2011-09-27 19:43:02Got a call from Al Gore's people today
John Cook

This morning, had a long skype call with a guy working with Al Gore's Climate Reality Project. They're working on a website that debunks myths and hope to create a social network of volunteers actively debunking myths in blogs and forums. What they're planning is a lot like the rapid response system that I've been talking about for years but never had the time to do. The big difference is these guys have the resources and the much larger community to make this idea a reality.

They want to use SkS content on their new website and asked if that was possible, how we might organize it, etc. Basically, I said our mission is to get our info out there as widely as possible and we have a creative commons license on it so they're free to use our content. We discussed me creating a data feed so they could grab our info straight from our database similar to the iPhone app.

Some issues to mull over:

He brought up the possibility of a partnership. I think there could be degrees of how closely wedded SkS is to this website. We could either be close partners or more stand-offish, just providing the data feed. It depends on whether the SkS mission would be harmed or helped by association with Al Gore. Thoughts?

Also, are there any issues with SkS having a completely open creative commons license? We want our content in front of as many eyeballs as possible. I don't know if everyone realizes this but the SkS Author Forum is an incredibly effective, productive, unique environment and the quantity and quality of our output is mind boggling. There's a reason why the denier scrutiny of late has only managed to critique knucklehead issues like moderation, buttons and header graphics. So we should be looking at ways of getting our great content in front of as many eyeballs as possible. This Climate Reality website is a great opportunity to get our stuff out there. But he mentioned something about crediting SkS so we get our proper credit on the website. I'm not too fussed about how prominent the credit is but does anyone think I should be making specific requests about how we're credited.

Anyway, an exciting opportunity and another vindication of what we're doing and a chance to crank our impact up another order of magnitude. And if this does happen, the hatred from misinformers towards SkS should go up another order of magnitude also :-)

2011-09-27 20:16:33The enemy of my enemy is my friend


Personally, I am a great admirer of Al Gore, and think of him as a prophet of our time. His greatest virtues are his clarity of vision and his care for his fellow man. For years he has worked tirelessly to promote a basic understanding of the science, and can be forgiven for some very occasional errors of fact. I notice his site has no qualms about using the term “denier”!

I would be happy for his organisation to receive a data feed. I see no problem with us being seen to have a cooperative working relationship with them, provided it is clear that we don’t give a blanket endorsement to everything that appears on their site.

For these reasons, I think you should ask for Sks to be credited (including a link) for any Sks material they publish on their site. The up side is substantial exposure for Sks, particularly in the US, though their site. I really don’t see much down side – those who hate Gore already hate us!

An old Chinese proverb says: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

2011-09-27 20:32:48


I personally approve of Gore. However, I think we should maintain SOME degree of difference: Gore has unfortunately gotten into a position of being easily ridiculed; however unfair this is, it seems to be the case. In some ways, Gore is not a really good politician - which is why he didn't win the 2000 election, unfortunately for the 6.8 Billion people on the planet.

So I think SkS should help out whenever we can, but not get "folded in" to Gore's organization.

2011-09-27 20:32:51
Steve Brown


I think that it's important for SkS to maintain it's independance and impartiality with regard to reporting and educating on the science, so would advise not getting to too wrapped up with policy advisors, political advocates and lobbyists.  However, this is a good opportunity to give a wider circulation to SkS content and resources and should be seized on with vigour.

2011-09-27 20:40:51Welcome to the BIG TIME boys and girls...
Glenn Tamblyn




Connections to seriously resourced players. Who can resource getting stuff out there BIG TIME

Media attention, not just the blogosphere - getting the message out where it matters.

Also the potential to get a lot of serious science about AGW out in front of many people who are advocates for action on AGW but actually aren't well iinformed on the science. Their activism will be much better informed if their grounding in the science is stronger. Look at some of the comments we have seen recently from open-minded conservatives - give us the data, don't emote at us, it just pisses us off. And, to use a sweeping generalisation here, what do many grass roots advocates of action on AGW lead with - emotion. Great for motivating the already motivated. And great at alienating the already alienated. If we can have a worlf with more scientifically literate advocates that can only be a good thing. The most powerful force humanity can harness - the partnership between passion and rigour.

all the good stuff that flows from that...



It's Al Gore. I respect the guy, more power to his arm, but he is about the most politicising actor out there on the AGW stage as far as the US is concerned. Not because of what he has done. But because of the lunacy of the US political climate - and I don't just mean party political. The general climate within the US. So wait for it.... 'Al Gore IS FUNDING SkS - that Cartoonist is going to MAKE MILLIONS. And the Gravy Train rolls on!'

So, The psych of this is all wrong. As we have discussed similarly elsewhere, the psych of what Al is doing is all wrong. Great at winning some people. Absolutely going to alienate lots of others. If this was a serious Republican candidate wanting to do this it would be a whole different ball game psychologically.

... BUT...It's Al Gore. The guy is connected. Passionate. Would SkS like money to produce 1/2 a dozen guides to AGW, researched, aimed at different audiences, getting the psych right? Yep.


Yes of course we are interested in this. And your discussion with 'his people' needs to talk about how we can work together. Not just us as a supplier to the AG steamroller, but also how we might even offer guidence to them to some degree.

BUT, we can't let the SkS brand get tied too closely to his brand. Al and his approach to date is not going to win over that conservative block within the US that are anti AGW BECAUSE they are conservative but don't 'get' the psych of it.

So an alliance/partnership thing. We can feed stuff to you guys, but we need to maintain brand separation. BECAUSE we can't solve this issue with a single brand approach.

Lets Diarise this, 'When can your people meet with our people?'

Keep the conversation on not only a 'rebuttal feed' but also on working the psych of this.

2011-09-27 20:50:53
Mark Richardson

Al Gore is political poison for a huge portion of the readership IMO. I don't have polling figures to back me up here, but I suspect that there are those who ignore everything Al Gore has to say, but won't ignore the NAS or AGU even if they say the same thing.

I suspect it would alienate a portion of potential readers.


I would keep distanced but allow them to use any SkS stuff they want to with proper crediting (link, logo and creative commons license prominent?). In return they might be able to point us towards stuff that people are questioning about?

2011-09-27 20:54:12


I concur with Neal and Steve and Glenn.  Because the site is basically open source, our affiliations likely do not harm our independence.  The 'skeptic' community that criticizes us for being completely open with our data, would be hypocritical (not that it would stop them) if they made a big deal out of this.


This is a good opportunity

2011-09-27 21:08:35Basically, we can have our cake and eat it too
John Cook

It's always been one of my dreams to create a data feed of our content that any third party can use. If that third party happens to be the polarizing Al Gore, so be it. If our data feed happens to be in a format that suits perfectly the needs of the Climate Reality Project, that's just a happy coincidence.

There was no discussion of money in our conversation. I didn't ask for money, he didn't offer. I get the feeling that the intent from their side is to take our content for free. Maybe if we demanded some money for our content, they'd pay up, figuring it would be cheaper than having to create it themselves. But, and feel free to contradict me here, I think it probably is best if it's all free with no money involved.

2011-09-27 21:11:37
Paul D


I don't think Al Gore is needed and he is highly over-rated. He is a burden on the 'community' that has outstayed his usefulness.

I agree with Mark.

2011-09-27 21:13:02


At this time, there shouldn't be any financial ties.

Down the road, depending on how things work out, I could imagine some joint projects - that are separable.

But that would be many moons from now ...

2011-09-27 21:17:50If we want distance from Gore
John Cook

I can always create the data feed up front, before we work with Gore, to establish that it's open source that anyone can use. It's really no difference to us either way so why not? I've talked to other climate groups about supplying them a data feed but this is the closest such talks have come to fruition. So this is something that needed doing anyhow.
2011-09-27 22:05:58
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey

I have no qualms about SkS providing content to Gore's new organization, as long as the brands are firewalled properly.

I'd even consider doing freelance stuff for him, but there'd hafta be money in it for me (just kidding)!


The reason Gore's political poison these days is the Republicans, in their effort to win the contested election, went all Carthage on him.  The denialists then picked up on that after AIT to relentlessly destroy the perceived figurehead of AGW (Al Gore's Warming).

If Gore can prevail on the science, mankind wins.  Period.

2011-09-27 22:13:01
Mark Richardson

I think it would be best to have no money involved. 'John Cook is paid by Al Gore' would be a field day for the 'skeptics'.



Somehow they seem to get a lot more traction with stuff like that than we do by pointing out how Soon & Singer are bought and paid for lobbyists.

2011-09-27 23:54:53


Mutual benefit. 

SkS gets its name mentioned on every scientific article cited  -  by any organisation that chooses to link to the feed.

Any organisation that takes such feed from SkS saves itself from having to reinvent the wheel.   And gets to publicise SkS every time it does so.  And SkS authors and moderators handle the scientific questions that arise, thus saving more wheels from being reinvented.

As long as there's no financial connection and no 'formal' linkage, I don't see a problem.    

2011-09-28 00:06:05the content is already free
Dan Friedman

It's the internet; anybody can link to any of our public pages with a web link or their own iphone app.


It could actually be an advantage to have an information sharing relationship with no financial arrangement.  That way the accusation 'you're funded by Gore' is bogus.

2011-09-28 00:14:00
Paul D


I agree with John.

If we set up a data feed first (it would be better if one or two other sites joined before Gores) then it would look like they are just taking advantage of the new facility.

Is this an XML thing??

Would it put a load on the SkS server everytime someone looks at a rebuttal on another site?

2011-09-28 00:19:01


I don't think we need to hide a connection with Gore's organization; as long as we don't take direction or funds from them.

2011-09-28 00:38:25When a golden opportunity comes your way, grab it!
John Hartz
John Hartz

What the heck are wa waiting for? Let's do it!


2011-09-28 00:42:28One caveat
John Hartz
John Hartz

If we link-up with Climate Reality, we darn well better get our act together with respect to updating and polishing the existing set of rebuttal articles.

2011-09-28 01:53:57sweet
Dana Nuccitelli

I think that's awesome.  Definitely agree on not taking any money from him, because the fake skeptics will go crazy if we're taking any money from Gore.  In fact we should probably make a point to say that it's just a data feed with no money changing hands.

As long as it doesn't effect SkS, I say let them use whatever they want.  But you know I'm big on giving credit where credit is due.  If they use our stuff, they should link back here or at least somehow credit SkS.  And personally if they use stuff I've written, I'd like credit too.

But bottom line, the more eyeballs we get on our info, the better.  And this could get us a lot of eyeballs.  As long as it's clear that they're just using our stuff and aren't dictating how SkS operates (though I also wouldn't mind if they give us suggestions about myths to rebut, if they find something we haven't covered), then we should be fine.

2011-09-28 02:14:17
Rob Honeycutt


Nice.  Gore is definitely a polarizing figure.  I think that's actually okay.  Whether people like him or not he has very clearly worked absolutely tirelessly on the issue of climate change for decades now.  

I keep saying this next decade is going to be pivotal in a couple of ways.  I think GW is going to become much more obvious to the general population with more and more crazy weather events.  And the cost of renewable energy is going to start to beat FF energy in a lot of markets.  

SkS should be looking to position itself to be in a perfect position as those changes take place.  Skate to where the puck is going to be.  Gore is polarizing today but I think there is a good chance he's going to be looked at very very differently 5-10 years from now.

So, yes, forge a partnership with Gore's folks.  Take it one step at a time, don't just jump in with all fours.  Don't be shy, make sure that SkS gets full credit for the content.  We want to drive more people to this site as well as just have more people read SkS content on their site.

2011-09-28 02:59:20News Flash!
John Hartz
John Hartz

In Deniersville, most SkS authors are perceived to be polarizing figures.

2011-09-28 03:00:51
Rob Honeycutt


Yup... In Denierville reality is a polarizing topic.  :-)

2011-09-28 03:36:57


JH: I don't think it compares. In the AGW-denying world and in the GOP world generally, Al Gore is the punchline for any number of jokes.

2011-09-28 04:01:51
Rob Honeycutt


More like a punching bag.  I never quite get the obsession AGW deniers have with Gore.

2011-09-28 04:18:16obsession
Dana Nuccitelli

The obsession is pretty straightforward actually.  Fake skeptics view global warming as a political issue.  Al Gore is a politician.  They have a hard time arguing the science for obvious reasons, but by attacking Gore, they can frame it as a political issue, which is in their comfort zone.

Same reason Pielke wouldn't talk about Spencer and Christy's errors, and instead steered the discussion to OHC and such.  It's all about comfort zones and not wanting to face the inconvenient truths.

2011-09-28 04:21:34


I think you need to think about the people you are likely to convert with SkS.  Forget the Wattsians, and forget the choir.  The former are lost, and the latter are already saved.

How do people in the middle see Al Gore?  How do the people leaning towards the denial side see him?  I know a lot of the latter types of people... guys who are in their fifties, doing well enough financially but afraid of losing it all, mostly overwhelmed by life and don't need another headache, and very ready to take an inkling of information from the media and arrogantly dismiss it ("Hah, climate change.   Like I need Al Gore telling me what to do when he couldn't even get elected.")

My own feeling is that Gore has become a caricature.  It's not his falt, but he is the poster child for climate change being unscientific... a politician trying to "sell" science rather than scientists just doing science.

My recommendation would be to let their site have free use, and to let them put "Supplied by Skeptical Science" banners on every thing they do that lifts from SkS, but to keep the references to Gore himself off of the Skeptical Science site.  That way, the flow is one-directional.  You'll get the benefit of eyeballs coming from the Climate Reality site, along with a positive impression of SkS created there, and yet you'll be immune to attack from WUWT and such, because your relationship is seemingly unidirectional.  You are the advisor/supplier, and Climate Reality is the listener/consumer.

If there is any appearance at all that Climate Reality influences Skeptical Science, it will taint the site and make it seem to be a political tool instead of a science venue.  That's the last thing you want to happen (I think).

2011-09-28 04:32:55comment
Robert Way


I'm against the partnership with Gore. Help them out in whatever ways they can but we lose every ounce of credibility in a great few circles if we're seen as being in "cahoots" with gore... think of the moderate republicans who might be swayed by our arguments until they see we're working with Gore.

2011-09-28 04:38:38


I like the idea of offering a feed for the rebuttals that anybody who wants it can utilise. I have one suggestion for those feeds: it could make sense to include a language field where the original rebuttals all have EN for English. This would make it (easily?) possible to scale the feed to also make the translations available worldwide. The only caveat is, that the current numbering of languages should most likely - at least for the feed - be switched to the ISO-language code where you have FR for French, DE for German and so on.

Personally, I think its a great opportunity that Al Gore's folks are interested in using SkS-content. But then, AIT really drove home the issues with climate change for me (and I couldn't care less that he is a politician and not a scientist - he does know this stuff and is a great presenter as far as I'm concerned).

2011-09-28 04:54:20
Rob Painting

Sounds like a great opportunity.

2011-09-28 05:27:57
John Hartz
John Hartz

From the get-go as an SkS author, i've been preaching the need for SkS to enter into strategic partnerhips with like-minded organizations in order to amplify its message. Here's a golden opportunity for SkS to do so. The upsides far outweigh the downsides in my opinion. Al Gore and Climate Relaity have an impact that transcend the borders of the US.

2011-09-28 06:34:13
Paul D


Why don't we investigate partnerships with popular but more neutral outlets??

It would be better than collaborating with a politically controversial character like Gore et al.

Lets face it, we are all fed up with Gore being mentioned in most climate discussions, it is a distraction that we don't want to have to discuss. Often the only option is to dis-own him in order to focus on the science and mitigation issues.

2011-09-28 06:37:19Upside vs downside
John Cook

We can easily inoculate against any downside by making a free-for-all data feed.

The upside is not just more eyeballs. What excites me about this is their plan to make a kind of rapid response system. I've always thought mere passive content publishing is not enough. We need to be proactively getting our info out there. But I simply haven't had the resources to make it a reality. These guys do. So that to me is what this is all about. I can stop stressing about having to code the rapid response system, concentrate on what we do best (content creation) and doing it better. And let these guys with their resources and huge grassroots following get our content out there.

2011-09-28 06:53:28
Rob Honeycutt


John...  I'm very interested in finding out more about what they're doing in terms of a rapid response system.  

2011-09-28 07:48:24


I think we are (nearly) all saying the same thing:

- Feed Gore's organization our information products

- Don't take direction or money from Gore's organization

- Don't get "melded" into them

If we handle this carefully, we get the benefits of association (staffing, resources) without the "tarbaby" aspects of Gore's unfortunate (and unfair) reputation. I think it's a win/win.


As I've said before, we aren't going to make much progress in the real world until we get some kind of social movement going: I think this is going to be our "Vietnam War" for the next 100 years. That means it's going to get political; actually, it already is political, but we don't notice it all the time because the normal guys are winning. If & when we start winning a few rounds, it's going to be seen as disruptive, and as political. We may as well start learning what that's like.


Paul D: I think it's perfectly possible to say that we don't take Gore as a leader (and certainly not as a scientific leader) without having to disown him. Things are likely to look very different in 15 years.


2011-09-28 08:12:10


John: I like 'innoculate the downside'.  Will you be doing a reggae version?


I see benefits to contributing information to a rapid response system.

Beyond the looking glass, people love to use what I would call argumentum ad nuntium - argument directed against the messenger.  They are already doing this to you with their stupid cartoons, etc. and have been doing it to big Al for a long time.


btw, the best response to argumentum ad nuntium is not argumentum ad numptyum.  ;-)

2011-09-28 09:13:25
Glenn Tamblyn


"Al Gore is political poison for a huge portion of the readership IMO. I don't have polling figures to back me up here, but I suspect that there are those who ignore everything Al Gore has to say, but won't ignore the NAS or AGU even if they say the same thing."

I'm not sure I totally agree with Mark here. AG is poison within a certain demographic within the US. But he doesn't generate the same animus outside the US and we perhaps need to differentiate that.

He might alienate a certain percentage of potential readers certainly. However if we can provide a 'feed' to AG, and possibly other players out there, this does not have to be reflected in a visitors experience of SkS. They don't have to really be 'aware' that we are 'feeding' to AG.

The model could look something like this:

SkS generates rebuttal and other content. It is packaged to be somewhat independent of SkS specifically, particularly styling & formatting stuff

We feed this out to various consumers such as AG

SkS still displays this as its local content. This is basically our local packaging of general content for our audience.

So, visitors to SkS can still see our local version, which we still own, philosophically. But we also feed it out to other brands who put it up, apart from this. Only at SkS is the Blog world of comments engaged. But the original post can still have a life outside Sk

2011-11-23 20:21:26Any News?



We haven't heard any more about The Climate Reality Project reposting SkS material. What happened with the data feed? Any chance you you will meet with these guys while in the US? 

2011-11-23 22:34:47Climate Reality Project
John Cook


I created the data feeds for them a few weeks back, heard back from them this week with requested changes to the data feed but haven't had time yet to respond. Will aim to do it tomorrow, will be my last chance before I enter the home stretch leading up to Canada next Monday.

I think I mentioned AGU to them but they're not near SF.