Understanding the role of Peer Review

In “Newton, Einstein, Watson and Crick, were not peer reviewed“, Jo Nova questions whether peer review is valid at all. I think the answer is somewhat more nuanced. This is an extended version of a comment made.

Before dismissing peer review, we should ask are the boundaries of peer review. That is what peer review can achieve and what it cannot.

Proper peer review should check that the thesis of paper is original and properly references other works in the field. It should also make sure that the claims made are coherent, not demonstrably false, have a reason (or reasons) for originality, and all assumptions are clearly stated. It might also check to ensure that certain ethical boundaries are not breached. There is more basic checking, like that of an editor.

Peer review cannot determine if the following criteria are valid:-

(1) The ultimate truth. Make sure that the claims made are the last word on the subject. That is the thesis will never be falsified, contradicted, or supplanted by more general theories.

(2) The best to date. Determine that the thesis is superior to what is already available. There is a place for literature reviews to compare and contrast the existing body of knowledge.(i)

(3) That every point is correct, or every assumption known and stated.

(4) That every conjecture that the paper is built upon is correct, or every assumption is valid. Certain stated hypotheses or conjectures might be themselves based upon other conjectures. Assumptions might be accepted, but be false or exclude other, contradictory but quite valid, lines of enquiry.

(5) That a paper is hugely significant, or of little consequence.

(6) That a paper is of outstanding quality, against mediocre.

(7) That the absence of, superior, contradictory views in the academic literature is not a demonstration of the truth or quality of a research program.

Academic study is a combination of building on the work of that has gone before, whilst noticing the empirical or logical gaps and anomalies. It can be quite valid to making conjectures upon conjectures, as long as you do not lose sight that the falsification of a root conjecture will partially or completely undermine every piece of work built upon it.(ii) In climatology the vast majority of papers are built upon looking at the consequences of the catastrophic warming hypothesis. Falsifying CAGW will mean entire research programs will be null and void. That includes many studies in other areas such as economics and public-policy making.



  1. For instance, the Journal of Economic Literature has long-performed this service in economics.
  2. Until Andrew Wiles proved Fermat’s last theorem, large areas of mathematical proofs relied upon a conjecture. Watch the video here.

Extreme Socialist-Environmentalist Ideation as Motivation for belief in “Climate Science”


Professors Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac have now produced papers two internet opinion surveys. The “Hoax” paper was from a survey placement on pro-climate science blogs. The second was from a cross-section of the US population. Both claim evidence that the rejection of “climate science” is associated with extreme “free-market worldviews”. I find two opinion surveys do show a clear relationship between the agreement with “free-market” statements and disagreement with the “climate science” statements. But in US survey clearly shows that extreme views on both “free-market” and “climate science” statements are held by tiny minorities, with most occupying the middle ground. Conversely the blog survey is dominated by responses that are both pro “climate science” and anti “free-market”. There is no evidence from the papers that enlightened expert scientists and their supporters are trying to save the world from an avoidable catastrophe, but plenty of evidence that people with strong and dogmatic political beliefs are using “climate science” as a vehicle to foist those beliefs on everybody else.



Professors Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac have now produced two opinion surveys that, they claimed certain political views were behind rejection of “climate science”. In “NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (hereafter LOG12 (blog survey)), they say

..we find that endorsement of a laissez-faire conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science.

In “The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science” (hereafter LOG13 (US survey)), they say

Free-market worldviews are an important predictor of the rejection of scientific findings that have potential regulatory implications, such as climate science, but not necessarily of other scientific issues.

I have previously looked at the other major claim of the two studies – that conspiracist ideation leads to a rejection of science. This claim I found to be false when looking at conspiracy theories unrelated to science or policy.

In examining the relationship, I first look at the “climate science” belief against aggregate “free-market” statements. This is then put in the context of number of respondents. Then I examine the evidence presented as to whether “climate science” informs political choices of its supporters, and for the contrary view.


Evidence for “Free-market” views and rejection of “Climate-Science”

For LOG13 (US survey) study I have plotted the distribution of belief in “climate science” against belief in “free-markets”. With five “free-market” statements and options 1 to 5, the possible scores are 5 to 25. Please note that the X axis is reversed. That is, moving from left to right increases with the rejection of free markets. This is plotted against the rounded average response to the four “climate science” questions1. This “climate science” band I have colour-coded by a traffic light system, with red for reject, amber for neutral and green for accept.

The highest scores for “free-market” statements have a preponderance of the red and pink for net reject of for “climate science”. Conversely, strong belief in “climate science” is related to anti “free-market” statements, with those with no net belief either way on climate most thickly spread over the middle ground of political opinion.

This is shown by the “climate science” acceptance ratios2 against the “free-market” scores.

The graph clearly shows that the higher the score for free markets, the greater the rejection of “climate science”. The reverse relationship is not so clear-cut. Responses with the most extreme anti “free-market” opinions are not the strongest accepters of “climate science”. Further those who are in middle on the political scale are also net neutral on the climate issue.

The LOG12 (blog survey) has one extra “free-market” statement. This I have ignored for this study. With only were only four responses to each statement the aggregate possible scores range for five statements 5 to 20. Lack of a neutral option means lack of the amber “climate science band”.

Even allowing for the absence of a neutral amber option, the proportion of respondents taking the more extreme positions on climate appears much greater. This is clarified by the climate acceptance ratios.

Compared with the US population, in the blog survey rejection of the “free-market” is a much stronger predictor of the acceptance of “climate science”. Conversely, acceptance of the “free-market” is not quite so strongly associated with rejection of “climate science”, but it is still a strong association.


Numbers of Respondents

In the above I have only looked at the split belief respondents for each “free-market” score. Including the number of respondents helps clarify the picture.


There is a normal distribution of responses on “free-market” beliefs. Over a quarter of responses were net neutral. The most frequent “climate science” band is amber, with 423 (42%) of responses. The overall climate acceptance ratio is 0.09. That is the American public are neutral on “climate science”, with “accepters” being almost exactly offset by “rejecters”. Strong belief in climate change is the preserve of a small minority. Further, although the majority of the 44 responses on climate band 5 net reject the “free-market”, 13 are net accepters and 3 are neutral. Every indication is that the American public does not view global warming a pressing problem.

So where do those who frequent “pro-climate science” blogs stand?

Compared to the US public, the vast majority of respondents on the blog survey were strongly anti-free-market and also presented a very strong belief in “climate science”. The dark green strong accepters of “climate science” form 69% of total responses, outnumbering the strong rejecters more than 10 to 1. In all the furore over the blog survey paper, there was little mention, apart from by me, that a study was published on a group of people that were a very small minority of the total responses, and accessed only from blogs that are virulently hostile to their views. But for that very reason, it becomes a very good survey of the beliefs of the most fervent supporters of “climate science”.

So which comes first for these dogmatic supporters? Is it the evidence of science that leads to the necessary political policies? Or is “climate science” just a means to subvert the democratic process, and impose extreme political or pseudo-religious beliefs?


Climate Science
lead or follow Political belief?

If belief in the projected harm of rising greenhouse gas levels, the policy used to combat that issue would be closely derived from it, and tailored to it. Much in the same way that cancer treatments are closely tailored to the needs of the patient, taking into account both the effectiveness and harms of the treatment. If it is the other way round, then there will be leaps of faith, and biases all over the place.

The evidence of the two papers, and the writings of lead author Stephen Lewandowsky, show the authors to be upholding political beliefs as the driver of belief in science. Examples include

  1. The LOG12 (blog survey) paper fails to reference any overwhelming scientific evidence in favour of the catastrophic global warming hypothesis. The evidence is that the vast majority of climate scientists believe in trivial propositions. There is no evidence presented of belief in extreme versions of “climate change” by the experts. Nor is there evidence that climate scientists” are free of the normal motivations for studying a subject. That is belief in the value of the subject.
  2. The use of the term “climate denial” suggests that, for the authors, “the catastrophic global warming hypothesis” is not a normal scientific hypothesis capable of falsification by the evidence, but a self-evident truth. Thus anybody who disagrees must do so from some errant thought processes. By implication, a “free-market worldview” is also based on a set of errant beliefs.
  3. The language of the LOG13 (US survey) suggests a bias. This quote from the introduction

    People who embrace a laissez-faire vision of the free market are …… than people with an egalitarian-communitarian outlook.

    The normal term for people with a “laissez-faire vision” is “libertarian”, with the antonym being “authoritarian”. The author’s outlook is more socialist and environmentalist. The authors avoid using more meaningful terms, as that would create prejudice against their conclusions.

  4. Failure to recognise bias in the questions. Three of the five “free-market” questions contrast with an “environmentalist” alternative. Therefore, it should be no surprise that a conclusion is reached that people with a libertarian outlook “are less likely to accept that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet than people with” socialist- environmentalist views.
  5. Failure to acknowledge that the rejection of “climate science” on political grounds could be because no distinction is made in the public domain between science and policy. People who question policy, whether of wind farms or rising costs of energy, are accused of science denial. Further, the LOG12 (blog survey) shows that the strongest supporters of “climate science” believe the association.
  6. Failure to acknowledge that the language of “climate science” is similar to the language of politics, as opposed to the language of hard sciences or engineering. Particularly when some of the short-term prophesies have been contradicted, we get mealy-mouthed excuses and ex-poste justifications. Mike Haseler’s recent survey of opinions from sceptic blogs found

    ..that most of the 5,000 respondents were experienced engineers, scientists and IT professionals, most degree-qualified and around a third with post-graduate qualifications.

    People used to precise measurements and judging success by results will think “climate scientists” talk rubbish. On the other hand, mainstream politicians will understand it.

The overwhelming evidence for catastrophic climate change, the analysis of policy effectiveness and the guidelines for effective policy implementation are totally lacking.


Final Comments

What is clear from the US survey is that those with extreme belief in both climate science and socialist-environmentalist views are very few. Further, the studies present no evidence that the “scientific” views are anything more than something that those with extreme left beliefs have arrogated to push their dogmatic opinions. Yet climate mitigation means essentially removing individual freedom on certain lifestyles and democratic choice from energy policy, placing it in the hands of people with extremist and intolerant beliefs. It is not just people who oppose “climate change” who will be no longer have their opinions represented, but (in the case of the USA) the vast majority of the population.

I have found these results by various trying different hypotheses, along with comparing and contrasting between the two surveys. I have only shown my results graphically. The statistical significance of the conclusions can be calculated by others. The key relationship is in the blog survey, for the 955 responses that express overall support for the climate science statements (score 11 to 16). Magnitude of disagreement with the “free-market statements” is a strong predictor of magnitude of support for the “climate science”.

There is also a need for evaluations of the surveys by professional opinion pollsters and occupational psychologists, with experience of setting opinion surveys.

All first time comments are moderated. Please use the comments as a point of contact. I will not publish approaches in this way. All email addresses are treated as confidential. The opinions expressed are my own, and I have received no funding for this work.

Kevin Marshall

 Note – “Out of Office” until 11th Aug


  1. Climate Science Bands

    In the LOG13 questionnaire there were 5 options, from 1 for “strongly disagree” to 5 for “strongly agree”. For each respondent, the “Climate Science Band” is obtained by the rounding the average of the questions to the nearest whole number. These bands are traffic light coded as below.

    LOG12 (blog survey) did not have a neutral option, hence there is no amber.


  2. Acceptance Ratio

    There are two issues with using the average responses. First is that a negative response is a positive number. Second is that LOG12 had only four possible responses for each question, whereas LOG13 had five with the addition of a middle neutral, option. The Acceptance Ratio converts the responses as follows.

    Please note, that the calculation of the acceptance ratio is calculated from average responses to all the “climate change” questions and not on the average of the “Climate change bands.


  3. The five “Free-market” statements

    FMUnresBest     An economic system based on free markets unrestrained by government interference automatically works best to meet human needs.

    FMLimitSocial     The free market system may be efficient for resource allocation but it is limited in its capacity to promote social justice. (R)

    FMMoreImp     The preservation of the free market system is more important than localized environmental concerns.

    FMThreatEnv     Free and unregulated markets pose important threats to sustainable development. (R)

    FMUnsustain     The free market system is likely to promote unsustainable consumption. (R)




Conspiracist Ideation Falsified?


A recent paper, based on an internet survey of American people, claimed that “conspiracist ideation, is associated with the rejection of all scientific propositions tested“. Analysis of the data reveals something quite different. Strong opinions with regard to conspiracy theories, whether for or against, suggest strong support for strongly-supported scientific hypotheses, and strong, but divided, opinions on climate science.


In 2012 I spent a lot of time looking at a paper “Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac – NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” – hereafter called LOG12. The follow up in early 2013 was the notorious Recursive Fury paper that has now been withdrawn (Here and here). When a new paper came out, by the same authors reaching pretty much the same conclusions, I had lost interest.

However, Barry Woods, a victim of the Recursive Fury paper, suggested in a comment:-

Lewandowsky always claimed that his US study replicated LOG12

Could you try the same pivot table analysis as LOG12?

I had a quick look at the file, tried a few pivot tables, had a short email exchange, and found something interesting.

The 2013 US study is “The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science” – Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles E. Gignac, Klaus Oberauer. PLOS one. Hereafter called LOG13.

The two papers were similar in that

  • The three authors were the same.
  • Many of the questions were the same, or very similar.
  • The conclusions were similar.

The two papers are different in that

  • LOG12 was an internet survey, conducted solely through “pro-science” blogs. LOG13 was another internet survey, but this time of the U.S. population.
  • LOG12 had just 4 responses. Running 1 to 4 they are strongly/weakly reject and weakly strongly accept. LOG13 had 5 responses. In the middle there was a neutral/don’t know/no opinion option.

At “Shaping Tommorow’s World” Blog, Lewandowsky and Oberauer said of the LOG13 paper:-

Conclusions: Free-market worldviews are an important predictor of the rejection of scientific findings that have potential regulatory implications, such as climate science, but not necessarily of other scientific issues. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, is associated with the rejection of all scientific propositions tested.

It is the last part that I will deal with in this posting. Free market views I may come back to at a later time.


Comparison of conspiracist orientations and science denial in LOG12 (pro-science blogs) and LOG13 (Americans)

LOG12 had thirteen questions on conspiracy theories and LOG13 nine. In the latter three were on science issues and one on “New World Order”. That left five that are comparable between the papers, but independent of the scientific / political subject matter1.

In LOG12 there were two scientific questions. In short they are “HIV causes AIDS” and “smoking causes lung cancer”. In LOG13 was added “lead in drinking water harms health”

This can be compared by banding the belief in conspiracy theories by the rounded average response.

The first column in the table is the band, taken by rounding the average response to the nearest whole number for the responses to the 5 conspiracy theories. The second column is the unrounded average response within the band. The third column is the number of responses. The fourth column is the average response to the two science questions. The fifth column is acceptance ratio.

For the LOG12 survey, conducted via “pro-climate science” blogs, the connection is clear. The belief in the five conspiracy theories is inversely related to belief in two well-accepted scientific hypotheses. However, there is strong acceptance of the two science questions by all but two respondents. The two respondents who were in the highest conspiracy category I referred to as “rogue responses” in my earlier analysis, and which Steve McIntyre called “super-scammers”. Take out the two scam responses and there is a picture of degrees of science acceptance and no science denial.

For the LOG13, an internet survey of the American public, there is a somewhat different picture. The belief in three well-accepted scientific hypotheses appears to be related to the strength of opinion for three conspiracy theories, independent of the direction of that opinion. The respondents with the least belief in the scientific hypotheses are those who are in the middle on conspiracy theories. That is those who express no opinion, or give similar weight to both sides. Yet they still are, on average, affirming of the scientific consensus. There is no “rejection of the science” at all by any band of belief in conspiracy theories. Further, the greatest “believers in science” are the 12 who have the greatest “conspiracist” ideation. Like the authors, I have no truck with conspiracy theories. But the evidence does not support the statement “conspiracist ideation, … is associated with the rejection of all scientific propositions tested“. Falsely maligning a group of people will only serve to confirm them in their beliefs.


Comparison of conspiracist orientations and climate science denial in LOG12 (pro-science blogs) and LOG13 (Americans)

A similar comparison can be made between the beliefs in conspiracy theories and the beliefs in climate science.

In LOG12 there appears to be a relationship. 97% of respondents strongly accept climate science and reject conspiracy theories. The 30 who have a modest acceptance of conspiracy theories are a little more lukewarm on climate science. The real odd result are the two scam responses.

In LOG13 there is a distinct relationship here – the stronger the belief in conspiracy theories, the lower the belief in climate science. But hold on. A score of 3 is neutral, and 5 is total acceptance. The difference is between very lukewarm acceptance and virtually no opinion either way. To claim rejection is misleading. However, the result appears to contradict the previous result the three scientific hypotheses. To understand this result needs closer examination. There were 5 statements and 1001 responses, so 5005 total responses in total. Counting all the responses gives the following result4

To clarify, the “Grand Total” row shows that there were 366 scores of 1 in the 5 CO2 science statements. Of these 15 were by the 12 respondents who averaged a score of 5 in the conspiracy theories. The proportions I believe can be better seen by the percentage of responses in each row.

So 7% of all the 5005 responses were a score of 1. Of the 60 responses by the strongest believers in conspiracy theories, 25% were score of 1.

We get a similar result for belief climate science to belief in three well-accepted scientific hypotheses. Those with the most extreme opinions on conspiracy theories are those with the most extreme opinions on climate change. But there is a crucial difference, in that opinions on climate change are split between acceptance and rejection. The 12 respondents, who were the strongest believers in conspiracy theories, also had the highest proportion of 1s and 5s on the climate questions. The second most extreme group was the 215 respondents on the strong rejection group. The highest proportion of 3s, along with the lowest proportions of 1s and 5s were those in middle band on conspiracy theories. Holding strong opinions on conspiracy theories seems to be a predictor of strong opinions on climate science, but not a predictor of whether that is strong belief or strong rejection.

Corroboration of the result

The results of the internet survey confirm something about people in the United States that I and many others have suspected – they are a substantial minority who love their conspiracy theories. For me, it seemed quite a reasonable hypothesis that these conspiracy lovers should be both suspicious of science and have a propensity to reject climate science. Analysis of the survey results has over-turned those views. Instead I propose something more mundane – that people with strong opinions in one area are very likely to have strong opinions in others.

In relation to the United States, there is a paradox if you follow the “conspiracist ideation”. Along with being a hotbed of conspiracy theorists, the US is also home to 11 or 15 of the World’s top universities and much of the technological revolutions of the past 50 years originate. If science is about conformity and belief in the established expert opinion, this could not have happened.

Kevin Marshall



  1. Five, non-science, conspiracy theories, in common to LOG12 and LOG13
  • CYMLK The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. was the result of an organized conspiracy by U.S. government agencies such as the CIA and FBI.
  • CYMoon The Apollo moon landings never happened and were staged in a Hollywood film studio.
  • CYJFK The assassination of John F. Kennedy was not committed by the lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald but was rather a detailed organized conspiracy to kill the President.
  • CY911 The U.S. government allowed the 9–11 attacks to take place so that it would have an excuse to achieve foreign (e.g., wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) and domestic (e.g., attacks on civil liberties) goals that had been determined prior to the attacks.
  • CYDiana Princess Diana’s death was not an accident but rather an organised assassination by members of the British royal family who disliked her.


  1. Acceptance Ratio

    Comparing the average scores across the two surveys can be confusing where there are a different number of options. The acceptance ratio makes average scores comparable where there are a large number of responses. Strong acceptance scores 1, strong rejection -1 and the mid-point 0.


  2. Climate Science

LOG 12 had four questions on Climate science

CO2TempUp I believe that burning fossil fuels increases atmospheric temperature to some measurable degree

CO2AtmosUp I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years has increased atmospheric temperature to an appreciable degree

CO2WillNegChange I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years will cause serious negative changes to the planet’s climate, unless there is a substantial switch to non-CO2 emitting energy sources

CO2HasNegChange I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years has caused serious negative changes to the planet’s climate

LOG 13 had five questions on Climate science

CNatFluct I believe that the climate is always changing and what we are currently observing is just natural fluctuation. (R)

CdueGHG I believe that most of the warming over the last 50 years is due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.

CseriousDamage I believe that the burning of fossil fuels over the last 50 years has caused serious damage to the planet’s climate.

CO2causesCC Human CO2 emissions cause climate change.

HumansInsign Humans are too insignificant to have an appreciable impact on global temperature. (R)

  1. Response Count

To replicate my response table, create a pivot table for count of responses for each of the climate change statements. Make the conspiracy bands the row labels, and a climate statement as the column label. Add the results together.


Lewandowsky – Climate Scientists should be listened to because they are wrong

Stephen Lewandowsky has another couple of papers out. From e! Science News

Scientific uncertainty has been described as a ‘monster’ that prevents understanding and delays mitigative action in response to climate change. New research by Professor Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol, and international colleagues, shows that uncertainty should make us more rather than less concerned about climate change. In two companion papers, published today in Climatic Change, the researchers investigated the mathematics of uncertainty in the climate system and showed that increased scientific uncertainty necessitates even greater action to mitigate climate change.

The scientists used an ordinal approach — a range of mathematical methods that address the question: ‘What would the consequences be if uncertainty is even greater than we think it is?’


Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair in Cognitive Psychology and member of the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol, said: “We can understand the implications of uncertainty, and in the case of the climate system, it is very clear that greater uncertainty will make things even worse. This means that we can never say that there is too much uncertainty for us to act. If you appeal to uncertainty to make a policy decision the legitimate conclusion is to increase the urgency of mitigation.”

Co-author, Dr James Risbey of Australia’s CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, said: “Some point to uncertainty as a way to minimize the climate change problem, when in fact it means that the problem is more likely to be worse than expected in the absence of that uncertainty. This result is robust to a range of assumptions and shows that uncertainty does not excuse inaction.”

If we assume that catastrophic climate change is a fundamental truth, the authors are right. The task of climate science is to reveal that truth to the world. If that truth cannot be accurately accessed, then the consequences of unmitigated climate change will be greater than if they could be. But if there is no fundamental truth to be revealed then all what you have is a number of dogmatic people who cannot accept that their theories are not backed by the evidence. The failure to understand the path to climate catastrophe might be due to no climate catastrophe in prospect. Persistent failures increase the likelihood that the belief in the fundamental truth of climate catastrophism is just a cult. Circumstantial evidence is in the unique methods and language of the “science”; moral certitude; failure to appreciate climate change could be a trivial problem; belief in their infallibility; reliance on belief in science, as opposed to accepting science that fails to be falsified; failure to recognize that those who disagree may also have valid viewpoint; and the denigration of anybody who asks questions as heretics deniers. Further, the solution is always the same, fitting in with an extremist socialist-environmentalist world view. There is no recognition that mitigation policies can fail. If mitigation can avert climate catastrophe it is a tautology to state that if mitigation is only practiced in a few minor emitting countries, those countries will bear all the cost of policies, and future generations will endure virtually all the consequences. The same is tautological truth applies if mitigation is practiced globally, but fails to reduce emissions.

The pay walled papers are here and here.

Kevin Marshall

Update :Jo Nova has a satirical take on the latest Lew papers.


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Lewandowsky’s setback on campaign to undermine academic pluralism and excellence

The “Recursive Fury” paper, that allegedly libelled a number of bloggers1, has been taken down2. Lead author Stephan Lewandowsky has given his reaction at Shaping tommorow’s world.

Two of the “Recursive Fury” paper authors were Prof Lewandowsky and the blogger John Cook3. In 2011 they co-wrote “The Debunking Handbook“. I ask that readers view my comments in the context of the following opening statement:-

It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.

My comment is copied below. In brief I try to cover:-

  • Lewandowsky’s smearing of the majority with the views expressed by a minority.
  • Total failure to empathise with alternative points of view.
  • How his appeals for academic freedom are the reverse.
  • How the false allegations and smears are used to a shutdown questions on public policy.
  • How the “Lewandowsky Episode” can become a textbook example of why promotion of pluralism is necessary in our universities.
  1. ManicBeancounter at 20:37 PM on 23 March, 2014

    Stephan Lewandowsky,
    As a professor, you should be my intellectual superior. As a scientist you should be able to provide novel explanations about your subject area that go beyond what the non-specialist would find out for themselves, but at the same time accommodate the basic understanding that the non-specialist.
    Your “Hoax” paper ignored the obvious conclusion of the data. The vast majority of respondents did not believe in the cranky conspiracy theories, regardless of their views on “climate science”. Any “conspiracist ideation” revolves around differences in the small proportions that do. That means that the vast majority of “skeptics” who do not understand will feel insulted. Morally you should have clearly stated that any conclusions only apply to a small minority. The first part of the paper’s title inferred the opposite.
    “NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax”
    Out of 1145 respondents, just 2 strongly rejected “climate science” and strongly supported that faxed moon landing theory. The question was not asked of those two people if they followed that path of reasoning. Unsurprisingly, when you smear people with ideas that they find insulting they express outrage. There is nothing “confected” about this.
    There are three things that make this beyond the pale of academic freedom
    First, you do not advance knowledge, but to repress the obvious empirical statement (the vast majority do not believe in cranky conspiracy theories) with the opposite.
    Second is that the smears is to deny a group of people who you disagree with a voice.
    Third, is that you use false allegations of intellectual inferiority to evaluate climate “science”, to prevent a voice in matters of public policy. Yet the voices that you seek to repress often have far greater understanding and knowledge of economics and policy implementation than you and your fellow-travelling academics.
    Academic freedom must be protected so that ideas and knowledge that challenge society’s established beliefs can be nurtured. But that must be accompanied by a deliberate policy of pluralism, for there are none so defensive of their protecting their beliefs or ideas as those who spent their lives developing them. Professor Lewandowsky, your work in the last three years should become a textbook example of the attempts and consequences to suppress that freedom.

  2. ManicBeancounter at 06:39 AM on 24 March, 2014


    Your comment 68 shows a basic function of peer review. Correcting the obvious errors. If there is no such quality control then the demarcation between academic and non-academic literature simply collapses. Further, if the academia cannot easily distinguish the excellent from the dross, then there must be a quality control before their recommendations are passed into public policy. Much the same way are new pharmaceuticals must go through rigorous regulatory testing before being proscribed to the public.

  3. ManicBeancounter at 06:59 AM on 24 March, 2014

    My comments as 57 and 70 should be viewed in the context of the opening comment in the “The Debunking Handbook”, written by John Cook and Stephen Lewandowsky and accessible on the right column.

    “It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.”

    By any independent measure the “Hoax” and “Recursive Fury” papers are full of misinformation. The authors aim at establishing a monopoly on truth, but by their very words, and subsequent behaviour, show that they are the last people you would entrust with that monopoly. There is no better example for the need of democratic societies to promote pluralism through competition in their universities to prevent the establishment of dogma. This is particularly true in Australia and the UK, where Government’s would like their universities to be World-leading.


  1. This includes Steve McIntyre, Barry Woods, Geoff Chambers and “Foxgoose”.
  2. See BishopHill (here and here), Geoff Chambers, Steve McIntyre, Australian Climate Madness (here and here), and the Guardian.
  3. This is the same John Cook who thinks he can define the meaning of words better than a dictionary.

Kevin Marshall

Connecting German Policy to the Global Climate Change Issue

Notrickszone, posts that Professor Fritz Vahrenholt calls the green jobs machine a “labeling fraud“. The claimed level of German green jobs is many times the actual figures. This is in response to a couple of comments by “Buddy”.


It is not enough to point out that there is a potential problem. Effective mitigation policy requires

1. Assessing the scale of the potential problem.

2. Assessing the scale of the solution required.

3. Devising policies that will meet that solution.

4. Getting enacted the policies to meet that solution.

5. Effectively enacting those policies.

I welcome your comments, as they illustrate the failure to think the problem through by the so-called “experts”. Exaggerated claims of green jobs does nothing the tackle the alleged problems of rising emissions. Further German policy is one of failure to deliver virtually any promised reductions, but has wasted money on bogus schemes. See for instance


Germany is not alone with policy failures. Globally, renewables have failed to deliver the low-cost, reliable, on demand power of fossil fuels, hence the exaggerated claims for jobs and investment. Given the policy failures, any other country would be mad to sign up to similar policies, even if they believed that without effective carbons reductions future generations will face a climate catastrophe. Politicians will duck the issue, by signing vague agreements to tackle the problem in the future. Yet without the emerging economies successfully combatting carbon emissions, the policy countries will incur all the policy costs now, and leave future generations with practically all the projected catastrophic consequences of global warming. I discussed further here.

The issue of smog is interesting. The worst smogs are in China and India, caused by coal fired power stations. The UNIPCC reckons that the aerosols that make up the smog have a net cooling effect (AR5 and AR4). So tackling air pollution from the dirtiest coal-fired power stations may actually increase warming. Yet in Britain the Clean Air Act had a huge difference on air quality. According to a Centre for Policy Studies Report, globally the policy could save millions of lives.

Kevin Marshall

Ed Davey needs to understand the policy problem before denouncing climate change critics

EurActiv website interviewed Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. They reported Davey as saying:-

“My recommendation to most politicians who want to talk about the climate is to listen to the scientists and listen to the evidence,” he said. “Of course you can question it, but when there is overwhelming evidence you should tend to shut it.”

Rather denounce critics Ed Davey needs to grasp the policy problem. Britain is the only country in the world committed to an aggressive carbon reduction policy. The sum of actual carbon reduction policies in place globally will do practically nothing to offset the growth in emissions from emerging economies. If, as Ed Davey believes, the science is correct about the catastrophic consequences resulting from all these emissions, then he is faced with a terrible truth. Britain will incur hundreds of billions of pounds of cost over the next few decades, yet leave future generations to bear 99% of the climate change problem when compared to having done nothing at all. Ed Davey is fronting policy that is net harmful to this country by any measure.

If Britain wants to truly lead the way on getting a global agreement on carbon emissions, it should show that it is possible to successfully transfer to a low carbon economy for costs of 1% of GDP (as Stern claimed), and with zero impact on long-term economic growth. Britain’s current policies are something any country would avoid like the plague, even if they had the same views on the “science” as Ed Davey. From the evidence to date in Britain and other countries, there are no policies of net benefit, even if the political issues can be sorted out. The fact that no other country has followed the UK’s lead in passing the Climate Change Act 2008 would suggest that see the harm that the policy is causing.

These comments were reported by The Daily Mail on 6th March and Bishop Hill on 8th March. I looked into this issue in the recent post “Why Climate Change Mitigation Policies Will Always Fail“.

First time comments are moderated. Please use this as a point of contact, requesting that the comment not be published.

Kevin Marshall

Why Climate Change Mitigation Policies Will Always Fail

All climate mitigation policies will be of net harm to any country implementing them. There are three reasons for this.

First, mitigation policies will not eliminate all the projected harm of climate change. Policy replaces the unmitigated cost of climate change with a policy cost and a residual climate change cost.

Second, policy proposals are only for the rich countries to reduce emissions and emerging economies to constrain the growth. That means residual climate change costs will be greater, and the burden of cost of reductions will fall on a number of countries will a minority of, and a rapidly diminishing share of, global emissions. Even with the rich nations all succeeding in the British target of 80% reduction by 2050 will still mean global emission levels higher than currently.

Third, there is mounting evidence that actual mitigation costs per tonne of CO2 equivalent saved are considerably more than the economic models assume.



The Stern Review Summary of Conclusions stated on page vi

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.

In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.

The Review further stated on pages xvi-xvii

Preliminary calculations adopting the approach to valuation taken in this Review suggest that the social cost of carbon today, is of the order of $85 per tonne of CO2……. This number is well above marginal abatement costs in many sectors.

Many objections to the report look at the cost of climate change. Little discussed are the theoretical issues in implementing a successful policy. By “successful” I mean where the expected outturn of the policy is less than the projected costs of climate change.


The basic case

As the Stern review is saying that globally we should replace one set of costs – the projected costs of climate change – will the much lesser costs of climate. Graphically, we replace the climate change costs in blue with policy costs in orange. Costs are positive and benefits negative.

The case for policy is clear.


Climate change costs not completely eliminated

Peter Lilley, in his 2012 GWPF report “WHAT IS WRONG WITH STERN?” states on page 8

The benefit of preventing (climate change) entirely would, on his figures, be at least 5% of GDP – but to do so would require not just stopping all further carbon emissions but removing all those accumulated since the industrial revolution. The action he proposes to reduce the worst impacts of global warming by stabilising the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases at 550 ppm would, using Stern’s methodology, save some 3.1% of GDP – not 5%.

The mitigation policy seeks to stabilize total greenhouse gas levels are a level equivalent to about double the level of CO2 in 1780.

The case for policy is still clear.


Rich Countries Policy Burden

It is accepted that

  1. Rich countries are responsible for most of climate change.
  2. The adverse consequences of unmitigated climate change will be disproportionately endured by the less developed nations (LDNs).

Therefore the moral argument is that the rich countries should bear the cost of policy and they should compensate the LDNs for the future harm that they will endure. The compensation could then be used to offset the harm of climate change.

Rich countries have a smaller population than the LDNs. The policy costs (in orange) for them will more than double. Similarly, compensation (in burnt orange) will be much larger for the rich countries to pay out than for the LDNs who receive it in income. Finally the post-policy climate change costs (in blue) will be still larger for the LDNs.

The rich countries may or may not be better off after policy. Further the LDNs still suffer some harm.


Increasing Emissions amongst the emerging nations

Policy must include the emerging nations. This is why.

I have arbitrarily split the countries of the World into three groups

  1. ACEJU – The big industrialised carbon emitters – Australia, Canada, EU, Japan and USA.
  2. BICS – The large emerging nations of Brazil, India, China and South Africa.
  3. ROW – Rest of the World.

The World Bank has data on CO2 emissions by country for the period 1990 to 2010. From this, I compiled the following graph.

In the period 1990 to 2010, annual global CO2 emissions increased by 11.4 billion tonnes, or 51%. To return to 1990 emissions levels would require one group to cease emissions entirely and the other two groups to maintain emissions at 2010 levels. The future emissions growth path potentially makes the problem worse. Consider the comparative growth in population.

Despite the BICS countries increasing its emissions by 230%, emissions per capita are still less than 40% of those of the ACEJU block. Further, the explosive growth of the BICS has not been matched by the Rest of the World. Here the emissions have grown by 45%, but population has grown by 42%. Emissions per capita are still only 35% of those of the AJEJU block.

Any policy reductions by the rich nations will be more than offset by future emissions growth in the rest of the world. There will be little reduction in climate change costs, for either the policy countries or non-policy countries. The situation becomes like this.

The non-policy countries will still see a reduction, but that might be small, even if the policy countries are successful. The disadvantage to the policy countries is inversely related to proportion of global emissions they have at the end of the policy. That in turn is influenced by the future emissions growth in the non-policy countries, as well as the proportion of global emissions in a baseline year.


Peer-reviewed costs of Climate Change and Actual Costs of Mitigation

The Stern review should not be taken as the only source. The UNIPCC AR4 Summary for Policymakers in 2007 stated on page 22.

Peer-reviewed estimates of the social cost of carbon in 2005 average US$12 per tonne of CO2, but the range from 100 estimates is large (-$3 to $95/tCO2).

The average social cost is just a seventh of the Stern Review, which was not a study that has been peer-reviewed.

In a previous posting, I calculated that the subsidy of offshore wind farms was equivalent to 3.8 times Stern’s social cost of carbon, and 27 times that of the $12 average of peer-reviewed studies quotes by the UNIPCC. This was a low estimate, not including transmission costs. There might be cheaper ways of abating CO2, but there are lot of failed policies as well. There is also the impact on economic growth to consider, which for emerging economies. So a more realistic situation of a “successful” mitigation policy will look like the one below. That is “successful” in achieving the emission reduction targets.

Points for further investigation

There are a number of issues that are raised in my mind that need further work.

  1. The social cost of carbon defines the expected harm from climate change per tonne of CO2. If a country has quantitative emissions reduction targets, then an absolute upper limit in annual spend can be defined when achieving that target.
  2. This would enable identification of the success of policies within a national plan, along with the overall success of that plan.
  3. The expected CO2 emissions growth in non-policy countries, along with including other greenhouse gas emissions within the analysis.



There is no combination of mitigation policies that can produce a less costly outcome than doing nothing. Any government unilaterally (or as part of group representing a minority of global emissions) pursuing such policies will be imposing net harm on its own people, no matter how large the claimed potential impacts of climate change. This conclusion can be reached even if the extreme views of the Stern Review are taken as the potential costs of climate change.

Kevin Marshall



The comparison of emissions growth between countries is derived from “The Climate Fix” by Roger Pielke Jnr. This enlarges on a comment made at Australian Climate Madness blog.

All first time comments are moderated. Please use the comments as a point of contact.

Update 25/02 17.30. Summary and “Points for further investigation” included, along with text changes

Lewandowsky fails his own low standards

Prof Stephen Lewandowsky keeps on digging a deeper hole for himself, and anybody associated with him. At “Shaping Tomorrow’s World” he has posted his personal values statement. Ben Pile has given it a pretty good frisking. A part of these beliefs is that opinions should only be expressed and debated in the peer-reviewed literature. This is interesting given that many of Lewandowsky’s arguments are outside the peer-reviewed literature. In a comment, I gave a recent example that undermines his claims:-

A major argument of Lewandowsky, is that critics of climate change are a bunch of conspiracy theory-loving nutters. At “The Conversation”, a taxpayer-funded blog for Australian and British academics to sound off, Prof. Lewandowsky stated

While consistency is a hallmark of science, conspiracy theorists often subscribe to contradictory beliefs at the same time – for example, that MI6 killed Princess Diana, and that she also faked her own death.

This was from a peer-reviewed study, that stated

In Study 1(n= 137), the more participants believed that Princess Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered.

Steve McIntyre, with some difficulty, obtained the data. There was a reason for the author being a bit circumspect. McIntyre said

Within the Wood dataset, only two (!) respondents purported to believe that Diana faked her own death. Neither of these two respondents also purported to believe that MI6 killed Princess Diana. The subpopulation of people that believed that Diana staged her own death and that MI6 killed her was precisely zero.

The reason that the authors, the peer-reviewers and Prof. Lewandowsky failed to pick up on this is that they failed to do basic check on the data, using pivot tables. Instead, they rely on sophisticated statistical tests that Lewandowsky himself has used in his hoax paper. (The reason for the failure was succinctly expressed by Brandon Shallonberger in the comments) Ben Pile also used simple pivot tables, and eloquent language to completely demolish Lewandowsky’s 2012 hoax paper.

This example demonstrates three things

1. Lewandowsky does not stick to his own peer-reviewed rules.

2. Peer review can fail spectacularly.

3. Alternative opinions of data are possible, and the best analysis does not necessarily come from the most sophisticated techniques on the whizziest computers.

3. Lewandowsky swallowed misinformation because it accorded with his beliefs and lack of expertise in interpreting statistics. As a psychology professor studying misinformation, who is also “an award-winning teacher of statistics“, this is far less excusable than any trivial mistakes by the people he attacks.


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