(Oct. 12, 2010) An editorial from the Guelph Mercury looks at the decision by Energy Probe’s Executive Director, Lawrence Solomon, to use the term “denier”.
Denier is a powerful word in the English language.
Its adoption within the vernacular to describe skeptics of things such as the validity of the scientific theory that human behaviour has contributed to global warming likely angers some individuals. It’s so widely associated first – or for the longest time — with people who have denied or still do that there was a Holocaust.
Larry Solomon is among those who have claimed this term in a non-Holocaust sense. Solomon is author of The Deniers. It’s a book about credible scientists who have raised questions about aspects of climate-change science. He suggests it’s time for greater consideration of the work and views of these researchers. He asserts that a “quasi-religious” support scientifically and publicly has formed on the side of the validity of human-caused climate change. But he suggests, however, unpopular it may be to do so, that scientific argument should be challenged.
He’s chosen “denier” quite by design. He told one of the newspaper’s reporters this month that the term is used by climate scientists to condemn skeptics of global warming science in the scientific community because such people are alleged to be contributing to an environmental disaster – on scale with the Holocaust.
He confronts an enormous and zealous community in advancing his cause. But he should have opted against employing “denier” for his own purposes given the context and the modern historic and religious context of that word.
Opposing the existence of the Holocaust isn’t an apt metaphor for urging people to take a hard look at the science behind the climate change argument. He and others who invite this comparison do so with risk.
Solomon will no doubt offer a compelling address at the University of Guelph on Oct. 20 when he delivers his lecture – Global Warming: The Science is Not Settled. It will provoke good discussion on a subject that should be chewed over with care by our academics and by the public.
His critics will be capable of responding intelligently and persuasively that the evidence of climate change must be considered solid and the basis for immediate political action. We expect they will and that their efforts will make his session an even better opportunity for gaining perspective on the science. Those are good things.
As a byproduct of it all “denier,” as a label, will be further watered down. That seems like a troubling thing.
Guelph Mercury, October 12, 2010