There’s a new paper out by John Cook and fifteen co-authors – (a “metastudy of metastudies” according to co-author Naomi Oreskes) by “an all-star lineup of climate consensus experts” according to Dana Nuccitelli in the Guardian who is himself part of all-star lineup. It’s been been severely mauled by Brandon Schollenberger here and here, and magnificently ridiculed by Josh at Bishop Hill
Its main target is a critique of Cook’s famous 97% paper by Richard Tol. It further claims to show that, not only is there a consensus around global warming in the region of 90-100%, but that it gets bigger the greater the expertise of the people questioned. The graph illustrating this fact has been shown by Brandon to be drivel, based as it is on “qualitative assessment of expertise” or sticking data on a chart in order to make a nice pattern.
Something striking about this paper is the unusual lengths the authors have gone to to publicise their work. Besides Nuccitelli in the Guardian, there’s Chemistry professor Sarah Green, who is quoted at Science Daily and at Thinkprogress while John Cook is quoted in articles at the sites of Bristol University and the University of Queensland where he claims that the success of COP21 was largely due to him and his co-authors:
“The progress made at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris late last year indicates that countries are now well and truly behind the scientific consensus too. It has been studies like this that have compelled politicians and policy-makers to act on climate change – and the Paris Accord is testament to that action.”
an astounding claim, which, when you think about it, is almost certainly true. Have you ever heard a mainstream politican demonstrate the slightest acquaintance with climate science? What else have they ever done but parrot: “Experts agree that… the science tells us…”?
Lewandowsky, in an article devoted to the article of which he is co-author, is even more upfront about the importance of the study as a propaganda tool:
Given that recognition of the expert consensus is a gateway belief that determines the public’s attitudes toward climate policies, and given that informing people of the consensus demonstrably shifts their opinions, it is unsurprising that attempts continue to be made to deny the existence of this pervasive expert consensus.
…a corollary of which is that, by the same reasoning, it is unsurprising that attempts continue to be made by climate propagandists like Lewandowsky to shore up belief in the existence of this pervasive expert consensus.
Like other forms of disinformation, this denial of the expert consensus impinges on the public’s right to be adequately informed about the risks it is facing. It is therefore potentially ethically dubious.
The claim that disagreeing with Lewandowsky and his co-authors is potentially ethically dubious links to an article by philosopher Lawrence Torcello which is cited in another recent article by Lewandowsky which contains another important insight:
“…it is known that the mere mention of climate change can increase authoritarian attitudes… Climate change and other threats may therefore increase people’s general readiness to aggress toward deviant groups that seem to threaten individuals’ and society’s safety and well-being…”
Well said Lew. As a member of the deviant group in question, I concur wholeheartedly.
I wrote a reply to the Bristol University article, saying, among other things:
“Professor Lewandowsky and his Doctorate Student John Cook are serial liars, beginning in 2012 when they falsely claimed that the respondents for Lewandowsky’s first opinion survey on climate change were obtained from Cook’s website Skeptical Science, and they haven’t stopped lying since, notably in a defamatory paper which was retracted, then reissued in a slightly revised form last year. Four of the co-authors of this paper are associated with Skeptical Science, which, despite its name, is devoted to attacking those of us who are sceptical of some of the claims of the climate science “consensus.” The authors of this paper are waging a political campaign, using junk statistics, to denigrate those who apply the true principles of scientific scepticism.”
I write stuff like this all over the place, to the Press Complaints Commission, Bristol University Research Ethics Committee, Retraction Watch, and any media outlet that will accept such comments, each time making the point that Lewandowsky and Cook are proven liars. (The best exposition of my case is Steve McIntyre’s article based on Barry Woods’ and my evidence).
My quixotic campaign has been fairly unproductive so far (though we did get one Lew paper retracted, which led to me and McIntyre being fingered by Nuccitelli in the Guardian as bullies – hence the unsuccessful complaint to the Press Complaints Commission).
I really don’t know what else to do. The fact that one proven liar is claiming to have prodded 195 countries into signing a multi-trillion dollar international treaty and another one is asserting that disagreement with his opinions is morally reprehensible seems to me to be something worth making a fuss about. But how to do it effectively?