New South Wales’ Premier Domenic Perrottet, 40, is in trouble for having worn a Nazi uniform to his 21st birthday costume party in 2001. Tasmanian green-minded Independent Andrew Wilkie suffered even worse exposure in 2011 when it came out that as a senior Duntroon cadet in 1983, he allegedly forced his juniors to salute the 50th anniversary of Hitler’s rise to power.
Foolish as those youthful episodes were, a team of climate scientists with strong University of Queensland connections only nine years ago indulged in equivalent Third Reich foolishness. They not only got clean away with it but have trailed clouds of academic glory ever since. This team maybe created and certainly stored online photoshopped portraits of themselves as top Nazis. They even converted a 1936 Nuremberg rally of helmeted troops into a gathering of their own climate faithful (reproduced atop this page).
The team comprised a dozen or so members of the Skeptical Science blog, founded and led by John Cook, who was Climate Communication Fellow for Queensland University’s Global Change Institute. He is now postdoctoral research fellow at the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub, and is or was Assistant Professor in the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University in Virginia, US. He continues as leader of Skeptical Science. Far from being “sceptical” of catastrophic global warming, it exists to smite and denigrate anyone questioning the orthodoxy. In 2011 Skeptical Science won the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for the Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge and in 2016, it scooped up the Friend of the Planet Award from the US National Center for Science Education. (Note Joanne Nova’s take on that via the link).
Cook became “Dr Cook” after his 2016 UWA thesis on the ludicrous topic of “the cognitive psychology of climate science denial.” He is author of the infamous 2013 paper supposedly proving a 97 per cent consensus of 12,000 science papers’ abstracts about human-caused warming. This study, despite a peer-reviewed critique of its overwhelming flaws in logic and design, has been downloaded 1,376,048 times, cited 754 times and extolled in the media more than 200 times. In 2013 it was rated globally the year’s 11th most influential research paper. The paper’s characterisation of the consensus (namely that humans are causing some warming) is so nebulous that almost every climate sceptic would agree with it. Cook’s follow-up submission of a co-authored paper to Earth System Dynamics copped a stinging rejection from editor Matthew Huber.
In August 2013, three months after Cook’s “97 per cent paper” appeared, genuinely sceptic researcher and IT guru Brandon Shollenberger trawled the Sceptical Science website seeking data in order to critique the study. Buried within the site and intended for private use only was a trove of photoshopped and creepy – if not horrific — images, including one of Cook (left) in elaborate faux-Nazi dress-up and labelled “Reichsfuehrer SS — J.Cook”, the title held by Heinrich Himmler from 1929-45. Himmler was founder of East Europe’s Einsatzgruppen and key architect of the Holocaust. The original which the photoshoppers may have used is on Himmler’s wiki page here, although Wiki’s is minus the cap. Each Nazi symbol or regalia has been replaced with symbols and logos of Sceptical Science, such as twin penguins and leaves. For example, a tiny swastika on Himmler’s lower pocket-button becomes a Sceptical Science leaf.
In the Sceptical Science version of massed Nuremberg supporters, someone has added a scrawled annotation and arrow indicating that “Herr John Cook” substitutes for Hitler on the dais. Swastikas on the three main rally banners have become SkS leaves.
Cook’s second lead author, Dana Nuccitelli, was likewise photoshopped into Nazi contexts. Nuccitelli featured as tank commander and despatch rider (“herrtankboy” and “herrscooterboy”), along with lame likenings to Dr Who.
Other photoshopping involved mockery of key sceptics Anthony Watts (wattsupwiththat, the world’s most-viewed climate blog), maths whiz Christopher Monkton and UK journo James Delingpole. Their heads were pasted onto the ripped torsos of Spartan hoplites.
When Shollenberg and Watts exposed the trove, the Skeptical Science people did not delete it but hastily moved it to a different folder called “a11g0n3“, which is nerd-speak for “allgone”. But this trove also became publicly discoverable before being thoroughly ‘disappeared’ once and for all, but by then sceptics had screen-grabbed the images and were indignantly posting them on their own sites.
To this day there has been no explanations why or how Cook’s Sceptical Science back parlour was festooned with Nazi stuff. No-one has suggested genuine sceptics did any sabotage – this seems an inside job. Cook in the previous decade had run a hobby as cartoonist and satirist, especially mocking climate “deniers”. This could be coincidence and I make no assertion that Cook did any of the photoshopping. Of course, he should at least have been aware of the compromising material and dealt with it appropriately.
One theory is that Skeptical Science was working up a “false flag” operation to compromise genuine sceptics, but this seems unduly conspiratorial.
Using Occam’s Razor, the simplest fit would be that Cook’s associates had a fascination for Nazism’s memorabilia and regalia. With smarts on a par with high-school gaming nerds, I can picture them spending idle hours amusing themselves splicing Nazi material to create in-jokes about each other. That’s a guess at one possibility, but only a guess and only a possibility. Basically, until Cook & Co., share the pics’ backstory, how the portfolio came to be will remain a mystery.
Declaring a slight interest, in 2015 I enrolled as a false-flag student to Cook’s UQ Denial 101X MOOC (massive open on-line course) on how to pulverise “climate deniers”. I reported on my grading here, Putting the stink in distinction and commented, “One normally gets a buzz from study. But my brain needs a shower and scrub to feel clean again.”
The analyst Shollenberger, meanwhile, was still trying to get from Cook the data underpinning Cook’s mega-popular (or infamous) “97 per cent” paper. Cook, after emailing him some minor data, went into refusal mode. Shollenberger escalated his requests to Cook’s employer, the University of Queensland. By this time the university was probably discomfited by both the obvious flaws in the paper and sceptics’ Schadenfreude about the Nazi photoshopping. It refused him the data needed for assessing Cook’s maths and methods.
In a spectacular development, the university’s “head research legal”, Jane Malloch, then wrote to US-based Shollenberger threatening, implicitly, to turn him in to the US law enforcement agencies for allegedly hacking the website’s material. There was no “hack”, the material and pictures had simply been left lying around on the website. Just googling could bring them up. UQ also banned Shollenberger from further contacting John Cook. Shollenberger called Malloch’s bluff and published the full text of the letter here. Valium recommended before reading.
Even more spectacularly, the university added that it would sue Shollenberger if he disseminated any element of its threatening letter. To wit,
“The University of Queensland owns copyright in this letter, and you are advised that any publication by you of this letter or persons acting in concert with you, will constitute an infringement of The University’s copyright. University of Queensland reserves its right to take any and all legal action against any person, including you, who publishes this letter.”
Meaning the University of Queensland might sue me if I show you the letter they sent threatening … to sue me. Yes, that is the level of behavior used to defend the “consensus” on global warming. People who speak out against it can find themselves threatened with legal action and warned if they tell anyone about the threats, they’ll get in even more trouble.
Shollenberger thought the university heavyweights were telling him he couldn’t even forward the letter to his solicitor. UQ’s double-dose legal threat inspired a side-splitting Hitler-Downfall parody which you can enjoy below.
I don’t know if such a threat has ever been made in the legal world before or since, but I’m reasonably sure the University of Queensland isn’t the most enlightened spot in the Southern Hemisphere. For further evidence, see scientist Richard Tol’s fruitless letter to the then vice-chancellor Professor Peter Hoj requesting Cook’s data. In the event, Shollenberger eventually found enough of Cook’s “secret” data lying around on the website to demolish the study. In the peer-reviewed literature Legates et al further wrecked it.
Digesting all this, you might be wondering, are these climate alarmists and their hangers-on mentally OK? It’s a fair question. A few years before the Skeptical Science photo-fiddling, a 100-strong UK film crew had laboured for months to create a high-gloss mini-film for the Sony-sponsored anti-emissions lobby 10:10 about a school-teacher literally exploding two kids into bloody pieces. (Viewer caution: not for the squeamish). Why? The kids had expressed doubt about nostrums like energy-saving light bulbs. Dubbed “Splattergate”, the short-lived movie was billed “a complete catastrophe for environmentalism”.
Back home, as the ABCTV News says as punctuation, we had a dozen of Australia’s existing and rising stars in climate science film themselves for ABC1 shaking their booties to save the planet, while chanting, “We’re climate f—g scientists, we’re scientists, what we think is true… sucking d—k in Copenhagen.”
Amid the urgings of these photoshoppers of Reichsfuehrers, role-players of child-murderers and potty-mouthed prolonged adolescents, Australia is now en route to net-zero economic suicide and subservience to the Chinese juggernaut. Great job, climate scientists.
Tony Thomas’s latest book from Connor Court is now available: Anthem of the Unwoke – Yep! The other lot’s gone bonkers. For a copy ($35 including postage), email email@example.com.
 “The Global Change Institute advances discovery, creates solutions and advocates responses that meet the challenges presented by climate change, technological innovation and population change.”
 From the abstract: “I also found that an effective approach to neutralising the influence of misinformation is inoculation against misinformation techniques.”
 It is often said, falsely, that President Obama himself praised the paper. The praising was done merely by a fan-blog that used Obama’s name . Actual testimonials for the website are from the fake Nobel Prize laureate Michael Mann, “Merchants of Doubt” conspiracist Naomi Oreskes, disgraced hacker Peter Gleick and long-time Barrier Reef doom-cryer Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (the reef coral is now at record extent).
 “Agnotology: learning from mistakes”
 “The long, didactic introduction is not appropriate for this journal and all the meat of the paper is currently in the appendix, which is a strange place for it. Indeed, as currently structured there is no paper in this paper, i.e. there is no actual science (hypothesis, testing of a hypothesis) in the main body… Second, much of the discussion in the appendix is written in an inflammatory and insufficiently supported fashion. Removal of subjective characterization would make the paper stronger by reducing the verbosity and, of more lasting value, by focusing on scientific issues.
It is entirely irrelevant whether the authors of some papers also distribute pamphlets to school headmasters, just as it is scientifically irrelevant what the political affiliation or religion or hair color of authors are…
The root logical flaw in many of the papers discussed in the appendix is that showing a statistical correlation between some non-CO2 variable and some observed climate time series somehow disproves the hypothesis that CO2 is a driver of climate change. This is as silly as saying the cost of my sneakers is correlated with how fast I run and, therefore, I have invalidated the hypothesis that training makes me run the 100 yard dash faster. Do we really need 70 pages of text and two dozen R routines to recognize the logical problem here?
 Dr Cook in 2021 did a podcast for Queensland University’s Liveris Academy “exploring what he believes makes a good leader, the role of optimism in leadership and how to effectively exert positive influence.”
 Shollenberger, Brandon. The Climate Wars: How the Consensus is Enforced. Kindle Edition, 280/499
 Cook had a small team of friends and assistants who rated abstracts of papers to see how much they supported the human-caused global warming theory. Critics wanted to know how thoroughly they managed to rate around 2000 papers each, with one rater managing to rate 4000. One rater processed 675 abstracts in 72 hours, a superhuman effort.
 Legates, D.R., Soon, W., Briggs, W.M. et al. Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’: A Rejoinder to Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change . Sci & Educ 24, 299–318 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-013-9647-9
After Brendan Shollenberger publicised the UQ legal letter, do you know if any legal action against him ensued? I’m guessing not.
In my checking, nothing came up re Brandon being sued.
Nothing came up about a lawsuit in my checking.
Thanks – a hollow threat, then.
Way-back memories concerning John Cook and that controversial Climate Change Questionnaire.
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Mark and Tony,
Brandon Schollenberger’s blog is no longer on the internet, but it is in the Wayback Machine. Brandon also hasn’t tweeted for about half a year.
Back in April 2021, he got some emails from Rob Honeycutt (The designer of silly mens’ handbags at 2 minutes into the Hitler video) accusing him of hosting materials obtained by illegal hacking. Here’s his post about it:
The alleged hacking technique is simply manually entering index numbers into a URL as I describe in the first comment:
Brandon did a YouTube video on John Cook’s paper:
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ref 3) it was an official Barack Obama endorsed political account, it even had a proviso, that when Obama tweeted from it, it was signed B.O. Famously Prof Richard Betts, tweeted to that account, that whatever the paper said, it did not say anything about ‘dangerous’.. Additionally, Obama referred to a 97% endorsement in his climate action speech at Georgetown university.. at the time Cook’s was the ‘latest’ 97% of scientists say media paper.
The overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements — has put all
that to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data,
have now put that to rest. They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.
So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.
And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you,
Also see my comment at Skeptical Science at the time. (Richard Betts joined in )
effectively Obama did endorse this. and he cited 97% consensus in major speeches.. this was activist paper, to give soundbites to politicians to shut down any debate.
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This was the high-water mark for RIchard Betts in the climate debate in my view. Here’s Bishop Hill’s republishing (with slight cleanup) of his view as of November 2011:
Note this was before ‘2 degrees from pre-industrial’ became 1.5 degrees, in one of the most arbitrary decisions in ‘climate science’ history (and it’s a competitive field). I deeply appreciated Richard in those days. Not so much since, though he did retweet this from the climate sensitivity conference at Schloss Ringberg, at which Nic Lewis was a speaker
he had a go at a stupid paper in Nature in 2019
and he did confront Roger Hallam in 2020:
In the end though I’m with Jonathan Jones in 2020 here
Unpleasantness is by now needed. For reasons of integrity.