AP adopts a stronger way to describe climate change doubters

“The Associated Press took a stance on climate change on Tuesday and announced a policy that mandates stronger descriptions of people who doubt global warming is real: ‘those who reject mainstream climate science,'” according to Talking Points Memo.

“Because the AP’s writing style is commonly used by newspapers and other news outlets nationwide, the decision could have a significant impact on the way climate change is discussed. The organization published a memo from three editors about the decision.

“‘We are adding a brief description of those who don’t accept climate science or dispute the world is warming from man-made forces,’ the memo said. ‘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 memo provided some background and explanation of the change, and included the lengthy ‘AP Stylebook’ entry for global warming:

“The terms global warming and climate change can be used interchangeably. Climate change is more accurate scientifically to describe the various effects of greenhouse gases on the world because it includes extreme weather, storms and changes in rainfall patterns, ocean acidification and sea level. But global warming as a term is more common and understandable to the public.

“Though some public officials and laymen and only a few climate scientists disagree, the world’s scientific organizations say that the world’s climate is changing because of the buildup of heat-trapping gases, especially carbon dioxide, from the burning of coal, oil and gas. This is supported by more than 90 percent of the peer-reviewed scientific literature.”

The rest of the article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

7 thoughts on “AP adopts a stronger way to describe climate change doubters”

  1. In an LTE today poor Rebane tries to defend himself by saying his sheep skin as a systems analyst is his authority to be a climate change denier. And then gives reference to his own blog so he can have his own horn a toot. As if it were scientific
    Yo George- In your case, the d in PhD should stand for Dream on –

    1. What I find fascinating is that Rebane is defending his position that he called medical doctors insufficiently credentialed by claiming that he is more sufficiently credentialed, and perpetuating the argument that one must be sufficiently credentialed to comment on or understand the science behind climate change.

      First, George proves himself to be an illogical ideologically driven partisan on issues broadly ranging from technology, economic development, forest policy, local politics, climate, health care and macro-economics and almost everything in between every day. His statements are regularly characterized by a lack of citation or data to back up his claims and when challenged on his beliefs he regularly states that the critic is either too stupid to understand the point or their sources are biased. I guess I would ask, how many things can George Rebane be an expert on? He is either the smartest guy in the world or a fool. Fool seems much more likely to me, from a solely ‘statistical systems analysis’ point of view.

      Second, we need to understand that this whole debate over who is sufficiently credentialed to have an opinion on climate change is an intentional strategy to muddy the waters around the issue, confuse the public at large, and freeze action on climate mitigation and adaptation policy. George is deploying a strategy–get people to debate the qualifications of the observer in order to imply that observer A and observer B are equal, or the science is unsettled over the issue they are debating–that has been deployed by climate denial mouthpieces as a result of specifically designed political strategies to manipulate public opinion.

      Well the science is not unsettled over climate change and no amount of muddying the water will hide it as climate drives extreme weather events, increased severity of drought, increased incidents of large scale wildfire, and perhaps atmospheric river events begin to cost billion of dollars and thousands of lives.

      But the real issue here is the amazing level ego driven hubris and intellectual arrogance that a guy like George exudes every time he talks about this issue. Anybody with average intelligence can read the science and with a little work understand what is going on. For him to imply that he ‘knows more’ is ridiculous and insulting to people who do the work.

  2. Let’s see if The Union adopts the AP’s standards. I cannot think of a newspaper that devotes so much ink in the Op Ed page to “those who reject mainstream climate science.” When I worked at The Union, the publisher wanted me to consider dumping the AP to cut our costs. It was unbelievable. And podunk.

  3. I have been reflecting on the new AP standards since they were announce and have come to the conclusion, like the un-named initial comment, that they are entirely too kind.

    Before I get to why the standards are too kind, I think it is unlikely that very many journalists are going to replace the one word ‘denier’ with the phrase ‘those who reject mainstream climate science.’ It is too long, unwieldy and profligate in its use of words for journalists to replace one word, whether it be ‘skeptic’ or ‘denier.’

    But the larger problem is that they seem to be changing the standard because climate deniers are offended by the implied reference to holocaust denial.

    The word ‘denier’ did not come into common usage to describe a mindset as a descriptor of those who deny the existence of the holocaust, it was used by Sigmund Freud to describe a psychological condition and defense mechanism commonly used by drug addicts [which Freud knew a thing or two about] and terminal cancer patients who refuse treatment to avoid acknowledging the depth of their addiction or the terminal nature of their illness.

    As used by Freud, and as used by journalists, the word ‘denier’ means nothing more than a person who refuses to accept the existence, truth, or validity of something. It is a neutral term. The word itself does not establish whether the thing being denied actually exists, it identifies the subject as denying its existence.

    What those who do not believe climate change exists, or that portions of the problem are human caused, are really rejecting, is that almost every time in human history the word ‘denier’ has been associated in popular language usage with rejecting the existence of something, science and logic prove them wrong.

    If climate deniers are uncomfortable with being associated with holocaust deniers, vaccine deniers, moon landing deniers, 911 deniers, round earth deniers, they must deal with the fact that they are on equally shaky ground as the deniers who came before them.

    Let’s apply Sigmund Freud and his use of the term ‘denier’ in drug addiction to our modern climate deniers.

    The first stage of ‘denial’ is to deny the very existence of the thing that is being identified. This is a simple denial of fact, and we see that in the climate debate every day, as climate deniers look at the preponderance of the facts and cherry pick only the ones that support their belief.

    The second stage of denial to Freud was denial of responsibility. We see that every day as well as climate deniers alternately blame some other source for the problem [solar activity, volcanism, natural cycles, etc]; minimize the impact [climate change may be happening but it is less harmful than stated]; justify the impact [it is our economy or our environment]; or regress to name calling, conspiracy theories or ulterior motivation.

    The third Freudian stage of is denial of impact: the denier avoids thinking about or understanding the harms of his or her own behavior and its impact on him/herself or others, thus absolving themselves of guilt or responsibility by downplaying consequences and prevent him/her from developing remorse or empathy for others. [more CO2 will lead to enhanced plant growth and less people will go hungry].

    The fourth stage is denial of cycle, or avoiding looking at decisions leading up to an impact or considering the decisions that led up to an impact, thus repeating the cycle until death occurs. We see that as the hubristic view that we may know that there is a problem [pollution] but we have no choice but to continue polluting because the perceived benefits of the pollution are so great that we cannot avoid them. [I see this every day as the ridiculous view that because carbon emissions have reduced poverty we have no choice but to continue emitting, never considering the fact that we can reduce poverty and reduce emissions at the same time, which is actually kind of the Pope’s point].

    The fifth stage is denial of awareness, which we see as the insistence that there may be a preponderance of evidence but the ‘denier’ simply refuses to see it. [the source of data is flawed, or has ulterior motives, or is seeking grants, or are not really scientists, or I am smarter than them so why should I listen–in short the George Rebane syndrome.]

    The final stage is ‘denial of denial’; we see that every day on the blogs wen illogical pontificators stamp their feet like children and say, “I am not a denier.”

    In Freud’s world this phenomenon is expressed in the shorthand “DARVO.”

    DARVO is an acronym to describe a common strategy of deniers: Deny the abuse, then attack the victim for attempting to make them accountable for their offense, thereby reversing victim and offender. We see this every day when climate deniers claim to be some sort of discriminated against victimized group.

    To say that these people are not ‘climate deniers’ and that the term is inaccurate is a mistake by the AP, and I seriously doubt people are going to adopt ‘new language’ to gloss over the real source of the problem, a group within our society that is so addicted to the profit and comfort of bearing no responsibility for their actions that they engage in some sort of Orwellian fantasy to rationalize their behavior.

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