On Line Denial

In comments to my post at On Line Opinion Graham Young declares that it is his "dispassionate assessment" as the editor of On Line Opinion that I am "deeply dishonest" for stating that Peiser admitted his analysis was full of errors. Here are the relevant bits of the exchange (links added), with Young raising denial to a whole new level:


So what if Peiser didn't count correctly. Just one scientist who doesn't agree negates Gore's claim. If you check the abstracts republished on Lambert's blog you get this quote from the first one: "More and better measurements and statistical techniques are needed to detect and confirm the existence of greenhouse-gas-induced climate change, which currently cannot be distinguished from natural climate variability in the historical record."


That abstract was not published in a science journal and hence was not in the 928 articles Oreskes considered. After I wrote that post, Media Watch did an item on the same Bolt piece, and Peiser admitted that he got that one wrong

And whether it was 0, 1 or 2 articles out of 928 does not affect the point Gore was making: that the debate about whether humans are causing global warming that you see in the popular media just does not appear in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.


A quick read of the Media Watch site also reveals that Peiser does not admit that he was wrong in any fundamental sense at all. "Despite all claims to the contrary, there is a small community of sceptical researchers that remains extremely active. Hardly a week goes by without a new research paper that questions part or even some basics of climate change theory."

He also points out that from the 928 papers analysed by Oreskes (who is an historian, not a scientist, but I won't hold that against her), only 13 explicitly endorse the "consensus" view.

Your claims can only be characterised as deeply dishonest.


One of the things Gore mentions is the huge difference between the scientific literature and popular media on the global warming question. Gore reports the results of two studies. One, by Naomi Oreskes, looked at a sample of 928 papers in scientific journals and found that not one disagreed with the scientific consensus: that humans are responsible for most of the warming in the last few decades. The other, by the Boykoffs, looked at a sample of 636 news stories in major US newspapers and found that 53% gave equal weight to the view that climate change is exclusively caused by natural processes. The debate about the existence of AGW is only in the popular media.

Bolt's response to this is to claim that Gore was wrong because Benny Peiser said that it wasn't 0 out of 928 but 34 out of 928. But Peiser has at last admitted that he was wrong: he now says 1 out 928. And he's wrong about the last one, since it wasn't peer reviewed. So Gore was right when he said 0 out of 928, and Bolt was wrong when he said 34 out of 928. And Gore was right when he said that the debate in the popular media does not appear in the scientific literature and Bolt was wrong when he contradicted him.

And after Peiser admitted that he was 97% wrong in counting articles that disputed the consensus you conclude he must be 100% accurate in counting the articles that explicitly accept the consensus. He got that wrong too, you know -- there were many more than 13 and in fact most of the articles accepted the consensus just as Oreskes stated.

Oreskes is a historian, but you "forgot" to mention that she's a historian of science, holds a science degree, and her area of research is the development of scientific consensus. Peiser, on the other hand, is an anthropologist and this topic is not his area of expertise.

Finally, your abuse of me is evidence that you know you've lost this argument.


Tim. it's not "abuse" to suggest you are being fundamentally dishonest, just a dispassionate assessment from the editor of this journal. If you weren't included in the BB06 collection you wouldn't have got a guernsey for publication in OLO for this essay.

There is a debate in the scientific literature, and there are many scientists who question the magnitude of the effects of CO2 forcing, as well as how significant it is, and what other forcings may be acting. I deliberately raised the issue of cosmic radiation because it would appear from the latest scientific research that it has an effect on cloud and rain formation, which should also have a flow-on effect in terms of warming.

Presumably this research will appear in peer reviewed journals, even if Oreskes didn't get to count it.

Peiser checked Oreskes study on the parameters that she originally supplied. They weren't the ones she actually used, so he adjusted his critique when this was pointed out to him. He still maintains that she has miscounted and misrepresented, so you are wrong to say he admits he is wrong.

Chris O'Neill:

Readers can get Peiser's response to Mediawatch's questions at the program's transcript rather than rely on what anyone says on this forum. Quoting from that transcript:

"And when we pressed him to provide the names of the articles, he eventually conceded - there was only one.

(Ad Hoc Committee on Global Climate Issues: Annual report, by Gerhard LC and Hanson BM, AAPG Bulletin 84 (4): 466-471 Apr 2000)

Peiser says he withdrew his criticism in March this year."

This article, published in the Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, was not peer-scientist-reviewed and thus was not on Oreskes' list of peer-scientist-reviewed articles, even though Peiser's list included non-reviewed articles. Thus Peiser no longer validly criticises Oreskes' claim that:

"Remarkably, none of the papers ("..published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003,..") disagreed with the consensus position."

The consensus position being that: "[M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations"


Chris O'Neill, there appears to be no direct evidence that Peiser has withdrawn his criticism - apart from Media Watch's assertion that he has. As they don't reproduce the email where he allegedly retracts all of his criticism and I can't find any other reference to it, I think this has to be put in the dubious column.

Peiser does include the Gerhard and Hanson piece in his list of 929 pieces which he says fit Oreskes' search definition. You say it isn't peer reviewed - I can't find any direct evidence of this, but as the document is the report of a committee it appears to me to be about as peer reviewed as you can get, outside of some possible quibble about the publication process.

I've scanned some of the list that Peiser provides of the articles that meet the Oreskes search definitions. She doesn't appear to have provided a list anywhere. In 1994 I come across this one from Hulme and Jones entitled "Global Climate-Change in the instrumental period" which says "Such detailed diagnostic climate information is a necessary, although not sufficient, prerequisite for the detection of global-scale warming which may have occurred due to the enhanced greenhouse effect." This appears to me to be an abstract which is sceptical.

It would appear to me that you, Lambert and Media Watch have all misrepresented Peiser's position. The original criticism is the one he has withdrawn. When pressed for evidence he points to one particular article, but as my scan shows, there are others. He presumably chooses his best example.

Anyway, I'm emailing Peiser to see what his considered position is at the moment. And the thrust of Lambert's and your argument, that Global Warming is established as a scientific "fact" with which no reputable scientist could and does disagree, is still a crock. A fact of which you must be aware.


Graham Young, you are not the slightest bit dispassionate -- you are a passionate supporter of the Liberal party and have run an election campaign for them. The On Line Opinion staff page tries to make you look objective by airbrushing over that part of your career, but you're not. Oh, and thanks for confirming that good science won't get a look in at On Line Opinion until the Liberal Party position changes.

You accuse the IPCC of "vilifying" Ian Castles, but I'm pretty sure that they never wrote anything about him as vicious as your libel of me. As the editor, you set the tone here and I think that this forum contains lots of flaming and very little reasoned discussion.

Yes, there is lots of debate in the scientific literature -- scientists have a tendency to disagree with each other. But they don't disagree with the consensus -- it's getting warmer and humans are causing it.

Peiser has, in fact, admitted to making mistakes. In my post I provided a link to a direct quote: "I accept that it was a mistake to include the abstract you mentioned (and some other rather ambiguous ones) in my critique of the Oreskes essay.". And yet you accuse me of being "deeply dishonest" for stating this fact.

Gerhard and Hanson is not peer reviewed. If you think it is, you don't know what peer reviewed means. Hulme and Jones is not skeptical of the consensus. Peiser didn't even include it in his original list of 34 abstracts.

I think it is possible that the Monty Python version was more entertaining.

More like this

I'm surprised that Young didn't cite the peer-reviewed publication in Science by our great Roger Pielke Jr. which seemed to knock a few holes into the Oreskes paper.


It's certain that Young knows it exists since Peiser appeared to have been supplying Pielke with the ammunition.


Tim, something's gone wrong in the quote attribution - Chris O'Neill turns into Graham Young somewhere in there.

Good lord.

The letter Thom cites (R. Pielke Jr), is not a "peer reviewed publication", it's a letter. And it it doesn't "knock a few holes into the Oreskes paper" it states (in summary) that even having a debate about the nature of this scientific consensus is a bad idea. Peilke notes that we should essentially accept the IPCC report and move on, not an unreasonable position since there is so obviously a scientific consensus on this issue.

Of course the sad fact is that Oreskes paper is needed; Non rational commentators continue to argue that there is no consensus.

Lambert 1, Young/Peiser/Marohasy/AssortedDummies nil again.

But normally Young and the ideologically correct opinions he approves for onlineopinion are not interesting enough to read, so I don't.

Graham Young writes, "And the thrust of Lambert's and your argument, that Global Warming is established as a scientific 'fact' with which no reputable scientist could and does disagree, is still a crock."

GY has no clue how science works. Arguments in science are rarely absolute. Science does not, or never has, been based on consensus. We scientists rarely agree about anything. That said, science policy must be based on consensus. And in the climate change debate, the vast majority of statured scientists - and by this I mean the people on the ground doing the actual research - are in agreement that human forcing is responsible for most of the oberved change in climate since about 1980. Sure, there are a few outliers, but there always will be in any debate. Most of the these are not climate scientists at all and have no pedigree in the field. The denial lobby has become increasingly desperate in recent years as the empirical data has grown in support of AGW and has embraced all kinds of people in its attempts to retain the status quo. They have used to media to bolster papers that appear in journals that do not appear on the ISI Web of Science (where any credible journal must appear). They have used to media to crerate controversy because controversy sells and consensus doesn't.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 22 Jan 2007 #permalink


So you're attempting to imply that Pielke's letter "buttressed" the conclusions by Oreskes? That's odd, because Oreskes had a response letter defending herself. If someone agrees with you, there is usually not a requirement to defend oneself.

I don't know how you interpreted what I wrote to imply any such thing. In the letter and the response there's more agreement than disagreement and the majority of both speak more to the policy question than this specific literature research paper. I really don't want to summarize the letters, they are already fairly short.

In any case, the point is that there are no substantive "holes" in Oreskes' work in this matter and there is a consensus viewpoint amongst professionals in the atmospheric sciences on global warming and it's mechanisms.

Thom: "So you're attempting to imply that Pielke's letter "buttressed" the conclusions by Oreskes?"

Tell you what, Thom since the initial claim is yours - that Pielke "seemed to knock a few holes" in Oreskes' study - then why not quote us a few of the more damning sections.

Because like Mark, I certainly couldn't find them.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 22 Jan 2007 #permalink

I forgot to ask, rhetorically, just what anyone thinks Graham Young would know of the science of anything. Being a property developer and Howard promoter and believing that the likes of Peiser, Marohasy, and apparently Bolt are worth citing on the science of climate change. He probably reveres rock hard Rob Carter as untouchable on the matter. In Young's world your choice of the various science brands would be like everything else that counts in life, a matter of picking your friends and sticking with them. Benny and Jenny and Bobby? - so much more fun to hang with than real scientists in the field. And it's Graham's journal, he's the decider, and what he says goes. No fun having real science get in the way of business as usual and isn't reality what you make of it? Graham's final word: "Climate change is what God made air conditioners for, stupid".

Don't be offended by Graham's comment Tim, coming from one who's shallow and dishonest "deeply dishonest" would be a sincere term of admiration.

[Somebody stoppppp mmmeeee, I'm shamefully enjoying this]

Mark and Ian, after a careful reading of Pielke's letter, I agree that I was wrong. Pielke's letter was pointless and was an obvious troll for attention.