Folks should note that Professor Mass does (has always) subscribed to the belief that climate is changing (getting warmer) - but he does seem to recognize that there are legitimate questions about the many "whys" of it - as a legitimate scientist should.
Professor Cliff Mass, UW Atmospheric Sciences
May 28, 2018
Some terms are simultaneously hurtful, destructive, counter-productive and misleading.
Climate denier is a good example of such an inappropriate phrase, and one that is unfortunately in vogue among some climate activists and media outlets.
(1) It plays off the term "Holocaust denier". For most of the second half of the 20th century, the term holocaust denier was given to those who denied the reality of the holocaust--- bottom feeders such as neo-Nazis and those with strong anti-Semitic tendencies. The Holocaust is an historical fact in which 1/3 of the Jewish people were killed: an obscenity and a crime against humanity. It occurred.
But some "environmentalists" have decided to use adopt this term for folks that have a different view of climate change than they have, included those that agree that climate is changing and that mankind is making some contribution to it. Furthermore, while the Holocaust is history and a known fact, climate change, and particularly anthropogenically forced climate change is another story: there are still major uncertainties regarding climate change, including the magnitude of the human-forced warming and the local impacts. Our models are very clear than increasing greenhouse gases will warm the planet, how much and spatially varying impacts have a lot of uncertainty.
In short, using the term "climate denier cheapens the term "denier" in a way that is painful to many in the Jewish community.
You are a climate change denier even if you accept that there has been climate change caused by natural processes, or if you believe that both natural variability and human forcing is behind the changes. Seems strange to call someone a climate change denier if they accept that there is climate change and mankind is contributing.
Many climate activists demand that folks agree with them that virtually all climate change is caused by humans--or they use the "D" word.
This is really silly because climate scientists can not show that humans are entirely to blame for what has happened during the past fifty years. We know that some modes of natural variability have had major impacts (like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation) and that the warming trend and sea level rise has been going on for over a hundred thirty years ago (since the Little Ice Age ended)--well before human emissions of greenhouse gases had a significant radiative effect (see sea level rise plot below)
So many of my department, one of the leading research centers in atmospheric sciences of the country, should be considered climate change deniers. Go figure.
(3) Climate denier clearly is a pejorative, put-down term that does not win converts or friends. Folks are irritated when they called a denier and a less likely to listen to the findings of climate science. We need to build bridges to those who are doubtful about the impacts of increasing greenhouse gases, and calling them names can only push them away.
A number of leading climate communicators understand the dangers of the "D" word. Two weeks ago, Dr. Katherine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University, one of the current rock stars of the climate communication universe, spend a few days at my department. She explained why the denier terminology is bad and says she doesn't use it. Her favorite: climate dismissal.
To secure real action on human-forced climate change one needs to build a consensus of folks with varied political backgrounds. Calling names is not the way to do it.
Bill Nye, for example, loves to call folks deniers, while he makes exaggerated claims about the impacts of anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing on extreme events (like major cold waves being caused by global warming). He frequently makes serious technical errors (he is not a climate scientist by the way). Why does such a poorly informed individual represent science?
Ironically, many of these name slingers don't seem concerned about their carbon intensive life styles, for example, jetting around the nation and the world, and owning big houses (or several houses in the case of Al Gore). There is another letter for such behavior and is starts with "H" and it rhymes with "theocracy."
The ideas that the "deniers" are stopping progress on climate change is just nonsense. Some of the most knowledgeable, progressive people I know have the worst carbon footprints. Climate scientists are probably the worst of the bunch. Left-leaning politicians who enjoy traveling to unnecessary meetings (like a certain governor) are another. They know the truth, but they won't sacrifice in their own lives. See all the big cars being driven around Seattle these days?....those folks are not deniers. Most are good, card-carrying progressives.
In fact, I have found a strong correlation between heavy use of the phrase climate denier and NOT knowing much about climate. There are a few exceptions to this (like Professor Michael Mann of Penn. State), but most folks fixated on going after climate denial have very weak backgrounds in climate and atmospheric sciences.
The media has used the "climate denial" narrative as a crutch. Instead of spending the time on learning about the highly technical details of climate science, it is far easier to cover (and participate in) the name calling. In many ways, this reflects the hollowing out of science coverage in U.S. media and the reduction in science journalism.
The solutions to greenhouse gas emissions are not name calling or laying on guilt trips. The solutions will be technological, with new energy sources displacing fossil fuels. And eventually we will learn how to pull CO2 from the atmosphere on an industrial scale..
Putting down other people and calling names, might make some folks feel better, and perhaps represents "virtue signaling" in some quarters (such as with the staff at the Seattle Stranger tabloid), but it is counterproductive, without scientific basis, and hurtful.
Time to drop the "D" word.