Thursday, May 19, 2016

It is essentially trivial, says Jonathan Jones. Indeed, says Stephan Lewandowsky

Sou | 1:53 AM Go to the first of 58 comments. Add a comment
Chelsea Harvey at Washington Post has written about a new paper in Global Environmental Change. Her headline is: "Climate change doubters really aren’t going to like this study", and it seems that at least one science denier doesn't like it. The paper is by Stephan Lewandowsky, Professor at the University of Bristol, Timothy Ballard, Klaus Oberauerd and Rasmus Benestad, a climate scientist. It was a research conducted as a blind test of common claims of climate science deniers, comparing them with science reported by climate scientists.

The blind tests were carried out by disguising the data as something else (like agricultural production figures or population or share market prices or similar) and asking statisticians and economists to check the statements against the data for accuracy. Chelsea Harvey gave this example as a simplified illustration of the test:

The results showed that the claims of science deniers just don't stack up whereas the statements from climate scientists were consistent with the data.

The researchers went further and asked the test participants to make projections based on the data they were given. In most cases their projections were consistent with scientific projections.

It's trivial to show that the data supports the science, not denier claims

In the Washington Post article, there was a quote from Jonathan Jones, a science denier who hangs about a minor climate conspiracy blog in the UK. It illustrated the veracity of the study results beautifully. He was quoted as saying:
“The obvious problem is that because they have control over both the choice of dataset used to assess a contrarian claim and over the corresponding ‘consensus claim,’ it is essentially trivial to construct situations where the data supports the consensus claim and opposes the contrarian claim,”
Yep, when scientists' research provides the data and deniers are only intent on denying the data, it's trivial to show that the data supports the consensus and is not supported by deniers. The very word "consensus" implies that there is lots of evidence to support it.

Jonathan went on about deniers wanting to use different data sets:
In reality, many of the real arguments are over precisely which dataset to use (there are several competing datasets for global temperatures) and over which time periods to use (recent trends or longer term trends.
Indeed! As Chelsea Harvey said and Jonathan Jones admitted, deniers prefer to cherry pick data. Which global temperature data set do you think Jonathan Jones prefers? Which period would he choose to cherry pick?

As for sea level rise, what's the bet young Jonathan prefers Nils Axel-Morner's slanted charts to satellite measures of sea level?

Source: UK Parliament written submission from Nils Axel-Morner

You'd have to wonder if Jonathan Jones was asked for his reaction as a representative science denier because Chelsea Harvey figured it would validate the study :)


Got an email from Professor Lewandowsky about Jonathan Jones' saying that a problem with the study is the data it chooses to begin with. Stephan Lewandowsky explained that this complaint has no merit:
...we established the representativeness of the scenarios that we used by (a) Google search and (b) the experiment with climate experts in the online supplement. Thus it's not just that we picked 6 scenarios that "worked" but we showed that they are representative of the denialist discourse--in which case the results are, of course, far from trivial.

References and further reading

Lewandowsky, Stephan, Timothy Ballard, Klaus Oberauer, and Rasmus Benestad. "A blind expert test of contrarian claims about climate data." Global Environmental Change 39 (2016): 91-97. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.04.013

Climate change doubters really aren’t going to like this study - article by Chelsea Harvey at Washington Post

Economists and statisticians reject contrarian claims about the climate in a blind test - article by Stephan Lewandowsky at Shaping Tomorrow's World


jrkrideau said...

"Climate change doubters really aren’t going to like this study

I worked my way through a fair number of the comments at the Washington Post and no they are not happy. Mostly a lot of the usual denier tropes and not even as much actual scientific arguments as seen at WUWT.

However there was one outstanding response from a doubter by the name of Daniel Murphy re the ozone hole while challenging the science.

Except for the fact that the ozone hole closed on its own and the "scientists" stopped talking about it because they were wrong from the beginning just like they are wrong now and climate change is not by man made output but is made by Mother nature.

This lad is definitely a dedicated denier.

BTW the actual paper is behind a paywall. Time to walk down to the uni and grab it.

Barry Woods said...

Professor Jonathan Jones - Physicists, Brasenose College , Oxford University - is a "science denier'

seriously.. 'c'mon

wheelism said...

Barry Woods commenting on a Lewandowski article?!


Sou said...

Yes, seriously, Jonathan Jones is a climate science denier just like you are Barry. Perhaps worse, because as you say his training should have taught him better.

His own words betray him when he misrepresents stolen emails. As well as favouring denier blogs, he's also a big fan of Donna "in the dustbin" Laframboise, just like his wife is.

Sou said...

I think Barry has "Lewandowsky" as a Google alert. He was a bit late in writing this comment. He's usually first. Barry's been racing around for the past three years or so telling fibs about him. He won't do it here because he knows I don't permit defamatory lies about scientists.

Millicent said...

Presumably Barry Woods is also a distinguished professor at a prestigious university. Otherwise his attempt to dignify Jonathon Jones by reference to his position implies we should automatically ignore him as he would become, by default, a complete prick.

Millicent said...

And never forget that Barry Woods has been proven to be a lizardman by his own methodology.

wheelism said...
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wheelism said...

(Pardon my misspelling of Prof. Lewandowsky's name.)

Prince Mishkin said...

Prof. Jones complaining that the data used wasn't cherry picked takes the biscuit.

Sou said...

Got an email from Stephan Lewandowsky about how the examples were chosen, which further nullifies Jones' complaint. See the update above.

Pinotgraves said...

Per Jones' comment as quoted above, only one of the six examples used is a temperature data set. Is there some glacier mass balance data set out there we don't know about, or arctic sea ice extent data set? "It is essentially trivial to construct situations where the data supports the consensus claim and opposes the contrarian claim." Jones styles himself a climate change agnostic?

John Mashey said...

People may want to reread the WaPo article carefully.
Some may worry about false balance, but given savvy authors (they are), I think it's more like "innoculation". I have seen this before from savvy journalists, especially when they can come up with the right quotes.

Windchasers said...

Well, when the vast majority of the data goes one way.. ayep, it's pretty trivial to construct situations where the presentation of that data also goes one way.

metzomagic said...

And where are Geoff and Brad just when Barry needs them the most? It used to be that just 3 contrarians could get papers retracted, if they threatened the publishers with legal action.

Not good enough, guys. So far the only 10 comments at shapingtomorrowsworld have been from ad spammers. You're letting the side down.

PG said...

John, The Washington Post has vastly improved since the Grahams sold it Bezos in 2013
Under the most recent Graham management It got involved in all manner of distasteful ventures - the infamous and wildly unethical WaPo Dinner Salons, the buying up of small for-profit tertiary education companies that were mostly cowboy outfits, hell, it even tried weird stuff like getting their editorial and op-ed staff to "act" in comedy content for the on-line Washington Post (Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza).
It was bizarre and standards were being shed as quickly as its staff.

Today, it is one of the few dailies on the planet that is actually adding journalists. There will be 20 full-time journos dedicated to vetting trump during this election season and another 20 dedicated to the Dem nominee (take it as read it will be Clinton).

I'm sure Jeff Bezos will not make money from this massive reinvestment but we all should be grateful to have him there.

Bernard J. said...

Some of my colleagues and I were discussing almost exactly this study methodology late last year, and wondering if it would make a paper. Stephan's nicely answered that question!

He who hesitates... :-)

As for Barry Woods, is it just me or is there almost an air of the stalker about him?

Richard S J Tol said...

"I don't permit defamatory lies about scientists."


Millicent said...

I suppose for 'balance' they could have used some crap about faux cooling using the 1998 cherrypick. But that would not have been testing people's perception of science and it couldn't have come from any scientific literature.

John Mashey said...

PG WaPo: good to hear.
I had to run out before saying more about savvy journos.
In this case, I had to speculate, simply from having read many pieces by Chris Mooney. In my examples that follows, I don't have to speculate.

Consider a story about A, in which is inserted an opposing view by B. This can happen several ways.

1) The writer purposefully wants to weaken A.
For example, suppose The Australian writes on climate.

2) The writer lacks confidence, and wants to be seen to cover the bases, so calls B and adds them in.

3) The Editor makes them do that, so 2) and 3) are the common false balance.

4) The writer wants to say something they can't about B, so instead they try to get quotes. A good reporter will fairly quote somebody ... but the quote will say something about B for anyone who reads carefully.

SO, here are 2 examples. Read them and see which of 1)-4) you think is happening. Look for quotes by Ed Wegman or his lawyer. Some friends were upset at some of them, like
"Wegman added, "I will say that there is a lot of speculation and conspiracy theory in John Mashey's analysis which is simply not true... These attacks are unprecendented in my 42 years as an academic and scholar. We are not the bad guys"

Nov 2010

May 2011.

Harry Twinotter said...


I have seen others make the claim the ozone hole either was never there, or "healed" itself.

They must be all copying from the same denier talking points - it is an odd thing to say, I cannot believe people independently dreamed up such a thing.

In actual fact the ozone hole is still there. I believe it is getting smaller or at least not getting any larger - all thanks to CFCs being restricted (some CFCs are still getting into the atmosphere).

Harry Twinotter said...

It looks like "Tol the Troll" has dropped in for a drive-by comment. I do not have Sol's good manners.

Harry Twinotter said...


My thoughts exactly. It is "trivial" when the evidence is obvious!

Gotta love deniers, they project their own intellectual dishonesty onto others.

Tadaaa said...

is this study an update to an earlier one that uses a similar "blind data test" technique


Barry Woods said...

compared to Sou - following Watts' every move - LOL!

Anonymous said...

No comparison at all Barry Woods. Sou is completely open about the purpose of her blog. Stalkers are rather less open about their intentions and motivations.

cRR Kampen said...

Same kind of thing with acid rain.

Magma said...

@Harry Twinotter: Tol's fixation with Cook and Lewandowsky borders on obsessive. See Lubos Motl for a cautionary example of where that sort of behavior can lead.

jrkrideau said...

Hi Harry,

I must say that was the first time I had seen such a claim. I was a bit bemused and judging from a couple of other responses others were with me.

I believe you are right about them copying the same points. It likely is that they read the same blogs, etc., and think that those are great ideas. It probably is the same with the famous "Carbon dioxide is a plant food" line.

wheelism said...
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wheelism said...

Errors and hair are not the measure of the Tol;
'Tis rather the brevity of the twit's soul.

Survival Acres said...

Climate denialists have fabricated their own religion, complete with doctrine, tenet’s and connedspiracies. Anything that would refute, challenge or dispute this new religion is simply ignored, explained away or derided.

We all know that a religion, no matter how utterly ridiculous it may be, and how lacking in facts, evidence and proof it may have, is hard to eradicate. There will always be gullible uninformed idiots that will easily embrace the most ridiculous claims. Indeed, there is some evidence that the more ridiculous, the more ‘belief’.

Climate denialists have to willfully choose to ignore facts, evidence, physics and science, while at the same time embracing conjecture, connedspiracy and doctrine. But there are plenty of uninformed idiots that do this.

You’re fighting against a religion, that has its own disciples, evangelists and pastors who seek to expand their flock of believers while daily denying the reality of the world.

I admire your courage to continue to soundly disprove this group, but like all other religions, their steeped in superstition and have yet to join the real world. The great irony is obvious - even when real world events, measurements and proof exists or occurs, even happening to them - they still remain in denial. I think this shows just how difficult a task this is, eradicating this religion would be in order, but perhaps even impossible.

Climate denialists will suffer along with every other human on this planet with the effects of climate change. They will go on believing in their religion despite their own suffering. Just like religion, they will even claim this is their proof that they are right.

This isn’t justice however, since climate denialists are in fact responsible for climate inaction. Which is more proof that climate denialism is in fact a religion, causing the immense suffering and even the persecution of other people. The world is expected to even tolerate this new religion as we do all others, but I disagree with this. Tolerance of disruptive and dangerous religions isn’t ethical or safe, it is the path to even more harm.

bill said...

Anybody else struck by the irony of someone using an icon provided by the 'hilarious' Josh making such a complaint?

Marco said...

Not when it comes to Tol, bill. There the irony is already in Tol's prior treatment of Bob Ward, doing some piss-poor photoshopping and putting that on Twitter for all his followers to see.

Cugel said...

A denier theme I've seen right from the start is this one of climate change being another scare story like CFC's, acid rain, smog, PCB's and what-all else which just went away. All by themselves.

Oh, and Y2K, that just went away by itself too. So much effort wasted trying to prevent things which never happened anyway. Thank heavens we're not making the same mistake over AGW.

jrkrideau said...

Exactly, and they know that smallpox and polio went away due to better sanitation.

bill said...


Tadaaa said...

Tol's defence of his position/paper in the consensus on consensus thread at ATTP was one of the most pathetic things I have read in a while

Sophistry and self-delusion

embarrassing really

PG said...

Off topic. Richard you know that Roy is a creationist. How do you accommodate this ?

wheelism said...

Better than a gerbil.

someone else said...

Are you saying you have no faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster?!?! Blasphemy!

Bert from Eltham said...

I thought once that I was touched by his noodly appendage but it was only my dogs cold nose!


Millicent said...

Oh Barry what an opportunity awaits you. The inmates at WUWT did at one point declare they were going to set up a counter to HotWhopper with a website dedicated to rebutting its criticisms. Sadly it turned out the people who were going to do that were too busy - or had something in their eye, or the dog ate the IP address or something. So if you see yourself as anywhere near Sou's league you should go set that site up. Do let us all know when its up and running.

PG said...

Bert your dog will always be more of a god than any Copper Age construct.

Susan Anderson said...

Since some "language" appears to be permitted here at times, I have a thought about Dr. Tol. Since he's proven that his arithmetic is dodgy at best, and his errors are gremlins for which he will not apologize, perhaps he's auditioning for a post with the Kochtopus (who are busy infesting universities with donated facilities) when his current employers realize his unprofessional behavior is compounded by error. Unless they are already funding his "research".

wheelism said...

Barring a "come to Jesus" moment (and the betrayal of his colleagues that is implied), Richard has no choice but to evade discussion of his errors and continue to suggest that a scientific basis for policy discussion is undemocratic.

All for a fleeting moment of notoriety.

Tadaaa said...

yes an amazing act of intellectual and academic Self-flagellation

wheelism said...

If there's an upside to Tol's refusal to engage in good faith, it's that he's so ripe for parody: The gremlins, the behavior, the hair, the name...

Thank you for being you, Richard.

wheelism said...

(And thank you, Al Gore, for inventing the Internet AND AGW; Richard Tol owes the legacy he continues to squander to you.)

Mack said...

"And thank you, Al Gore, for inventing....AGW".
Yes, well said, wheelism.

Cugel said...

Fifteen minutes of fame must sound pretty attractive to those who, in their hearts, know they're not worth even one.

Kevin O'Neill said...

wheelism writes - "(And thank you, Al Gore, for inventing the Internet AND AGW..."

Before reading this I'd just commented over at ATTP's on a comment by Steve Mosher regarding consensus messaging wherein SM criticized the 'choice' of Gore as a spokesman. To which I replied:

"I think you have that backwards, Steve. Environmentalists didn’t choose Gore to be a leader, Gore chose to lead on the environment. There is a difference."

wheelism said...

"Yes, well said, wheelism."

The monosyllabism, the startling lack of wit...Steve McIntyre, is that you?

wheelism said...

KON: Yes, well said. (Har.) Though given the trash I've written about him, it's not my place to begrudge Mosh the occasional shiv during his generally informative comments.

D.C.Petterson said...

Kevin, "Gore chose to lead on the environment."

That is undeniably true. But let's also add that science deniers chose to single out Gore as a target. IT's a Saul Alinksy-type tactic (or, if you prefer an example of Serengeti Strategy) to pick an individual on which to concentrate ridicule and scorn, so as to personalize a political issue and distract from the issue itself, using that individual to be the focus of an ad hominem attack on the the topic as a whole.

In one sense, of course, it's the highest compliment, for it recognizes Gore's contribution and his effectiveness in bringing climate change to the awareness of the general public. There's a reason a random and unknown commenter like me (for instance) isn't a national target the way Gore is. He has achieved quite a lot in this arena.

Harry Twinotter said...

A rebuttal website to HotWhopper?

I would love to see that, when the deniers try to rebut something they usually tie themselves into bigger and bigger knots.

This is very amusing to the knowledgeable lurkers.

John Mashey said...

See Rise in CO2 has 'greened Planet Earth'.
Now *that* looks like false balance to me...

bill said...

Yes please also to the 'rebuttal' website. I suspect Sou would handily kick their rebutts...