"The consensus is of course in the high 90s" - Richard Tol
As you know, Richard agrees that of all the scientific papers that attribute a cause to global warming, the percentage that attribute it to human activity is "in the high 90s". Here is his confirmation at ATTP's blog:
Richard Tol says (my emphasis):
June 14, 2013 at 11:44 am
The consensus is of course in the high nineties. No one ever said it was not. We don’t need Cook’s survey to tell us that.
Cook’s paper tries to put a precise number on something everyone knows. They failed. Their number is not very precise.
So why does he think Cook13 failed, even though it "put a number" that "everyone else knows"? He doesn't say - anywhere.
Richard Tol's smear campaign
Instead, because of an apparent personal grudge with John Cook and his co-authors of the 97% study (I can think of no other reason, apart from a misguided quest "to become rich and famous"), he embarked on a smear campaign. He has been trying, and failing, miserably, for two years, in his attempts to impugn the credibility of the research and the reputation of the researchers.
I won't go over every mistake Richard has made, while flailing about looking for his "something wrong". Many of them have been well documented already. In addition to Friday's HW article, there are more demolitions at HotWhopper (here and here and here and here), at SkepticalScience (here), in a booklet by John Cook and colleagues (here) and in a rebuttal paper to Richard Tol (here) as well as an article in The Guardian by Dana Nuccitelli (here).
Richard's Gish Gallop
I'm writing this because Richard provided an opportunity to demonstrate how Gish gallopers like him operate, and how they respond - or should I say don't respond, as each of the gallops comes to a dead stop.
Signs of a Gish galloper
Gish gallopers are easily recognised. They will usually:
- admit nothing
- ignore their failed arguments, and
- generate new flawed arguments as soon as their others have been demolished.
Richard didn't bother addressing any of his mistakes to which I drew attention in Friday's article, except for one, where he pointed out I got it wrong. Refusing to acknowledge mistakes and ignoring those errors is a clear sign of a Gish galloper.
Tol gallop number 1 - the sample
Richard's first comment on yesterday's thread, was to point out that I misinterpreted a claim he made. But he didn't retract his claim when it was shown to be unsubstantiated.
He claimed that he was unable to replicate the sample database. He claimed to have found an extra 1500 papers. He gave up on that line of argument, when it was pointed out to him that this was most probably because of one or more of the following:
- WoS returns may depend on subscriptions "to which you are entitled"
- WoS is a dynamic database, constantly updating entries including older papers. Returns will vary, depending on when you run the query.
Richard refused to provide his search parameters. He refused to respond to this fairly simple request. He claimed to have run a query with parameters that would return results collected at the same time as Cook13 did their final query run, but didn't indicate:
- How he knew the date and time of the final query that Cook13 ran
- Exactly what search tags one can specify that will return papers added into WoS at a particular date and time
- What his own search parameters were.
Even before Richard gave up on Gallop Number 1, he had moved onto to his next in true Gish galloping fashion.
Tol Gallop number 2 - getting tired
In a rare admission, after initially claiming that time stamps were recorded, Richard acknowledged that the Cook13 research only recorded the date of uploads. It did not record the hour and minute when the researchers uploaded their categorisations. (Most were done and uploaded in bulk in any case, so it would have told him little.) Then he slipped in another lie and claimed that John Cook denied the existence of date records. This was a silly and unsubstantiated lie. The time of uploading is irrelevant to the survey results. Researchers were free to categorise abstracts in their own time whenever they chose. They were not working to a clock and even had they been, it would say nothing about the accuracy of the categorisations. That can best be determined by checking against the authors own assessment - which was very similar to those of the researchers' 97%.
This is an example of Richard resurrecting a claim that has already been debunked, by the very person whose research he cites to support his silly claim. Richard wrongly claimed that reviewers would become less accurate in their ratings over time. On the contrary, as described here at HotWhopper, and in Tol's Error 15 in the SkS booklet, "interviewers" typically become more proficient over time, not less. This was confirmed by Dr Biemer himself, the author of the article that Richard cited!
If anything got tired, using Richard's misplaced analogy with market research surveys, it would have been the abstracts, not the researchers. And even if the abstracts were a bit tired, the words written in them wouldn't change :) (See also Tol's Error 6 in the SkS booklet, about how he confuses a literature search with a market research study.)
Richard used this issue as an excuse for more unsubstantiated allegations - that "Cook first did not want outsiders to look at them and later denied their existence". Which is what disinformers and smear merchants do. They don't back up their false claims (they can't) and they impugn nefarious intent.
(There are a very good reasons for John Cook withholding these date data. Apart from it being irrelevant to the findings or the methodology, his researchers were assured of anonymity. Individual ratings would not be attributed to any researcher. Because the SkS forum was hacked and private discussions stolen, it would have been possible for unscrupulous people to work out who rated which abstracts, and then attempt to twist that information to discredit the people and the research. Richard knows all this, but decided to attempt to smear John Cook anyway. Elsewhere, Richard also used the stolen discussions out of context, attributing a different meaning, to bolster his flawed arguments. This is described in Tol Error 13 in the SkS booklet.)
Richard didn't pursue that Gish gallop any further. Instead he moved ahead to another.
Tol Gallop number 3 - The sample: why didn't Richard ask John Cook?
In between, Richard tossed in a third Gish gallop. He claimed that "Cook's data have 12,876 papers. Cook's paper mentions 12,465 papers, of which 11,944 were used."
It took a lot of time before Richard responded to people asking what he was referring to. Turns out he didn't have a clue about where his 12,876 number came from. Not even after it was pointed out to him. He flailed about, variously asserting that it came from the ERL website (it didn't), then that he got it from the "paper ID's" - without saying where. He ignored my comment suggesting it came from the SkS download page.
He also ignored various suggestions as to why there could be more Article ID's listed than there were papers in the sample. As it turns out, the reason was simple, as I discovered by going straight to the source:
Being of a curious nature I did some more digging. In addition, I asked John Cook himself about the numbering. He let me know that I wasn't far off track.
Turns out the IDs were assigned sequentially automatically, as expected. Some duplicates were accidentally added when John re-imported to his database from WoS, so he deleted them. This meant there were gaps in the article IDs.
My own digging supports this. Richard could have done the same if he'd been interested in finding out, instead of just wanting to imply nefarious activity.
I was able to account for all but two of the Abstract IDs in three lots of sequential IDs that have no abstracts attached. This indicates the removal of duplicates, inserted then removed in a batch. It's highly unlikely that there would have been this many sequential non-peer reviewed, for example, or anything else. So that leaves duplicate entries. Here are the numbers of sequential IDs:
Total = 409 - the other two are probably isolated somewhere.
- IDs 5 to 346 inclusive = 342
- IDs 1001 to 1004 inclusive = 4
- IDs 2066 to 2128 inclusive. = 63
Bang goes the last of Richard's gish gallop of protests.
The numbering of the sequences suggest that there were duplicates in early downloads, which could have been removed even before the ratings commenced. Then duplicates in another batch or two, as the database was updated with the latest. I don't know the exact timing and don't see how it's relevant to anything anyway.
In a personal communication, John Cook has confirmed that no abstracts were deleted. Why didn't Richard ask John Cook?
Why didn't Richard bother to do the same exercise as I did? It only took me about five minutes to isolate the sequential Article ID's. Richard has been banging on about this for months - years.
The answers are obvious.
Tol Gallop Numbers 4 and 5 - A late addition of nuts!
As I said, the answers are obvious. I was about to finish this article when I saw that Richard has now added a new gallop, building on his failed one above. He took the explanation of the extra Abstract IDs and, instead of apologising or acknowledging that he should have investigated himself, he went as far as saying it "may be" - and then launched into another Gish Gallop:
That may be the explanation. The paper indeed speaks of two data downloads. If you are correct, then Cook did not just remove duplicate abstracts. He removed duplicate abstracts that had already been rated -- thus denying himself another opportunity to test inter-rater reliability.
Furthermore, if you are right, Cook replaced ratings from the earlier rating period with ratings from the later rating period. The two periods are markedly and significantly different.
Notice what Richard's done? He's made two further unsubstantiated claims.
First he alleges something about "inter-rater reliability". This is a fixation of Richards. That is, I presume he is referring to differences between researchers in how they categorise papers. This was explicitly addressed in the paper itself and in the research design:
Each abstract was categorized by two independent, anonymized raters. A team of 12 individuals completed 97.4% (23 061) of the ratings; an additional 12 contributed the remaining 2.6% (607). Initially, 27% of category ratings and 33% of endorsement ratings disagreed. Raters were then allowed to compare and justify or update their rating through the web system, while maintaining anonymity. Following this, 11% of category ratings and 16% of endorsement ratings disagreed; these were then resolved by a third party.
There is no evidence that the duplicate papers had their ratings erased and had to be done again. Richard just made that bit up to raise another flawed argument. Even if that happened, does Richard honestly think that there would have been difference in ratings of 3% of papers, that have been rated by at least two people, which would have made a difference to the outcome?
Not satisfied with solely relying on the researcher's categorisations, the research team took it on themselves to ask the authors of these papers to categorise them. The response confirmed the assessment. In fact, the research team's assessment (97.1%) was very slightly more conservative than that of the authors (
Time of ratings
As for his claim that there are differences between early and later ratings - he provides no evidence. Not only that, but as described above, there were checks and balances in the ratings - by having at least two people categorise each abstract and by having the authors categorise their own papers.
Not only that, but how would 3% of papers, even were they rated three to five times instead of two or three times - how would that make any substantive difference to the 97% result? It wouldn't.
The SkS booklet provides further demonstration that Richard is barking up the wrong tree in his fixations. See the analysis in Tol's Error 14 in the SkS booklet. It's not quite the same issue, but it is related.
Tol Gallop number 6 - jumping to wrong conclusions
My goodness. I can't keep up with Richard's Gish Galloping. He is a master at jumping to wrong conclusions, isn't he. Here is his latest comment:
Sou finds that the abstract with lower IDs were removed from the data. Lowest IDs were removed disproportionally. The default data dump from WoS is latest first. Cook's second data dump focused on recent papers.
The date stamps show that the second data dump was done after first and second ratings were completed for the first data dump.
How does Richard know that the first "cleaning out of duplicates" (the earliest duplicates) didn't happened before the ratings started?
Not that it makes any difference - see the Tol Gallop numbers 4 and 5 above.
Where is the apology? Where is the retraction?
Do not expect any acknowledgement or retraction, let alone an apology to John Cook and the Cook13 team. That is not part of the Gish Galloper Handbook. Nor is it part of the Smear and Disinformation Handbook.
I don't know if Richard will try on any more gallops. Just when you think he's run out of steam he comes up with new ideas - all imputing nefarious intent. That's par for the course with Gish Gallopers and smear merchants.
References and further reading
Cook, John, Dana Nuccitelli, Sarah A. Green, Mark Richardson, Bärbel Winkler, Rob Painting, Robert Way, Peter Jacobs, and Andrew Skuce. "Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature." Environmental Research Letters 8, no. 2 (2013): 024024. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024 (Open access)
From the HotWhopper archives
- Settled science: there is a scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change - April 2016
- Deconstructing the 97% self-destructed Richard Tol - March 2015
- The Evolution of a 97% Conspiracy Theory - The Case of the Abstract IDs - March 2015
- BUSTED: How Ridiculous Richard Tol makes myriad bloopers and a big fool of himself and proves the 97% consensus - June 2014
- Ridiculous Richard Tol sez 12,000 is a strange number... - June 2014
- Denier Weirdness: Don't count climate science papers to "prove" there's no consensus! - June 2013