How Skeptical Science maintains the 97% Consensus fallacy

Richard Tol has at last published a rebuttal of the Cook et al 97% consensus paper. So naturally Skeptical Science, run by John Cook publishes a rebuttal by Dana Nuccitelli. It is cross-posted at the Guardian Climate Consensus – the 97%, that is authored by Dana Nuccitelli. I strongly believe in comparing and contrasting different points of view, and winning an argument on its merits. Here are some techniques that Dana1981 employ that go counter to my view. That is discouraging the reader from looking at the other side by failing to link to opposing views, denigrating the opponents, and distorting the arguments.

Refusing to acknowledge the opponents credentials

Dana says

…… economist and Global Warming Policy Foundation advisor Richard Tol

These are extracts from Tol’s own biography, with my underlines

Richard S.J. Tol is a Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Sussex and the Professor of the Economics of Climate Change…. Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Formerly, he was a Research Professor (in), Dublin, the Michael Otto Professor of Sustainability and Global Change at Hamburg University …..He has had visiting appointments at ……. University of Victoria, British Colombia (&)University College London, and at the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Department of Economics…….. He is ranked among the top 100 economists in the world, and has over 200 publications in learned journals (with 100+ co-authors), 3 books, 5 major reports, 37 book chapters, and many minor publications. He specialises in the economics of energy, environment, and climate, and is interested in integrated assessment modelling. He is an editor for Energy Economics, and an associate editor of economics the e-journal. He is advisor and referee of national and international policy and research. He is an author (contributing, lead, principal and convening) of Working Groups I, II and III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…..

Dana and Cook can’t even get close – so they hide it.

Refusing to link the Global Warming Policy Foundation

There is a link to the words. It goes to a desmogblog article which begins with the words

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is a United Kingdom think tank founded by climate change denialist Nigel Lawson.

The description is the GWPF’s website is

We are an all-party and non-party think tank and a registered educational charity which, while open-minded on the contested science of global warming, is deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated.

Failing to allow reader to understand the alternative view for themselves

The Guardian does not link to Tol’s article. The SkS article links to the peer-reviewed paper, which costs $19.95. Bishop Hill blog also links you to Tol’s own blog, where he discusses in layman’s terms the article. There is also a 3 minute presentation video, created by the paper’s publishers, where Tol explains the findings.

Distorted evidence on data access

Dana says

The crux of Tol’s paper is that he would have conducted a survey of the climate literature in a slightly different way than our approach. He’s certainly welcome to do just that – as soon as we published our paper, we also launched a webpage to make it as easy as possible for anyone to read the same scientific abstracts that we looked at and test the consensus for themselves.

Tol says

So I asked for the data to run some tests myself. I got a fraction, and over the course of the next four months I got a bit more – but still less than half of all data are available for inspection. Now Cook’s university is sending legal threats to a researcher who found yet another chunk of data.

The Mystery, threatened, researcher

The researcher is Brandon Shollenberger.

Dana says

In addition to making several basic errors, Tol cited numerous denialist and GWPF blog posts, including several about material stolen from our team’s private discussion forum during a hacking.

Brandon gives a description of how obtained the data at “wanna be hackers?“. It was not hacking, in the sense of by-passing passwords and other security, but following the links left around on unprotected sites. What is more, he used similar methods to those used before to get access to a “secret” discussion forum. This forum included some disturbing Photoshop images, including this one of John Cook, complete with insignia of the Sks website.

A glowing endorsement of counter critiques

Dana says

An anonymous individual has also published an elegant analysis
showing that Tol’s method will decrease the consensus no matter what data are put into it. In other words, his 91% consensus result is an artifact of his flawed methodology.

So it must be right then, and also the last word?

Failing to look at the counter-counter critique

Dana, like other fellow believers, does not look at the rebuttal.

Bishop Hill says

This has prompted a remarkable rapid response from an anonymous author here, which says that Tol has it all wrong. If I understand it correctly, Tol has corrected Cook’s results. The critic claims to have worked back from Tol’s results to what should have been Cook’s original results and got a nonsense result, thus demonstrating that Tol’s method is nonsense.

Tol’s reply today equally quickfire and says that his critic, who he has dubbed “Junior” has not used the correct data at all.

Junior did not reconstruct the [matrix] T that I used. This is unfortunate as my T is online…

Junior thus made an error and blamed it on me.

Demonstration of climate science as a belief system

This is my personal view, not of Tol’s, nor of Sks.

Tol in his short presentation, includes this slide as a better categorization of the reviewed papers.

My take on these figures is that 8% give an explicit endorsement, and two-thirds take no position. Taking out the 7970 with no position gives 98.0%. Looking at just those 1010 that take an explicit position gives a “97.6% consensus”.

I accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, but I would declare as bunkum any similar survey that scanned New Testament theology peer-reviewed journals to demonstrate the divinity of Christ from the position taken by the authors. People study theology because they are fellow Christians. Atheists or agnostics reject it out of hand. Many scholars are employed by theological colleges, that exit to train people for ministry. Theological journals would be unlikely to accept articles that openly questioned the central tenets of Christianity. If they did many seminaries (but not many Universities) would not subscribe to the publication. In the case of climatology, publishing a paper openly critical of climatology gets a similar reaction to publishing views that some gay people might be so out of choice, rather than discovering their true nature, or that Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea is not dissimilar to Hitler’s annexation of Sudetenland in 1938.

The lack of disagreement and the reactions to objections, I would interpret as “climate science” being an alternative belief system. People with a superior understanding of their subject area have nothing to fear from allowing comparison with alternative and inferior views.

 Kevin Marshall



Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: