Godwin's Law and Global Warming:

Roger Pielke Jr. has had enough of comparisons between global warming skeptics and holocaust deniers.

Let's be blunt. The phrase "climate change denier" is meant to be evocative of the phrase "holocaust denier". As such the phrase conjurs up a symbolic allusion fully intended to equate questioning of climate change with questioning of the Holocaust.

Let's be blunt. This allusion is an affront to those who suffered and died in the Holocaust. Let those who would make such an allusion instead be absolutely explicit about their assertion of moral equivalency between Holocaust deniers and those that they criticize.

This allusion has no place in the discourse on climate change. I say this as someone fully convinced of a significant human role in the behavior of the climate system.

Let's declare a moratorium on the phrases "climate change denier" and "climate change denial." Let's invoke the equivalent of Godwin's Law in discourse on climate policy. Maybe call it the Prometheus Principle.

No more invocation of "climate change deniers."

Pielke could further add that the allusion is meant to pillory those with dissenting views. Like other forms of ad hominem attack, it assails the individuals, not their arguments. It is also inapt in many cases, as many so-called "climate change deniers" accept that human activity is contributing to climate change. What they dispute is that such effects are necessarily catastrophic and/or that it makes sense to adopt proposed emission control schemes.

UPDATE: Speaking of holocaust analogies in the climate policy debate, a few weeks back Dave Roberts of Grist claimed the global warming "denial industry" should be subject to Nuremberg-style war crimes prosecutions:

When we've finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we're in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards -- some sort of climate Nuremberg.
Yesterday Roberts half-heartedly acknowledged his rhetoric might have been a little bit excessive:
Surely we can agree that global warming denialists, while not "as bad" as Holocaust deniers, are nonetheless really damn bad.

Nuremberg trials? Eh, whatever. Sue me for rhetorical excess. But let's not forget that a moral crime is taking place under our noses, and nothing is to be gained by being polite about it.

Today, however, Roberts retracted teh remarks:
There are people and institutions knowingly disseminating falsehoods and distortions about global warming. They deserve to be held publicly accountable.

As to what shape that accountability would take, my analogy to the Nuremberg trials was woefully inappropriate -- nay, stupid. I retract it wholeheartedly.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Roberts Reconsiders Nuremberg Analogy:
  2. Godwin's Law and Global Warming:
  3. Ron Bailey Comes Clean: