Joe Romm has an excellent piece over on Salon taking on global warming deniers. It contains some good advice on ways not to feed denialist fires, specifically, when it comes to using terms like "consensus":
One of the most serious results of the overuse of the term "consensus" in the public discussion of global warming is that it creates a simple strategy for doubters to confuse the public, the press and politicians: Simply come up with as long a list as you can of scientists who dispute the theory. After all, such disagreement is prima facie proof that no consensus of opinion exists.
This is the sort of tactic we saw in December when James Inhofe's minions released a list of 400 "prominent scientists" who dispute claims about man-made climate change. A number of them were neither prominent nor scientists. Others actually only disagree about the specifics of the rate and impact of climate change -- not whether it's happening or man-made. But as Romm points out, it's not about "consensus of opinion" -- it's about data and science and scientific conclusions, and needs to be framed as such. And what that data shows is actually worse than the latest "consensus" reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This reflects the progression we've seen in the global warming denier crowd. First, they said global warming wasn't happening. Then they acknowledged it was happening, but swore it wasn't man-made. Then they conceded it was happening and manmade, but doing something about it was just "too costly." And now that most Americans understand of how costly it would be to not take action on climate change, they've resorted to disputing whether scientists are actually in agreement on what's happening to the planet, and pulling out all kinds of bunk arguments to support that idea. Which is precisely why talking about it as "consensus" is problematic. They'll always be able to dig up some folks to disprove that everyone's agreed.
Romm's piece is especially appropriate this week, as the famed ExxonMobil and Philip Morris-lovers at the Heartland Institute bring together as many denialist schmucks as they can dig up for an International Conference on Climate Change in New York, with under the theme "Global Warming: Crisis or Scam?" The event is meant to solidify their denialist message and garner some good press, which they'll probably get. But any examination of the "luminaries" they've invited to speak shows how desperate their attempts at arguing against science have become. (Kevin Grandia is working on a reference list on the conference speakers.) I'd feel bad for them for cobbling together such a pitiful group, except for the fact that they'll probably get plenty of uncritical press out of the whole deal.