Roy Spencer, In Denial About What Science Denial Means

Dr. Roy SpencerClimate science deniers tend to be quite touchy when you call them a climate science denier, or denier for short. In my case this has even led to someone threatening to sue me for libel because I used the term climate science denier in a private email. Which wasn’t even aimed at them, I just used the term to describe the type of arguments that were being used.

The term also is quite simple in its origin, it means that you deny something. I use the term to state that climate science deniers dismiss or even flat-out deny the evidence climate scientists have found. You have similar versions of the term denier for those that reject the science behind vaccinations, AIDS, Evolution, etc.

I expect climate science deniers to not respond well when you use the term, that’s why I only use it when it’s truly earned. What I didn’t expect was that the usage of this term would lead to Dr. Roy Spencer writing the blog post ‘Time to push back against the global warming Nazis‘ (archived here):

Yeah, somebody pushed my button.

When politicians and scientists started calling people like me “deniers”, they crossed the line. They are still doing it.

They indirectly equate (1) the skeptics’ view that global warming is not necessarily all manmade nor a serious problem, with (2) the denial that the Nazi’s extermination of millions of Jews ever happened.

Too many of us for too long have ignored the repulsive, extremist nature of the comparison. It’s time to push back.

I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again: these “climate sceptics” aren’t sceptics. They are pseudosceptics who actively portray themselves as promoting science based sceptical thinking. But this isn’t what they’re doing, they approach climate science with their minds already made up. To them it doesn’t matter what you show them, the chance is extremely small that they’ll ever change their minds. Spencer gives a few very good examples of this type of behaviour a bit further into what he wrote, I’ll return to this point when he does.

Also the word “denier” has been in use far longer than there have been holocaust deniers. According to the Oxford English dictionary it has been in use since 1475 (used towards deniers of Jesus Christ) and according to Google since at least since 1800. The term has nothing to do with holocaust denial except that both positions deny something. Holocaust deniers deny simple historical facts, and climate science deniers deny valid climate science. Denying something is the root for the usage of this word, not holocaust denial.

Some actually like to be labelled “deniers.” Richard Linden said that “I actually like ‘denier.’ That’s closer than skeptic.” Lindzen is just one of the more famous people claiming this label, there are others that also like the term. To me it is just plain odd that someone wants to be named a denier as it labels them as a pseudosceptic.

However, here’s where Spencer crossed a line you shouldn’t cross:

I’m now going to start calling these people “global warming Nazis”.

When you complain about someone who according to isn’t being polite towards you then you shouldn’t accuse them of being Nazis. Invoking Godwin’s law is not the right response as it doesn’t help your argument. Especially when the perceived slight has no basis in reality.

It’s also incredible offensive to label your opponent a Nazi. Nazism is linked to some of the darkest chapters in our history books and shouldn’t be used to attack someone who isn’t a Nazi. Use it towards those that deserve it; those that are Nazis.

The next part also is where Spencer shows his unscientific stance, what I referred to earlier as pseudoscepticism:

The pseudo-scientific ramblings by their leaders have falsely warned of mass starvation, ecological collapse, agricultural collapse, overpopulation…all so that the masses would support their radical policies. Policies that would not voluntarily be supported by a majority of freedom-loving people.

They are just as guilty as the person who cries “fire!” in a crowded theater when no fire exists. Except they threaten the lives of millions of people in the process.

What Spencer labels as “pseudo-scientific ramblings” is well established science. We know from past climate changes that if we continue on our current emissions scenarios we’re possibly looking at a temperature increase of around 4°C . That doesn’t sound much but when that happens we’re looking at a vastly different world than we’re living in now, which will have severe consequences for future generations:


If we allow this to happen it will impact human society, and it will hit the poorest the hardest. Developing countries just don’t have the resources to deal with these kind of severe consequences. These changes could easily undo any progress they have made.

That’s what will happen when you increase the greenhouse effect by adding CO2 to the atmosphere. Trying to prevent these consequences by enacting policies to reduce CO2 emissions aren’t “radical” and won’t undermine freedom. You’re still free to use energy, you just don’t have the ‘freedom’ to harm future generations with your CO2 emissions.

But he doesn’t stop there:

Like the Nazis, they advocate the supreme authority of the state (fascism), which in turn supports their scientific research to support their cause (in the 1930s, it was superiority of the white race).

For one this is again an incredibly offensive thing to say about your opponents. Secondly I find this quite hypocritical coming from Spencer as he has described his job as a climate scientist as follows:

I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government.

He has clearly stated that his goal as a climate scientist is to “minimize the role of government.” Which means he’s not committed to progressing science, no matter what you find; a core value for any good scientists. It’s shocking that Spencer as a scientist admits that his commitment is to politics and not science.

It’s this very same behaviour that also makes him reject another well established scientific theory, the theory of evolution. He has publicly defended his support of creationism and has wondered why “so many people defend it [evolution] so fervently.” He wants creationism to be taught in schools under the name of Intelligent Design. Which is just an attempt to disguise creationism as something scientific. Creationism is a faith and has nothing to do with science, and Spencer wants to force the teaching of this unscientific subject. Which then makes it rather odd that he says this:

I’m […] talking about the extremists. They are the ones who are sure they are right, and who are bent on forcing their views upon everyone else. Unfortunately, the extremists are usually the only ones you hear from in the media, because they scream the loudest and make the most outrageous claims.

They invoke “consensus”, which results from only like-minded scientists who band together to support a common cause.

The reason we’re so sure that global warming is real and we’re the cause of it is because all the evidence points to it. Just like all the evidence points to the fact that it won’t be pretty if we continue on our current path. We can prevent the worst of it, but we do need to act.

Spencer also invokes a conspiracy theory with this remark. Spencer is part of the 2 to 4 percent minority that rejects this evidence and the scientific consensus that’s based on that evidence. You would need a massive conspiracy to get thousands of scientists to fake all this research and not spill the beans. Quite a feat as scientists become famous for finding flaws in scientific theories. This is behaviour that goes against the very nature of the scientific process and what scientist do.

Spencer being part of a 2 to 4 percent minority is the reason these scientists and experts are so “loud”:


It’s because of this that it is so amazing that people like Spencer aren’t drowned out. In my opinion this is because a large group of media outlets failing to hold themselves to good journalistic standards on science reporting. A sad consequence of a considerable number of media outlets caring more for catering to the ideology of their audience than for accuracy. Which people like Spencer then can abuse to sow doubt about valid scientific findings.

In the end I’m not quite sure why Spencer wrote what he did. But it does look to me like he doesn’t care any more to hide what he truly thinks. The note he added to his blog post seems to confirm this suspicion that I have:

A couple people in comments have questioned my use of “Nazi”, which might be considered over the top. Considering the fact that these people are supporting policies that will kill far more people than the Nazis ever did — all in the name of what they consider to be a righteous cause — I think it is very appropriate. Again, I didn’t start the name-calling.

I find it sad that a scientist like Spencer lets uncivil behaviour and pseudoscience undermine his credibility.

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.