In 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
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.