Thursday, May 31, 2018

Are nefarious forces causing the public to cool on the idea of climate conspiracies?

Sou | 8:58 PM Go to the first of 20 comments. Add a comment
According to conspiracy blogger Anthony Watts, nefarious forces have been responsible for the slowdown in his blog traffic. He put up an article about how he reckons his blog has been "under attack by a variety of forces".  The short version is that he's got WordPress to transfer his anti-environment blog onto their cloud platform.

There's more conspiratorial paranoia, too. He wrote in part:
"In the short term this migration may mean some interruptions of service, in the long-term this should ensure that WUWT continues to reach audiences worldwide without interruption or interception by some of the nefarious forces that operate from the shadows trying to reduce the impact this website has. It will also toughen the site against attacks."
Just thought I'd let you know that this nefarious force will soon be on its way back from the shadows to play its small part in reducing the ruinous impact of climate science deniers on our precious world. (Other obligations have kept me away for longer than I expected.)

Is this the start of an ice age at WUWT?

For no particular reason some time ago I started looking at trends in "hits" at WUWT. Bear in mind that "hits" are not the same as the number of site visits, let alone unique visits to the website.

Every time a file is called the site registers a "hit", so the hit count doesn't just include robots (such as Google, Yahoo etc), it also means that for a page with lots of images, adverts etc, a single page view can result in dozens of "hits". When Anthony Watts claims "At present, WUWT stands at 353 million views" he's wrong. It's not "views" it's "hits". At least that what his webcounter shows it as.

The webcounter shows "353,453,527 hits". When a person opens the home page they download umpteen files - images, adverts, widgets etc. so that 353,453,527 hits is more like 3 million views. Over the eleven years or so since WUWT began, this would be an average of about 23,000 page views a month. The number of people who regularly visit the site would depend on how many pages the average conspiracy theorist looks at. If they read an article, they have to click through at least one page each visit. (There are probably a couple of hundred people who post a "thought" on a WUWT article at least weekly, though I've not counted them, and maybe ten times or more that number who lurk.)

While there are nothing like the number of "visits" that Anthony claims, the site is nevertheless probably the biggest climate conspiracy site on the internet. It would yield some decent pocket money each month from advertising revenue and more from donations. That's probably why Anthony is complaining about WUWT losing popularity.

So on that subject, as I said, I started looking at the numbers from the "hits". Below is a chart showing the number of hits by month from July 2013 to the present.

The hit count this year is dropping almost to that of 2013. The high point for WUWT traffic was back in 2014. Is it coincidence that the ice age so often promised at WUWT didn't come and some fans became disenchanted?

In the next chart, which shows the changes more clearly, I've extrapolated the annual "hits" for 2013 and 2018 (based on actual data recorded for months shown above). The other years are actuals from the WUWT counter.

I suggest dividing the number of "hits" by anything up to around 100 to get the number of page views. A single visitor will probably view at least two pages each time they visit so you can pick your own number to divide by to get the number of site visits and the number of unique visitors. Both will be smaller again.

Going by the trend, I'd say Anthony has some reason to be concerned. The popularity of WUWT does appear to be on the decline. The question is, is this merely a pause or hiatus or is the public really cooling on climate conspiracies?

Further reading

Hits Or Pageviews? - article on OpenTracker (This is not a commercial for OpenTracker. I know nothing about it. The article is worth reading if you want to learn a bit more about web statistics.)


  1. It couldn't be that WUWT regulars are aging out or self-selecting on the basis of a preference for conspiratorial right-wing political nonsense disguised as scientific contrarianism, could it?

    Of course not. I'm ashamed the thought even crossed my mind.

    1. Ha ha.

      There have been more overtly political articles lately. WUWT used to like to pretend it wasn't a politics site, though it is, of course.

      As for ageing out - that's likely. (A lot of people have been complaining that the font on the new WUWT website is too small.)

  2. I certainly detect a slow down in comments / engagement on both side tbh, in the UK I think Brexit is consuming peoples time - the utter clusterfvck that it is - predicted and predictable - given that it is driven by climate change deniers it is no real surprise, and maybe the "Trump effect" has had a similar effect also - sort of "bullshit overload"

    1. Brexit is certainly diverting attention. Did you know that the economic benefits of Brexit will not be immediate, but at some unspecified time in the future? Just as global cooling will occur only at some unspecified time in the future. It all seems so improbable I feel we are all lucky we have Nigel Lawson to assure us that both are true: otherwise we might feel an element of doubt.

    2. Nigel Lawson, the former chair of the Vote Leave campaign, speaking from his mansion in France while he applies for residency there.


    3. Don't forget that there was an unconfirmed report that Nigel Farage was seen at the German embassy but a source stated,"He was at the embassy in relation to a personal matter. The idea that it’s anything to do with German citizenship is complete rubbish". And we know that UNKIP would never lie.

      If I were British, I'd be a bit worried that the leaders of the "Leave" campaign seem to be launching the lifeboats.

    4. Its always reassuring to know that Theresa May can head to Frankfurt (the new banking capital of the EU) with her millionaire banker husband when the City of London has been emptied.

    5. We also have to stomach another piece of major hypocrisy. The same people who claimed we could not act to prevent climate change because it would hurt the economy are now willing to commit economic suicide so "we can take back control". For "we" read "they".

  3. Welcome back Sou. We have missed you.

    1. Thanks, Phil. I've missed all of you here, too.

  4. "Nefarious"!!!

    Will the nefarious Dr. Warm overcome Tony Truescience and his plucky band? Will a cherry appear for TT to eat? Tune in daily to find out.

  5. Strange that with all these nefarious forces trying to stop WUWT, I've never had any problem getting to the site. But now they've migrated I keep getting redirected to the old site, at least on Firefox.

    1. Yes I did too - had to erase cookies for the "privilege" of doing so.
      I hasten to add that when I do I now employ the technique of scanning down the comments at the usernames and only initially reading comments by posters I know not to reside down the rabbit-hole, eg yourself, Nick Stokes, Ivankinsman, and a new kid on the block - Kristi Silber. Don't post much at all now, the last time was to piss-off Monckton with his latest "Game-changer" bollocks "Mathterbation".
      It's the only way I can stomach the place.
      Good to have you back Sue.

  6. Hmmm... nefarious forces. Trump/Putin aligned media sources are expected to use the term "Deep State" these days.

  7. Comments down dramatically at Judith's crib...Lucia's also. Lucia's is pretty much all political discussion all the time, and Judith's tends to get the most traffic, by far, on posts that are more explicitly political in nature. And as you note, WUWT has become more openly and explicitly political in nature.

    We could chalk at least some of that trend (if it really is a trend) up to factors such as Judith getting busier, changes in her moderation (an attribution she offered that I think is laughable). Maybe it's simply that Lucia has lost interest in writing climate change oriented posts - but then it might be interesting to speculate as to why she's lost interest.

    There doesn't have to be any grand theories...maybe it's just a collection of more prosaic factors.

    But my guess is that in general, there are at least two things going on. The first is that coinciding with the rise of Trump, the facade that the "skept-o-sphere" is really anything other than a proxy for political warfare has broken down quite a bit. The other is that in general, the enthusiasm for blogospheric bickering about climate change has dissipated somewhat. Perhaps if there is a fatigue factor, it's connected to a situation where (at least in the U.S.) the "skeptic" cohort has ascended politically, and so is less driven to write cathartic blog comments to vent their sense of identity grievance.

    1. Joshua, I've made the same observations to a number of my friends and colleagues over the last couple of years, and especially the last 18 months. The factors to which I've put it down are similar to the ones you list, but with slightly different emphases.

      1) Burn-out of a lot of the long-time bloggers. It takes a lot of energy to maintain push-back against the whackable moles of conservative ideology and corporate/government greed, and over time that takes a toll. And there's a peculiar precedence thing underlying the landscape where once the field was initially populated a decade or more ago, people seem to have relied on those well-known sites for information going forward, even if those sites peter out, rather than new players picking up the baton and going forth when an old blog/forum slows.


    2. 2) The success of the denial campaign. It's a bit like the Russian interference in the 2016 US election (and probably involves many of the same players...) where a number of serendipitous factors aligned to profoundly change the fate of the outcome. In the case of climate change denialism I would posit that the fossil fuel lobby won a decade and more ago with their influence on government policies of the time and the spectacular rise of the false narratives of the plethora of climate denial sites that mushroomed on the internet in the mid-naughties.

      But for me the telling blow was when Tony Abbott ousted Malcolm Turnbull from the Liberal party leadership by 42 votes to 41 on 1 December 2009. This single vote difference completely changed the political landscape in Australia, as it scared the pants off Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who'd been championing carbon emissions reduction until then, and Rudd's capitulation and Abbott's rabid support of fossil fuel interests destroyed the Australian narrative on reducing and ceasing carbon emissions. With Australia's collapse in this arena the world's landscape started to shift, and the fate of the whole endeavour was then sealed.

      I've watched global politics since then and despite AR4 and AR5, and Copenhagen, and Paris, and the rise of renewables (despite the best efforts of fossil fuel corporations to kill them), we have nevertheless not shifted the rate of accumulation of CO₂ in the atmosphere. Indeed, it appears to be accelerating. This is the only measure that counts, and we've had no impact on it despite our best efforts. Under the current paradigm there is no obvious mechanism that could explain how this trajectory will shift, and given that our already-committed warming (~1.7°C) will destroy over the next century-to-millennium the Arctic summer ice, the Great Barrier Reef, many kelp forests and mangroves and coastal land below 3-7 metres over current sea level, many alpine ecosystem, and even many tropical and temperate vegetation systems through climatic shifts, it's already too late for a lot of life on Earth. Another decade or so of our current trajectory will see us realise probably in excess of 2.0°C warming, and there's simply no way short of cataclysmic economic societal collapse that we could realise anything resembling full decarbonisation by 2050, so we'd be close to 3°C warming by then. 3°C is pretty much game over for global society, and greater then 4-5°C is game over for cohesive regional societies.

      So, from the denialists' perspective they've won, years ago, and we've already lost. The message to modify our behaviour didn't get through in terms of substantive effect, and we know that things will not change in the near future. We have remaining only a choice between bad and worse. That we're still fighting the fight as if we can land softly is a delusion unless there appears a technology that could rapidly decarbonise the atmosphere, and I reckon thermodynamics effectively argues against this if we intend to keep our current level of affluence. All we can do is decide how screwed we want to be, and every day that we sit on our hands the closer we get to having no available decision at all.

      In light of all this I suspect that many previously-vocal advocates for decarbonisation have moved to other strategies. I’m far less online in these for a these days, and spending a lot more time on trying to enhance local resilience. I suspect that it’s largely a forlorn effort in the greater scheme of things, but it’s probably the best way that I can get return for investment…

    3. 3) Trump, Brexit, and similar right-wing populisms, variously aided and abetted by Russian and other antipathetic national interference. The geopolitical milieu appears to be locked into a neo-feudal economic and government paradigm, cleverly reinforced by making the uneducated and/or selfish 50% + of voters in various nations listen to false messages. This has grown as perhaps a greater immediate imperative and I think that this is taking many people’s eyes off the climate ball. And others just give up in defeat.

      We can’t afford to tire though, because the more we salvage the less it will hurt. And given that history shows even now that we couldn’t do well, we should strive to do our best going forward with the remaining alternatives.

  8. Anecdotally I have noticed a decline in both pro and anti AGW blog posts. I suspect the lay public is accepting AGW more and more so it is less controversial. And nature has been providing more evidence for AGW for example the bad hurricanes, the bleaching of the GBR, the climate catastrophe in the Arctic and so on. I don't see many talking about "The Pause" anymore.

    I have a test. If interested in a topic is declining, the blogs on that topic will either disappear or switch to another topic. For example Atheist blogs switched over to fringe politics when interest in Atheism declined.


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