Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

Frontiers retraction controversy

with 45 comments

The following is a long post, but on an important issue.

Frontiers is an open source science publisher based in Switzerland. Their aim is to provide an open access, open science platform that empowers researchers in their daily work and where everybody has equal opportunity to seek, share and generate knowledge. They have started up a whole host of “Frontiers in” journals covering a wide range of subjects. They have also been linked with the Nature publishing group who is interested in the open access model Frontiers is developing.

So I jumped at the opportunity to be an associate editor of the newly established area of Interdisciplinary Climate Studies. The Editor in Chief is the Swiss climatologist, Professor Martin Beniston. An associate editor invites a panel of reviewers who review a collection of articles each year. The associate editor establishes their interdisciplinary area with a “challenges” paper to set the ball rolling. Their task is to encourage researchers to submit innovative papers exploring the frontiers of knowledge.

I was partway through writing the challenges paper when the news came that negotiations surrounding a paper withdrawn by Frontiers twelve months ago had broken down. This has set off a chain of events that call Frontiers into question with respect to the boundaries between authors and publishers; in particular, Frontiers’ defence of scholarship and ethics in controversial circumstances.

The paper in question, Recursive fury: conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation by Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, Klaus Oberauer and Michael Marriott was published on 18 March 2013 and retracted on 21 March 2014 (posted 27 March). The retraction notice said the following:

In the light of a small number of complaints received following publication of the original research article cited above, Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical, and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article. The authors understand this decision, while they stand by their article and regret the limitations on academic freedom which can be caused by legal factors.

The decision was apparently based on the threat of libel, largely to British libel laws that were since changed on January 1 this year. Elaine McKewon, one of the reviewers of the study who was involved in some of the negotiations, has an article describing this sequence of events in The Conversation. Stephan Lewandowsky’s response is here.

The retracted paper undertook a textual analysis of blog comments discussing an earlier paper by some of the authors, NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (LOG12; Lewandowsky, Oberauer and Gignac), who used online internet surveys to link conspiracy theories with the rejection of climate science. Immediately after that paper was published, a number of blog sites were awash with speculation that the data was faked or manipulated in some way because there was no way those responses could be real.

Recursive fury analysed those posts, grouping them under six conspiracist criteria:

  • nefarious intent – they mean harm,
  • persecution-victimisation – they are persecuting me (while I bravely resist overwhelming forces),
  • nihilistic skepticism – if it does not fit my narrative is must not be true,
  • not an accident – events cannot be random but are part of the conspiracy,
  • must be wrong – the official version is wrong, so I can alter my suspicions if previous evidence no longer fits with no penalty of me being wrong, and
  • self-sealing – anyone presenting contrary evidence must be part of the conspiracy.

A number of hypotheses as to how the original survey was manipulated to produce false outcomes were proposed in online statements and blog comments. Statements discussing each hypothesis were examined to see whether the above criteria were used. No judgement was made on whether a particular hypothesis was true unless it could easily be proven as fact.

The criteria of nefarious intent and self-sealing arguments were attributed to all hypotheses by the authors. Most, but not all of the hypotheses were recursive, except for those that crossed into a wider speculation that the authors were involved in a grand climate conspiracy. This would be the conspiracy that all we climate researchers are involved in.

The authors clearly state they are exploring the links between conspiracist ideation and science denial. Their intent is to better understand climate denial, which has a much broader influence than the number of its proponents. This understanding can potentially inform communication and engagement strategies with the general public and decision makers. (Scientists also influence beyond their numbers but the ultimate balance of opinion in public should ideally reflect the view of the scientific community as opposed to non-evidence directed communities.)

The authors identified blogs and originators of hypotheses in the paper and initially included the names of all commenters in supporting data for the paper. These were later removed on request. In LOG12 the authors refer to conspiracist ideation as a personality trait or cognitive style. By taking public comments and analysing them therefore, they are undertaking discourse analysis but are not conducting any psychological diagnoses. After all, anyone can be involved in a discourse on a conspiracy but not be a conspiracist themselves, which would be pretty much anyone who has commented online.

Recursive Fury also documents Freedom of Information requests made of the University of Western Australia by some of the bloggers mentioned who were seeking material to justify their suspicions. These requests are described by journalist Greame Readfearn who broke the Frontiers rejection story.

After a number of subsequent stories and posts, Frontiers posted another comment on April 4. In it, they retreat from the retraction statement:

Frontiers came to the conclusion that it could not continue to carry the paper, which does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects. Specifically, the article categorizes the behaviour of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics.

This statement raises the tone and volume of the issue by linking conspiracist ideation with psychopathological characteristics, something the authors did not do. A search on Google shows that before April 4 the link between these terms is raised by individuals who are known to have complained to Frontiers. However it gets only 13 hits on Google Scholar, most indirect, all recent, about half in the refereed literature.

After April 4, the links between conspiracist ideation and psychopathology are all over the climate denial blogosphere. By making these incorrect statements, Frontiers have increased recursive justification, amplifying the ‘harm’ that those who feel they have been associated with conspiracist ideation are perceiving.

This misstatement has fuelled the perception that Recursive Fury was a psychological diagnosis of a number of subjects carried out without their permission. It was not – it was a discourse analysis of online comments with an uncomfortable slant for some – that of conspiracist ideation. Recall that in an earlier paper the authors refer to it as being a personality trait or cognitive style.

In the same statement, Frontiers also says:

One of Frontiers’ founding principles is that of authors’ rights. We take this opportunity to reassure our editors, authors and supporters that Frontiers will continue to publish – and stand by – valid research. But we also must uphold the rights and privacy of the subjects included in a study or paper.

So what rights and privacy do the authors of public statements have in social research? How, for instance, is the analysis of political statements in the public domain to be carried out? To what use can social media be put, at least for those comments in the public domain?

Stephan Lewandowsky has most recently posted Frontiers’ expert panel conclusions of the paper, which included a key researcher on web-based psychology studies’ view:

among psychological and linguistic researchers blog posts are regarded as public data and the individuals posting the data are not regarded as participants in the technical sense used by Research Ethics Committees or Institutional Review Boards.   This further entails that no consent is required for the use of such data.

Not all researchers agree, with consent around public statements in social media being somewhat contested. However, most researchers see consistency with print media guidelines (no consent needed) is seen as desirable. This is consistent with my own knowledge of ethical guidelines. For example, with respect to perceived harm, the Canadian Panel on Research Ethics says: Boards

should not prohibit research simply because the research is unpopular or looked upon with disfavour by a community or organization.


some research, involving critical assessments of public, political or corporate institutions and associated public figures, for example, may be legitimately critical and/or opposed to the welfare of those individuals in a position of power, and may cause them some harm. There may be a compelling public interest in this research.

In this instance, it appears that Frontiers has reinterpreted offence as harm, without fully understanding the difference between the two.

The above statements suggest if the public interest outweighs disfavour amongst a certain group with respect to public data, then research should not be disadvantaged or prohibited. The University of Western Australia, the Australian Psychological Society and the Union of Concerned Scientists all agree.

Further blog comments by Frontiers Editor-in-Chief Henry Markram state:

For Frontiers, publishing the identities of human subjects without consent cannot be justified in a scientific paper. Some have argued that the subjects and their statements were in the public domain and hence it was acceptable to identify them in a scientific paper, but accepting this will set a dangerous precedent.

And this:

After publication, the community is engaged and a post-publication review naturally follows. Post-publication review is facilitated by the Frontiers’ commenting and social networking platforms. This process may reveal fundamental errors or issues that go against principles of scholarly publishing. Like all other journals, Frontiers seriously investigates any well-founded complaints or allegations, and retraction only happens in cases of absolute necessity and only after extensive analysis. For the paper in question, the issue was clear, the analysis was exhaustive, all efforts were made to work with the authors to find a solution and we even worked on the retraction statement with the authors. But there was no moral dilemma from the start – we do not support scientific publications where human subjects can be identified without their consent.

This potentially disqualifies all psychological analysis of documents in the public domain with searchable content where passages are quoted, statements by public figures identified and analysed, analysis of media reporting and so on and so forth without the express permission of the authors.

How far does this go? Discourse analysis? Political analysis? Framing and structural analysis? If individuals who disagree with any findings complain to Frontiers with a “well-argued and cogent” complaint, by implication Frontiers will withdraw (or proactively reject) any paper that does so even if it has been approved by a research committee of ethics. Reductio ad absurdum, this would lead to any work being withdrawn if it cites a document in a way that aggrieves its author.

The reason for research ethics is to prevent this type of post-publication wrangling and moving of goal posts. In their public statements, Frontiers frequently mentions rights, and infrequently mention ethics. A discourse analysis might have something to say on that score.

Frontiers has, in the course of this process:

  • Asked for initial changes to the paper that were addressed.
  • Retracted the paper, putting out a statement that given legal doubts following complaints, they wished to retract the paper, having come to a (reluctant) agreement with the authors.
  • Have declined to accept a rewritten paper that anonymised the responses without a full explanation as to why (it is hard to see how author’s rights are being represented here).
  • After the retraction became public, suggested that ethical concerns were a major reason for retraction, specifically the rights of subjects who made public statements.
  • At the same time, inflated the subject of the research from discourse analysis within a cognitive domain to a psychopathological assessment, something the authors never claimed.
  • Have posted subsequent comments that make personal consent paramount to any psychologically-related assessment, which seems to include any and all public statements.

Markram continued in comments:

My own personal opinion: The authors of the retracted paper and their followers are doing the climate change crisis a tragic disservice by attacking people personally and saying that it is ethically ok to identify them in a scientific study. They made a monumental mistake, refused to fix it and that rightfully disqualified the study. The planet is headed for a cliff and the scientific evidence for climate change is way past a debate, in my opinion. Why even debate this with contrarians? If scientists think there is a debate, then why not debate this scientifically? Why help the ostriches of society (always are) keep their heads in the sand? Why not focus even more on the science of climate change? Why not develop potential scenarios so that society can get prepared? Is that not what scientists do? Does anyone really believe that a public lynching will help advance anything? Who comes off as the biggest nutter? Activism that abuses science as a weapon is just not helpful at a time of crisis.

This comment is so very unhelpful. The issue is not about winning the debate, it’s about understanding how the negative influences on scientific opinion can be better understood and managed. Conspiracy ideation relating to scientific subjects has become so widespread in public discourse in English-speaking countries that we can see policies to address climate change being wound back in countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The idea that scientists have overstated the risk of global warming has wide currency in industry and government.

The hypothesis that some of the main protagonists within the blogosphere subscribe to conspiracist ideation is interesting. How does such reasoning pass into the mainstream? Can such ideation be seen in policy making? What role does cognitive dissonance play in conspiracy ideation, the maintenance of political and cultural identity and the disconnect between information on climate risk and climate response? These are all valid research questions.

As a potential associate editor, I see this behaviour from Frontiers as counterproductive to science in general and climate science in particular. If I am to be involved in a controversial area such as Interdisciplinary Climate Studies in an editorial capacity, I want to know that the hosting journal is clear on research ethics and is not going to misrepresent my or my colleagues’ research if disputes arise. I want to know if I can reasonably ask a panel of reviewers to associate themselves with Frontiers. Unfortunately, every statement Frontiers has made on the situation has degraded it further. If the statements made by Editor-in-Chief Henry Markram are representative of Frontiers at large, I can’t see how it can be supported by the research community.



45 Responses

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  1. […] Climatologist Roger Jones considers pulling up stakes here. […]

  2. Good article.
    See Eli Rabett’s, which brought me here, and also attached comments;

    Here in Silicon Valley, in the dot.com era, startups had a whole lot of ideas that were interesting and trying to address real problems, but had unclear business models that depended on eyeballs and clicks. Some rather over-extended themselves and made some bad decisions, and even with great ideas, execution matters.

    John Mashey

    April 17, 2014 at 11:35 am

  3. Roger Jones
    You have been subject a mixture of false information and incomplete information.

    The people who were studied as ‘deniers’ in the retracted paper were engaged in criticism of the paper’s author Stephan Lewandowsky’s previous work. They were in the process of requesting data from him.

    I find it absolutely incredible to think anyone can perform psychological analysis of people who are criticizing them.

    Think about it: your teacher, or professor is criticizing your answers to a paper. He wants to see your original calculations. Instead, you run a tape-recorder, ‘analyse’ him, and call it research?

    Stephan Lewandowsky, Michael Hubble-Marriott and John Cook are hostile to Anthony Watts, Steve McIntyre, Andrew Montford, and Joanne Nova. whom they purport to psychologically analyse. The latter are in direct antagonism to the authors vis a vis their positions on climate issues. Michael Hubble-Marriott has literally dozens of articles where he attacks Joanne Nova on his blog over a period of years. Cook’s secret forum members characterized Watts and McIntyre in some of the vilest of possible terms. Watts and Nova have posted several articles attacking Cook over many issues including the content of the secret forum over the years.

    You mean to say, in this situation, two of the above Marriott and Cook, are qualified to perform psychologic analysis on others? Since when did inter-connected peers perform valid scientific psychologic analysis on each other?

    How would you feel if your co-worker wrote and submitted a psychological profile of you to management, which then became their basis to fire you?

    Lewandowsky wrote a series of articles on his blog taunting and prodding his online critics within a short window of time. Such posts have not appeared on his blog ever since. His blog was run by the co-author John Cook. The site’s moderators were members of the previously mentioned, much derided, secret forum. Taunting, comment deletion and censorship and comment harvesting was carried out in sequence.

    Which observational study allows researchers to directly interact with research subjects without consent or debriefing, taunt them, control their reactions and use them as data in your paper?

    In other words, these guys are peers, i.e., they are equals to the subjects they purport to analyse. They are hostile to the subjects they analyse. They are in direct contact with the subjects they analyse. They are themselves the prime reason for the disturbance they deign to analyse. They control the arena and the material they analyse.

    These are positions of conflict that would simply disqualify these individuals as researchers.

    The reason these crucial issues are not mentioned or do not gain attention is because the authors, having realized their paper’s retraction is inevitable, have rolled out a series of defensive articles painting themselves as victims.

    Please examine the complete facts before coming to conclusions.

    Shub Niggurath

    April 17, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    • Shub
      The Recursive Fury paper is here. http://uwa.edu.au/recursivefury It appears that you have not read it.

      As Roger notes ” By taking public comments and analysing them therefore, they are undertaking discourse analysis but are not conducting any psychological diagnoses.”

      You make the claim that the paper performs “psychological analysis” but you do not show where. Like your colleagues in the climate science denier fraternity you are long on hysterical handwaving and short on substance.

      It is also worth noting that the same deniers who are whining about having their **very public** and freely given comments analysed had no compunction about “analysing” **private** emails stolen from scientists and used out of context in a campaign of denigration.


      April 17, 2014 at 3:48 pm

  4. Mike H above is correct. Skeptical bloggers examined the leaked contents of forum messages from John Cook’s website when in happened in 2011. This is a revenge paper.

    Shub Niggurath

    April 17, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    • It may indeed be a “revenge” paper. No way to know the true motivations. It may also have serious ethical and methodological flaws>
      I am unaware, however of any conspiracies being revealed by the SKs hack.
      What is revealed by the Lewandowsky paper is the huge amount of conspiracy theorizing among denier commenters and bloggers. Even psuedo-deniers like Curry, if one reads her blog on almost anyway, will be met by a handful, dozens or sometimes scores of comments that promote extremely unlikely or even impossible conspiracies. Having followed this issue on numerous blogs that call themselves “skeptic” I have yet to see one that was not filled with conspiracy theories, and I have almost never seen these comments corrected by the authors. I barely have an undergraduate understanding of the science, and yet in discussions wtih probably hundreds of “skeptics”, I have had possibly a majority respond to my accurate assessment of easily verifiable issues with blatant easily discredited propaganda.
      I must have accurately explained the “global cooling in the 70’s” dozens of times, or the silly “global warming to Climate change” , or the “scientists are willing to “adjust” their results to conform to what is expected of them because they get paid”, or the “the temperature records are fraudulently adjusted to hide previous warmth and increase current temps” and dozens of other conspiratorial arguments. Yet, I have almost NEVER seen other commenters on these sites, that proclaim themselves to be skeptics correct anyone on almost of these or other equally ridiculous assertions.
      The paper may be terrible for all the reasons above (though I am by no means impressed by the arguments that suggest this possibility), but it is still a paper that says the sky is blue because the atmosphere absorbs other parts of the spectra, or that members of the Tea Party are usually opposed to increased government regulation.
      These back and forth accusations may be interesting theatre, but they in no way undermine the premise of either the original paper of this one.

      Tony Duncan

      April 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm

  5. There is plenty of discourse to analyse in the responses of deniers to this paper as well as its predecessor. The central theme I see here is the sense of entitlement on the part of deniers, who seem to feel entirely free to make wild accusations of dishonesty and conspiracy on the part of climate scientists, while Lewandowsky et al. are accused of unethical research practices simply because they analysed published material for well-established indicators of conspiratorial thinking, equating those who published the material with ‘research subjects’ who must consent before the data gathered from those publications can be used in research. The reductio pointed out in the post above seems conclusive to me; if Markram’s comments are correct, normal academic debate, in which published works are analyzed and often vigorously criticized, would surely also be unethical without approval from the authors of the works in question. A radical (and ridiculous) idea!

    Bryson Brown

    April 17, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    • I have reason to believe lawyers and judges treat blogs as public speech, but Markram seems to disagree.

      John Mashey

      April 18, 2014 at 2:54 am

    • “normal academic debate, in which published works are analyzed and often vigorously criticized, would surely also be unethical without approval from the authors of the works in question.”
      So you’re saying that you would find it perfectly normal and acceptable if, say, two eminent psychiatrists who are engaged in a scientific dispute over a theory or a publication, started publishing in peer reviewed journals articles that don’t deal with the subject at matter but instead analyze the opponent’s arguments in terms of psychiatric disorders.
      How can you fail to see the difference between discussing somebody’s arguments and discussing the person advancing them, it’s completely mysterious to me.


      April 18, 2014 at 7:04 am

      • Udik. You appear to be parroting the claims made on climate crank blogs. Try reading the actual paper first and then give us some quotes from it that support what you write. It is not a long paper so it should not be hard.


        April 18, 2014 at 7:35 am

      • MarkH, I made a point through an analogy. If I am wrong, you can show it to me. Instead you’re wasting your answer with a personal attack, saying that I’m “parroting crank blogs” and that I haven’t read the paper. How do you expect to be taken seriously if this is the level of your argument?


        April 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

      • If you have read the paper, give us a quote to support your analogy. Why is that so hard?


        April 19, 2014 at 5:12 pm

  6. All of these attacks against Frontiers ignore the fact that the initial reviewer for this paper, Michael Wood, expressed significant concern with the paper in the review process. Those concerns were not addressed, yet the Editor, Dr. Viren Swami, approved publication regardless. This caused Wood to withdraw as reviewer and request his name be removed.

    Swami apparently appointed Prof Prathiba Nateson, whose name briefly appeared as a reviewer on the paper, and just as quickly was removed, followed by Swami appointing himself a reviewer in addition to being Editor.

    Claims that no issues were raised or found with this paper are false. And have been ignored by the Journal and those who support Lewandowsky.

    Also ignored, as pointed out above, is that the Fury paper was the result of Lewandowsky and co-authors denigrating and taunting those critical of his work in LOG12. Criticism that was perpetrated by Lewandowsky’s withholding both the names of skeptic blogs contacted and misleading that he had contacted them.

    Lewandowsky claimed he was prevented from releasing the names of the skeptic blogs contacted by ethics concerns, hower NO ethic provision prevented him from contacting each of those blog owners privately – as he contacted them initially – by email and providing them information so they could properly search their records.

    Lewandowsky got ethics approval to withhold his participation from skeptic sites. Instead he had an assistant contact these site – who made no mention of Lewandowsky’s involvement. Two years later when this issue came up, instead of notifying those deceived as required by ethics rules, he taunted them and denigrated them for being unable to find his prior contact.

    None of the Lewandowsky supporters will address these serious issues. None of them will address the serious peer review problems. None will address or acknowledge that Lewadowsky taunted and denigrated those critical of his positions, actions and work, and then used the comments that resulted against them.

    If these supporters think it is acceptable to attack and taunt subjects – denigrating and demeaning them publicly – and then using the resultant comments against them … then the whole process is seriously corrupt.

    A. Scott

    April 18, 2014 at 7:32 am

    • More hysterical handwaving with the same nonsense again. Shub did better: more words in his post.


      cRR Kampen

      April 18, 2014 at 8:36 pm

      • So in other words you are unable to make an intelligent response – do I have that correct?

        A. Scott

        April 20, 2014 at 6:33 pm

  7. Professor Markram (co-founder of Frontiers) has added this comment about the paper:

    “My own personal opinion: The authors of the retracted paper and their followers are doing the climate change crisis a tragic disservice by attacking people personally and saying that it is ethically ok to identify them in a scientific study.

    They made a monumental mistake, refused to fix it and that rightfully disqualified the study.

    The planet is headed for a cliff and the scientific evidence for climate change is way past a debate, in my opinion. Why even debate this with contrarians? If scientists think there is a debate, then why not debate this scientifically? Why help the ostriches of society (always are) keep their heads in the sand? Why not focus even more on the science of climate change? Why not develop potential scenarios so that society can get prepared? Is that not what scientists do? Does anyone really believe that a public lynching will help advance anything?

    Who comes off as the biggest nutter?

    Activism that abuses science as a weapon is just not helpful at a time of crisis.

    15 Apr 2014 at 06:14am
    strong thoughts from Professor Markram,

    ‘monumental mistake’, refusing to fix it’


    ‘Activism that abuses Science as a weapon’!

    which reinforces the punitive psychology and revenge on critics, thinking by Shub (above)


    Prof Markram is a research neuro scientist who clearly understand research ethics…




    View at Medium.com

    Barry Woods

    April 18, 2014 at 8:51 pm

  8. thecomplaints about paper was not about the rights of wrongs of people reviewing comments made in public on blogs, but that the authors were publically attacking the people’ comments that they were ‘researching’ and it wa sabout their own work (and conduct)

    I left this comment at Shaping Tomorrows World(lewandowsky’s website) (it was deleted:)


    missing comment:
    “from the article above:

    “The consensus among experts is further reflected in the fact that the research was conducted with ethics approval by the University of Western Australia.”

    But you broke the ethics approval!

    In your request to the ethics office (11th September 2012, you stated that you would ‘observe’ and that there would be ‘no direct participation of any sort’…

    Yet, Marriott and Cook were directly interacting with people that were named in the ‘fury’ paper, on your own blog (here) Shaping Tomorrows World, and at John Cooks blog – Skeptical Science.

    On both blogs, the tone was hostile, and our comments were being heavily moderated (snipped and /or deleted)

    at no point did Marriott, Cook or yourself (Lewandowsky) advise us (Geoff, myself, Tiltb, Foxgoose, Ben Pile)about this research, thus you actively deceived us, and interacted with us..

    Professor Lewandowsky wrote a series of blog posts attacking his critics during the research period, and when his critics commented on them here, they were heavily moderated. One commenter – Tom Fuller – had every single comment he ever made removed!

    This is a very high risk ethics activity, and would require full approval way beyond the UWA ethics officers remit.

    But beyond this high risk, our questions and criticisms about your own work (NASA Moon Hoax’ paper – and far from collecting recations, you were actively deleting them (you being the blog owner, or the moderators of that blog)

    Additionally, our questions were also directed at John Cook’s own competence and integrity with respect to the failure to host the LOG12 survey, despite the LOG12 paper depending on this for key claims of the paper. John and his moderator teams deleted those questions from view at Skeptical Science, the same occurred here at Shaping Tomorrows World.

    Additionally these activities were undertaken before you even had ethics approval! which by UWA’s own policies, should have made the research void..

    Prof Lewandowsky advised R Owyns (DVC[R] UWA he was collecting data on the 5th September 2012, a week before he contacted the the ethics office, and 2 weeks before he had the limited amended, approval of an amended approval for LOG12, for an original approval of a very different [published] paper – Understanding Statistical Trends – ethics approval.

    so simply stating that you hade ‘ethics approval’ from UWA is meaningless – it was broken by the authors conduct

    Barry Woods

    April 18, 2014 at 9:07 pm

  9. cRR Kampen, you are a Skepticalscience insider. Evidence indicates people like you were made aware of the data collection for this study and participated in the study by writing such comments as the above, the responses to which were harvested as data by the authors of the retracted paper. This makes you an conflicted party and you defending the paper carries little weight.

    Shub Niggurath

    April 18, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    • Now the conspiracy theories are getting really silly.


      April 19, 2014 at 3:26 pm

  10. So, Lewandowsky et al were engaging in ‘discourse analysis’. In some mysterious way, they managed to separate the ghost of the discourse from the people engaging in that discourse and label ‘the discourse’ as conspiracist ideation without imposing any psychological interpretation upon the subjects? Is that it?

    It seems to me that what was far more likely going on was that Lew et al were applying a type of behavioural psychology based upon prompting of the individuals being studied:

    “Prompting: This approach involves using some type of prompt to trigger a desired response. This might involve issues a verbal cue, such as telling the person what to do, or a visual cue, such as displaying a picture designed to cue the response.”

    Note ‘desired response’. They already had a preconceived notion of their subjects’ mental state which they sought to verify by engaging with those subjects in such manner that it would experimentally confirm their presuppositions.

    Jaime Jessop

    April 18, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    • So even this post from Roger could be a clever ploy to prompt even more “conspiracist ideation”.

      It seems to be working. 😀


      April 19, 2014 at 3:28 pm

  11. My, my. The conspiracist ideation looking-glass is just SO convenient for shutting down debate isn’t it and avoiding having to engage in possibly awkward conversations.

    Is it conspiracist ideation to look at Recursive Fury and quote these two passages?

    “The extent and vehemence of contrarian activity provided a particularly informative testbed for an analysis of how conspiracist ideation contributes to the rejection of science among web denizens.”

    “Accordingly, low trust (Goertzel, 1994) and paranoid ideation (Darwin, Neave, & Holmes, 2011) feature prominently among personality and attitudinal variables known to be associated with conspiracist ideation. The short label for this criterion is NS(for nihilistic skepticism).”

    Is it further conspiracist ideation to then draw the seemingly logical conclusion that:

    1. Conspiracist ideation mentality is attributed by RF to sceptic bloggers.
    2. Paranoia is therefore attributed fairly confidently to at least some of those sceptic bloggers. Paranoia of course being a psychopathological trait.


    Jaime Jessop

    April 19, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    • My reaction is “if the shoe fits…”.
      I really don’t care that much if the paper is ethical or should be removed. Their paper is an analysis of public writings, so my concern would be – are the writings accurately and sufficiently in context to get a reasonable analysis from. Is the analysis consistent with the academic literature and the references they are using. Are there other reasonable ways of analyzing the writings, etc.
      From reading the first 30-40 pages I get the impression that they have done of review of the literature in related topics and the logic of their methodology seems reasonable to me. The specifics I am not too interested in BECAUSE in reading the writings of
      “skeptic” bloggers and their commenters, I have run into such a high proportion of people that I can only term (in casual vernacular, let it be noted) as being “batshit crazy”
      I have interacted with probably hundreds people over the last 5 years and have had to read and interact with innumerable irrational and frankly impossible assertions about all manner of conspiracies in discussing climate change. I realize very few people have actually studied the history of science or understand how science actually operates, but many people (just from my experience of course) are extremely intelligent and technically fairly well versed in the specifics of the math and science on these issues, yet still make incredible assertions based, almost always on ideology and not credible lines of reasoning.
      So , in my view, this paper was just an obvious confirmation of what I knew undoubtedly to be true. And even if they are guilty of the most ethical infringements the are being accused of, I don’t see it having much relevance to the reality that the content of the paper is analyzing.

      Tony Duncan

      April 20, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      • Likewise, except Pseudoskpetics Are Not Skeptics, which was stirred by the following..

        Last year, I WebCited the 1900 comments from the SalbyStorm, which included some of the same blogs as involved in Recursive Fury, gathered the comments into a big PDF, annotated and summarized, yielding about 400 pages of text.

        In some ways, Recursive Fury was an understatement of the pervasiveness of conspiracy ideation in the climate-consensus dismissive blogosphere, The Salby affair was not a survey or a stimulus from social scientists, but one from Salby, and it elicited a great deal of unconstrained, voluntary data on pseudoskepticism, rejection of science, and conspiracy ideation. My thanks to the commenters!

        John Mashey

        April 20, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      • So, in essence, the end justifies the means. Even if the method is deemed to be unethical, even if it involves trampling over the accepted legal rights of the subjects and transgresses the boundaries of what might be termed responsible behaviour on the part of the authors, if the desired outcome is achieved, i.e. ‘proving’, in an academically robust manner, that sceptic bloggers are mostly “batshit crazy”, it’s all good.

        “. . . . but many people (just from my experience of course) are extremely intelligent and technically fairly well versed in the specifics of the math and science on these issues, yet still make incredible assertions based, almost always on ideology and not credible lines of reasoning.”

        I wager that there are many sceptics who have interacted with CAGW proponents who would describe their opponents in virtually the same manner. So where do we go from there? Who do we decide has the larger part of the ‘truth’ on their side? CAGW theorists rely upon reference to a consensus of experts and a vast body of peer reviewed literature which confirms their informed opinions. Sceptics rely upon the words of other sceptics and a lesser, but no less significant body of peer reviewed scientific literature which points to the real possibility that climate change (in the strictest, unbiased sense) is dominated by natural factors and that man-made CO2 emissions are either insignificant or play only a minor part. They rely also upon the indisputable fact that observed warming has failed to correlate with the output of a large majority of the CAGW/AGW climate models. Lastly, they rely upon the many times the climate alarmists have ‘cried wolf’ over the years and their direst warnings have been disproved by subsequent real events.

        In my view, the main thrust of ‘climate change’ (TM) scepticism involves questioning the ‘consensus’ position and demonstrating other (non man-made) possibilities for explaining the relatively modest industrial era warming. The ‘movement’, if one can call it that, is not a hotbed of conspiracist ideation as CAGW proponents like to claim. Of course, there is real suspicion that those who continue to promote the message that we are engaged in destroying the planet – with little really hard evidence – are promoting an agenda which is self-serving, given that absolutely vast amounts of money have been invested in renewables industries in order to counteract the supposed threat of climate change, given that vast amounts of money support scientific research and jobs. Such doubts, in my opinion, are in fact a very common human response to a perceived ‘gravy train’, not evidence of mass psychopathology among sceptics.

        Jaime Jessop

        April 20, 2014 at 7:20 pm

      • This strange notion of sceptics not being real sceptics but psedosceptics. from whence does it come?

        I give you two dictionary definitions of sceptic:

        “1. (Philosophy) a person who habitually doubts the authenticity of accepted beliefs
        2. a person who mistrusts people, ideas, etc, in general
        3. (Philosophy) a person who doubts the truth of religion, esp Christianity”

        “A person inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions.”

        Note that the impulse is ‘habitual’ or is an ‘inclination’. By Lewandowsky’s reckoning therefore, such impulses to question may well come under the umbrella of psychosis.

        And, given the above, how can you possibly be a ‘fake’ sceptic? You either are or are you are not. There is no grade scale of scepticism which goes from ‘genuine’ to ‘fake’. To be deemed a pseudosceptic, the only reason I can imagine is if you are engaged in the pretense of being a sceptic, but are not really, therefore you have an agenda which has little to do with a natural impulse to question. Therefore labelling climate change sceptics as ‘pseudosceptics’ is patently absurd or is itself an example of conspiracist ideation in that the people doing the labelling are imagining an agenda behind the ‘pretend scepticism’ of their opponents. Also, by such logic, pseudosceptics cannot be deemed to be mentally aberrant, just dishonest and conniving in their pursuit of a self-serving agenda.

        Jaime Jessop

        April 20, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      • I just engaged in a rather ridiculous back and forth on Curry’s blog about freedom of speech. I wish I could have responded to all the flurry of responses to me, but there are so many comments and it is difficult to figure out how to reply.
        As a skeptic, I see her only reinforcing one bias in her blog, and never correcting some of the bizarre pseudo science. That puts her in the denier blog category for me, even if her stated views are not exactly denying ACC. My feeling is that she is just an opportunist trying to keep one foot in the door of real science so she can scramble back and contend she was there all along.

        Tony Duncan

        April 21, 2014 at 12:49 am

      • Tony Duncan: I’m not sure of your skeptic label 🙂 Jo Nova claims ownership.
        ***Joanne Nova posted in 2010 We reclaimed the word Skeptic — next we reclaim the word Scientist with comments like:

        ‘And if we are the skeptics, then it followed that they are the Unskeptics and who wants to be an Unskeptical Scientist? …N ature is finally admitting that there is a debate, but haven’t got the nous to figure out what to call each side. In discussing a major international conference of scientists (run by Heartland), they misframed the debate as if it’s between “scientists and skeptics”. Which is too silly for words, the skeptics are the scientists.
        The Unskeptical “scientists” are the pretenders.’

        She commented in 2013:

        ‘We own the word skeptic. I’m not giving it up. 😉 A skeptic is “A person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions.” They tried to turn it into a poisonous term of dismissive scorn. But I won’t lose yet another word to the wordsmiths.’

        John Mashey

        April 21, 2014 at 3:09 am

      • Jaime, Part 1

        you are misunderstanding me. I am in no way saying that if they were involved in unethical behavior they should not bear the consequences. I am by no means convinced that they did. It is a very unusual situation. My point is that as long as the information in the paper is accurate and it is properly documented and conforms to other legitimate research then then whatever transgressions occurred in making the paper do not undermine that basic point. The authors had interactions with the people who were subjects in the paper. Yes that certainly makes it a more complicated situation. but it is all totally irrelevant to the reality that the paper is about.

        You make a number of assertions that are not accurate, especially when you contend that there may be an equivalence between the posts and comments by supporters of ACC and those that do not.
        I will definitely grant you that there are supporters of ACC that would qualify for the the
        Batshit” designation. the difference thatI see is that on blogs supporting ACC people who make outrageous claims that are completely at odds with the actual evidence rarely comment on the main ACC blogs, and when they do they get shot down (sometimes politely, sometimes not) by people who know the facts.

        I actually am finding it hard to recall instances around climate change where people posted anything comparable to the batshit crazy I have seen on what I call “denier” blogs. But the closest I can come to is some people suggesting that Methane release is going to happen very possibly very soon and release staggering amounts of methane calthrates to make GH effect go through the roof in decades. Now even this I don’t consider “batshit”. alarmist and while unlikely and based on scant real science, It is not unthinkable. Likewise Hansen’s assertion that sea level could rise 5 meters in the next century. That too is extremely alarmist, and in my view, and many peoples, extremely unlikely. But he was very careful to note that he said that NOT as a scientific prediction, because it was not based on science, but as something that was as credible as sea level rise only being one foot in the next century. Lovejoy has made really alarmist predictions, but he has since modified his view to be closer to reality.

        An area where i have some disagreement with bloggers and activists is on the role of FF money. I certainly think it is there and has a significant impact on disseminating and supporting denier blogs, but I think the issue has becomes so politicized that FF interests have a willing and very large number o people willing to disseminate lies and distortions without any monetary motivation. >
        Now quickly on the other side. the “batshit” arguments are so legion, I will just pull a few form the top of my head, and you tell me that they are not an order of magnitude 9 or more) farther out of reality than the ones I have just posted.

        ALL the temperature records are constantly being fraudulently adjusted in order to make the recent temps higher and old temps lower. It is blatant fraud and no one is willing to look at it except the valiant “Skeptics”.
        CERN has proven that climate change is due almost exclusively to cosmic rays.
        the current 17 year pause PROVES that ACC is not happening
        vulcanism is the cause of increase in CO2 emissions, not FF.
        CO2 cannot have almost any effect because it is such a trace gas
        The scientists were selling global cooling in the 70’s, but when it started warming they changed it to global warming.
        The Arctic has gained a record amount of ice last year and this march it was at a normal level, so the ice loss in the arctic is a myth.
        Marcott reconstruction is worthless because they “hid the decline” for recent proxies
        The WMP had higher temps than now. ( by conflating records from around the globe over hundreds of years)
        CO2 ALWAYS follows temperature so there is no reverse correlation.
        changes in solar activity correlate almost exactly with changes in global temperature
        AMO correlates almost exactly with changes in temperature
        Glaciers are not receding. (by pointing to minority that are not receding
        theIPCC is a politicized group that will only allow research that supports ACC to be included.
        An inconvenient Truth was riddled with Lies as shown by court case in England
        Ocean acidification will have no negative effect on the ocean because it is a tiny change
        It has been much warmer in the past and life flourished, so any warming now will be an improvement
        there wre periods when CO2 was MUCH higher than now without temps being much higher, so CO2 can’t be a cause of warming
        Scientist are wiling to fraudulently change their finding so they will continue to get grant money.
        renewable energy interest money is spurring research designed to support ACC
        There is no consensus because over 30,000 scientists have signed the Oregon petition.
        implementing policy to reduce COs will destroy the economy
        Climate alarmists don’t care about the millions of poor people that will die from denying them energy
        ACC is a plot by the UN and socialists to gain control over america and turn it into a totalitarian state

        My point is that while not all deniers believe all these things ( many probably do) there is almost no effort to correct any of these totally unsupported assertions when they are brought up in denier blogs. when people like me and others much more expert point out the fallacies, they are almost always attacked and usually either taken on a gish gallop or presented with links from other denier sites that are just as wrong. I don’t know how many times I have been insulted and been responded to with no content just ad hominem.

        I ave dealt with this over and over and over again for 5 years now. andover and over again, I state that I am quite willing to discuss real areas of uncertainty and possible areas where ACC is mistaken. ( I still personally feel that there may be biotic factors that are not well represented in the theory), Cloud feedback, CO2 sensitivity, ocean heat retention., etc. I have almost never been taken up on this EXCEPT on blogs that support ACC. whenever I have asked questions on SKS or Rabbit, or Bickmore or Nevin, I usually get detailed explanations that I can usually understand. On Twitter now I am getting very good explanations from some top scientists about issues I don’t understand clearly.

        Tony Duncan

        April 21, 2014 at 4:55 am

    • part 2

      your explanation of the ways that ACC supporters and opponents relate to the evidence, just does not correspond in any way with my experience.
      I do think that your position in theory is reasonable, except that those opposed to ACC do not have any viable rigorous theory that supports their contentions. It certainly is theoretically possible to argue that sensitivity is so low that it might only be 1°C for doubling CO2, but I have never seen any testable theory. And that is a crucial failing after 20 years of attempts to discredit it.

      I will quote you at length here

      ” Sceptics rely upon the words of other sceptics and a lesser, but no less significant body of peer reviewed scientific literature which points to the real possibility that climate change (in the strictest, unbiased sense) is dominated by natural factors and that man-made CO2 emissions are either insignificant or play only a minor part. They rely also upon the indisputable fact that observed warming has failed to correlate with the output of a large majority of the CAGW/AGW climate models. Lastly, they rely upon the many times the climate alarmists have ‘cried wolf’ over the years and their direst warnings have been disproved by subsequent real events.”

      My view of this statement is that you are distorting what the scientific literature actually says about the degree of effect natural variation plays in ACC. As I have argued repeatedly with “skeptics” when they point to the current pause in land temps, they immediately lose any interest in natural variation, when making this argument. I have never heard a “skeptic” on these blogs say, that the pause might be due to natural variation mitigating ACC effects. It is ALWAYS me that brings up those factors. Always me that point out the low solar activity in the 21st century. Always me that points out the La Niña dominate ENSO, and always me that points out that argo shows strong warming in the lower ocean. I almost never have “discussions” with people where we both try to look a the facts and the relevant factors in a realistic and open discussion. No it is almost always an attack and defense game.
      you say that models have failed to correlate with temps. that is, in my view, disingenuous. It is NOT what models do. They do not make predictions about actual temps, they make forecasts of trends in temps due to the inputs. If the inputs cannot have stochastic or unknown variable factors, one cannot fault them. To me this is not the argument of a skeptic, trying to get to the truth, but of a denier looking for a way to find a fault stye can exploit. the lack of land warming is certainly a factor, and it is possible it means there is something seriously wrong with the basic understanding of ACC, but it does not at all prove anything and the explanations for it are reasonable, logical, and have empirical support behind them.

      As for the “cry wolf”. That does have some validity, but that is due to the extreme politicization of the issue and the frustration from lack of action. We are still at the very early stages of CO2 just being discernible as a signal in terms of real world effects so there is, as yet, no significant cry wolf criteria to assess.
      the assertion that the arctic could be ice free by 2013, was in my view silly, but it was not based on science just on the slope of ice loss since 2007. the often cited quote about snow being a thing of the past, and other such things. without dates, they are not things one can pass judgement on. It is also a HUGE logical fallacy to contend that because individuals make statements about a theory that turn out to be wrong that means the theory is wrong.
      Would you have ignored the military in 1937 who said Hitler was a huge danger to world peace and we should take strong measures to help Europe defend against him, because one or 2 generals sad he would invade Czechoslovakia and annex Austria by 1935? If scientist cries wolf and he turns out to be wrong, by all means question his analysis more careful y and take future announcements form him with a lot more salt, but do not then dismiss everything he says in spite of the facts

      And there are scientists who are part of the consensus that have warned against this. I watched a video maybe 5 years ago where a climate scientist warned that until the middle of the century it was possible for natural variation to stall or even reduce temps giving the impression and fodder to deniers that it wasn’t happening. He was prescient. sorry I forget who he was.

      And on the opposite side I don’t think I have ever seen a commenter on a “skeptic” blog question the “cry wolf” arguments of commenter or bloggers saying that attempts to limit CO2 will result in the destruction of the US economy.

      I strongly consider myself to be a skeptic, in general and in particular about ACC. It is such a potentially huge problem, that not looking at the issue realistically is too dangerous. 6 years ago , I pretty much accepted it uncritically, now ,I do not accept ANY info without question.
      I remember asking Gavin Schmidt 5 years ago about whether the oceans could prevent the effect of ACC for decades or even hundreds of years, he responded that it was not possible. I remember that because while I did not question his expertise I was not convinced. I think at this point that I had a point about the short term.
      In thios context I see hardly anyone that opposes ACC theory as being a skeptic. They almost always only skeptical of information and analysis that supports ACC and almost never skeptical of this that oppose it

      Tony Duncan

      April 21, 2014 at 5:06 am

    • Jaime,

      I am sorry to say your last post about skepticism is pointless.

      Your definitions are just plain wrong in this context.

      Here are the ones that ARE relevant:
      from wikipedia
      Skepticism or scepticism (see American and British English spelling differences) is generally ANY* questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts,[1] or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere.[2]

      *my emphasis

      a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.
      a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.

      Your definitions could imply that one would NOT be questioning of beliefs that are “not” accepted.
      that is of course what I think happens in the community that is “skeptical” about climate change.

      Ihat is what a pseudo skeptic is. it is someone who ONLY questions the beliefs of those whose view is different from theirs, and does NOt question the facts of views of someone who shares their beliefs.

      A FAKE sceptic pretends to be a skeptic, but is in fact only skeptical about things they disagree with.

      A true Skeptic questions all facts and beliefs and analyzes the merits of arguments irrespective of their source or perspective.

      In fact I could not find your definition

      Here is Free dictionary

      skep·tic also scep·tic (skĕp′tĭk)
      1. One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.

      and Merriam Webster

      skep·tic noun \ˈskep-tik\
      : a person who questions or doubts something (such as a claim or statement) : a person who often questions or doubts things

      Tony Duncan

      April 21, 2014 at 5:26 am

  12. […] da Ugo B., dal Rabett che ha un’analogia molto migliore della mia, da Michael Tobis, da Robert Jones (ottimo riassunto delle punt. prec.); Steph ha una case history di furioso ricorsivo (guardare i […]

  13. Tony, you write:

    “You make a number of assertions that are not accurate, especially when you contend that there may be an equivalence between the posts and comments by supporters of ACC and those that do not.”

    Actually what I said is that I’ll “wager that there are many sceptics who have interacted with CAGW proponents who would describe their opponents in virtually the same manner.” Bit different.

    For a start, supporters of ACC are not all CAGW advocates. I myself am willing to allow for the fact that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere may result in a rise in global temperatures; I just feel it is not significant when compared to other climate forcings. But the main point I was trying to put across is that both sides PERCEIVE their opponents to be short on logic and big on belief-based ideology.

    A lot of stuff in the “batshit department” which suggests to me you may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater a lot of the time, just for e.g. correlations of temperatures with solar activity. There is an ever growing body of literature now which suggests viable mechanisms for solar climate forcing which the IPCC ignores or dismisses and you appear to be doing the same.

    You say:

    “you say that models have failed to correlate with temps. that is, in my view, disingenuous. It is NOT what models do. They do not make predictions about actual temps, they make forecasts of trends in temps due to the inputs.”

    No, I didn’t say models have failed to correlate with temperatures or imply that they make predictions about temperatures. What I said was: “observed warming has failed to correlate with the output of a large majority of the CAGW/AGW climate models.” Again, a bit different, and true. The current plateau already embarrasses many of the climate model outputs to such an extent that most people would consider climate models per se to have been a failure. A few more years of no temperature rise, or even cooling, and even statisticians will deem the climate models to have failed.

    On the subject of scepticism, you state that you ‘consider yourself to be a skeptic, in general and in particular about ACC’. So are you saying that you are sceptical of anthropogenic climate change in general? I am sceptical only of the claim that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are largely responsible for modern warming and will produce even more catastrophic warming in the medium and long term. To me, that is being sceptical of a particular claim which I feel in unsupported by the available evidence. You say:

    “A FAKE sceptic pretends to be a skeptic, but is in fact only skeptical about things they disagree with.

    A true Skeptic questions all facts and beliefs and analyzes the merits of arguments irrespective of their source or perspective.”

    I’m afraid you raise the bar impossibly high for one to be described a ‘true sceptic’. In practice, one is as forensically sceptical as possible of a particular theory or claim or viewpoint which is usually – though not exclusively – a widely held viewpoint or theory. Scepticism must by definition have a focus and that focus is surprisingly driven by intuition. There are things which we ‘feel’ are not right and we engage our critical apparatus to the best of our abilities in order to question their validity. Of course, there are a whole host of other things which we may be mildly sceptical about but most of us have neither the time nor the intellectual mastery to devote ourseves to thoroughly investigating their validity or otherwise, nor indeed the inclination. We focus on what we feel is important and in so doing we rely inevitably to some extent upon the imperfect knowledge of others. Monbiot was on radio 4 this morning, talking about environmentalism and climate change with James Lovelock. I only caught the end of it. But he said something with which I agree – for a change! He said that the sciences and other fields of study have become so complex now that we have to place our trust in ‘experts’. We simply cannot question everything. CAGW theorists do not question the wisdom of the climate science ‘experts’ – they famously rely upon a ‘consensus’; Climate change sceptics do not question EVERYTHING, in particular everything that other climate change sceptics may say and they do not often apply their sceptic lens introspectively if they ‘feel’ that they are headed in the right general direction. You will find that this is true not only of climate change sceptics, but ALL sceptics. Scepticism is a human trait; it is not perfect, infallible and all-embracing and it generally looks out rather than in – it is however, almost always genuine and not fake.

    Jaime Jessop

    April 22, 2014 at 1:40 am

    • Jaime,I appreciate your reply, as well as your clarification of the points you were making.

      I do not think it really matters that “skeptics” ” would describe their opponents in virtually the same manner.” Is that description accurate? there are certainly some people who are skeptics that do not engage in the ridiculous and conspiratorial argument I listed off the top of my head, but, my experience is that they are a small minority. I notice that you have yet to present arguments by supporters of ACC that are comparable in their irrationality to the ones I provided. I certainly have seen “warmists” make unsupported claims and be insulting, but again rarely have I seen really ridiculous easily provably wrong assertions from them.
      you say you “feel” like the effect of CO2 is not significant compared to other forcings. As far as I know there is no reason to believe that is the case, other than “feeling” it is so. It certainly might be possible, I do not ignore that possibility, and the current land only temperatures may be a reflection of that. If there was no other empirical source of information on the issue, I would be inclined to consider it as a much larger possibility. But since we know that natural variability make a linear CO2-temp correlation impossible, and we know that there are other factors that would have resulted in significant cooling this past decade, I see no compelling reason to accept that possibility as more than a consideration to keep in mind until other evidence give actual support for the idea.
      you then question my considering temperature correlation with solar radiation to be irrational by saying there is a growing body of literature ( I assume you mean peer reviewed research). I certainly am unaware of this. What I have seen on “skeptic” blogs is warning about the extremely low solar cycle this decade, and how some of the more foolish ones (Easterbrook) have predicted massive cooling which, of course has not yet occurred. the only science I have seen on the subject also shows current solar activity extremely low, so I don’t see how there could be a correlation with current temps. Obviously in the past solar variation has been a major forcing of climate, and when goes to many millions of years there is a significant increase in solar radiation in current times.
      you also failed to comment on the other 15 or so irrational and conspiratorial comments I read constantly on “skeptic” blog” or form “skeptic” commenters in mainstream posts.

      you also did not appear to read my explanation of the value of models and the incorrect assertions that almost all “skeptics” apply to them. there should be no “embarrassment” about model output until, as you state there are 5 or 10 more years where temperatures do NOt increase without a clear strong downward correlation with other factors. since natural variation in a number of areas has been consistent with negative forcing, there is currently, no reason to believe the models are inaccurate. Since they do not incorporate many of those factors, and cannot do so until stochastic and natural variation factors can be actually predicted. as that is not the case now, there is no reason to believe there are serious problems with the models. But as any modeler will happily acknowledge they are not meant to be accurate, they just strive for accuracy.

      you say you are skeptical of the claim that that CO2 is responsible for the majority of current warming and of the likelihood of significant further warming. I see it extremely well supported by a diverse rage of empirical factors completely consistent with our knowledge of physics, chemistry, fluid dynamics, and biological processes. In fact my understanding of the interrelated confirmations is strong, and consistent with there being a very intensely researched theory. whereas that countervailing claim that it is NOt the current major forcing has absolutely no scientific theory and is supported by disconnected hypothesis many of which are mutual exclusive, and past hypothesis to that effect have proven to be illusory or completely inadequate at explaining the empirical evidence. In following the issue for 30 years and rather intensely for the past 5, I see no evidence that the base of empirical or theoretical support has had any serious problems. Of course certain specifics hypotheses about the theory presented by certain have and will turn out to be wrong, but all theories change. Quantum mechanics bears almost no relationship to bohr’s original understanding of the atom, there have been many mistakes and many changes, but the basic practical view is that an atom is made of a nucleus and electrons orbiting.
      what you describe, in my view is not being “skeptical” of the role of CO2 but a bias against that possibility that looks for evidence that might show it not to be true. That is a common misunderstanding of skepticism and I think is why you are misunderstanding my explanation of the term. Yes, I AM completely skeptical of every aspect of ACC theory. I am skeptical of the temperature record, of the reconstructions, of the physics of CO2, of the positive feedbacks associated with increase in CO2, and every other element. Being skeptical does not mean I don’t accept them as true. there is strong evidence for those things and I therefore DO accept them. But being a skeptic I am completely open to evidence that throws any of those factors into doubt. and being skeptical means that I also do no tassel that a failure of some aspect means the theory is wrong. It MIGHT mean that, but I make assessments of consequences by looking at all the info and making reasonable conclusions that are always tentative. I make assessment not judgements.
      But in order for me to be skeptical of ACC, I HAVE to be skeptical of the arguments against them. I LISTEN to arguments against hem and make assessment to the accuracy and validity of the evidence presented.
      the ISSUE is what is happening to the climate, to be skeptical of ONE aspect of that is not skepticism it is bias plain and simple. to base ones skepticism on what one feels, is not skepticism. Before I got serious about looking into the issue, I “felt” that ACC must be correct, because I had a simplistic understanding of it, and did no understand the degree of complexity in determining effects on climate. NOW I ams skeptical because I have a much more nuanced understanding of the various issues involved. Reading “skeptic” blogs has helped with that tremendously. I had to actually examine the evidence and explanations in arrange of disciplines where in the p[ast I had just made assumptions about. I “felt” right because I accepted my bis. I no longer do that to anything close to that degree.
      SO I think your entire explanation of skepticism is skewed to the point of being of little value. True skeptics absolutely DO question the arguments that support their case and good scientists take that as an essential part of their research. Good scientists take the time to look for problems in their own work, and then asks for other competent people to do the same, who would not have the same biases as they do.
      I just attended a skeptic conference and your assertion that “Scepticism must by definition have a focus and that focus is surprisingly driven by intuition. There are things which we ‘feel’ are not right and we engage our critical apparatus to the best of our abilities in order to question their validity.”
      Of course there are issues so insignificant that they do not require “skeptical” attention. that is irrelevant and again distorts the idea of skepticism. If one is skeptical of one side of an issue and not another, it is just being hypocritical. if one accepts others irrational and biased and unsupported assertions just because they are supporting being skeptical of the issue you “feel” one should be, again that is not skepticism it is bias and it is a very dangerous attitude to hold. In fact it is this type of thinking that I think has led the “skeptic” movement against ACC to become so extremet that it has led many to the “bats hit crazy” assertions I have pointed out to you.
      your contention that “CAGW theorists do not question the wisdom of the climate science ‘experts’ – they famously rely upon a ‘consensus’” is not accurate as a rule. I do think the issue is highly polarized and that some scientists have an emotional investment in the theory being correct, and especially their results being accurate. But science is quite self correcting when the questions are adequately enumerated, and in this area they largely are, then there will only be a slow steady movement to a more accurate and valuable theory.
      that is why I consider many “Skeptics” to be deniers, because they are not actually interested in getting the most accurate information and most reasonable explanation. they have become fanatics, who are only willing to accept information if it undermines ACC and unwilling to accept information that supports ACC. That is why you get ridiculous claims like the Arctic Sea ice is not declining dramatically, by grabbing at last years increase and making the foolish contention that the late winter maximum is any indication of the trend. It is the source of most of the issues I innumerates so easily off the top of my head.
      I don’t ask that climate skeptics question EVERYTHING.I ask that they correct people who make blatantly disproven assertions over and over again, and stick to valid issues that have scientific uncertainty related to the issue. the fact that almost none of them question ANYTHING as long as it attacks ACC undermines their credibility. that does not mean their are wrong. and I listen to even the most “batshit” crazy IF they have any valid points or evidence.
      That is because I am a skeptic, and know that if real evidence that call ACC into question DOES come up it will likely be highlighted by “skeptics” first.and skepticism is not a “human” trait, unless it is learned, and there is a lot of understanding that has to go into that learning before it can be a really valuable tool

      Tony Duncan

      April 22, 2014 at 3:02 pm

  14. […] and a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says he is now reconsidering his decision to become an associate editor of Frontiers’ newly established area of Interdisciplinary Climate Studies. This is because […]

  15. Tony, you seem to think that I have an obligation to respond to everything on your list of “batshit crazy” claims by sceptics. You provide a bullet list of such claims without accompanying justification and I have to ‘prove’ that they are not fallacious. I’m afraid debate doesn’t work like that, especially on a blog where we have very limited time and space to really meet the demands of addressing so many complex issues.

    But just on the solar issue for the moment, as I think, strangely enough, that our Sun is the ‘missing link’ in the explanation of modern and past climate change and not burning of fossil fuels or indeed prehistoric accumulations of atmospheric CO2. You say:

    “you then question my considering temperature correlation with solar radiation to be irrational by saying there is a growing body of literature ( I assume you mean peer reviewed research). I certainly am unaware of this.”

    I don’t think you are looking hard enough, which suggests to me that you are maybe not as universally ‘sceptical’ as you paint yourself to be. I quote:

    “This paper discusses the effect of the greenhouse phenomenon and CO2 on global climate and suggests that numerical models that lack adequate knowledge of fundamental related factors cannot be used to extract “sound” conclusions. . . . . . On the other hand the role of the sun in the presently observed global warming has been greatly underestimated. . . . . . The conclusion drawn here is that a natural signal of solar forcing has been mistakenly overlooked for an anthropogenic change, maybe owing to their quite similar effects on climate. For the moment science does not really have a complete and total understanding of the factors affecting the earth’s complex climate system and therefore no sound conclusions can be drawn.”

    This is but one particularly forthright paper which questions the role of CO2 in modern warming and suggest very strongly that the culprit is primarily solar. There are many others if you search and many suggest mechanisms whereby solar variability may be amplified to account for changes in global climate. All virtually ignored by the CAGW establishment. Is that genuine scepticism in action? I think not. That’s being a climate ostrich.

    On the MWP not being as warm as today, or global in extent, I give you a review of the peer-reviewed literature which suggests strongly that the MWP was in fact warmer than today and global.


    You say:

    “SO I think your entire explanation of skepticism is skewed to the point of being of little value.”

    I’m afraid I have to vehemently disagree with you there and indeed throw the accusation back at yourself and the man-made climate change fraternity that they are not displaying the quality of scepticism of their own claims which they are demanding most vociferously from the opposing camp.

    Jaime Jessop

    April 22, 2014 at 7:35 pm

  16. […] 2014/04/17: UCR: Frontiers retraction controversy […]

  17. Jaime,

    I actually don’t expect you to respond to the off-the-top-of-my-head bullet list. The idea that you think more than a couple of those listed are not “batshit” crazy is rather bizarre. I have been arguing with people about these issues for years, and have had to deal with these assertions, with almost no one actually willing to discuss them in a rational way. They all may have some element that can be defended, but i have found all to just be excuses to support propaganda.
    You bring up two of them, and neither is very indicative of a skeptical perspective. I see this over and over, climate deniers find some source that backs up their claim, no matter how many times it has been shown to be wrong, but they just accept that and discard critiques of it.
    I do not know enough about the paper regarding solar radiation. I do know that sola radiation has actually decreased since the 80’s and done so significant int he last decade. how someone could claim a correlation strains credulity. Now maybe the research has to do with some aspect of radiation that has increased. I guess that is possible. But have you examined the paper to see how it references previous research in this area? Have you looked at critiques of this paper? why have I never seen ti referenced by those that support CO2 as the main driver? do you really believe this paper shows some effect that ALL the climate and solar scientists studying this issue are trying to suppress? historically and psychologically ALL supporters of fringe ideas contend that science is “ignoring” some crucial factor and that THEY have the piece that explains reality. why do you believe the claim that scientists have ignored this? Why do you think the measurements that show solar radiation decreasing over the last 30 years are wrong or inadequate?
    If you are not looking into these questions then you are not being skeptical. you are just being biased.

    And the other one does not in fact support a global MWP that was warmer than current temps. It just talks about North America. Unless there is other research that shows higher than current temp levels in many different parts of the world AT THE SAME time, then there is just no support for the idea. The two most recent reconstructions both show MWP spread out over about 500 yard varying in degree in different regions during that time. They both show current temps higher than any since the Roman warm period.
    the abstract makes the contention that if the MWP was warmer than today that that would undermine ACC. That is not at all the case. It is alogical fallacy and indicative of the propaganda nature of the source
    The site you linked to IS a propaganda site. That of course does not mean that the contentions at that site are wrong, but it indicates one should have an increased level of skepticism about information at the site.
    have you compared the info there to critiques of it. what are the explanations of the inconsistencies brought up at the site by climate scientists? are those critiques reasonable? etc.
    so your response reinforces my view that you are not actually interested in being skeptical in manner consistent with the concept. Especially with your last statement, which uses conspiratorial term “fraternity” and the assertion that the entire science of ACC is unskeptical of research supporting ACC while not demanding skepticism from the opponents.
    Again I will grant you that political polarization does impact the science and I am sure there are emotional issues that affect scientists perspecives, but there is no significant evidence that all the research that supports ACC has been distorted and the peer review process so corrupted that it invalidates the theory. There are just too many qualified honest people that would quickly spot the necessary distortions for this to be the case.
    On the other hand “skeptic” arguments have been subject to critiques and over and over again have been shown to be seriously flawed. Lindzen, Spencer, and others have put forth explanations that would undermine ACc, and so far in every case their hypothesis have been shown to be wrong.
    you are of course free to believe whatever you want, but calling yourself a skeptic in doing so is inaccurate.

    Tony Duncan

    April 25, 2014 at 1:15 am

    • Tony Duncan: you are fighting the good fight against pseudoskeptical behavior… but I suspect you are wasting your time in this case.

      1) See the numerous posts by Jaime Jessop in this thread @ ATTP.

      2) You are right to be dubious of Florides, et al, but that is actually much, much worse.
      This is one of the ways truly awful papers get published in credible journals, by slipping through the editorial process in an out-of-field journal, in this case “Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews,” which is a credible journal in that domain, with quite a few people involved from NREL. I have no idea how this slipped through, but: I’ve been helping friends dissect this thing, so just happen to have looked at it:

      a) The authors are neither climate scientists or solar physicists, They are in mechanical or electrical engineering at a small, new university in Cyprus.

      Georgios Florides
      Paul Christodoulides
      Vassilios Messaritis

      Now it is *possible* that these engineers have overturned mainstream climate science and refuted the IPCC … but real skeptics might have cause to be dubious, since such rarely happens.

      b) If there is any real research in this, it is not obvious, but rather it seems stitched together, with heavy reliance on their own past (poor) work, with heavy reliance on well-debunked sources, stitched together like:
      [3] Svensmark
      [14] Sorokhtin OG,Chilinga rGV,KhilyukLF
      [15]Spencer R .. .from his website
      [26] Shaviv NJ,VeizerJ.
      [28] Archibald D. (one has to be kidding)
      [33] Idso CD,Idso SB
      [39] Archibald D. (again)
      [46] Loehle C,McCulloch JH
      [49] Abdussamatov H
      To pick a few. Those are interspersed with credible references … that get cherry-picked, while ignoring contrary comments in the same sources. Obviously, we’ve examined the paper in some detail.
      They make all sorts of claims about topics of which they are demonstrably lacking in expertise.
      They conclude that there is “no sound understanding of physical phenomena” for which another conclusion is possible, that they are almost totally clueless about the actual level of understanding.

      c) There are other problems, of which some are even more serious,as I think will be seen.

      2) The SPPI document is even more laughable.

      a) An article authored by “Staff”. The staff = Robert Ferguson, not any kind of scientist.

      a) SPPI is a Ferguson + some web help, with “advisors” like Christopher Monckton. Fergsuon is a long-time political staffer who went into climate anti-science at Frontiers of Freedom, then fired up his own Science and Public Policy Institute, which is actually a PO Box in a USPS store within a mile or two from his house. It doesn’t do Science certainly doesn’t do much for the Public, and I guess anybody can call themself an Institute. See PDF @ Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony, pp.121-122 where some of his history and activities are laid out.

      b) Actually, SPPI does not really exist as an independent entity: it’s a front for Craig Idso’s Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, with some murky funding flows, including directly from Koch brothers foundations. See PDF @ Fakery 2, p.p.78-81.
      p.78 shows where at least some of the money came from, like ExxonMobil, Koch brothers, Richard Mellon Scaife, and the Donors Trust money laundry. There’s also some from Heartland Institute, with even murkier paths.

      c) Of course, it is well-known that areas like NH areas like Canada or N. Europe usually have stronger temperature swings than SH or NH nearer the Equator, so cherry-picking works.

      3) Believing this stuff to be credible is evidence of intense pseudoskepticism, with a really powerful Morton’s Demon in control. 🙂

      John Mashey

      April 25, 2014 at 4:58 am

  18. John Mashey:

    “Tony Duncan: you are fighting the good fight against pseudoskeptical behavior”
    “Believing this stuff to be credible is evidence of intense pseudoskepticism, with a really powerful Morton’s Demon in control. :-)”

    LOL! I guess you must be an expert in those departments.
    Obviously, trying to debate the very real scientific evidence which refutes the One True Science of Global Warming with ardent Believers who would prefer to resort to ad hominems and insults to make their case is a waste of time. Nothing more to add here.

    Jaime Jessop

    April 25, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    • Jaime,

      your response reinforces the likilihood that you are not interested in true skepticism. John’s response is very similar to almost every other situation I have seen where climate deniers make some claim that undermines ACC and when I look into it. the claim pretty much evaporates.
      your unwillingness to consider critiques of isolated research that suggests some huge problem with ACC puts you in the “denier” camp.
      As I said, I am quite skeptical of the science around Climate Change. There are numerous areas of uncertainty, and I seriously doubt the extreme predictions of the crash of civilization and almost complete destruction of the ecosystem. I also seriously doubt that the effects of 400-500 PPM of CO2 over the next many decades will result in less and 1°C increase in global temps. Both are possible and should be considered in determining policy. We should immediately begin mitigation efforts to decrease CO2 as quickly as economically feasible, and as we understand the consequences better, we can either ramp up or scale down if either tail becomes more likely.
      what I find over and over again is people calling themselves “skeptics” who promote doing am sot nothing to mitigate CO2 because they don’t “think” there will be a problem. with the science decidedly against that view, that is a foolish position to take

      Tony Duncan

      April 28, 2014 at 12:03 am

      • Tony Duncan:
        (Of course, the host of this blog is an expert, and could do better. I’m just an informed onlooker who regularly goes to climate seminars, studies IPCC reports, attends AGU, etc … but I’ll try.)

        I quoted Steve Schneider in http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/04/18/pseudoskeptics-are-not-skeptics“, not just because he was a friend, but a fine scientist and was one of the strongest advocates for assessing and characterizing uncertainty and explaining it to people. I can’t find the quote, but he often said word to the effect that the two outcomes:
        a) no problem
        b) End of civilization
        were the least likely outcomes.

        Put another way, there’s a Probability Distribution Function of climate sensitivity to 2X CO2, over which we have zero control, but is a right-skewed distribution that ranges roughly from 15C to 4.5C, with rare (wild) claims of outliers as far as 0C-10C. See the graphs of PDF p.,4 in Knuti & Hegerl(2009).

        Very few serious scientists I know (and I do things like attending AGU workshops on uncertainty) think we’re at the extremes, As shown in that graphs, the experts cluster in 2-4.5C range, and most arguments I’ve heard in workshops (or email lists I happen to be on) are about 2.5C vs 3C.

        We have some control over the CO2 level we actually get to, so 2X Is not guaranteed. We could easily go over 560ppm.

        That’s what the *science* says, but I’d say over-emphasis on the extremes doesn’t really qualify as science. I..e., showing PDFs is science, focus on an extreme isn’t.

        The issue is more in economics and insurance and policy. Even though the chance of a 5C sensitivity is low, it is not zero and the chance of getting more than 5C rise (if we get more than 2X) is low, but not zero, and the science says that if that happens, the consequences are pretty dire. (Among other things, I’d guess that most of Australia would not be very habitable.)

        People buy fire insurance, even though the probability of their house burning is low. So the issue to wrestle with is more of a public policy one:
        a) Assume the most likely outcomes and take actions for mitigation and adaptation to minimize the cost and damage.

        b) Then, to what extent does one want to do more, to buy insurance against the chance that the right tail might happen. In some sense, this is akin to the willingness to invest in space technology good enough to detect and deflect the next dinosaur-killer asteroid, whose probability of occurrence over the long term is probably ~1, but when is quite uncertain, could be hundreds of millions of years., could happen in 20.

        Damage from climate change is certain, but the uncertainty is in how much, and whether or not insurance against the unlikely right tail is desired, as the damage function is very bad over there. Fortunately, aggressive mitigation actions to reduce the damage from the likely cases helps that.

        John Mashey

        April 28, 2014 at 2:13 am

  19. […] system behaviour?” This effort started off as one long paper intended for Frontiers, but the controversy surrounding the Lewandowski et al. (2013) paper in Frontiers in Psychology, led to my resignation […]

  20. […] Roger Jones, a climatologist, details the problems with Frontiers’ decision to retract this article, Page on wordpress.com […]

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