2011-01-29 15:51:34Follow-up Case Study
Dana Nuccitelli

In response to John's suggestion to do a follow-up to the Case Study post, examining the comments on the article when it was picked up by the Guardian, I put together a Follow-Up Case study.  Let me know if you have any feedback.


Recently, in A Case Study in Climate Science Integrity, we examined the reactions to a report by Universal Ecological Fund (Fundaciíon Ecológical Universal [FEU-US]) and an article written by Dr. Richard Lindzen.  In both cases, the authors had performed calculations which neglected the thermal inertia of the oceans and impacts of aerosols and other cooling factors.  Despite making the same errors, the two papers arrived at dramatically different conclusions - the FEU-US wrongly concluded that the planet will warm 1.5°C over the next decade, and Lindzen wrongly concluded that the global climate is insensitive to atmospheric greenhouse gas changes (in a future article we will look at Lindzen's errors in depth and quantify them).

The reactions from the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) camp and the self-proclaimed "skeptics" were also diametrically opposed.  Climate scientists, journalists, and bloggers consistently wrote articles acknowledging and correcting the FEU-US mistakes.  On the other hand, the "skeptic" media re-published Lindzen's article with little commentary or analysis, allowing his errors to propagate to a wider audience, which generally also received Lindzen's piece with an uncritical eye.  The Skeptical Science article concluded that in this case study, it was the AGW camp which had behaved like the true skeptics. 

Subsequently, the article was picked up and re-published by The Guardian Environment NetworkThe Guardian allowed comments on the article for 3 days, and over that period, 310 comments were posted.  The comments were fairly evenly split between the AGW camp and the "skeptic" camp.  This provided an opportunity to observe how the self-proclaimed "skeptics" would react when confronted with the lack of true skepticism coming from their camp with regards to Lindzen's errors.  Would they acknowledge his mistakes, or would they continue to turn a blind eye to their fellow "skeptic" while criticizing the FEU-US for making the exact same errors?

If you guessed the latter, give yourself a gold star.  I must say I was rather disappointed, but not surprised that both camps confirmed the conclusions of the Case Study in The Guardian comments.   None in the AGW camp defended the FEU-US, and there was universal criticism for the group's unwillingness to correct the errors themselves when they were notified of them.  After all, although the projected temperature increase was listed as the report's first "key finding", it was not intergral to the rest of the report.  The majority of the paper was effectively a summary of the IPCC and other UN report predictions about impacts on agricultural production.  They did not assume or depend upon the unrealistically rapid temperature rise projection in the FEU-US study.

The self-proclaimed "skeptics", on the other hand, behaved in a much more biased manner.  They almost universally attempted to defend Lindzen's errors.  Several attempted to blame the FEU-US errors on the IPCC.  The "logic" was that the FEU-US scientific adviser (Osvaldo Canziani) was previously an IPCC co-chair, and the report heavily referenced the IPCC report.  The fact that the IPCC had nothing to do with the FEU-US errors (as mentioned above, the IPCC report references were in regards to climate change impacts on agriculture) did not dissuade these self-proclaimed "skeptics".  Many "skeptic" commenters also engaged in ad hominem attacks against myself, John Cook, and Skeptical Science.  The amount of dirt they were able to dig up (mostly about other people who share my name, or outright falsehoods promoted by "skeptic" bloggers about this site and its founder) would have almost been impressive, if it wasn't so misguided.  The Guardian moderators were kept busy deleting these inappropriate comments.

In the end, The Guardian comments provided a secondary case study about the behavior of both camps.  The AGW camp was able to examine the claims made by and criticisms of both the FEU-US and Lindzen with an equally critical eye.  The "skeptics" refused to critically examine their fellow "skeptic", engaged in illogical attempts to try and connect the FEU-US errors to the IPCC, and stooped to personal attacks bordering on slander rather than trying to dispute the facts at hand.

In this follow-up case study, we are once again reminded who the true skeptics are.


2011-01-29 17:06:10Thumbs up
John Cook

Great article, reinforces the previous message. Repetition is a good thing, it seems to be the only way to get things through peoples skulls sometimes. Thumbs up from me. Please publish soon, over the weekend. I'll be too busy working on MM to do any posts.
2011-01-29 17:39:16Great
Andy S


Thanks for this. Reading the comments thread made my head spin. It's amazing how unfocussed some of the contrarians are, changing the subject, attacking the messenger, reverting to tired talking points, mssing the point entirely.

Whack-a-troll, indeed!

One small typo  "intergral"


One question, I noted that several of your entries (and Albatross's) were deleted by the moderator. Was it because you had responded to a troll comment that was deleted later?

2011-01-29 18:05:45
Rob Painting
Yup, great post.
2011-01-29 18:24:11Correction - just posted about Greenland
John Cook


Just got the latest GRACE data from John Wahr so quickly threw up a post - around Friday 11pm your time, Dana.

So Saturday morning your time, feel free to publish this (which would be 3 in the morning my time). So when I wake up Sunday morning, I hope to see this live and already a mad discussion sprung up around it :-)

Time differences really does my head in :-(

2011-01-29 18:50:16


I would remove: "After all, although the projected temperature increase was listed as the report's first "key finding", it was not intergral to the rest of the report.  The majority of the paper was effectively a summary of the IPCC and other UN report predictions about impacts on agricultural production.  They did not assume or depend upon the unrealistically rapid temperature rise projection in the FEU-US study."

This section slightly confuses what it is that is being contrasted: the reaction of the AGW camp and the reaction of the skeptic camp.

If you think it is useful, I would put it elsewhere.

2011-01-29 19:51:26
Mark Richardson

How about flipping the last paragraph on its head?



The actual skeptics, who acknowledged the mistakes where they were made happened to support AGW. Those who refused to look at the evidence simply ignored everything and happened to be ideologically stuck to the climate 'skeptic' camp.


This is what actually happened in the case of the scientific community - and genuine 'skeptics' will tend to fall on the side of AGW.

2011-01-29 20:19:47
Rob Painting
Dana, I don't to make any more work for ya, but did you have a breakdown of the numbers?. 
2011-01-29 21:44:46
Rob Painting

Dana, on a skim through (not subjecting myself to that stupid again!)

-19 comments defended Lindzen's error

-0 comments defended FEU's error

-47 deleted (ad hominem & reply?) 

-51 off topic (OHC content, blame IPCC, muck-raking, it's a scam etc) 

The rest consisted of commenters arguing with each other. And "skeptic" bullshit being corrected. SSDD.




2011-01-30 03:59:20thanks all
Dana Nuccitelli

Andy - yes I think my deleted comments were responses to deleted troll responses.

Rob - thanks, I considered crunching some numbers, but didn't want to go through 300+ comments.  Thanks for the figures, I put them in and gave you as shout-out.

Mark and neal - good comments as usual.  I've incorporated them, and will now go live per John's request.  Thanks guys.