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Nov 16, 2009

Hamilton: Denying the coming climate holocaust

Which is morally worse: Holocaust denial or climate change scepticism? It sounds like a no-brainer, but the real-life consequences of climate sceptics succeeding may far outweigh those of Holocaust denialists.

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Climate sceptics resent being called deniers because of the odium associated with Holocaust revisionism.

Even critics of the sceptics are careful to distance themselves from the implication that they are comparing climate denialism with Holocaust denialism for fear of being seen to trivialise the Holocaust by suggesting some sort of moral equivalence.

Judgments about moral equivalence depend on the ethical standpoint one adopts.

For consequentialists the morality of an action is judged by its outcomes. For those who adopt this ethical standpoint, any assessment of the consequences of the two forms of truth-rejection would conclude that climate deniers deserve greater moral censure than Holocaust deniers because their activities are more dangerous.

If the David Irvings of the world were to succeed, and the public rejected the mountain of evidence for the Holocaust, then the consequences would be a rewriting of history and a probable increase in anti-Semitism.

If the climate deniers were to succeed, and stopped the world responding to the mountain of evidence for human-induced global warming, then hundreds of millions of mostly impoverished people around the world would die from the effects of climate change.

They will die from famine, flood and disease caused by our unwillingness to act. The Stern report provides some sobering estimates: an additional 30-200 million people at risk of hunger with warming of only 2-3°C; an additional 250-500 million at risk if temperatures rise above 3°C; some 70-80 million more Africans exposed to malaria; and an additional 1.5 billion exposed to dengue fever.

Instead of dishonouring the deaths of six million in the past, climate deniers risk the lives of hundreds of millions in the future. Holocaust deniers are not responsible for the Holocaust, but climate deniers, if they were to succeed, would share responsibility for the enormous suffering caused by global warming.

It is a ghastly calculus, yet it is worth making because the hundreds of millions of dead are not abstractions, mere chimera until they happen. We know with a high degree of certainty that if we do nothing they will die.

But not everyone adopts a consequentialist ethic. An alternative ethical stance is to judge climate deniers not by the effects of what they do but by the rightness of their activities (a so-called duty ethic) or by their character and motives (a virtue ethic).

From a duty ethic position, the moral obligation climate deniers are violating is to the truth. Here there is a moral difference between denying the commission of a great crime, for which there are whole libraries of documentation, and rejecting the overwhelming evidence from science in which uncertainties nevertheless persist. This suggests that climate deniers are less culpable.

From a virtue ethic standpoint, moral culpability depends on motives. Attempting in good faith to uncover the facts is a good thing, which is why we regard genuine scepticism as healthy. Denialism is not scepticism but a refusal to accept the facts, the rejection of all of the evidence.

We think of Holocaust deniers as being immoral because we suspect them of being motivated by anti-Semitism or a desire for political advancement through stirring up racial hatred.

We think of climate deniers as being immoral because we suspect them of being motivated, not by truth-seeking, but by political goals, a desire for funds from fossil-fuel companies or personal aggrandisement.

Those who adopt a duty or virtue ethic would probably feel more personal antipathy towards a David Irving than towards an Ian Plimer or Andrew Bolt. There is something especially repugnant, even evil, about Holocaust denial. Denying or covering up a monstrous crime makes Holocaust deniers somehow complicit in it.

Better to have your daughter marry a climate sceptic, who is perhaps motivated by contrarianism, foolishness or self-importance rather than wickedness.

If, like me, you adopt a virtue or duty ethic, but one tempered by consideration of the consequences of an act, climate deniers are less immoral than Holocaust deniers, although they are undoubtedly more dangerous.

However, as the casualties from a warming world mount over the next decades, the denialism of those who continue to reject the scientific evidence will come to be seen as more and more iniquitous. So the answer to the question of whether climate denialism is morally worse than Holocaust denialism is no, at least, not yet.

Clive Hamilton is the Greens candidate in the Higgins by-election.

Clive Hamilton —

Clive Hamilton

Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University

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117 comments

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117 thoughts on “Hamilton: Denying the coming climate holocaust

  1. james mcdonald

    Yes, well I wouldn’t jump to conclusions just yet, it’s only been four days, and it can take up to about six months for these things to be all sorted out in the wash. I gather (though I’m not conversant in climate science) that the medium term cooling was later accounted for by shorter cycle factors, i.e. a temporary respite. I don’t know the details. If you’re familiar with oscillating functions, you’ll know they can be a sum of a range of component sine-wave functions with varying period, amplitude, and phase. The result can easily look like a meaningless squiggle, or appear to reverse the long term trend, until more data comes in. This is normal and it doesn’t surprise scientists, but it can annoy them no end when they know it’s going to be selectively quoted to a highly politicised audience, most of whom are scientifically illiterate (including many with “science degrees”.)

    All I’m saying here is don’t take a little piece of a puzzle as “proof” of anything on its own.

    As for deforestation, yes you have a very good point there.

    And foreign affairs, in general I would agree that countries should take care of their own affairs before interfering in others’.

  2. Bruce

    @Comments,
    I’m delighted that you’ve confessed up-front that you are a lunatic – along with the other sceptics – as it pre-warns everyone not to take your ramblings seriously. (“this so called human made Climate Change is a load of Bunk, as us lunatic “skeptics” have known all along”) It’s something I’d long suspected of you and your lot and the confession is just the evidence I need to discredit you completely.

    Or am I taking you out of context? Should not any selectively published information criminally stolen as part of a much larger tranche, and used entirely for the purpose of discrediting the authors, be interpreted carefully and in its original context?

    I have downloaded and read the article to which Trembath is refering in the “gotcha” email.
    http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2009/11/energydiagnostics09final.pdf
    Turns out the email is genuine, but it does not mean what you take it to mean. See also:
    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/11/climate-hack
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack-context/

    Trembath would like to account for the natural variability – the noise on top of the rising temperature signal. That noise makes it appear that warming has slowed or paused in the past decade, IF ONLY the (air) temperature record is taken into account.

    Other ways to measure climate change would be by the retreat of glaciers; the unprecedented decline in the summer Arctic ice cap; the increase in extreme weather, etc.

    A very important indicator of global warming that doesn’t show the apparent flattening of the temperature curve is ocean heat content. (see the first plot here:
    http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/sl_drives_longer.html)
    Yes it has variability (although this may be instrumental rather than natural), but it has clearly not plateaued. It is still going up. And the oceans drive the climate, so that’s where the temperature will be going in future.

    Now Trembath would like an explanation of the “natural variability”. Why has the temperature signal apparently plateaued recently? Temperature changes, even small ones, require the movement of heat. He is frustrated that climate science cannot yet link the energy in the climate system to the ups and downs, indeed the current “plateau”, in the measured air temperature.

  3. @Comments

    An addendum to my prior note…

    New York Times ( summary )

    Published: November 20, 2009
    Hundreds of private e-mail messages and documents hacked from a computer server at a British university are causing a stir among global warming skeptics, who say they show that climate scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change.

    The e-mail messages, attributed to prominent American and British climate researchers, include discussions of scientific data and whether it should be released, exchanges about how best to combat the arguments of skeptics, and casual comments — in some cases derisive — about specific people known for their skeptical views.

    In several e-mail exchanges, Kevin Trenberth, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and other scientists discuss gaps in understanding of recent variations in temperature.

    Skeptic Web sites pointed out one line in particular: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t,” Dr. Trenberth wrote

  4. @Comments

    The prior comments make for a fanciful read and all rather academic really. Like watching Parliament with nothing actually being achieved.

    James McDonald… “I assume we are causing a climate problem, because the scientific community says so. I believe the world needs to start placing a higher value on educated, accountable, scientific and academic expertise than it has done in the last century…..” Accountable ? To who exactly ?

    Noting firstly that a recent revelation out of the UK through disclosed emails from “Climate Scientists” has confirmed that that this so called human made Climate Change is a load of Bunk, as us lunatic “skeptics” have known all along…. Yes, we must prevent deforestation, I’m all for that. Yes we must start limiting our output of pollution, I’m all for that. Do we need to run around and turn everything off because we are killing mother earth with carbon emissions and introduce another Governmental institution called Emissions Trading – No. Kyoto was a farce as is Emissions Trading.

    Let’s take a more pragmatic look at this. A significant portion of the globe is overpopulated, living in squalled conditions, lacking resources, and are left to breed uncontrolled, while the rest of us are bombarded by television adverts seeking funds to prop us these unsustainable environments. Do I feel bad for those poor kids having to live like that ? You bet. Should it be happening, No it should not be. Is it “Climate Change” creating starvation ? Absolutely not.

    ….” Bringing about social-economic collapse will not solve any problem. It will result in mass starvation, war, pandemics … and exacerbate any climate-related problems we may be causing….”

    ….” and exacerbate any climate-related problems we may be causing….” Garbage.

    ….” then hundreds of millions of mostly impoverished people around the world would die from the effects of climate change.”….. So be it. Can the world continue to sustain such a population growth ? No.

    Pussy footing around the core issues is what got us here in the first place. No one had the spine to stand up and prevent massive logging and deforestation, and still don’t aka South America, nor manage trade with countries that have no regard for pollution control. Same goes for the Islamic issues. Just take a look at what’s happening all around us and as shown in this YouTube video that is doing the rounds at the moment. http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=RKgK-0HwN30

    Perhaps, being pragmatic here…., as we should have left the US Banks to sort themselves out, we need to leave these overpopulated “out-of-control” 3rd world countries to sort themselves out. If it means their Government’s standing up and taking responsibility for local conditions, or dying off, then so be it. It is a natural cycle. Something us humans need to accept for the common good. It is seen in many natural environments. And don’t tell me that this is what sets us apart from animals. We in fact could learn a lot from the animal world. How not to S**t in our own nest for starters.

    Scientifically, Climate Change as it is being touted as a “man made” phenomenon is a Rort. If there is starvation in Bangladesh and Etheopia, then stop procreating. If areas of India, Asia, and Miami, will be wiped out due to rising sea levels, then build a wall or move, but not to Australia, we have our own water shortages – due to population vs resource issues – not Climate Change.

  5. james mcdonald

    Hi Heathdon,

    Fair answer. Anyway, it was a way I had a bit of a laugh at myself which I thought I’d throw out there in case it was helpful, after you said “I dont know I don’t know”. I still don’t know either, I just stopped imagining that I could know better and took a leap of faith on the Enlightenment, imperfect as it is.

    Hi Harvey,

    My expressions of frustration were intended not so much to slur anyone as to protest at how this all has become an “us and them” thing. A war of words. The book I mentioned by Deborah Tannen explains how adversarial methods have become our standard way of seeking the truth even though they are useful only some of the time. The idea that “there are two sides to every story” has come to sound like a truism, but it’s not even true.

    I had also hoped to make the point that if this campaign is conducted as a war on big business, it will fail, whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter may be. If I’ve achieved nothing more than to make the matter even more divisive, then I hope a better intellect than mine, such as yours, can see that and can make the point better than I did.

    Hi Adam Neira,

    I don’t generally tick the box at the bottom to email me with follow-ups, so this is the only retrospective comment from you that I found. If there are others, please let me know.

    To answer your questions:

    (a) lately it’s all work and Crikey. The observation is well made and noted, thank you.
    (b) no … is anybody?
    (c) no … and congratulations, with that question you’ve got to the very heart of the matter.

    Bringing about social-economic collapse will not solve any problem. It will result in mass starvation, war, pandemics … and exacerbate any climate-related problems we may be causing.

    I assume we are causing a climate problem, because the scientific community says so. I believe the world needs to start placing a higher value on educated, accountable, scientific and academic expertise than it has done in the last century. I don’t necessarily hold that all academia has shown itself worthy of that level of reliance–in many ways it’s gone downhill from its zenith at the turn of the 19th-20th century–but among the alternatives are the pseudo-scientific movements that characterized the 1930s. I prefer to place some trust in the weight of informed reason, and expect them to rise to the challenge.

    In other words, if we successfully reform industry to a low-carbon model, and it turns out AGW was false and it was unnecessary, we will still have taken a step forward in the development of civilization, and we can move on from the dark age of the 20th century.

    Economically, I do not believe this requires making war on industry. First, everyone would lose such a war and it would defeat the whole exercise. Second, it is not necessary. There is a win-win way to accomplish these reforms and still have prosperity. We have only to stop tearing each others’ throats out and find it.

  6. Heathdon McGregor

    It and science are just different

    Dear Dr Tarvydas

    I agree

  7. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvevy M Tarvydas

    Heathdon McGregor, re your last entry, please understand that I respect commonsense as much as you do. It and science are just different and a lot of the later has become part of our modern western commonsense. Nature is science in the absolute honest sense then along comes man (of all kinds) making discoveries in his terms about nature and calls it his science. I revere nature for what it is and man’s quality efforts for trying hard to find out.
    Nature doesn’t need anyone to prove what it is but a story of ‘understanding’ of a bit of nature needs proof of some kind or another for the rest of us to trust and accept the story.

  8. Heathdon McGregor

    Dear James

    Sorry never read New Scientist, I was just raised that if you don’t understand ask. If the explanation doesn’t satisfy then ask again or ask somebody else. Never said I was right just said I don’t know.

    As for Quantum theory I don’t know enough, very little actually, to make any call. If it helps I did see what the bleep do we know and thought that string theory while sounding plausible was a bit like religion, we can’t prove it but we know its true. I might refer you to Dr Tarvydas’ reaction to the term common sense. Personally I admire science but it in no way diminishes my respect for common sense. Common sense has been around forever while science is how many hundred years old? Science followers may despise me but it’s just how I feel.

    Thanks for the link, I will investigate someday when I have time.

    Is there anything like there was in Darwin’s time where they are the acknowleged home of science?

  9. AdamNeira

    To James McDonald…

    In my brief auditing of the past Crikey postings by various contributers, your name comes up a hell of a lot. You seem to want to “get on top” of various contributers and corral them into a intellectual pen of your own choosing.

    Some questions for you…

    (a) Do you have a life away from Crikey.
    (b) Are you receiving any form of remuneration from those connected to the “Man Made Climate Change” movement.
    (c) Would you bet your life/house/all your assets on the absolute, incontrevertible proof of “Man Made Climate Change”.

    I await your response.

  10. janama

    The opposite to sceptic is gullible, a term that suits you perfectly Clive.

  11. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    James McDonald,
    your comment to Heathdon,
    “I’ve always had a good laugh at people who subscribe to New Scientist for a few years and then start challenging quantum theory. I’ve known a few like that.
    Just to be clear on something: quantum theory doesn’t make sense. Anyone who tells you it can be explained in a reasonable intuitive manner, doesn’t know it very well themselves. Einstein even found it preposterous ….. ”
    I have said it often even to Crikey “Science is not ‘common sense’, it does not make common sense it makes scientific sense to those who are able to receive it and that much science makes sense to the would be ordinary folk goes to show how much science sense has pervaded (admirably) our so called ‘common sense’.

  12. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    James McDonald,
    your comment to Duke,
    “Rudd’s CPRS legislation was never intended to work, I think he feels it’s enough to get the ball rolling and bring about a global big-government revolution, and the rest will solve itself. To that end, the quality of the legislation was neither here nor there,”

    shows insight, so congratulations, but you have abused it to validate allsorts of personal and convenient conclusions about players.
    Insight to a scientist leads to ideas, developing a theory to tie them together into an entity which reasonably could become real when both oneself and others with the theory in mind find the supporting evidence over time if possible.

  13. james mcdonald

    Heathdon,

    Sorry I’ll rephrase that, not to sound like such a deadbeat question. I’ve been unsure until recently myself about what to think, so I know what you mean. I didn’t come to a decision by reading enough explanation for it all to come clear. On the contrary, the more explanation I read the less clear it became.

    I’ve always had a good laugh at people who subscribe to New Scientist for a few years and then start challenging quantum theory. I’ve known a few like that.

    Just to be clear on something: quantum theory doesn’t make sense. Anyone who tells you it can be explained in a reasonable intuitive manner, doesn’t know it very well themselves. Einstein even found it preposterous, saying famously “God does not play with dice.” Schroedinger too found the emerging pattern ugly, where physics is always elegant. Yet quantum theory is very solidly supported, modern computer technology depends on it, and it has resisted all attempts by some of the world’s smartest people to disprove it.

    Nothing that a New Scientist subscriber can’t tackle though.

    At some point I realised I was one of those people. I was trying to understand the AGW theory all in my head, together with the objections to the hockey stick, the increasing Antarctic ice, the historical CO2 levels, the mediaval warming, Plimer’s unknown submarine volcanoes, and so on.

    I had become one of those people who read a few New Scientist articles and start challenging quantum theory. Upon realizing this I had a good laugh at myself and checked out what the majority of scientific organisations think.

    What I found is more or less summarized here. But it’s time well spent to do your own research–not of ice shelves and volcanoes, but:

    (a) what are the main respected scientific organisations in various fields (the genuinely authoritative, respectable ones, not just the ones that pay for top billing in a google search)

    (b) what are their position statements.

    Anyway, it worked for me. I hope this helps.

  14. james mcdonald

    Heathdon, Do you think quantum theory is real?

  15. Heathdon McGregor

    Evan, I know how you feel, had enough myself.

    Thank you for your considered reply. I used to note Bolt then I thought he is only there to provoke so I ignore that it is him and concentrate on what he is saying. Amazingly I sometimes thinks he at least will ask an unpopular question that needs asking even if the reasoning behind the question are abhorrent to me.

    I like Colleen McCullogh’s version of the internet, “good for bite size pieces of info to lead to further investigation but useless without the follow up.”
    Sorry for yammering

    Best wishes

  16. Evan Beaver

    Heathdon, sorry, I stopped checking this thread.

    I think a few people are confusing debate with explaining. Fair enough, you don’t understand some part of AGW. You want an open discussion to improve your understanding. Say you’re Andrew Bolt. But with Andrew, this is not a debate; he doesn’t have any contrary information to disprove the theory, all he has is a lack of understanding. So he identifies this as a lack of debate, while in fact it’s a lack of explanation. I can see why people tire of this, particularly with The Bolta, as he picks up a piece of information from the interweb, and declares it fact then defends it to the hilt. Others will point out why this is wrong, but he keeps coming back to it. He’s no use at all in a debate, and obstructionist in improving general understanding.

  17. jc123

    Hamilton:

    The Stern report provides some sobering estimates:

    Was Stern peer reviewed as someone recently asked.?Do you know the answer?

  18. MichaelT

    I wish you believers wouldn’t be so superior and patronising. You don’t have a lot to be superior about, judging by the quality of most of the discussion (with a few honourable exceptions).

  19. Heathdon McGregor

    @Evan

    I mean debate in that there are two differing opinions and the two sides are debating which is correct.

    I have used Einstein in the hope to promote that answers can come from anywhere, even the clerks office. I am trying to offer a different view to the constant rebuttal I get when Iask questions, which is along the lines of “the science is decided ask no more questions”

    What Iwould take from your interesing sounding gyroscope experiment is that he was right and it doesn’t matter how much money you spend he will still be right.

    This last line may amuse people who think I am a non believer but I just dont know and I haven’t had my Oh Shit moment. They may be right and whether a nuffy like me believes it or not doesn’t really matter.

  20. Braveheart

    Regarding the growing denialist /contrarian trend, I reckon there’s a Nobel Prize in Medicine beckoning for the psychologist who can figure out both why people act so irrationally when they feel so threatened by change, and also how to help them to stop doing it. See George Monbiot’s blog on this phenomenon at http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2009/11/02/death-denial/#more-1221

  21. Evan Beaver

    I guess we might be talking about different definitions of ‘debate’. It is certainly not a bunch of people sitting around talking; and definitely not a forum on the interweb.

    If by debate you mean someone has done experiments or analysed data, then written a paper that can be reviewed, then by all means. My understanding of the IPCC process is that it doesn’t do any science at all; they collate and review the available papers, argue about the relative merit of each then come to an agreed position in light of these arguments. It is not a discussion about what is happening, but a discussion of the relative merits of the methods used to reach these conclusions. It’s subtle, but very important.

    While Einstein’s methods/results may have been debated, they will not be overturned without experiment and peer review. Seen the info on the Einsteinian ‘Frame Shift’ experiment that is being run on a little satellite at the moment? After all these years, one of his theories has failed to be disproved by one of the slickest experiments I’ve ever seen. The most accurate gyroscope ever manufactured, spinning at 10,000rpm in a vacuum in space has proven that heavy objects distort the planes of space/time around them. Awesome.

  22. Heathdon McGregor

    @Evan

    Einstein didn’t debate anyone. He did experiments that were repeatable by others; wrote papers that were reviewed by his peers and provided theories that were falsifiable.

    Has this happened with Global Warming or have there been so many voices each saying that they are correct for different reasons that the arguement becomes muddied.

    Converly MichaelT, I’m suspicious of anyone who thinks science should be a debate.

    Personally I believe that is what science is, an ongoing debate. Which scientific fact has been the longest without having its meaning debated?Einstein himself has been debated since he published.

  23. Heathdon McGregor

    @John Bennetts

    You seem to speak for many others. I speak for myself. My point doesn’t require the backing of others, whether imagined or not.

    If you read my posts you may see that I dont avoid recognition of a dominant, widely backed consensus opinion once that has been reached… which in this case has happened. It has happened because you say so. I disagree. Sorry for that. I have laid out my questions about global warming previously. The most noted that we still have jet powered flight when burning fuels is apparently the main cause of global warming. Explain that one with your existing body of knowledge

    I believe we live in a smug age where so many people believe that we know everything. I dont and that is what I am saying. If Global Warming is real and things go as bad as the worst chicken little is saying then who is more at fault. the people who doubted and asked for proof or the people who wouldn’t deign to put forward an arguement that every body could understand because they were frustrated at not being believed just because they said so.

    I don’t know if global warming is real I dont know I don’t know I don’t know, just to be sure everybody got that.

    I do know that the arguements being out to the public by the believers is not getting through. I believe that if the planet is at stake then the answers could come from anywhere. Some on this thread believe that only experts can comment (Roger) That is the reason for the Einstein analogy, he would have been told to go back to the clerks office by some of the people who are so sure of themselves, yet he was a great physicist.

    If the answer to global warming came from a Latin American farmer would you believe him/her or would you need for your experts to agree?

  24. Evan Beaver

    Converly MichaelT, I’m suspicious of anyone who thinks science should be a debate.

    Einstein didn’t debate anyone. He did experiments that were repeatable by others; wrote papers that were reviewed by his peers and provided theories that were falsifiable.

  25. MichaelT

    @Heathdon – actually I think your Einstein anaogy is a good one. At the time he was a patent clerk he would certainly not have been recognised as an expert.

    My impression is that physics is more open to ideas out of left field (e.g. quantum theory) and pluralistic debate than some other scientific disciplines.

    I’m always suspicious of people who want to shut down debate.

  26. John Bennetts

    James McD’s recommendation re the Argument Culture book is worth a look.

    I have ordered a copy for my shelves. Who knows? It might make me an altogether nicer chap, if such a thing is possible.

  27. John Bennetts

    Perhaps the correct term is “minority opinion”. I care not.

    It is one thing to listen to alternative viewpoints; quite another to avoid recognition of a dominant, widely backed consensus opinion once that has been reached… which in this case has happened.

    I’m sure that many others who are convinced, right now, that the argument for GHG reduction is compelling, would be delighted and would indeed welcome an alternative conclusion, provided that it was founded on either new physical facts or a revolutionary and valid re-analysis of the existing body of knowledge.

    Endless debate about the currently demonstrated highly probable truths is not appropriate, due to the importance and urgency of a world-wide response which is the only logical next step in dealing with the GHG/AGW problem.

  28. james mcdonald

    Sorry, stuffed up the link. Let’s try that again: Argument Culture

  29. meski

    @John, regrettably, the best that mankind can offer, nuclear fission, appears to be relegated as inappropriate. So called[1] renewables aren’t going to be sufficient.

    [1] if you look at ‘renewables’ lots of them are inappropriate (ethanol? please! Photovoltaic? dirty, inefficient.)

  30. John Bennetts

    Heathdon,

    Surely I am not alone in seeking to move forward, even though this entails winners and losers in this great debate.

    Put simply, you, denier, apologist, dissenter, would-be authority, skeptic, septic, whatever, have lost the debate for the time being.

    Hence, for the greater majority of experts, citizens and lay thinkers, the obvious next step is to consider the available means to implement GHG reduction strategies. Scream from the sideline all you wish, but your demolished view of the world has simply not made it onto the team. Not selected. Not in the game.

    The real game is between GHG and the best that humankind can offer to deal with the threat of anthropogenic warming.

    Feel free to support further research and analysis by any means available, but please leave the rest of to do what we must do in a rational and considered manner.

    Emotional outbursts from well meaning but essentially foolish losers, seeking to argue the finer points of a definition or redefinition of the word “denier” ultimately do nobody any good.

    For the record, I deny that your position is appropriately one of a denier. Now, please get out of the way.

  31. Heathdon McGregor

    @Meski

    True

    Thank you

  32. meski

    An expert who happened to work at the patents office.

  33. Heathdon McGregor

    @Roger

    Huh?

    Was Einstein an expert or a patents clerk when he discovered the theory of relativity?

    Of course if he was a patents clerk then he was just not listening to the experts when he made this discovery. I believe as this debate affects us all then we all have a right to give our opinion. If you dont agree then go somewhere where you can have you correctness repeatedly confirmed. I would prefer to see different opinions whether I agree or not. But thats just me.

    Who are these trolls of who you speak? I only see people engaging in debate.

  34. meski

    @Roger: perhaps sceptic is a dignification, but by the same token, denier is derogatory. Dissenter seems more neutral.

    “Then the experts speak. And serious debate stops. ” Is that ever incorrect. Think of the number of “accepted” positions ‘experts’ have come up with that have later been overturned. But, and this is the important point, they need to be overturned, if they are going to be, by other experts, not layman in that particular subject. It concerns me that a lot of the experts are not experts in this particular field, so their opinions are mere appeals to authority.

    h t t p : / / en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority

    (remove the spaces)

  35. Roger Clifton

    Dear trolls: Use of the term “sceptic” to deniers is a dignification they (and perhaps you) do not deserve.

    When there is a debate in the community requiring evidence to resolve, we have always referred the matter to the relevant experts. Then the experts speak. And serious debate stops. After that point, anyone who questions the resolution just has not been listening.

    We have been warned that billions of lives are going to be in affected indefinitely into the distant future. Such a sober responsibility excludes any “right” to pollute. Any denial of the responsibility is unethical in exactly the same quality as those who deny the Holocaust. Unlike the victims of the past, our actions and inactions will vary the number of victims, so the quantity of guilt is worse.

    Beware the judgement of our grandchildren. Wilful stupidity may not be an acceptable excuse.

  36. Heathdon McGregor

    Dear Dikkii

    Yes its on the web so it must be true.

    I did not introduce the word skeptic(sorry about the spelling) but Mr Hamilton did.It is the second word he used. Perhaps you should refer your email to him. I prefer questioner but it still doesn’t change the point I was trying to make which is that it is just cheap point scoring that adds nothing to the arguement, which if you are a follower of Al Gore is the survival of the species.

    Using the holocaust is as dog whistle so I made up my own whistle.

    Perhaps instead of proving how much smarter than those that arent followers the followers should spend more time adapting their arguements for all.

  37. Dikkii Webb

    “If it is OK to paint the sceptical in the same light as holocaust deniers is it then OK to paint the GW faithful as mindless Nazis following the speeches and philosophy of Mein Furher unquestionably?”

    Heathdon, if you’re suggesting that global warming denialists are even remotely skeptical, than I suggest that you read this:

    http://skepticblog.org/2009/09/29/economic-triage-for-global-climate-change/

    Followed by this:

    http://www.skepdic.com/climateskeptics.html

    Finally, check out this and see if global warming makes an appearance in this list:

    http://www.skeptics.com.au/about/us/things-we-are-sceptical-of/

    And then please stop this charade about being “skeptical”.

  38. the duke

    to true Bruce…

    I wonder whether Garrett has ever considered that joining the ALP was a mistake? I know that his rationale was that you can have more of an impact at a major party, but….. after Rudd previously issuing a gag order to him and I’d say, Rudd & others within the ALP are probably running his portfolio and he is merely the front man for publicity purposes.

    Given the seats that the Greens won at the last election and with the potential of winning more at the coming election, I wonder whether he has reservations about the ALP?

    Black Russian – Before I moved to London I was a resident within the Higgins electorate.. For the Greens to have a hope in hell of winning that seat is being kind!

  39. Bruce

    Hi MichaelT
    I use the Realclimate because they provide links to substantive pieces of work, which I don’t have time to dig up myself. You can follow that through if you choose.
    Scenario C was not a ‘no cause for concern’ scenario, but one where forcing stopped in 2000. The point is that a signal from a 5 (or so) year halt in forcing is difficult to distinguish from one where forcing continues unabated. Scenario C is not a no effect of GHGs situation.

    “While all the forcings (including solar) and scenarios pointed the same way …”
    Solar forcing influences climate, but we are close to a solar minimum when solar forcing is at its lowest in the 11 year cycle (http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/SolarCycle/SC24/index.html) so solar forcing currently points opposite to GHGs.

    “The real test of the scenarios will come after they deviate…”
    No the real test is from analyses like the plot presented on page 8 of this document:
    http://www.csiro.au/files/files/pp3c.pdf
    That show the causes of the observed warming are not adequately explained by natural factors, but anthropogenic factors (esp. GHGs) must be included.
    But this is only a tiny part of a vast and growing body of evidence.

    “It may be easier in the future.” Yes, in hindsight the causes of a catastrophe are often much clearer and utterly useless in averting that catastrophe.

    “But this level of uncertainty is not an acceptable basis for taking emergency action to dismantle our existing energy supplies within a decade.”

    The uncertainty of natural feedbacks and non-linearities is natural feedbacks and non-linearitieson the up-side. Even without this the prognosis is dire. A cost benefit analysis of the risk catastrophic climate change vs doubling or tripling current energy prices would probably suggest that a tiny probability of such a catastrophe is worth emergency action. Unless of course you only count money, not suffering and discount future values to tiny amounts. Economists have amazing ways of dismissing externalities like the future of civilisation.

  40. Heathdon McGregor

    James-You are right and it doesn’t

    MichaelT-No problem as a doctors opinion is not normally enforced by law and you have a personal relationship with them.

  41. MichaelT

    By the way I always critically evaluate my doctor’s recommendations and try and make sure it is soundly based. I don’t always do what doctor tells me to, and I would advise anyone else to follow the same approach!

  42. MichaelT

    At last someone has addressed the real issues!

    Bruce, the Realclimate post you link to is a substantive piece of work. I guess my problem with it is that the actual observational data up until the date of the post (2007) are consistent both with Hansen’s Scenario B and with his Scenario C (which is the ‘no cause for concern’ scenario).

    The real test of the scenarios will come after they deviate, which is over the next decade. And we will then also be able to judge to what extent observation follows the calculated forcings, and thus be able to see whether their projected effects tally with their actual effects.

    While all the forcings (including solar) and scenarios pointed the same way it was difficult to come to definitive conclusions about what was driving the global climate. It may be easier in the future.

    You say yourself: “The natural feedbacks and non-linearities that are already starting and will one day dominate global warming are extremely difficult to predict.” Exactly (although I would have thought feedbacks and non-linearities were always the big issue, not just starting now). But this level of uncertainty is not an acceptable basis for taking emergency action to dismantle our existing energy supplies within a decade.

  43. james mcdonald

    Heathdon, it’s not a question of whether it’s OK. It’s a question of whether it will achieve anything.

  44. Heathdon McGregor

    If it is OK to paint the sceptical in the same light as holocaust deniers is it then OK to paint the GW faithful as mindless Nazis following the speeches and philosophy of Mein Furher unquestionably?

    No didn’t think so.

  45. james mcdonald

    Arlen, to elaborate on my last sentence. Tony Kevin suggested in his excellent article yesterday:

    “To drive such a decarbonisation process, the government could give coal-power owners an economic stake in renewable energy by giving them government-funded alternative energy grid bonds, as compensation for asset values of closed-down coal-power stations.”

    The future sustainable energy sector will require a huge amount of capex before it becomes profitable. And even when it does become profitable, the mining companies stand to lose their competetive advantage over anyone else who can set up the right sort of solar collector or wind farm. The future profits might be for anybody, not necessarily those fighting the CPRS now.

    Unless … government stops the moral grandstanding and starts getting serious about means and ends. Use both the carrot and the stick. For every dollar that CPRS costs a company, don’t just slip them some cash to cover it, that’s moronic. Instead, entities most heavily affected by carbon tax could be compensated with double the value of those costs in taxpayer subsidies for developing carbon-reducing technologies. This would allow the biggest carbon payers an opportunity to dominate the infrastructure and patents of the future.

  46. Arlen

    I don’t disagree with you at all there, but my point is that the coal industry as a whole is not an entity with any special rights to anything. Yes they (the wealthy owners, executives etc.) are receiving special treatment and are largely behind the the effort to thwart any real action on climate change, but that’s not to be accepted. It’s outrageous! The government should be acting in the interests of the people of Australia rather than wealthy “rent-seekers”. I don’t see how there can be any self-interested reason for the coal industry to do anything other than mine and export coal, the notion is oxymoronic. Please do tell me what your last sentence means? What would getting the job done in the real world look like to you?

    ,,,just to clarify my stance on nuclear. I am confident that if the Greens were to pursue nuclear power it would be because of the mountain of evidence supporting the decision (in terms of the fallibility of renewables and technological advancement) and it would be done in the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions whereas I have no faith that anything proposed by Labor or Liberal would be anything other than another grand exercise in “rent-seeking”.

  47. Bruce

    MichaelT
    “The two cases you have chosen are ones where there probably is ‘consensus’, as opposed to continuing scientific debate. ”
    Well there is a scientific consensus about global warming. Most of the remaining debate is unscientific, particularly if you are referring to contributions by the likes of Ian Plimer and Bob Carter.

    The climate models do not yet have a great track record of accurate forecasting (especially having missed the flat temperature trend of the last 10 years). It’s highly questionable whether they represent all the drivers of climate change that have operated over thousands of years to a level of accuracy that would prevent major errors in forecasts over the next 100 years, let alone beyond. If we can’t trust their 10-year forecasts, how can we trust their 100-year forecasts? It’s no use saying that longer-range forecasts are more reliable. That has to be demonstrated, not asserted on the basis of theory, through successful validation.”

    Firstly let’s define terms more precisely. What you are calling a forecast is what climate scientists would call a projection, itself usually based on a number of assumptions. A forecast is the “most likely projection”, such as a weather forecast.

    Now in 1988 James Hansen published a temperature projection based on business as usual (BAU). He presented his results to the in a testimony to the US congress. In 2007 he revisited that forecast, and found it was pretty much spot on – in fact mean global temperatures had tracked his projection closer than one would expect given the uncertainties in the projection. See:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/hansens-1988-projections/

    Now that’s nearly a 20-year track record for a projection – not bad eh! That’s why James Hansen is truly worried about climate change.

    Now the so-called “flat trend” of the past ten years is a red herring created by climate deniers (yes deniers, as they are smart enough to know they are deliberately misleading). It depends only on one measure of global warming, and it depends on cherry picking a starting date. I’m a statistician and these are highly unsatisfactory abuses of data analysis.
    See for example:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/11/mind-the-gap/

    No climate scientists claims there will be a smoothly increasing average global temperature, just an increasing trend, with noise on top of that. The year 1998 – a strong El Nino year, is a high. Why not start measuring in a recent low year?
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/01/uncertainty-noise-and-the-art-of-model-data-comparison/

    As to the accuracy of 100 year projections. Yes there are huge uncertainties, but all the modeling predicts temperatures will go up and the consequences will be bad. Most of the uncertainty is on the up side. The natural feedbacks and non-linearities that are already starting and will one day dominate global warming are extremely difficult to predict. By the time we understand them enough to predict them accurately humanity have lost the chance to stop catastrophic climate change. It is possible that it is already too late.

    So make your choice. Listen to the doctor’s scientific advice or go to the witch doctor. But please do not lumber the rest of us with the consequences of your lack of judgment.

  48. james mcdonald

    Arlen, “what is the coal industry other than a collection of normal Australians trying to make a living”

    What they are, is they are probably a significant reason why Kevin Rudd’s CPRS has been watered down with “compensation” to the extent that no one thinks it will achieve anything. I’m not sure if even Rudd has actually claimed it will achieve anything. No doubt strong business lobbying, “rent seeking” as Crikey calls it, has carried the day, as it will do again, and again, and again, unless they are given a self-interested reason to do otherwise.

    At some point the environmental lobby will have to choose between righteous indignation and getting the job done in the real world.

  49. Arlen

    MichaelT, I do hope you had a look through the comments, as the more serious criticisms are debated there. I think the fact they published their paper in the obscure “Energy and Environment” tells us something about how seriously considered they want their paper to be though. And from Gavin’s bio: “Gavin Schmidt is a climate modeller at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and is interested in modeling past, present and future climate…”.

    James, what is the coal industry other than a collection of normal Australians trying to make a living (excluding the fat cats at the top of course)? What makes it an entity that deserves anything at all? It exists for our benefit, we owe it nothing. If we can prosper and live better without it then we damn well should! “Those who currently control the energy resources” have no more right to determine our future than you or me. For the record, I am a cautious supporter of the kind of nuclear energy promoted by Prof. Barry Brook, but I would rather the Greens no nuclear energy policy to any half-baked nuclear energy plan concocted by the major parties.

  50. MichaelT

    Bruce, your own analogy is not great.

    The two cases you have chosen are ones where there probably is ‘consensus’, as opposed to continuing scientific debate. The climate models do not yet have a great track record of accurate forecasting (especially having missed the flat temperature trend of the last 10 years). It’s highly questionable whether they represent all the drivers of climate change that have operated over thousands of years to a level of accuracy that would prevent major errors in forecasts over the next 100 years, let alone beyond. If we can’t trust their 10-year forecasts, how can we trust their 100-year forecasts? It’s no use saying that longer-range forecasts are more reliable. That has to be demonstrated, not asserted on the basis of theory, through successful validation.

  51. John Bennetts

    So the good Friar wants “a single overwhelming scientific fact that supports significant human contribution to climate change”.

    So do we all.

    Unfortunately, like many things, the situation is not so simple. Humans have developed (weere created with?) pretty well developed analytical skills, based on large memories, complex brains and so forth.

    Is it not reasonable to ask a Man of God to use these powers to observe the world around him, including the writings of others and to weigh these inputs against the credendials and reputations of the authors?

    As a man of learning, although in this case, learning about invisible friends in the sky, the Friar has drawn upon others’ writings to inform his own opinions and to educate others in the ways of God-bothering.

    Friar, exercise your intellect, exercise your brain and explore the whole subject. To seek such a single knockout factiod is somewhat similar to my desire, sadly not yet satisfied, to see the words “Made by G-O-D” imprinted somewhere on every living thing. It would certainly give me cause to reconsider my own lack of faith but, sadly, I am still waiting for this one, conclusive, simple message.

    That would be pretty easy for an omniscient being, surely?

  52. Bruce

    MichaelT
    “I could go on and on about the holes in Clive’s position and the offensive comparisons between sceptics and holocaust deniers, but I am trying to restrain myself and will just comment on one aspect.”

    I think this is the major problem here – the analogy is lost in the offense caused to some.

    “It is utterly unfair to compare a group of people who stubbornly deny the reality of something that has actually happened in the past with another group who cast doubt on something which is essentially a prediction of the future. The past is partially and relatively knowable. The future is fraught with uncertainty and anyone who ventures to make future predictions should do so with a bit of humility.”

    There are limits to our knowledge of both the past and future – some future events are very much deterministic. Will the sun rise tomorrow? My knowledge of the Holocaust has been gained through historical accounts, which could be incorrect or biased. But in my judgment a fair evaluation of the evidence leads me to the conclusion that this awful event indeed happened.

    “I draw everyone’s attention to the paper by Green and Armstrong: “Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists versus Scientific Forecasts”, available from: http://www.forecastingprinciples.com/files/WarmAudit31.pdf

    From the abstract of this paper, “Claims that the Earth will get warmer have no more credence than saying that it will get colder.” This is patently wrong as a simple analogy will reveal.

    If you are a long term heavy smoker and I warn you based on accumulated scientific knowledge that you will almost certainly suffer health consequences if you do not stop, does my statement carry no credence? Or if you have an early stage melanoma and your doctor warns you that based on scientific study of that disease, you must have it removed or it will almost certainly kill you, does that statement carry no credence?

  53. james mcdonald

    Bogdanovist: “the Greens have … some things I disagree with, such as the blanket refusal to consider Nuclear”

    That’s not a minor detail. That’s a philosophical chasm which destroys their credibility in my eyes. It reveals that they are torn between two only partly-overlapping objectives: reversing climate damage, and remodelling the world for their aesthetic preferences. I’ll tell you why.

    The Greens want the energy-intensive sector, particularly the coal sector, to give their profitable future. (Incidentally, we have all profited from coal, not just a few overpaid directors.) And the Greens want them to give it up for the greater good, for altruism, without receiving anything in return. The Greens claim (probably rightly) that the new energy industry will also be profitable. But profitable for whom? The new sustainable energy industry so far offers no competitive advantages to those who currently control the energy resources. To be part of the energy future, they will have to build the same sort of wind farms or solar collectors that any Tom Dick and Harry can build.

    What sort of example do the Greens make, when it comes to giving up that which is dear to them? A show of good faith? They will not even consider giving up their aesthetic loathing of nuclear power. One of the few things that could be offered to the Australian mining industry as a replacement competitive advantage after coal.

  54. Mr Pastry

    I have started going to secret, underground meetings where we discuss just the possibility of climate science fallability. In our secret room behind the fire place we are scared, not of the possibility of impending warming, but being caught not following the IPCC scriptures. If they find us we will surely be hung drawn and quartered or at least pilloried as mentally unwell and banished. They want us out of the way for good, for ever. The rabid scorn that is shown by the true believers is the new Catholic Church and probably now more powerful. They have direct access to government ears all over the world and their intolerance of other beliefs scares the shit out of me. It is no longer about climate but control.

  55. Bruce

    the duke
    “I, like so many other people now, am so disillusioned with Rudd that I am starting to question whether he really believes in the environmental debate.”

    To Rudd, Wong, etc global warming is a political problem. The don’t personally come close to grasping the full nature of the problem. I think that will change over time and I’m hoping that Rudd as one of the key people intended to persuade other politicians will eventually bring him round.

    I suspect only Peter Garrett comes close to really getting climate change. He must be wondering whether his Faustian bargain will ever pay off. Will he ever be able to lead the environment debate from within the Labor party?

  56. Frank Campbell

    Haven’t seen any rebuttal of this sermon from Guy Rundle. Come on, Hunter S, I can’t believe you’d swallow this bunch of fish-hooks…

  57. Frank Campbell

    “Better to have your daughter marry a climate sceptic, who is perhaps motivated by contrarianism, foolishness or self-importance rather than wickedness.”

    What a patronising, infantile rant from our very own Savonarola. This fascistic moralising is precisely what subverts rational action on global warming. Most people (look at the polls) are already reacting against this threat to democracy- Hamilton has said elsewhere that democratic process may need to be “suspended”. He’d better watch out- he could find himself suspended, in several senses.

  58. Black Russian

    I’m looking forward to see the results of the Higgins by-election because it will clearly show percentage of mad people living there – people who will give their vote for Clive Hamilton and the Greens.

  59. MichaelT

    Arlen – thanks for drawing my attention to RealClimate’s critique of the Green and Armstrong audit of climate forecasting.

    Gavin, the RealClimate blogger (not ‘some actual climate scientists’) has done his own hatchet job, giving the impression that Green and Armstrong have based their case entirely on reading one chapter of the IPCC report. In fact they surveyed 240 climate scientists asking them to nominate the best papers for climate forecasting. They then audited 23 papers nominated by the respondents, as well as two chapters from IPCC. They focussed on the IPCC chapters because these were regarded by the respondents as the most credible sources of climate forecasts available.

    Gavin from RealClimate has dashed off a polemical response that fails to engage with almost all of the substantive points raised by Green and Armstrong in a very detailed and considered paper.

  60. AdamNeira

    Millions of words have been written on this subject over the last two years or so. Here are seven more…

    “Man-Made Climate Change” is a myth.

  61. Friar Hilarius

    Good Morning

    Count me as a climate agnostic

    Interestingly no one seems to be able to quote a single overwhelming scientific fact that supports significant human contribution to climate change

    I would like to see clear evidence that humans caused and can correct what is far more likely to be normal non-human variation in climate

    Once I have before me one clear and overwhelming scientific fact confirming that human activity has been a significant component of climate change I may commence a process of repentance

    I need to be convinced that natural variation in climate is not overwhelmingly greater than any puny human efforts to hold back the tides of natural change

    If we are powerless in the face of nature then higher charges for energy and pollution are simply a fraud, unless they can be shown to make a difference that approaches in value the economic hardship these charges may cause

    Once the proof is available in clear incontrovertible terms I will consider changing my position

    Please understand that I am comfortable with avoiding pollution effects in economically justifiable ways. Sewers were a great invention. I just resent being over-charged for simple and effective solutions to pollution by fanatical climate change fundamentalists

    Just one clear incontrovertible fact please to support your case for excessive charges

    Friar Hilarius

  62. the duke

    Arlen – I am not anti greens, far from it actually. I am just saying that compared to the ALP and the Coalition, their policies are usually far too aggressive to be considered – such as their proposed emission cuts of 40% (or whatever it is) by 2020. Some people may say that the Greens just illustrate how corrupt the major parties are. But thats their mandate, I know, to remediate and do whats best for the environment based on their own indepenant research.

  63. Bogdanovist

    Arlen, that question is often asked but rarely answered. There seems to be an assumption that the Greens are simply raving loonies unwashed hippies etc etc which is a view that sticks regardless of what they do or say. While I don’t agree with all of the Green’s policies, I do try and take the time to actually look at them.

    When it comes to Climate Change, the Greens have at present a particularly good set of well thought out, effective, workable and balanced policies. There are some things I disagree with, such as the blanket refusal to consider Nuclear (not that Nuclear is a cure all by any means, but in my view has a role to play in a comprehensive green power solution) but by and large the Greens have clearly thought through the issues and come up with practical solutions backed by solid evidence.

    While I see plenty of flippant dismisals of the Greens, I’m yet to see any specific critique of their proposed CPRS ammendmants. I’m not holding my breath either. Unfortunately given the current Senate numbers it would be pointless for the Government to negotiate with the Greens since they’d also have to get Pheelding on side.

  64. Arlen

    The Duke, What do you mean by “Brown exceeds the boundary of realism”? What of the Greens’ proposed amendments to the CPRS, widely considered the most sensible of the lot? Not just more of the empty “extreme green” rhetoric I hope.

  65. Arlen

    MicahelT, maybe you’d be interest in what some actual climate scientists think of “Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists versus Scientific Forecasts”: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/07/green-and-armstrongs-scientific-forecast/

  66. the duke

    James – global warming isn’t so bad, it does bring brilliant weather to London from time to time… just not the past week however… If we could find somewhere in between the Greens and the major parties, we might actually formulate a good policy. Rudd doesn’t know who he is, Turnbull can’t control his class room and Brown exceeds the boundary of realism. If we could find a Luxembourg in between, we are in business!

  67. thedukeofmadness

    Clive Hamilton is living proof why Rupert Murdoch should be able to censor the interenet.

    You frighten me Mr. Hamilton, and I don’t frighten easily.

  68. Bogdanovist

    @John Bennetts, don’t worry about Gaia, she’s a tough girl and able to take all that Mankind could possibly throw at her at more. Life will persist on Earth for Billions of years to come regardless of what we do. It’s a common misconception that enviromentalism is about ‘saving the planet’ (of course a myth perpetuated by many environmentalists) in fact it’s all about saving the species. Life will go on, that is assured, the question is whether humans will be part of that, and how well those humans will live. We can make the globe extremely uncomfortable for us, possibly even eventually uninhabitable, but life in some form would still go on.

  69. james mcdonald

    Duke,

    Rudd’s CPRS legislation was never intended to work, I think he feels it’s enough to get the ball rolling and bring about a global big-government revolution, and the rest will solve itself. To that end, the quality of the legislation was neither here nor there, he just wanted to appear on the global stage with a working piece of law to wave around in the air.

    Malcolm Turnbull, I think, actually takes the problem more seriously than Rudd does. Interesting that in spite of interest from CSIRO, NFF and others, Rudd showed no interest in soil carbon sequestration, and Turnbull had to bargain with him to get farmer incentives included.

    Dikkii,

    By compromises I don’t mean watering down the requirements. I mean coming up with carrots as well as sticks to offer to big business, especially the coal miners. Making some deals that might be unpalatable to the Clive Hamiltons of this world, who would probably like to see the mining giants fall down one of their own mineshafts. Though some may wish it, this isn’t going to become the pretext for some kind of garden-of-eden revolution. It just doesn’t work that way.

  70. John Bennetts

    Dunno ’bout you lot, but Green is starting to sound better than CPRS/Labor or NO CPRS/Liberal or WHAT-ME-WORRY/Nat.

    We shouldn’t be made to apologise for using strong analogies when it is the future of Gaia that is at stake.

  71. Sean

    Agreed, Michael T and Marcerin.

  72. jc123

    Interesting comments, Clive. It was only recently that you suggested the only way we could deal with AGW was the suspension of democratic government and now you’re here accusing sceptics of being like nazis. Have you any shame at all?

    You’re the one promoting totalitarian government and you’re accusing sceptics of being like what you advocate. This is a new low even for you.

    This was you saying this, right?

    ….that we look to any possible scenario to head it off, including the canvassing of emergency responses such as the suspension of democratic processes.

    It was also only recently that you were strongly advocating for internet censorship. How on earth you could say you’re representing the Greens is beyond me. Perhaps a version of One nation next time?

  73. Bogdanovist

    I take your point Evan, that kind of it’s-not-so-bad mentality is probably at least as dangerous as outright denial. But I do think that anything that comes across as “OMG we’re all going to die!” is much easier to ignore than something less extreme, regardless of the truth of the matter and regardless of how well argued the case is.

    But yes, having said all that, it appears that there is no good way to get the message across to a solid minority of people. Plus Human nature is inherently tribal (it’s an evolutionary blink of an eye since we where all hunter gatherers) and it is appallingly difficult to get people to give up small comforts to save the lives of someone from another tribe. Of course, it’s not as though we are not threatened ourselves, just not as existentially as some other countries.

  74. Evan Beaver

    Bogdanovist, I don’t think the comfortably outraged position exists. I’ve heard quite a few ‘the sea level will only rise 1m in 100 years’ or ‘2 or degrees warmer? That sounds fine. Should take the edge off the Canberra winter. Ho ho ho.’

    I like the ruling classes analogies above. It is very difficult to motivate people who are not affected by something. Human nature. God we’re lazy and selfish.

  75. Dikkii Webb

    James,

    1. Your first point is precisely why I asked is this a legitimate debate. We saw similar tactics used to alarming effect in the States a couple of years ago during the creationism wars. It was part of a tactic that the Discovery Institute called, “Teach the Controversy™.” That is, talk up a controversy where one does not exist.

    2(a). Here’s where I stand on “respectful” language: We can either use it or not. Neither will make a difference, particularly to the lunatic fringe who will not be convinced. I simply prefer to call a spade a spade, because it avoids confusion.

    2(b). On compromises: Two plus two does not equal three, nor will someone persuade me to compromise and agree that it does. I’m willing to change my mind, but the other side is going to have to come up with a bitchin’ argument as to why it equals anything other than four.

    It took a court to shut creationism down in the states a couple of years ago. It took the judge in that case to come out and describe participants of the Dover Area School Board for what they were: Liars.

    You can see why I’m not greatly convinced of the merits of sugar-coating wingnuts, but it’s all fine by me as long as they @#$%ing well stop calling themselves “skeptics”.

  76. Bogdanovist

    There is a great and pertinent quote from Neal Stephenson’s novel “Zodiac” (about an eco-warrior, direct action environmentalist trying to stop the pollution of Boston harbour) which goes like this:

    “And I hadn’t even told him the truth. Actually, the shit coming out of Basco’s pipes was a hundred thousand times more concentrated than was legally allowed. … That kind of thing goes on all the time. But no matter how many diplomas are tacked to your wall, give people a figure like that and they’ll pass you off as a flake. You can’t get most people to believe how wildly the eco-laws get broken, but if I say “More than twice the legal limit,” they get comfortably outraged.”

    Hamilton’s comparison with the Holocaust is indeed apt. In the Holocaust at least 6 Million people were killed due to the direct actions of a group of people (and many more were displaced, left physically and emotionally scared etc). By contrast, there is clear evidence that with a high degree of certainly, inaction on carbon emmissions will cause many times the deaths and displacements. I’m just re-phrasing Hamilton, his arguements are not hysterical despite what many of the above comments are claiming.

    Despite that, I think, in reference to the Stephenson quote, that invoking the Holocaust is a bad bad tactic no matter how carefully worded. It doesn’t matter how clearly you state the comparison, you’ll always come across as mad and flaky to those who don’t want to read too closely. The truth of what climate science predicts is so utterly terrifying that it sounds like it must be hyperbole and people seem to switch off and find some justification, however flimsy, for ignoring it. We need to somehow hit that “comfortably outraged” trigger, even if that means presenting the situation as less frigtening than it really is, ironically that just might work better than simply stating the truth

  77. the duke

    I agree with you 100% James.

    The whole enivronmental argument has been too over politicised now anyway.

    I, like so many other people now, am so disillusioned with Rudd that I am starting to question whether he really believes in the environmental debate. I am starting to believe that MT is more fair dinkum about the environment than Rudd is…..!

    Whilst everyone has the right to reserve judgement, I may be one of them, taking out a little insurance policy to protect the environment won’t harm anybody. If we can afford to pay premiums attached to Landlords and Income Protection Insurance, I am sure we have something in our heart for the environment!

  78. james mcdonald

    Dikkii,

    1. Most of the scientific community seem to believe that the debate is well and truly over, which is good enough for me. Others don’t think so, but an increasing proportion of them are people for whom it will never be over.
    If the whole thing can be made attractive to business at taxpayer expense, then I think a lot of the recalcitrants will suddenly experience a road-to-Damascus change of heart (comprising a vision of money, rather than Paul’s tableau of fish, but that’s how the world works). See Tony Kevin’s article today, Crikey, item 16 for some good ideas on that side of things.

    2. Malcolm Turbull said in a recent Alan Jones interview, “You want to go out there on the climate sceptic platform, believe me you’ll get about 15 per cent of the people voting for you.”
    I think there’s a law of diminishing return convincing people of something. It will take more effort to convince the the next 10 per cent of people than it did the preceding 50 per cent. The last 10 per cent will never be convinced. But they will accept sooner or later that we can’t always get what we want. The important thing now is to make it attractive to big business, not punters. And for that, you need to use respectful language and pragmatic compromises.

  79. Dikkii Webb

    Hi James,

    Your judge analogy is a good one. The problem remains twofold:

    1. Is there a legitimate debate? There doesn’t appear to be one in science anymore; and
    2. Do any of the current dissenters accept that they’ve been outvoted?

    Liked your italicising of “was” and the “when the debate is over” bits, by the way.

  80. Tim nash

    Why is it harmful to ask questions? And what does it matter what the outcome is.
    Nobody has a crystal ball, the future could be bad but there’s a chance it may not be so bad
    We don’t know.
    Environmentalists use science to show us that climate change is real.
    It is ironic that the same science, that helped create the over populated state of the world, and much of the pollution also shows us what damage humans have done.
    Why can’t we use the same science that caused the problems to fix the problems.
    Nothing cannot be done, human kind has done some amazing things…let’s not be negative.

  81. MichaelT

    Oh lordy, lordy – here we go again!

    I could go on and on about the holes in Clive’s position and the offensive comparisons between sceptics and holocaust deniers, but I am trying to restrain myself and will just comment on one aspect.

    It is utterly unfair to compare a group of people who stubbornly deny the reality of something that has actually happened in the past with another group who cast doubt on something which is essentially a prediction of the future. The past is partially and relatively knowable. The future is fraught with uncertainty and anyone who ventures to make future predictions should do so with a bit of humility.

    I draw everyone’s attention to the paper by Green and Armstrong: “Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists versus Scientific Forecasts”, available from: http://www.forecastingprinciples.com/files/WarmAudit31.pdf

    Green and Armstrong are prominent members of the International Institute of Forecasters. They have audited papers containing climate forecasts (including the IPCC Expert Working Group’s Fourth Assessment Report) against the Institute’s long-established principles of good practice in forecasting. They conclude that: “The forecasts in the Report were not the outcome of scientific procedures.” They go on to say: “We have been unable to identify any scientific forecasts of global warming.”

    Beware the prophecies of the righteous!

  82. james mcdonald

    Dikkii:

    “The only thing I don’t like about [the alternative word “dissenter”] is that it gives the appearance of a legitimate debate when some would suggest that an “artificial controversy” has been generated. Which can be problematic.”

    The context I’ve most heard the word “dissent” is in law (I’m not a lawyer), when a dissenting judge sets down for the record his/her reasons for disagreeing with the rest of the bench, but still accepts being outvoted.

    The main point being, there was a legitimate debate, but the phrase “dissenting judge” only becomes applicable when that debate is over.

  83. Roger Clifton

    Liz45 has identified a source of moral strength: the certainty that we will be judged by our grandchildren.

    If you consider that the rightness of an action can be sensed by how we imagine that some respected reference group would respond, the correctness of our in/actions today can be guided by how we can expect to be seen in the future.

    In this sense, those who resist the moral imperatives of climate change today can be likened to those who tolerated the Holocaust while it was happening.

  84. Liz45

    Don’t forget those who are using global warming for pushing the nuclear buttons(sorry, couldn’t resist). I’m almost a screaming, frustrated wreck. I hate to think what’s going to happen in the future. I can’t do anything about it except vote for the Greens as NO 1 at the next election/s – which I have for some time anyway. What else can I do? Apart from sending emails, being familiar with what’s going on, and doing a lot of ‘wishing’? I wish it was not true, I wish I could just vote and fix it, and I wish it would all go away! I wish I didn’t have the feeling, that my grandkids and everyone else’s too, are really going to hate us in a few years – 10, 15, 20?

  85. Kevin Hogarth

    I agree with Meski that analogising climate sceptics to holocast deniers is something that we should all avoid in order to keep the debate rational. Perhaps a more apt parallel with todays climate change deniers is that of the ‘smoking causes cancer’ deniers that abounded in the 50’s and 60’s when science had not proven to everyone’s satisfaction that a causal link existed.

    Hoagy

  86. Bruce

    I take a denier as someone who resorts to denialism to justify their position. Wikipedia has a good definition of this fundamentally irrational process:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denialism

    This should not be confused with denial, itself is a psychological mechanism used to avoid having to confront difficult facts/situations.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial

    I think so-called climate sceptics resent being called deniers (denialists?) because it suggests irrationality or even bad faith, while scepticism is an important component of science. I also doubt David Irving would describe himself as a “Holocaust Denier”.

    I may personally retain some scepticism or doubt about elements of climate science because I’m trained to evaluate the quality of evidence. But that level of scepticism is trivial compared to my level of confidence that anthropogenic climate change is real and dangerous.

    I have little doubt that “climate deniers risk the lives of hundreds of millions in the future”, but the best we can do now is name and shame them.

  87. D. John Hunwick

    Thanks Clive for clarifying the position of the sceptics and denialists. MY only comment is that the figures of future catastrophe are far too low. As water becomes a contraint, as food becs more expensive, as carbon-based energy supplies wilt in the heat, there will be an outbreak of civil disobedience that won’t hesitate to become violent. The responses by nature to what is happening will prove to be largely unpredictable – and then we will really know the cost of not listening to the best available scientific advice.

  88. Dikkii Webb

    Hi Jim,

    For the record, I reacted badly to this because I’m sick of climate change deniers using the “I’m no holocaust revisionist” as a podium to legitimise their positions. I felt that Hamilton was played like a fiddle in actually using it in this post.

    I also object to the use of the term “climate skeptic”. The media and politicians have dropped the ball on this one.

  89. Jamie Reeves

    Hi Jim – Just for the record I believe the majority scientific opinion re climate change: we’re (especially our kids) in some deep shit. I reacted badly to this essay because I think it is crap from someone who probably could’ve done better. That’s all.

  90. billie

    I think the Greens supporters in Higgins feel very frustrated that global warming deniers have hijacked the debate.
    Thanks Clive Hamilton for framing global warming as the great moral issue of our time.

  91. sean

    Lets get it straight…objectively hamilton is right in making such a comparison. As you say Dikkii the problem is that its probably not politic to do so cos then you get all the self righteous ranters and wingnuts going on about the immorality of invoking the holocaust and pulling out the irritatingly ubiquitous cornflake box notion of Godwins law – All of which are dumb efforts to avoid having to argue the fact that if you deny climate change and the need to address it – you’re essentially either an idiot or corrupt.

    Now before I get howled down for that very reasoned and considered statement, the fact is, dear deniers, that in denying the science you’re denying something that you have no capacity to deny. I expect that if you notice a lump in your groin (or more likely on your brain) then you’ll go to a specialist for treatment – not to some alternative herbal quack who wrote a book once about the evil mainstream medical industry. Unless of course I’m wrong about that too, which come to think of it, is possible, in which case I hope the herbal ointment works!. But if not, please spare us your irritating, illinformed ranting. Go over to Andrew Bolts blog and you can all speak in tongues together.

    If, on the other hand you’re prepared go in to scientific detail as to why, for instance, NASA’s chief climate sceintist is wrong, or the other 95% of world climate scientists are wrong, then I’ll listen to your argument – as long as you don’t pull out any of the Pilmer style shiboleths sponsored by Shell oil that have been doing the rounds of every right wing nutter on the planet. If you’re just gonna drone on about the importance of ‘skepticism’ when in fact youre not a sceptic but a rather dim witted denier then you’re not worth listening to either. Further to that I’d suggest you might want to get some therapy and find out what weird psycho pathologies are clouding your judgement. Good luck.

  92. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    Clive I posted this on BK’s comment space today ……………………

    ” BK, good on you.
    Your approach has more power than most will appreciate.
    The recalcitrant luddites, or those posing as denialists as all are in the habit of calling them, laugh at the effort made to convince them with good science and smart reason. It’s a waste of time.
    You may, on the other hand, be showing them that their self serving motives are best put aside for the time being as the whole thing is starting to give them a bad look of the kind they won’t afford.
    Especially as on the same page Clive Hamilton is doing an excellent job of discovering a brand new gruesome very hairy look to boot.”

    My parents were twice thrown into Nazi concentration camps (not for being Jewish) and escaped (as did some Jewish victims) three times and then became Aussies thanks to the Red Cross & Aus after living for three years in Germany under threat of recapture.
    They escaped to Germany in 1942 choosing likely death over certain death (proof coming) by Stalin’s pure Pol Potian motivated eradication (the 1st Pol Pot) of my father’s whole large family who were far more frightened of Hitler and stayed (for the chop).
    I am not sure if they were counted in the 20 million that Stalin murdered most of whom weren’t Jewish and have thereby been so conveniently forgotten.

    So I am the son of a man who stuck his 2 fingers up to the most serious murderers in recent history, first Stalin then the other one, survived them both and raised me ‘finger sticking goodly’.
    And I have and am practicing the art.

    Someone out there think they’re qualified to teach me the meaning of life?

  93. meski

    Nothing like an ad hominem argument to make your case MPM.

  94. Dikkii Webb

    I rather like “dissenters” and for the reasons that you discuss.

    The only thing I don’t like about it is that it suggests that that it gives the appearance of a legitimate debate when some would suggest that an “artificial controversy” has been generated. Which can be problematic.

  95. Most Peculiar Mama

    “…Climate change deniers are not, for all their faults, actually arguing that we should kill a couple of billion people they just don’t believe its going to happen. Thats being wrong…”

    What a stupid, stupid statement.

    What proof do you have that anything even remotely like this is going to happen?

    None.

    You’re just as big a shrieking harpie as Hamilton is.

    You can join him at the bottom of the garden with the other fairies on the lunatic fringe.

  96. Jim Reiher

    I wonder if the reason so many people have reacted badly to this article is because they are either skeptics or denialists (of climate change) and they are freaked out because their denialism (or skepticism) has being discussed in the same article as Holocaust denialism. Or just because nobody likes talking about the Holocaust.

    I did not read Hamilton as making the two comparable. In fact he qualified that quite clearly. They can’t be equal, but depending on one’s way of evaluating things, they may be more or less evil in the way they are concluded about.

    So… all you critical people: Read him again… it is solid reflection … but not impossible to understand! He is philosophizing and reflecting about the way we judge things. Of course he could have written about the science of climate change. Or the economic and social effects. Or the ways to fight it. (He does do that to, at other times, remember).

    But when he reflect on different ways of evaluating something … suddenly everyone is jumping down his neck. … What the? …

  97. james mcdonald

    What’s wrong with calling them “Dissenters”?
    I see three advantages:
    1. More polite; the same word is used of a judge disagreeing with the rest of the bench
    2. Avoids implying the scientific/rational high ground as “skeptics” does; it simply means they disagree
    3. It does imply, however, that they are outside the prevailing scientific view

  98. Jamie Reeves

    I agree with the comments here that this is a very poor thesis indeed, especially well put by Altakoi. Apart from the word “denier” the two things have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with each other. If the idea is to use history to try and understand current behaviours, then surely there are more analogous situations for comparison (but maybe that’s too much effort, and no where near as sensational?).

    The only good reason I can see for publishing is that it sheds some light on Hamilton prior to the by-election, which is a pretty useful insight for the good folk of Higgins.

  99. Dikkii Webb

    You are correct, Meski, however there is an insistence on steering clear of the term “denier” in the media and in politics because of its association with holocaust deniers. I don’t believe that use of the term “sceptics” by the media or politicians is unrelated to this. And I’m not necessarily certain that the term “Godwin’s Law” needs to be spelt out when invoking it.

    Hamilton well and truly overstepped the mark in specifically equating climate denialism with holocaust denialism in this instance.

    The fact remains, though that denialism is what it is. Personally, I would have preferred that Hamilton used creationism (evolution denialism) or Big Tobacco’s denial of smoking-related cancer deaths in order to illustrate his point.

  100. meski

    Invoking Godwin isn’t something I’ve seen politicians or the media do, it’s a usenet phenomena.

    Godwin has argued[4] that overuse of N*zi and H*tler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact.
    (from wiki, google it, I’m tired of getting moderated each time I post a url)

    I’m saying that analogising climate sceptics to holocaust deniers is something that we should avoid.

    FFS, even using the N & H words gets me moderated.

  101. meski

    Invoking Godwin isn’t something I’ve seen politicians or the media do, it’s a usenet phenomena.

    Godwin has argued[4] that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact.
    (from wiki, google it, I’m tired of getting moderated each time I post a url)

    I’m saying that analogising climate sceptics to holocaust deniers is something that we should avoid.

  102. Altakoi

    I don’t think you can have a consequentialist ethic about something which happened 60 years ago. The problem with holocaust deniers is not that they fail to honor the dead of WWII but that they are usually pushing a contemporary agenda of racial dominance and hatred. Climate change deniers are not, for all their faults, actually arguing that we should kill a couple of billion people they just don’t believe its going to happen. Thats being wrong, not evil, and I think confusing the two is not a good way to convince the doubters. As has been pointed out, Godwins law is not entirely facetious. If I had to pick a WWII analogy for the denialist position it would be ‘peace in our time’. Woefully wrong, desperate in clinging to the false comfort of inaction, but not actually said by Hitler.

  103. marcerin

    The best thing you can do for the environment Clive is to stand down as the Greens candidate for Higgins0! After finding out you were selected I decided to stop voting Green, and know of many other people who are doing the same.

    What did you hope to achieve by writing this article? The only thing this article ensures is a swift response from the climate change skeptics, who will probably rebut with the usual phrases like ‘the extreme greens who won’t listen to reason’, you may write a response to it, then so will they until we’ve had a series of articles written which are essentially two groups of people calling each other names and no progress has been made towards saving the climate.
    You could have written a piece about the investments that could be made in renewable energy or about other measures other countries are taking that we could be just as easily doing.

    All this ‘climate change deniers are…’ and ‘those extreme greenies are…’ is just political point scoring between two groups of people who are more interested in talking themselves up and their opponents down rather than focus on any real issues.
    In that respect you are perfect for politics, only i feel you would feel more at home in the Labor or Liberal party, they’re just as interested in putting point scoring ahead of focusing on the real issues, don’t ruin a real party like the Greens.

  104. james mcdonald

    “Instead of dishonouring the deaths of six million in the past, climate deniers risk the lives of hundreds of millions in the future.”

    Consider that instead of just imagining they can bring the six million back, those who use the “denier” slur toward climate dissenters risk the lives of hundreds of millions in the future. They do this by alienating (no matter how morally right you may be and how morally wrong they may be) some very powerful people whom you are still going to have to work with to make this happen.

    I agree with Meski.

  105. Dikkii Webb

    I must admit, Hamilton did kinda play into the hands of climate change deniers here in invoking the holocaust. It’s bad enough that they insist on misusing the term “skeptics” without a post like this making it worse.

  106. Kim

    This is one of the instances where my fundamental belief in the freedom of speech is sorely tested and where it is impossible not to argue without attacking the messenger. The fact that the comments are made by someone seeking democratic office makes it even worse.

    Clive Hamilton, with comments like this, you will only allienate people and achieve nothing; Except to make it even more difficult for those who argue intelligently and purposefully for the case you purport to support.

  107. James Anderson

    Can we please have a rest from Hamilton in Crikey? Apart from all the tendentious crap, it is wicked to invoke the suffering of the victims of the Holocaust as he does.

  108. Most Peculiar Mama

    Yet another stream of conscious rant this time punctuated by invoking a most foul parallel.

    Clive’s desperate grasp for relevancy is palpable.

    Being so far on the fringes of any sensible debate on this subject means Hamilton has little of value to contribute.

    The good folk of Higgins deserve to know what a bonafide lunatic sounds like and this execrable piece of garbage is just the right manifesto for a by-election flyer.

    See you on December 5.

  109. jon Fairall

    Clive, you missed the really culpable. What about the ‘sceptic’ who actually accepts the science, but then goes on to calculate that his current gain is worth more to him than the future pain of his children. I don’t think this is an insignificant point; it can’t be a coincidence that so many climate ‘sceptics’ are elderly white males doing very nicely out of our current economy.

  110. Roger Clifton

    Wicked people could be reminded of the consequences of willful blindness.

    After the liberation of Paris, some thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people were tried and executed for having continued with business as usual while the French world was in peril. Many more were humiliated and their careers destroyed. Like the followers of today’s climate deniers, they pleaded that had seen no evidence of evil and that they were just obeying their employers.

    However they were executed on the basis that they should have known better.

    …You’ll get yours, Jimmy!

  111. Dikkii Webb

    It’s not really good enough though is it Meski? The English language is the poorer when people try to ring-fence terms like this in order to quarantine themselves from criticism, I think. Not aimed at you specifically, there are hundreds in politics and the media invoking Godwin in order to stave off wingnut accusations.

  112. meski

    My reasoning follows the “climate denier is like a holocaust denier” -> calling someone a holocaust denier is akin to calling them a N*zi -> and that’s where the Godwin invocation came from. 🙂

  113. Dikkii Webb

    The appeal to Godwin’s Law is an utterly irrelevant red herring. Calling a climate change denier a skeptic is like calling a creationist an “evolution skeptic”. In other words, it’s completely ridiculous.

  114. Sean

    Clive appears to be slowly going mad. Not good for a standing candidate in the next by-election.

    Venice is still above water. It is going under a bit, mainly due to sinking on its wooden piles and mud foundations as fresh water has been pumped out from the water table underneath for town water supply. Venice is one of my litmus tests. The seas may be rising at a near infinitesimal rate, perhaps 1mm a year. Perhaps. If the seas go up 20cm in 20 years, I will start to worry. Plenty of time to put the brakes on ‘carbon polluters’, although it is important to be developing alternative forms of energy and industry. I’m porsonally looking forward to ‘oilgae’ production kicking in, as it is a prolific source of hydrocatrbons, environmentally friendly, can serve to bio-sequestrate coal burning GHGs for a period, and is otherwise effectively carbon neutral — like a ‘living fossil’ fuel producer.

  115. meski

    And anyone who calls sceptics deniers, has in my opinion, lost the argument. See Godwin’s law.

  116. meski

    … Just wait til they stop calling sceptics deniers, and start calling them heretics, and then have them ‘educated’ to renounce their positions.

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