AP stylebook boots term climate ‘denier’ in favor of ‘doubter’

stylebookIn a re­lease, the AP said this: “Our guid­ance is to use cli­mate change doubters or those who re­ject main­stream cli­mate sci­ence and to avoid the use of skep­tics or den­iers.”

The AP guid­ance for “those who re­ject main­stream cli­mate sci­ence,” then, would seem ac­cept­able. But it’s “doubter” that has proved con­tro­ver­sial. “Those who are in deni­al of ba­sic sci­ence, be it evol­u­tion or hu­man-caused cli­mate change, are in fact sci­ence-den­iers,” cli­mate sci­ent­ist Mi­chael Mann told Think­Pro­gress. “To call them any­thing else, be it ‘skep­tic’ or ‘doubter,’ is to grant an un­deserved air of le­git­im­acy to something that is simply not le­git­im­ate.”

Marc Mor­ano, a former In­hofe aide who now runs the web­site climatedepot.com, said he had to “com­mend the AP from mov­ing away from ‘den­ier’ and en­ter­ing the realm of ob­jectiv­ity.” Mor­ano—who was re­cently fea­tured in a doc­u­ment­ary called “Mer­chants of Doubt” about cli­mate-change deni­al—has long em­braced the word “skep­tic” but said he’d gladly ad­opt “doubter” be­cause it still in­dic­ates that there’s room for de­bate. “If you get Al Gore or the United Na­tions mak­ing some out­rageous claim, at least you can say, ‘I doubt it.'”


Climate change doubters
Those who reject mainstream climate science


Climate change skeptics

Climate change deniers

But “den­ier” has also proved con­tro­ver­sial, something the AP cited in its re­lease on the change. The word de­lib­er­ately car­ries with it con­nota­tions of Holo­caust deni­al. In an email, George C. Mar­shall In­sti­tute CEO Wil­li­am O’Keefe said the word “was in­ten­ded to be pe­jor­at­ive and was seen that way.”

Wil­li­am Hap­per, a phys­i­cist at Prin­ceton Uni­versity who has ques­tioned cli­mate sci­ence, ap­plauded the AP for the move, but said he was still happy to be called a skep­tic. “All real sci­ent­ists should be skep­tics,” he said.