It seems that a large part of what they do is looking at other people’s research and trying to poke holes in it. This is work that we need people to do, but deniers don’t tend to do it honestly.
They mis-represent what the research reports actually SAY, and then try to poke holes in their own fabrications. The easiest example is the argument that “random chance creating a human being is as unlikely as a tornado in a junkyard creating a car”. No evolutionary biologist says that species are created through “random chance.”
The other part of this, of course, is that much of what denier scientists do isn’t really research, in the strictest sense.
They don’t tend formulate hypotheses on WHY the climate is changing, they just argue with those that DO.
They don’t go out and measure atmospheric composition, they just complain that everybody else is doing it wrong.
They don’t drill and study ice cores, they just say that THEY have the right analysis of them, and the guys who got them in the first place are lying.
They don’t measure water temperature, or land temperature, or water acidity, they just say that the people who DO take those measurements aren’t right, or they lie about what those people say about their data.
There is a pattern here.
Science is a tool for looking at how the world works. When a researcher sees something wrong with someone else’s work, they say, “No, I think that’s wrong and here’s why,” but THEN they say, “here’s what I think is right, and I think we should look into it.” They don’t say “No, I think that’s wrong and here’s why,” and then say “So we’re done here, and you greedy people don’t need any more funding.”
Some of the deniers do modeling work, and that IS important work to do, but once again, deniers do their work with the purpose of showing that other people are wrong, and that it’s NOT CO2, or that we’re not going to see much warming – they do it, as was so nicely demonstrated by Roy Spencer, PhD, for political reasons:
“I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government.”
That is not the same as “to find out what’s going on in the world.”
Edit: Spencer DOES work with satellite data, and HAS reported that it shows warming, despite his expectations. He still maintains his denier, however, and will, I assume, continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
We need people to pick through the data, and check that it’s being analyzed correctly. We need people to point out errors – without them, science doesn’t do much for us.
When, however, the ONLY people disagreeing with a theory are the ones who are working from the armchairs, and when none of them are actually interacting with the real world, they are no longer acting as scientists.