Friday, October 30, 2015

More of David Siegel's climate lies and conspiracy theories

Sou | 3:47 PM Go to the first of 15 comments. Add a comment
Okay - now it's out there. I don't know why David Siegel tells lies. Whether it's because he's stupid and isn't capable of doing his own research, or whether he does it for reward (either tangible or for ideological purposes). But he does tell lies and, unless he falls into the stupid category, he must know it.

Backtrack: A few days ago I wrote about a science denier called David Siegel, who used WUWT to promote a screed he put up somewhere on the internet. That "somewhere" is, as Greg Laden described it: "big giant blog that anybody can go and blog their big giant thoughts on: like tumblr, but more bloggy".

I pretty much dismissed David Siegel's article as the sort of denier tripe that's a dime a dozen in the dark outer reaches of cyberspace. It was nothing more than a mosaic of WUWT or any other climate conspiracy blog. Still, having it all in one place was a good enough reason to write an article. So a few of us got together and that's just what we did. We posted it on the same website that the original article appeared on.

We were gentle with David Siegel in our Medium.com article. We were more interested in presenting the science than in portraying David Siegel as the utter nutter that he is. Here at HotWhopper there are no kid gloves. David Siegel's article was nothing more than a 9,000 word Gish gallop of denier memes. To address every single one in a blog post would have resulted in an article more like 80,000 words rather than the 8,000 or so that we wrote.

Since we published, looking at the tweets from David Siegel, it seems my original take on him was correct. I am generally wary of people who jump from one random cause to another, people who define themselves by their voting preference or food fad. David's pretense was that he used to accept science. That's not uncommon among deniers, but you can't keep up the pose forever. It only works the first time you appear on the scene. I say it's a pretense because he's made it fairly obvious that he doesn't know a test tube from a bunsen burner.

David Siegel isn't just a climate science denier, who parrots the nonsense he got from WUWT and other blogs, he's also an ozone science denier, who tweets nonsense he got from Steve "mad, mad, mad" Goreham.

David Siegel's lies and conspiracy theories

There are quite a few things that we didn't address in our Medium article. David listed all the sources that he says are not to be trusted for climate science. His list includes NASA, NOAA, the IPCC, the top general science journals: Science and Nature - all of which we mentioned. Rejecting all the scientific experts in climate allows David to reject mainstream science outright. As Stephan Lewandowsky told us:
Given that climate change is one of the most thoroughly established scientific findings of recent decades, and given that contrarian positions do not have any remaining intellectual or scientific respectability, this presents a serious dilemma for people who must deny that climate change is occurring for personal or ideological reasons. One solution is to dismiss all the world’s scientists and all reputable scientific institutions by accusing them of being untrustworthy for one reason or another.

David Siegel tells lies about RealClimate.org

What we didn't mention was that he also dismisses realclimate.org. That's a website set up by leading climate scientists, including Dr Gavin Schmidt, the now Director of NASA's climate science centre, the Goddard Institute of Space Science (GISS). RealClimate is the "go to" source for accurate, timely information about climate science. The contributors include some of the world's leading climate scientists.

David falsely claims that David Fenton "is responsible forrealclimate.org. That's another conspiracy theory (and not true). It is the same conspiracy theory as that of the uber-conspiracy theorist, Tim Ball. There's a shadowy figure who has hoodwinked all 195 Parties (nations) to the UNFCCC, the world's top investigative journalists, and most of the world's population. The only difference are the people who David reckons has done the hoodwinking. For David Siegel, the bogey men are David Fenton and the former Director of GISS, NASA, Dr James Hansen. For Tim Ball it's variously (depending on his mood I suppose) Maurice Strong or scientist Tom Wigley. David wrote:
The master consent-maker is a man you probably haven’t heard of: David Fenton. Fenton Communications is the leading “social change” PR firm. They are driven by their passionate belief that they are saving the planet and changing the world. 
David credits Fenton with even Wikipedia (what a tortured mind he must have):
His firm is responsible for the propaganda sites RealClimate.org and IPCCFacts.org (an oxymoron), and probably for much Wikipedia manipulation. He has worked for Al Gore and the UN for at least the past twenty years. How many PR firms can claim they got a Nobel Prize for their clients? 

If David Siegel had done the teensiest bit of research, he couldn't have failed to find that the only thing that Fenton Communications did for the realclimate team of scientists was organise the initial press release. He could hardly have failed to read this statement at realclimate.org:
The contributors to this site do so in a personal capacity during their spare time and their posts do not represent the views of the organizations for which they work, nor the agencies which fund them. The contributors are solely responsible for the content of the site and receive no remuneration for their contributions.
RealClimate is not affiliated with any environmental organisations. Although our domain was hosted by Science Communications Network (and previously Environmental Media Services), and our initial press release was organised for us by Fenton Communications, none of these organizations were in any way involved in the initial planning for RealClimate, and never had any editorial or other control over content. Neither Fenton nor SCN nor EMS ever paid any contributor to RealClimate.org any money for any purpose at any time. Neither did they pay us expenses, buy our lunch or contract us to do research. This information has always been made clear to anyone who asked.

So David Siegel has been caught out telling lies. What's new? That's par for the denier course.

David Siegel has a paranoid conspiracy theory about Dr James Hansen

He repeatedly lies. David's claim about Dr Hansen is an old denier meme from six years ago, way back in 2009 (don't deniers have anything new?):
As director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) from 1981 to 2013, James Hansen kept his team pumping out papers and articles to help evangelize his views, even though his predictions keep turning out to be wrong. Hansen’s former boss, Dr. John S. Theon, now joins the ranks of many ex-NASA employees who believe Hansen is wrong. 

There's a lot of denier nonsense in that short segment. First of all, in the weird world of the paranoid, doing research and publishing it is a bad thing. In the world of research science it's called work, or adding to knowledge. In the world of conspiracy nutters it's called evangelising views.

Secondly, James Hansen's predictions have been borne out. Way back in the 1980s he wrote how carbon dioxide emissions would heat up the planet, and they have. Nick Stokes has just updated his comparison of observations with Hansen's 1988 projections, which he derived from a much more primitive climate model than those available today. The animated chart below compares the 1988 projections with GISS T on its own (which is the proper comparison) and with all the datasets listed on the side.

Observations against Hansen 1988. Source: Nick Stokes at Moyhu

To understand the comparisons, you need to understand what the 1988 model was projecting. Nick Stokes explains that the 1988 projections are based on land only, and didn't include sea surface temperatures. As for which scenario, Scenario B is a bit higher than today's emissions, but is the closest at 406 ppm CO2. Nick wrote:
Remember, Hansen was not just predicting for the 2010-15 period. In fact, his GISS Ts index tracked Scenario B quite well until 2010, then his model warmed while the Earth didn't. But then the model stabilised while lately the Earth has warmed, so once again the Scenario B projections are coming close. Since the projections actually cool now to 2017, it's likely that surface air observation series will be warmer than Scen B. GISS Ts corresponds to the actual air measure that his model provided. Land/ocean indices include SST, which was not the practice in 1988.

Thirdly - who is this John S. Theon? David Siegel said he got his wrong information from a 2009 article on the conspiracy blog WUWT. However, back in 2009 Gavin Schmidt, now the Director of NASA's GISS, wrote that he'd never heard of him till he popped up in the deniosphere. He said:
Dr. Theon appears to have retired from NASA in 1994, some 15 years ago. Until yesterday I had never heard of him (despite working with and for NASA for the last 13 years). His insights into both modelling and publicity appear to date from then, rather than any recent events. He was not Hansen’s ‘boss’ (the director of GISS reports to the director of GSFC, who reports to the NASA Administrator). His “some scientists” quote is simply a smear – which scientists? where? what did they do? what data? what manipulation? This kind of thing plays well with Inhofe et al because it appears to add something to the ‘debate’, but in actual fact there is nothing here. Just vague, unsubstantiated accusations

Just because someone was one of the tens of thousands of people who once worked somewhere at NASA doesn't mean they are honest or that they understand climate science. Heck, someone roped in 46 ex-NASA employees to sign a letter saying they reject climate science. That's 0.27% of the current NASA workforce of 17,304 (and way less when you add in all the people who once worked there). Whoever organised that protest letter managed to dig up three other people to bring it up to 49, but couldn't get another to bring it up to a round 50.

John S Theon was not being honest when he stated "I was, in effect, Hansen’s supervisor because I had to justify his funding, allocate his resources, and evaluate his results,". It's not impossible that he sat on a committee that considered NASA budgets, but he was not the supervisor of James Hansen - not in effect and not in reality.

Wikipedia passes David Siegel's test

Another source that David Siegel doesn't trust is Wikipedia. He tested it out. If anything, his test showed that Wikipedia is much more trustworthy than not. See for yourself.

David's test consisted of writing false information on Michael Mann's Wikipedia entry. He wrote: "Independently, a research project looking only at peer-reviewed studies continues to find strong evidence for the Medieval Warming Period". I don't know what reference he cited for this. However he claimed that "It took five minutes for the page to go back the way it was before." That would be very quick if it were true. It was quickly corrected, but going by the page history, it took 31 minutes to be corrected, not five minutes.

Research shows that the medieval warm anomaly was not global. Different regions were warmer at different times around medieval times, but the world as a whole was cooler than it is today as the chart below illustrates. Probably at least 0.6 C cooler - more like the temperatures of the 1970s than that of this century.

Green dots show the 30-year average (area-weighted mean over the continents) of the new PAGES 2k reconstruction, as shown in Figure 3b. The red curve shows the global mean temperature, according HadCRUT4 data from 1850 onwards (also in Figure 3b, smoothed with a 30-year window). In blue is the original hockey stick of Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1999 ) with its uncertainty range (light blue). Graph by Klaus Bitterman, with permission. Source: Stefan Rahmstorf at Climate Progress..

Addressing a Gish Gallop from a paranoid conspiracy nutter

Our medium.com article ran to just over 8,000 words. It was shorter than David Siegel's by about 10%. This article touches on just three additional if lesser details in David's article, and the above runs to is just under 2,000 words, which address probably fewer than 500 words of David's 9,000 or so. Sure I could have made it shorter and some of it is just setting the scene. Still, even half that - 2 to 1 is a lot. Extrapolate it out and it would mean a 18,000 word essay to address every lie and paranoid conspiracy theory that David Siegel came up with. (He didn't invent them. He just parroted memes from other climate conspiracy blogs.)

The tactic of Gish galloping conspiracy nutters is the same as creationists do when they deny evolution: to drown out facts with multiple random lies. They know that it takes a lot of effort to counter them. They figure that if just one or two of their denier memes hoodwinks an innocent passer by, they'll have done the job they set out to do. That is, to damage the world.

Why would an environmentalist want to destroy the environment?

Q: Why would an environmentalist want to destroy the environment?
A: They are not an environmentalist. That's just another lie.

The question of why someone who claims to value the environment would want to destroy it is no great mystery. Since they've already proven themselves a liar about small and big things, it's no great stretch to see they've lied about being concerned for the environment, too. Just like Patrick Moore trades on his early association with Greenpeace, David Siegel pretends that he once cared about the world we live in.

The David Siegels of the world are usually found on weird conspiracy blogs and other dark corners of cyberspace. Occasionally you'll find some who can't be bothered with tailoring their own website and they use pre-formatted places like Medium.com or Tumblr. But that's no different to deniers who set up climate conspiracy blogs on wordpress or Google blogger. Just easier, because all you have to do is write and find some images.

Don't be taken in. Check the facts. As a wise Rabett told me:

"Google has a lot to give, unfortunately much of it is nonsense."

References and further reading

Climate Change is Real, and Important - Medium article about David Siegel's nonsense, by Josh Halpern, Greg Laden, Collin Maessen, Miriam O’Brien, Ken Rice and Michael Tobis

I'm a (insert politically correct category) and I don't believe in Al Gore" - article by Michael Tobis, looking into David Siegel's claims about himself

Climate Change is Real, and Important, David Siegel - article by Greg Laden

Most Comprehensive Paleoclimate Reconstruction Confirms Hockey Stick - article about PAGES2k results and the Hockey Stick, by Stefan Rahmstorf at Climate Progress

RealClimate.org - run by leading climate scientists, and arguably still the best independent site run by climate scientists, with articles about current climate science. You can read the statement about Fenton Communications on the about page.

Hansen's 1998 predictions revisited - article by Nick Stokes at Moyhu

Gish Gallop - article at RationalWiki

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. That he is a crank magnet was already obvious when he proudly informed us he was a vegan because he believed it is healthier. There is no evidence it is (it *may* be, if you are very careful in choosing exactly what you eat and make sure you supplement with essential micronutrients).

  2. I've asked several AGW deniers why they trust their own sources, if they don't trust climate scientists. I've never received a response.

    1. Some of them with engineering or science degrees do it because they think they're somehow more qualified than actual experts on their own grounds.

      But the ones without any relevant training at all, like most of the opinion writers in the WSJ, the Washington Times, Forbes, the (UK's) Telegraph or Mail, the Australian or the (Canadian) National Post? I don't have a clue.

    2. They even trust some the cherry-picked bits of climate scientists' papers when they quote them out of context in their blog posts. They of course prefer the quieter climate scientists who don't make a song and dance when they're misquoted.

    3. Mal Adapted.

      Don't confuse deniers with logic, you meany! :-)

  3. Is this a circle-jerk led by Miriam and her band of haters. Geeez talk about ugly souls. You people have got to have some of the ugliest Karma mankind has ever seen!

    1. One of these days I'll write an article about the limited vocabulary of science deniers. When someone replaces disinformation with facts, they are too often labeled "ugly", "hateful" and/or "haters" just for doing so.

      A case of ignorance and illiteracy going hand in hand.

  4. But you are kindly and compassionate. I can see that.

  5. I am simple stating the obvious empirical evidence that one finds when reading the material posted above. There is a lot of misdirected anger in the above words. Let's solve the right problem, not tear down individuals who question your beliefs. That is what happens in fanatical religion and that is what is happening here. Stick to the facts.

    1. "Geeez talk about ugly souls."

      Of course you are simply stating the obvious empirical evidence. You are a kindly, scientific logical type. I can see that now.

    2. I'll add the words "anger" and "angry" to the upcoming article, and maybe "religion".

    3. "Crude" would also be appropriate - but maybe I'm just hopelessly old fashioned.

    4. The anger isn't misdirected. It's correctly directed. Presenting the science in response to crap like Siegel's is appropriate, in and of itself. But Siegel isn't debating science, and science can't ever be a full response. He doesn't seem stupid enough to believe that the sources he provides support his thesis. Many of them plainly contradict him. He must know that. He apparently also knows that his target market won't check his sources. Sou is right: he's just a liar. This isn't a disagreement over beliefs. He isn't mistaken. He's a liar, lying for--well, only he knows for sure, but money's a good guess. If his lies were harmless, then so what? But they're not. They hurt people. They hurt you. They hurt me. Of infinitely more importance, they hurt my children. Siegel and his ilk have no reasonable expectation of courtesy or care. They deserve our reproaches; they should suffer them more often.

  6. Well, Sou, you did a great job. Keep up the fine work. But I do wish my colleagues would stay away from the accusations which distract, such as "you must be paid", "Koch" somethingorother, "you believe earth is only 6000 years old" and other unverifiable accusations.

    Fact is, for appropriate action we need people we don't agree with to understand it's their lives too. Telling them they have motivations they don't is not helping.

    1. Do I understand what you are saying correctly?

      Sou calling people like David Siegel out is the right thing to do. Factually errors are factual errors. Made up factual errors are even worse.


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