Climate change denier is accurate – AP stylebook disagrees

I’m going to guess that a discussion of the AP stylebook isn’t a typical subject discussed in a skeptic blog. But the AP is worried that “denier” is too pejorative, and recommend that the term not be used, which made me take notice. I’m going to take umbrage with their recommendation and state emphatically that “climate change denier” is an accurate description.

Sure, it may be pejorative, but it’s based on the fact that those who deny real science, that is, the conclusion derived from a powerful and robust consensus of expert scientists in a field of study, willfully ignore said evidence and invent their own pseudoscience. Not only do I state that a climate change denier is a factual representation of those beliefs, I also think that a GMO denier, a vaccine denier, an evolution denier, and a Holocaust denier are essentially equivalent – each ignores the massive and robust mountain of evidence to come to an unsupported conclusion.

I think the use of “denier,” to anyone who rejects the scientific consensus, is accurate and acceptable. And it’s like several of orders of magnitude better than the “climate change skeptic” used by the deniers to make it sound like their denialism is actually scientifically based. Because real scientific skepticism is an honorable pursuit in which constantly questioning and doubting claims and assertions is based only on the accumulation of evidence. It requires the use of the scientific method, where claims, facts and theories are relentlessly tested and reviewed.

Deniers attempt to co-op the word “skeptic” when they really are just doubters and cynics who can’t be bothered with evidence or cherry pick just enough evidence to support their pre-conceived notions.

I want to look at what the AP Stylebook has recommended. I would like to know if my pre-conceived notion that denier is an accurate description for anyone who rejects the scientific consensus.

WTF is the AP Stylebook?


This stylebook lists out the rules regarding English grammar style and usage in an easy-to-use manual for journalists. Even though it is meant for journalists, it is generally useful for writers, because a good deal of the manual focuses on simplification of the English language. The book has great influence on modern writing style.

For example, the AP Stylebook was instrumental in the near elimination of the Oxford (or if you’re an American, Harvard) comma. I am, personally, a fan of the Harvard comma, because when I see sentences without them, they create ambiguity. I don’t like that. I love my commas, semi-colons, and periods.

But I digress. If you want to write in modern English, with clarity and brevity, you need your AP Stylebook. I honestly have very few hardcopy books, but this is the one of those dead tree books that I have, although it’s kind of old. Apparently, I have to update it, especially since the AP publishes a revised edition nearly every year.

Mostly, the stylebook provides good information for writers. If you want to know whether “civil rights movement” should be capitalized (it’s not), then this is your go-to guide. If you are confused whether it’s appropriate to abbreviate “BLT,” the infamous bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich (note my obsession with the Harvard comma), now you know you can. And I’m hungry.

The book also has great influence on how journalists describe things. And that’s where one of their decisions, late last year, made me take notice, like the anti-Harvard comma decision. Still angry about that one.

Climate change denier and the stylebook


To be fair, the AP Stylebook really did make some important changes to the field of climate change that actually matter a lot.

First, the AP has decided that climate change can be used interchangeably with global warming, even though “climate change” is the more accurate description from a scientific perspective.

This change isn’t all that big of deal for those of us who accept the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. But it will, hopefully, stifle the deniers who say things such as, “But I was cold this one time last year so climate change can’t be real.” Maybe.

But the next thing the AP did was a bit more problematic to me. They stated that:

[infobox icon=”quote-left”]Those who reject climate science say the phrase denier has the pejorative ring of Holocaust denier so The Associated Press prefers ‘climate change doubter’ or ‘someone who rejects mainstream science.'[/infobox]

So, the AP, in I think was a bout of political correctness, seems to think we need to consider the feelings of those who reject the scientific consensus on climate change. And “denier” was just too harsh, because it’s as pejorative “Holocaust denier.”

My response, and bear with me, is that the eventual consequences of climate change may actually be much more deadly than the Holocaust (which scholars consider to be the murder of European Jews during WWII). According to World Health Organization (WHO), climate change could lead to 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. In other words, 5 million additional deaths which is nearly Holocaust levels.

I cannot be bothered by the snowflake sensibilities of science deniers. With their University of Google degrees and a large dollop of Dunning Kruger cognitive dissonance, deniers reject the mountains of evidence to claim that climate change doesn’t exist, or that vaccines are neither safe nor effective, or that GMOs are dangerous, or that humans rode dinosaurs onto an ark.

These individuals deny science, so they should be called out for what they are. Holocaust deniers reject the overwhelming historical evidence and data of the murder of Jews, just to further their own anti-Semitic bigotry. It’s ironic that vaccine deniers actually conflate their Holocaust denial with vaccines.

Climate change deniers reject science just so that they can drive huge SUV’s, burn cheap coal, or not invest in a planet that may just have enough time to reverse global warming.

Not that the AP cares about this nice old carnivorous reptile that went extinct 65 million years ago, but I reject their suggestions about “climate change denier.” And I’m going to use those damn Harvard commas whenever I want.

So, let’s say it now – Donald Trump is a climate denier. And a vaccine denier.

I feel better. I hope the reader does too.

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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!