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A new SkS resource: climate skeptics and their myths

Posted on 18 August 2011 by John Cook

Lately, I've been receiving more emails than usual asking about recent climate myths (or depressingly, confusion about very old climate myths). Often the responses to these myths are already available at Skeptical Science but it seems people are having trouble finding it. So I'm planning to add a number of features making our information more accessible. The first step is a resource of Climate Skeptics. It features a number of prominent climate skeptics - click on any photo and it will show quotes and articles from the skeptic, a list of their climate myths (along with the SkS rebuttals, of course) and all relevant SkS blog posts.

The short URL is http://sks.to/skeptics


Over time, we'll be adding more skeptics. If you'd like to help us build the resource, please contact me.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 106:

  1. While all these guys are dammed due to their opinions and science, it’s sad to see them all lumped together as if they all have the same level of achievement and understanding. For instance placing Salby and Monkton in the same group tends to suggest a lack of insight into the academic and achievement levels of each individual. A review of the publishing history of Salby and Monkton will clarify that. Salby may well be wrong in some issues but has an excellent history of useful work., Monkton however is a complete plonker with no redeeming features. While there are quite a few of these people, are there any sceptics who have published anything reasonable who also may also be included?
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    Response: [JC] Its funny you should mention that. There is an effort to display the number of peer-reviewed papers by each skeptic in a single webpage. The work is still under progress but suffice to say the number zero features frequently.

    I also plan to break up the skeptics into separate groups (including scientists) but the resource need to be bigger. This is just a first step.
  2. #1: On climate science, most of these people do have the same level of achievement and understanding of climate science.

    They've all earned their place on this 'honours board' with ideas ranging from the fanciful to the outright false. I approve of Gore's recent straight-talking speech, and his turn of phrase could be used for all manner of wacky, self-contradictory hypotheses that this crowd have dreamed up. I don't really care if the likes of Salby has some academic baubles in his past, he should have known that the misinformation he promoted was the inconsistent garbage it clearly was. He was out of his field and out of his depth, yet his misinformation contributes to a delay in dealing with the problem. That makes him no better for climate science than Monckton, or colourless, odourless Tony Abbott!

    You're absolutely right about Monckton though...
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  3. Garethman: As far as I can see there is nothing here to suggest any form of ranking of skeptics in any way, it is just a way of navigating to suitable discussions of mistaken ideas that they have promulgated.
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    Response: They're currently ordered alphabetically.
  4. Is that the best we British can do??

    Actually the good news is that there is a big boost in the number of students studying physics in the UK. It's become a 'cool' subject due to 'The Big Bang Theory' comedy series and the 'Brian Cox' effect.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/8708742/A-level-results-maths-and-science-surge-due-to-Brian-Cox-effect.html
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  5. Mind you, Monckton unfortunately packs a punch above his weight and I can only apologise on behalf my fellow Brits, that the US and Australia have to suffer his presence on what appears to be a regular basis.
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  6. "Monckton unfortunately packs a punch above his weight and I can only apologise on behalf my fellow Brits,"
    Monkton is a ready made caricature, he is also a huge embarrassment to many skeptics that there is a tendency in some places to complain that using him is a ruse to make all skeptics look foolish. I think of him as a Terry Prachett character come to life.

    There is a certain hierarchy with the likes of Lindzen at the top with Ridley and Salby not too far behind while the bottom is most crowded.
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  7. This is a great list. I can't wait to see where you go with this and I think it is a great idea. You should add J. Scott Armstrong in there. The marketer who thinks he can discredit global warming science by comparing it to other unrelated scientific studies.
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    Response:

    [dana1981] Armstrong is on our 'unpublished' list, meaning we have him on our radar and some information added, but not enough to make his entry worth making public yet.  We've covered Armstrong previously here and here.

  8. You could also include Vincent Courtillot. His presentation makes the suggestion that the sun might be able to explain observed changes in the global mean temperature anomaly.
    There's more interest in analyzing the work of actual scientists than there is in debunking the likes of Abbott who debunks himself!
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  9. Also McIntyre, Watts, Wegman? Two have failed attempts at fudging the Hockey Stick (and some egregious secret ranking of their data too), one a plagiarised Congress report, and one has a lame attempt at finding errors in the surface station record, quite apart from the promotion of any old rubbish that happens to disagree with the accepted science. Those three have many hits between them.
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    Response:

    [dana1981] Like Armstrong (see comment above), Watts and McIntyre are on our 'unpublished' list.  Hopefully at some point we'll have the time to complete their entries and add them to the public list.  Ditto for adding Wegman eventually.

  10. If I might...
    For me the pictures, let alone other info people have suggested, risk moving this more and more into the "witch hunt" domain.

    I'm happy enough for a page with names to aid navigation, I'm even quite fond of the "Spencer slip ups" type badges - but please, please be careful that SkS doesn't slip from "these are people who [also] do bad science" to "these are bad people"...
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  11. Where's Michael Mann? He of the hockey stick generator and upside down proxy inputs.
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    Response:

    [dana1981] Mann does not purvey climate myths and therefore does not belong on the list.  You would be well served to read some of our entries on the hockey stick.

  12. One of the obvious next steps (which I'm guessing you already have in mind) would be an extension to the 'contradictions' section, to show which skeptics disagree with each other on which issues.

    e.g. I think Spencer and Lindzen both agree that the CO2 rise is anthropogenic and the greenhouse effect is real, Salby disagrees with both of these.

    What I would expect to emerge would be a highly fractured and inconsistent body of knowledge. This can then be contrasted with the level of consistency of the consensus position (while still representing the areas of uncertainty).

    A good graphical representation of this would help: perhaps throw in an equal number of consensus scientists, and for each pairwise comparison tot up the number of points on which they agree and disagree. Then refine everyone represented by a point in a 2d plane with number of points of disagreement as a distance metric. The graphviz tool 'Dot' can do this for you. It's a lot of work though.

    Not sure what would emerge. Are there any skeptics who argue for a high climate sensitivity? Or at least any who don't argue for low sensitivity? So on some issues, the skeptic community might be more clustered.
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    Response:

    [dana1981] You are correct, we have also started a database of "skeptics" debunking "skeptic" myths.

  13. RyanStarr, Michael Mann is not a climate skeptic and the claims that the hockey stick was inaccurate and proxy inputs were upside down are themselves long-debunked myths.
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  14. My! What a diverse group they are! :p
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  15. Where's Pat Michaels?
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    Response:

    [dana1981] On the aforementioned 'unpublished' list, though I got his entry ready for publication last night.  We must have neglected to publish it.  We'll add him to the sks.to/skeptics page shortly.

  16. Roger Pielke?
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  17. CBD are you saying that at "Skeptical Science" we don't exercise scientific skepticism? Or exercise it selectively.

    I'm skeptical of Mann, Gore, and I'm skeptical of that Postma guy. At the real skeptic sites they've already discussed him, questioned his work, they do that, even though he was skeptical of AGW.
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    Response:

    [DB] "At the real skeptic sites they've already discussed him"

    At real skeptical sites, like Skeptical Science, all is viewed through the lense of the science itself, not through ideology nor climastrology (no mythical "cycles").

  18. 17, RyanStarr,

    If you are skeptical of Mann, then you have a lot of reading to do, beginning with all of his actual science publications. You should also have a very firm grasp of what PCA is, how he used (or misused) it, as well as all of the myriad, gross weaknesses in McIntyre's and Wegman's and other's attacks.

    You should also recognize how silly the attacks on him are. They are all focused on one ten year old graph that has been validated and reinforced repeatedly over the intervening years, while all assaults on it have been utter failures. Science has moved on, and anyone who says "Mann! Mann! Hockey-stick" is lost in denial.

    If you're so skeptical, actually look and educate yourself.

    And I know you haven't based on what you said about Mann. That particular case is absolutely cut and dry, and for you to say what you have says you don't know and don't understand, and since all of the information is readily available, that means that you just haven't bothered to look, or to do so with a properly skeptical eye.

    Please get a clue.
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  19. Ryan, actually we DO exercise scientific skepticism here.

    However, I am starting to notice a pattern where you say completely false things and then seem to avoid looking at or responding to any evidence to the contrary cited. If you think that is skepticism then you are doing it wrong.
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  20. 17, RyanStarr,

    Oh, and "discussing" Postma isn't being skeptical, it's being just on this side of rational compared to the (-Snip-). Holding up "discussion" of Postma as a demonstration of true skepticism is a complete joke.
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    Response:

    [DB] Tsk.  Too far.

  21. Steve Milloy of JunkScience (in)fame(y) could use some more visibility and he certainly belongs in the list.
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  22. John, this is such an excellent resource that it could be a site of its own. In fact, I recommend an extension to the smartphone app for this. Anytime one of these figures appears in a public forum and starts their climastrology talk, a questioner could open this up, find that comment and ask them to resond then and there to the scientific rebuttal you have provided.
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    Response: [JC] Dennis, that's an evil suggestion - both way too much work and way too good to ignore!
  23. Heh, Dennis's post made me imagine a potential scene at one of Monckton's lectures;

    Monckton: 'Now, this is a graph from the IPCC showing their projected temperature rise based on CO2 increases.'

    Audience member: 'No it's not. That graph isn't in ANY IPCC report. You created it.'

    Monckton: 'Ok, they didn't make the graph itself, but I developed it entirely based on formulas and values in the IPCC reports.'

    Another audience member: 'No you didn't. You assumed feedback effects were linear and would all be completed within 20 years... both of which contradict IPCC statements.'

    Monckton: 'Put down the damned cell phones and just listen!'

    :]
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    Response:

    [dana1981] We've also got a plan to do a page/series on "skeptic" falsified graphs, like the Monckton IPCC figure you reference.  So many ideas, so little time...

  24. Is it fair to put Richard Muller on there? I know he was been idiotically repeating denialist talking points, but his science has so far been confirmatory of climate change.

    There is a bit of hope for Muller ... he does not seem to have yet totally sacrificed his scientific integrity like some of the others.
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    Response: [JC] I did think about this. Muller is not a skeptic in the sense of being skeptical about manmade global warming. But he has promoted a number of myths like the conflation of "Mike's Nature trick" with "hide the decline" (which are two separate things). A more accurate title for this resource may be "Purveyors of Climate Myths". But well, that just doesn't roll of the tongue, does it?
  25. Addendum: The response to Richard Muller's comment on An Inconvenient Truth refers to it as a book rather than a film. Minor nit.
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  26. Thanks so much for name and shame. Generally, I think it is too late to be nice.

    You are exceedingly polite and civil toward these people - many of whom have received funding and support from carbon energy industries - both directly and indirectly. To me, it appears their scientific ineptitude is a poor cover for their ethical shortcomings.
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  27. It's worth bearing in mind that all these people are listed under the heading "climate skeptics" which may be appropriate for some of them but for most others, being labelled as a skeptic is something of an unwarranted compliment.
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  28. All well and good, indeed very good. BUT, how do we get this into the mainstream media? I have just Googled 'Climate Change' and gave up after page seven, having found no reference to this site. The good news is that when I Googled 'Climate Change Skeptics' this site was the second item on the first page. All I know is that originally I only found this site by accident.

    O.K. the 'Climate Change' search had a lot of government sites, which would get top billing I assume, but there were some of this site's standing. I wonder if there are any marketing people among the sks readership who could advise accordingly. Just a suggestion - how about a sydicated weekly newspaper column that deals with, say, one climate myth a week and put photos of any prominent skeptics who believe in it. It could also offer an advice feature entitled 'Ask Uncle John(?) about your climate change worries.' This could have a link to sks when more depth to the answer is required than there is room for?

    From a personal perspective, I often find that the contributers to this site rely on argot too much. For instance, when perusing the science related to specific myths one finds reference to the PDO (Post Dump Olfaction?) and such like. This site is an excellent reference for anyone concerned about the subject of Climate Change, but I wonder if it would be even better if it put things more in layman's terms.
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  29. 20, DB,

    "Too far"

    In this case, I disagree. Postma is an absolute [-snip-], no better than some of the recent posters on this site with his own version of made up science. Using that as an example of skepticism, as if not buying into every obscenely ridiculous denial argument is a banner to be waved is not, to me, palatable. I thought my choice of words appropriate to the situation (actually, they were an insult to RVIs everywhere).
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  30. 24, JC,

    How about "Climate Mythologists?"
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    Response: [JC] Had a thought after responding to 24 - or another alternative is "Climate Misinformers". Hmm...
  31. CBDunkerson at 01:41 AM on 19 August, 2011
    Ryan, actually we DO exercise scientific skepticism here.


    Really? I note you address climate change scepticism in an assertive and evidence based fashion, But to be honest I’ve never noticed any sceptical publications or ideas being flagged up here. Apologies if I miss the point.
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    Response:

    [DB] "But to be honest I’ve never noticed any sceptical publications or ideas being flagged up here."

    Eh?  You've lost me.

  32. @ Sphaerica

    Oh, I agree, that one's "wackier than a 3-dollar bill" (or your euphemism of choice). But this forum is a lesser place if we start bandying about some of the more colorful and pointed descriptive terms that are commonplace in lesser venues than this. We need to model the behavior we expect of others.

    /point
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  33. Good resource to add, John.
    May I suggest that when you divide it into categories, you include such titles as "Political Idealogues", "Good Scientists Gobe Astray" and of course "Climastrologists"?

    It would be horrible to piant people into the denialist corner who may not be beyond redemption.
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  34. On the topic of these skeptics disagreeing with each other, this post by MediaMatters has emails from Richard Muller and Judith Curry throwing Bastardi under the bus. Muller also explicitly debunks Murry Salby in his email to MediaMatters. Oh yeah, Judith Curry may be worth considering for the roll-call?

    #10 Les - I agree with you, in that it is a very fine line between calling out skeptics for their BS and a witch-hunt. However, unlike witches, these people have earned their right to be on this dunce's list, and the more these people are shown to be spouting garbage, the better.
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  35. "But to be honest I’ve never noticed any sceptical publications or ideas being flagged up here"

    I think CBD means real skepticism, the kind the scientists use, not pseudo-skepticism (ie only skeptic of evidence for AGW, and accepting without any critical evaluation any evidence against the theory). The site seems to exist largely to bunk the pseudo-science with real evidence, because there is so much of junk out there.

    Did you have some peer-reviewed science paper that you think is missing from discussions?
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  36. What I notice is the abundance of grey hair. How sad that these old men, who will be dead when climate change really bites, are obstacles to protecting the world their children and grandchildren will inherit.
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  37. Do we really have to bow to their bullying and call them 'skeptics' instead of 'deniers'? I understand that a very few on the list can be classed as skeptics in the actual scientific definition of the word, but many of them are lunatic fringe deniers, and putting them together with actual skeptics further devalues the term.
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  38. I would suggest a division of these into two groups:

    (a) Skeptics who are merely doing poor science (eg: Roy Spencer, Murray Salby), but who do publish in journals.

    (b) Spin doctors who have never published in any scientific journal.

    You may also like to add in links to funding by coal and oil companies, so called "think tanks", and people like the Koch brothers.

    ps: want to add Willie Soon as well ?
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  39. @DB, actually on the topic of "magical cycles" they've been critically debunked at 'another prominent skeptic site' too. See July 30, 2011 'Riding a Pseudocycle' by WE (and others). Further evidence of the robustness of debate that occurs on that side of the fence.
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  40. RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)
    Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

    Let's stick to the science... I do not like where this is going.
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    Response: [JC] The backbone, the guts of this resource is the same Skeptical Science information - denier myths and the scientific responses. But I'm finding many people seem to be having trouble finding the information on this site so this feature is an alternative way of organising the information, to make it easier for people to find what they're looking for. I'm looking at adding other ways of accessing the information in the not-too-distant future.
  41. This is a great resource. But can I add another thought on the way it can evolve in the future.

    The way I see it the common or garden agw denialist is getting more infrequent these days. Instead, and much more insidious, are those who, grudgingly, accept the science on global warming, but deny the need for any action, the 'we can adapt' crowd.

    Perhaps you could divide the rogue's gallery into these two types.
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  42. Whoops "rogues' gallery"
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  43. What a great rogues gallery! Don't worry about the missing mugs ... a little harumph at not being a first round pick serves them right. The most depressed may be Bjorn Lomborg - he's spent half a lifetime trying to qualify for this kind of grouping.

    Simply a great idea.
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  44. guinganbresil @40, prominent members of the "rogues gallery" above have frequently, and justifiably accused climate scientists of fraud. They have held up individual scientist by name for ridicule and calumny. On one occasion they published the address of the office of a scientist known to be receiving death threats, complete with a convenient picture pointing out the appropriate office window. They have called climate scientists conspirators, communists and (because consistency has never been their strong point) Nazis. One of them on a recent tour of Australia called for them to be seized, prosecuted and jailed; a call that was not an empty threat with one climate scientists under constant harassment by a State Attorney General, while a wild life scientist is being persecuted by Federal authorities for no other reason, so far as can be determined, than that he suggested that retreating sea ice might result in more frequent drowning of Polar Bears.

    And in the face of all this, you think Skeptical Science has personalized this.

    Quite frankly, your rule 12 looks like the play book of the denier community. And you have the gall to insist that not only should deniers be able to libel climate scientists and launch vicious attacks against climate scientists, but they should also have the advantage of effective immunity to any challenge by keeping the spotlight very carefully of them.
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  45. garethman at 08:16 AM on 19 August, 2011
    CBDunkerson at 01:41 AM on 19 August, 2011
    Ryan, actually we DO exercise scientific skepticism here.


    Really? I note you address climate change scepticism in an assertive and evidence based fashion, But to be honest I’ve never noticed any sceptical publications or ideas being flagged up here. Apologies if I miss the point.
    Response:
    [DB] "But to be honest I’ve never noticed any sceptical publications or ideas being flagged up here."

    Eh? You've lost me.


    What I mean is that if we take skeptic proposals to be something that opposes the currently accepted viewpoint on climate change, it appears that this site uses scientific evidence and methodology to debunk such claims, but I have not noticed you posting skeptic material with the comment that “this is interesting, it may be right” I know it’s not your role to do that, and in addition amongst the masses of material on this site, I may have missed it, but that essentially is my point.
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  46. I was also wondering if Muller should be on the list??
    I am not up to date with his thinking, but aren't some of his skeptic comments been superseded recently, or is he still plying them?
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  47. Garethman, there is frequent discussion on this site of studies which question prevailing ideas on climate change. One recent example is the study which suggests there is a 50% chance that Arctic sea ice extent could expand over the next decade (but will certainly show a declining trend over the next 20 years). This differs from other recent findings which suggest that the ice loss is accelerating. It is thus a TRUE skeptic presentation. They describe their methodology and have published it in a peer reviewed journal for further analysis. Similarly, studies of Greenland ice mass loss have come to different conclusions which have been discussed here.

    See, the thing that most 'skeptics' don't seem to understand is that REAL skeptics are PART of the climate science community. There are different views of how data should be interpreted, which analysis methods yield the most accurate results, and so forth. The sort of rigorous ongoing debate with detailed research and explanation of methodologies which characterizes actual science. As opposed to, 'some guy with a blog says that photons can only travel in packs - so therefor global warming is a lie'. We discuss those too, but just to debunk them.
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  48. Tim Ball?
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  49. Tom Curtis - In your first sentence there, did you intend "justifiably", or was that a typo?
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  50. Definitely a typo. It should by "unjustifiably" as you have no doubt surmised.
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