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.



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    Tick – tock…

    Another step forward toward sanity and scientific civility. It may seem subtle, but it’s an important step away from routine pejorative treatment of anyone with doubts in an unbelievably complex and highly politically charged debate.

    In fact, I would argue that the term “skeptic” should be worn as an intellectual badge of honor. Skepticism and scientific hypothesis have been recognized as a critical yin and yang since the true age of science began. To attempt to impugn one of those elements is to turn back toward the dark ages.

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