Fury Recursive: the curtain refuses to fall

(c) Gary Killon Photography

The Recursive Fury story has undergone a sea change. In one quick motion, senior Frontiers editors turned the carefully stage-managed Lewandowsky narrative upside down. Rarely does a succinct statement as this get so many key elements of a complex dispute, right on the mark.

Suddenly, the numerous Fury-friendly articles in Lewandowsky’s favourite media outlets and blogs are tottering (for e.g., here, here, here). Ironically, it was perhaps these very news items that precipitated the journal’s statement.

The Lewandowsky narrative, as evidenced by the running Hiroshima clock in his talk video, took its time coming. Carefully timed articles in the Guardian and Desmogblog made their appearance alongside news of the retraction decrying academic censorship and the squelching of scholarship. The University of Queensland issued a special statement in support of student John Cook.

When was the last time an academic paper’s retraction was accompanied by a carnival parade with the authors on floats covered in robes of martyrdom waving to the crowds?

But with everything there’s a price. None of the articles on the retraction news contacted a sceptic who submitted complaints to the journal. With no dissenting voices and the unrelenting ‘Crusher Crew’ rhetoric, it fast became clear the journal itself was being scapegoated for the retraction, forcing its hand.

With the statement, Team Lewandowsky is suddenly in a shambles (they do well when they can control everything).  Skepticalscience principals tumbled on to Retraction Watch betraying surprise and dropping dark hints of ominous revelations. Apparently, these could include plans to sue the journal.

With this, Frontiers has been given a good hard look at the nature of the parties they dealt with. Following the implosion, Lewandowsky has released a lengthy, tight-lipped statement. It gives a sense for how Fury was to be stuffed, wings clipped, into a delicate cage and perched atop a legal tinderbox. Only that never happened. Instead they lit the bonfire of publicity at the same spot and blew it all up.

Frontiers and Lewandowsky: the scab-picking begins anew

Stephan Lewandowsky has climbed back into the news again. Though they pretended otherwise, the retraction of Recursive Fury is a major fiasco for climate alarmists. Retraction of a paper is no small matter. Many egos have been bruised: Lewandowsky, the university, their lawyer and the paper’s reviewers. They refuse to go quietly into the night.

Starting anew with the paper’s reviewer for Frontiers in Psychology Elaine McKewon, a rash of articles have popped up at favourable venues (Sydney Morning Herald, Conversation).

McKewon’s story is long, and wrong, but fortunately a few new things emerge. This blogger’s initial impressions are strengthened. It appears the journal did a far better job than what comes across. They verbally discussed matters with the university, the paper’s authors and the reviewers. An ‘agreement’ to modify a couple of sentences appeared to emerge and the authors and reviewer (McKewon) hoped that was it.

McKewon’s judgement of course was clouded. Tweaking a few sentences was not enough for the journal. It would not have been enough: the paper’s basis was ‘narrative analysis’, which is an euphemism for the authors weaving their critics into an elaborate yarn as inmates of a conspiracist madhouse. Each suitable comment was chosen, chopped and bowdlerized to fit a story with real names and Webcitation archives. If you set out to ‘modify’ things to rescue the paper it would wholly come apart.

McKewon misses this point as well: the question was not about making changes acceptable to the journal. It was the journal’s chances in court should legal threat/s materialize. As she points out, UK libel law changed in the interim to favour academic freedom of expression. But yet the journal decided against the paper. Why?

The reasons are not hard to guess: the authors and reviewers’ excuses did not sell. The ethics process appeared weak to non-existent. The risks would have been transferred from the authors to the journal. It bears repeating: the risk of litigation and a successful outcome following litigation are two different things.

The University of Queensland, John Cook’s home, announced in a statement by the acting pro-vice chancellor that “retraction of the paper has arisen solely as a consequence of the journal’s legal considerations”. (emphasis mine). These elaborate resuscitation measures indicate matters reached a head.

Contrary to the spin on how only legal issues remained, Frontiers has given a different answer when pushed.

Our decision on the retraction of this article was taken on the basis of a number of factors. This decision had nothing to do with caving in to pressure and was driven by our own analysis of various factors and advice received.



It would be interesting to see if the scab-picking stops here.

AndPhysics frightens himself

Blogger AndPhysics (a.k.a wotty, wotts etc) has frightened himself. We learn he’s done this by not reading the latest scary IPCC report.

I quote:

I haven’t really had a chance to read the newly released WGII Summary for Policy Makers, but I have had a quick glance and have read some related articles.

That’s right. He’s not read the report, he’s not read even a summary of it. Draft versions of both were leaked and have been available for a long time now.

Clearly, this knowledge gap is useful to fortify one’s prior convictions about climate catastrophe. I wonder why no Dan Kahan would research this psychology. Climate alarm resides under the shady branches of huge error bars weathering storms of criticism. Not even reading the reports must confer additional benefit.

Variations on the fright routines are almost endless. One we’ve heard recently from activists are that they are not alarmed. But to their great trepidation, they learned how scientists have been privately peeing in their pants in climate terror. Keyes has the details.

A couple of days back, Andphysics put another interesting form of alarmism on display: argument from fantasy. Briefly, it goes like this: ‘imagine if something bad ‘X’ happened. We could say ‘I told you so’. I quote:

So, if we do have a big El Niño later this year … maybe I (and many others) could say “told you so”.

‘X’ in this case is ‘warmest year ever’. Pretending it is bad is assuredly a lie, instead it provides for newspaper headline opportunities. Hoping for a Super El-Nino has been a staple fantasy of climate alarmists. It allows them to sponge off any warmth occurring from natural variability for CO2, for the cause.

But to say ‘I told you so’, you have to first predict something ‘X’ and ‘X’ has to then happen.

Prediction means sticking your neck out. It means skin in the game. Andphysics’ trick is to hide his non-prediction in the folds of long, flowing blog posts. That doesn’t prevent him from imagining seeing himself having predicted an El-Nino, if it were to happen. Wrap your head around that a bit.

The odds of an El-Nino this year are apparently 0.6, i.e., slightly better than a coin toss.

Richard Betts clears it up with Stephan Lewandowsky

mail rebate conspiracistFrom Hilary comes a remarkable little bit of news. In Lewandowsky’s retracted Recursive Fury, he and his co-authors listed climate scientist Richard Betts as a person with ‘conspiracist ideation’.

It turns out Betts ran into Lewandowsky, physically, at a conference. Why a psychologist and a climate scientist would go to the same gathering is a different matter but the two scientists had a little chat over coffee (about one being called a conspiracist by the other), and lo and behold they “cleared the air’.

The comment that qualified Betts as ‘conspiracist’ in the paper is unequivocal: it meets criteria set out by the authors. I cannot see how the air can be cleared. As far as one can tell, Betts did not stand up for the principle but like the rich and powerful who bought papal indulgences or skip the waiting line at bank counters, he went backstage.

This brings up another point: you can be a conspiracist and still get out of Lewandowsky’s list. Possible if you are well-connected. That or you have coffee with Lewandowsky. I wonder if the people attending his Bristol conference have a little chat and coffee and get their names off his list.

Recursive Fury Gone

Lewandowsky’s ‘Recursive Fury’ – the subject of many posts here – has been retracted by the journal Frontiers in Psychology. The news of the retraction came pre-packaged with spin and bluster – on how only legal issues affected the journal’s decision and how Lewandowsky’s former employer was still hosting the paper’s pdf draft.

But actions speak louder than words. The question in front of the journal was two-fold: (a) the risk of legal action if the paper was published, and (b) its chances in court in the event of litigation. It would be fair to say their answers were: (a) not insignificant, and (b) quite poor.

The journal’s instincts are on display in FOI documents (pdf) from the University of Western Australia. It set up an external team of senior academics to evaluate the paper and complaints. The journal put polite but pointed questions to the UWA office.

In turn, the university extracted compliance to a gag order from the journal:

UWA Ethics report

Frontiers review team signed the above document to obtain a ethics report from University of Western Australia on the retracted Lewandowsky et al 2013 Recursive Fury paper

Why would UWA not want the ethics report not be made public, and want the journal roped in?  This was before the decision to retract was made. With the information available, it is evident the paper underwent no formal ethics review. If true, this would have been immensely damaging to both the paper’s authors and the journal.

Lewandowsky and his co-authors are said to have signed gag orders as well. However, with the release of a 45-min video, and write-ups in the Guardian, Shaping Tomorrow’s World and numerous other venues pushing his narrative, it’s not clear what gagging is taking place at all.

What complainant names is Lewandowsky protecting by not disclosing names? The same people whom he defamed by labeling them conspiracists in his paper?

The so-called gag is of the same kind thrown up as reason for not revealing which skeptical bloggers Lewandowsky sent his Moon Hoax survey to. In both instances, the involved people whose names he refused to utter sprung forward of their accord to identify themselves publicly.

It doesn’t match with the FOI material (pictured above) which shows UWA to have demanded silence from Frontiers academics.

The journal didn’t exactly cover itself in glory either. The numerous switches and changes it made to reviewers reflect the difficulty it had finding someone suitable. The final two reviewers are a revealing pair. Reviewer one - Viren Swami - was in addition special topics editor for the issue the paper appeared in. Reviewer two was a former UWA graduate and current journalism PhD candidate one Elaine McKewon. A committed climate consensus supporter, she is hardly the objective person to be reviewing a paper on the psychologic profiles of allegedly conspiracist mental defectives she does not hesitate labeling ‘deniers’.

Arising from McIntyre’s digging to previously released FOI documents, it appears Lewandowsky himself co-wrote portions of UWA’s ethics report inquiring into his previous ‘Moon Hoax’ paper. You can bet the senior academics on Frontiers’ panel must be wondering about the provenance of material UWA fed them leading them to conclude there were no issues with the ethical aspects of the present paper.

The Michael Mann ‘scientists’ rigor and honesty’ Quote

The doctored quote in Michael Mann’s legal reply brought to attention by Climateaudit is doing its rounds now.

Doctored quotes? Guess where my first reaction was to look.

Sure enough, this is what one finds on Skepticalscience:

In July 2010, the University of East Anglia published the Independent Climate Change Email Review report. They examined the emails to assess whether manipulation or suppression of data occurred and concluded that “The scientists’ rigor and honesty are not in doubt”. (emphasis added)

How oddly coincidental. The exact same wording seen in Michael Mann’s 2013 legal memorandum — “…whether manipulation or suppression of data occurred and concluded that “The scientists’ rigor and honesty are not in doubt”— shows up in John Cook’s 2010 web page, including non-Australian spelling.

A quick Google search turns up several sources which contain the same phrasing but they lead back to Cook’s site. No one else seems to have worded anything Climategate-related quite this way.

Cook if we remember, enthusiastically farmed out the services of his website and followers to Mann upon his request. His behind-the-scenes collaboration with Mann in manufacturing web pages for the express purpose of defending Mann against criticism from Richard Muller is well-documented.

In July 2012 when Mann filed suit against the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Mark Steyn Skepticalscience was there supporting Mann linking to the same page above.

Here’s a spot the hard-working climate mafia missed

spanda cover

Split the whole into two to engender polarities, spanda endures its course to fulfil its vocation, its call to manifest and to be manifested. Along the same thread, born on a different plane, emerging from the primordial androgynous chasm, each engendered side keeps its heavenly or earthly signature, paralleled – in the twin-fissured dimension – as a pro-tension, a gender advocacy to further differentiate. Having been the first signature gender-wise, the pivotal function of sex is ensuing. The vocatio attracting force generates and emanates form the fulfilled wor[l]d of consciousness, while a counterforce repels it. I am not me, I am you.

“u’r beautiful, show ur light: nûr upon nûr … do u like to play the game of life? ;-)” “beauty is the light that shines forth from within – i like playing my game with life because we are players.” “LOL, Gr8! ttyl.” “ok, i’m offline, bye bye.”

Thus begins the editorial of an academic journal. If you feel queasy about the phone text mysticism, these should be quelled by a professor of psychiatry from the Johns Hopkins University in the next article, expounding on psychedelic experiments with the coming Apocalypse and Mayan astrology:

Continue reading

Getting something for nothing

From the prologue of NN Taleb’s Antifragile:

Which brings us to the largest fragilizer of society, and greatest generator of crises, absense of “skin in the game.” Some become antifragile at the expense of others by getting the upside (or gains) from volatility, variations, and disorder and exposing others to the downside risks of losses or harm


While in the past people of rank or status were those and only those who took risks, who had the downside for their actions, and heroes were those who did so for the sake of others, today the exact reverse is taking place. We are witnessing a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, banks, Davos-attending members of the IAND (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power and no real downside and/or accountability. They game the system while citizens pay the price.

Continue reading

Akademik Shokalskiy: the fateful moment

“The smallest mistakes can cascade into a disaster” 
Chris Turney

Akademik Shokalskiy and its passengers

It has been more than a week since the Akademik Shokalskiy got stuck in Antarctic sea ice. Its passengers have now been removed. Events are embedded safely enough in the past. Fortunately, beyond the monopoly of the flowery-but-unilluminating Alok Jha and the disinformation-obsessed BBC and the forced gaiety of the eco-tourists, independent voices are available. One of them is Janet Rice, an Australian Green party Senate candidate.

Continue reading

The Narrative

Booker is in form, as usual, as he talks about Nelson Mandela: media narratives are “fraudulent concoctions of artifice”, and a prime function of journalism, to see through them. The writer Nicholas Taleb has long sections attacking the narrative problem—our ‘crippling dislike for the abstract’ becomes the excuse for journalists to weave narratives and ‘convey the impression of causality’.The story of global warming is inextricably linked to the narrative.

In academic circles, it is openly conceded that global warming is imperceptible and ‘unobtrusive’ at human timescales. It is not ‘visible to the public except through the media’ (e.g., see page 28 here). While with all issues, newspapers educate their audience to some extent, nowhere as in global warming have newsmen so completely embraced the teacher’s role. And yet, as journalist, he or she is supposed to cross-question the same source, check its claims and report on it.

The compromising of the journalist’s position creates a two-fold problem. Firstly, control over ‘the narrative’, a misleading fiction to begin with, is wrested away from the journalist. Preferred, official explanations constantly emerge as sanctioned supporting pillars of the climate meta-narrative. The expectation is that journalists participate in propping them up as stenographers.  The Climategate emails provides numerous examples where activist scientists desired control over every point in the narrative. The IPCC and its modus operandi in the release of reports are a prime example.

Second is the constant assault on global warming journalists’ position by a pernicious ideology masquerading as principle namely, ‘false balance‘. Again, the theory is that false balance journalists fail to educate their audience, a job that is not theirs in the first place. Whatever its rationale for self-justification the solution, false balance avoidance, amounts to scientists telling journalists that only they be allowed as the source and everyone else be excluded.

In global warming, activist scientists seek control of the story, the actors and the narrative. They’ve gotten used to it over the years. This is reflected in Booker’s experience: the ‘ruthless discrediting of critics’, the pushing of a one-sided “narrative”, and the abhorrence of honest dialogue.

Good journalism, like good science, is the antithesis of narrative. Good journalism destroys narratives.

Passive smoking: Letting the guard down


From a cigarette advert: Tipalet

What does exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke do? Cause lung cancer. Do you know of any other correct answer? I certainly don’t.

Tipped off by Christopher Snowdon, I read this JCNI news item on an as-yet unpublished study of lung cancer and second-hand smoke exposure. Inside are shocking statements by physicians I never expected to see in a medical journal:

On the certainty of linking second-hand smoke to lung cancer:

“The findings support continued need for investment in smoking prevention and cessation, research on passive smoking, and understanding of lung cancer risk factors other than smoking.” (emphasis mine)


“Passive smoking has many downstream health effects … but only borderline increased risk of lung cancer,”

The real reason to avoid passive smoking:

“The strongest reason to avoid passive cigarette smoke is to change societal behavior: to not live in a society where smoking is a norm.

On the amount of risk of lung cancer from second-hand smoke:

“But you can say, with regard to passive smoke, it’s only the heaviest exposure that produces the risk. We kind of knew that before, but it’s a little stronger here.”


“We’ve gotten smoking out of bars and restaurants on the basis of the fact that you and I and other nonsmokers don’t want to die,” said [Gerard] Silvestri. “The reality is, we probably won’t.”

We probably won’t die from cancer due to exposure to second-hand smoke? The medical community and the general public already knew this?

There is a continued need to do research on passive smoking? Really? I thought the question of passive smoking and lung cancer was completely ‘settled’. Why waste time and money studying established facts?

We knew the risk of lung cancer and/or death from second hand smoke was low but we still got rid of it from bars and restaurants?

The startling admission in the midst of these questions is this: the reason to avoid second-hand cigarette smoke is not to protect oneself from the smoke, but to make it socially difficult for the smoker to smoke?

I had no idea.

It is illuminating to see how scientists casually and inadvertently admit to weakness in the secondhand tobacco smoke-lung cancer argument, once behind the comfortable safety of accomplished social objectives surrounding tobacco.

Tom Curtis: An open letter

Hello Tom Curtis
You are a Skepticalscience regular. In your post dated September 28, 2013 you laid out independent lines of evidence showing how John Cook, the proprietor of Skepticalscience, did not post a survey from Australian psychology researcher Stephen Lewandowsky on his website.

But the notorious paper Lewandowsky wrote makes this claim. In fact, the paper’s results are critically dependent on the survey being posted there. It says a broad audience saw the survey because it was posted on Skepticalscience.  It analyzes comments from the website to support this.

You know both the above to be false. You have every reason to believe this. You recently re-iterated your belief.

As a climate blogger and commenter, I and others have asked Cook and Lewandowsky on several occasions how their results can be supported if their data was faulty. You rationalized the results referring to survey responses from Junkscience.com. But the paper des not include data from this website (see table below).


From LOG12, Supplementary information. The authors claim the survey was posted at Skepticalscience. Junkscience.com is not listed as a source.

Lewandowsky can put the issue to rest by releasing the raw survey data, but has simply refused. Instead, he and Cook wrote a second psychology paper using those who asked for data as study subjects.

Matters have stalled. But, Lewandowsky and Cook have your confidence. You have supported them through the years. They may pass over their critics and study subjects in silence but they owe you an answer. You and others have sunk significant effort into running Cook’s website over the years. How does the same silence appease you? Releasing the data would answer questions you raise more than anyone else’s.

Could you use your influence to assist getting the raw survey data released?

-With thanks

Nuccitelli’s Streisand Moment


Dana Nuccitelli tied himself up in knots on Twitter recently, and is still attempting to walk back from his own statements. His initial tweet, he says, was “a mistake”, “imprecise”, “poorly worded” and “wasn’t accurately worded”. He hasn’t been able to bring himself to say: ‘I was wrong. What I said was false.’

There are two threads discussing Nuccitelli’s tactics, devoted exclusively for this purpose. Between them, almost every possible excuse to overlook his behaviour has been offered up by the apologists. Excellent. Everyone’s forgotten about the tornadoes.

In order to protect their fragile arguments, alarmists like Nuccitelli resort to censorship and secrecy. In the resulting cloistered surroundings their egos swell and their reasoning acquires bizarre features. Nuccitelli imagines that false statements can be defended indefinitely, simply because they’re his. Nuccitelli also believes he can play fast and loose with proper attribution, grammar and other such basic elements of  scholarly parlance, as long as he’s picking on the ‘right targets’. Nuccitelli heard Richard Muller being criticized by tornado scientists and decided to attack Roger Pielke Jr in, because Muller reminded him of Pielke Jr.

By this thuggish logic, you could hear of a bank robbery on the evening news and walk out and clock your neighbour in the face, because, at one point, your neighbour argued that those accused of robberies in court were to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The Seralini Debacle

I love the Seralini debacle. It is instructional. A veritable horde is crying for the paper to be retracted. The reasons? It’s become ‘a paper’, it has been published, it will be ‘used’ by activists, it will mislead people. Oh, the horror!

These are the same people (such luminaries as Keith Kloor and Mark Lynas) who look the other way when papers with the same set of flaws drive policies and actions they favour. Their house favourite Greenpeace runs around destroying GM experimental crop. The IPCC does the exact same thing as Seralini except on a much vaster scale: release press proclamations to a captive audience. The fear-mongering junk science jamborees run for months on auto-pilot. There are numerous papers in animal toxicology, environmental and cancer research that have all the flaws listed against the Seralini paper. Sample size issues? There are clowns drawing conclusions from a sample size of zero! Data availability? There are people who refuse to release data 15 years after the paper was originally published. The authors are reported to have shown the journal editor their raw data.

Here’s the worst part: looking at authors’ data, the editor of the journal found “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data” and commended them for “commitment to the scientific process”. The journal peer-review looked the sample sizes and “weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation”. Yet, the paper has to be retracted.

Why? Because, according to the editor, “no definitive conclusions can be reached” from the small sample sizes and because, ridiculously enough, the “results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology.” This, for a paper that already cleared the threshold and was published by the journal.

Only about a week back Science published an excellent article on the problems with animal studies. Surely, the torrent of informed criticism of the shoddy methodology in Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, stroke, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease research must have reached you in full force, over the years.

A paper once published cannot be de-published. Beyond the universally acceptable violations of research norms of fabrication, falsification, plagiarism and ethical violations, there remain little reason to retract a published paper. The critics of Seralini and the editor, collectively, seem unable to explain why numerous forms of redress available to them, namely, replies, letters to the editor, notices of concern, or corrections would not suffice. Such retractions without rationale are politics, not science.

The sooner science and scientists stop this Illuminati bullshit and get back to work, the better.

The Lewandowsky Recursive Fury Ethics ‘Approval’

The now-withdrawn Lewandowsky Fury paper (link) is possibly one of the egregious examples of ethically compromised research encountered. Delve into the paper, the first thing crossing one’s mind is: how did the university ethics committee approve this project? This was the study protocol - Lewandowsky’s associates would carry out real-time surveillance on people criticizing his paper, prod and provoke them, record their responses and perform ‘analysis’. How did they say yes?

Lewandowsky’s correspondence with University of Western Australia (UWA) officials has been released (link). Amidst a storm of emails on this previous work, he writes to the secretary of the ethics committee (10 Sep 2012) of his intention to start another project:

This is just to inform you of the fact that I will be writing a follow-up paper to the one that just caused this enormous stir. The follow-up paper will analyze the response to my first paper …

Lewandowsky states there will be no interaction with his subjects: none of the research “will involve experimentation, surveys, questionnaires or a direct approach of participants of any sort“. (emphasis mine)


What would the research be? According to Lewandowsky, his team would “analyz[e] “Google trends” and other indicators of content that are already in the public domain (e.g. blog posts, newspapers, comments on blogs, that type of thing)”. The research would “basically just summarize and provide a timeline of the public’s response.”

The email is a remarkably misleading and limited description of the project he and his associates conducted.

The ethics office response is further divorced from reality. The approval was granted as a “follow-up” study to the ‘Moon’ paper. The ‘Moon Hoax’ paper was itself was approved under an application for “Understanding Statistical Trends”. As recounted here, “Understanding Statistical Trends” was a study where Lewandowsky’s associates showed a graph to shopping mall visitors and asked questions (link pdf). This application was modified to add the ‘Moon hoax’ questions on the day the original paper was accepted for publication. The same application was modified for the ‘Recursive Fury’ paper. Each modification introduced ethical considerations not present in the previous step. Nevertheless, three unrelated research projects were allowed to be stacked on to a single ethics approval by the university board. In this way, Lewandowsky was able to carry out covert observational activities on members of the general public, as they reacted to his own work, with no human research ethical oversight.

Lewandowsky pitches his study proposal as non-intrusive, observational and retrospective in design: there is “no human participation”, the “content is already in the public domain”, and “irrespective of whether we then summarize that activity”. What he implied was there was minimal concern for more elaborate safeguards and vetting usually put in place when working with human subjects.

Yet during the period of study, Lewandowsky was in direct conversation with his study subjects (even as he ostensibly observed them). On a posting spree, he wrote 9 articles at shapingtomorrowsworld.org between Sept 3 – 19, 2012. About half of these were written after he approached the ethics office on the 10th. All but two were written after he announced that he was already collecting data, to the university deputy vice chancellor on the 5th. Among individuals named in the paper as harboring conspiracist ideas, three posted detailed comments with multiple questions responding to these posts, on his website. The subjects wrote numerous posts at their own blogs on Lewandowsky’s actions in the same interval. The flow of comments, appearance and final content were influenced by the second author, John Cook. A team headed by Cook operated as moderators at shapingtomorrowsworld.org, deleting parts, or whole comments offered by the subjects in the same interval. The elicited comments and posts were harvested as data for the paper.


The study was thus not an examination of archived material on blogs. As the authors themselves describe, they recorded subject comments and blog-posts in “real-time”, responses occurring to events set in motion by themselves. It cannot be considered a observational study either as authors interacted with the purported subjects during the period of study.

In her reply, the ethics secretary directs Lewandowsky to the UWA Human Subjects research web page (link). The page contains a ‘risk assessment checklist’ to guide researchers to whether a planned study would need ethics approval. It has these questions:

  1. Active concealment of information from participants and/or planned deception of participants
  2. Will participants be quoted or be identifiable, either directly or indirectly, in reporting of the research?
  3. Will data that can identify an individual (or be used to re-identify an individual) be obtained from databanks, databases, tissue banks or other similar data sources?
  4. Might the research procedures cause participants psychological or emotional distress?
  5. Does the research involve covert observation?

The answer is a ‘Yes’ to many of these questions.  ‘Participants’ declared to be conspiratorial by Lewandowsky are directly identified by name in the paper. The element of covert observation is undeniable.

The possibility of ethical breaches with internet-based research are well-understood. Clare Madge (2007) observed ethically questionable research could come to be carried out “under the radar screens of ethics committees” simply owing to the ease and speed of internet-based research resulting in ‘shoddy cowboy research’ and proliferation of ethical misconduct. The study design and conduct of the Lewandowsky et al 2013 ‘Recursive Fury’ contains numerous ethical failures. Lewandowsky’s email characterized his work in terms which turned out to be their opposite. There was no formal application and there was no review and consequently the prospective,non-observational nature of his project went unscrutinized. 

Madge C. 
Developing a geographers’ agenda for online research ethics Prog Hum Geogr Oct 2007; 31(5): 654-674

A rule of thumb

Our inability to predict in environments subjected to the Black Swan, coupled with a general lack of the awareness of this state of affairs, means that certain professionals, while believing they are experts, are in fact not. Based on their empirical record, they do not know more about their subject matter than the general population, but they are much better at narrating—or, worse, at smoking you with complicated mathematical models. They are also more likely to wear a tie.

-from the prologue to Nicholas N Taleb’s The Black Swan



Why is the Cultural Cognition Project anti-intellectual?

Scientific debate has a peculiar character: it behaves exactly like regular debate. What’s peculiar is only that some people think it’s different.

You can see this right away because the claims about how science is ‘different’ come from people who intend to use it as a lever.

In regular debate, I explain my views and the other side theirs. I might think he or she may not be convinced, due to ‘deep seated cultural attitudes’, superstition, bias of race, gender and religion. But I don’t dwell in prejudice. It is possible.

In every sphere, the same play of power follows. Prejudice is part of the ground state of the human condition. But it can be suppressed, bypassed, given a different bone to play with, cheated, or even overcome.

The ‘Cultural Cognition Project‘ is run by law professor Dan Kahan. One of its over-riding themes is that people view scientific findings through a cultural lens. They accept or reject findings based on their ‘worldview’, on whether it resonates with their in-group etc.

This is profoundly anti-intellectual. It implies people are mindless victims of emotional undercurrents that operate out of reach of their rational grasp. In Kahan’s approach, the corollary question becomes: ‘since people cannot be reached by reasoning, what forms of salesmanship need to be undertaken to package your findings and fool your audience into buying them?’

Kahan’s game properly belongs in marketing, not science of any sort.

The IPCC AR5 SPM press release

I just looked at the IPCC SPM press release. True to its form, there are bombastic statements about inanities of no consequence and vague mumblings about the real questions. By ‘real questions’, I mean those on magnitude of any change and the quantum of blame that affixed on us, i.e., people.

Here’s a spectacular-sounding statement that is utterly meaningless and even wrong in places:

Warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia.

If you pull up any global temperature graph, the ‘warming’ is minuscule since 1950, though ‘unequivocal’. ‘Unprecedented’, ‘millenia’ are just fancy words the IPCC likes to use, and seem completely out of place here.

There are even more vapid statements. An entire paragraph is taken up by Qin Dahe making points about the climate puffed up to sound as though something is going on (except nothing really is):

“Observations of changes in the climate system are based on multiple lines of independent evidence. Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased”

Observations are ‘based on’ … evidence? Who would have thought so? It is not humanly possible to decipher this language.

There is only a single paragraph on putting the blame on humans and it goes like this:

It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The evidence for this has grown, thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models.

All three claims made in this one little paragraph are …wrong. Since the mid-20th century, global temperature increased till about 1998. Then the rate of increase changed abruptly.

How are humans able to have this type of influence on the climate?

As the rate of ‘warming’ has slowed, how has the likelihood of humans having caused it increased? The cause for the warming is going up, but the warmth itself has not?

Where can more and better observations come from? The only observations are ‘more’ than what we had before, are of those that happened between now and then. It is not possible to gather more than 24 hours of observation in a day. These are the observations that show the slowdown.

Finally, whatever evidence has grown has only reduced confidence in the understanding of the climate system response the orthodoxy provided. It has reduced confidence in the models .As everyone knows, neither is an explanation for the temperature rate change on the cards, nor was it predicted by the models.

If the press release reflects the SPM, which I believe it does, and if the SPM reflects the main report, which I believe it will, the IPCC has put itself in a remarkably weak position. It will not provide any momentum for future international climate negotiations.

[minor edits]

Donna asks: What is Ottmar Edenhofer doing in Nature?

A curious thing caught my eye in the latest email alert from Nature magazine. What was Ottmar Edenhofer doing in Nature, being profiled as a ‘chairman’? It appears Donna noticed the same thing:

It doesn’t say Edenhofer’s a chairman. Rather, three words after mentioning the IPCC, it says he’s the chairman.

The title of the article is a Web special. It reads “IPCC: The Climate Chairman”. Here he is, in print glory:


Donna is right to point out the glowing compliments have little connection with reality. Edenhofer oversaw the wholesale laundering of Greenpeace pamphlet material in the renewable energy IPCC report. He defended it when caught out. His contribution has served to drag down the quality of the process.

If Nature had any respect for science, it would desist from spreading celebrity culture and idolatry in its pages.

Greenpeace in the IPCC: Part II

Remember the IPCC renewable energy report SRREN? The one which managed to mire itself in controversy almost immediately as it came out? The whole thing started with a press release announcing a notorious “80%” figure the trail of which led Steve McIntyre to a Greenpeace-authored report.

When controversy broke out, the IPCC’s response was to mollify and contain damage. There was no hiding the pressure group’s involvement so it took a different tack. In Nature magazine, IPCC’s Ottmar Edenhofer claimed, that despite Greenpeace presence there was no ‘bias’ or ‘conflict’. Though press releases sold the Greenpeace scenario the report looked at large ‘bodies of literature’, Greenpeace’s material was but 1 of ‘over 160′ scenarios analysed, was published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the ‘decision’ to make Greenpeace ‘one of the four’ scenarios made by ‘a team’.

At the time, none of these could be verified. Draft reports and reviewer comments were nowhere to be found. Everyone was left holding just the press releases and the excuses. It was months before drafts were released.

The draft reports
Examining the drafts shows a different picture. The Greenpeace/Teske work was in the IPCC report even before it was published and right from the first order draft (FOD). In the FOD Chapter 10, the IPCC did not compare several different scenarios as was claimed. There were just two.  One of them was Greenpeace’s, straight from the pressure group pamphlet.

This is from the introduction in the FOD:

In this chapter, the renewable power cost curves for 10 world regions have been reviewed for 2030 exemplary for two scenarios – World Energy Outlook (IEA, 2008b) and Energy [R]evolution scenario (Krewitt et al, 2009a) – and one for 2050 (Energy [R]evolution scenario).

Note briefly the cited Krewitt et al 2009. This was an incarnation of Greenpeace’s ‘Energy [R]evolution’ published in 2009. The chapter then runs with table after table of Greenpeace material.

The tables and claims were referenced to Greenpeace report/s:

fod ref

Predictably, this raised questions.  One reviewer Francesco Gracceva noted the very point. The IPCC claim was to provide “robust insights”, from examining a “large and differentiated set of internally coherent and consistent scenarios” but instead

…[the] analysis carried out in 10.3.2 seems based on a quite limited set of scenarios, in fact two main sources, IEA and Greenpeace.

The U.S Department of State made the same observation:

As currently framed, this section does not adequately capture the value of analyzing 165 scenarios [...]

John Kessels (International Energy Agency – IEA) on a key summary table in the chapter, noted the same thing:

IPCC reports have to be based on published literature that has been peer reviewed and to have a table based on theoritical (sic) exercises is disturbing and should be deleted unless based on published literature.

Kessels was directly critical of inclusion of Greenpeace material:

I think if you are going to use the Energy (R)evolution scenario you need to outline its assumptions and its analysis is in my view questionable.


General comment the IPCC AR4 did not use the Energy {R}evolution scenario for good reasons and to base this chapter on it is going to be seen as very bias an (sic) unbalanced.

Emmanuel Branche (French EDF) noting while the IEA scenario was in the peer-reviewed literature, questioned whether Greenpeace’s was. In a section on ‘regional energy supply curves’, Kessels reiterated: the IPCC being “reliant on one source in my view is questionable…”

The replies from the writing team prove eye-opening. In response to numerous comments on the limited nature of scenarios analysed, the authors reply – “more scenarios” will be “added”. This is how the other scenarios were added: they came in balancing the Greenpeace stuff.

To reviewers’ questions, the authors kept insisting the “Energy [R]evolution” scenario was “peer-reviewed”. Krewitt et al 2009 was peer-reviewed but did not form the source for the material presented in the chapter. There were no clear answers to where modeled data and numerical output presented in the tables came from.

Citation relay
The peer-review situation was dealt with by the authors in a remarkable manner. By the second order draft (SOD), the chapter authors had a paper in place. But it was
not the Teske et al 2010 which was not yet published by this time (Teske et al 2010 would be appear online in Nov 2010 whereas the review was in Jul-Aug 2010). Instead, in a form that essentially mirrored the pressure group’s full report, Greenpeace’s ‘Energy [R]evolution’ material appeared in a renewable energy vanity magazineSpanda.



It was the primary reference for all Greenpeace entries in the key Chapter 10. The article was published in the first issue of the first volume of its journal. Up until that point, ‘Spanda’ had only been an ‘e-newsletter’ for a renewable energy lobby.

In the final, the Spanda entry was simply replaced with the other Teske et al 2010 which by then appeared online. All citations to the Greenpeace report were deleted from the report text; all Greenpeace entries in the reference sections, removed. The IPCC report went through the review process with no one having seen the study on which its headline conclusions were based.

Several conclusions can be drawn. The report and the key chapter 10 was firmly in control of a group which intended to use Greenpeace material right from the beginning. The chapter was built around the Greenpeace narrative.

The sequence from the drafts contradicts many excuses made by Edenhofer and Teske at the time of the controversy. Teske, for example, impressed the Economist he had ‘had no peculiar Greenpeace lantern with which to bend them all [IPCC authors] to his will’.

Der Spiegel, the Economist, and Ars Technica dwelt at length on how the press release highlighted the 80% figure and made things worse for the IPCC. “It seems much of this controversy is the product of a bit too much of a hook in the press release, rather than an activist hijacking an IPCC report. “ – wrote Ars Technica’s Kyle Niemeyer.

But the drafts make clear the problems go deeper. The IPCC shepherded Greenpeace’s [R]evolution scenario through the report drafting process, sequentially incorporating its claims and substituting placeholder references in stepwise manner.

Curry: The torque hypothesis

Judith Curry has an interesting post.

One of Curry important contributions has been her recognition and articulation that the IPCC ‘torques’ the playing field for science. Those new almost never manage to separate the two but climate science and the IPCC are different things. Curry forces people to think: “How would climate science have been but for the IPCC?”

Curry’s anecdotal examples show the defensive effect skeptics have. Their existence is used by climate activists and polarizing insiders alike to solidify ranks amongst scientists. What house would otherwise fall into warring camps will unite against a common foe. Skeptics are the folk devil.

The existence of skepticism outside is useful in silencing discussion and dissent within ranks.


Lewandowsky: Backdating

Steve McIntyre has a post on the Lewandowsky affair. It is a key one and a summary might be useful.

The notorious ‘Fury’ paper from the Lewandowsky group is in chronic ‘temporary withdrawal’¹. The ‘Moon’ paper has data issues that invalidate the paper.

When questioned how he reported on skeptics in the Moon paper without surveying them, Lewandowsky said he had asked skeptics in 2010 to host the survey. He didn’t say who they were.

This came as a surprise. Searches showed no messages from Lewandowsky. Several skeptic bloggers reported no receipt. Subsequently, others fished out the survey emails. It was realized they were sent under assistant Charles Hanich’s name.The bloggers contacted each other and dug up the emails rapidly.

This was summarized on Jo Nova’s blog and other venues on a running basis.

A day before this, a post appeared on the Shaping Tomorrow’s World blog. In it, Lewandowsky posted names of the sceptical bloggers whom he sent survey requests to.

Steve McIntyre shows evidence Lewandowsky published the post after skeptics announced receipt of survey emails but backdated it. This would make it appear as though his post contributed to the bloggers finding the survey emails.

The Lewandowsky group rely on this chronology. The Fury paper states the names of the bloggers “…became publicly available on 10th September 2012, on a blog post by the first author of LOG12″. ‘LOG12′s first author is Lewandowsky.

Except, according to McIntyre’s analysis, the post was actually published on the 11th of September and not the 10th, but made to appear so.

The ‘Moon and Fury’ saga is now no more in the realm of a science debate. There are three occasions involving Lewandowsky and his group where they have been directly confronted:

  1. false representation involving quoted material in the suspended ‘Fury’ paper
  2. non-posting of survey at skepticalscience.com, and yet making calculations on its basis, in the ‘Moon’ paper
  3. apparent fabrication of blog dates and use of alleged backdated material to make claims in the ‘Fury’ paper

¹as of this writing.

Nonsense from Carbon Brief: the briefest of examples

I watched with interest this video posted at Bishop Hill. The occasion is a hearing by a UK Commons committee where seated next to Andrew Montford was a representative from ‘Carbon Brief‘. The person claimed, repeatedly, that Carbon Brief was there to monitor media so only things consistent with “the larger body of evidence” and “in context of mainstream science” were said. In other words, an enforcer watch-dog of climate orthodoxy.

We learn from her, their group only reaches out to climate scientists to gather opinions. The BBC’s Andrew Neil delivered a thrashing of sorts to the 97 crowd, where among other things, he talked about the lull in the rate of rise in global temperatures. An occasion as good as any other to be reaching out?

In response, this, is the Carbon Brief’s resident expert. In the first segment one encounters climate scientist Ed Hawkins struggling to explain how Neil produced his graph. The reasons are not hard to guess. Shown on BBC, in stark relief against a blue background, the ‘pause’ must have stood out. Hawkins was quoted: “no one can work out” how the graph was made. On Twitter, Barry Woods showed the HadCRUT4 global mean curve looking suspiciously similar to the BBC’s.

So much for that.

Then comes the meat of her piece. Here is where Carbon Brief are getting right down, dealing with the pause.

This is their line of reasoning. I show this verbatim, with the links in place:

Another thing Neil doesn’t mention is that periods of slow surface temperature rise aren’t particularly unusual. There have been several periods in the 20th century in which surface warming has slowed but over the course of the century, the overall trend is still one of warming.

Take the first part: It makes a strong, categorical claim on what’s the case with the climate. If you just skim it, you’d imagine it well-known to science there being long stretches where temperature rise is slow or absent. If one is careful enough to click on the link and see what’s behind it, the story changes dramatically.

The link leads to a paper published in 2013, which contains post-hoc model projections and speculative guesses on why global warming has slowed down.

A model projection is not ‘knowledge’, especially not one made after-the-fact. You cannot say “aren’t unusual” with it. It is abuse of science and scientific language. The English language furnishes a rich vocabulary of terms whose sole purpose is the representation of probability. When you make a model which gives you an prediction, you say ‘likely’, or ‘possible’. If you say, ‘slow temperatures aren’t unusual’, in the present tense, you point to direct physical evidence, i.e. stuff that has already transpired and become real, as proof. Not models.

Statements like this are borderline fraud.

Look at the second part: if you follow the climate debate closely, you’d be right to think it familiar. Yes, the second link leads to Skepticalscience. Carbon Brief, in the poverty of their argument, reach out to the doctrine-peddlers. The rest of the piece draws heavily from Skepticalscience catechism as well.

Where is the reliance on climate scientists’ opinion? Where is the ‘reaching out’?

Where are mainstream scientists’ pronouncements on the meaning of the pause? In Nature magazine last week, a long news feature figured with expressions of great trepidation on the ‘pause’. With such terms as: “biggest of mysteries”, scientists “puzzled”, “cannot fully explain recent trends”, don’t know if it “portends less warming in the future”, “less sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously believed”, “solar”, “volcano ash”, “industrialization of China”, “oceans” …. Ed Hawkins was himself quoted” “The heat is going somewhere. The question is where”.

Where is all this gone? Instead we have an European Climate Foundation-funded operation soothing us everything is known.The promised “context”, “contextualization”, “uncertainty”, questions” and “debate” are replaced by an absurd, fatuous claim that stands everything above on its head: “Scientists are not puzzled by surface warming slowdown”.

If this is not pseudoscience, what is? The Carbon Brief piece places the needle far out of compared to the mainstream opinion  on the ‘pause’.

In effect, with a single episode, we have a glimpse at the quality of work at this Carbon Brief blog. Do we need one more incestuous, homogenized warmie blog regurgitating shopworn Skepticalscience material?

David Rose and the deep ocean PCC complaint

I have almost never written on the science of global warming. The depth of pseudoscience and absurd nonsense to which the global temperature question has sunk to is mind-boggling.

Take a look at this complaint about UK journalist David Rose’s article. The complainant (aka ‘greener blogger’) says the article is “inaccurate, “misleading”, distorts “the truth”, necessitates the Press Complaints Commission “to interview Prof Myles Allen”, the newspaper to “retract”, “present a “correction” and give the correction “equal prominence”.  The missing stipulations are methods by which Rose is to be quartered.

Rose’s point was about the flat trend in global average temperatures. The blogger feels thinks this an issue because global temperatures are going up.

When the continuing increase of ocean temperature is included, a statistically significant increase in the world’s average temperature has continued since 1997.

Is that how we measure something? Use a metric. Switch over to another one when inconvenient? Do we splice together different data in such manner? Not only is this  scientifically indefensible, it is eye-watering hypocrisy.

Of course, ‘greener blogger’ is not alone in jumping to the ocean for help. The type of thinking gives rise to a number of questions:

[1] At once it is  claimed that skeptics are illusionists for seeing and showing ‘pauses’ in meandering temperature  where none exist, and, that there is a ‘pause’ which is explained by “heat” going into ocean depths. Which one is it?

If the latter explanation is to be believed, then all the bullshit about there not being a flat trend in temperatures is just that – bullshit. The bashing on people for simply asking “why is the temperature not going up?” was just sheer posturing?

[2] If the explanation for the pause is obvious, why was the pause not predicted? How do you know it is a ‘pause’? You didn’t know there was going to be one.

[3] If heat that’s going into the oceans will come back to ‘haunt us’, how do we know the heat which haunted the 2nd half of the 20th century wasn’t from a previous episode, but due to CO2?

[4] If ocean temperature is the “real deal”, why were you guys measuring atmospheric temperatures all these years?

[5] Why is global warming hiding in the deep oceans where no one can measure it?

[6] Why did scientists fervently research deep ocean warming all the while mocking people for asking where the heat was?

[7] Why did the heat suddenly decide to go into the oceans now?

[8] The climate models did not contain any pause because they do not include the mechanism that produces it, isn’t it? Why are you using them then?

[9] If the oceans are now determined to have such a profound influence on global surface temperature, how did you manage to blame the previous temperature rise on anthropogenic CO2 using models that did not include this effect?

[10] If the flat trend is real, the rate of warming is slower that predicted. This means it is not as worse as you thought, isn’t it?

[11] You did not predict it. This means you did not know what was going on, isn’t it?

I doubt we should be pulling newspaper articles in fear of criticism from self-appointed green busybodies whose knowledge of global temperature is from such sources as the Wikipedia witch doctor William Connolley. In a pathetic twist, a video the complaining green blogger relied on to make his case has been flushed down the drain. A fine piece of pseudoscience while up and running, it showed how ENSO, volcanoes, sunlight, moonlight and other ‘influences’ could be (magically) removed from the temperature curve to show unabated CO2 global warming.

If the flat trend continues, I wonder how long it’ll be before another jewel from the collection, the ‘escalator’ graph, comes down. That may be asking for too much. It has to dawn on its owners, that explaining the flat trend by ‘deep ocean heating’ involves accepting the flatness to be real.

Why the Cook paper is bunk: Part II

In the Cook group paper, the degree of acceptance of a ‘consensus’ in climate literature is measured. Here, I address a simple question that has hovered around the paper from the time it made its appearance‡, the ‘implicit endorsers’ of anthropogenic warming. (for e.g., see here and here for discussion)

Shown below in the top panel, is total papers Cook et al classified in their project.   An abrupt increase in climate-related papers is seen after 2005. From the bottom panel, it is evident that papers that don’t state a position on anthropogenic global warming make up most of the rise.


Figure 1

Now, Cook and colleagues have spread the message wide that 97% of a ‘large number of scientific abstracts’ support anthropogenic global warming (examples are, herehere, here and here). From the University of Queensland’s press release:

About 97 per cent of 4000 international scientific papers analysed in a University of Queensland-led study were rated as endorsing human-caused global warming.

How this happened is known: a large number of papers not stating a position on AGW were classified as ‘implicitly’ accepting the orthodox climate position.

What is the risk an abstract is classified as an implicit endorser? Of the 7 major categories, 4 are based on explicit statements in abstracts and these items are not susceptible. Category ’5′ is for abstracts that imply rejection of AGW and is less likely to be mistaken as well. It is the remaining large number of papers with no stated position on anthropogenic warming, that are at risk

From their data, it can be determined that roughly close to a third of at risk abstracts were classified as ‘implicit endorsers’ (median 27%, range: 19-43%).

Now, turn to an another aspect of the study. Every paper got two ratings from two persons and there was an error rate. In estimating how this error acts, it is evident the considerations noted earlier apply again. Abstracts with explicit statements are less likely to be erroneously classified. Papers rejecting the orthodox position are less likely to be interpreted across the divide. The same neutral papers identified above would likely be most affected by error in volunteers’ classification.

With the above two aspects, examine the data shown below (Figure 2):

Rplot04 copy

Figure 2

In Figure 2, the left panel shows the fraction of  papers with no stated position that got classified as ‘implicit endorsers’. On the right is Cook’s error rate (0.33) applied to papers that are most susceptible. Do the two look similar?

Indeed the two quantities track close to another, especially before 2005. Their correlation (Figure 3) is statistically significant (p<<0.05, Spearman). 


Figure 3

Is the similarity between implicit endorsements and the error fraction (Figure 4) a co-incidence? It is possible. But it is pointing to a basic observation: the implicit endorsement category is nothing but the error in the classification exercise.

With the exercise undertaken by Cook et al, if a handful of raters are given a mass of neutral abstracts, about a third would be classified as “implicit endorsers”, regardless.


Figure 4

This explanation reconciles several observations. It accounts for the fact that total ‘endorsements’ and no position (category ’4′) abstracts seem inversely related:. The ‘implicits’, which form the bulk of the endorsements, interact with the no position abstracts in reciprocal fashion during classification: these are just categories where one can be mistaken for the other. Cook’s convoluted explanation is  wrong: papers of these putative groups do not interact reciprocally in the real world.

Furthermore, it explains the steady proportions of categories observed (Figure 5). Which is more likely? That thousands of scientists working in hundreds of disparate fields write an ever-increasing number of scientific papers that somehow show a near-constant fraction of papers ‘implicitly endorsing’ an orthodox position? Or, that a handful of volunteers classify papers with a method that affects their results in a roughly uniform manner?

endorse - Copy

Figure 5

The ‘implicit endorse’ category Cook’s group invented, illustrates devilish intricacies that can arise in classification studies. Papers were added to the category merely because a predetermined rating system suggested it to volunteers, who then went looking for it. It serves as a paradigm that illustrates how researchers can imprint methodological and observer biases on material they set out to study.

‡ Glancing at this table  is not essential but very useful
† (i.e., papers shown in blue in bottom panel, Figure 1, minus ‘implict’ rejectors)
Cook’s team has refused to release the error discrepancy data to date.

Why the Cook paper is bunk: Part I

In the Cook group paper, the ‘authors’ measure the degree of acceptance of a ‘consensus’ in climate literature.

Remarkably enough, this is what they find:

cook trend

From 1991 to 2011, the fractions of papers accepting the orthodox position decrease with time (Figure 1 & 2).

Of the papers said to have accepted a consensus position, the major fraction, declines from  33% to about 24% ( ‘implicit endorsers’, ’3′ in Figure 1) (Figure 2).

cook - imp

Figure 2

Papers that explicitly support the consensus position (’2′ in the graph) also decline.

Cook and co-authors say they identify ‘strengthening consensus’, among other increasing consensus trends. The underlying data however does not support their claims. Instead, there is a remarkable stability in the overall composition of the literature. There is a steady increase in the proportion of neutral papers (called ‘No position’). In other words, no partisan category increases (or decreases) at the cost of another (Figure 3A & 3B).

endorse - Copy

Figure 3A

percent fraction

Figure 3B

Strangely enough, Cook and co-authors take note of these findings. Their interpretation however reveals a major problem in their analytic approach.

Cook and co-authors rationalize the decrease in the proportion of papers supporting the consensus, via a convoluted theory, as evidence for a high degree of consensus. They contend the decrease implies more papers have accepted the consensus and therefore don’t need to talk about it. At the same time, they take the increase in absolute numbers of orthodox position papers as evidence for ‘increasing consensus’.

The fallacy in reasoning is shown easily. Consider, as an example, a prosperous county which shows 60 cases of pneumonia in 1993. The media raises a hue and cry. Stung by criticism, the county institutes rigorous public health and education measures. Twenty years pass and a survey is undertaken. The cases of pneumonia for 2012 is 80. The media goes on a rampage. Is this justified?

It turns out that it is not. The county experienced a population boom in the early 2000′s and the incidence of pneumonia/100,000 per year actually fell during the period.

Now, imagine a mayor loudly criticizing local health officials for the increase in pneumonia cases, and a while later, traveling to a conference to boast that his city had lowered pneumonia rates due to measures undertaken by him.

This is exactly what Cook and his co-authors do. They put a different spin on two facets of the same observation.

Finally, if the proportions of papers accepting the orthodox position is decreasing, by what way does their actual number go up? The explanation it turns out is deceptively simple.

Cook et al studied 11944 papers for acceptance (or rejection) of AGW. There are papers which explicitly state something with respect to this question, and those that do not. As noted above (in Figures 1, 3A, & 3B), the overall composition of the literature remains more or less constant. Yet total numbers of papers published in the climate field increases dramatically during this period (Figure 4), particularly after 2005.


Figure 4

Examine the composition when the two groups are broken apart. Shown in the graph below, the light blue line is papers that don’t say anything explicit and the red line is for papers that make an explicit statement (Figure 5). As can be seen, the rise in number of papers seen in Figure 4 is almost entirely made up by papers that say nothing explicitly about anthropogenic warming.


Figure 5

In their study, Cook and co-authors include a significant chunk of the rising group into the ‘endorse the consensus’ category. In a widely circulated draft, Tol reaches the same conclusion: “the apparent trend in endorsement is thus a trend in composition rather than in endorsement”.

The inclusion of papers into the consensus from a group of papers that is increasing over time, makes the consensus appear to increase over time.

[minor edits]

The stuff that makes up the 97% of the consensus

Shown below is an abstract volunteers in the Cook 97% study read.

NO is a key mediator of hypoxic vasodilation, but the precise role of RBC Hb remains controversial. In addition to established theories that depend on RBC uptake, delivery, and discharge of NO or its metabolites, an alternative hypothesis based on RBC permeability is suggested. NO depletion by free Hb may account for several clinical features seen during intravascular hemolysis or during deliberate infusion of Hb solutions used as RBC substitutes. CO2 released by tissues triggers oxygen release through a series of well-coordinated reactions centered on the Band 3 metabolon. While RBC carbonic anhydrase and the Band 3 anion exchanger are central to this process, there is surprisingly little research on the kinetics of CO(2) clearance by transfusion. The three RBC gases are directly related to the three principal gases of Earths atmosphere. Human fossil fuel consumption dumps 90 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere annually. Increasing CO2 levels are linked to global warming, melting Arctic ice, rising sea levels, and climate instability. Just as individual cells depend on balance of the three vital gases, so too will their balance determine survival of life on Earth.

This is the article

Dzik, Walter H. “The air we breathe: three vital respiratory gases and the red blood cell: oxygen, nitric oxide, and carbon dioxide.” Transfusion 51.4 (2011): 676-685.

This is what it was classified as:

Endorsement Level: 2. Explicitly endorses but does not quantify or minimise

Stuff like this is what makes up the ’97%’.

Why the GWPF clicks

The Global Warming Policy Foundation is pretty cool. This is Benny Peiser setting the ground for its discussion with the Royal Society:

Integrity, openness and objectivity need to be introduced to the conduct of the scientific debate to restore the damage done by the Climategate, Hockey Stick, Gleick, Gergis, Lewandowsky and Marcott episodes.

You can bet dollars to donuts there’ll be no one in the firmly-establishment Royal Society with any clue what the above items might be.

There may be a clutch of alternative thinkers like Roger Pielke Jr, who, along with their Hartwell and Breakthrough friends have tried years selling such absurdities as a ‘carbon tax’. Or the notion that ‘climate sceptics’ are not ‘relevant’. But the climate sceptics are driving the debate forward.