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On Language: 1 - Denial Denial

As well as confusing the scientific and political debate, greenhouse denial is really messing with the English language [above and beyond the traditional role of the USA - Ed.].

Climate change has thrown up the phenomenon of "
non-sceptical sceptics". This language reversal follows the fictional path blazed by George Orwell in describing the Ministry for Truth, with life promptly imitating literature in the democratic creation of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik. Further complicating things is that denialists don't like being called "denialist". This is just the normal modesty that is common in innovative movements. Communist nations didn't like being called communist. While often naming themselves "democratic", as a group they preferred to be known as "Centrally Planned Economies" [Centrally Mismanaged Economies might be more accurate, but that is a story for another time - Ed].

Since the language has moved on, "
communist" has become a convenient term to describe those who believe in continental drift, ozone depletion and anthropogenic global warming. We at FoGT prefer to base the description on Hayekist science: the principle that any science that implies the need for government regulation must be wrong.

As "
denial sceptics" we at Friends of Gin and Tonic treat denialism with scepticism [also with cynicism, derision, parody and rolling about on the floor laughing - Ed]. So far, "denial scepticism denial" as a backlash against FoGT has been limited, giving a welcome respite while English grammar catches up. We have however reached a new level with an increase in "denial denial". US Republican congressman Sherwood ("Sherry") Boehlert has denied the long-term denialism in the Republican party; and this week, a leading effort is coming from Australia in Chris Mitchell-gate where the editor denies greenhouse denialism at The Australian.

Most observers would regard the denialism at The Australian as about as obvious as the wikileaked cables saying that officials, oligarchs and organised crime make Russia a virtual mafia state or that Angela Merkel is cautious [far from being embarrassing, these cables reveal at least a minimal level of competence in US diplomats - Ed.]. The Weekend Australian of 4-5 December mounts the next round of defence, with an article by Graham Lloyd. One of the most revealing passages is:

Australian National University climate scientist Will Steffen, who sits on the federal government's climate change committee, recently delivered a paper at the climate forum in Hobart asking that if the science on climate is so clear, why is it still portrayed as uncertain in the media? It seems some people hold the view that on issues of such gravity as climate change the usual media rules of reporting alternative opinions should not apply.

If, by "
usual media rules of reporting alternative opinions" Lloyd means creating a false "debate" in order to fill up a newspaper, then all is clear, but otherwise it doesn't answer Will Steffen's question: why are things that are virtually certain portrayed as massively uncertain?

More amazingly, they quote a 2004 editorial statement by Chris Mitchell that covers both media and government denial denial:

"it would be foolish to ignore the possible consequences of global warming and there is virtually nobody - certainly not in the Howard government - who argues we should"
[from June 19, 2004].

Of course, maybe Chris Mitchell really understands and accepts the reality of anthropogenic global warming as he claims. If so, he is nobly sacrificing his journalistic ethics in pursuit of the greater good of sparing his readers from such disturbing knowledge.

Prof Dr Moritz Lorenz.
Sarah Palin School of Geography, Economics and Quantum Computing, University of Narbethong, West Island Campus, NZ