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2012 SkS Weekly Digest #7

Posted on 20 February 2012 by John Hartz

SkS Highlights

Denialgate* captured the rapt attention of people thoughout the world who closely follow climate science news, especially via electonic media. SkS authors posted three investigative articles on the matter.

*Denialgate: revelations about the Heartland Institute's ongoing propaganda war on climate science and climate scientists. (The Heartlnd Institute is an arch-conservative, US "think-tank" located in Chicago, Illinois.) DeSmog Blog broke the story with the posting of Heartland Insider Exposes Institute's Budget and Strategy on Valentine's Day, Feb 14.

Toon of the Week

Climate Scientists

Issue of the Week

Should the SkS Comment Policy be amended to explicitly prohibit the hi-jacking of a comment thread by an individual commentator?

The Week in Review

A complete listing of the articles posted on SkS during the past week.

  • Global Extinction: Gradual Doom as Bad as Abrupt by John Hartz
  • Search For 'Missing Heat' Confirms More Global Warming 'In The Pipeline' by Rob Painting
  • A mishmash of Monckton misrepresentation by John Cook
  • DenialGate - Infographic Illustrating the Heartland Denial Funding Machine by Dana & jg
  • DenialGate Highlights Heartland's Selective NIPCC Science by Dana
  • Climate Insights: a series of bite sized videos on climate science by John Cook
  • Breaking News…The Earth Is Warming…Still! by Glenn Tamblyn
  • Video of Chuck Kutscher debunking climate skeptic arguments by John Cook
  • Tropical Thermostats and Global Warming by Chris Colose
  • Denialgate - Internal Heartland Documents Expose Climate Denial Funding Network by Dana
  • Fritz Vahrenholt - Duped on Climate Change by Dana
  • New research from last week 6/2012 Ari Jokimäki
  • Climate mythbusting at Lane Cove, Sydney on Feb 28 by John Cook
  • 2000 Years of Climate Reconstructed from Pollen by Robert Way
  • Finnish translation of The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism by John Cook
  • Coming Soon

    A list of articles that are in the SkS pipeline. Most of these articles, but not necessarily all, will be posted during the week.

    • Monckton Misrepresents Scientists' Own Work: Part 1 (Dana, Alex C, Tom Curtis) 
    • New research from last week 7/2012 (Ari Jokimäki) 
    • Uncertainty is not the basis for investment (jg) 
    • Monckton Misrepresents Specific Situations: Part 2 (Dana, Alex C, & Tom Curtis) 
    • Satellites find over 500 billion tons of land ice melting worldwide every year, headlines focus on Himalayas (Mark R) 
    • Monckton Misrepresents Reality: Part 3 (ana, Alex C, Tom Curtis)
    • The Independence of Global Warming on Residence Time of CO2 (Dikran Marsupial) 
    • Scafetta's Widget Problems (Dana) 
    • The Certainty Monster vs. the Uncertainty Ewok (Dana)

    SkS in the News

    Dana's Fritz Vahrenholt - Duped on Climate Change was re-posted on PlanetSave and

    SkS Spotlights 

    An Ethical Analysis of the Climate Change Disinformation Campaign is a four-part analysis by Donald A. Brown, Associate Professor, Environmental Ethics, Science, and Law, at Penn State University (USA). 

    The purpose of the series has been to distinguish between responsible scientific skepticism, an approach to climate change science that should be encouraged, and the tactics of the climate change disinformation campaign, strategies deployed to undermine mainstream climate change science that are often deeply ethically offensive.

    This series makes particualry interesting reading in light of the Denialgate affair discussed in the first section of this digest. 

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    Comments 1 to 24:

    1. Hijacking is annoying but just a variation of "off topic". Like "trolling" it is rather subjective. Heavy-handed use would silence debate that should be happening. What would be better would be an easy way for moderation to move an offtopic hijack attempt to a more appropriate thread.
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    2. "Hijacking is annoying but just a variation of "off topic". Like "trolling" it is rather subjective. Heavy-handed use would silence debate that should be happening. " The debate that should be happening is debate about the original post that heads a particular thread. Hijacking is by definition an attempt to end that legitimate debate by changing the subject. Obviously enforcement would be somewhat subjective, but this is true of the entire moderation policy. It's unavoidable. I'd say yes it should be against the comment policy. Enforcement should be similar to the enforcement of other elements of the comment policy, which typically is a warning, followed by comment editing plus warning (if only part of a comment is in violation), and if the offender's persistent enough, deletion of comments in violation.
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    3. Hi-jacking seems to be a subset of the overall comments process on SkS - someone will post something provocative or false, then 5-10 different posters will kindly point out the errors of their way. It would be nice if one person would point out the errors, ask the poster to retract or justify their comments - and have it be enforced that they can't post anywhere else until they either document the claim or retract it - that would, to my mind, be the platonic ideal of holding skeptical commenters accountable. If you mean, by hijack the thread, long back-and-forths as a person works through their particular issue (in a reasonable way) - I view that as fairly healthy, and I suspect if an honest person is confused on something, probably many others are as well, so we all benefit from their process of understanding.
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    4. On the matter of thread hijacking, I concur with dhogaza. Enforce with discretion, after warning, when it becomes obvious that the hijacker is attempting to obscure the original post. Any posts targeted could be moved to a bin, so that they don't go whining that they were censored off the site. On the matter of "Coming soon" pieces, is there still a plan to debunk Plimer's "How to get expelled from school"? It's getting some traction amongst some of my ignorant aquaintances, and having a SkS link to which to refer would be handy.
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    5. HIjacking? Mostly annoying when people don't respond to guidance from moderators or other posters. But there are instances where this is a natural consequence of an on-the-spot education process. Given the nature and purposes of the site, we shouldn't automatically shut down an enquiring, if misguided, mind. Like it or not, it's all down to judicious moderation. I'm happy for earlier intervention on the move-to-another-thread basis. Allows an earlier move to warnings and deletions.
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    6. Thread hijacking takes an initial trigger comment, followed by response comments from both 'sides' of the argument. If nobody bites, there is no hijack. I consider the Monckton thread which prompted this question to be illuminating, especially because it brought a number of clarifying responses which showed the trigger comment to be what it was: an ill-informed opinion contrary to the evidence. If it is convenient to do so, a method of barring further posts from the contrarian until the original issue has been completely dealt with would seem in order, but I take the view that discussion here should be as open as is consistent with remaining on topic. It would take a great deal of misbehaviour on the part of a commenter before I would seek to have their comments removed. I think the current level of moderation suits my taste.
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    7. Sorry, I do see myself as Tom Baker but I would like women to see me that way as well, no disrepect to Jeff Goldblum, he did survive T-Rex and all. Someone exceptional, eccentric and maybe in need of some nurturing as well - 'Come to my arms my Beamish Boy. Oh Frabjious Day, Caloo Calley, he chortled in his Joy'. Lets be honest, once you get past John Pertwee, the Doctor was able to pull the chicks. /endsexism> And really I think the Denialists are thinking more of Mini-Me. Their ego doesn't let them see themselves as anything less than the big partner in the game.
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    8. This might interest SkS as the subject of a Coming Soon article. It’s getting a lot of spin (undeservedly I think) by local climate skeptics that say it favors their side of the argument, though it seems unlikely that it would be so given the authors. Perhaps the skeptic spin is based on sloppy mainstream media reporting about it or misleading headlines. I don’t have access to the article or time now to fully assess it. ____________________________ The Alberta oil sands and climate Neil C. Swart & Andrew J. Weaver Nature Climate Change (2012) doi:10.1038/nclimate1421 Published online 19 February 2012 The claimed economic benefits of exploiting the vast Alberta oil-sand deposits need to be weighed against the need to limit global warming caused by carbon dioxide emissions. The Alberta oil sands and climate Example of an MSM Article: Coal the true climate change bad guy, analysis shows
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    9. My wife LOLed at the beaker part of the cartoon, which I take to mean that's how she see me.
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    10. Again, IMHO, the hijack/troll issues seems to point to a "dungeon" thread for comments... except it doesn't seem easy to move comments between posts. I was on one BB somewhere where the admins had a hack so that selected posters could only post in the dungeon (for a period, anyway).
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    11. I endorse moderation along the lines suggested above. There will be grey areas, and I am happy for the mods to use their discretion. I must say though that I am attracted to AT's suggestion -- that those who post controversial claims should be invited to document or expressly retract/modify their claim, and be in moderation until such time as they do. In addition, they should be required to respond expressly to actual refutation material posted here. A failure to meet that standard would see the post deleted. A special thread could be created for the purpose. That would cut out the endless reiteration of long debunked talking points.
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    12. Sadly these days, I look increasingly like "How my parents see me", I see myself more like "How my friends see me" and I actually am "How I actually am" :o(
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    13. Having done this unrewarding job myself once, I value the work of moderators here. It's subjective, yes, but they do it very well. As someone said above, if people don't bite, there's no hijacking. If comments don't hurt other moderation rules, I think the proper think to do would be just warning people of the hijacking, so that they become aware of it. No extra rule needed, IMO.
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    14. I suppose I have been accused of suffering from something akin to a "deplorable excess of personality", and certainly laughed at the Beaker picture. Judging by the hair, this might be something of a generational gap showing, but who is that in "How I like to see myself"?
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    15. 14 - Tom Baker as Dr. Who
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    16. What I found most striking with the "Toon of the Week" was how well it demonstrated how most people think of climate scientists as white, heterosexual men. Sad...
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    17. 16 - Geologist It should be pointed out that most people here are now well aware that Katharine Hayhoe is female... ... you can tell because a number of the responses to her video where like "hay... hot..."! I guess you're right in your conclusion.
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    18. Hijacking amendment – yes. It is a good policy to keep the discussion relevant, besides it is already the unwritten policy. Written policy and practiced policy should match.
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    19. Hijacking amendment Unfortunately, amending the comments policy might spoil things over at WUWT, and we can't have that, can we? I bet Monckton gave Adam a special badge and allowed him to sit at the front of the class for the week after his marathon bout of avoiding the question yesterday. I doubt Monckton could have done much better, even though he is a master of avoidance and obfuscation. Of course, if Monckton were only a 'Mr' then he would be just another student along with the Adam and the rest and sure as hell would not be prancing all over the place playing at being the climate scientist that he clearly isn’t.
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    20. The answer to hijacking is to behave as Abrahams did with Monckton. A little gentle humor is not a bad spice to add flavor.
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    21. Must it fall to me, an old white male, to remark that not all climate scientists are old white males?
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    22. The cartoon is hilariously bang on! Thanks for that... would be really interesting to try to do that cartoon from a woman's or a non-caucasian's perspective. I should run it past my grad student...
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    23. Hijacking is for loosers.
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    24. "Should the SkS Comment Policy be amended to explicitly prohibit the hi-jacking of a comment thread by an individual commenator?" I don't think any policy change is required. I've missed the context in which this question came up, but I regard it as a plea for formalisation, for bureaucratic rules. Perhaps this question is asked in response to those who complain about their posts being moderated, but this is not a problem that can be addressed by 'fairness' any more than it can be addressed by formalisation. The trolls, contrarians and others whose actions appear deliberate and disruptive promote, as a central philosophy, the idea that they are victims - of science, of the left, of anyone whose world view does not conform to their ideology - hence the propaganda war forced on us by a variety of people in denial. No scientist wanted this war, but now we're in it, I don't think any 'policy' can address the symptoms of this pernicious disease. They will not go away, and nor will their complaints - in fact, the more successful SkS becomes, the more vitriolic and abusive will be the criticism. I believe the only way forward is to remain flexible, eschewing the need for more explicit prohibition through policy as I find SkS already does a good and conscientious job. As others have commented, sometimes the diversion is worthy, and sometimes not. Without applying 'one size fits all' rules that merely restrict the adaptability of the forum, I think that SkS should continue to treat each case on its own merits, treating each post individually without dogma or favouritism.
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