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Opengate - Josh 158

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It looks like John Cook and co at Skeptical Science are in a bit of a tizzy because their secret forum has been exposed to public view. Their complaint is that they have been hacked though John Cook admits that their security is almost non-existent.

What is interesting, in reading some of the excerpts from the forum posted here, is the similarities between the SkS secret forum and the Climategate emails - i.e. we know the facts don't support what we say but don't tell anyone!

That's ok, guys, your secrets are safe with us ;-)

Cartoons by Josh


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Reader Comments (163)

On the other hand there are already over 468,000 views of "The Heartland Department of Education" video: which is recommended and endorsed by Jan W. Dash, John Cook's collaborator on the "Climate Myths" catechism, this is nearly1000 times more views than the others in the series.

Although opening the hatch and peering into the engine room is interesting, I do not think it hinders the progress of the AGW juggernaut.

Mar 28, 2012 at 12:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

I don't know what you sad people think you are proving - very little indeed on a quick skim through the above - but doubtlessly you will all accept the justice of the situation should, say, this blog be hacked, and Montford's back-channel discussions be cherrypicked by gloaters?

Perhaps you could even commission another of Josh's hilarious cartoons for the occasion?

What a shameful bunch.

I am unable to see a single example of any purloined comment that even approaches 'we know the facts don't support what we say but don't tell anyone' in the above, and suggest to you that this is because no such example exists. Your mythmaking process is sordidly predictable.

Mar 28, 2012 at 2:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

@bill, Josh could be busy on this for the next month should he choose. Crusher Crew! Unfortunately you can't see the forest for the trees, as they say. People who's focus is science do not operate as a PR machine, they do not consider their audience ignorant and irrational and tailor an Iraqi War Minister approved version of events especially for their consumption.

@Paul Butler, please answer this. Regarding Gleick, why was Telling The Truth not considered an option? In climate land Gleick was a big story and they'd already reported on the leak. The private discussions show they knew it was big.

Mar 28, 2012 at 2:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

@ David. Non-argument. Complete with a ridiculous - and deliberately denigrating - straw man comparison to the Iraqi dictatorship.

Proof of them assuming their audience is 'ignorant and irrational', please? I see none above. I predict this will prove as non-existent as the evdence for your host's claim that they know the 'facts don't support us'.

What is happening is that you are confusing the myth you are all happily collectively generating here with the reality of the situation - SkS is a science outreach program, and a highly-effective one, which is, I suggest, why you're all clearly so threatened by them that you're happy to resort to such disreputable tactics.

Cook won a Eureka Science Prize for this very reason. This is not some third-rate web-log gong based on all the little droogs toddling over and gaming the voting process, which one sees a hell of a lot of on your side of the debate.

Mar 28, 2012 at 2:48 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

"science outreach"

Heh. Why does science need outreach?

Mar 28, 2012 at 3:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Because, unfortunately, there's a world full of motivated and noisy disinformers out there Shub.

Mar 28, 2012 at 3:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill


"Proof of them assuming their audience is 'ignorant and irrational', please?"

Maybe you should have read the thread. David has already posted the smoking gun PR document (March 27, 11:44 AM).

Here it is again for your reading pleasure:

Here's my two cents on engaging the public:

The biggest obstacles you need to understand are that the public doesn't understand the nature of science, they are unwitting victims of serious confirmation bias, they aren't rational decision-makers, and there is a great deal of anti-intellectual feeling out there. (DO NOT tell them any of this. They'll label you as an arrogant, patronizing intellectual who thinks you're better than them, and stop listening.)
Public opinion has nothing to do with rationality or reality. Like it or not, it's determined by emotion and perception.


"SkS is a science outreach program..."

There we go again! Outreach. An expression borrowed from Christian evangelists and proselytisers. Am I the only one who cringes upon hearing 'outreach' in science forums?

"...and a highly-effective one, which is, I suggest, why you're all clearly so threatened by them that you're happy to resort to such disreputable tactics."

Dude, SkS barely registers a blip on the radar in this neck of the woods. They got very lucky this time and now they have all this free publicity and stuff.

Edit: I see Shub's reached out to 'outreach' before me.

Mar 28, 2012 at 3:41 AM | Registered CommentersHx

Gee, that's a smoking gun and a half, isn't it?

For a start, according to your own source, it's from an external e-mail - i.e not from one of the SkS authors at all! Ho ho. Not off to a good start, are we?

And do you seriously doubt that 'the public doesn't understand the nature of science, they are unwitting victims of serious confirmation bias'? Or that 'public opinion has nothing to do with rationality or reality'. ( I'd substitute 'little' for 'nothing' - rationality can, and does, win out, like laws can be just and good movies can sometimes win Oscars.)

'Like it or not, it's determined by emotion and perception'. Forget the endless psychological - and market research - that backs this up, I'll simply suggest that you believe just that whenever the public embraces some idea you don't like!

Some unkind people might suggest that victims of highly over-wrought emotion and the most extraordinary confirmation biases are going to find all this a bit hard to discern, though... ;-)

That's why the laws of physics, chemistry etc. are decided by the scientific method, not by polling. So each time I see one of you triumphantly proclaiming 'no-one believes you anymore' as a result of some Daily Mail poll I remain, you'll excuse me, unmoved.

Is this really the best you can do?

Mar 28, 2012 at 4:27 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

So you do admit Skepticalscience are bunch of advocates?

Mar 28, 2012 at 4:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

@bill JC described it as an excellent email and no disagreements with the content appeared. We could keep quoting and you'd just keep excusing. In one sentence they're a science site and the next a public outreach group. Pick one.

"That's why the laws of physics, chemistry etc. are decided by the scientific method, not by polling."

Go read up on The Consensus Project, it's just one big poll.

Mar 28, 2012 at 4:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

"Gee, that's a smoking gun and a half, isn't it?"

As a 'climate strategy document', it is a howling Big Bertha, most unlike one of those pink pop-guns that your Gleick produced.

Mar 28, 2012 at 4:42 AM | Registered CommentersHx

I was unaware that 'advocate' was a pejorative term!

They are engaged, as I said before, in outreach for science, which needs it because of the activities of... well, people like you, really.

But I gather you're not an advocate? You'll forgive me for finding this line of 'reasoning' almost charmingly absurd.

Mar 28, 2012 at 4:42 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Of course I am not an advocate. I am, by inclination, sceptical. It is certainly not wrong to be an advocate. But I don't trust an advocate.

How does making me a 'evil person' help your argument? Scepticalscience has to perform advocacy activities because people like me criticize it for carrying out advocacy activities? That is circular.

Mar 28, 2012 at 5:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Yes, Shub, your argument is inherently contradictory, I agree.

This was my point, as you, of course, know, but cannot acknowledge.

And because of its weakness, you must resort to strawmen, much like David's 'Iraqis', such as claiming victimhood by suggesting that I called you an 'evil person'. I did imply you were a motivated and noisy disinformer - you wouldn't accept the 'disinformer', of course, but 'motivated and noisy'? How could you not?

'Noisy' not acceptable? Very well, you're a 'motivated and unapologetic advocate' then. Of the type that necessitates SkS's work.

sHx almost certainly is a bit silly, however, as I'm not talking about Gleick, or any other shiny little squirrel you'd all feel much more comfortable in discussing.

I'm talking about a bunch of sad little people who have done something as disreputable as trawl through the private correspondence of others, and yet have nothing to show for it, no matter how they try to convince themselves!

What fools you must feel, and I suspect that some of you reading this are not so far gone that you won't feel, at least, a twinge of shame...

Mar 28, 2012 at 5:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Bill why did they not update the Heartland thread to indicate Gleick's involvement?

Mar 28, 2012 at 6:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

The simple answer is, science needs no outreach. No need to tie yourself in knots and ad hoc motivations there.

If you used people like me as an excuse for performing advocacy, you've destroyed your own trustworthiness in the process.

Mar 28, 2012 at 6:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub


How many of the outreach do you think is questionable or not true? :

Mar 28, 2012 at 6:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Bills

So where all the conversations where they admit there is no scientific basis to their claims , I thought private strategic conversations whould be full of plans and trickery to con the public with fake science ect.

I hope you find some soon or this will be a non event in two weeks .

Mar 28, 2012 at 6:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterDGreen

"What fools you must feel, and I suspect that some of you reading this are not so far gone that you won't feel, at least, a twinge of shame..."

I think the two threads on the SkS tree-hut docs would easily be among the top 10 most hilarious Bishop Hill threads ever. It has given us unprecendeted warmth and gladdened our hearts. I am very proud to have taken part in this expose and I wish I could buy John Cook a beer for leaving the gate open.

Since the secret conversations first entered public domain, the SkS climate public relations sausage machine has been deconstructed with exceptional care here. Only SkS private forum usernames have been used. No one has disclosed any information such as real names or email addresses or IP addresses or other information of personal nature.

These are not even email communications. They are more like SkS log books. To speak in the language of 'climate wars' (been reading too much SkS lately), we came across a treasure trove of enemy intelligence and now we know everything they know. It is unedifying but hilarious.

Had the leak been from a skeptic website, the doomsdayosphere (just experimenting) would light up like a Christmas tree and they'd be throwing quotes around like confetti. How soon you forget the craze that gripped the warmist villages when the Heartland strategy doc was Gleaked? The SkS is still linking to documents that contain unredacted personal information of Heartland employees.

Mar 28, 2012 at 7:32 AM | Registered CommentersHx

DGreen, where do they admit in the rebuttal "2011-06-08-Basic rebuttal 184_ _There's no link between global warming and extreme weather_.html" that it isn't good enough because not a single original peer reviewed resource is referenced?

E.g. where is the evidence for this statement?

Similarly, Australia has seen the odds of both heavy rainfalls and droughts increase, and similar patterns are being observed worldwide, coinciding with rising temperatures over the past 50 years.

I would suggest that SkS's sins are more often ones of omission than inclusion: it's what they don't say or do.

Similarly look at their cloud feedback discussions. They cite that which backs their position and ignores that which doesn't, even though privately they know the latter exists.

Mar 28, 2012 at 7:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

DGreen, SkS's crime isn't providing dubious science but gilding the lily at every turn ...with an evangelical zeal.

"I hope you find some soon or this will be a non event in two weeks"

I'd be surprised if we're still talking about it in one week. These are kids, you know that, don't you? They are not grown-ups.

Mar 28, 2012 at 7:41 AM | Registered CommentersHx


“.. a bunch of sad little people who have done something as disreputable as trawl through the private correspondence of others, and yet have nothing to show for it, no matter how they try to convince themselves!”
I wouldn’t say we’ve got nothing to show for it, and I’m certainly not sad. I find the private correspondence of Cook and his circle vastly amusing and instructive. Of course, I wouldn’t trawl through the private correspondence of Joe Bloggs if it fell into my hands. But Skeptical Science is not any old bunch of private citizens going about their business. Their aim is to change the world - a bit like the G20 or the Judaean Liberation Front.

Defenders of SkS insist on the fact that there’s no smoking gun, in the sense of no criminal activity, no generously financed conspiracy, no forged documents. Who ever said there was?
I have some sympathy with the authors at Skeptical Science. I’ve just been looking through their potted biographies at 2010-08-14-Getting to know Skeptical Science authors.html. They seem a likeable enough bunch - very few scientists, no climate scientists, and a disturbingly large number of illustrators or web designers. Nothing wrong with that of course. Jesus Christ started with fishermen and tax gatherers and he did alright.
They seem to have been picked by John Cook personally from among the commenters on his blog. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that this might be a possible security problem. They’re on a mission to save the world, they assume that we deniers will stop at nothing to defeat their plans, but haven’t imagined that someone might pretend to be something that they are not in order to infiltrate them.
John Cook admits that he doesn’t get out much - and it shows.

Mar 28, 2012 at 7:54 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers


@Paul Butler, please answer this. Regarding Gleick, why was Telling The Truth not considered an option? In climate land Gleick was a big story and they'd already reported on the leak. The private discussions show they knew it was big.

In the denialosphere it was a big story, especially after it turned out that Gleik had forged a document. Just count the threads. For science based sites it got a mention, but it wasn't important because it only confirmed what we already knew about the funding of Heartland. The point of sites like SkS is to get the science over, and they actively resist getting dragged into these perennial conspiracy-type detective stories. They're absolutely right to do that.



Mar 28, 2012 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Butler

Paul you have span an untruth and failed to answer the question. SkS were all over the Heartland leak, and they were all over the Gleick revelation in private.

For crying out loud the private Gleick thread is named "WOW! Peter Gleick was 'Heartland Insider'!!!"

There's 4 explanation marks there Paul.

But SkS are only interested in the science yaddy yadda... head in the sand indeed.

Here's SkS not caring about the Heartland leak:
"Denialgate - Internal Heartland Documents Expose Climate Denial Funding Network"

6 pages of discussion; 3 updates to the original; not a single mention of Gleick.

FYI, the correct answer is -- as you know: they didn't report that Gleick was the leaker because that significant truth didn't fit their narrative that skeptics are evil and warmists are good.

For comparison consider Anthony Watts being revealed as a recipient of Heartland funds: he put a thread up about the leak and admitted his link. In that thread some skeptic commentators forwarded the view that Anthony was wrong to take their funding - there were free to say that on his site.

As another BH poster said we are not playing the same game as you.

Now go back to your private discussion thread at SkS, "Maybe we should try being honest.html".

Mar 28, 2012 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

You’ve got to feel sorry for John Cook and his fellow-authors - at least those of them who don’t fantasise about culling deniers. They were a key blog in a movement that was largely blog-driven; they had the support of every single government and national scientific body on the planet, plus 200 million activists (the frequently floated sum of all the members of their associated green groups). And yet, in their hour of need, there’s been hardly a peep of support for them anywhere.

They’re a member of the Guardian Environment Network; at least four of their authors write for the Guardian. Yet not a friendly word from their network colleagues. Gleick the forger and conman got a dozen articles of support. Yet Cook, who’s done nothing wrong, gets nothing. Consensus is a hard master.

Mar 28, 2012 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Can one of the SkS visitors please ask John Cook why he described Oreskes' 2004 study -- the '97 % consensus' study -- as having employed a "Dubious methodology on # of endorsements".

I'm rather enamoured of the tag "largest ever survey of peer-reviewed climate papers" so want to confirm this is the case. Here are all the surveys I've been able to track down so far: let me know if you encounter any others in this thread and I'll add them to the leaderboard. Note - this is surveys of papers, not of scientists. For # of rejections and endorsements, the quantity is implicit + explicit unless otherwise stated.

Survey # of papers # of rejections # of endorsements Comments
Oreskes 2004 928 0 696 Dubious methodology on # of endorsements

(2012-03-08-Leaderboard of surveys of climate papers.html)

He doesn't mention anything being dubious about it here,

Mar 28, 2012 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

This story reminds me of a saying I can modify from the original Italian.

Where the antifascists win, the fascists end up having seats in Parliament. Where the fascists win, the antifascists end up having cells in jail.

And that's all the difference between us "evil deniers" and SkS's "angelic consensualists". Only thing, we're not the fascists.

Mar 28, 2012 at 1:28 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

"Can one of the SkS visitors please ask John Cook why he described Oreskes' 2004 study -- the '97 % consensus' study..."

Actually, STATS (2007), Doran (2009), Anderegg (2010) and Farnsworth (2011) all concluded that 5% or less disagreed with human activity being a significant cause of global warming.

Mar 29, 2012 at 1:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterJ Bowers

Trawling through would be the wrong phrase. In this rich sea, fish jump into the net.

SkS tree-hutters debate whether a favourable Roy Spencer blog post should be carried to their website.

MarkR initiates the thread:

Not too shabbily done. The 'pressure is what causes the warming' things is one of the most scientifically illiterate of the alternative 'theories' I've seen posited.

First to respond is Rob Honeycutt:

Very interesting. An interesting tactic might be to ask if we can repost this. Or at least we could do a "Spencer gets it right" post.

John Hartz has the Gallic Wars in mind but he credits Rob:

I like Rob Honeycutt's "divide and conquer" strategy.

Dana1981 gets in:

Yeah that's a pretty good post. I like the idea of highlighting Spencer getting something right in a blog post. I'd be in favor of re-posting (or at least requesting to re-post) it. What does everyone else think?

Rob Honeycutt isn't just a good General but a good politician as well:

I'm pretty good at negotiating deals like this. You want me to contact Spencer and ask permission?

So they send a runner to the commander-in-chief for permission to negotiate with the enemy on a point of common interest while they continue hashing out how to do the deal. Should they re-post the entire article? If so, with what caveats? Roy Spencer is from the dark side after all.

Shortly thereafter the commander-in-chief arrives at the HQ. John Cook:

First thought - good luck getting Spencer to agree to that after all the posts we've done about him. Rob, you may be a good negotiator but are you that good?

Second, if we did do it, I think common courtesy dictates you link to the OP. It's a wrench but it's the fair thing to do.

So should we do try approaching him? I'm a big fan of the divide and conquer idea also.
Of course, if we do use it, would be good to also use this as the rebuttal to the "it's pressure" myth which would also go in the iPhone app. Rob, is it asking too much to ask Spencer about using it as a rebuttal also? If its a potential deal breaker, perhaps best to keep it off the table. How would Spencer think about this offer? As a chance for more legitimacy or as another reason for his own community of skeptics to criticise him?

Rob Honeycutt is on it:

My tactic would be to say that the authors at SkS greatly appreciated the article and him taking a stand for accurate science, even though he might take heat from some more hard core skeptics out there. ...yaddi-yadda-ya.

I might also throw in that I had been previously talking to Dr Pielke about ways to improve the tone of the climate debate and this might be an opportunity to help start bridging the gaps in the debate.

So far so good. They are being pragmatic as most good politicians are. As we already know, SkS is a science 'outreach' website and Roy Spencer is a good Christian who understand these things. They already have a lot of common ground. Why not join forces with him in slaying the slayers of sky-dragons?

Suddenly, Tom Curtis, the chap who won the hearts and minds of a few BH locals recently for his honest and moral and scientific ways, throws a spanner in the works by highlighting what has always been a hallmark of corruption in climate science:

Just before the epilogue, Spencer writes:

"Unfortunately, determining cloud feedbacks from our observations of the climate system is an exceedingly difficult problem. Even more difficult is publishing any evidence of negative cloud feedback in the peer reviewed literature."

I think we should not publish any post with the highlighted sentence, for obvious reasons.

Well, it is obvious to everyone now.

Shades of Wolfgang genuflecting before Trenberth and resigning from his post over Spencer's Remote Sensing paper, yes, there are, but unlike in that instance, this baby may yet be snuffed out before it sees the light of the day in Skeptical Science, the home of consensus science.

From that moment on the secret deliberations take a turn for the worse for Spencer and gets ever more cynical.

Ari Jokimaki:

I don't think we have obligation to acknowledge him. There are plenty of people who sometimes say correct things about climate and we don't acknowledge them. As a climate scientist, Spencer should practically always say correct things about climate science. I don't see a need to highlight his sayings just because he finally managed to do something that almost all other climate scientists do every day.

John Hartz:

At the outset of this comment thread, I thought reposting Chrsity's analysis would be a good "divide and conquer" strategy. While it may be a good strategy in the abstract, I now believe the known and unknow downsides of doing so outweigh the known and unkown upsides.

Even dana1981 gets more cynical:

I see some major upsides to re-posting Spencer:

SkS gains credibility, showing that we're about getting the science right, not about 'sides' or 'tribes' or whatnot.
SkS encourages Spencer to do good science/blog posts, showing that when he does, he gets rewarded.
SkS gets a free rebuttal to a new myth (assuming Spencer doesn't object).
We get to use Spencer on SkS to refute a WUWT post. Divide and conquer - if nothing else that will irritate Watts ;-)

Maybe Spencer's blog gets a tiny bit more traffic, but I think the upsides far outweigh the downsides.

John Hartz gets more self-important:

With all due respect, you underestimate the ability of the Climate Denial Spin Machine to contort a repost of Spencer's post on SkS to its advantage.

And Dikran Marssupial still naively clings on the notion that SkS is all about science:

I have to say, I am troubled by the discussion on messaging and "sides" and web traffic in the forum. SkS is well positioned to communicate to those who are reasonable and rational. Let other sites do the "sides" thing and lets keep to the science, which is what SkS has traditionally done so well. We don't need to be all things to all men, and we shouldn't try, it will just make SkS bland and like all the other climate discussion site and loose its distinctiveness and effectiveness.

Dana1981 tries cajoling John Hartz:

John - the only part of the Climate Denial Spin Machine that pays attention to SkS are the denialist blogs. They're not our target audience - they already think Spencer is a god and don't care what SkS has to say. Even if they were to spin a Spencer post on SkS (which I doubt, since a greenbox at the top would make our opinions on Spencer clear), it would make no difference whatsoever.

Fox News isn't going to run a story "SkS endorses Roy Spencer."

But John Hartz has Gleick on his side:


With all due respect, SkS is no longer "as pure as the driven snow" with respect to the content of its posts and hasn't been for a couple of years now. A perfect example is today's repost of Gleick's The 2011 Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards.

BTW, Spencer received a "BS" award from Gleick.

And Dikran, who recently claimed that SkS was all about science, concedes:

John, very true, but that is possibly not a good thing in the long run..:-(

Rob Painting sees Dikran's scientifically sorry carcass on the ground and kicks it:

Dikran, I disagree, sticking to the science doesn't mean we endorse an idiot like Spencer. If the myth needs debunking we do it ourselves or find someone who doesn't write gibberish the next day.

Like Ari says, other climate scientists get things right every day. Spencer gets a couple of things right and we shine a spotlight on him for doing what he's supposed to? Big frickin deal. The day he turns from the darkside is the day we can start praising him.

And as far as messaging is concerned, dude if you think facts alone are going to convince people you are sadly mistaken. How did facts prevent the enslavement of dark-skinned people? Segregation? Apartheid? And have you actually noticed how CO2 emissions have tracked since Kyoto? No, we have to play smarter, much, much smarter. And doing so means we don't confuse Joe/Jane average. Spencer is a denier, let's not dilute that message.

Rob's rebuttal of Dikran myth (that SkS is about science) is so powerful that Albatross is converted:

Hmm, Rob P. your post swayed me.... :)

Finally, after all the debate, deliberations and brain-storming, the commander-in-chief returns to the HQ and determines the consensus view which ends up being opposite the consensus view he had the beginning of the thread: No deal with the enemy, no rapprochement, no pasaran. John Cook:

But the deal breaker may be some of the comments Spencer makes about clouds and negative feedbacks. We would never let an SkS blog post get through with those kinds of comments. And there's no way Roy would say yes to "hey Roy, can we remove your crap about negative feedback from an otherwise good post?" (even if asked in a more diplomatic fashion)

Strategy and politics aside, it comes down to the science and I don't think we can overlook the snippets of bad science in Spencer's post. Negative feedback is a giant elephant in the room, while "global warming by air pressure" is a tiny mouse.

So that's that. Instead of re-posting Spencer's article, one that they mostly agreed with, Tom Curtis is assigned to write a fresh SkS piece on the issue in which he will pay lip service to Roy Spencer and use that denier's arguments to bash other deniers.

And they all live happily ever after, knowing that while everyone else was asleep SkS did some good and saved the world from forces of darkness without once compromising climate science and the scientific method.

Mar 29, 2012 at 4:29 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

The fish jump at you.

A particular thread at the tree-hutters' secret forum puts me in a bind. It is a case of intimidation first persuasion later style targeting of a climate skeptic university lecturer through a complaint to the departmental head first, and later with a letter directly to the lecturer. It must be seen to be believed.

The skeptic scientist's response to the initial complaint is solid as diamond. So the tree-hutters put their heads together for a different tactic to influence and possibly convert the skeptic lecturer. The idea that they should ask the lecturer to read the SkS is dismissed out of hand by none other than John Cook himself.

Instead, they agree to pretend to be ignorant dolts asking honest questions in a letter that has been designed to persuade the lecturer by nudging him towards the latest Team research (Schmidt, Menne, etc.). In the process they edit out basic courtesies such as thanking the lecturer for sparing his time.

Daniel Bailey:

While polite to include it, it gives him the out to disregard your letter completely. Including it also makes you seem subserviant to him. He's no better than anyone else; either he has time as an educator to answer your questions or he doesn't. Witout it, your second paragraph reads thusly:
When occupying the high moral and scientific ground, cede no foot unfought,

I am in a bind and (I'd put Bishop Hill in a bind) because this dastardly conduct needs to be known by a wider audience, not the least by the skeptic lecturer himself, but that means names will have to be exposed... especially the name of the smart alec PhD candidate who gets his science and tactics from SkS.

So, I've decided to only post the response by the skeptic lecturer to the initial complaint, with all names edited out. I'll then send the lecturer an email with the link to this thread. I'll also attach the relevant SkS file to the email.

He is entitled to know what was cooked up against him and if he agrees to his name being disclosed, then names shall be named.

So here it is:

Dear xxxx,

I am writing in response to the letter from xxx xxxxxx letter dated
17th February 2011.

xxx’s assessment of my teaching of chemistry 2610 is incorrect on
several ways. In some cases, this is because xxx has not attended my
lectures and therefore has based her opinions on second hand
information; xxx graduated with Honours in 2007, and I did not start
teaching this course until 2008. In other cases xxx’s criticisms stem
from the fact that she does not understand the scientific method.

The section of CHEM2610 I teach is concerned with the chemistry of the
atmosphere and the greenhouse effect, which is distinct from global
warming. I encourage students to embrace the scientific method, and
consider any evidence they are presented with critically and with
appropriate scepticism.

For the first 4 hours of my lecture series I teach the chemical
composition of the atmosphere and the ‘case for global warming’. I
then spend ~2 hours discussing the ‘case against global warming’. As
part of this section I present the documentary ‘The Great Global
Warming Swindle’. I am fully aware this documentary is factually
incorrect in some instances. I make sure the class is aware of this, as
an example of how information presented to them must be treated
sceptically. The documentary also makes a number of excellent points
relating to the origin of anthropogenic global warming theory, which is
valuable for the students education.

xxx refers to me as a “climate change sceptic”. I take this as a
compliment. A scientist by definition must be a sceptic - that is the
nature of the scientific method. xxx also questions whether I am
qualified to teach this course. I would argue that my PhD in physical
chemistry qualifies me to teach this subject, and as I am not active in
climate change research, and therefore not reliant on the topic for
research funding, I can assess the evidence from a completely impartial
point of view.

My scientific opinion is that there is not enough evidence for climate
change, or against it, to be conclusive. I state this in my lectures,
and I encourage the students to consider all the evidence for themselves
and form their own opinion. There is no right or wrong answer, but I do
insist that they support their position with scientific data whose
accuracy they can attest to; a climate change model does not fit this
definition as the errors associated with modelling an enormously complex
system such as the Earth are inherently large.

The media’s suggestion that the scientific community is united in its
support of global warming theory is farcical, and the fact that anyone
who questions the theory is shouted down as a heretic is a problem - it
literally takes science out of the debate.

I make it completely clear in my lectures that the world would, without
question, be a better place if less fossil fuels were burnt. Further,
sometime in the near future fossil fuel reserves will run out, and
alternative energy sources must be found. These energy sources by
definition will not produce carbon dioxide, so would be acceptable to
groups like ‘Climate Action Newcastle’, which xxx appears to be
involved with ( Given the
negative assessment of my teaching, it may have been appropriate for her
to mention this in her letter.

My teaching feedback for Environmental Chemistry has been excellent
(overall grades > 4/5) and the feedback I have received from students
about my section - in particular the way I challenge them to think
critically about the evidence they are presented with - has been
particularly encouraging. I do not plan to change the way I teach the

Yours Sincerely

xxx xxxxx

Oh, let's have John Cook have the last word:

Look forward to hearing how this develops.

(forum/Climate Misinformers/2011-03-07-Help with addressing a climate skeptic university lecturer.html)

Mar 29, 2012 at 7:01 AM | Registered CommentersHx

"A particular thread at the tree-hutters' secret forum puts me in a bind. It is a case of intimidation"

Climategate 1? Climategate 2? This latest hack and posting of content here? Ken Cuccinelli's at it again?

Mar 29, 2012 at 7:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterJ Bowers

J Bowers
Is the point of your comment that you think that reporting cases of intimidation, as happened in Climategates 1 and 2, and as reported here by sHx, is itself intimidation?
I think you’re being unnecessarily careful in redacting names. The lecturer knows he was being criticised on heresay evidence. He doesn’t know that third-hand and fourth-evidence was behind the second-hand evidence. Still, his letter shows he is capable of defending himself.
Congratulations on keeping up this work. Even if the thread doesn’t get many comments, it’s important to get the information out.

I liked this comment by one of the SkS authors.

I'm a University lecturer myself, and deeply concerned by this guy.
But not concerned by efforts to out him, apparently.

Mar 29, 2012 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers


“you will all accept the justice of the situation should, say, this blog be hacked, and Montford's back-channel discussions be cherrypicked by gloaters?”

I daresay we would, if such a back-channel existed. Presumably, you can’t believe that it doesn’t?

The Bishop does tweet though, so you may find that he has at some time misreported the number of orphreys on his chasuble.

Mar 29, 2012 at 11:04 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp


That's quite a find. I would say you should go ahead and contact the "accused" and if he gives permission to use his name and details, then contact the Bish with regard to making it a new thread. I think it's important enough to warrant it. Makes SkS's claim to only be about presenting the science ring rather hollow, doesn't it? Does the thread you refer to also include a copy of the complaint to the lecturer's dept head?

Mar 29, 2012 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterLC


It's probably time that we did have a proper back channel though. Dunno about you but I find the weekly treck up to Scotland to sit in the Bish's draughty garden shed for two hours is getting to be a bit of a bind. Not to mention having to pay £1.50 a shot for that stuff he brews up on the gas ring he calls coffee ;)

Mar 29, 2012 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterLC


If you send me the full thread, I'll take a look.

Mar 29, 2012 at 11:26 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

So, Dana "encourages Spencer to do good science/blog posts, showing that when he does, he gets rewarded"


Mar 29, 2012 at 11:35 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

"having to pay £1.50 a shot.."

Not to mention the price of a fish supper.. :-)

Mar 29, 2012 at 11:38 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Your Grace, I don't have your email address. Send me an email, and I'll attach it to the reply.

Mar 29, 2012 at 12:02 PM | Registered CommentersHx

Followers of SkS would know that Pielke Snr was involved in an engagement with SkS -- engaging the 'dark side' -- over a period late last year.

Over the 3 months of Sept-Nov 2011 there exists a total of 71 Tree Hut threads, 2.1MB of HTML containing the name "Pielke" in the file name, many of which involve the hutters discussing the more intricate technicalities of mounting a discussion.

Examples from "2011-09-17-Pielke - Posting vs Commenting.html",

Internal SkS processes has nothing to do with the question of whether a single comprehensive response to Pielke is superior to a sereial posting of responses to each of his questions.

-- John Hartz

So long as my blimp post is not a train wreck, I suggest our first response is the blimp post, highlighting Pielke's diversionary tactics. Then we'll chase after his blimp anyway in a post or series of posts addressing his questions.

-- John Cook

This kind of blog "war" will not make SkS look good. Pielke is just baiting us to a meaningless "debate". To a casual observer, debate is a signal of uncertainty. This is exactly what Pielke wants here. Discuss with him in the comment threads if he participates there but otherwise ignore him. High profile public debate will only give points to Pielke no matter how wrong he is.

-- Ari Jokimäki

Picture it: Pielke on one side stands alone versus this borg like attack group who scheme in the background ensuring every word of reply serves the agenda.

Try. Telling. The Truth.

Mar 29, 2012 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

"To a casual observer, debate is a signal of uncertainty. This is exactly what Pielke wants here."

These people are nuts, that's all there is to it.

Mar 29, 2012 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter B

They don't do olive branches, then?

Mar 29, 2012 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

@James P

"They don't" do olive branches, then?"

That was going to be my next assignment. Remember when Anthony Watts extended them an olive branch?

When they failed to respond, Anthony demoted them to "unreliable" in WUWT blogroll.

You should see the tree-hutters' deliberations on how to reply to Anthony's challenge: forum/General Chat/2011-09-26-Watts proposal to us.html

They are thrilled by the olive branch for approximately 3 or 4 hours until Joe Romm turns up with an email to John Cook, in which he advises rejection of the peace overture. The SkS then collectively genuflects before Romm, who also claims in the email that he stopped reading WUWT a long time ago!

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:06 PM | Registered CommentersHx

2012-03-16-CRUTEM4 is out!.html

Kevin C is doing some articles at SkS on the new HADCRUT4 release and explaining why changes were required - likely true that changes are required and will continue to be required as it's far from perfect yet.

What he's provided in the thread named above is a convenient bit-map of global grid coverage for each of HADCRUT3 and 4. It seems a grid is either counted (has stations) or is not counted (no stations), hence 1 and 0's sufficing.

Here are coverage maps for Dec 2010:


[continues for a total 36 latitude bands, and same for CRU4 (HADCRUT4 - he says CRU)]

What I've done is stick that data into Excel and done some counting and some crude (Excel+Gimp) charting.


Yes the number of counted grids in the far north has indeed increased.

And, the number of counted grids in the far south has DECREASED.

It's generally accepted that the Arctic has experience accelerated warming and that the Antarctic has been mostly ho-hum. A mean which takes more of the former and less of the latter will.. doesn't need explaining does it.

Up until now I was willing to accept there was nothing nefarious about the HADCRUT4 update and have been reluctant to join the chorus of skeptics feeling otherwise, but... What The Heck?

Please view the charts I created above -- 3 of them in one image -- but here are some data. For the top/bottom 8 latitude bands the total percent of coverage i.e. grid cells not 0:

Arctic CRU3 - 37.22%
Arctic CRU4 - 49.44%

Antarctic CRU3 - 22.22%
Antarctic CRU4 - 16.94%

The Antarctic isn't just suffering from a decrease it's also very poor compared to the north, less than half now. Why aren't they fixing that? (oh right, they did 'fix' it)

Mar 29, 2012 at 3:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

It seems George Monbiot gets his articles ghost-written by the Climate Science Rapid Response Team
(I posted a version of this at Climate Resistance, but it was well off-topic and ignored)
At 5AM 8th December 2010, “ Albatross” alerts his colleagues to a Mail article by David Rose: “What happened to the 'warmest year on record': The truth is global warming has halted” and suggests that someone should alert Vicky Pope at the Met Office.
John Cook replies two hours later: “The climate science rapid response team have been discussing this article and working on a response” and later:

“Here's the response from the CSRRT. Specifically, George Monbiot put in a response, a bunch of scientists sent back answers and Monbiot assembled them into this article in the Guardian:

Monbiot’s article is full of direct quotations from scientists, e.g.
“Phil Jones tells me:”
“Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M University says:”
“Anthony del Genio of Nasa also tells me ..”
While John Cook’s comment on Skeptical Science’s back room thread clearly suggests that Monbiot simply pasted material provided for him by the Rapid Response team.
There’s a note at the bottom of Monbiot’s article:
“On 8 December we amended this article to take out links to third party content.”

At least part of Monbiot’s article was definitely written by George himself. He says:

The only hope journalists have of retaining any kind of self-respect is to question themselves repeatedly, ask whether they are being manipulated...

Mar 29, 2012 at 6:13 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

The only hope journalists have of retaining any kind of self-respect is to question themselves repeatedly, ask whether they are being manipulated...

Ok, I've been chuckling, with a modicum of guilt (though slight) at a lot of these boyz in the tree-hut revelations but that one made me laugh out loud.

Mar 29, 2012 at 10:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJan

We have a 'Guardian' in Australia which goes by the name The Age. John Cook writes of a little birdy in there who asked him to respond to a Bob Carter piece they published which had the flock in a dizzy.

Glenn Tamblyn:

Bob Carter just had a sizeable piece published on the main opinion page of the Melbourne Age - the quality broadsheet paper in the city. Its the first time I have seen him outside the marginal or right-wing media.

John Cook:

I know one of the journalists at The Age (which reminds me, I promised to review her book, really need to get onto it). She suggested to their opinion editor that I write a response to Carter's article which they asked me to do this morning so I spent all day working on a 1000 word response. I got some serious writers block with the 5pm deadline looming so many thanks to Dana for helping me out (and Karl Braganza from the Bureau of Meteorology was a big help too).
[uncredited John?]

(2011-06-27-He is at it again.html)

John Cook:

I have no idea why The Age ran Carter - brain explosion perhaps?

But they were deluged with complaints in the morning that the paper went out and by around 9am, I was asked to write an article. Shortly afterwards, I spoke to the editor who mentioned they'd received several requests to publish responses. I got the impression they were a little dismayed by the backlash.

The next morning, I woke up, grabbed the iPad on my bedside table (yes, it's never far from my person) and opened up The Age app. In the opinion section, there was my piece, another piece and a few more letters to the editor. All very harsh on Carter. Then Jo Chandler posted another incisive piece today. The Age are hoping they've atoned for their faux pas with this two day barrage.

(2011-06-28-My response to Carter published in The Age this morning.html)

John Cook (07-02):

This is a key part of our 'mission statement' - get proactive and creative in getting the info out there. A huge, huge way to do this is to publishing in the mainstream media. How? I'm not sure. We have to keep plugging away at it. But as we figure it out, any lessons learnt need to be shared on the forum so we can all learn from it and in some sense, develop a formula or general approach to take.

What I've learned so far is to build relationships. I got the Age piece because I knew Jo Chandler at The Age. She was the one who advocated for me to the opinion editor that I should respond to the Carter article. So schmoozing is something we all have to work at. Try to build relationships with local journalists and editors. How? Beats me but if you figure it out, let us all know!

(2011-03-17-Betting pool on when @skepticscience overtakes @wattsupwiththat.html)

Mar 30, 2012 at 3:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

How to get your affiliated site into Wikipedia, a guide from SkS's Dawei:

(original bold not transferred)


After two days of fumbling with Wikipedia code, I have finished a draft of what will be Skeptical Science's entry into the world of Wiki. I've now gotten to a point where I'm ready to let people make suggestions for improvements. The site is not yet in Wikipedia's mainspace, but rather held as a sub-page of my user page, meaning for now only those who have the link are likely going to find it.

I have included as many outside resources as I could find, but a veteran at Wikipedia has already urged me to find more and "better" ones before letting it go live. I haven't been able to find too much else worthwhile on Google but suspect that some of the people who have been here longer will know of things that I couldn't find. Consider finding additional outside sources to be priority #1 for this article.

Since it is a Wikipedia article, feel free to make small changes direclty in the article as you see fit (careful not to use your name if you contribute to SkS regularly), but it may be a good idea to discuss big changes here beforehand. And please remember the article needs read like an unbiased contribution to Wikipedia, and not a plug for the site. Neutrality is extra important when creating an article from scratch, as articles that read like mere advertisements are quickly deleted.

For this reason, it includes some information that is less than flattering. I believe this will help the article's chances of being accepted as a new entry. After it has been firmly established as a valid article, negative passages can be toned down or removed completely without putting the entire article in as much danger of being removed. So for the moment, I encourage the loyal contributors to SkS to put on their denier hats and not be hesitant to include sources that are critical of SkS, even if you believe the criticism is factually inaccurate.

So, at this point I'll stop my pompous lecturing and see what you guys think. I'll be interested to hear all suggestions for changes/additions/deletions.

John Cook:

To be precise, I *read* Inhofe's speech, not heard it but that's just nitpicking to the nth degree! :-)


Hah, alright, I'll make that correction later. I'd do it now but doing so might be seen as evidence that I am collaborating with you, which could be bad.

Noooo, you wouldn't collaborate with the site creator! That could be bad.

If you go to SkS's Wiki entry and look at the edit history you'll see Dawei's name all over it.

Stay tuned, the next one is a doosy!

Mar 30, 2012 at 6:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

(not the doosy)

JC reporting on AGU:

Then Judith Curry came on. She wasn't a particularly compelling public speaker - she read off her notes the entire time. But she did get my attention when she blamed climategate on climate scientists for not sharing their data readily enough - which seemed to me kind of like blaming a rape victim because "she was asking for it".

(2011-12-10-AGU Diary.html)

More like blaming the rapist who was beat-up by the victim's father - he "was asking for it".

Mar 30, 2012 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I thought in science the research begat the conclusion, how ignorant was I.

John Cook knows his Consensus Project's conclusion before he starts!

Just one thing - this is not a survey of scientists. This is a survey of the peer-reviewed literature. Think Oreskes 2004 but with an order of magnitude more data, going much deeper, much broader and using SkS to present the results as an interactive, transparent database. The results don't just find a consensus - they find a strengthening consensus.

It goes without saying - please don't share any information about this project with others, this is all very preliminary.

(2012-01-12-Perceptions about scientific agreement important to public policy support.html)

He's talking about this making peer review.

Mar 30, 2012 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

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