2010-12-21 09:28:26Email Received from Skeptic
Robert Way

I got this in my inbox today at my registered University email. It reads:

Dear Dr. Way,

The recent report by John Cook entitled "The Scientific Guide to Global
Warming Skepticism" lists you among the individuals "who contributed
and commented on this document."

In my opinion, this report has severe shortcomings and/or errors, and I
intend to expose some of such.

Therefore, and before I do so, I would like to ask you to confirm to me
that you have indeed "contributed and commented" on that report, and
that you feel comfortable in being associated with its entire contents.

For information on some of my recent writings, please see:

Best regards,
Klaus Kaiser, Ph.D.

I almost feel like he is saying he will be attacking my credibility actually? Luckily for him i'm not a "Dr." anyways but it does speak of how this guide has the potential to enrage some. I wonder how I should respond?
2010-12-21 09:42:13



Part of being a scientist is being able to "get into it" with people: You have to be able to state and defend your views. If you don't have the courage of your intellectual convictions, you're not a scientist - with or without a PhD.

Say "yes;" or state the sections that you've worked on and feel comfortable about discussing.

2010-12-21 09:55:44A little about Klaus Kaiser
John Cook


To put this in perspective, some info about Kaiser via PlanetClimate.org (I'm not sure if the wiki is public yet but ok to publish here on the forum). He's a chemist living in Canada. He's published a bunch of skeptic articles in Canada Free Press such as CO2 and EPA’s Voodoo Science where he argues that CO2 is natural and vital to life, that CO2 residence time is short, that ocean acidification is "bunk" and that naming CO2 a “dangerous pollutant” is voodoo science.

In Ocean Acidification and the CO2-Propaganda, he suggests Arctic ice is not disappearing, that acidification is no problem and that most of the CO2 in the air is from natural sources, citing a volcano that is emitting lots of CO2. This should give you an indication of the calibre of the man. If this guy is going to come after us, in the words of FDR, I welcome their hatred.

On a practical strategic level, if he were to generate some controversy around the Guide, it would get skeptics reading the guide and being exposed to all the evidence for AGW that many would not have been exposed to before. So I'm hoping he does kick up a stink and that the kerfuffle resounds through the blogosphere.

2010-12-21 09:58:05
Anne-Marie Blackburn
Anne-Marie Blackburn

I agree with Neal, Robert, though I think the tone of that email is poor. Just tell him you look forward to engaging him on the science and let him get on with it. Interesting to see some of the reactions to the Guide.

Edit - John's beaten me to it: he does seem like a typical contrarian. Do we know if anyone else has been contacted?

2010-12-21 09:58:13weird
Dana Nuccitelli

That's weird - I wonder if he contacted other authors too (particularly John), or just you.  I didn't receive anything from him, but I imagine my email would be hard to track down.

I'm with neal - I'd respond by confirming that I contributed, specifying how, and asking him to elaborate on exactly what he thinks is wrong with the Guide.  Ask him for an opportunity to rebut his criticisms.

2010-12-21 10:34:16
Robert Way

I was just reporting on the email I received. I responded back as I should have that I am in full support of John's work and that if he has issues he can bring them up for scientific scrutiny and let people be the judge.

That being said I hope you aren't insinuating that I lack the courage to engage skeptics like him.
2010-12-21 10:45:55



You asked how you should respond.

I gave you my opinion.

That's all.

(And, yes, he is going to attack your credibility: That's why he's asking you if you support "the entire contents" of the report. He's going to make every effort to put you on the spot, personally; and anything in the report is fair game.

However, from what I can tell from the excerpts of his book in his website, there's no evidence that he's a particularly deep thinker.  I don't think there's any reason to handle him any differently from any other blog-commenter.)

2010-12-21 10:55:46Comment
Robert Way

I think your method is the appropriate method of doing this but yet I wonder whether it would be better to let him gather steam so the guide gets seen a bit more?
2010-12-21 11:15:03



I think the only question is whether he's going to direct his response at everyone whose email address he can find, or aim specifically for Robert (which seems unlikely). He will probably launch something from his website, since one of goals is certainly to draw attention to his own recently published book.

I'm sure he will want to have a duel with everyone listed (like a grandmaster playing a dozen games of chess simultaneously). He will quote from his book extensively. Fortunately, you have the resources of the SkS website, which I will bet has better documentation than his book.

Just don't get pressured into buying his book: If he wants you to read it so badly, make him send you a copy.

2010-12-21 11:47:09More developments
John Cook


It's not just Robert, he has emailed others on the list. So far, Scott Mandia, John Abraham and Christian Shorey have reported receiving emails. John sent back a fairly strongly worded but fair response:

I read a number of parts of this report and I found it well written and technically accurate.  While I am not an expert on every part of this report and I won't comment outside my area of expertise, I think Mr Cook has done a great job synthesizing much of the science. 

If you could provide me some background on your open expertise, it would help me judge how seriously to take your comments. Your website does not demonstrate much beyond vague general statements.  Perhaps if you could share some of your complaints with me, I would be in a better position of understanding.  


I'm not exactly sure what his strategy is - I'm guessing he's just throwing out some feelers at the moment and a bit of bullying for good measure. It seems this is the first step before he publishes a rebuttal of the Guide. At least, I hope so. There's been a conspiracy of silence among the denialosphere about the Guide so far - we need a good dummy spit to get more skeptics reading the Guide and learning about all the observational evidence. The main challenge will be responding without giving too much publicity to his book or website.

Robert, you're not the first person to be bullied by skeptics. Just ask Naomi Oreskes or Ben Santer who've both been hit with the worst of it.

Oh and he hasn't emailed me yet. Dana and I are feeling a bit left out :-)

2010-12-21 12:08:48


UPDATE: The quote below was from the other article John cited, not the ocean-acidification article. In the latter, I think his point is equivalent to the fact that seawater is alkaline, so the reduction of pH doesn't actually make it acidic. I think the response would be something along the lines of: i) adding CO2 reduces the pH; and ii) this has unfortunate effects on coral reefs and some molluscs, to the extent that some coral experts expect a die-out of coral reefs by 2050.



I don't think we can get PR for the Guide without generating PR for his website: but the payoff is in the fireworks. 

I think he's trying to size up the combatants: He's not contacting you because he knows enough about you. Dana already said that his email address is hard to find. 

Looking at his ocean-acidification article, I found only one thing that would give me pause:

"There are two main worries about the increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere, as pronounced by the “tax CO2 emissions” camp. The first one is the unproven belief that it creates “climate change”. The second is the belief that it causes “ocean acidification”. The latter for sure is total bunk. The photosynthesis process in oceans converts the CO2 to neutral and basic (the opposite of acidic) materials."

This sounds very wrong, but:

-  He is supposed to be an environmental chemist; and

- I proudly admit to flunking freshman chemistry (deplorable subject!)

So we ought to get our ducks very much in line with regards to the chemistry of carbonic acid and photosynthesis. The rest of the article is pretty easily set straight by reference to measured numbers.


2010-12-21 12:13:32Climate scientist reaction to Klaus
John Cook


The climate scientists are discussing Klaus' email and non-engagement seems to be the general consensus although John Abraham did respond, hoping to draw information out of him:

Seriously, completely ignore him. If you respond, you will (1) open yourself up to gross "cherry-picking" of your answer; (2) guarantee that you'll then get 10 more detailed requests from him; (3) given credibility to someone with none; and (4) be feeding the "trolls" (as my sons tell me over and over: "Do Not Feed the Trolls" - or in internet parlance: DNFTT).

The danger of him quote mining our responses is a legitimate concern.

2010-12-21 12:22:31



I respectfully disagree with the climate scientists.

They are trying to get rid of him; and if that were the goal, brushing it off would be the best approach.

But you are trying to make use of him to promote the Guide: You can only do that by using the fireworks.

If those articles from the FreeP are the best he can do, you can bury him with documentation from SkS: Just keep him on one topic at a time (refuse to get drawn into simultaneous discussions on different topics).

For your purposes, his trollishness is a feature, not a bug.


2010-12-21 12:33:52
Glenn Tamblyn


I haven't seen anything from him either but I would be hard to find as well

To those he has contacted, I would advise responding in support of the guide then let him do his darndest. When he produces something we can evaluate it and decide whether to ignore or not. With the views John describes, it strikes me that any real followers he has will be more hardline wingnuts, not really worth the time. It might be worth considering a major rebuttal against him to show how flaky he is but it should be done under the SkS banner, not individually. And there will be more like him out there. How many react may be a good indication of how well the guide is spreading.

Anyone who's name is on the list should keep us abreast of any more personal attacks being made against them - safety in numbers. And any responses that may be sent back should be on their blogs. Using your email can invite a spam attack.

It will be interesting to see if the major Sceptic sites respond - Monckton, Willis or Anthony over at WUWT.

Hold onto your hats.

2010-12-21 12:47:59
Glenn Tamblyn


I just checked out the articles John linked and his website. Pretty light weight stuff. And the two articles referenced are months old and have only generated one reader response. He seems to be a lightweight

2010-12-21 13:47:28

2010-12-21 14:08:43comment
Robert Way

Dr. Viau mentioned to me he received the email too. He said he's too busy to bother answering nonsense like that. I am in the same sentiment but I responded anyways and said i'm in full support of John's work on this guide and so on... He responded saying okay, can you send me the emails of other scientists who accepted. He must be an idiot if he thinks i'd send him anything.
2010-12-21 14:20:40

Probably just monomaniacal.
2010-12-21 14:36:34"emails of other scientists who accepted"
John Cook


Huh? Does he mean he wants you to hand on a silver platter the emails of the scientists on the credit list? So he can harrass and bully them the same way he harrassed you?

I'm almost glad you responded to him, Robert, it offers more insight into the type of person he is. He's not just an ignorant and offensive skeptic - he's also lazy!

2010-12-21 14:55:03


He might not be that lazy: He's obviously managed to dig up some of the email addresses. But some he can't find.

He probably just doesn't have any idea of how that kind of request would be received.

I met someone like that one time: he wanted my contact information, and finally asked me to also write down on the card "how/where we had met." I was putting down false information anyway (five minutes in his company was enough for a lifetime), but this was the last straw. "You write it down!" and I tossed it at him. 

2010-12-21 15:10:30Trading contact info
John Cook


Reminds me of the climate workshop I went to last week. Was talking to a cognitive scientist who explained how sometimes when he's at conferences and someone shoves a business card at him - then if he meets some other person who requests a business card but he doesn't want to hear from him, he just hands him the business card from the first guy.

Unfortunately when he got to the punchline, I was sipping my coffee and I laughed, spitting coffee all over his notes. I think if I'd asked for his business card after that little faux pas, he would've handed me a fake card for sure.

2010-12-21 15:35:00

Actually, it would probably be OK to give Dana's email address: I think Dana said he wouldn't mind dealing with him.
2010-12-21 16:47:38
Glenn Tamblyn


I disagree about handing out email addresses and responding in a private way. Let him post his claim then maybe rebut him on his blog or SkS

2010-12-21 19:50:54
Rob Painting

The latter for sure is total bunk. The photosynthesis process in oceans converts the CO2 to neutral and basic (the opposite of acidic) materials

Total whackjob. He seems to be suggesting that total photosynthesis in the oceans increases in lock-step with fossil fuel burning. That's a new canard for me.

2010-12-21 21:33:28


My institutional address is quite easy to find and indeed I received the email.

He's not asking for comments but of we "being associated with its entire contents". In a paper or a book, when the author aknowledge the contribution/help by others it does not imply their endorsement of the content in full. Probably his goal is to downplay our support to the guide. In this sense I find John Abraham reply well calibrated but I can understand if others won't reply; who's this guy, afterall, and why he's contacting us?
I wrote a reply but didn't send it yet, I'll give a few more thoughts on if to send it or not. Not being good at writing formal letters, feel free to comment on its tone.

Dear Dr. Kaiser
I can confirm that I commented and contributed to John Cook's Guide. In my understanding of the science reported in the guide, I think that John Cook did a good job in summarizing the relevant scientific topics. In my opinion, it reaches the goal of being a simple but essentially correct guide to some arguments too often used against well known climate science and I also support its dissemination.
Although you're free to comment on the science reported in the guide and on my role during its preparation, I urge you to refrain from any inappropriate use of my name and of our communications which I consider strictly private.

Best regards
Riccardo Reitano

2010-12-21 23:19:49


I don't see any advantage to engaging this guy at all.  He's quite a bit below our level, so any public interaction would tend to promote his own site/writings more than it would promote SkS.  

If I were involved in this, I'd probably just ignore his email.  If you choose to respond, be aware that he's likely to distort and manipulate anything you say, if it will suit his purposes.  The more extensive your responses to him, the more material he has to work with.

Re: the terminology of "ocean acidification", there's a nice little discussion of why it's an appropriate term over here.  (Good to give a little publicity to SkS's "grandchild" in the Woody Guthrie Award Lineage....)



2010-12-22 20:42:58


I think that the only reason to interact with him is if it brings some PR to the Guide.

Best situation: If he wants to have a fight on HIS blog, where our folks can debate on public postings w/o editing. Unless it gets exciting, it doesn't bring him any additional traffic; if it does get exciting, we can keep bringing in references to the Guide and SkS.

I agree that debating in private emails doesn't have any possible advantage for us.

2010-12-22 22:08:18
Glenn Tamblyn



The tone sounds just right

2010-12-24 04:55:52
Mark Richardson

Riccardo did a good job I think.


He looks to be another denial nutter who will use any means necessary to attack science; he's already shown he's willing to misrepresent (or he simply doesn't properly understand) science. Let him try...

If he finds anything major in the guide I'll be surprised. There are a few things where wording is difficult to work, but on the whole it looks like a good document. Let him try, and then let the evidence flatten him.