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How people are using the Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism

Posted on 14 May 2011 by John Cook

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute have invited ExxonMobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson to be their Commencement speaker for the Class of 2011. Considering Exxon’s disinformation campaign on climate science, this choice of speaker didn't sit well with many of the students and faculty. Consequently, the Students for a Just and Stable Future have organised a Counterpoint Commencement later today with Richard Heinberg speaking. The reason I'm bringing this up here is because as part of the event, they'll be handing out free copies of The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism.

This got me thinking about various comments, reports and reviews about The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism that I've received since we launched it last December. The Guide has been downloaded around 600,000 times from the Skeptical Science website (it's also hosted on numerous other sites but I don't have stats for those sites). It's been translated into 10 languages (with a few others on the way - apologies to the translators, I'm getting to it as soon as I can)! So here are a few anecdotes, requests and reviews I've received on how the Guide is being used or received:

The Alliance of Climate Education have promoted the Guide to their network of teachers:

We at ACE would like to post your resource on our Teacher Resources section of our website and write about it in our next teacher newsletter. 

We have presented to approximately 3,000 teachers nationwide, and have approximately 10,000 teachers on our radar for outreach.

Matthew Lappé | Program Officer
Alliance for Climate Education

Janine Kitson published a review of the Guide in Education, a journal by the NSW Teachers Federation:

"This is an important booklet for teachers. It explains and challenges climate deniers. John Cook, an Australian physicist, wrote it for American science teachers to debunk sceptics' arguments in an easy and rational manner. It explains how sceptics cherry pick scientific papers and thus undermine some aspects of climate change. It is also a useful reference for Australian teachers involved in teaching the science of climate change."

The German museum Klimahaus Bremerhaven have used the Guide to inform their tour guides:

I am member of the science division of a big exhibition on the world's climate and climate change (Klimahaus Bremerhaven). We opened last year in late June and we already had more than 1.2 million visitors. Our aim is to make people aware of climate change and tell them what they can do personally to reduce their carbon footprint.

I already distributed your guide to our tour guides. My vision would be to provide it for our visitors as well

Michael Theusner

The website Aquariums and Climate posted the Guide on their website:

I manage a website Aquariums and Climate focused on helping informal educators at aquariums, zoos, and science research centers communicate climate change to their guests and colleagues. I would like to post your "The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism" on the site, and use the report's front cover as an image.

Scott MacKenzie

The Association for Science Teacher Education have shared the Guide with their network of teachers:

Thanks so much for sharing this with me.  This is an excellent publication.

I'll be sure to share this with others. We have an active EE forum at ASTE (Association for Science Teacher Education) who will be quite interested in reading your publication and sharing it with other educators.

As discussed in the opening paragraph above, the WPI chapter of 'Students for a Just and Stable Future will distribute the Guide at their Counterpoint Commencement. They have also used the Guide for incoming members:

We are the WPI chapter of 'Students for a Just and Stable Future'. We hand out printed copies of The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism to incoming member who need a quick primer on the science.

We are organizing the 'Counterpoint Speaker Against Exxon' event, whose website is We are thinking of handing out copies of your book to visiting parents during commencement.

Transition Towns posted the Guide on their website

The Rural Committee Assistance Corporation used the Carbon Cycle graphic from Page 2 of the Guide in their brochure Why Conserve Water and Energy?

I'd be interested in hearing other ways the Guide has been useful to people - please share your stories here or email me directly.

UPDATE 19 Oct: Feedback from Dana Haine at the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute for the Environment:

“The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism” is a great resource that I have used with students and teachers.  One thing I did with high school students this past summer was to divide them into groups and each group had to study their assigned “fingerprint” and come up with a 2-3 minute skit to teach the rest of the group about their fingerprint.  It went really well and they enjoyed the creativity of the activity.

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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. This is a wonderful work, John! Kuddos to you!
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  2. This is the only resource I've so far found which neatly encapsulates the case for AGW. It is a great guide to the big picture and cites plenty of sources so that one can make investigations in further depth and detail. I won't travel without a copy of it now.
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  3. John, It is just awesome what you have achieved in the last year.
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  4. John, Thanks for all your hard work and for the scientists who collaborated with the project. However, when I was reading it, I spotted on page number 6:
    ...levels unseen for at last 2 million years[14].
    when I looked at the endnote it was a reference to Tripati (2009). I had remembered a figure of 15 million years. Since I don't have a copy, I checked SKS to see whether my memory was playing-up. When I looked at
    .... a level unseen for at least 15 million years (Tripati 2009).
    I believe that something seems to have gone wrong.
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  5. haven't yet congratulated you John on a really dogged effort over the years to rachet up the scope of your contribution to the promotion of clear thinking on climate sience. Truly from little acorns...!
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  6. ScaredAmeoba@4 The Tripati paper is quite credible but should be treated as preliminary at this time. The "at least 2 million years" line is probably overly conservative, but it's an appropriate figure to use until there is independent confirmation of the Tripati results... Skepticalscience is kind of like the IPCC -- it's a conservative alarmist organization that tends to understate the evidence out of an abundance of scientific prudence. And that's what makes these alarmists so dangerous. They very cleverly understate their cases so that skeptics will have nothing to attack -- it's all part of a very clever plan to smear the skeptics.
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  7. caerbannog @ 6, Thanks for your reply, I accept what you say about SKS being conservative and not alarmist. That's what I like about SKS, RC and a few other sites. I appreciate that all science is provisional and only becomes gradually established by being tested through further research. If it survives extensive testing and confirmation, especially through multiple independent means it eventually can be considered fairly reliable - unless and until a paradigm shift occurs However, that doesn't explain why SKS is inconsistent about about what this particular paper means about exactly the same subject. I'm puzzled, that's all.
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