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Watts Interview – Denial and Reality Mix like Oil and Water

Posted on 14 March 2013 by dana1981

A website called Oil Price recently conducted an interview with climate contrarian Anthony Watts.  In the interview, Watts tries to portray himself as the reasonable skeptic in the middle of the climate 'debate'.  Watts claims that he's a "lukewarmer" (a term which frankly just refers to people who ignore inconvenient evidence), trying to position himself between the denialists and the climate scientists.

However, as Richard Alley has explained, in reality climate scientists are the reasonable skeptics in the middle, with denialists at one extreme and doomsayers at the other.  The sheer number of myths Watts manages to jam in his Oil Price interview confirms Alley's view.  In fact, the interview offers us a case study in the tactics climate denialists use to misinform the public.

Denial Strategy #1: Self-Contradictory Arguments are Welcome

The first two interview answers reveal one of the most common flaws in climate contrarian arguments: self-contradictions.  First Watts (wrongly) suggests that global warming 'proponents' expect the warming to happen in a steady, linear fashion, but then a few moments later admits that the climate is much more complex than that (which, believe it or not, climate scientists realize).

watts vs. watts

Image created by John Cook

In reality, climate scientists are well aware that a number of different factors influence short-term global surface temperatures.  The climate system is noisy, and this is reflected in climate model temperature projections, as illustrated in this simple animation made by Ed Hawkins.

hawkins gif

Denial Strategy #2: Rewriting History

In the same quote, Watts has asserted that 'proponents' switched from using the term "global warming" to "climate change" because it "can be liberally applied to just about anything observable in the atmosphere."

In reality, the term "climate change" has been used for decades, including in Gilbert Plass' seminal 1956 study 'The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climatic Change'.  A Google Scholar search reveals that the term 'climate change' was in use before the term 'global warming', and has always been the more commonly-used term in scientific literature.  There is also an organization you may have heard of called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, formed in 1988.

In fact, perhaps the only individual to actually advocate changing the term from 'global warming' to 'climate change' was Republican political strategist Frank Luntz in a controversial memo advising conservative politicians on communicating about the environment:

It’s time for us to start talking about “climate change” instead of global warming and “conservation” instead of preservation.

Climate change” is less frightening than “global warming”. As one focus group participant noted, climate change “sounds like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.” While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.

As usual, Watts has got the facts completely backwards and is trying to rewrite history.

Denial Strategy #3: Damage Control by Misrepresenting Data

A new study published in Science by Marcott et al. (2013) has effectively extended the so-called 'hockey stick' graph and found that current temperatures are higher than they've been for 75% of the past 11,500 years, and the current rate of warming is faster than at any point during that timeframe.


This is a very inconvenient result for climate contrarians, who have made attacking the 'hockey stick' one of their prime objectives.  This is evident from the six separate posts on Watts' blog (to date) desperately trying (and failing) to find a fundamental flaw in the results of Marcott et al.  Watts rehashes one of those attempts in his interview:

"the climate of the past has been warmer than today as well as colder as indicated by ice core isotope records."

The link goes to a plot of temperatures not for the whole planet or northern hemisphere, but in one isolated location – central Greenland – which conveniently ends over 150 years ago.  Watts' x-axis is incorrectly labeled 'Years Before Present (2000 AD)'; in reality, "Present" in this Greenland ice core data is 1950, and the last data point is 95 years before that, in 1855.  Thus Watts' graph leaves out about 1.5°C of Greenland warming over the past 158 years. 

Watts' Graph:


Same data including the past 150 years (Click the image for a larger version):


Watts was also aware of this error, because I notified him of it in a comment on his blog post.  However, either he or his moderators deleted the comment.

Denial Strategy #4: Exaggerate Uncertainty

Inflating uncertainty is a common tactic amongst climate contrarians, and Watts tries this strategy in his interview.

"Predicting an outcome of a chaotic system over the long term is a very, very big task, one that we’ve really only scratched the surface of."

In reality, making long-term climate projections is easier than short-term projections, which are complicated by the noise in the system.  Climate model projections have also been pretty darn accurate so far.

It's also important to note that uncertainty is not our friend.  More uncertainty means that the consequences of climate change may not be as bad as we expect, and it also means they may be worse.  The only way to argue for climate inaction is if we have certainty that the consequences of climate change will be small.  As Watts has admitted, we do not have that certainty, and in fact the body of scientific evidence strongly indicates the consequences of climate change will be bad.

Denial Strategy #5: Peddling Blog "Science"

Watts also peddles the myth that the surface temperature record is unreliable, thus arguing that human-caused global warming is smaller than climate scientists believe.

"my recent study (preliminary) shows that not only is the deployment of weather stations faulty in siting them, but that the adjustments designed to solve those issues actually make the problem worse ... the trend from the compliant weather stations that don’t have heat sink effects--can be attributed to CO2. That value appears to be half of what NOAA claims."

The "preliminary" paper in question has not even been submitted to a journal, let alone been subjected to the peer-review process, and contains several fundamental flaws which completely undermine the conclusions that Watts asserts in this quote.

In a previous interview, Watts criticized Richard Muller of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature team for discussing his project results before they had passed peer-review:

"Unfortunately he has not succeeded in terms of how science views, you know, a successful inquiry. His papers have not passed peer review."

Perhaps that Anthony Watts should have a talk with this Anthony Watts.

Denial Strategy #6: Downplay Climate Impacts

Watts somehow manages to downplay the intensity of Hurricane Sandy, which was the second-most energetic hurricane on record, with the second-largest property damage cost among Atlantic hurricanes at about $75 billion.

"The idea that Hurricane Sandy, a minor class 1 storm, was somehow connected to CO2 driven “climate change” is ludicrous"

If he ever visits New Jersey or New York, we would advise Watts not to refer to Hurricane Sandy as "a minor storm."

Human-caused global warming also indisputably amplified the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.  Higher sea levels mean larger storm surges, warmer oceans mean stronger hurricanes, and more moisture in the atmosphere means more rainfall and thus more flooding.

To deny that CO2 amplified the impacts of Hurricane Sandy is ludicrous.  And as Kevin Trenberth has discussed, all weather now occurs in a climate that humans have altered.

"it is important to recognize that we have a “new normal,” whereby the environment in which all storms form is simply different than it was just a few decades ago.  Global climate change has contributed to the higher sea surface and sub-surface ocean temperatures, a warmer and moister atmosphere above the ocean, higher water levels around the globe, and perhaps more precipitation in storms."

Denial Strategy #7: Misrepresent Successful Climate Predictions

Climate contrarians love to claim that climate predictions have failed.

"catastrophic predictions of the future just haven’t held up when you look at the observed data compared to the early predictions."

This particular quote is rather bizarre, because climate scientists and models have not predicted catastrophic effects would occur by 2013.  They have predicted that the planet would warm, ice would melt, sea levels would rise, the atmosphere would hold more moisture, and a whole slew of other changes which have indeed occurred.  In fact, climate scientists have under-predicted many key climate changes.

If you want to see some bad predictions, just look at some made by Watts and other climate contrarians.  They have been far less accurate than those made by climate scientists.

Predictions Comparison

Denial Strategy #8: Misrepresent Basic Economics

Ultimately Watts admits his contrarian motivation.

"many of the “solutions” that have been proposed are to increase taxes on energy"

In reality, the proposed solutions in question put a price on carbon, not energy.  There are plenty of low-carbon energy sources which would not be impacted by a carbon price. 

The fact that the cost of the damage caused by carbon emissions via climate change is not reflected in their price is a failure of the free market.  There is a high cost associated with this damage, but if that cost is not reflected in the prices of the products causing those greenhouse gas emissions, consumers can't factor the cost into their purchasing decisions.  This is economics 101.  Failing to put a price on carbon emissions is effectively a massive subsidy; anybody who supports a free market should support pricing those emissions.

Denial Strategy #9: Misrepresent Climate Solutions

Of course Watts includes the obligatory disparaging of renewable energy.

"Wind and solar require fossil fuel backups to manage their inconsistent energy production, which changes with the whims of weather, so they really aren’t making much of a dent."

When solar energy is meeting up to 50% of Germany's electricity demand, does that count as 'not making much of a dent'?

In reality there are several ways renewable energy can supply consistent energy production without necessarily needing fossil fuel backup.  And whenever the wind is blowing and/or the sun is shining, renewables are significantly reducing our fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Denial Strategy #10: Cherrypick the Noise

Finally, Watts completes the interview by once again cherrypicking the noise in the data.

"Given that CO2 has a logarithmic, not linear effect in returning a portion of outbound LWIR energy to Earth’s surface, slowing the transfer to the top of the atmosphere, this suggests that a crisis of temperature from a doubling of CO2 is not likely. This low sensitivity near saturation is supported by the lack of observed warming at the surface for more than a decade."

This argument is just very, very wrong.  There was a rapid warming of surface air temperatures in the 1990s, and a slower surface warming in the 2000s.  Does Watts really think that the greenhouse effect suddenly became saturated overnight?

In reality there was a preponderance of El Niño events in the 1990s and a preponderance of La Niña events since 2000.  The former cause short-term surface warming, the latter cooling.  If we just look at the surface warming trend for El Niño years, for La Niña years, and for neutral years, in each case the trend is very consistent.

ENSO temps

More importantly, only about 2% of global warming goes into heating the atmosphere.  About 90% of global warming goes into heating the oceans, and when we account for all of the data, it's clear that global warming continues unabated.  Only considering the convenient bit of data is just another cherrypick.

Fig 1

True Skeptics Consider all the Data

The lone constructive result of this Oil Price interview is that it has provided us with an excellent case study in the difference between skeptic climate scientists and extreme climate denialists.  Real skeptics consider all the data, while denialists cherrypick and misrepresent data, rewrite history, and give more weight to blog 'science' than peer-reviewed science, all because they oppose the solutions to human-caused global warming.

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 108:

  1. "And yet, as might be expected, Dr. Marcott chose to build upon his previous work and to take it in a new direction, one relevant to a major issue of the day, anthropogenic climate change."

    Anthony Watts did the same for the US temperature record, building upon the work of Fall et al (he was a co-author) when drawing up his unpublished effort on station exposure. Both papers give a pie chart on percentage of stations with different classification. They are different from each other.

    Should we now imply that A Watts has done something questionnable by 'altering' the latter graph?

    No - the papers have a different focus (and methods). Same with Marcott. Honest participants would take the trouble to find out why there are differences, and not just make implication with 'questions' they are not interested in answering for themselves.

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  2. barry @51, the paper does not have a different focus from Chapter 4 of the thesis; and nor does it, except for minor modifications, have different methods.  Further, pointing out that it has different methods (minor as the changes are) does not answer the question as to which difference in the methods resulted in the changes in the data presented in otherwise equivalent graphs.  Nor is it clear from the description of the methods in the paper and thesis in what the difference lies.

    While I agree completely with your final sentence, the issued raised in bad faith by McIntyre and Watts could also be raised in good faith.  Merely pointing out that McIntyre and Watts do not ask the questions in good faith does not show the questions do not need an answer.

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  3. 52,

    Tom, the paper does have a different focus from Chapter 4 of the thesis, because Chapter 4 of the thesis was preliminary material in support of 3 distinct and separate goals of the thesis, but with no other intent of its own, while the paper which grew from and builds upon Chapter 4 has a purpose in and of itself.  The distinction is critical to the discussion.  The distinction is, in fact, the crux of the argument.

    When Chapter 4 consisted of a reconstruction in support of questions concerning paleo issues several thousands of years ago, the only relevant aspect of modern temperatures within Chapter 4 was some overlap with more recent proxies so as to calibrate and validate the temperature record extending further back.

    When Chapter 4 grew into a paper intended explicitly to comment on the variability of climate for the past ten thousand years, as compared with recent climate change, then the issue of more recent temperature change became relevant and was included.

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  4. Dana @38  I didn't criticise the post, unless saying "I was rather surprised"  is criticism which I don't think it is but you apparently do.  Fair enough, we differ on the semantics. As for others who have taken me to task re the Figures in the PhD and Science papers, at Clmate Audit a comparison has been made of the later sections of the figures in question which suggest Sphaerica @37 may (note I say may not is) be somewhat mistaken in his comments as to why the Figures differ.  The comparisons made by Steve McIntyre (who is a competent statistician) show both Figures do cover the periods 1961-1990.  Perhaps he is mistaken however and Sphaerica is not althogh Tom Curtis @ 47 suggests he, Sphaerica, may be.  I would not, of course, presume to comment on what the outcome of this attention to the Marcott Science paper will be but the saga of the Joelle Gergis paper perhaps could be borne in mind when commenting, particularly when commenting on Steve McIntyre

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  5. Sphaerica @53, looking closely at the two figures, there is only two methods common between the two, ie, the "Standard" method (Arithmetic mean of the 73 proxies) and the RegEM method.  In both graphs, the "Standard" reconstruction is extended through to 1950, but not further.  However, in the Thesis, the value of the "Standard" reconstruction at its termination (1950) is -0.4 C; whereas in the Science article it is nearly +0.3 C.  In the thesis, the terminal value for the RegEM method is 0.0 C, whereas in the Science paper it is about 0.05 C.

    Focussing on the difference in the Standard (Arithmetic mean) method,

    1)  The difference betwen the two is not due to a different terminal point, as both terminate in 1950.

    2)  It is not due to employment of a different method, as an arithmetic mean is well defined.

    3)  No difference of purpose can make a difference in the result of the algorithm.

    A difference of 0.7 C degrees in the same terminal position using the same method is something that requires explanation.  That explanation is likely to be in the form of an enhanced proxy in the Science paper due to updated proxy data, more rigorous interpolation of data, or infilling by some other method.

    If the two graphs had different terminal dates, your point would have merit.  It may even have merit in explaining why greater effort was taken to ensure as many proxies as possible extended to 1950 - but it does not explain how the later was accomplished and hence does not explain the difference. 

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  6. Ray @54, the graphs extend to approximately 2000 AD in both cases, but the Marcott reconstructions only extend to 1950, ie, 0 BP (by standard convention).  This can clearly be seen in Fig 1A from the science article, where the Mann 2008 EIV reconstruction is extended well past the Marcott reconstruction. 

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  7. Tom, you keep completely missing the rather simple point, and in so doing you are giving fuel to Ray's confusion.

    Chapter 4 was written as supporting material for a thesis, which has a stated goal (already covered) and an implicit, unstated goal ("earn my Ph.D.").

    The Science paper was written, based on previous work begun for the Ph.D., as an end in and of itself.

    There is no suprise at all that there are differences.  If you or Watts or McIntyre have issues with the methods used in the Science paper, then address them.  But if your only focus is to point out that Chapter 4 was different from or less thorough than the Science paper, then you are simply wasting everybody's time and confusing everyone, because it is no surprise.

    If you have issues with the Science paper then state them.  Any similarities to or differences from Chapter 4 are irrelevant.

    Let's imagine that you were discussing sea level rise on an SkS comment thread, and in one comment you made a particularly good argument concerning CO2 levels.  Let's say you liked that comment so much that you expanded on it, corrected some mistakes you made, and published it as a blog post.

    Would it then be fair for deniers to dig up your original comment, and to complain that the original comment and the resulting post had differences?

    Why is this so difficult?

    And why do you insist on giving fodder for Ray to promulgate Watts' and McIntyre's idiocy?

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  8. 54, Ray,

    I don't know what you're talking about because I didn't really give much reason as to why the two would differ.  My only comment was that they were produced for different purposes with different degrees of attention, even if one is based on the other.  To compare the two is like claiming that the Cistine Chappel is a failure as art because Michelangelo's original sketches weren't as good.  [And no, I'm not comparing Marcott's work to Michelangelo's, it's just a useful analogy.]

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  9. Tom,Of course one can ask the questions. I think Sphaerica may have been a little too tied to Watts' bad faith when saying it was not legitimate to ask questions about differences.

    Marcott's email address is in the 2013 paper. Put the question to him. You seem interested enough.

    No doubt you've already checked out the supplementary material.

    Commenters at WUWT are saying that discrepancies should have been explained in the subsequent paper. It's this kind of attitude, which is prevalent, that annoys and can make anyone frustrated.

    If you get some answers, post them here.

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  10. "And has McIntyre or Watts actually asked Marcott about the differences (instead of quite publicly insinuating that Marcott is guilty of some sort of fraud)?"

    McIntyre has communicated with Marcott:

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  11. Sphaerica @57  As the whole article about which these posts are being written is all about Anthony Watts it seems strange to read you think "I'm promulgating "Watts' idiocy"  as my comments on Anthony Watts were only a couple of sentences.  I merely mentioned he had posted figures from Narcott's PhD Figures as well as those from the Science paper.  I really can't see what is idiotic about Watts doing that.  And why is Tom Curtis insisting "on giving fodder...."?  He appears to be making valid points about the two figures in question.  That you may not like those comments is hardly reason to attack him for doing so.  With regard to Steve McIntytre, he does not peddle idiocy.    Incidentally it's Sistine Chapel

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    Moderator Response: [JH] The purpose of discussion threads is to allow notification and correction of errors in the article, and to permit clarification of related points. Though we believe the only genuine debate on the science of global warming is that which occurs in the scientific literature, we welcome genuine discussion as both an aid to understanding and a means of correcting our inadvertent errors. To facilitate genuine discussion, we have a zero tolerance approach to trolling and sloganeering.
  12. Ray,

    1.  You're not fooling anyone.  Look up "concern troll."

    2.  Tom's points are irrelevant.  Comparing Chapter 4 with the current paper is simply a foolish distraction, which works for people who want to see controversy where there is none, and who would rather focus on such trivial "controversy" that the facts of the science.

    3.  Steve McIntyre has spent a decade picking on a single graph and proxy study from 1999 that make up a mere fraction of climate science, and have been reinforced ten fold and multiple ways since then.  In so doing he has accomplished zero, except to entertain deniers who want to see value in his "labors."  You can worship your denial heroes all you want, but Steve McIntyre is going to be a sad, comical footnote when the history of climate change is finally written.

    4.  It's "Steve McIntyre", not "Steve McIntytre" (see, I can nit-pick nonsense, too).

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  13. Incidentally, that's "Marcott" -- not "Narcott."  

    Ray, you're not serious with this whole McIntyre defense thing, surely.  McIntyre's reason for attacking the change in graphs is as clear as the methodologies of Marcott's thesis and Marcott et al. (2013).  It might be interesting to know the reason for the difference, but the difference is not worth freaking out over, and McIntyre's response qualifies as "freaking out" (the equivalent of stopping a group hike to point out a normal anthill).  As you say, though: he's not an idiot.  Why the reaction, then?  And why post his thinly-veiled accusation of dishonesty before receiving and sharing the Marcott response?  Hardly good auditor behavior.  Let's ask the question of purpose a year from now, when I get people in the mainstream telling me that Marcott et al. (2013) is a fraud (link to CA). McIntyre is no idiot. He knows his audience.

    And why do you keep mentioning Gergis?  If Watts had to pull every post that had its methodology revealed to be "fatally flawed," the blog would be empty.

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  14. Classic!  Ray, go to Climate Reality's FB page and look at the most recent comment from "Jack Schit" under the "Climate Myth #10" post.  It was posted 15 minutes prior to this comment.  I'll copy it here anyway:

    "So yet another Hockey Schtick has been shown to be a Fraud. Is it not time to admit that current Global Temperatures are not "unprecedented" once and for all? Then perhaps a mature discussion could take place on real climate drivers."

    As I said, McIntyre knows his audience.

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  15. DSL,

    The success of the tactic is so sadly predictable, even when only promoted with innocent questions like "I wonder why the difference" (Watts) or "Are there any explanations for these discrepancies of which you are aware?" (Ray).

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  16. Thanks for a considered responase DSL.. I mention Gergis as there are similarities between McIntyre's analysis of her paper and Marcott's paper.  You say the difference between the two figures is inconsequential but the uptick at the end of the Science paper is what has generated the interest.  Consequently it is receiving attention form those who have the expertise to assess the published results.   (-snip-).  If those posting here and on "denier" sites, could leave their comfort zones to discuss points of science without rancour, as indeed you have done, this would significantly enhance the discuaaion of climate change.  

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    Moderator Response: [DB] Off-topic/inflammatory tone snipped.

    Denial Strategy #3: Damage Control by Misrepresenting Data

    When one chooses to attack others perhaps it might make sense to bother to get your own facts correct Dana.

    First - you attack what you claim as "Watts Graph" ... which you know full well was not Watt's at all. You had to copy and paste the URL here and in doing so would have clearly seen it was not Watt's at all:

    It is clearly one of Easterbrooks graphics, which would make perfect sense, as it was an article by Don Easterbrook.  And the next graphic you show is clearly identified as Easterbrooks - not Watt's - in the inline comment in the graph and the URL. 

    Then you attack the accuracy, not of the data, but of a legend on the graphic. There are multiple versions of this graphic available on the internet. Many have the same (2000 AD) legend.  It is not unique to Easterbrook. And there is a good reason for it. 

    You claim that 2000 AD is not the correct "present" date - that the data only goes to 1950. Yet you offer only another page at SKS as proof. When we go to that page here we see two more graphs from Easterbrook - adding more evidence yet you knew the source was not Watts.

    On that SKS page we also find a NOAA graphic showing the R.B. Alley 2000 GISP 2.

    Nope, no legend for what the "present" date is there either - even on the NOAA graphic you use to allegedly support your claims. You post a link below it to the NOAA FTP data for Alley 2000.  My ftp is down, but a review of my archived copy shows - nope, zero mention of the "present" date there either.  The only reference is "PERIOD OF RECORD: 49 KYrBP - present."

    We must accept your statement you are correct. Despite your failure to provide evidence that supports your claim. Doesn't mean you're wrong - but does mean you have failed to prove you are right.

    (-snip-), lets go direct to the source - to NOAA's GISP 2 Paleo page for Alley 2000 and see what they say.  

    Alley, R.B. 2000. The Younger Dryas cold interval as viewed from central Greenland.   Start Year: -107175 AD   End Year: 2000 AD


    I'm well informed about this issue as I had the same question long ago when I first started looking at Alley. I went to verify what "current" was and had to dig very deep.

    Now I just happen to know you are correct. (-snip-)."

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] As an FYI, this site uses a Comments Policy very similar to that at Shaping Tomorrow's World. A policy you found onerus and difficult to live up to. As a suggestion: adherence to the Comments Policy is a mandatory condition of participation in this venue. Said participation is thus an earned right, not an entitlement. A right that can and will be rescinded should individuals here place themselves above that mandatory condition of participation.

    Multiple inflammatory tone snipped.

  18. A. Scott - you should really read more carefully before launching rude attacks on others.  If you had read the post I linked for the source of the GISP2 data, you would have seen that it says

    "In order to make absolutely sure of my dates, I emailed Richard Alley, and he confirmed that the GISP2 “present” is 1950, and that the most recent temperature in the GISP2 series is therefore 1855."

    As for your complaints about attributing Easterbrook's graphs to Watts, sorry, but cry me a river.  I didn't build my shoes, or my bed, or my house, but they're still mine.  Watts used the graph in one of his blog posts (and I don't think he even attributed it to Easterbrook). 

    Stop playing silly games please.  Your comment is nothing but an attempt to distract from the facts.

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  19. And since you brought it up and made some claims about what it says: 

     by  has effectively extended the so-called  and found that current temperatures are higher than they've been for 75% of the past 11,500 years, and the current rate of warming is faster than at any point during that timeframe.

    In particular I'm interested in your claims that Marcott has "extended" the "hockey stick" and, further, shows "the current rate of warming is faster" than any point in the last [its 11,300 not 11,500] years.

    I'm curious if you still stand behind theise claims, in light of the work that's been done by Steve McIntyre and a number of others showing the hockey stick portion of the Marcott paper is based on a very small number of proxy's and has other issues. And particularly in light of the fact the author seems to agree - stating  they "clearly" indicated the recent portion of their work - the part containing the hockey stick - was "not robust."

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  20. How entertaining:

    Stop playing silly games please.  Your comment is nothing but an attempt to distract from the facts.

    Which it clearly is, and equally clearly he didn't bother to properly read the post!

    But admissions are for wimps; instead this is brazenly followed by an abrupt switch to new set of unsubtantiated chumming assertions!

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  21. Ray,

    So you think that discussing a comparison between a peer-reviewed paper and a previous chapter of a doctoral thesis "would significantly enhance the discussion of climate change"?

    I don't know how many ways I can say this.  Let's be perfectly clear:

    If someone has a specific reason why the Science paper is invalid, then it can be stated and argued.  That's science.

    Pointing to a chapter in the publishing scientist's doctoral thesis from several years ago, trying to draw false analogies, and trying to chip away at his integrity by doing so is not "discussing the science," it's playing games.

    And that is the whole point of this post, the fact that Watts and his crew do not actually discuss the science.  They play games.  That is all that they do, although they do it under the pretense of discussing the science.

    For anyone foolish enough to fall for that ploy... shame on you.  Watts has been caught making enough hypocritical, false and misleading statements for people to be more wary about trusting him.  The guy is pathetic.

    You don't get a free pass.  If you want to repeat his nonsense, then you're no better than he is.

    There's discussing the science, and there's playing games.

    I wonder what the difference is.

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  22. Well, if Marcott et al gave Tony Watts and Steve McIntyre (aka Nigel Persaud) a hissy fit, goodness' knows what the graphic below by Jos Hagelaars is going to do to them (H/T Eli Rabett); it may very well give them brain aneurysms.

    Forget nuances about how to splice these data together and qualms about the paleo reconstructions potentially missing high frequency noise, it is quite apparent that we humans are in the process in engaging in what has to be one of the stupidist experiments we could have possibly conceived.  That stark reality has driven some who are driven by ideology (hello Tony and Nigel) into deep denial-- don't be duped by their fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) tactics.


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    Moderator Response: [TD] Linked the Eli reference.
  23. A. Scott,

    You're kidding, right?  With all of the complete and total bullsh*t that Watts has spewed, and with what is spelled out here, your response is to attack Dana for failing to address a detail the way that you wish he had?


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    Moderator Response: (Rob P) - inflammatory snipped
  24. Sphaerica,

    Sadly I think A Scott believes his comments to be quite serious ;) 

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  25. Spaerica - you claim Watt's and crew do not discuss the science regarding this recent paper. Please support that claim.

    Working backward I see:

    The most recent 4 posts discuss the work Steve McIntyre is doing - which most certainly is about the science. 

    A guest post from Fred Singer - that discusses the science.

    An original post by Willis Eschenbauch that is directly about the science - fancy graphs and all.

    A followup - Part 2 - guest post by Don Easterbrook - further discussing the science

    Another guest post by David Middleton - again reviewing and discussion the science. 

    Then there's a guest post by Don Easterbrook - yep that too discussing the science. 

    A post by Anthiny Watts that compares the Marcott paper's work to the GISP 2 record. Gosh - sure looks like that one is about the science as well.

    That leaves the original post from Anthiony at WUWT. Which was primarily posting the press release about the paper. Which he updated with a link to  Revkin's story with additional information.

    So again ... which story(s) at WUWT on the Marcott paper do you believe support your claim:

    Watts and his crew do not actually discuss the science.  They play games. 


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  26. Ditto what Sphaerica said @75.  Watts spews all sorts of blatantly false BS (Bad Science, of course), but A. Scott decides to give him a pass and rudely attack me because a statement I made – which he admits to knowing is correct – isn't sufficiently adequately supported for his taste.

    Absolutely absurd.  And on top of all that, he's attacking me for saying "Watts' graph" when Easterbrook created the figure, but Watts didn't attribute it to Easterbrook!  In fact, Watts implies that it's Alley's graph.

    If only A. Scott would hold Watts to one-hundreth of the standards he holds me to.

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  27. Looks like a few comments got deleted - that should say Sphaerica @73.

    I like Scott @ 75 talking about those 'science' posts on WUWT.  I guess Bad Science might qualify as a type of science.

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    Moderator Response: [DB] Some comments were removed due to noncompliance with the Comments Policy.
  28. Albatross - do you really expect anyone to take that graph and author seriously? Did you bother to read his posting or just copy the pretty picture? 

    If you did could you perhaps apply spaerica's filter and tell us what scinece was addressed or discussed in that post? 

    (-snip-).  The author replied to McIntyre and stated they had "clearly" noted the recent period findings were "not robust" - yet that hasn't stopped them and many others from touting them - as Albatross shows most excellently above. 

    You want to talk about the science of the Marcott paper sphaerica? I say heck ya - have at it. Lets see what you have to say about it. (-snip-). 

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    Moderator Response: [DB] Sloganeering and false claims of ad hominem snipped.
  29. Dana @76,

    That has to be a new record for mental gymanstics to create a strawman argument by A Scott.  

    I knew that me posting that graph would throw those in denail into a tizzy.  Scott did not read the figure properly, the final data in the graph (red line) are for the A1B scenario, not Marcott et al..  But that didn't stop him barking up the wrong tree again...

    To be honest though I was being just a tad facetious ;)  It is difficult to not toy with those in denial who take themselves way too seriously.

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  30. Dana - I make the same challneg to you as I did to Sphaerica in post 75 above. You attack Watt's - now its different attack - that its "bad science" - I say prove it.

    If you're going to attack - and claim its bad science - then you should have the ability - and the burden - to prove it. We are discussing the Marcott paper. What is "bad science" - your term - in the articles at WUWT on the topic?

    You made the accusation - I think its perfectly fair to expect you to support it. If it is "bad" as you claim, shouldn't be hard for you to show it.   

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    Moderator Response: [DB] This thread is about Watts Interview – Denial and Reality Mix like Oil and Water. Much of your challenge is beyond the scope of this thread - and thus off-topic. FYI.
  31. A. Scott,

    You'd be taken a bit more seriously if you showed some capacity for recognising your own mistakes. Are you aware of saying anything in this thread so far that is demonstrably wrong? A simple yes or no will suffice.

    Hint, try your post at 13:24 PM on 18 March, 2013 Do you still stand by all of that?


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  32. Well, how about an update about to my attempt to correct the misrepresentation of GISP2 data at WUWT?

    My first comment and nearly all subsequent ones got through moderation (one didn't, but it was fairly inconsequential and is no real loss). Moderator D.B. Stealey (aka dbs aka Smokey) felt like making an issue of it, and Easterbrook himself commented a couple of times in an attempt to refute the correct information and support the error. He demanded an apology for my pointing out the mistake and calling it what it was.

    Easterbrook continued to insist that the graph was labelled correctly, i.e. that "years before present" meant "years before 2000 AD." It's actually "years before 1950," which puts the most recent data in Easterbrook's graphs (which Watts subsequently reused and misrepresented as being Alley's) at 1855. This means that it captures none of the data from the late 19th century onwards. Easterbrook actually claimed that Alley labelled the X axis himself.

    Since he was citing Alley (2000) and Cuffey and Clow (1997), I pulled up a copy of Alley's original paper and looked through the two data sets online. There was A) no graph similar to the one Easterbrook uses which labels anything in relation to the year 2000 AD, and B) all definitions of "before present" in Alley's paper, the Cuffey and Clow paper, and in all the GISP2 data sets and relevant pages at the NCDC, define "before present" as "before 1950." It is their standard convention for the whole GISP project (and many other fields involved in reconstructing the past). GISP2 pages at the NCDC explicitly spell this out in no uncertain terms. So not only was Easterbrook's claim unsupported, it was directly contradicted by the sources he cites. It's not even an easy mistake to make in the first place, let alone after the issue has been brought to his (and Watts's) attention for several years now.

    None of the evidence I produced was addressed by Easterbrook or Stealey at all. I suggested that, because this was such a common issue at WUWT (Easterbrook's graphs get a lot of mileage there and this issue comes up a lot in the comments when that happens), someone at the blog could easily just ask Alley and clear the whole thing up once and for all. It would certainly give them iron-clad proof of their own correctness whenever the issue was brought up, IF they were correct. Apparently neither Easterbrook, Watts, or Stealey felt like this was a good idea! Fed up, I turned to Richard Alley myself and sent off a polite email asking about the dating convention he used, or if he ever labelled GISP2 data based around 2000 AD as "present." He confirmed what everybody else had already said; "before present" means "before 1950." He doesn't remember publishing any plot of the GISP2 data where "before present" is relative to 2000. I'm not the first person to ask him that question or get that answer. Gareth Renowden did likewise several years ago and received the same confirmation. I'd already given a link to his account at the start.

    When I posted Dr. Alley's response in the thread, Stealey equated it to someone pretending to email the Pope and making up a fake reply. So not only did they have no inclination to ask for themselves to save their own credibility, they refused to believe someone who did (again). The last post so far is mine, pointing out that even if they don't believe me about contacting Alley, there is still all the other damning evidence in Easterbrook's own sources. Consistent with the rest of the exchange, nobody so far has offered any evidence to the contrary nor any argument to counter it. Despite being demonstrably wrong, nobody at the blog would budge or even acknowledge the error. 

    This just reinforces my previous suggestion for the eleventh denialist strategy: never give up on a bad argument no matter how thoroughly or repeatedly debunked it may be.


    As an aside: this doesn't really seem to support A. Scott's argument about the level of scientific discourse at WUWT. None of the behavior I described above resembles a scientific approach. Scientists, for one thing, go out of their way to see if they're wrong. It's not just part of the job, it's part of the process of science. Neither Dr. Easterbrook, Anthony Watts, or D.B. Stealey treated the issue with a scientific mindset. Why should they? They already "know" what the answer is. They deny the validity of anything which contradicts their preconceived answer; regarding global warming, that means they wind up rejecting virtually all the science. That's what makes them denialists, and the ten strategies outlined in this post (+ my humble contribution) are how denialists operate. Hence the lack of scientific thinking at the blog; science and denialism are mutually exclusive because the scientific method doesn't work in the presence of a denialist mindset which can't accept uncomfortable data.

    It's not just about climate change. Denialists of evolution, HIV/AIDS denialists, etc. operate from the same playbook. They all stick very closely to the stragies outlined here. That's how you can recognize denialism for what it is.

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  33. Well first A Scott, do you agree that the Easterbrook's graph is a misrepresentation? Read WheelsOC's comments carefully.

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    Moderator Response: [DB] A. Scott found the singular burden of compliance with the Comments Policy too onerous and has opted to recuse himself from further participation.
  34. A Scott writes:

    I also again make the constructive suggestion - that to improve the documentation - to provide firsthand confrmation - that you include a copy of (or link to) Figure 1 of R. B. Alley 2000, which shows the "present" date to be 1950 for that paper.


    That is indeed a reasonable suggestion, even if the route taken to it was somewhat 'inefficient'.

    But do you notice a pattern here?

    The SkS authors were correct in their claims about the Easterbrook graph (as you now seem to admit) - and yet you complain in strident tones that they have not laid out a sufficiently easy path for you to follow in confirming their correctness (in fact, the SkS post you linked to, , made it clear that the date of the present had been confirmed by email from Alley).

    The WUWT folks, by contrast, have been wrong and misleading about the same source (perhaps you are not ready to admit that, but I recommend you read WheelsOC again before replying), despite having the error pointed out to them many times - and yet you defend them, failing to realise that their repeated misuse of this source is indeed bad science.

    Do you think it is at least possible that spending so long amongst contrarians has given you a cognitive bias? How else can you account for the extreme double standard? How could poor referencing of a true statement (even if that's what took place here at SkS, which I don't agree is the case) possibly attract more of your outrage than the clear examples of deliberate misinformation over at WUWT? Why no outrage at Watts or Easterbrook?

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  35. So: 1) The paper was published in '99. 2) The most recent data in the publication is listed as 37 years after present Therefore, present can be, at latest, 1962.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Added spacing where seemingly appropriate.
  36. Ugh, why was my spacing edited out?

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  37. And doesn't that page actually say the drilling was done in 1990?

    1990 - 38 = 1952?

    I trust you'll bring this to Mr Watts attention, and that in the interests of good science, he'll update the graph.

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  38. Watts makes it very hard to take anything on his site seriously.  He publishes quite hopeless stuff, and actively pushes climategate.  He seems fixated on climate station quality, even after yet more work shows that its a non-issue.

    There may be gems in Watts site, but one is inclined not to waste time looking for them.

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  39. Kevin:

    Putting words into other people's mouths (figuratively speaking) is very poor form.

    I strongly urge you not to engage in such disingenuous behaviour again.

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    Moderator Response: [JH] Kevin fell through the thin ice of sloganeering in his most recent post. It was therefore deleted.
  40. A.  Scott,

    You said: claim Watt's and crew do not discuss the science regarding this recent paper. Please support that claim.

    But I did not make that claim.  You fabricated it.  I said that Watts spews BS (he does).  That he occasionally has posts discussing science does not alter his BS output, and therefore it does not improve his credibility.  And I certainly never said anything about his having or not having posts specifically addressing this paper.  Obviously he has, as evidienced from this line from Dana's original post:

    This is evident from the six separate posts on Watts' blog (to date) desperately trying...

    However, Watts has committed enough sins over the years that anyone and everyone (or at least everyone who is not adamantly hoping for a particular foregone concusion from the discussion) should look askance at his words, and look elsewhere for answers.

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  41. Leto @84,

    Excellent points, thank you.

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  42. Kevin #91:

    Kevin misrepresentation #1: Composer99 comment set up as authoritative voice on Skeptical Science posts. As the preface to my comment notes, I am expressing my personal opinion. It might be correct, or it might not. Nevertheless, treating what I think as being equivalent to what Skeptical Science authors think is a misrepresentation.

    Kevin misrepresentation #2: In a post chock-a-block full of references to the professional literature, a graph used for illustration, that happens not to be peer-reviewed (though still useful for reasons discussed by KR) is highlighted as being of special importance.

    Kevin misrepresentation #3: Debunking myths requiring peer-reviewed science of necessity. If a myth can be debunked using high-school-level statistics, or elementary logic, or 19th-century physics (which could hardly be said to be peer-reviewed in the modern sense), then that is all you need to do the debunking.

    In addition, as your response to Dana in #91 shows, you are still belabouring under the mistaken impression that what's important about Watts vs Neilson-Gammon is whether or not they agree or disagree with Dana's viewpoint. What's important is what KR noted:

    The point here is that Watts' paper is wrong, not that it is unsubmitted.


    And more importantly, that the [adaptation of Neilson-Gammon's] graph is correct - unless you have some issues with it, in which case you should say so.

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  43. And more importantly, that the [adaptation of Neilson-Gammon's] graph is correct - unless you have some issues with it, in which case you should say so.


    No, the adaptation is not correct.

    1. When Neilson-Gammon made the graph, he purposefully did not calculate the confidence of the trend lines because he had made subjective choices to identify the time period and exclude "volcanic" years. 

    2.  It is extremely unlikely that the slope of all three trend lines are the same.  Assuming that his premise is correct, the noise in the system, given the small amount of data, would dictate that the trend lines would have a different slope.  To state that they are the same is wrong.  The only way to have them be equal is to set them equal, and not have the best fit slope prevail.

    3.  Even if they were the same in 2008 when the figure was created, there has since been more data points added.   There is no way that these new data points exactly fit into the previously calculated trend line slope.

    4.  In his graph, there are only 3 volcanic years, this adaptation has 6.

    5.  2006 is now a La Nina year.


    So, yes, I do have a few problems with the figure.

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  44. Kevin,

    You can find a very clear and explicit explanation for this graph here:

    Are there differences?  Yes.  That's why it's termed an adaptation.

    It is extremely unlikely that the slope of all three trend lines are the same.

    Perhaps.  But have you done the math to establish the fact, or simply presumed that it is unlikely, and therefore assumed that they have been doctored?  And if it turns out that the slopes are correctly computed and really are that close to each other... what does that tell you?

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  45. The slopes of all thee trend lines are the same (0.16°C per decade).  I haven't calculated the uncertainty in those trends, but that's not relevant to the question whether their most likely values are they same - they are.

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  46. John Nielson-Gammon has calculated uncertainties for his predictions; he has predicted GISTEMP for 2013 to be  +0.70 +/- .09 C, for example.

    Kevin - While you have some problems with the figure adapted from John N-G, you have certainly not pointed out any errors in it. Which, again, is irrelevant to the worth of Watt's paper, which has been noted to erroneously ignore 150 years of literature on TOB biases. Are you supporting his unpublished work? Or just continuing to push an Ad Hominem Tu Quoque fallacy?

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  47. Note: In my previous post, "his unpublished work" refers to the Anthony Watt's paper critiqued in DS#5, which fails to stand on its content or merits. 

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  48. Thinking about this particular topic, what on earth was the point of discussing WUWT on this blog?  Everyone, well nearly everyone, here dismisses WUWT as risible rubbish and regards Anthony Watts as a complete charlatan.  Conversely, most of those that don't are highly unlikley to consider accessing  Skeptical  Science and should they do so are likely to get short shrift   Why then give him traction?  

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  49. Ray @98 - the post is about an interview of Watts in the mainstream media, not about content on WUWT, which I agree is not even worth debunking.

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  50. One would expect that for the same underlying trend the three slopes would be very close to each other if not exactly the same. 

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