Cleaning House

Having made a promise last week on Anthony Watt’s post A modest proposal to Skeptical Science, I fully intend to honour it.  In doing so I have a bit of dilemma.

Anthony challenged Skeptical Science, to declare visibly that use of the term “denier” when referring to climate sceptics was distasteful and to disallow use of the word –

In turn, I’ll publicly ask people not to use “SS” in referring to your website, and to ask that in the future the phrase “AGW proponents” is used to describe what some people call “warmists” and ask the many bloggers and persona’s I know and communicate with to do the same.

I’m sure some skeptical websites and blogs can be an uncomfortable read for those who support AGW. I would like to make it easier for proponents to read alternative views. I would like to see more debate and less name calling. So I said:

Look at the change of language in post conflict situations – Bosnia, S. Africa, N. Ireland.  Using less inflammatory language is a good thing.

I’ll happily delete all references to “warmists” and “alarmists” from my site and change to “AGW proponents”. I’ve aspired to present a more neutral stance (at least as far as language is concerned) for quite some time. Trouble is when I do I have a tendency to fall off the wagon. (Original comment here)

There’s not as much to address as I first thought.  Of my own writing there are only a handful of posts that use the words (or indeed “denier”); for “alarmist”, “warmist” and “denier” there are 5, 20 and 10 comments respectively. Not much to change.

So now I have a a decision to make, how do I do this? Do I change comments as well as my own writing? (I think so) Do I delete and replace the offending terms? Do I use strikeout and replace? Do I just [snip]?

Thoughts please.


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32 Responses to Cleaning House

  1. Willis Eschenbach says:

    strikeout and replace

  2. I’m with Willis. At least that avoids attempting to air brush the past like Stalin or John Cook.

  3. tonyb says:

    Hi Verity

    ‘AGW proponents’ is an awkward phrase that I very rarely seen used and sounds as if they are advocating more AGW rather than the theory of it. . I’m with you on deniers and SS though, but do you think ‘warmists’ is derogatory?

    • Verity Jones says:

      Yes, ‘AGW proponents’ doesn’t sit comfortably sometimes. I wish there was a better term. ‘Warmists’ isn’t particularly derogatory, at least I don’t think so, although perhaps there are some who would find fault in almost any name.

  4. tonyb says:


    Personally I’m ok with the term ‘warmist’ as I can’t see it is derogatory.

    I can see warmists perhaps objecting to the the term ‘alarmist’ as they wouldn’t see themselves as such

    I can’t see myself ever using using the term AGW proponent.

    I think you are in danger of being overly politically correct. Why not just stick to striking out SS and deniers and add ‘alarmist’ to that only if you get any hard evidence that anyone is really going to be upset by it?


    • Verity Jones says:

      I started to reply last night but accidentally closed the tab and lost the comment.
      Perhaps the main objection to either ‘alarmist’ or ‘warmist’ is that they are labels. Do we need labels? Is it too easy to let them trip off the tongue without thinking? ‘Alarmist’ is too broad a label and the risk is that it is applied too loosely. Surely it is much stronger to call someone’s behaviour ‘alarmist’ specifically, than just throw the label around generally.

      I’ve had a good look around various blogs and ‘warmist’ is also very clearly a term used only by sceptics. I agree it should not be particularly upsetting and several people I can think of seem happy enough to be called ‘lukewarmers’. I agree ‘AGW proponent’ is ghastly.

      I loathe political correctness. Here I am trying to make a distinction between PC (not upsetting anyone) and neutral semantics. There is a huge difference. I suppose my aspiration would be that a newcomer to the blogosphere – someone pro-AGW, but seeking answers to their questions, could read the site comfortably and without noticing the language. My aim you see is not to worry about sensitivities (PC), but that that such a new reader should read the thoughts and science without noticing the language because it is neutral. One blog that succeeds in that is Science of Doom.

      • John says:

        You could consider “extreme-Greenhouse theorists” for “alarmists.” It’s awkward, but language that people are going to uniformly perceive as neutral doesn’t exist. People who “hold a position” are inevitably going to see their position as the neutral one, because in their minds it is the correct position. In most debates people are inclined to be sincere at the expense of honesty, since sincerity is simple, while honesty takes work and critical (sceptical) examination of one’s own views as well as those of others. “Denier” may well have been first employed as derogatory term by warmist ideologues. But, when the political rhetoric often encountered on “sceptical” sites is considered, accusing “warmists” of being frauds and leftists is easily as derogatory. The implication is that many who think AGW is something to be concerned about are would-be Stalins. In fact, considering some of the revolting exploding children ads and “jail deniers” diatribes, some may be. It is, however, irrelevant to the science, mere emotional noise with little content and best simply ignored I think.

      • The commenters at “Science of Doom” are very decent, civil and knowledgeable. Some (e.g. Leonard Weinstein & DeWitt Payne) are highly impressive. I don’t always agree with them but it is very difficult to refute their arguments. The discussions are never allowed to degenerate into childish “ad hominem” attacks.

        Skeptical Science used to be like that but they made more and more outrageous claims while refusing to admit to the tiniest error. Consequently they were forced to do a “Joe Romm” by introducing heavy handed “Moderation” (censorship).

  5. Cal says:

    [snip] offers greater disincentive than strikeout.

  6. John Eggert says:

    I agree that changing what you say is appropriate. The comments are not your own though. In my opinion, you are not obliged to tidy them up. If you start down that road, then you are taking ownership of them, which may not be entirely wise in a litigious society

  7. Verity Jones says:

    I was as much concerned about not being seen to renege on my promised action. Now that I have made changes I’ve also given the whole issue more thought.

    For the future, yes

    @John Eggert
    As blog owner I am legally responsible for anything anyone writes on this blog or in comments. It’s not just copyright – libellous comments too could result in action. That’s why the bigger blogs have moderation.

  8. plazaeme says:

    Name-calling, labels, etc, are not adequate for a scientific paper, but they are not per se bad in a normal conversation or a blog. But yes, they are dangerous creatures. If properly used, they add some spice to the argument. If they try to substitute the argument, or if they are unjustified, they turn against who is using them.

    That’s why I am very happy with things as they are. Let them call us “deniers”, it turns against them. But I don’t think the use of “warmists” or “alarmists” turns against the ones using it. (Of course the “SS” label is a different question)

  9. Another Ian says:


    Have you seen this earlier version of SKS?

  10. Verity Jones says:

    Nothiing like a good argument! Actually at times it can be a challenge to call it correctly when moderating blog comments and you see a bit of name calling – often people who know each other well and just enjoy winding each other up. You know they can handle it, but you can’t let them get away with it because of how it looks to others (and what it might encourage).

    Regarding the use of ‘deniers’, I agree completely – it may have the holocaust association, but most rational, thinking people will find the use in the climate context absurd to the point of ridiculous.

    I really have mixed feelings about all this care with language. On one hand it is good to take the heat out of the debate and the main reason I am interested in doing so is in the hope that it encourages more people to read what scepticism has to say, but on the other hand perhaps it is just giving in to a load of PC namby-pambies who should just get a life.

    Context is everything. In relation to wastewater “SS” is “suspended solids” and no-one would dream of any further connotation.

    @Another Ian,
    Now you are just being silly 😉 Of course time changes meaning. In a while ‘deniers’ will only come to mean climate sceptics and the previous use will be much less known – that will both take the sting out of it and nullify the attractiveness of its use.

  11. Why should we be civil to “AGW proponents”? They have caused the deaths of around ten millions and intend the deaths of billions. They are not civil to us, and are never going to be, because they hate humans in general, and intend our deaths, as well as the deaths of most other people.

    The “AGW proponents” food to fuel program consumes enough food to feed half a billion people, has substantially raised the price of food for everyone, and has caused the death of around ten million or so.

    “AGW proponents” are proposing a gigantic transfer of wealth and power from some people to other people and deaths of billions, which deaths have already begun.

    War explains famine in Somalia and Liberia It does not explain famine in Haiti.

    Greenies are conspiratorial and murderous: They say that people are pollution, the world must have less people, that a massive drop in population is not only necessary but, regrettably, unavoidable, and then legislate programs to make sure we do not avoid it.

    Observe that “alternative” energy sources are only alternative to the extent that they are not much use. As soon as they threaten to be actually capable of replacing some coal power, for example the Severn barrage, some wholly specious environmentalist rationale is cooked up to reject them. Renewables are only acceptable to the extent that they are incapable of supporting present population levels.

    Not one coal power plant has been reduced or replaced by alternative energy. Those who talk of solving problems on earth are only interested in alternative energies so long as they are INCAPABLE of replacing coal power – for example, wind power. Because wind power is erratic, you have to keep the boilers hot and at high pressure even when the wind is blowing. The Severn barrage would not have flooded the nest of a single marsh bird. The real reason it was stopped because it would have provided large amounts of power on a predictable and regular schedule. As soon as alternative energy actually works, suddenly it is not an alternative any more.

    Purported support for renewables is just a smokescreen to cover the real aim – destroy technological civilization and reduce the population to about one percent of present levels.

    Coal with CO2 capture is an unproven technology that may not necessarily be feasible. If it turns out to be feasible, they will find some environmentalist rationale for forbidding it.

    All methods of reaching emission targets that do not require the destruction of technological civilization have been rejected.

    Nuclear power would allow us to easily reach emission targets, but to make sure that does not happen, the government requires all new nuclear power stations to dispose of waste in a government approved facility, and has not approved any facilities.

    Another solution would be a nation wide high voltage DC power grid, and tower of power solar thermal plants with molten salt storage in the high southern deserts. But they have pulled out of their ass some crazy environmentalist rationale for stopping tower of power plants also.

    Tower of power with molten salt storage is the only solar power that can deliver power when you need it, instead of when the sun is shining. All forms of alternative energy that are being developed at present are just fakes, to deceive people that the greenies do not intend the
    destruction of civilization and a radical reduction of the human population to “sustainable” levels. Any form of renewable energy that actually works (such as tower of power or the severn barrage) comes under immediate attack by environmentalists.

    • Verity Jones says:

      Any form of renewable energy that actually works … comes under immediate attack by environmentalists.
      I reckon they like to hear the sounds of their own voices.

      There is a strong case for arguing back.

      My desire to take the heat out of the language is not about pandering to AGW proponents or advocates. My interest is in being able to reach the average peson who is curious, or maybe starting to doubt and providing a narrative that makes them think “oh that’s interesting” and want to know more. Rather like bad manners are noticed while good manners are not, I want them to be able to read without thinking “what’s all this animosity about?”

    • James,
      I think you are being really mean to the “Greenies”. Let’s at least give them credit for the wonderful job that they have done fueled by funding from ADM (Archer Daniels Midland). Thanks to them it is almost impossible to buy gasoline (petrol to you limeys) that does not contain at least 10% ethanol. Here are just a few consequences of this brilliant achievement:

      1. My Jeep does 5% less miles per gallon using fuel that costs more.
      2. My Jeep engine needs more maintenance.
      3. The ethanol is made from corn that leads to more fertilizers leaching into the Mississippi river and this enlarges the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where all vertebrate lifeforms die from lack of oxygen during summer months.
      4. The price of corn has risen worldwide causing widespread hunger and the Arab spring.

      These consequences are listed in order of importance from my perspective. If you are a “Citizen of the World” you might want to reverse the order.
      Mississippi rive

  12. It is a strange paradox that the tide has turned, not as a result of our success but owing to the success of our opponents.

    The CAGW folks have achieved real power via the “Environmental” movement. They have demonized solutions that work (e.g. fossil fuels and nuclear power) while exalting ones that don’t.

    Today the UK is littered with useless windmills. It is even worse in Denmark and Germany. The folly of solar energy has been amply demonstrated in Germany (>17 GW capacity); even sunny Spain (>4 GW capacity) can’t afford solar power, especially with the molten salt storage. See Calzada:

    Here in the USA we did not learn from Europe’s white elephants so we are emulating the madness with the predictable consequences of wasted taxpayer money and an expanding swathe of Solyndra type scandals. Check out the “Wreck of the Carrizzo”; there are many similar projects in the pipeline here, none of them viable without taxpayer subsidies:

    The good news is that the US public is waking up and something wonderful is going to happen in 2012. It is called an election. However, Beverley Perdue, the governor of North Carolina wants to eliminate this election so that the current regime can finish its work. Deja vu? Let’s suppose there are riots in the streets and then the House of Representatives goes up in flames……..didn’t something similar happen in Germany about 80 years ago?

    To illustrate the extent of the shift in the political climate here, yesterday I received a solicitation from the campaign of the most moderate Republican candidate for the US presidency. Mitt Romney wants to totally eliminate the US funding for the United Nations. This would close the UN building in New York and destroy many creatures of the UN such as the IPCC.

    In 2008, I was dismayed by McCain and Obama owing to their declared intention to support “Crony Capitalism” by bailing out the banking sector. I protested this “Non-Choice” by voting for a “Write In” candidate, namely Boris Johnson (the Thinking Man’s Idiot) who was born in New York. In 2012 I won’t vote for Boris as every Republican presidential candidate is immensely superior to Obama.

    As a business owner, I admire Herman Cain but the others are pretty impressive too!

    • Verity Jones says:

      Cain seems to be doing rather well.

      • Yeah!

        I am an unaffiliated voter who ihas not sent money to a candidate for the presidency since Ronald Reagan. Even though I suffer from CMS (Church Mouse Syndrome), Herman gets my $100.

        Even if he does not get the nomination he says what fiscal conservatives are thinking.

  13. TimG says:

    I prefer the term ‘mitigation advocates’ and ‘mitigation skeptics’.

    After all – that is what this entire debate is about: whether governments should aggressive pursue CO2 mitigation policies or wait an see wait happens.

    It also avoids the confusions between difference classes of skeptics (lukewarmers vs. sky dragoners).

    • Verity Jones says:

      Interesting suggestion, although that doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue either. Then there are some who do believe CO2 is causing warming, but that we should not do any mitigation but should adapt. In your terms they would be ‘mitigation skeptics’ even though they believe that warming is occurring.

      • TimG says:

        The terms are cumbersome but they are accurate. Alarmists have long villified Lomborg and the Pieke’s because they question the mitigation agenda – not because they question the AGW science.

        By framing this as a debate over the science the alarmists have gained a significant tactical advantage. It is time to respond with terms that accurately describe the sides in terms of their policy choices because that is really what the debate is about.

  14. Pascvaks says:

    Ref. Wordsmithing and Rewriting History

    “From this day forward…” works better than editing the past. In the 1890’s Gay meant something totally different from what it meant the 1990’s. If I were you, I’d skip over this rock and keep on hopping scotch.

  15. Bloke down the pub says:

    If by striking out you mean for example warmongers then I think you are wasting your time. All it does is draw more attention to the word. It’s the same when someone swears by typing f##k off. Everyone knows what they are saying and anyone who might be offended will be in spite of a couple of blanked letters. If you truely wish to carry on with this experiment then I would recommend [snip] and replace.

  16. Verity Jones says:

    I agree totally. I’ve done quite a bit of thinking on this and have a way to move forward – now I just need to get the time to write it out in a post.

  17. Lars Per says:

    I would propose not to retroactively change anything but define a future site policy. Thus what has been said remains as it was, the future will be more political correct.
    From the definitions I would see the separation as CAGW proponents, or CAGW advocates, or CAGW theory adepts, versus CAGW skeptic, or non-CAGW advocate or contrarian to CAGW theory – or simply “pro-CAGW theory” versus “contra-CAGW theory”. Or even offer a list of available choices.
    One pitfall is to let “their” naming go through. It is not AGW that is the problem but CAGW.
    Interesting to see how “they” define denial -see also:
    “Contrary to Judith’s opening statement, the authors do define “denial”. In fact, they use five alternative definitions:
    1. Global warming will never happen.
    2. Recent warming is not caused by humans.
    3. There is no scientific consensus.
    4. Seriousness of global warming is exaggerated by the media.
    5. Global warming is no reason for concern.”
    Which shows the perversion of this name calling.

  18. J Calvert N says:

    I disagree with the use of “AGW proponents”. There are other forms of Anthropogenic Global Warming than anthropogenic CO2 – especially urbanisation and the UHI effect, deforestation, overgrazing of grasslands and desert margins. I am sceptical of many of the claims made about anthropogenic CO2 – but I remain concerned about the other AGW things I have listed. Although I have some AGW concerns, I most emphatically do NOT want to be lumped together with the likes of Cook et al. NO WAY!

  19. Verity Jones says:

    @Lars Per
    Thanks for reminding me of that Climate Etc. thread. I remember reading it at the time. I tend to lurk at Judith Curry’s, mostly because I can’t keep up with the volume of comments – so I only even try on a few threads.

    @J Calvert N
    I think many serious skeptics (and many lukewarmers) have very varied opinions that are actually quite open to change as new evidence is presented. I know my opinions swung back and forth on many things for many years and just last week I found something that challenged my opinions again (post half written – the usual story).

    Actually it is great to hear what people think and it confirms that there is no ‘one size fits all’ except on very solid issues.

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