Singer’s claims:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/fred-singer-denies-global-warming.html

    And yes, those using labels like “warmist”, “warmista”, “alarmist” shouldn’t be complaining about being labeled, especially within the same rant.

  • http://bigcitylib.blogspot.com bigcitylib

    I prefer the term “Warmocaust Collusionist” over Denier.  Really rubs in the war criminal connotations.

    I also like “Greenshirts” over Warmist or Warmista or whatever.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Keith are you trying to bring Tom Fuller out of blog retirement ;-)

  • Dean

    It all strikes as a variation on political correctness. I don’t care the slightest if somebody calls me a warmista.

  • Howard

    Both warmista and denier are useful terms of art.  They are Godwin-wsque and describe extreme views of folks who should generally be ignored.  Of course, many people, myself included, like to clobber more moderate voices over the head with these pejoratives.  It’s a useful tool to detect how thin-skinned and precious a person and their opinions are.  Since there is no sight and sound “between the line” cues of normal conversation on blogs, sometimes it helps being an arse, a brown-noser or feigning encouragement  prompt a revealing aspect of other faceless souls. 

  • Sashka

    Keith,

    What do the sexual harassment accusations have to do with any of that?

  • http://www.skepticalscience.com Steven Sullivan

    It simply won’t do to call Singer a denier.   The proper term for him is ‘asshole’.

  • EdG

    Keith, this is your lamest post yet.

    Your Cain comment hit new lows. If you want to play this moronic game, best we mention the serial sexual harrasser and ‘sex poodle’ Al Gore, shouldn’t we?

    And comment #7 shows what this kind of stupidity leads to.

  • Tom C

    Mr. Kloor -

    So, in your opinion Herman Cain is not intelligent?  I would think that the man has a rather impressive resume, no?

  • Keith Kloor

    Sashka (6)

    Interesting that that should be what triggers a comment from you. That Singer would quote Cain (citing his math and computer science major in college as a qualification)–that he would cite Cain at all, given all the campaign bizarro statements from him, the widely publicized sexual harassment charges, the Libya brain lock) is utterly amazing.

    But yeah, I guess now people who majored in psychology should feel qualified to make sweeping pronouncements about that field, too.

    EdG (8)
    You tell me that once a week. Re: Al Gore, if he was in the news day after because of credible accusations of sexual harassment, changing his story about the accusations every six hours, and a pro-AGW writer referenced Gore amidst all this, I’d say that would be pretty stupid in the same way.

    I gotta say, though, on a separate note: if I was a Democratic operative, I couldn’t be happier with the way the Republican Presidential contest is playing out.  

  • Keith Kloor

    Tom C (9)

    Did I say he was unintelligent? Let me ask you this:do you think he’s intelligent enough to be president? Has he shown a grasp of domestic and foreign affairs to your satisfaction?

  • NewYorkJ

    Sure Ed and Sashka…citing Cain’s personal and potentially criminal problems is ad hom, not really having much to do with Cain being a poor authority on climate science.  But didn’t you hear?  The IPCC reports can’t be trusted because Pauchauri wrote a novel.

    Anthony Watts: IPCC now in Bizarroland: Pachauri releases “smutty” romance novel…Note to the U.N. ““ Time to kick Pachy to the curb, he’s not just toast now, he’s carbonized.
    Steve McIntyre: In breaking news, Vivid Entertainment has bought the film rights to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

    Careful about feigning the high ground.

  • NewYorkJ

    KK: I gotta say, though, on a separate note: if I was a Democratic operative, I couldn’t be happier with the way the Republican Presidential contest is playing out.

    I wouldn’t.  The effect of the Cains and the Perrys shooting themselves in the foot is a greater chance of a Romney nomination, who, with moderate cred, good looks, debate competency, and deep pockets, is a much tougher matchup for Obama.  All they really have against him is the Flip Flop (which he does a good job of dancing around among his own base) and “rich guy who doesn’t understand ordinary people” cards.  Democratic strategists would much rather have had the problems come out in 2012, after the Republicans nominated an incompetent buffoon.

  • Tom C

    Mr. Kloor -

    You called him a “brainiac” which I’m assuming is a sarcastic comment meant to belittle his intelligence. Someone who has been the chief executive of three major organizations, including a Federal Reserve Bank has probably got some smarts.

    Regarding the sexual harassment charges, I don’t know if he did or didn’t.  If he did it I think it disqualifies him.  But, I marvel at the workings of the liberal mind.  When Bill Clinton ran for president, a state employed came forward and played phone tapes of Bill discussing quid pro quo matters related to the affair and advising on how to evade perjury charges.  The press informed me that none of that mattered and was evidence of conservative blue nosing.  But now I’m supposed to get worked up about sexual harassment charges that have not even been detailed.  Amazing.

  • Sashka

    Keith,

    I’m not commenting on Cain himself for many reasons. For example, I’m not interested in anything coming from people who are in the direct contact with god even if they are elected. (As I mentioned a number of times, I spent a greater part of my life in the country ruled by a bunch of morons so there is nothing new for me in that respect.) Similarly, I have no interest in people who feel appropriate to quote Cain as an authority on anything but pizza (and maybe women). This sort of people aren’t on my radar screen. This applies to all sort of bozos uniformly.

    You, OTOH, for the most part, is a reasonable fellow. You may be lacking hard science background but not the common sense or general intelligence. That’s why I thought it was a interesting that you brought it up. If you removed the sexual harassment from that paragraph your point wouldn’t be any weaker, would it?

  • Keith Kloor

    Tom C (14)

    You should be able to get worked up over such accusations regardless of what liberals said or did during the Clinton era. What we know thus far is that there were two settlements made. And Cain has shifted his story numerous times.

    If he were a Democrat, would that be enough for you to get worked up? 

    Again, I am always amazed when people make these sorts of rationalizations based on political ideology. Oh, how I wish more people (regardless of ideological/political affiliation) were not so tribal. Such a dispiriting thing.

  • Keith Kloor

    Sashka,

    Oh, I see what you mean. I think I was just amazed at the utter stupidity of someone citing a guy who (notwithstanding the hardcore Republican defenders) at the peak of all the revelations that have made Cain a sideshow. I mean, Singer might as well have quoted Donald Trump–and maybe he would have if this was six months ago. 

    If I didn’t know anything about Singer, that right there would have told me everything I need to know about him. 

  • Tom C

    Mr. Kloor -

    First of all, I did say that I thought it disqualified him, if true.  So I am not knee-jerk defending him.

    Anybody can make an accusation.  Most of these are settled because they are baseless and it is cheaper to pay off the complainant than go through the legal hasseling.  The amounts involved here definitely suggest that they are baseless. 

    My point is that the file on Clinton was voluminous, detailed, and credible.  Not much on Cain at this point.

  • EdG

    #12 NYJ

    Who said, or would expect, Cain to be any kind of an authority on “climate science”?

    Do you think Obama is? (I won’t even mention Gore… ooops, I just did.)

    As for your comparison with Patchy, the fact that he wrote some novel is irrelevant, though some people like to use that as a simplistic point. Its just a distraction from his utter incompetence and litany of false statements, as one would expect from the Tata head of the WWF-Greenpeace-IPCC.

  • EdG

    #10 Keith

    “I gotta say, though, on a separate note: if I was a Democratic operative, I couldn’t be happier with the way the Republican Presidential contest is playing out.”

    If I was a Republican operative I would be very, very happy with the way the Dem’s Occupy mob is working out. 

    In the meantime, it is a genuine tragedy to see how divided the country has become under Obama. Not good. Of course, distract, divide and conquer is the standard procedure for the manipulators at the top who really run things so I guess that is part of the plan.

    Ever notice that the most of the recent puppet Presidents – Reagan, Clinton, Bush Jr and Obama – had/have ‘father issues’?

  • Keith Kloor

    EdG,

    “it is a genuine tragedy to see how divided the country has become under Obama.”

    Are you Rip Van winkle or something? Did you sleep through the 2000-2008 Bush/Karl Rove era? 

  • Sashka

    @ 17

    If I didn’t know anything about Singer, that right there would have told me everything I need to know about him.

    Exactly.

  • EdG

    #21 Keith

    No. I fully recognize that. But, as I also recall, Obama’s message was all about bringing people together in the aftermath of that and he has deliberately done just the opposite.

    Indeed, Obama may be the most flip-flopping President yet when it comes to what he said versus what he has done. And, for me, flip-flopping per se is not a ‘bad’ thing, but the right thing to do when more information is available or circumstances change. But it doesn’t look like those conditions apply to Obama.

    On the other hand, the hard core Republican ideologues who say ‘no more taxes period’ are failing to adapt to reality.

  • Michael Larkin

    Hmm. “Warmista” will probably be associated with the socialist Sandinistas, who were opposed by the Contras. Not a few see the Sandinistas as the good guys, and a number of the cultural references are favourable (see the Wikipedia entry).

    “Denier”, on the other hand, will be associated with holocaust deniers, who are almost universally seen as right-wing fascist pigs.

    So you are juxtaposing an allusion to a label that may be seen in a favourable light with one that is almost universally decried. But you think they are comparable and equally insulting.

    The fact is, it’s very difficult to come up with something as piquant and catchy to use as a contrarian insult. If it were easy, it would have been coined by now. “Lysenkoism” doesn’t lend itself so well. “Warmenkoist” comes nearest, but that doesn’t trip off the tongue quite so easily.

    Whatever, all this just emphasises the politics. Factions on both sides are using global warming as a Trojan horse for pushing their preferred world view. A pox on both their houses. And shame on you for such a weasel post.

  • huxley

    I take it that the “denier” rout at “When Climate Rhetoric Becomes Offensive” stung KK, so now we have this limp post of crocodile tears over “warmista.”

    I agree with Michael Larkin @24 that “denier” goes directly into Holocaust territory, while “warmista” is warm and fuzzy for leftists and Clash fans.

    Not the same. Nice try though.

    I don’t care a whole bunch. As I said in the previous topic, the “denier” epithet advertises the weakness of the climate orthodox. If they could make their arguments with cold, hard logic, they would. But they can’t, so they resort to nasty emotional spin.

    I try to avoid smearing my opponents with nasty labels. “Orthodox” is the best neutral one-word term I’ve found. If the orthodox don’t like it, let me know how you wish to be called.

  • huxley

    When the climate orthodox stop using the term, “denier,” I’ll know that I have to take them much more seriously.

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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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