The Conversation shakes its Willy at us

The latest climate article at the Conversation is so absurd it wouldn’t be worth mentioning if it weren’t for what’s happening in the comments. To summarise briefly: In the article, author Sylvia Jaworska, Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics, University of Reading, reports on her linguistic analysis of 500 corporate documents produced between 2000 and 2013 by major oil companies using corpus-linguistic tools – essentially, using a computer to analyse vast amounts of text for certain patterns.”

This comprised some 14.8m words published in corporate social responsibility and environmental reports and relevant chapters in annual reports. That’s a lot of words – roughly equivalent to 25 copies of War and Peace.

No, Sylvia. It may be as many words as are to be found in 25 copies of War and Peace. But it’s not the equivalent. It’s the equivalent of -well – 500 corporate social responsibility and environmental reports. In other words, 14 million words of meaningless bumf.

Sylvia’s main findings are that:

..the most frequently adopted term in the studied sample is “climate change”, while other terms such as “global warming” and “greenhouse effect” are rarely used.

And that:

The use of the term “climate change” experienced peaks and troughs over time, with most mentions between 2004 and 2008, and fewer and fewer mentions since 2010.

Here she demonstrates that she can’t even read her own graph, since it indicates that 2004 was one of the years with the fewest mentions (third lowest out of fourteen years) and that 2010 and 2011 were among the highest (fifth and sixth out of fourteen.)

But her stupidity doesn’t stop there:

in recent years, the corporate discourse has increasingly emphasised the notion of “risks”… The industry tends to present itself as a technological leader, but the measures it proposes to tackle climate change are mainly technological or market-based and thus firmly embedded within the corporate world’s drive for profits. Meanwhile, social, ethical, or alternative solutions are largely absent.

Good Gaia. The industry tends to present itself as a technological leader, BUT the measures it proposes to tackle climate change are mainly technological… AND these corporate documents exhibit a drive for profits. What can they be thinking of?

If this were a sixth form project, I can imagine the teacher giving a C minus for a hopelessly biassed analysis and an F for inability to read the simplest graph. But this is an article at a site read by millions, by and for academics, financed by some of the world’s top universities.

And there’s worse.

The first comment is by Paul Matthews.

Sentence one:

Almost every climate scientist agrees human-caused climate change is a major global threat.”

Any evidence to support that claim?

To which Environment editor Willy de Freitas replies:

2,118 articles.

which is rude and silly, since a quick look at the sidebar at the above link reveals that a large number of the articles labelled “climate change” – possibly the majority – are not by climate scientists at all. The most frequent contributor is Michelle Grattan, who is “one of Australia’s most respected political journalists,” and fifth and sixth on the list are a couple of psychologists. And the top ten contributors are all Australians, which is no fault of theirs, but it does suggest a rather narrow criterion of selection.

Then Robin Guenier chips in to point out that the existence of two thousand articles at the Conversation does not constitute evidence supporting Professor Jaworska’s bold assertion,” and Professor Jaworska herself proposes as evidence J. Cook, et al, “Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming.”

Then editor Willy de Freitas intervenes with:

Further tedious concern trolling by the usual suspects will be deleted.

To which Robin replies:

I had a civilised, useful and interesting exchange with John Cook in the comments section of a Conversation article a year ago.

And proposes as counter evidence Stozhkov et al., 2017 and Wang et al., 2017. Then a certain David Warburton-Burley asks:

Why do I feel like I’ve suddenly stumbled into a creationist forum?

And editor de Freitas, instead of warning him that creationism is off-topic, continues to insult Robin and Paul.

And so it goes on, with some notable interventions from Hugh McLachlan Professor Emeritus of Applied Philosophy at Glasgow Caledonian University. Professor Jaworska intervenes a couple more times, once to thank David Warburton-Burley who makes a second off-topic comment which contains a conspiracy theory to boot:

No doubt PR companies are making significant profits from advising the Big Oil on how best to manipulate public opinion. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re also engaged in some more direct efforts to distort public perceptions via social media and the like as well.

And this morning editor Willy de Freitas is back:

Are you seriously making ‘climate change isn’t actually considered a threat!!!’ your hill to die on? I thought the savvier deniers/time wasters/professors of applied contrarianism have moved on to ‘it’s not going to be that bad / humans didn’t do this’.

Robin, Paul and co. From now, the moment you mention Cook et al your comments are going to be deleted.

It was author Jaworska of course who first mentioned Cook et al. Threatening to ban sensible commenters who point our errors is of course standard practise at the Conversation. For the editor of a journal largely financed by universities to insult an emeritus professor is something new, and seems to me to be a bad move on the part of Willy.


  1. The (non)Conversation is devolving into Jaberwocky. However, this is actually not that large of a downward step, when one considers their starting pont.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And now they’ve started deleting comments. This one I posted this morning has now been deleted:

    It is very disappointing to see Jaworska quoting the Cook article. I anticipated that somebody would. It provides no evidence to support the “major global threat” claim.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Conversation is not a website with which I am familiar but, having been enticed to take a quick peek, I have to say that Will de Freitas does come across as being a little blind to his own shortcomings. For example, if he didn’t want the thread to concentrate upon the consensus debate, why did he start off that very debate by responding to Paul’s post in the way that he did? You can’t do this and then cry fowl when your punters respond.

    Besides which, as a number of contributors pointed out, the author of the article presented an analysis that took the validity of the climate consensus for granted. I think it was quite legitimate to consider the extent to which the author’s analysis may have been affected by making such an assumption. There is such a thing as Experimenter’s Bias you know.

    I would be making these points on the Conversation thread, but I see no point in further encouraging Will’s particular brand of pomposity.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. No surprises here…

    Will de Freitas helped to establish The Conversation in the UK. Previously, he worked on data projects for the Guardian’s Global Development website, and for three years worked in ministerial offices at Whitehall.

    Good to know he’s not in favour of rationing flights, though.

    Which is one of relatively few tweets on the subject of energy & environment on Will’s timeline (the rest being bog-standard somewhere-on-the-left-not-sure-where-ism). Which is odd, for an energy & environment editor. Perhaps his heart isn’t in it. His head certainly isn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    Do comment at the Conversation. I’ve been banned for ages, and Paul and Robin are probably feeling a bit isolated and abandoned. That a site financed by all the country’s top universities plus Hefce, Hefcw, SAGE, SFC, RCUK, The Nuffield Foundation, The Ogden Trust, The Royal Society, The Wellcome Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Alliance for Useful Evidence censors sensible criticism seems to me rather important. Also, the distractions by their editor and the article’s author mean that no-one has made the essential point that there is nothing in the article to support the claim in the title.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I would be the last to suggest such a thing as nepotism amongst the climate artistocracy. But anyone scratching their head about the role of The Nonversation’s funding partners and their recruitment policy might be misled into wondering if any of them had links to wealthy philanthropist Roger De Freitas. The name is surely a coincidence, and such scurrilous muck-rakers would be wrong to try to make links between, for instance, editorial roles at the Graun and their funding partners such as the Bll and Melinda Gates foundation, because as we all know, philanthropic funding ‘partners’ never hang out together. And anyway, it is very unlikely that Will is Roger’s son. And the fact that he is thanked personally by Greenpeace, FoE, NEF, and others, and sits on a number of boards of NGOs and charities is an investigative dead end, not worthy of further investigation. I only say it here to dissuade others from taking a peek… Not just because I’m busy, but because I’m sure it would be fruitless.


  7. Oil company demonisation isn’t exactly a new thing for climate alarmoholics. In fact demonisation of anything and anyone seen as a threat to their rickety theories is the norm.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. BEN
    To be fair, Roger de Freitas doesn’t seem to be that active. He’s on the advisory board of the Global Nature Fund (a German outfit, despite its name) in an honorary capacity. Their last newsletter dates from March 2017, and their last annual report from 2016, when their annual revenue was 1.5 million € of which well over half went on salaries, administration and PR and the rest on lakes mostly. Their money comes from big German firms and no less than four different European Union agencies.

    He was the chairman of the BTCV, “the UK’s largest practical conservation charity, and the 2010 UK charity of the year” with revenue of £16.7 million, but he’s since downsized to being president of the Mangrove Action Project (revenue $0.9 million) whose address is in Seattle, but which is active in many of the locations where Willy takes such nice snaps.

    Roger is also active on the supporter’s trust of Queens Park Rangers and has received the Queen Mother’s Birthday Award, but that’s not a crime.


  9. Geoff – he’s named and thanked in recent and sequential financial reports from FoE, Greenpeace and NEF.

    The point, related to the other thread is the small world that dominates the climate, erm, conversation.

    I’m sure the de Freitases, just like the Painters and Tickels, all trade on their own merits.


  10. Geoff,

    For what it is worth, I have taken your advice and posted a response to the article at the Conversation. I repeat it below for the benefit of the CliScep followers:

    “Upon reading the title of this article, my hopes were raised that I might be treated to an insightful analysis of how recent changes in corporate (particularly, oil industry) rhetoric have served to expose a lack of good faith in the tackling of climate change. Unfortunately, the evidence presented is so scant that one struggles to discern a coherent argument. Indeed, unless the author has something else up her sleeve that she is not at present divulging, one has to conclude that the whole argument rests solely upon the increased association of the term ‘risk’ with ‘climate change’, together with the presumption that the risk alluded to is risk to the company (as opposed to environmental risk). Furthermore, the reader has to assume that the trend can only be found in companies with significant environmental impacts. I see no basis for making any such assumptions.

    Rather, I would wish to point out that the period over which the alleged transformation of rhetoric has taken place coincides with the increased introduction into the workplace of environmental standards such as ISO 14001. As somebody who played the principal role in gaining ISO 14001 for my own employer (not an oil company), I can provide first-hand confirmation that standards such as ISO 14001 are squarely premised upon the principle of risk reduction (either through the introduction of measures to reduce adverse environmental impact or to reduce the likelihood of environmental events). Consequently, environmental policy statements, corporate governance documents and other instruments of corporate rhetoric have become replete with the word ‘risk’, as a necessity for achieving compliance with ISO 14001 and its ilk. Insofar as climate change is likely to feature on every company’s Environmental Impacts Register, the association of ‘risk’ with ‘climate change’ will, by now, have become ubiquitous.

    As a result of the above, I see nothing sinister or significant in the growth of the use of risk management terminology in this context—and nor would the author of this article if she had even a modicum of understanding of how corporate governance has developed over the last twenty years.

    If the author wishes to make a claim that the increased use of the term ‘risk’ by Big Oil companies is in any way pernicious, she needs to present a corresponding analysis of other sectors of industry. It’s called ‘using a control’, and it is such a basic practice in science that I have to wonder why no such control has been offered here. As I have already said, I am willing to concede that the author has further analysis that she didn’t feel necessary to present. If so, she stands accused of negligence. If not, the accusation is one of tendentious analysis and Experimenter’s Bias.”

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Steady on Geoff, we have only just met!

    As for my comment at the Conversation, at least the Mighty Will can’t accuse me of being off topic. Still,
    I’m not anticipating any sensible reply.

    Liked by 1 person

    My apologies for impinging on your emotional space like that. I know how painful that can be, ever since a Guardian writer, who was also John Cook’s very first responder to SkepticalScience’s appeal for support, offered to lay me across a table and bugger me on a thread at Comment is Free. In my defence, I offer this quote from a site run by those emotionally uptight colonials we are obliged to engage with occasionally from
    [I owe the link to a tweet from Jonathan Jones]

    I’ve encountered strong responses to my efforts to foster an atmosphere of intellectual hospitality. For example, about a year ago I gave a talk on climate science and politics at a major US university in a state that voted for Donald Trump. After the talk a gentleman raised his hand an exclaimed, “I want to give you a kiss!” It’s not the usual reaction to my lectures.
    He announced that he was a local Republican official and explained his reaction, “This is the first talk on climate that I have heard where I was not made to feel stupid or evil.” He did not comment on my vigorous defense of the science reported in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or advocacy for an economy-wide carbon tax. His emotional response was to the hospitality that I offered.

    The Conversation is some of the world’s greatest universities financing intellectual hospitality for your opinions – and Willy de Freitas yapping at your heels and raising his hindleg on your comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It is quite simple: We are witnessing a noble cause corruption of science. Everything is allowed to “save the earth”, and all critics are therefore considered “evil”. It is a dangerous meme. By the way Dawkins himself is under this spell as well. I have been to skeptic conferences, climate skeptics are outcast there and Lewandowski is celebrated. How to break this spell?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hans. Do you really mean that there are sceptic conferences where Lewandowski is celebrated? If so then things are getting real bad? Run for the hills.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. John. Thank you for your contribution to The Conversation. It illustrates, almost perfectly, the perils of academic study without a grounding in the real world. You seem to have offered Willi and the contributorati a veritable repast to chew upon.
    I wonder if there might have been other changes affecting the oil industry that resulted in a change of language. When did threats of divestment begin? Did reactions to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill influence risk and hazard assessment and thus the chosen wording in oil company documents. Since the good professor’s contribution seems to have been a crude and mechanical word search and count, there can be no context and no understanding. Her conclusions are crude biased guesses, with no possibility of verification. I would have awarded an F.*

    * I once had to second mark a somewhat similar undergraduate thesis (frequency of climate change stories in British newspapers over time). That got an A+

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Alan,

    You say, “Her conclusions are crude biased guesses, with no possibility of verification.”

    Well they certainly come across as crude guesses, and there can be no doubt that she approached her work with preconceived ideas (hence the relevance of Paul’s objections). However, whilst you and I may have no possibility of verification, the author of the study had no such excuse. It would have been easy for her to survey how the development of rhetoric has differed from sector to sector, but she does not appear to have done so. If she had, she may have discerned a pattern that is peculiar to the oil industry. However, I very much doubt that she would have done, and if she did, it probably still wouldn’t support her thesis. As I indicated, the growing dominance of the risk management paradigm in corporate procedure and rhetoric is a pan-sector phenomenon. Furthermore, it is not restricted to environmental management. At various stages in my career I have had to specialise in health and safety management, information security management, high integrity systems development, environmental management, project risk management and quality management (specifically, software quality assurance). In all cases I was instrumental in gaining the required certifications for corporate governance purposes, and in all cases the jargon of risk management featured prominently in the required corporate documentation. To say that such jargon is adopted as a ploy to disown or downgrade issues of importance is simply ludicrous.

    It will be interesting to see if my post is challenged. If so, I will look forward to it, since I will be fighting very much on my own patch!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. John —It would have been easy for her to survey how the development of rhetoric has differed from sector to sector, but she does not appear to have done so. If she had, she may have discerned a pattern that is peculiar to the oil industry.

    It seems to be routine for academic activists to omit comparison. There are very few attempts to put ‘denial’ into any context, to show that the thing in question is unusual in any way. They know why. Because to do a study that compares the language of alarmists and deniers would risk being unfavourable to their preferred campaign.

    The same is true of attempts to locate the funding sources of deniers. See for example my conversation with an academic on the question of green vs brown funding at

    The only plausible justification I can think of is that it doesn’t occur to academics that ‘green’ is ‘ideological’.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Ben,

    You say, “…a study that compares the language of alarmists and deniers would risk being unfavourable to their preferred campaign.”

    I think the first obstacle to such a study would be the establishment of objective and universally understood definitions for ‘denier’ and ‘alarmist’.

    You say, “The only plausible justification I can think of is that it doesn’t occur to academics that ‘green’ is ‘ideological’.”

    Academics don’t think ideology has anything to do with it. They see the debate as being between evidence, facts and consensus, on the one hand, versus wilful ignorance, cognitive impairment and downright bloody-mindedness on the other. The matter has long been settled as far as they are concerned. The problem has now become one of communicating the message and how one can achieve this by better understanding the pathological mind-set of the denier. We are their patients–not ideological opponents. As I recently read on The Conversation, “It’s frightening that people still hold such views.”


    Liked by 2 people

  19. Ah-ha Hans, didn’t realise I had my climate blinkers on when questioning you about sceptical conferences that would revere Lewandowski. Recursive fury at my error.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. To continue John Ridgway’s excellent point, I have just read through the annual report of a company that provides loan finance to UK housebuilders and yet has to comment on environmental risk factors. I hope everyone will be interested in reading a fairly short passage of the nonsense that every listed company in the UK has to serve up every year in the interests of…Whom, precisely? I can imagine Damian Carrington of the Graun having an orgasm upon reading such utterly pointless crap but is that sufficient to force companies to publish it?

    “The Directors recognise that their first duty is to act in the best financial interests of the Company’s
    shareholders and to achieve good financial returns against acceptable levels of risk, in accordance with the objectives of the Company.

    In asking the Company’s Investment Adviser to deliver against these objectives, they have also requested that the Investment Adviser take into account the
    broader social, ethical and environmental issues of counterparties within the Company’s portfolio,
    acknowledging that companies failing to manage these issues adequately run a long term risk to the
    sustainability of their businesses. More specifically, they expect companies to demonstrate ethical
    conduct, effective management of their stakeholder relationships, responsible management and mitigation of social and environmental impacts, as well as due regard for wider societal issues.

    As an investment company with its current structure the Company has no direct social, community, employee or environmental responsibilities of its own. The Company has no greenhouse gas emissions
    to report from its operations for the year ended 30 November 2017 nor does it have responsibility
    for any other emissions producing sources under the Companies Act 2006 (Strategic Report and Directors’ Reports) Regulations 2013 (including those within the underlying investment portfolio).

    At 30 November 2017 there were five male Directors. The Company has no employees and is not required to report further on gender diversity”


  21. John Ridgway’s comment at the Nonversation is still the last one, despite now being a day old. John, it looks as though you’ve floored them – either that, or they’re not really interested in a proper conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Man in a Barrel,

    The problem is that ISO 14001 requires organisations to identify and address their most significant environmental impacts, irrespective of the size of impact, i.e. their is no threshold of significance that applies. For example, if one can only identify 10 utterly insignificant impacts, one still has to deal with the 5 least trivial on the list (or the number negotiated with your external auditor). No matter how hard you try, you will always have a top 50% that needs dealing with (it’s called continuous improvement, and is enshrined in ISO 14001 just as much as it is in ISO 9001). The main problem I had in gaining certification was to convince the auditor that we were doing enough, ironically because there was so little that we needed to do.

    If the author of the article had bothered to look at those industry sectors that have little environmental impact, she would still have seen a recent upsurge in preoccupation with the documenting of environmental impacts and risks, but it would be the sort of impact caused by leaving the lights on in the conference room when it wasn’t being used. And why this new-found obsession? Usually to ensure ISO 14001 certification, as demanded by your customer as part of their own procurement of services policies. To comply with ISO 14001, your own company then demands that its suppliers comply with ISO 14001. And so it goes on. This revolution within corporate governance is all you need to understand in order to explain the author’s findings.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Mark,

    Yes, it’s all gone quiet over there.

    All gone quite, all gone quiet, all gone quiet over there.

    Perhaps I should give them another poke.


  24. Perhaps this should be dealt with in a new topic, but I am breaking my head over the question how climate alarmism could take hold of the skeptical societies. What is so powerful in this mene that it even can take over the minds of professional disbelievers?

    Liked by 1 person

  25. It seems that compliancism is a new religion. ISO 9000 was bad enough. I was given a project to ensure that our department passed a compliance audit. I devised 6 stickers that everyone was required to memorise.

    We passed.

    Did our working practices change or improve as a result?

    No. We merely recited sentences and had files to point to defining procedures etc.

    The compliance industry has mushroomed since 1994 and is just as useless. I used to wonder why the BSI needed a big office building on my local business park. About 10 years ago I realised that it was to offer employment to superrannuated telecoms engineers who needed to earn some money as standards compliance auditors.

    It is an unsung growth industry but I am sceptical as to its value. Call me an ISO denier and I flick my nose at you!

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I’ve just reviewed one of my comments above and read, “i.e. their is no threshold…”

    Come on John, get a grip!

    Liked by 3 people

  27. The compliance police will be there soon, John.

    OK my attitude was cynical but the key was to get my team to understand that when the auditor said “quality”, it had a different meaning – adherence to standards laid down by senior management. I got their buy in by telling them that this was their chance to show that they were obeying orders and that we were not actually gassing anyone. Yes, we were all highly cynical

    Liked by 1 person

  28. As usual, another dimension occurs to me immediately I make a comment. I remember going to a customer service conference for telcos in Paris around 2001…. Some of us lead charmed lives.

    So the EU reps had a totally disenchanted view of customer service – fobbing off complaints and harangues from alco fuelled maniacs and Geoff Chambers.

    But the folks from Hungary, Czechia, Estonia told stories about phoners wanting to thank the cust serv reps for the wonderful service. How the ability to talk to anyone about the service felt so liberating. And then the telco people wanted to adopt a service model such as ISO 9000 or the European service model… And I cringed. As if arbitrary definitions of quality can become bad Nazi definitions to good international standard definitions within 50 years

    I wonder what Monbiot would have to say… I don’t want to hear the thunder of another orgasm from Damian Carrington


  29. Off topic: I note a general decrease in our means of appreciation for posts that are informative, startlingly well written or display wit. If you look back only a couple of years, posts were regularly receiving 5 likes or more. Yet, to my eye, very similar posts are fortunate to gain one or two today. Some, again a personal judgement, apparently of similar quality, gain none. A case in point is that of John Ridgeway (14 May 18 at 6:06 pm) which, as of now, is unadorned. Why? It is original, well written and influential. Its content has stopped The Conversation dead in its tracks for more then 24 hours, and spawned here an ISO-fest between practitioners of the compliance fraternity that is without precedence.

    Are we less appreciative? Less demonstrative? Or just less?

    In case of misunderstanding, I am most appreciative of every like I have been given over the past few years and am not complaining.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. The slide show linked by HANS ERREN (15 May 18 at 4:45 pm) is well worth a look. It’s a complete history of the scentific method from the first fumblings of Francis Bacon and Karl Popper right up to Lewandowsky and Cook.

    Slide twelve warns us about “the features that distinguish science from pseudoscience” (never mind that he’s got it backwards. There’s a later slide about A and Not-A that will sort it out):

    – A tendency to invoke hypotheses, which can be thought of as “escape hatches” or loopholes, as a means of immunising claims from falsification (natural variability anyone? Missing heat?)
    – An absence of self-correction and an accompanying intellectual stagnation
    – An emphasis on confirmation rather than refutation
    – A tendency to place the burden of proof on sceptics, not proponents, of claims…

    Sounds familiar?

    MAN IN A BARREL (15 May 18 at 11:32 pm)
    Whoever the alcohol fuelled maniacs were haranguing your colleagues, it wasn’t me. I don’t have a portable telephone.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Alan Kendall (16 May 18 at 6:54 am)
    Done. I tend only to put a like when I don’t have time to reply, but I’ve made an exception in your case. The likes I like best are the ones from people who never comment, since it shows we’re not just talking to ourselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Man in a Barrel,

    The irony is that Professor Jaworska would be quite justified in assuming that cynicism lies behind the oil companies’ corporate rhetoric. But this is only because cynicism lies behind ALL corporate rhetoric. I should know, I played my part by writing screeds of the stuff, knowing full damn well that my colleagues on the board wouldn’t even bother reading it–they simply trusted that I knew what to write to gain the required auditor approvals. I’m not proud of it, but I was very good at it.

    But by highlighting corporate cynicism we are in danger of straying off the point. Professor Jaworska claimed to have unearthed a change in attitude that is reflected in a changed use in language. She drew this conclusion because she was looking for it, and she didn’t apply controls that might have saved her from her own ignorance regarding developments in corporate governance. Furthermore, her concerns over the application of the risk management paradigm betrays a shocking lack of understanding of how risk and uncertainty work. Either that or she simply doesn’t accept that there is any uncertainty regarding the future direction that the climate might take. Not even the IPCC believes that.


  33. Alan,

    Yes I too have noticed a groundswell of Anglo Saxon self-restraint of late, and I don’t mind admitting that I have fallen in line. For example, Jaime Jessop recently posted what I thought was a particularly interesting article on the AMOC (24th April). Only I pressed the Like button, and I was surprised by this. Since then I have been more restrained simply because I don’t want people to think I am that happy-clappy, touchy-feely guy who presses the Like button for everything. It’s a classic example of self-organised group behaviour arising from peer-group pressure. Maybe the pendulum will swing back one day.


  34. John – I think the first obstacle to such a study would be the establishment of objective and universally understood definitions for ‘denier’ and ‘alarmist’.

    That would surely be the objective of the exercise. That is to say that it seems to be the tendency of alarmists to try to create a category of ‘denier’, such that they don’t have to argue with deniers — denial being a symptom. We *can* say that this is a defining characteristic of alarmism because alternative, sceptical or critical (of/to the consensus) opinions had not been allowed into the wider political debate, much less scientific and technical debates, much less policymaking. If they had been allowed, the antagonistic monikers would not be required, and a cascade of claims would not have been able to hide behind the consensus factoid: ‘climate change is real’.

    It wouldn’t be unfair to begin a study on language from the view that there at least appears to be roughly two sides, though it is less clear what the actual point of disagreement is. The closest attempts to dismantle the language of either putative side get to is to note that the greener side is more likely to be sceptical of GM and vaccinations and more inclined to alt-med. But as this approaches something like an equal treatment (e.g. Dan Kahan), the consensus enforcers turn up in their big boots, to stomp about Gateway Belief Models, which seems to be as much an ethic as a model of understanding: to criticise its shortcomings is to deliberately flatter the deniers.

    Academics don’t think ideology has anything to do with it. They see the debate as being between evidence, facts and consensus, on the one hand, versus wilful ignorance, cognitive impairment and downright bloody-mindedness on the other.

    I think there is a view that ‘ideology’ (which I put in quotes, because I think it is in general deployed with no more understanding than ‘denier’) plays out in cognitive processes. A while ago, there were notable attempts even to say that mainstream left and right positions with respect to ‘science’ (ditto) were hard-wired into the structures of brains. Lweandowsky’s work has a distinctly ‘ideological’ flavour to it, his claim being that a number of ideological traits can predict attitudes to science, or at least claims seemingly emerging from science. The point of which is simple enough: it is its own ideology, which is to say a schematic for the organisation of society, which natural places scientists somewhere near the top, but not so near it they can be held accountable. This may be of interest.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Geoff I think you are correct. I would far prefer a written response to one of my posts than a like. And one that is complementary is very special. With two responses and a like from my latest effort, I am right chuffed.
    I don’t know what I might do if I got an “I love you” response.


  36. Hugh McLachlan also seems to have shut Willy up, with this:

    ‘I thought the savvier deniers/time wasters/professors of applied contrarianism have moved on to ‘it’s not going to be that bad / humans didn’t do this’.’

    Are you referring to me here? If so, please do not associate me with views that I do not hold. I suspect that you have not taken the time to try to understand the posts that you sneer at. Who moderates the moderator. This is a disgraceful performance.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Paul,

    “Hugh McLachlan also seems to have shut Willy up…”

    Yes, I noticed that too. It’s a rum state of affairs when the moderator is a blog’s most ill-behaved contributor.

    Meanwhile, Hugh and I are still waiting for a response. The website’s name is becoming more and more ironic.


  38. The strange thing is that quoting the words of the IPCC is sometimes tantamount to “denial”. If an environmentally concerned person quotes the IPCC, that is OK. If someone quotes the IPCC to undermine the argument of an environmentally concerned person, that person can then safely be labelled a “denier”.


  39. Man in a Barrel,

    ‘If someone quotes the IPCC to undermine the argument of an environmentally concerned person, that person can then safely be labelled a “denier”.’

    That’s because we deniers are such notorious cherry-pickers. We only ever cite quotes that support our arguments! The environmentally concerned are not nearly as calculating and underhand.

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Paul,

    Yes, I should have said, “ironic to me.”


    I’m not ignoring you. I just think the points you raise are undeserving of a glib response. I’ll get back to you when I have finished ruminating.


  41. Out here in formerly sunny CA- winter time fog is coming up from the valley!- the never ending spring time chores are getting close to being completed. Fire breaks are just about all in place. I take advantage of a manmade water ditch, put in place back in the gold rush days, to weed eat a path to prevent the spread of fires in our little forest.

    A fire rolled through the forested area, a couple fence posts are rather charred, back before 1980. Someday when the value of Al gets to be high enough I may pull out some old irrigation lines that were put in place in the early 60’s. The burned fence posts are rather close to an older rather large shut off value which was used to direct the flow of water to different legs of the abandoned irrigation lines. Luckily for me my abandoned infrastructure doesn’t have the risks associated with single walled natural gas/oil wells-

    …”The key thing about the failed well at Aliso Canyon is that is wasn’t originally designed for high-pressure gas storage. It was an oil well drilled back in 1956 that had been repurposed. Because of its vintage, at certain depths, it had only one layer of pipe separating the gas from surrounding rock. Wells built today use multiple concentric pipes, and only the innermost pipe transports gas so as to reduce the risk of a blowout.”….


  42. John Ridgway and Professor Hugh may have dumbfounded la Jaworska, (I don’t think she knows how to answer a comment shorter than 14 million words – too pithy for statistically significant analysis) but over in binary la/not-la land
    Robin Guenier is having his work cut out on a sub thread started seven days ago with a comment from Robin beginning:
    “This article contains at least one example of Professor Shapiro himself engaging in dichotomous thinking…”

    and ending 32 minutes ago with Robin’s defence against the umpteenth false accusation from Shapiro. I think he’d appreciate some support.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. John’s contribution on the Shapiro thread is another cracker.
    Personally, I am quite happy to admit to being a climate denier, in that I can’t find much useful in an average of thirty years weather. As a farmer, rainfall is probably my biggest concern. Looking at thirty years the other day l found a mean of 825mm but within one standard deviation 505mm and 1145mm seem equally likely. It doesn’t help much. Inspecting 100 years a worst year of 205mm and another worst one of 1620mm. What supports this “average of thirty years as meaning anything?

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Shaun, Thank you. I appreciate your appreciation. I haven’t received a response from Professor Shapiro yet, though he has an apologist in the form of Chris Crawford (or is it Brad Keyes playing Devil’s Advocate?).


  45. Well, it has been well over 4 days now since I posted my critique on The Conversation, and still no reply. I guess I am going to have to admit that it’s never going to come and move on in my life.

    The tag line for The Conversation is, ‘Academic rigour, journalistic flair’. In who’s universe?

    I would go for, ‘Academic naiveté, journalistic embarrassment’.


  46. Roger is gently twittering…

    Latest government research: 87% of Brits support solar. (Not 97%?)

    As the Climate Change Act nears its 10th birthday, Brits can feel some pride in it, but it’s also time to get way more ambitious

    Right now wind is producing 40% of UK electricity


  47. Scrolling down the Roger de Freitas twitter thread linked by DENNIS AMBLER above brings up a couple of tweets by Willy de Freitas, one of which links to this article: from four years ago. It’s interesting only in that many comments by four Cliscep authors, (Barry Paul Brad and me) managed to survive the moderator, despite demonstrating that the author of the article Professor Strangelew and his sidekick John Cook were being economical with the truth. Those were the days.


  48. One point that might be considered good by someone is that, for the next few company reports I study, I will peruse the boring, sententious, tendentious and possibly misleading risk register bit to see what it says about climate change.

    For example De la Rue have a nice bit about key risks, one of which is losing a major contract. I am surprised that something that is just business as usually conducted managed to get on the register. The fact they lost the UK passport contract is amusing in this perspective. However climate change does not really feature. But I think all should know

    “This report is printed on Magno
    Satin paper. This paper has been
    independently certified as meeting the
    standards of the Forest Stewardship
    Council (FSC
    ®), and was manufactured
    at a mill that is certified to the ISO14001
    and EMAS environmental standards. “

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Ben,

    I’m sorry to have taken so long to respond to your previous comment (16th May at 11.32am). Therefore, if you chose to simply ignore this post, I have only myself to blame.

    Firstly, when I said that I was concerned that it may be difficult to establish objective definitions of ‘denier’ and ‘alarmist’, I had in mind the botched efforts of John Cook, and how so many AGW sceptics were shocked to find themselves on his list of AGW supporters. Word searching amongst abstracts clearly wasn’t such a good idea. Lewandowski’s efforts at statistically determining a correlation between various ideations fair little better when exposed to close scrutiny.

    I think that it is intuitively obvious that there are tendencies for particular ideologies to go hand in hand within the climate debate, though I would hesitate to suggest that this is indicative of any ‘hard-wiring’ in the structure of the brain. I think that the patterns of thinking are likely to be constrained by the imperatives of consistency, necessitated by an underlying logic. For example, once one has decided that authority is, in general, to be distrusted, it may be considered inconsistent to cede willingly to high taxation policies and yet be unimpressed by the consensus arguments proffered in support of the AGW argument. How one might become distrustful of authority is another question, doomed to be embroiled in the nature verses nurture argument.

    In fact, thinking about it, where one stands on the nature/nurture dichotomy may be a significant predictor of one’s attitudes to the climate debate: Is it all in Earth’s nature or is it down to how we are nurturing it? Somebody who has an inclination to search for ‘nurture’ style explanations may be more inclined to be impressed by the AGW argument. I may be onto something here, but it is much more likely that I am just demonstrating the perils of cod psychology.


  50. /ALL-RAISE

    “Almost every climate scientist agrees human-caused climate change is a major global threat.”


    The above is a central religious doctrine. ‘Trolling’ by questioning it is not accepted. The definition of “almost”, “climate scientist”, and “major global threat” are not to be taken literally, but the meaning is to be taken as

    “all climate scientists we accept think that AGW is a major global threat, and there’s no need for any scientific inquiry nor proof for this cite from our rulebook.”

    Questioning that is a taboo. Be glad you still have your head mounted on! They’ll just insult and ban you.


  51. Brad,

    Thank you for reprising this corker from the vaults of the Conversation. It has reminded me just how amusing it was at the time that Will de Freitas moaned and bitched about deniers tediously avoiding the topic (although they were not really) but as soon as I challenged the author’s thesis head on it all went very quiet. Just to recap, the author had said of oil companies:

    “I then looked at words used alongside “climate change” to gather clues as to the company’s attitude towards it. This showed a significant change in the way it has been portrayed. In the mid-2000s, the most frequent associated terms were “tackle”, “combat” and “fight”, showing climate change was seen as a phenomenon that something could be done about. However, in recent years, the corporate discourse has increasingly emphasised the notion of “risks”. Climate change is portrayed as an unpredictable agent “causing harm” to the oil industry.”

    This was taken by the author as an erosion of commitment within the oil industry. However, the thesis totally overlooked that the period concerned coincided with the introduction of various corporate governance standards, all of which were premised upon the concepts of risk management. Hence the change in language was driven by governance bodies and not the oil industry itself. Furthermore, the author’s failure to cross-check with other industries meant that she failed to identify that the trend was not sector-specific. Nowadays the risk management industry is all over the subject with terms such as Transition Risk and Physical Risk, so the author’s thesis would look even more ridiculous today. I wonder what the author is doing nowadays. She certainly isn’t addressing my comment, which still sits there unanswered four years later.

    And whatever became of Will?

    Liked by 1 person

  52. Will de Freitas – Environment + Energy Editor, UK edition

    Will de Freitas helped to establish The Conversation in the UK. Previously, he worked on data projects for the Guardian’s Global Development website, and for three years worked in ministerial offices at Whitehall.

    last post I can find –
    “Will de Freitas replied to a comment 5 months ago – Poland’s border wall will cut Europe’s oldest forest in half”

    and Europe’s oldest forest replies “so what”

    Liked by 1 person

  53. from the Founder and Patrons web page – Andrew Jaspan
    Andrew Jaspan is the creator and co-founder of The Conversation. He launched the project in Australia in 2011 and was instrumental in seeing it established in the UK and the US. The project was born out of concerns Andrew had about public access to reliable information amid a dramatic shift in the production and consumption of journalism internationally. Andrew has been Editor of The Observer, The Age (Melbourne), The Scotsman and the Sunday Herald (Glasgow).

    “public access to reliable information” – that plan has when well !!!


  54. IMO the Conversation (or the Nonversation, as many of us call it) is one of the most bizarre and worrying websites on the internet. Actively supported, it seems, by UK universities, it seems to be a hot-bed of climate alarmism, with anyone daring to question the religion there, rapidly taken to task. It makes me very worried about what’s going on in our universities, and for the future of further education.

    Liked by 1 person

  55. MARK

    Whatever the Conversation’s stated aims, its raison d’être has always been clear – a talkshop for university chaps (and chapesses) inaccessible to hoi polloi.

    Before Cliscep, many of us (Richard, Paul, Brad, Barry, Ben etc.) used to gather there and annoy them. They’re only insufferable on subjects like climate, Brexit, Trump, where a consensus is considered essential for some reason. On the few occasions I’ve commented on other subjects (Italian politics, modern dance..) I’ve always been received politely by authors who are pleased to debate. I do understand why people may find Brexit and Trump difficult to digest, but why the suggestion of a climate sensitivity of <1.5°C should get them in a tizzy is beyond me.

    Liked by 1 person

  56. Geoff Chambers
    “modern dance” !!! – I need a link to that post, i’m getting the Shakin’ Stevens Green Door leg jive as I post.


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