The moderator for social news site reddit’s science forum is banning climate change deniers, Grist reports. Nathan Allen, moderator of /r/science wrote about his decision to ban climate science deniers and skeptics from the forum, which is intended to facilitate “discussions about recent, peer-reviewed scientific publications.”
According to Allen, reddit’s science forum has over 4 million subscribers, “roughly twice the circulation of The New York Times.” He says the forum’s users are mainly academics, and the discussion usually “resembles any scientific debate… there are always numerous links to peer-reviewed science to support positions, people don’t deliberately mislead or misrepresent content, and there is a basic level of respect shared regardless of position.”
Still, Allen says, there are some subjects that remain controversial, and “no topic consistently evokes such rude, uniformed, and outspoken opinions as climate change.” Allen writes:
Instead of the reasoned and civil conversations that arise in most threads, when it came to climate change the comment sections became a battleground. Rather than making thoughtful arguments based on peer-reviewed science to refute man-made climate change, contrarians immediately resorted to aggressive behaviors. On one side, deniers accused any of the hard-working scientists whose research supported and furthered our understanding of man-made climate change of being bought by “Big Green.” On the other side, deniers were frequently insulted and accused of being paid to comment on reddit by “Big Oil.”
After some time interacting with the regular denier posters, it became clear that they could not or would not improve their demeanor. These problematic users were not the common “internet trolls” looking to have a little fun upsetting people. Such users are practically the norm on reddit. These people were true believers, blind to the fact that their arguments were hopelessly flawed, the result of cherry-picked data and conspiratorial thinking. They had no idea that the smart-sounding talking points from their preferred climate blog were, even to a casual climate science observer, plainly wrong. They were completely enamored by the emotionally charged and rhetoric-based arguments of pundits on talk radio and Fox News.
As a scientist myself, it became clear to me that the contrarians were not capable of providing the science to support their “skepticism” on climate change. The evidence simply does not exist to justify continued denial that climate change is caused by humans and will be bad. There is always legitimate debate around the cutting edge of research, something we see regularly. But with climate change, science that has been established, constantly tested, and reaffirmed for decades was routinely called into question.
At the end of his statement, Allen encourages other news and media outlets to adequately vet their messages as reddit has done. “As moderators are responsible for what millions of people see, we felt that to allow a handful of commenters to so purposefully mislead our audience was simply immoral,” he said.
Some on the internet have questioned whether reddit’s decision to eliminate climate science deniers goes too far; however, there is no true “debate” or “controversy” in the science world over anthropogenic climate change. In reality, 97 percent of peer-reviewed scientific articles on climate change agree that climate change is happening and that it is man-made. To give credence to the 3 percent of dissenters would be equivalent to giving credence to those who still argue that smoking is not linked to cancer.
“Fair debate can only exist when there are facts, not misinformation,” said Farron Cousins, a writer with DeSmogBlog. “There is no doubt within the scientific community of the realness of climate change, therefore banning those who deny science is healthy for debate. It further prevents the spread of misinformation and raises the intelligence of the debate.”
Ring of Fire has decided to take a similar approach, and will no longer tolerate the lack of intellectual debate on our social media platforms. There is no sense in allowing science-denying individuals to pollute the public discourse with their industry-sponsored nonsense, and we encourage other outlets to do the same. Why lend credence to the same caliber of individuals who, just a few centuries ago, were too afraid to explore because they believed they would sail off the edge of the earth?