We recently heard about some of the differences between skepticism and denial, but there’s a much more fundamental way to distinguish between the two. New evidence is rejected immediately by deniers, but skeptics are capable of changing their mind when presented with new information.
While this doesn’t happen nearly often as we’d like, it’s not unheard of either. After Bill Nye called out CNN for having a denier meteorologist, CNN meteorologist Chad Meyers wrote a lovely op-ed explaining that he’s gone from skeptic to the consensus position over the past few years. His turning point was 2010’s record-breaking heat, which occurred in the absence of sun cycles or other possible causes. By 2013, with CO2 levels crossing the 400 ppm mark, he was no longer skeptical. Importantly, he says that while in politics this would make him a flip-flopper, in science it’s a normal “evolution of understanding.”
Juxtaposed with this evolution is another episode of Bill Nye’s ongoing series of climate denier call-outs. In an interview with CBS about his role as ambassador for the National Parks, Nye comments on how successful deniers have stalled climate action. He credits their fossil fuel funding, and laments that the US is not a clean energy leader.
Deniers took this backhanded compliment on its face, and bragged about their praise from The Science Guy while taking issue with the fossil fuel funding point. The Washington Times covered the interview, and got a response from Climate Depot’s Marc Morano. He said Nye’s claim about deniers being funded by fossil fuels was “flat-out wrong.” But Morano’s own employer, CFACT, has received fossil fuel funding.
Morano then claimed that really it’s the climate scientists who are corrupt because of the grants they get, primarily for modeling studies and climate mitigation. His source for this claim was SEPP, which received fossil fuel funding as early as 1994. SEPP’s founder, Fred Singer, also didn’t deny receiving funding on multiple occasions from “Unification Church” cult leader Sun Myung Moon, who also founded the Washington Times.
This shared financial bond could be why the Washington Times story failed to disclose that the two groups it was citing to rebut the assertion that deniers are recipients of fossil fuel funding are both recipients of fossil fuel funding.
Which brings us back to a critical distinction between deniers and skeptics: while skeptics are open to changing their mind as new facts come to light and their understanding evolves, deniers are paid to hold their contrarian position. So despite what facts exist, a denier’s understanding will never evolve.
Yet another thing climate deniers have in common with creationists: rejecting evolution.
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