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Mapping the sceptic blogosphere

Readers may remember Amelia Sharman as one of the authors of the "Entrepreneur" paper, about the disreputable shenanigans that led to the EU's biofuels mandate.

Amelia is now in the midst of a PhD looking at global warming sceptics and has just publiished a working paper, describing the results of a social network analysis of sceptic blogs. It can be seen here.

I've only skimmed through it, but it looks reasonable enough. One issue I noticed is that she has based her analysis of BH traffic on the domain, which is what I used before I got, so the figures may not be accurate. But I guess this is why publishing a working paper is a useful approach.

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Reader Comments (62)

I have only got to line 2.

J. Cook et al. 2013; Doran and Zimmerman 2009

I take it that she has not actually read them?

Sep 7, 2013 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

Beat me to it graphic.

Citing the cartoonist as evidence for anything immediately renders all that follows suspect.

But, of course, the whole point of a working paper is to avoid howlers of that sort in the final thesis.

Sep 7, 2013 at 9:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJay Currie

Shallow analysis. The paper measures links. She should have estimated who has the best stories, the ones that attract lots of comments, are copied at other blogs, and get followed-up with new posts.

Sep 7, 2013 at 9:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

'climate change knowledge is actively disputed'

Hmmm. Might help if she referred to all those low-climate-sensitivity studies. Studies that show various / most feedbacks to be negative. Studies which show no increase in intensity or frequency of (fill in the blank!). And so on. And so forth. And so on. And so for...............

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

Well I am on page 6 and I am confused as to what kind of a mind could produce this stuff. I am well entertained though, consider this little extract:

While the academic literature to date has focused on the manifestation of climate scepticism in mainstream media forums (Boykoff 2007; Schmidt et al. 2013), littlework has been done to understand why climate sceptical blogs exist and what theirrole may be as public sites of knowledge contestation.

They do not even understand why we exist! I nearly fell off my chair laughing. ^.^

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:07 PM | Registered CommenterDung

1. Introduction
Evidence supporting the reality of climate change and its anthropogenic cause is
overwhelming in the peer-reviewed literature (J. Cook et al. 2013; Doran and
Zimmerman 2009).

Oh dear....
Why is it so many authors cite things, without looking in detail at the papers or sources of the papers that the cite.
Perhaps if Amelia is reading this she could let us know if she has READ the MSc thesis behind the Doran / Zimmermann survey..

I did

the 97% of scientist always gets quoted, but at least Margaret Zimmerman seems to have learned something from her survey (never gets quoted though, in the appendix)

M Zimmermann:
“This entire process has been an exercise in re-educating myself about the climate debate and, in the process, I can honestly say that I have heard very convincing arguments from all the different sides, and I think I’m actually more neutral on the issue now than I was before I started this project. There is so much gray area when you begin to mix science and politics, environmental issues and social issues, calculated rational thinking with emotions, etc.” M Zimmermann

This MSc thesis is the actual survey, the Doran paper merely cited it.
M Zimmermann, The Consensus of the consensus (survey cited by Doran)

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I think readers should try to be polite in any criticism they choose to make. Who knows, perhaps Amelia will drop in for a chat. (She interviewed me last week and was very nice).

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:15 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I agree Richard. It is a rather naive look at the "vast right wing denial machine". Leaving out an aggregator like Climate Depot ensures that a lot of the link generation is missed. And failing to mention Delingpole and Bolt (and arguably Brooker and Richard North) means she fails to capture how sceptic views reach out into mainstream media.

The sceptic blog ecology is very much more than just links. We are winning the argument because a) Nature is going our way, b) in the peer reviewed literature the wheels are falling off the models, c) the economics of CO2 reduction are so expensive that policy requires far more certainty than is available, d) for the most part, adaptive, self organization is a more effective media/marketing strategy than top down authoritarian strategies.

Where this is really showing up is in the comment sections of MSM when rubbishy, model driven, alarmist articles appear. Sceptical comments overwhelm the alarmists who are not nearly as well informed and are often reduced to receipting the Gorian creed of "CO2 is a greenhouse gas. The IPCC is the only science which counts. It is worse than we think." At which point they are pounded. It is so one sided that MSM are often reduced to not taking comments at all. (Of, if they are the mildly MSM Guardian, censoring all but cheerleading.)

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJay Currie

She's just fed some software some blog names and proceeded to tabulate and analyse the output and links.

The Blogspot platform has a facility to add a rolling list of links. These update as the blogs linked to, post articles. The 'Friends of CO2' blog has an extensive link roll set up this way. Consequently, the blog figures in her analysis even though the blog is fairly inactive.

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:32 PM | Registered Commentershub


Do you not wish us to be open and honest? Consider the following extract from page 9:

Second, the blog had to be identified as climate sc
eptical. This was determined by
individual assessment of each blog’s content insofa
r as it employed language which
agreed with Rahmstorf’s (2005) typology of trend, a
ttribution or impact climate
scepticism. As Painter (2011: 54) explains, trend
sceptics are ‘those who say global
temperatures are not warming’, while attribution sc
eptics are ‘those who say they are
warming, but argue that the anthropogenic contribut
ion to global warming or climate
change is over-stated, negligible, or non-existent

compared to other factors like
natural variations or sun spots’ and impact sceptic
s are ‘those who accept it is
happening but for different reasons question its im
pacts or the need to do something
about it’.

This person does not even appear to know that the planet is indeed not warming. The whole "atmosphere" in this paper is like someone describing the dissection of a dead rat. There is no understanding of the rat itself.

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:33 PM | Registered CommenterDung

As Amelia cites Doran (for the 97%) I wonder if she has read actual survey paper, which is actually a MSC thesis - The Consensus on the Consensus - that Doran merely cites. Very few people that cite the Doran paper, appear to have read the actual survey.

This little nugget by the author (in the appendix)

“This entire process has been an exercise in re-educating myself about the climate debate and, in the process, I can honestly say that I have heard very convincing arguments from all the different sides, and I think I’m actually more neutral on the issue now than I was before I started this project. There is so much gray area when you begin to mix science and politics, environmental issues and social issues, calculated rational thinking with emotions, etc.” M Zimmermann

my thoughts.

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I agree with Bish- at first glance it seems fairly reasonable.
Certainly better than some pronouncements from LSE.
It's good to see the realisation that the focus of the sceptic blogosphere is on the science.
I can't help thinking though that she could have got more useful data simply by talking to a few sceptics.
There are some odd omissions and inclusions.

I'd like to be the first to ask to see all the raw data, all 171 blogs please!

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:40 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Well I'm still reading bishophill.squarespace :-)

You might want to get that fixed. Put in a permanent redirect or, at the least, put in a canonical tag to tell google. The danger is that your google page rank gets split between the two versions of the site. You end up owning two not very popular sites instead of one very popular site.

Estimating visitors numbers from Google's Ad placement seems a bit lame. It will only include those sites that are running google ads. And I'm sure there are other online sources for estimating site traffic.

Still I think it's quite interesting - it seems to say, that at least amongst sceptics, the more scientific sites are the more respected ones. Though I suspect that is a natural phenomenon and would apply to almost any subject. Policy sites - even ones that disagree - will cite many of the same science sites. Science sites will tend to steer clear of citing policy...

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterNickM

Yes. I always look to economists for a dispassionate analysis of the social networks of sceptic blogs.

International Growth Centre

October 2011 – Present (2 years) London, United Kingdom
Sustainability Specialist
International Hydropower Association

October 2010 – September 2011 (1 year) London, United Kingdom
Senior Policy Advisor
Ministry of Economic Development, New Zealand

November 2007 – August 2010 (2 years 10 months) New Zealand
Policy Advisor
Ministry of Economic Development, New Zealand

September 2006 – November 2007 (1 year 3 months) New Zealand
Evaluation Analyst
Ministry of Economic Development, New Zealand

February 2005 – August 2006 (1 year 7 months) New Zealand

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

As Amelia cites COOK et al (2013) (as does Ed Davey a Minister of State)

I wonder if Amelia is aware of all the criticism of it, in the blogosphere and elsewhere, not least Professor Mike Hulme (not a sceptic)

"The “97% consensus” article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed. It obscures the complexities of the climate issue and it is a sign of the desperately poor level of public and policy debate in this country that the energy minister should cite it. It offers a similar depiction of the world into categories of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to that adopted in Anderegg et al.’s 2010 equally poor study in PNAS: dividing publishing climate scientists into ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’. It seems to me that these people are still living (or wishing to live) in the pre-2009 world of climate change discourse. Haven’t they noticed that public understanding of the climate issue has moved on?"

Prof Hulme followed up with this:

"my point is that the Cook et al. study is hopelessly confused as well as being largely irrelevant to the complex questions that are raised by the idea of (human-caused) climate change. As to being confused, in one place the paper claims to be exploring “the level of scientific consensus that human activity is very likely causing most of the current GW” and yet the headline conclusion is based on rating abstracts according to whether “humans are causing global warming”.

These are two entirely different judgements. The irrelevance is because none of the most contentious policy responses to climate change are resolved *even if* we accept that 97.1% of climate scientists believe that “human activity is very likely causing most of the current GW” (which of course is not what the study has shown).

And more broadly, the sprawling scientific knowledge about climate and its changes cannot helpfully be reduced to a single consensus statement, however carefully worded.

The various studies – such as Cook et al – that try to enumerate the climate change consensus pretend it can and that is why I find them unhelpful – and, in the sprit of this blog, I would suggest too that they are not helpful for our fellow citizens."

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Bish, I don't know how it may affect the traffic numbers, but the older still comes up higher in Google searches I just tried, and is used in blogroll links, from, e.g., CA, WUWT, and Climate Etc. that I just tried. So there may still be a higher percentage than you think arriving via although certainly not 100% of your traffic.

Sep 7, 2013 at 11:25 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

I thought that it was an interesting read but the fact that the study is predicated on the assumption that CAGM/AGW
is real, essentially precludes any pretence at neutrality (in my opinion)
A failed attempt to design a pigeon hole in which to herd us all,perhaps

Sep 7, 2013 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Having reached the end of this paper I think that Amelia entered upon her research with certain assumptions but actually did her task very evenhandedly. I think her preconceptions did not help her and particularly her use of Rahmstorf’s (2005) typology of trend, attribution categorising people who did not believe the planet was warming as trend skeptics as opposed to people who actually understood what was happening.
I do not agree that the links/blogrolls were as significant as an accurate footfall count for the various blogs would have been.
However there was a lot in her conclusions that I agreed with.

Sep 7, 2013 at 11:32 PM | Registered CommenterDung

this is relevant, another map of blogs, skeptical vs supported networks.

note individual bloggers vs media organisations!

Sep 7, 2013 at 11:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I find the ratio of words to data off putting. Without appropriate comparators in the tables with numbers, it is difficult to assess the data presented in an appropriate context. I shouldn't have to wade through the text to find meaning in the data. What is figure 1 (the only figure) supposed to tell me? It just looks like a web spun by a spider on PCP. Sorry.

Sep 8, 2013 at 12:02 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Although there may be good cause to criticise some aspects of the methodology and rigour of the analysis, I found the recognition of the challenge to scientific interpretation as the prime blog popularity motivation very astute. Also the lack of condescension and arrogance so often found in such pieces. Particularly because most analyses like this proceed with the prejudiced assumption that our 'mistaken' viewpoint is due to not to genuine scientific disagreement but coloured by our ideological outlook. As she writes:-

'The climate sceptical blogosphere appears to thus be preoccupied with a particular
type of climate scepticism—“scientific scepticism”—and is less focused on other
types such as ideologically-motivated scepticism which more explicitly highlights
‘attitudes and worldviews…[and] political ideology and personal values’ (Poortinga et
al. 2011: 1022). The expertise that appears to be the most valued in this alternative
knowledge network—command of scientific knowledge and willingness to use it to
critique mainstream climate science—is thus also different to that valued in other
networks of alternative knowledge.'

Sep 8, 2013 at 12:05 AM | Registered CommenterPharos

OK the science is settled and 97% of the universe is agreed, so the alarmists tell us.

I would say to Ms. Amelia Sharman, I do not expect you to read all of the realist blogs, I'd say forget about the alarmist science of unreasonableness and in a very quiet moment read a man steeped in the fashioning the prose of polemic.

I read an article last year about fuel poverty that finished up with a paragraph about the bodies of two elderly people, in different areas of the UK, being found in their gardens after all the snow had melted. It took the easy condemnatory route of asking where their neighbours were and never asked the more curious question of why they were in their gardens in such bitter weather anyway.

I’m not a scientist, pretending to know everything beyond a shadow of a doubt, so all I can offer is a guess and it’s a very human one. On winter nights like that, the skies are clear, and you can see all the way through to the stars. Perhaps they didn’t want to be found frozen to death in their bed, wearing hats and scarves, overcoats and all the rest of their layers of clothing. Mebbe they felt the pinioned wings of death fast approaching and decided to leave this world with a final act of defiance or acceptance but either way, with some grace and human dignity.

They went out, sat in their snowy garden and looking up at the sky, froze to death, because up there above it all, was perhaps a deity they might have believed in, who was going to take them home. An end of all the slow suffering. Mebbe not. Mebbe it was just the way they wanted to go. Who knows.

I do know, that somewhere, we have to start drawing a line. The UK is now failing that acid test of any society. The price of feeling good about ourselves, has just got too high.

read it here at Pointy's

Read that and tell me you are not moved by the inequity, the stupidity and then by the superb fusion of words and empathic meaning.

Then ask yourself Ms Sharman - why are there no writers of equal stature defending the great global warming scam?

Writers who, are stained by guilt and peddle lies are not inspired to put pen to paper and when they do it is dull fare.

We, the true believers in pure science, not only outdo the other 97% on mere science - we can also dazzle you with our literary excellence of talent.

Sep 8, 2013 at 12:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

When 97% of warmist blogs begin to re-tell us that 97% of CO2 production is non-anthropogenic (h/t IPCC) then I may start to think that the Cook et al (2013) findings that consensus, peer-reviewed publications, 3% support the position of dangerous AGW merits a re-evaluation.
Until that happy time arrives I'll stumble along with my misguided prejudices and skewed observations that Internet climate-concernotrations of believers did more for current OZ politics than any amount of strident Murdoch activities.

Sep 8, 2013 at 12:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

I have to ask ... why is the Grantham Institute researching skeptic blogs?

Is this a case of 'know thine enemy' aka 'identifying the target'?

Sep 8, 2013 at 1:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

It's not a bad effort in some ways, and I think Ms. Sharman has identified some key points, for which I give her credit. However, beginning the introduction with the statement:

"Evidence supporting the reality of climate change and its anthropogenic cause is overwhelming in the peer-reviewed literature (J. Cook et al. 2013; Doran and Zimmerman 2009)."

is most discouraging. One despairs that she has simply accepted that this evidence is valid, presumably because it's in peer-reviewed literature. I would respectfully point her to peer-reviewed literature that exposes the very serious flaws in such work, perhaps especially this very recent paper:

which includes as co-author an academic statistician, W.M Briggs, and in the abstract states:

"However, inspection of a claim by Cook et al. (Environ Res Lett 8:024024, 2013) of 97.1% consensus, heavily relied upon by Bedford and Cook, shows just 0.3% endorsement of the standard definition of consensus: that most warming since 1950 is anthropogenic."

By doing this, she illustrates precisely what the problem is, even amongst academics: a failure to challenge the authority of peer-reviewed claims, even when there is peer-reviewed refutation available.

Another point I'd like to put to her (I do hope she is reading these responses) is that she may not be aware of what it is like, in experiential terms, for a non-expert (but well-educated person with a science degree) like myself to have once simply accepted the orthodoxy and have been persuaded to the opposite viewpoint as a result of having discovered the sceptic blogosphere in the wake of Climategate.

I know that for many others, Climategate was also what piqued initial interest in what until then had just been background noise accepted without question. I discovered a whole new world of interconnections, and it radiates much further than key sceptical blogs that focus on the science: the most important of which I agree she has correctly identified (all three of them are permanent fixtures on my Firefox bookmarks toolbar, and I visit them virtually every day). Included in the network are the blogs of MSM print and broadcast media, as well as blogs on other subjects of interest to me: the climate science debate is often used as a poster child for pathological science, along with, for example, Lysenkoism.

People like me didn't start off with an agenda: we were minding our own business until Climategate happened, and that fateful event drew us into "the network". The experience of being exposed to new concepts in an unfamiliar area of science, and of the ongoing, cumulative effects of realising how serious were its many shortcomings, is profoundly depressing. It has led me into investigations in other contentious scientific areas, in which one can see the same underlying structure of the perversion of science in the name of promoting unwarranted conclusions about the nature of reality to support a number of non-scientific aims. It's a picture, essentially, of politics (in all sorts of ways, not just of political parties per se, but of politics within academia and the MSM) driving science, which has increasingly lost touch with its raison d'etre. I think it's a very serious issue indeed, with immense implications for Western culture.

Sep 8, 2013 at 2:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Larkin

"crank" "nutjob" "off his rocker" - I saw those words and I already knew it was Zed. so I just scrolled on...Keep it up Ztroll


About this study, it's hard to take it too seriously when the introduction starts with the following:

"Evidence supporting the reality of climate change and its anthropogenic cause is
overwhelming in the peer-reviewed literature (J. Cook et al. 2013; Doran and
Zimmerman 2009)."


Sep 8, 2013 at 3:57 AM | Unregistered Commentertomdesabla

Michael Larkin,

I feel you. Beware where your investigations will lead you. The sht out there is deeper than you think and it goes far beyond climate. I just self snipped a paragraph of it, and I could have written 20 more. Email me at my name at gmail if you want some more stuff to chew on.

Believe me, there's a heck of a lot to investigate, and plenty of B.S. to ignore as well. Just remember when you take a break from having your mind blown, don't forget that people are basically good, and honest, and we will survive, and the truth will out eventually, and the world won't end. It just seems like it will.

Sep 8, 2013 at 4:21 AM | Unregistered Commentertomdesabla

Sep 7, 2013 at 10:41 PM | Unregistered Commenter NickM

I too was still logging in on "squarespace" - I had never changed the URL of my "Favourite". I'll change it now.

Sep 8, 2013 at 5:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

I should also have said that the adverts don't appear on "squarespace"...

Sep 8, 2013 at 5:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

The author does disservice to her piece by beginning with and quoting the Cook paper. The rest has several interesting and useful observations.

Sep 8, 2013 at 5:25 AM | Registered Commentershub

Well really it is up to you Amelia.

You can treat us like lab rats, try to handle us and we bite ;-)

Or you can engage and try to understand why this blog is what it is.

Just for info. This blog has a full spectrum of contributors, commenters and lurkers. I myself come from parents who were wartime socialists. I was a daily Guardian purchaser. I ride a bike everywhere. I do not have a beard, drink real ale or think Maggie was the Virgin Mother reborn. I do not have the Daily Mail in my bookmarks so I can get angry over the tea and toast.

There are scientists, engineers, bureaucrats, some anarchical political activists, guardian readers of left-liberal persuasion, people with experience of how business and government really work.

We occasionally get people coming here, who due to their preconceptions, think engaging with us is like shooting fish in a barrel. RIght-wing nutters who are anti-science, who do not want to face up to reality to change. Who are old, who do not care and will not have to face up to the problems of our "children's children" (© any disreputable politician). They soon realise life is not like that here ;-) Few stay around for long. And those that do, become very selective in their contributions only striking when they see a weakness. Even then very few triumph.

Trolls? Well this site is about adding value. If you add value even trolls can have a say. If all they do is call you "dim" and come out with the same formulated responses, then BH will remove them (but always after the posting is public)

So you either want this paper to be a bit of cheese at the end of a maze corridor, or you want to see what a skeptic rat is really like.

Sep 8, 2013 at 7:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket


I think my investigations have roamed far and wide and that it's unlikely I haven't looked at what you've looked at. So I thank you for you offer of further information, but 'nuff said. ;-)

Sep 8, 2013 at 7:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Larkin

Nice post Jiminy. Amelia is the recipient of an LSE PhD scholarship. I guess some could conclude Amelia is now in the pay of BIG LSE?

Sep 8, 2013 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Bowing to His Grace’s request for good manners, I’d politely suggest that Sharman’s pseudo-objective analysis does a disservice to social science. As a way of finding out stuff, Cook’s method of subjective discourse analysis is infinitely preferable. (Of course, if you’re a liar with a mission like Cook, your results wll be false, but that’s another problem).
Sharman’s tangled web is not more scientific because it’s been extruded from some computer programme. The results she gets (people like and respect WUWT and Climate Audit) she could have got from asking around on open threads. What she misses with her method is the fine detail which makes the blogosphere a living breathing creative entity - the admiration for Roger Tallbloke in his confrontation with the police, or Tony Newbery of Harmless Sky standing up the the BBC’s five barristers, or the doggedness of Barry Woods teasing the truth out of Zimmerman or Lewandowsky.
You wont get that by her methodology, and without it, you know nothing about climate scepticism.

Sep 8, 2013 at 9:16 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

If reviewing it I would ask the author to remove the unfounded supposition that peppers the paper and makes it read more like an opinion piece than analysis.

For example, in one place the author makes the leap that because most skepttic climate blogs are in English and those blogs originating from non-English speaking countries are in English, then climate skepticism is an English speaking phenomenon.

Well, the same is true of climate alarmism, and in fact the body of climate peer reviewed literature. An alternative relationalistation is that English is the international language and if you want to really participate in the network you need to use English..

Sorry but as written this looks like another piece of pseudo science designed to decry sceptics without having to address the shortcomings in the consensus science.

Sep 8, 2013 at 9:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

the Pope commissioned a report on Protestantism. the report concluded that although some of the issues were valid, the Pope was still very much right. In the meanwhile, bears congregated to locate the ursine version of "toilet".

Sep 8, 2013 at 9:22 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Why? Are bears Catholic?

Sep 8, 2013 at 9:33 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

In a constructive mode, would it not be a better paper if it also analyses, in parallel, those blogs defending the Establishment view, of which Real Climate is an example (though it might not make the top 5).

The paper is roughly ok as it is, given its limited scope & objectives. It's short on data and long on process description.
It can be challenged in many ways, but it's probably not worth the effort.

The author might gain greater credibility by exposing her own position and giving an indication of how many blogs of all types she has read and contributed to (and which ones).

Sep 8, 2013 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

That 97% consensus is going to go up in Cook's follow-up paper. This paper explicitly endorses the consensus position, by referencing Cook's consensus paper. Finally, a positive feedback loop.

Sep 8, 2013 at 10:17 AM | Registered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Just for info. I get as direct from my bookmarks ie not a link from another site.
As someone else said earlier, Ms Sharman needs to chat at length about the reason for sceptical views. Almost anyone of your readers will be able to explain her misconceptions.

Sep 8, 2013 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterG.Watkins

I suggest those who didn’t read the whole thing to do so. Once Amelia got past listing what other people thought (that is apparently de rigueur for journal papers) her own work was interesting.

She identifies that the main theme of the sceptical blogosphere is science! She followed that up by mentioning that quality was very important to us. That’s pretty great in my book. I’d suggest she needs to refine the work by closer observation of the main sites because some of the findings were skewed by sample size. For instance we would probably all put Climate Audit higher than WUWT on the science front because Steve M is all about the details. WUWT is more prolific and covers many more of the science subjects but rarely goes as deep. Steve M also continues the science discussion within the comments, which could equate to new blog posts.

One of the things that limit the volume of visitors to Climate Audit is the strict moderation policy. WUWT’s numbers reflect a lighter touch and more subjects that people can get to grips with. Often the comments are as important as the blog posts but are a mixed bag. The ability to express opinion is an important issue and those sites that don’t have user friendly comment policies are no less respected but attract less repeat viewers. It’s a testament to her abilities that Donna Laframboise scores so highly since her site doesn’t allow comments at all. Tom Nelson’s site is also under represented because its format doesn’t invite comments.

A small point, I’m not sure that she identified is that blogs like Climate Audit or No Frakking Consensus should be regarded as Canadian and not American.

Billy Liar -Why is the Grantham Institute investigating sceptics blogs? Almost certainly to understand the enemy. But if they create competing sites that concentrate on the science, have open comment policies, use lots of graphs and data to illustrate points then they might see the same sort of success. Of course if they do it properly, the sites would be sceptical or at least lukewarm.

I’d agree with Geoff Chambers that some of the other blogs are filling roles the key ones don’t cover and enable most AGW subjects/opinions to have a platform somewhere. Since the main sites do what they do so well, there is no need for other sites to reinvent the wheel and so can take some facet of the debate and delve deeper. They all fit together nicely.

Geckko, yes the predominance of English speaking sceptic blogs is down to both the interest in the subject by those societies most obsessed with it and that English is the international language of communication. Also, if you are living in a poor country that has a history of few emissions it’s tempting to blame all your society’s ills on those more successful cultures, especially if you think there’s compensation in the offing. Why be sceptical of that even if you have internet access?

If visitor numbers are important, it’s probably a good idea to have a mass sceptic blogosphere update of blog roll links/favourites so that changes in location reflect the total visitor and not split between new and legacy sites. I too was still going to the squarespace addy.

Sep 8, 2013 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I have only got to line 2.

J. Cook et al. 2013; Doran and Zimmerman 2009

I take it that she has not actually read them?

Sep 7, 2013 at 9:35 PM graphicconception


It can't be said often enough that anyone who embarks on a serious study, based on the excretions of Cook and his self appointed motley crew of unqualified activists, is wasting their time.

Cook is has no qualifications in climate science, sociology or psychology - all though he cheerfully wades in to all these fields.

His University of Queensland appointment appears to have been based on purely on his activism rather than any contribution to science.

His principal colleague Nuccitelli also has no academic background which would qualify him for his endless hysterical outpourings on anything to do with the climate debate.

A careful campaign of self-promotion and activist networking has enabled them to insert their names in a few "peer reviewed papers" - but anyone who accepts this a genuine scientific literature has been taken in by a fraud.

A close inspection of the author lists on these papers (as Barry Woods has continually pointed out) reveals the same bunch of linked activists - usually attempting to disguise their true affiliations. In one case, one of the authors even invented the name of a non-existent, fake scientific institute to add credibility.

Any scientist who tries to base real scientific work on these foundations, clearly isn't capable of distinguishing between science and activism - and IMHO deserves to be ignored.

They could perform a really useful service, however, by investigating the way that various activist groups have successfully penetrated the whole field of climate science ever since the inception of the IPCC.

That would be a really interesting piece of "social network analysis" - but I'm guessing we'll never see it.

Sep 8, 2013 at 10:52 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

The distinction between ideological and scientifically motivated scepticism is an important one. On both sides there are the ideologically motivated blogs, and I do wonder how much influence they have in forming opinion (not so much if readers only seek confirmation).

I think this debate does have a strong showing from the position of scientific scepticism, although maybe other hard projection based fields (ecconomics?) have similar high quality dissenters too. Of course, the crank theories also attract a strong following too, so attributing value is a difficult call for either expert or skilled outsider.

In terms of the main driver between ideology and scientific doubt, I expect many alarmists would be surprised at the number of scientific sceptics who have strong ecological concerns (so my revulsion at the RSPB's support for windmills is entirely ideological).

Sep 8, 2013 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterSean Houlihane

"...little work has been done to understand why climate sceptical blogs exist...".
Has much work been done on why claims of catastrophic AGW exist (the 6-8 degree by 2100 type claims)? Given that the scientific evidence is negligible, and weakening daily. I suspect not. Might that be because the answers would usually be (at least one of) rent-seeking, ignorance or an anti-capitalism agenda?

Sep 8, 2013 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I found it interesting.

In the conclusion:

Thus, while the science-policy interface is often considered to be the most active part of the climate debate (Hulme 2009), this research has shown that in the blog environment, it is the actual nuts and bolts of the climate models, data and assumptions that are the key topics of interest.

I mostly agree with this however I think it misses the implications of the discussions of the nuts and bolts of climate science. That is: if the science doesn't support a policy what is the reason for that policy? This train of thought frequently appears in the comments to even the most intensely scientific posts. I wonder if it is also the motivation for many of the science based blogs - the authors see policies based on bad or exaggerated science and wish to expose the weakness of that science. Not necessarily because they disagree with the policies but because they see the danger of making decisions on that basis.

Sep 8, 2013 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Lost me the moment this garbage:

Cook et al. 2013; Doran and Zimmerman 2009

is cited at the start of the paper. Really?

Sep 8, 2013 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy

Gareth "I think it misses the implications of the discussions of the nuts and bolts of climate science. That is: if the science doesn't support a policy what is the reason for that policy?" It's sometimes seems like a chicken and egg situation. I can't recall whether it was the over blown claims made about the science that made me examine the issue or the realisation of how impossible cutting CO2 would be. I do know that I'd considered and written off windmills back in the late 80s and blow me if they didn't start appearing despite the evidence. In understanding scepticism observers like Amelia Sharman need to understand that the camel wasn't brought down by one very heavy straw but lots and lots of little ones. The general public might be slower than us but they will catch up.

Sep 8, 2013 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I find the starting point for these types of studies to be incredible. They begin by assuming the current CO2 view on climate change is true and therefore anyone who disputes this position must have some kind of irrational reason for disagreeing. Eg to take such a view and then describe someone as being a "trend sceptic" vis-a-vis:

trend sceptics are ‘those who say global temperatures are not warming’

So if I go to woodfortrees and observe a regression line through, say, 15 years of recent data and that trend line has a negative slope, am I imagining it? I am scientifcally trained and capable of evaluating the merits of a linear regression and deciding what that may or not may not indicate about real world changes. Does Amelai Sharman have the same understanding?

I we accept the premise of "consensus science", as is done in this study, then science would never change.

PS I have only ever viewed via squarespace.

Sep 8, 2013 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

They insist on studying us poor benighted skeptics, rather than the arguments we put forth. Having read through it, I'm none the wiser about where I went wrong, though I do like the crabwise approach to anointing the major skeptic blogs as approaching respectability, if only, and that's the implication of the paper, by filtering out all the other insane ones. Poor old me and all the rest. Strangely, I and probably none of the others, feel absolutely no need of validation by a Jenny come lately.

Quite frankly, turning the research microscope 180 degrees would not only be more interesting in terms of "conspiracy ideation", but would also be a lot more honest, but that counter culture thingy isn't going to happen. Why not actually read what's in the blogs, rather skim reading them just far enough until you've pigeon holed them into one of your preconceived categories.

This is the research on research that passes for new research in these impoverished times of science nowadays. Just shotgun blast references to any papers in the vicinity, do the honest broker Judd Dredd thing over them, sling in a computer bit for authority, and then come to some grand conclusion.

Essentially, it's at best negotiation phase stuff, at worst Lewandowsky in a tutu. Either way, it ain't science, more sociology.


Sep 8, 2013 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

...They could perform a really useful service, however, by investigating the way that various activist groups have successfully penetrated the whole field of climate science ever since the inception of the IPCC.

That would be a really interesting piece of "social network analysis" - but I'm guessing we'll never see it.
Sep 8, 2013 at 10:52 AM | Registered Commenter Foxgoose

Foxgoose - not activist groups but Steve did some analysis of the climategate emailers:

source page -
image -

and he links to another visualisation at:
image -

Sep 8, 2013 at 1:56 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

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