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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Willis Eschenbach goes for Andy Revkin and misses, but rallies a lynch mob at WUWT

Sou | 11:15 AM Go to the first of 27 comments. Add a comment

This is a story so often told about how a climate science denier, in trying to play "gotcha", got "gotcha'd" himself.

Willis Eschenbach is a self-confessed climate science denier

Today Willis Eschenbach (archived here, later update here, later update here and latest here) had a shot at Andy Revkin for an article about climate science deniers.  He didn't like the word "deniers" probably, though what he wrote was:
I went over to Andy Revkin’s site to be entertained by his latest fulminations against “denialists”. Revkin, as you may remember from the Climategate emails, was the main go-to media lapdog for the various unindicted Climategate co-conspirators. His latest post is a bizarre mishmash of allegations, bogus claims, and name-calling. Most appositely, given his history of blind obedience to his oh-so-scientific masters like Phil Jones and Michael Mann, he illustrated it with this graphic which presumably shows Revkin’s response when confronted with actual science:
"This graphic" being a photograph of a sculpture, showing two of the three wise monkeys, Mizaru and Kikazaru.  Notably Iwazaru is absent from the photo.  Hobbyist science deniers will refuse to read the science or look at what's happening in the world around them.  They'll refuse to listen to scientists.  But just try to get them to shut up!

Credit: Andrew C. Revkin

As you'll have read above, Willis has his nose still buried in the trough of stolen emails, wishing there was something in there that showed his view of science and scientists was correct.  There isn't. Willis obviously sees himself as a climate science denier or he wouldn't have written what he did.  He doesn't like allegations made by other people, or name-calling, but in that short paragraph count the terms:

  • media lapdog
  • unindicted
  • Climategate
  • co-conspirators
  • blind obedience
  • oh-so-scientific masters
  • etc

And does Willis seriously think that that Andrew Revkin is denying the actual science Willis is constantly denying?

Willis Eschenbach passes number lookup but fails arithmetic

Thing is, Willis' next comment was about the "about me" section - which looks like it hasn't been changed since 2010 and even then the bit that Willis objected to was probably written earlier.  The bit that Willis objected to was this:
By 2050 or so, the human population is expected to reach nine billion, essentially adding two Chinas to the number of people alive today. 

Willis doesn't know anything about climate science but he can check population numbers.  He wrote:
Revkin’s error is not insignificant. From the present population to 9 billion, where the population is likely to stabilize, is an increase of about 1.75 billion. IF Revkin’s claims about two Chinas were correct, the increase would be 2.8 billion. So his error is 2.8/1.75 -1, which means his numbers are 60% too high. A 60% overestimation of the size of the problem that he claims to be deeply concerned about? … bad journalist, no cookies.

Willis might have the current population numbers correct.  I haven't bothered to check.  However he isn't correct when he talks about "a 60% overestimation of the problem".  He used the wrong denominator. Anyway, he got away with that at WUWT.  He might have come across as more credible if he'd acknowledged that the "about me" was written years ago and would have been correct at the time.   All he's showed is that it's probably the first time he's read that blurb at Dot Earth, and that he's not good at working out percentages.

Willis Eschenbach fails reading comprehension

Willis also might have avoided looking like an idiot if he hadn't made a big blue of an error himself.  In his very first paragraph he wrote about "his latest fulminations", meaning Andy Revkin's.  But Andy didn't write the article Willis took exception to.  Andy said quite clearly that the article was written by David Victor of the University of California, San Diego.  He even tweeted Anthony Watts, who could have corrected Willis' article, but hasn't.  (One has to scroll down the WUWT comments to see this moderate response from Andrew Revkin.)

Why bother with what a climate science denying hobbyist says?

Willis Eschenbach could have come across as more credible in a small way, he could have avoided looking like an idiot.  Then again, who takes seriously a man whose hobby is climate science denial?

The article at Andrew Revkin's blog is about climate science deniers including those like Willis who've taken it up as a hobby.  David Victor makes some good points and some that I don't completely agree with.  It's a solid article though and worth reading if you're interested in people's view of what makes a climate science denier tick.  (It's in fashion at the moment.  William Connolley at Stoat wrote a good article about the same subject just a couple of days ago.)

As one might have predicted, it brought all the ratbag climate science deniers who, by their comments, showed the accuracy of what David Victor wrote.

From the WUWT comments

Andrew Revkin has a reputation for being a moderate in the "climate blog wars".  Sometimes he comes across as a "lukewarmer" though I think he's been giving the science a better hearing of late.  I'm no longer a regular reader of Dot Earth so I can't really say.  So Willis' attack didn't get universal approval from the band of deniers at WUWT.  Nevertheless he manages to rally a lynch mob to verbally attack Andy Revkin and anyone and everyone who accepts climate science and wants a future for the world. Latest archive here, with Willis Eschenbach showing his true (murky) colours over and over again in the comments.

Addendum: With what Anthony Watts is allowing in the comments (eg here), plus his recent article on Mark Steyn, I almost get the impression he is angling to be named in a defamation lawsuit. Or daring one. Maybe he's seeking fame and notoriety or maybe he's feeling left out and ignored by anyone who counts. Or maybe he figures he's safe because he cries poor so often.
Sou 8:45 pm 23 February 2014 AEDST

Eric Barnes says:
February 22, 2014 at  
Alan Robertson says:
February 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm
The sad part of it is, Andrew Revkin is one of the least worst of the alarmists.

Chad Wozniak says:
February 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm
Revkin is a perfect illustration of who the REAL denialists are: the alarmists who ignore the new Holocaust caused by carbon policies (33,000 dead from hypothermia in the UK last year, 2 million Africans dead from starvation thanks to the ethanol program).
@Charles Battig – this is also the program proposed by der Fuehrer’s witchcraft advisor, John Holdren, except that he wants to knock the population down to 1 billion.
Global warming alarmism is MASS MURDER. Global warming alarmism is GENOCIDE.

pokerguy sums up Willis Eschenbach well when he says:
February 22, 2014 at 12:29 pm
“…particularly when he is nothing but a pathetic PR shill for bogus science and disingenuous scientists …”
Seems that everyone you disagree with is a contemptible slime, Willis. I disagree with Revkin on just about everything, and marvel at his apparent credulity in climate matters, but on a personal level he’s never struck me as anything but sincere and well meaning. For a warmist, he’s quite willing and open to discuss opposing points of view.

Roger A. Pielke Sr. says (is he also having a dig at Roy Spencer?):
February 22, 2014 at 12:31 pm
Willis – I strongly disagree with you on your post. While I do not agree with all of Andy’s views, he is one of the most objective and open journalists in the mainstream media. He has provided a much needed forum for debate.
I have no idea why you choose to attack him when there is plenty of science to discuss and analyze.
I also prefer that WUWT not post personal attacks on anyone. This only demeans the website which is otherwise an outstanding forum for a much-needed debate on climate science which is not available at most other venues..
Roger Sr.

b4llzofsteel is no friend of Willis' either and says:
February 22, 2014 at 12:40 pm
Well said Dr.Pielke. Eschenbach is the last person to judge over other persons, while Revkin is certainly pro AGW, he is one of the more moderate people in the discussion.

Andy Revkin (@Revkin) says:
February 22, 2014 at 1:01 pm
Thanks, Roger.
And a note to Willis Eschenbach about carelessness (I agree that my 2007 population math – there from the first day of the blog – badly needs updating; leaving it up unchanged this long was careless).
Despite repeated references to David Victor in the introduction to the Denialism post, you somehow missed that it was the text of a lecture by him at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
All of the assertions you complain about are his.
This is a guest post – kind of like yours here at WUWT.
I’m sure Anthony doesn’t agree with everything you wrote. I don’t agree with everything David said. But it’s important in open forums to air a range of views.
As for your lapdog references, etc., sheesh….
(Accidentally posted under an unrelated WordPress ID a minute ago.)
[Thank you for the response. If so, to maintain traceability and accountability, should the "unrelated" item be deleted? Mod]

dp says:
February 22, 2014 at 1:05 pm
This is 2014 and he is talking about conscripting the people of 2050 to our vision of future needs. That is the equivalent of our being handed a world designed by the futurists of 1978. If one could bring the most brilliant of minds forward from 1978 to today that person would be a babe in the woods around our contemporary technology and the way time has change our world. Nobody would listen.
Mr. Revkin – you sir are an imperious ass and a moron today and you would considered the same in 2050 should any of your vacuous screeds survive.

Max Erwengh is over-optimistic when he says he knows that Willis could do better:
February 22, 2014 at 1:17 pm
Sorry I really don’t see the sense of this post. He made a rule of thumb estimate, and it is a quite acceptable approximation. So, no matter if it is silly to be a afraid about rising population or not, the calculation is fine. And guess what, natural science is all about approximations (ye of course not that silly ones about population growth), we don’t do pure science which applies only to mathematics.
Back to the topic, this is just a very disturbing ad-hominem attack. I know you could do better.

cynical_scientist makes some observations on the use of the word "denier" and variations (see here) and says:
February 22, 2014 at 1:46 pm
What I find most interesting about Revkin’s article is the language. He consistently uses “Denialist”, “Denialism” instead of “Denier”, “Denial”. And it isn’t just Revkin doing it – most of the people he quotes are doing it too. This looks to me like yet another orchestrated language shift along the lines of global warming –> climate change –> climate weirding –> etc. It is bizarre the way they keep switching language. Who decides these things?
Anyway, as people do not speak of Holocaust denialists or Holocaust denialism, this looks to me like an attempt to hide their tracks and make the smear less obvious. The new language is close enough to the old to still be offensive. But the slight distance gives plausible deniability so that if someone takes them to task over the use of the D word they can pretend we are too sensitive and it is all just a coincidence.
(I suspect this is headed for the moderation queue due to use of the D word.)


  1. Those population numbers are pretty much dead on for 2005:

    Dot Earth started on October 25, 2007. In 2006 (the last full year he could have had data for) the relevant numbers are:

    China: 1.3 billion
    World: 6.5 billion

    Pretty accurate -- there's no other country he could have chosen as an example and been similarly close.

    So I guess the argument is that Revkin should be constantly updating his blog blurb based on updated population numbers.

    1. All it needs is a preface "as at 2007" or similar. And the numbers show it's tracking the projections so far.

      After I posted this article I checked Willis' arithmetic and found he'd got it wrong. I've amended my article accordingly.

      Willis wrote it was "A 60% overestimation of the size of the problem", but it wasn't. The 60% related only to the analogy with China, not the "problem" of world population. There was no overestimation of the problem at all. The closest he could get is that if Andy's numbers were meant to refer to the current world population, he would have underestimated the current population by whatever the difference is between 2007 and 2014. The "problem" remains unchanged at 9 billion people just as Andy wrote in his "about me" section.

      How much of a problem that will be depends on a lot of things, like how well we adapt to climate change, the extent to which we recycle or become more efficient in our use of non-renewable resources, whether we can continue to feed and clothe everyone, whether we can live in harmony or not.

      So lots of "gotcha's" back at Wondering Willis Eschenbach. Not that the WUWT-ers care - except for the ones who dislike Willis. (WUWT is divided on that score.)

    2. The denier cupboard must be bare if they fasten on something as paltry as this. As mentioned, 9 billion is the take-away number, and even one and a bit more Chinas is enough to give one pause.

    3. It's really telling that deniers latch onto and own the fact that they deny science. The Dot Earth article is about people who reject science and boast about it. It's about climate science deniers.

      By owning the categorisation, by taking it as referring to them personally, Willis and his fans are accepting and owning up to the fact they are climate science deniers. It's just that they prefer a euphemism to describe them, though Willis hasn't said what euphemism he prefers as far as I can tell.

      Willis is not one for mincing words as you can see in the comments. He lashes out and attacks everyone who disagrees with him or mildly queries any of the points he makes, regardless of who they are. Yet he objects to a plain word that he admits and accepts as describing his behaviour - that of denying science.

      There's no pleasing climate science deniers :(

  2. Sou -

    Far be it from me to question your superior WUWT comment reading skills, but I think that this one time you may have missed the best comment of the thread:


    John Coleman says:
    February 22, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    As a Journalist and a Professional Meteorologist I feel it is important to never stoop to name calling and personal attacks on those who take the other side in scientific debate.

    I am professionally convinced there is no significant man-made global warming, has been none in the past and is no reason to fear any in the future. I am convinced that carbon dioxide is an essential trace gas, not a pollutant, and not a significant greenhouse gas. I will debate Revkin and all of his alarmist friends as long as I am alive.
    It is a very difficult situation and very frustrating that the issues have become political, almost religious in its fervor, a key environmentalists agenda driven debate and an issue that is funded by billions of tax dollars that entrap major organizations and institutions into accepting the alarmists positions.
    Despite all of this I will not stoop to calling Gove, Mann, et al names and being personally abusive. Only fifth graders who have run out of reasonable arguments stoop to name calling

    Join me on the high road, please, one and all.

    1. That's good, Joshua. I've updated the archive to show John Coleman's classic and other recent comments.

      I think I've told this story before. I had a similar experience at HotCopper where I was asked to refrain from using the term "denier" and, I think, "fake sceptic" when speaking of people who reject mainstream science. I agreed to stop for as long as it took anyone to refer to people who accept science as any variation of warmista, cultist, Nazi, commie, alarmist, watermelon (and others I can't remember) all of which were used by people in that very same thread.

      The truce lasted only about an hour as I recall, and it was deniers who broke it, not me. (Incidentally, I didn't call other commenters at HotCopper deniers or fake sceptics. They adopted the categorisation for themselves just like Willis has.)

    2. BTW I expect that's the John Coleman from KUSI-TV, who is a mate of Anthony Watts.

      Remember Anthony said John Coleman told him the Akademik Shokalskiy (in Antarctica) asked him for a weather report, when in fact it was someone on the Polar Star, who put out a general request - not a specific invitation to either John Coleman or Anthony Watts.

      You can't trust climate science deniers as far as you can kick them.

    3. Sou, you make an unsubstatntiated claim since there is, as far as I know, no firm data on how far an AGW denier can be kicked. I suggest an experiment, with Leigh Halfpenny drafted in to do the kicking.

    4. Sou -

      Yeah, that's the dude. Watts linked to a hilarious video of Coleman a while back, explaining his theories about the AGW hoax. I wish I knew how to find it again - it was one of the best examples of "skepticism" that I've seen.

    5. Found the WUWT guest post -

      Can't find that link to the video - but my favorite part of the video was when Colemen talked about this:

      As if the poll results were somehow scientifically valid.

    6. I guess it is not what you mean, but this PotHoler starts and ends with John Coleman and suggests that he is a liar. Alternatively, you would have to think that he does not know what his profession is.

  3. For once, I completely agree with something Willis said: "Revkin, as you may remember from the Climategate emails, was the main go-to media lapdog for the various unindicted Climategate co-conspirators."

    Revkin generally comes across as a lame luke-warmer, claiming to accept the science, but always taking the most minimal position that claim will allow. And as the acceptable face of the "other side", he is indeed the go-to media lapdog for the Climategate co-conspirators. Just look at comments by pokerguy etc.

    "Co-conspirators"? Oh yes, the person who stole the emails, and those who received and republished them. Accessories to a crime which has never been investigated with the vigour it warranted. I would suggest that despite not having recieved a knock on the door, the identity of the person who stole them (or at least, who released them to Anthony, Roger and the others) is fairly obvious, from clues in his correspondence. I would encourage anyone with an sufficient interest to reread the correspondence to which the zip files were attached, and see how many "tells" you can pick up.

    1. You can tell by the comments that Andy Revkin is viewed by deniers as being sympathetic. I don't have a lot of time for him these days.

      As for the rest, I don't know - except for the fact that it was obviously facilitated by someone who knows their way around climate cyberspace, is familiar with computers / email servers and is a criminal (allegedly, though not found so by a court for this offence at any rate). I wonder if this is something they do all the time or was it a once-off.

    2. Sou, to be pedantic, you know those things from the reports of the events. I'm suggesting people should reread the actual correspondence with a view to trying to "profile" the author. I found it easy and enlightening.

      This is something I've remarked on other blogs before, but for now I'll leave it - if there are any takers, I'd be interested to hear their comments before I "poison the well" by making mine.

    3. FrankD

      I haven't read the materials, but can you say whether the initials of your preferred culprit were "S M" or "L M"?

    4. FrankD.

      Could you link to the particular correspondence that you mentioned?

    5. Urghh, Bernard, that'd mean getting all mucky in the slough of denial...reading Sou's reports has considerably reduced the number of times I feel the need to wash my hands :-)

      Climategate 2 has a short background in it, with a few oddities which set my antennae twitching. At Willards nut farm dot com, followed by /2011/11/22/climategate-2-0/

      Having been primed, the much longer Climategate 3 throws up many interesting hints.At forbes dot com followed by: /sites/larrybell/2013/03/15/who-released-the-climategate-emails-and-why/2/

    6. Me too. Assuming it's a semi-prominent player (and why not?)

      Stylistically identical, not just from the European numbering but other things too.

    7. Well, some, not FrankD surely, might think that the initials L.M. fit. I make no such claim - I will just say that I think it was written by a person originally from the western part of that area where slavic languages are spoken (idisyncratic use of articles and subjunctive mood, a couple of other tells that he is not Russian/Ukrainian), who learned exceptionally good English-as-a-second-language in North America (-ize words), but retains (or more likely reacquired) the habit of the point separator for numbers), suggesting a return to Europe after a long period in North America. He (undoubtedly he) is probably rather younger than most vocal deniers (has a valid bitcoin address), but he knows all the "major players" (I use the term loosely), and is relatively tech-savvy. His economic preferences are not localisable, but are more common in some parts of Europe than others...

      I'm sure more astute readers will also be able to discern that his mother enjoyes knitting mah jong tiles, that he has a cousin who was arraigned for going equipped and in cold weather he walks with a slight limp due to a wound suffered in the Zulu Wars...

      Apart from that, I've got nuttin ;-)

    8. That was a very interesting exercise, FrankD. Thanks again for drawing this to my attention.

    9. Scratching my head - Tiny Tim? (I expect I should know :(.)

    10. Following FrankD's breadcrumb trail, and dodging the red herrings, I'm thinking of a potty-mothed individual whose ex-President has been much favoured by Heartland in the past. It's very credible.

  4. Sorry, but I've little time for Revkin. He's always been an obvious lukewarmer to me, one of the first to attack Marcott when it came out last year with ammunition (blanks, of course) provided by The Auditor.

    1. Yes. The attack on Marcott et al. was illuminating. All the usual suspects were lit up and revealed by the glare of gunfire. And still nothing in the published literature challenging M13...

    2. Revkin runs interference for the likes of McIntyre and Pielke. He comes across as a real idiot in this discussion with Jeremy Shakun, among other things equating differing opinions on nuclear power with uncertainty in the science of climate.

      And this was way out of line for someone who is supposedly a reputable journalist.


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