Is Barack Obama a Climate Science “Denier”*?

An esteemed friend and I recently had a discussion on whether or not I was a “Global Warming Denier”. That said, I am pretty sure that we decided that I’m not such a Boogieman as I embrace the IPCC consensus on climate change, despite my opposition and apprehensions regarding the certainty on the risks and policy positions.

Many people have read about infamous Cook et al. 2013 “97%” paper. The study concluded that 97% of climate science papers examined support that climate is changing, and that human activity accounts to half or better of the observed warming.

The paper went on to be savaged for methodological reasons (not a big surprise given that when you put John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli, of climate activist website Skeptical Science, together the generalizations they trade in individually tend to multiply). Others, such as climate scientist Mike Hulme, blamed the paper for attempting to perpetuate a politicized “good guy” vs “bad guy” perception about scientists. communicators and, enthusiasts that is unproductive and possibly even damaging to science communication.

Aside from these rather robust critiques, one thing was obvious. The definition, if applied to the wider public, placed a majority of active climate policy & climate catastrophe skeptics in the same 97% grouping. Was it acceptance? Was science communication finally seeing the light that the opposition to radical, potentially dangerous, solutions was coming, strongly, from within the ranks of IPCC consensus believers?

In a word… No! As Dr. Hulme’s statement alluded to, this was further used to blur the lines before a tiny number of people who doubt radiative physics and those with legitimate interest and questions regarding the science and policies related to subjects that the IPCC feels do not meet the standards of scientific-consensus approval.

Now, I said many people have read about the study and that brings us to the title of this piece. Is Barack Obama a climate science Denier? Something tells me that if I was to take a science paper and then extrapolate it’s meaning to a conclusion it didn’t explore or reveal (i.e. That Cook et al. proves that there are no potential risks associated with climate change) I’d rightly earn some sort of derision, not to mention a comparison to Ernst Zundle. Either way, it would be either misguided or anti-scientific to mistreat Cook et al. in such a fashion.

Let’s call it President Obama’s “flat-earther” moment, as he likes that term. As you can see, based on a review of papers discussing the existence of man-made warming (rightly or wrongly, it doesn’t matter for this exercise) President Obama adds something, “and dangerous”. But Cook et al doesn’t explore whether or not anthropogenic climate change is “dangerous”, that’s political spin based on ideology. Maybe calling it his “Inhofe Moment” would have been more accurate, but “flat-earther” is his favourite stick with which to beat people who don’t agree with his climate policies.

Needless to say, John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli would have savaged anyone taking liberty with what their paper stated, and what it explored, to draw a non-consensus point in the opposite direction.

Thank goodness neither Cook, Nucittelli nor Obama are actually climate scientists. Sadly and laughably though, Cook is “Research fellow in climate communication at University of Queensland”.

Poor Australia!

I can’t emphasize enough my gratitude to my friend for choosing to consider beyond the stereotypes and engage with me on this. I’d have never brought the pieces of this article together without our conversation.

As to my answer to the question/title – No! Read below as to why.


* I use the term “Denier” here because it turned up in the discussion. I don’t support aspersions that anybody is morally equivalent to a Holocaust Denier, regardless of positions on issues of science and science policy, with the possible exception of Eugenics. I consider the term to be a repugnant slur that is insulting, to the targets & third parties, and that serves only to obfuscate, inflame passions and generate hatred. In this position, I stand with much of the climate science and climate communications community.

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