Treatment of Climate Change and Hockey Stick Controversy in Wikipedia

The current Wikipedia entry for Climate Change has about 7000 words on that one page (including notes, all the other words that show up on Wikipedia pages). The current Wikipedia entry for the Hockey Stick Controversy has about 25,000 words in all.

The controversy over one aspect of climate change, the basic observation of temperature change known as the hockey stick graph, is certainly not more complex than, more important than, or harder to explain than climate change as a whole. Is this a failing of Wikipedia? A success for the Climate Science Deniers who are also hoping to have the conversation about "the controversy" be an order of magnitude lengthier in our schools than any discussion of climate change? A random occurrence? I'm thinking a little of all three.

25,000 vs 7,000. Holy crap. Would someone who works with Wikipedia please see to this? Thank you.

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Fair enough. Global warming, which is only part of climate change but whatever, gets 16K words to 25K on the hockey stick controversy. So, the situation is still pretty much the same.

This reflects the way Wikipedia, for better or worse, reflects the culture of conversation about knowledge, not just the knowledge. This may be the primary contrast between Wiki-encyclopedia and Regular-encyclopedia.

Hello - I think that you are making a mistake by only comparing the size of the article for "Climate change" to the article for "Hockey stick Controversy" as a measure of importance of a topic. (Even if we assume that word count alone is an appropriate measure of significance.) The Climate change article is only the lead article of an entire category, also named "Climate change", which (currently) has 19 subcategories (each with numerous other articles) and 33 other articles that are outside of the subcategories.

By Dave Carr (not verified) on 03 Apr 2013 #permalink

On my bookshelf, I have ''Evolution'' by Edward J. Larsen, a small volume covering the whole topic in only 337 pages. I also have a much larger volume of 458 pages, ''The Creationists'' by Ronald Numbers. Clearly this is a success for the evolution deniers, and for better or worse, reflects the culture of conversation about knowledge. Or perhaps showing denial in the accurate context of science can take more space than outlining the science?

Possibly you preferred the hockey stick controversy article two years ago, when it was under 6,000 words (excluding references)?…
At that time it included numerous denialist canards without the context of mainstream refutation of the claims. Wikipedia that year reflected the context of English speaking society where deniers had commandeered much of the media and could easily quote "reliable sources" such as the Wall Street Journal to support their claims. Arguments created such a toxic environment for editing that there was a major "arbcom" case which resulted in editors on "both sides" getting topic banned for such infractions as not being polite enough. In one case, for the heinous crime of calling deniers septics.

So, these arguments and the difficulty of getting well sourced information have held back progress, but a reasonably complete analysis emerged over time. Just as well you didn't look at it before 25 March this year, when a large chunk of information was moved to a new article on the hockey stick graph focussed on the science rather than the controversy, or 13 February when a new article took the detail on the Wegman report, leaving a shorter summary.

More summarising is needed, with further new sub-articles where appropriate, but it remains important to explain the mainstream responses to the claims of the "sceptics". All this in the context of having to fully comply with Wikipedia's policies, which in some interpretations give a lot of room for showing "alternative" views in a kindly light.

If you'd like to work on these concise summaries, that will be greatly appreciated. For example, much effort has gone into concisely explaining the issues of principal components analysis for non-mathematicians: improvements welcome. Anyone can edit, though getting edits to stick will require consensus on how the edits comply with policies, including good quality published sources.

The Wikipedia model does not work very well in topics where expert opinion is massively on one side of an issue but much of the public has the opposite view. Climate change is one example but the same thing happens with evolution, some kinds of alternative medicine and so on. The articles in these topics are sort of okay but not nearly as good as they ought to be, because people who know what they're doing get worn out from dealing with nonsense.

By Don Brooks (not verified) on 07 Apr 2013 #permalink

I'm happy if it gets split, but it really is a good thing if the twisty details get documented somewhere and it is nontrivial to do that when people run a decade-long disinformation effort to rewrite physics and history, including creation of a report to Congress, and resurrection fo a long-obsolete graph as a centerpiece. The real history of temperature reconstructions is fairly straightforward, normal science progression, in the open. Take a look at the Talk page's first section. Dave Souza continues to do good work.

The false history is much messier, with many hidden connections that keep getting discovered. The Wegman Report was 91 pages long, but it took me 250 to dissect it and even then didn't do everything.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 08 Apr 2013 #permalink