2011-04-29 12:33:27Anthony Watts threatens me 'the gloves will come off'
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.6.188

I just got this email from Anthony Watts in response to the Guardian article. I know he asked me not to share it and I know he would never condone the sharing of others' private emails (!) but it's such an entertaining email, I simply couldn't resist. I would also welcome thoughts on the best way to respond. Note - although Anthony is American, when I read this email aloud to Wendy, I couldn't help but read it with a British 'Moncktonian' voice, it just seemed to suit the tone of the email (maybe he's been hanging out with Christopher a little too much):

SUBJECT: I demand you explain yourself sir
Mr. Cook,
 
I have tolerated much in the past few years, but I’m not going tolerate this.
 
 
“Deniers post pictures of weather stations positioned near car parks and tarmacs, convinced global warming is an artefact of poor measurements. “
 
You have just called myself, and hundreds of well meaning volunteers “deniers”. I’m sick of it Mr. Cook and I don’t take it lightly.
 
Sir, it is a filthy word, and your use of it in this context is despicable, and it insults people of Jewish heritage when you use it in this way. Since the basis of this work on the surfacestations.org project has been praised by NCDC, by some in NOAA, by Muller of BEST during congressional testimony, it hardly equates to “denial”. The work is about to be published in a peer reviewed journal.
 
I’m giving you the opportunity to explain yourself as a courtesy. Explain specifically how I “deny” global warming by doing this project. I don’t,  and your hateful labeling of me is not only false, but purposely libelous. You do it to hurt, You do it to denigrate. You do it to spite. You use it as a punch line.
 
I’ve tried to maintain a cordial relationship with you, but unless you either issue an apology, or explain with solid proof that I categorically deny global warming, instead of simply questioning the issues related to causes and effects while employing the scientific method and peer review, the gloves will come off.
 
Do not underestimate my anger at this slight sir, it literally is the last straw, particularly when used in the purpose of selling a book. When such denigrations are used in such commercial context, they lose the protections afforded in opinion and satire.
 
This is a private communications, it is not for sharing, not publication. Do not breach my privacy of communications.

Anthony has published snarky posts about me in the past, I haven't responded to them and am not particularly interested in getting into a chest thumping Watts-Romm style war. But a courteous response seems appropriate (after all, he is very upset). So I thought I'd respond with the basic "explanation" of what I mean by denial. Eg, something to this effect:

Science is based on evidence. A scientific consensus comes from a consensus of evidence. So our understanding of climate requires we consider the full body of evidence. For surface temperature, it requires we consider thermometers, satellites, ship measurements, ocean buoys, weather balloons. For the question of global warming, it requires consideration not just of thermometers but the tens of thousands of natural thermometers. For questions like what's happening to ice sheets, it requires looking at the many independent estimates of mass balance - GRACE satellite data, radar interferometry, altimetry, mass balance estimates, etc. For those who seek to explain climate to the general public, they must draw upon the full body of evidence to increase understanding. To selectively use only small pieces of the puzzle while neglecting the many lines of evidence painting a consistent picture is denying the full body of evidence.

Thoughts/comments? Part of me wants Watts to take the gloves off - would be a refreshing change to him trying to pretend SkS doesn't exist. But I'm not going to gratuitiously provoke him. I'm thinking an email response and at the end let him know he's welcome to share or publish my response.

2011-04-29 13:28:59Do not give up the Sudetenland
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

John, I know you want to avoid provoking AW.  But Muller has rubbed his face in the sand and bloodied his nose; as a result, AW's spoiling for someone to bully & intimidate.  Based on his communication to you, avoiding a conflict is not an option other than by appeasement.  Chamberlain went that route & see where it got him.

My counsel is: no response.  Ignore him.  It will at first give him pause, then it will infuriate him further.  This will cause him to overreact.  That over-reaction will be big, yes.  But it will cost him in backing, readership and reputation.  And cost him dearly.  A measured response at that time will also then serve on enhance the standing and position of Skeptical Science as being the good guys in this conflict.

Sun Tzu advises to be the one to choose the field of battle, if you believe a conflict is inevitable.  Accordingly, if a conflict is inevitable, a calm opponent makes fewer mistakes than an irate one.  Provoking him into over-reaction will cause AW to over-reach himself, undermining the home base and support.  Keep the responses measured and based on the science.  AW will not.  He cannot win.  Sun Tzu also advises to allow the enemy a route of retreat.  So once the shelling stops, we go back to ignoring him.  This will further marginalize him.

2011-04-29 13:33:53simple
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.97.203

I think the response is simple.  He's misrepresenting what you said.

“Deniers post pictures of weather stations positioned near car parks and tarmacs, convinced global warming is an artefact of poor measurements.“
Watts and co. aren't deniers for engaging in the surface station project, which is reasonably valuable.  They are deniers if they are convined global warming is an artefact based on nothing more than a few photos and zero data analysis.  I think the quote is quite clear.  It's certainly true that many at WUWT, including Watts himself, fit this description.  But simply engaging in the surface stations project doesn't meet your description. 
I'd calmly explain that he's misrepresenting you, and then demand an apology or the Cook gloves come off!
2011-04-29 13:57:41
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Good grief, the bloody trick of conflating of the term 'denial' with the Holocaust.  Do they band that about for people who are in denial about evolution?  Those who are in denial about the link between HIV and AIDS, or between tobacco and cancer? Or...the list goes on.

Mr. Watts is in denial about the validity and veracity of the global SAT record, pure and simple, so the terminology is perfectly appropriate.  His argument, if one could even bother calling it that is a complete cop out and an argument form emotion, not facts. And his bullying and threats of physical violence ("the gloves will come off")are not helping his case.  After climate gate it is laughable to listen to him going on about his emails being private, he has no legal grounds to make that claim (but I could be wrong), and besides, didn't the 'skeptics' in their defense claim that no email is private? 

John, tread extremely carefully here-- expect to see your correspondence (if any) with him blasted all over WUWT and BishopHill and Morano's site.  He may be trying to bait you, so do not bite.  Your reticence to engage him will drive him nuts (Andrew Weaver shared that sage advice with me)-- he wants a fight and to draw you out into a public and mean-spirited battle.  So my advice to you would be at most to very politely acknowledge his email and his anger, and to leave it at that. You do not owe him an explanation John, anything you say can and will be used against you, no matter how well-intentioned or sincere.

And perhaps the safest thing to do in the future is to provide some context when using the term 'denial'.  For example, refer to "those in denial about the veracity of the SAT record", or "those in denial about the greenhouse effect", or "those in denial about the theory of AGW".  That way they then have no wiggle room as the context is very clear.

You have exposed the soft underbelly of the denial movement (IMHO, Watts is not a 'skeptic').  Sorry for the invective and vitriol being flung your way though.  It does sound like Chris Monckton may have helped him draft that, it is way to eloquent for the likes of Watts ;)

Oh, and it might be a good time to batten down the hatches and make sure your server's security is as tight as possible and carefully monitor new people registering.... seriously, these guys are desperate and as mean as they come.  Good luck John!

2011-04-29 14:02:45
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

John if you do decide to email Tony on Friday, wish him a very nice weekend :)

2011-04-29 17:07:18
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
121.79.21.179

I’m no lawyer, but I wouldn’t think calling someone a denier could be libelous – isn’t it freedom of speech?

I agree with Albatross that Watts is arguing from emotion, not facts. I’m trying to consider how I might respond if someone called me a denier. I might get upset, but I certainly wouldn’t say the word denier is “offensive” and threaten legal action. I think I would respond by clarifying my position and the arguments for it, and explaining why I think it is a reasonable position and not denial – hopefully even changing my mind if need be. That’s what Watts should be doing. His response only further demonstrates that he is not thinking rationally about the topic.

Keep in mind you can point out you have publically stated in the past that “The goal of improving temperature data is something we can all agree on and on this point, the efforts of Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre are laudable. However, their presupposition that improving temperature records will remove or significantly lower the global warming trend is erroneous.”

2011-04-29 18:43:21
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

If Anthony Watts isn't mentinoned then he is making assumptions about who is being addressed, he is treading on thin ice.
If concern is that there is a legal issue, then probably the best bet is not to reply and let it blow over.

I agree with Dan...

Remember he has a broadcast career, the whole point of his existence is to be listened to and to be heard. So if you do not respond, his significance is muched reduced. I would keep it safe for future 'evidence' in case you have problems. He probably wants you to respond.

He is a bit pompous in his responses and is a reactionary. He banned me from his blog for a while, although my last post was published.

2011-04-29 18:54:52
oslo

borchinfolab@gmail...
90.149.33.182

I don't think your answer addresses AW mail in any useful way. He is pissed off as he believes you attack his wonderful project, which you do in a way. I would say ignore him and agree with Bailey - let him rant out in public, which I guess he will do anyway.

Speaking of metaphors - a publicly known denier wrote in a response at a discussion board today (Norway):

- Very wise words and good rhetorical points, ufaufa.

- And as previously said Telehiv, I'm waiting in anticipation for the next chapter.


- To use a weapon metaphor: cabinet marksman rifle with telescopic sight and good old-fashioned "lead tip" is probably the most suitable weapon in this case.

Completly out of line! Arghh!

2011-04-29 20:46:07
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

Hollow points. Gotta go with the hollow points...  :)

2011-04-29 20:55:17
oslo

borchinfolab@gmail...
90.149.33.182

Good point Daniel :-)

2011-04-30 00:41:13Thinking strategically
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.29.80

John:

I find this note from Watts very curious:

- As you mention, the style seems crypto-british.

- It suggests to me that he's not only upset, but worried. Something you're doing is getting under his skin.

My guess: Watts & the WUWTers are about to get some credit for the bad-thermometer documentation; but the medicine that goes down with that sugar is that they will be helping to document (via BEST) GW: the G bloody well is W'arming. So now he's trying to get away from his original position ("G is not W'ing) to the more "moderate" positiion, "the G is/will not W'ing as much as the corrupt scientists say, because they attribute too much to A; anyway, this doesn't 'prove' anything about the cause." We have already seen him re-interpret himself in his reaction to Muller's testimony, so as to not be left completely stranded on the beach when the BEST tide goes out.

I think the point is that he sees that the evidence is now flooding in, and he doesn't want to go down as being on the wrong side of history.

Regarding the threat:

- "Do not underestimate my anger at this slight sir, it literally is the last straw, particularly when used in the purpose of selling a book. When such denigrations are used in such commercial context, they lose the protections afforded in opinion and satire." This is pretty weak coffee. He doesn't indicate on what legal grounds he would pursue remedy. In the US, I don't think he'd be able to find enough to pitch a tent. In the UK, there might be stronger grounds; but I don't know if Watts has standing to file suit in a UK court. Even if he does, I think you could get help from connections via the Royal Society, and funding from the worldwide readership of SkS (I'm serious).

- If the legal "threat" bothers you at all, you might want to follow Albatross' recommendation to be more specific about what exactly is being denied, when you use the term.

Should you respond?

- If you respond, you should write in a very focused, tight style, so that it's difficult to be quoted out of context. You should of course assume that he will blog it, or some portion of it.

- Where Watts is going: He wants to go to change the focus of WUWT to the next stage of denial: "It's not us." A good question is: Do we want to let him transition to this position, or do we want to get him to admit he was wrong earlier? If you want to get him "on the record" about a shift, write something back that he will want to blog about - then you can respond to his blobpost without violating his demand for privacy concerning the earlier email.

I'm still musing over this situation...

 

2011-04-30 01:17:15My comment wont help
Hoskibui

hoskibui@gmail...
194.144.161.27

One minute I think this is a trick and you shouldn't respond - the next i think you can use this as a trap for Lard Monktony Watts and his crew.

This is a chess match - the result of the match largely depends on your next move, but you will have to analyse his last move in details before deciding. What was his true intention with this email? Is there an agenda? Was he drunk?

2011-04-30 01:43:26
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

There's always an agenda with AW.

Job Task #1 is to maintain & expand his visibility with the faithful.  That's the whole point of his mission in this case.  By manufacturing a controversy, he gets to occupy the position of the "wrongfully-accused establishment outsider being vilified for exposing corruption in the government ranks".  He's "wagging the dog". 

All else is secondary to Job Task #1.  The ends justify the means.

By responding at all, John actually will serve to soldify AW's accusations & make them credible.  In essence, any response by John is an act of enabling AW in his goal, and will immediately start out John in a defensive posture.

2011-04-30 02:23:35
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

John...  I burst out laughing at the very first line.  "Subject: I demand you explain yourself sir."

Ah, now I have to read the rest.  (Note to self: Do not drink coffee for the next 3 minutes.)

2011-04-30 02:27:34
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

John...   My advice?  Don't let yourself get dragged into Anthony Watts' mud pit.  You don't want to go there.  

What's the saying?  If you wrestle with pigs you only get dirty and the pigs actually like it.

2011-04-30 02:31:05
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

I just posted a comment on Greenfrye's blog regarding Muller and the denier crowd.  I was saying that I think the only real value of the BEST project will be that it puts the last nail in the coffin of Anthony's UHI concept.

I was coming over to place dibs on writing an article for SkS on the demise of the UHI using Monty Python's dead parrot sketch, after they release the final BEST data.

2011-04-30 02:32:26Comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.200.183

I think I follow in line with Daniel's view. Don't respond and see how he reacts. If in a few days he gets even more pissed then respond. A funny thing to do would be if we were to launch a Watts myths section immediately :P he would be livid (obviously this isn't the best choice)

2011-04-30 02:35:20
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.29.80

I can certainly understand not wanting to muck it out with Watts. It's not likely to be pleasant.

However, the visibility of SkS would certainly be increased by that conflict. Watts cannot fight SkS and ignore it at the same time.

I don't recommend going "the whole Romm": I'm not a fan of Romm's, and I think he sabotages his own impact by intemperate remarks.

2011-04-30 02:38:02
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

- As you mention, the style seems crypto-british.

That's normal for Watts when he gets personal and sends an email or bans you from his blog.

Some example AW responses to my comments on his blog before he banned me:


"Sir/madam look at the masthead, shall I then remove all articles on technology, electric cars, and anything else I’ve mentioned in the past that is non climate, just because you believe this blog should be only about climate? I think not. I suggest you get your own blog and you can operate it as you see fit. If you don’t like this one, please by all means don’t visit. -A"

 

Sir/madam, look at the masthead, I have all the context I need. And, I didn’t write the article, it is an excerpt from an article in the UK Telegraph. Your opinion that I wrote it, wrong as it is, is noted. Your inability to distinguish fact is not helping you. -A.

You’ve said that before, so your welcome has been withdrawn, since your purpose is denigration, not discussion. If you want to complain about this story, I suggest you complain to the Telegraph, in your own country, which is the source of this story excerpted here. – A

 

2011-04-30 02:41:34
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

Ooooh!  I like Robert's idea!  Take the advantage of the situation while Watts is all hot around the collar and launch a Watts' Whackiness series.

Don't confront him.  Just start posting articles.

2011-04-30 02:44:43
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

Hoskibui said...  "Was he drunk?"

I think Watts is perpetually drunk on his own ego.

2011-04-30 02:45:51
Svatli

svatli@gmail...
217.28.182.1

Anthony certainly is angry, maybe about how you just say it aloud that there are deniers out there, and he is one of them (the truth sometimes hurts). So he is now denying his own denial.

But in my opinion I thing you shouldn't answer him, at least not in any details - maybe just confirm that you got the mail..? But I thing you should write a post on SkS about the matter of denial in general - without mentioning his mail or his name or link to him in any way. There you could maybe explain how it is denial to always try to find new ways to be "skeptical" and that trying to dig for all the uncertainties is not looking at the whole picture and therefore denying the big picture. It's not like that this only project with the weather stations is the only indicator of his denialism...we acctually are looking at some bigger picture of his denial...and it has some broader aspect of it, which isn't only linked to his project as such.

The problem (in my opinion) is that he is not going to let you respond directly without having the last word. He likes to be thought of as a science oriented person - and maybe he things that his "world" is in some kind of a way falling apart and he will defend his territory in some way...

Hope I made my self clear - but I have to run now - I'll be back later... ;)

2011-04-30 02:52:30
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

It's also funny how Watts wants this to be a secret email when he's all about "transparency."  I guess he doesn't like the idea of emails not being a private correspondence.  Hmmmmm...

2011-04-30 02:59:21
oslo

borchinfolab@gmail...
90.149.33.182

I fully comply with Rob here. SkS should reply when the cat is out of the bag (a bit metaphorical today).

Also it's much more fun than to engage in the personal rants on the internet.

I'm much in favour of Romm by the way, and I don't understand the critisism that has been discussed here. Let Romm do what he do (which he does very well in my opinion), but SkS should focus on taking down myths and wrong interpretations of science - well this is my personal opinion.

2011-04-30 03:10:34simple response
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

I'm not very strategic about this sort of thing, but it seems to me like a simple courteous response that Watts misinterpreted the comment would suffice, with the explanation that those who use the surface stations photos (or any other single piece of evidence) to support their pre-determined position that the AGW theory must be wrong are deniers.  Leave it to Watts to decide if the description applies to him.

2011-04-30 03:24:37
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

Dana...  I think Watts would just take that as a sign of weakness and blast back with both barrels.  Then you lay out the potential that HE uses the email response, in the Watts world of warped logic, to say that John "admitted his mistake."

I say don't give him any fodder at all.

2011-04-30 03:50:49
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.29.80

I wouldn't apologize: I don't think there is anything to apologize for.

However, the decision about whether to respond, and how, depends on what one's goals are. Is the goal to deprive him of the excuse for being upset (probably hopeless) or to drive him into nonlinear reaction? What will have the most negative impact on his audience?

One question to examine: Clearly Watts is worried about SkS. Do you understand clearly why?

2011-04-30 04:09:55
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

Neal...  I think saying almost anything that is not a direct attack would be construed by Anthony as an apology.  Any qualification of John's original statements.

I think Watts is in crisis these days.  He's basically hung his hat on the UHI and the BEST project is likely to show conclusively that it has absolutely no bearing on the data (as we've all been saying for a long time).  He's trying to find reasons to be mad.  SkS is a rising star in the public conversation about climate change.  That makes John a target for Anthony's ire.

Really, I believe SkS is having a strong impact on this issue.  If you google almost any issue related to climate change an SkS article will pop up near the top, sometimes its the top result.  This is how people get their information these days.  In that, I think SkS is probably having more impact on public opinion than WUWT or any of the other denier blogs.  In other words, SkS is dethroning the king and establishing a new order.  And I think Anthony knows it.

2011-04-30 05:03:55
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

I don't think it's an apology to say "you misinterpreted what I said, dummy."  But like I said, I'm not thinking strategically, just thinking how I would respond if I got that email.

I think it makes sense that Watts is sensitive about surface stations given the BEST results (and his own co-authored paper).  He's trying to save face, but the wounds are open, and he felt like John rubbed salt in them.  Which he didn't, and there's certainly no reason to apologize, but I think Watts' reaction sort of makes sense from a psychological perspective.

2011-04-30 05:37:01
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.29.80

dana,

To be honest, I really don't care whether we're hurting Watts' feelings or not.

I just want to minimize the amount of time it takes to marginalize WUWT; or else move the center-of-gravity of argumentation to the next level.

Whichever is faster, ignoring him or driving him into a nonlinear rage, is fine.

2011-04-30 05:39:45
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

Oh don't get me wrong, I don't care either.  In fact, I rather enjoyed that John had hurt his feelings :-)  I agree on marginalizing WUWT, I just don't know what will achieve that.

2011-04-30 06:25:05
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

Patience will achieve it.  

Anthony has also been working with Pielke on a paper regarding UHI, right?  I bet that's not showing the results he likes either.  Now the BEST project is looking like it's going support the position that there is no UHI effect.  Now John's article says that his "Junior Woodchuck Society" (as Peter Sinclair calls it) is a bunch of "deniers," which of course they are.  So, yeah, John poked a hot stick in Anthony's open wound.

I remember Tiger Woods saying, after he destroyed everyone that first time at the Master, "My father always taught me, when you get your opponent down... kick him."  I don't think WUWT is quite ready to kick but that time is coming.

2011-04-30 07:08:11
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.29.80

I guess another way to pose the question: When WUWT finally has to face the music and stop promoting the idea that the GW is fake, do we want to remind the world that they've been fighting that concept forever (up until DD/MM/2011), or do we want them to "go quietly into that good night"?

If we want to do the first, we might want to save an archive of WUWT postings, so that they can't "change the history" on us later. We wouldn't need the discussion, just the main postings.

Seems weird? Think of it as a toxic waste dump: You really don't want that stuff to disappear somewhere...

2011-04-30 08:07:09
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

If war indeed breaks out it certainly is part of AW's idiom to re-write the history books.  So Neal's suggestion of an archive of WUWT (certainly toxic waste dump is apropos) of the posts needing demolition would be in order.

2011-04-30 08:21:48
oslo

borchinfolab@gmail...
90.149.33.182

Great thread.

Be worried, be very worried - if not Watts will take off his gloves :-)

- I have tolerated much in the past few years, but I’m not going tolerate this.

Oh! That hurts!

- You have just called myself, and hundreds of well meaning volunteers “deniers”. I’m sick of it Mr. Cook and I don’t take it lightly.

I wouldn't worry to much - stick to "business". SkS should not participate in this type of debate - even if Cook has written his article. If W disagree he should post his reply in public, not in private mail communication.

A polite answer would be to ask him to share his opinion in public rather than communicate in private.
2011-04-30 09:44:53Possible response to AW in the Treehugger videos
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.6.188

Currently leaning towards no direct email response for now. I'm not concerned about legal action or hurting Anthony's feelings. My main concern is how he would try to use my response for political purposes - quote mine it, blog about it with some sort of manipulative spin. I would be venturing into his territory and he has years of experience of twisting and spinning innocent remarks and actions into the worst possible light. So it pays to tread very carefully.

However, I did have one idea. Thoughts welcome. I'm going to record the audio for my Treehugger videos on Monday. This is the first episode transcript:

In the charged discussions about climate, the words skeptic and denier are often thrown around. But what do these words actually mean? A genuine skeptic considers all the evidence in their search for the truth. Deniers, on the other hand, refuse to accept any evidence that conflicts with their previously held views.

How do you tell the difference between a genuine skeptic and a climate denier? A genuine skeptic considers the full body of evidence. They look at sea level rise, tripling over the last century. They consider the warming oceans, which over the last half century have been building up heat at a rate of 2 and a half Hiroshima bombs per second. They observe glaciers retreating all over the world, threatening the drinking water of hundreds of millions of people. Ice sheets from Greenland in the north to Antarctica in the south are losing hundreds of billions of tones of ice every year. Seasons are shifting, flowers are opening earlier each year and animals are migrating towards the poles. Signs of warming are seen all over our planet.

A genuine skeptic looks at all this evidence and concludes global warming is unequivocal. A denier sees cold weather out their window and concludes global warming isn't happening.

Scientific skepticism is a good thing. Our understanding of what's happening to our climate must depend on observations and measurements. A genuine skeptic considers the full body of evidence and how it all fits together.

However, what if I made the following change (bold) and suggested TH use a photo of a weather station near some heat source (eg - something like this):

In the charged discussions about climate, the words skeptic and denier are often thrown around. But what do these words actually mean? A genuine skeptic considers all the evidence in their search for the truth. Deniers, on the other hand, refuse to accept any evidence that conflicts with their previously held views.

How do you tell the difference between a genuine skeptic and a climate denier? A genuine skeptic considers the full body of evidence. They look at sea level rise, tripling over the last century. They consider the warming oceans, which over the last half century have been building up heat at a rate of 2 and a half Hiroshima bombs per second. They observe glaciers retreating all over the world, threatening the drinking water of hundreds of millions of people. Ice sheets from Greenland in the north to Antarctica in the south are losing hundreds of billions of tones of ice every year. Seasons are shifting, flowers are opening earlier each year and animals are migrating towards the poles. Signs of warming are seen all over our planet.

A genuine skeptic looks at all this evidence and concludes global warming is unequivocal. A denier sees a photo of a thermometer near an air conditioner and concludes global warming isn't happening.

Scientific skepticism is a good thing. Our understanding of what's happening to our climate must depend on observations and measurements. A genuine skeptic considers the full body of evidence and how it all fits together.

Am torn over whether to go with this new idea of not. It might actually be better (more pointed plus more entertaining) than the original regardless of AW but this new version should have him frothing at the mouth and may tip him over the edge.

2011-04-30 09:50:08Comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.200.183

I agree and was just about to post the same thing. We need an archive of screenshots (not website postings) showing Watts making arguments against  global warming, essentially we need an archive of his statements with evidence behind them. Then nowmatter what we can always output a .pdf of his statements showing to the contrary. I think it's important to point out that John takes responsability for what is put on his website and the views represented so does Watts have the balls to do so himself? If he doesn't then how can he allow those things to be posted.

Some screenshots of commentors using the UHI issue to show AGW is false from his website would be useful too. If this isn't what he is in agreement with, wouldn't he respond since he responds to us proponents. We have to use his own words and actions against him. Mcintyre spends hours researching every damn word that proponents make, maybe its time we hit back?

2011-04-30 11:23:52TH
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.97.203
I like the new TreeHugger text. It's a good example. Again, it's not saying being involved with surface stations makes you a denier. Watts probably won't see it anyway.
2011-04-30 11:50:47Making deniers accountable
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.6.188

When I first started the database, I saved the article text as well as the details we collect now. I stopped doing it because it was just too much effort. But if there's a feeling that recording denier articles is important, I could always resurrect the idea, add some functionality to allow articles to be saved. In fact, maybe I could write some code that automatically saves the article HTML into the database. Easy enough to do. Would be good to filter out the rubbish so it only includes the actual article but that is beyond me at the moment.

Watts has said publicly that I should be responsible for anything on my site so presumably that means he takes responsibility for anything on his site.

I've been thinking a major theme for SkS in 2011 could be making deniers accountable for their words. The quotes database could be a powerful tool for this aim. But another potentially powerful tool is our database of contradictions. We have a database of climate myths. We have a database of which climate myths contradict others. We have a database of climate myths given at each denier website. So it's possible to spit out a long laundry list of pairs of posts where a denier contradicts themselves, this is a potentially bottomless pit of resources where contradictions could be pointed out one after the other ad nauseum. So it's just a matter of picking out the most egregious ones to highlight. Or make available a data feed so others can sort through the lists, pick out the worst examples and blog about it. Definitely on the to do list for 2011.

2011-04-30 14:48:55
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.193.203

Maybe we’re overanalyzing this. It’s possible that Watts just has a thin skin. He’s certainly done his offended act before, when responding to my comments defending SkS.

Neal, in regards to moving the argument away from “It’s not happening” – I don’t think that will ever happen. For years I’ve seen commentary that the argument is shifting away from “It’s not happening”, and deniers themselves often say they don’t deny warming is happening, but then they equivocate between short-term and long-term trends, natural and anthropogenic causes, etc. And they’ve sunk deeper and deeper into conspiracy theories so they can still advocate every stage of denial.

I think the deniers will continue to fight on multiple fronts, as always. The non-warmers might realise they are making less and less convincing arguments, but they also know that by doing so they are making the lukewarmers look more reasonable.

2011-04-30 16:19:44
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.33.225

James:

- It's not really an issue of over-analyzing so much as deciding on how to respond.

- I think the publication of the BEST report will neutralize the INH issue at WUWT, because it incorporates their input. There will still be non-WUWT skeptics. But we have to fight this war "one soldier at a time": We don't have the intellectual equivalent of a nuclear bomb.

 

John:

What I find missing in your TreeHugger text is a description of reasonable issues of investigation: Issues about the magnitude (and sign) of the forcing due to clouds, for example. Reading your text with a non-convinced eye, I would draw the conclusion that "John Cook thinks that a 'real skeptic' is someone who buys the dominant scientific view 100%". I wonder if it would make sense to indicate areas where there IS genuine uncertainty and need for investigation.

With regard to the toxic-waste dump: I don't think we need to record everything from all skeptics. I think WUWT is the site with the most significant following, and is the most web-based (other skeptics actually try to publish articles from time to time). While it might be nice to have complete records on all of them, I think focusing on WUWT will give 80% of the benefit for 20% of the effort.

2011-04-30 16:54:25TH critique
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.6.188

Neal, re your comment "John Cook thinks that a 'real skeptic' is someone who buys the dominant scientific view 100%", that's not what I'm saying. I'm just making a simple, elementary point - we need to take in all the evidence to gain a proper understanding of climate. So cherry picking isolated bits of data to paint a misleading picture is denialism - it's denying the full body of evidence. It doesn't cover the depth and breadth of the spectrum of climate views but it makes a clear and useful point in the amount of time allotted.

So I wouldn't say "a skeptic buys the dominant scientific view 100%". I'd say "a skeptic uses 100% of the evidence to understand climate". So when climate deniers cry over the use of the "D-word", the answer is simple. Climate deniers deny the evidence. Denying the evidence is the antithesis of skepticism so it's not accurate to call them skeptics. As Greg Combet expressed it so simply, "if you don't want to be called a denier, stop denying the science".

2011-04-30 17:12:11Watts' response to James
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.6.188

James, I had a look at Watts' response to your comments defending SkS. I find it extraordinary that he takes so much umbrage at the use of the word 'denier' when he so aggressively smears climate scientists, accuses them of corruption, lying, fraud, conspiracy. The double standard is breathtaking. I think your thin-skin theory is on the money - the man takes himself way, way too seriously.

One feature I always admire in a person is a healthy dose of self-deprecation. I don't see that characteristic in Anthony Watts. Somehow, I don't think we'll ever be BFFs.

2011-04-30 17:35:07
Riccardo

riccardoreitano@tiscali...
93.147.82.147

John
should you ever decide to reply to the email (probably not the best choice), it should be a very short reply to not let him twist its meaning. Just tell him that you do not understand the reason for his email and that if he's interested in your views on his surfacestation project they have been expressed publicly on SkS and elsewhere and point him (again) to the post on microsite influence. Do not explain anything and do not apologize for anything.

I agree with Neal on the missing of reasonable issues of investigation in the TreeHugger transcript. Just quote a couple of known issues to show that scientists are still working on and debating them. It might sound obvious to you, probably much less to the general public.

A general comment on how to deal with WUWT. I think we should continue to not overemphasize their role in the deniers arena. They're going to get hit hard by BEST's results and, judging from the abstract, by their own forthcoming paper. They'll probably move the goalpost; if they do, we should have a post on the story with quotes of their claims contrasting with the results they got, a sort of final resumé.

2011-04-30 17:49:26Riccardo’s idea is a good one
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.193.203

That way you won’t be ignoring him but you won’t be saying anything quotable either.

2011-04-30 18:12:08
logicman

logicman_alf@yahoo.co...
86.147.180.253

I agree with the people who say you should ignore him.  Do not reply.

"A genuine skeptic looks at all this evidence and concludes global warming is unequivocal. A denier sees a photo of a thermometer near an air conditioner and concludes global warming isn't happening."

Hmmm!  Now that's what I call a measured response!

 

It is just as well that he never complains about me calling him out for his bad science.  My own response to such a message as you received would be: "I refer you to Private Eye's reply in the famous case of Arkell v. Pressdram (1971).

2011-04-30 18:49:17
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

Deniers, on the other hand, refuse to accept any evidence that conflicts with their previously held views

In some respects Watts is probably partially denying the facts. There is an assumption by many here that denial is black and white.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial

The subject may use:

 

It seems that in Freudian terms he is using 'minimisation', accepting climate change exists but claims it isn't so serious. I think there is probably a case of a mis use of langauge, on his part (he has done it with the haulocaust comparison as well).

2011-04-30 22:14:25
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

You are forgetting who you are dealing with: AW is a master at distortion.  Any reply at all, no matter the succinctness or brevity, will be twisted out of context to serve as pretext for ongoing and future umbrage.

Remember our advice: DNFTT

 

In this case: DNFAW

2011-04-30 22:35:02
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.33.225

I still think it makes sense to:

- alter the text for TreeHugger, in order to demonstrate that there ARE dimensions of the AGW question that are open for scientific investigation: that the scientific community is not "locked down" mentally on a story;

- archive the WUWT posts, so we have a history.

 

I don't see any great advantage in responding to Watts, since you'd have to be so careful not to give him fodder that it wouldn't be possible to say anything interesting anyway.

2011-04-30 23:02:00Fodder
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.193.203

“I don't see any great advantage in responding to Watts, since you'd have to be so careful not to give him fodder that it wouldn't be possible to say anything interesting anyway.”

If you don’t respond then you are still giving him fodder – because he can say he’s been ignored.

2011-04-30 23:12:23
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

So it comes down to this:

  • If you respond, he will twist it out of context & use it against you
  • If you don't respond, he will use that as provocation anyway
2011-04-30 23:17:52
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.33.225

He can't do a lot with "I'm being ignored".

If he goes nonlinear, that's not necessarily bad.

2011-05-01 00:46:30
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

If you don't respond, then no one knows about it, since the email isn't public. The only way that you give him ammo is by responding, he can do very little publicly if you don't respond, other than publishing the email he sent John.

Basically, publicly, Watts is in a very weak position if you don't respond, but that changes if you do.

2011-05-01 01:01:57
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.92.113.216

Another vote for not responding.

2011-05-01 02:21:29
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

John,

I really hate to harp on about this, but IMHO, I would strongly advise saying denier of AGW or anthro climate change, please do not give them wiggle room or a reason to make accusations.

Like I said before, Watts is in denial about the veracity and robustness of the global SAT record.  And to add to the Ville's post, Watts then appears to be using that to minimize the seriousness of AGW.  Alas, some of his supporters see those pictures and use that as proof that the planet is not warming, that scientists do not know what the eff they are doing and that AGW is a hoax-- they use that information to reinforce their delusion and their denial of AGW, and Watts knows that all too well.

I agree with Neal's suggestions too.

2011-05-01 02:44:34
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

John, I think you're really onto something by using the reference of people taking pictures of thermometers next to air conditioners as an example of denial.  You found a soft spot.  Push on it.

I'd also say, it's perfectly reasonable to look at thermometers next to air conditioners and initially be skeptical of the surface station records.  That should lead to investigation into a possible influence on the data.  But when the idea is repeatedly tested and shown to not be a factor, THAT is when they move from healthy skepticism into unhealthy denial.  You could even say it's like an alcoholic in denial of their problem even as their world collapses around them.

2011-05-01 02:52:06TH is fine
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.97.203

I agree no response to Watts is probably the right response.  He's being a twat and John said nothing wrong, and I agree, any response gives him some sort of fodder which he will undoubtedly misrepresent.

I think John's TH text is fine though.  He's talking about GW denial, not AGW denial, and there is no uncertainty about GW.

2011-05-01 03:10:01
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Rob,

Excellent points @1 May 2011, 2:44 AM.  Good way of wording it.

 

Dana,

I agree.  However, the 'skeptics' extend and conflate their doubts (courtesy of cherry-picked photos of stations from Watts) about GW to deny that AGW is an issue.  Watts fully knows that is what is going on, and does not seem to feel any desire to correct people under that misconception posting on his site-- he needs to be called on that.

2011-05-01 03:36:02
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.33.225

dana,

Factually, you are correct. However, what I am worried about is that the unconvinced reader is quite likely to interpret what John says as, "If you want to be a true skeptic in my eyes, you have to uncritically accept what the experts say." and that is going to generate a reaction from people who've heard the famous statement from Richard Feynman, "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts."

So, to prevent that allergic reaction, I'm proposing that John mention some issues that are still open and still being discussed. This gives the correct impression that climate science is not a sealed casket - settled and never to be questioned - but rather a dynamic field of study; yet a field in which certain aspects have been determined, to the best of our knowledge; not by dogma, but by a thorough process of continued questioning, continued cross-checking among the different lines of evidence, etc.

I do NOT get this impression from the current wording of the TreeHugger text.

2011-05-01 04:11:58
Hoskibui

hoskibui@gmail...
85.220.124.174

I have not finished reading this thread - but somebody mentioned archive of Watts posts - it does exist: Internet Archive Wayback Machine - I don´t know how permanent it is though.

2011-05-01 06:31:41
citizenschallenge
Peter Miesler
citizenschallenge7@gmail...
166.128.157.158

Wow, what a thread.
I agree with the No Direct Responce chorus.
I like:

Robert's:  "Take the advantage of the situation while Watts is all hot around the collar and launch a Watts' Whackiness series."

Albatross: "I really hate to harp on about this, but IMHO, I would strongly advise saying denier of AGW or anthro climate change, please do not give them wiggle room or a reason to make accusations."

nealjking: alter the text for TreeHugger, in order to demonstrate that there ARE dimensions of the AGW question that are open for scientific investigation: that the scientific community is not "locked down" mentally on a story;

~ ~ ~
John,  
"But if there's a feeling that recording denier articles is important, I could always resurrect the idea, add some functionality to allow articles to be saved."

Boy that sounds overwhelming. 

What would be even more interesting and much more difficult is tracking the spread of memes on the internet. Where they originate, how they propagate.  Check out these two links for a better idea of what I’m talking about

http://truthy.indiana.edu/

http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/201010085

~ ~ ~

John, one of these days I would like to use some of your text at 9:44, how long should I wait before I can share it?

~ ~ ~

On a closing note,

Watts   “Do not underestimate my anger at this slight sir, it literally is the last straw”

I would respect this statement as coming from ..., however one might characterize Watts, but more importantly...

Someone who has been prop'ed up and supported by others who have vast corporate power and sum$$$ available, and who are ruthless on a level nice guys can't comprehend.  Guess I'm just saying don't underestimate the ruthlessness you are facing down. 

... maybe Dan should loan you his Sun Tzu  ;-)

2011-05-01 07:45:03
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.33.225

citizenschallenge,

If Watts were really up for throwing a lawsuit, he would have had his lawyer write the letter instead of himself; and the lawyer would have made much more specific threats than "This is the last straw; you stop insulting me, or else..."

I especially like the "literally", as in "It literally is the last straw." People pretending to threaten you often use that "literally," when they actually mean "figuratively"; but then of course it doesn't sound like much of a threat to say, "This is figuratively the last straw!" (For those of you wanting to scarecrow someone about a lawsuit without sounding silly, the right expression is: "This is the last straw.")

2011-05-01 08:56:57
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

Neal...  Maybe we need to mail Anthony some more straw.  Sounds like he's running out.

2011-05-01 09:30:05
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.33.225

In line with the origin of the phrase, we should more properly send him back-support for his camel.

2011-05-01 10:01:31
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

... maybe Dan should loan you his Sun Tzu  ;-)

Good one (even though Sun Tzu belongs now to the world and should be mandatory reading in primary school, most don't even know his name). 

To paraphrase the Great Karnak:

"As for AW, may the fleas from a thousand of his broken-back camels infest his armpits."

 

His backers won't long keep pouring good (oil) money after bad; AW's hole is shot and has gone dry.

2011-05-02 00:57:17How do we know this is from AW
PeteM
Pete Murphy
pete_murphy65c@btinternet...
86.184.26.190

 

Probably asking a silly question ... but how do we know this email is really from AW  and not some spam id or whatever ?

2011-05-02 01:47:18
Glenn Tamblyn

glenn@thefoodgallery.com...
58.168.228.141

John

 

This has a Moncktonesque (there's a nice invented word fo you) flavour to it. Private correspondence full of ire and great inflammation. Ignore it. If the great Watt wants to go public with it, let him. No doubt his loyalists will lap it up, but who cares. If he gives you somthing to aim at, hit him with both barrels.

And the tone of it makes it sound like he is planning on darkening your doorstep one dark night to smite you across your cheek with his glove (pigskin of course) and demand satisfaction at dawn.

 

Ignore him. Let him escalate it (Oh, Please Let Him Escalate It!)

2011-05-02 02:01:09
citizenschallenge
Peter Miesler
citizenschallenge7@gmail...
32.176.249.147

njk,   It's dirty tricks and deeds I worry about more than lawyers.

2011-05-02 04:12:36
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.116.82

citizenschallenge:

With regards to IT attacks: We should always be expecting that.

What else are you worried about?

And why do you think backing down would make the situation safer?

2011-05-02 06:51:12Hoax email?
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.6.188
peteM, there is always the possibility the email is a hoax. After all, I have been punked before. AW's email is so over-the-top, it being a hoax is not an unreasonable interpretation. But then AW has a history of being over the top so it's not out of character for him.
2011-05-02 15:31:59
Alex C

coultera@umich...
67.149.101.148

>>>If you don’t respond then you are still giving him fodder – because he can say he’s been ignored.

Let him say that.  He has absolutely no legal standing at all in this case, and if he brings up that he is being ignored, then he removes the privacy which he himself requested.  He has absolutely no incentive or actual drive, or purpose, to carry this further.  He's FOS, leave him to his unfounded fury and ignore him.

2011-05-03 01:16:41
Dikran Marsupial
Gavin Cawley
gcc@cmp.uea.ac...
139.222.216.9

I'd recommend not responding, if Watts were genuinely aggrieved he wouldn't use the (rather silly) "sir" stuff, or the hyperbolic attempt to link climate denial to holocaust denial, and IMHO he is just trying to provoke. 

As to what makes a true skeptic, I'd say in a scientific setting it is self-skepticism. 

2011-05-03 05:41:36Hoax email
PeteM
Pete Murphy
pete_murphy65c@btinternet...
86.174.167.30

John -   As a  suggestion....  A possible response could  be to  indicate you think the email maybe coming from a hoax id  and you intend ignoring it  .  Then you have a legitimate reason for avoiding any private email correspondance with AW.

  Pete 

 

 

 

 

2011-05-03 11:09:52
Alex C

coultera@umich...
67.149.101.148

I disagree with responding with a statement that you think the email is a hoax.  That could come off very wrongly if it is Watts.  It would be better to let it blow over, or let Watts blow up.

If he does respond and complain about being ignored, you can always include this caveat of thinking it could have been a hoax, along with other explanations like "you don't have legal standing" and "you're overreacting so much I can hear the frothing."

Well, maybe not in so many words.

2011-05-03 11:13:08
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

But leave in the "frothing" bit. :)

Seriously, DNFAW

2011-05-03 14:48:55re: Hoax email
citizenschallenge
Peter Miesler
citizenschallenge7@gmail...
32.176.213.37

njk, no I didn't mean back down, just not to underestimate the opponent, or to take them too lightly.

That's all, nothing specific, just thinking out loud.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But now for a good laugh. . .

Apropos hoax reply have you seen this?

Global Warming: Man or Myth?
A blog to supplement my global warming site
Climate Science Rapid Response Team Asks Monckton for Help

2011-05-03 20:17:09Has Watts Apologized to NOAA Yet?
ProfMandia

mandias@sunysuffolk...
68.195.167.146

http://tamino.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/message-to-anthony-watts/
http://climateprogress.org/2010/03/11/wattergate-tamino-debunks-anthony-watts-wattsupwiththat/

Seems like Mr. Watts needs to look in the mirror.

My feeling is that ignoring him is the best strategy because:

1)  He loves the attention

2)  Watts is "validated" if any attention is paid to him by SkS or other top people/orgs

3)  Ignoring him will really piss him off because he desperately seeks validation

2011-05-03 20:23:35
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.107.23

I think the main issue we were thinking about was the alteration of John's text for TreeHugger, not really responding to Watts' missive.