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Dealing with climate science denialism: experiences from confrontations with other forms of pseudoscience

Sven Ove Hansson

Climate Policy, 2018, vol. 18, issue 9, 1094-1102

Abstract: Climate science denialism is a form of pseudoscience. This contribution provides proposals for how to counter it, based on previous research on the demarcation between science and pseudoscience and on the author’s experience of tackling other forms of pseudoscience. Science denialism has much in common with other variants of pseudoscience, but it also has characteristics of its own. In particular, it is much more prone than other forms of pseudoscience to seek conflicts with genuine science. Like other science denialists, those attacking climate science have fabricated a large number of fake controversies in issues where there is no authentic scientific controversy. The defence of climate science against science denial has to take this into account. There is no reason to accept the denialists’ agenda or to treat their claims as legitimate alternatives to science. Climate science should primarily be presented to the public in ways that are independent of denialist activities, rather than reactively in response to those activities. Disclosures of the strategies, motives and funding of denialism are important contributions to the public understanding of the fake controversies. It is also important to document the scientific consensus and make it known. The public defence of climate science is an important and urgent undertaking, and active contributions by as many scientists as possible are needed.Key policy insightsClimate science denialism is a form of pseudoscience, and much can be learned from confrontations with other types of pseudoscience. The creation of fake controversies is a key strategy of climate science denialism. It is important to expose this strategy and not to accept denialists’ choice of an agenda. ‘Equal time’ arrangements should be rejected since they put the truthful side at a disadvantage. It takes more time to refute a single lie than to deliver ten new ones. The experience from fighting tobacco science denialism shows that it is highly efficient to expose the hidden operations, funding and motives behind denialism. As many scientists as possible should take part in the public defence of climate science. This is one of the best ways to show our consensus.

Date: 2018
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