The range of predicted future warming is enormous — apocalyptism is unwarranted.
The epithet “climate denier,” intended to invoke Holocaust denial, has always been tasteless and inapt. Climate change is not like the Holocaust, nor is questioning the accuracy and predictive power of a scientific model like questioning the historical fact of a genocide that murdered 6 million Jews. But climate activists delighted in defining their opposition this way, with help from prominent figures such as Barack Obama, who in 2014 used Twitter to condemn “climate change deniers” and promote a website, run by Organizing for Action (formerly Obama for America), that featured large black-and-white pictures of then–House speaker John Boehner and Senator Marco Rubio atop a green “Climate Change Deniers” banner. “On climate,” asked the site’s headline, “whose side are you on?”
For a while, this seemed to work. Framing the climate debate as one between noble keepers of the scientific flame and people akin to Nazis gave the former group license to say almost anything. To the casual observer, even the most egregious exaggeration about climate science could seem reasonable compared with its outright rejection. Thus, Obama’s assertion in his 2015 State of the Union address that “no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change” became widely accepted. When Senator Bernie Sanders warned during a presidential debate that “the scientific community is telling us that if we do not address the global crisis of climate change . . . the planet that we’re going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren may well not be habitable,” he was not laughed off the stage.
Often, the politicians and pundits targeted with the “denier” label did deserve blame. Ignoring the best available scientific research — an obvious starting point in any other policy debate — was irresponsible or dishonest. Their arguments rarely emerged from any valuable scientific insight, but usually from a fear that acknowledging the scientific basis of climate change would mean accepting radical and costly responses. This was doubly counterproductive: Not only did it grant by default a mainstream foothold to outlandishly overblown climate fears, but also it sidelined and undermined more important and compelling policy-based objections to the activist agenda.