Update 3/24/2016Since writing this post, I have reversed my position on the reliablilty of Cook (2013). The short version is that I no longer stand by its methods and don't have high confidence in its conclusions. The long version may be found here.
BackgroundMuch has already been written about Cook et al. (2013), Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature, so a brief summary should suffice. Taken directly from the abstract, the salient findings are:
AbstractMy bold added, because it's the source of much consternation. Unpacking those particular statistics gives this expanded tally:
We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. For both abstract ratings and authors’ self-ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time. Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.
62.7% support AGW
35.5% no position
1.8% reject AGW
So one argument goes that only 62.7% of self-rated papers support the consensus position. Other commentators have gone further, noting that the data were actually assigned into 8 different categories, here excerpted from Table 2 of the paper:
(1) Explicit endorsement with quantificationHowever, in the body of the paper the authors write:
Explicitly states that humans are the primary cause
(2) Explicit endorsement without quantification
Explicitly states humans are causing global
(3) Implicit endorsement
Implies humans are causing global warming.
(4a) No position
Does not address or mention the cause of global warming
Expresses position that human’s role on recent global warming is uncertain/undefined
(5) Implicit rejection
Implies humans have had a minimal impact on global warming without saying so explicitly
(6) Explicit rejection without quantification
Explicitly minimizes or rejects that humans are causing global warming
(7) Explicit rejection with quantification
Explicitly states that humans are causing less than half of global warming
To simplify the analysis, ratings were consolidated into three groups: endorsements (including implicit and explicit; categories 1–3 in table 2), no position (category 4) and rejections (including implicit and explicit; categories 5–7).Somewhat confusingly, Table 3 which reports on these consolidated buckets contains a fourth category, "Uncertain on AGW", which I gather was done because the original category 4 (no position) warranted being split in two after the review process was already underway. That wrinkle aside, Table 3 does indeed report the results in the consolidated format described just above ...
... however, the body of the paper does not report at the level of the original seven, cum eight, more specific categories, thus leaving room for all sorts of mischief. The latest in a long line of such efforts is the topic of this post.
The Enemy of My Enemy is My FriendI stumbled on this latest iteration of the manufactured consensus controversy as I often do, reading a WUWT post:
The Cook ‘97% consensus’ paper, exposed by new book for the fraud that it really isI don't know much about Shollenberger other than we have the same given name. I can't be arsed right now to properly research his background or prior writings, and as it's not relevant to what he has written in his book, I won't dwell on it much. Suffice it to say, my impressions from over the past two years are that he's a "lukewarmer" who does not dispute CO2's radiative effect on climate on physical principle, but holds the view that climate sensitivity to CO2 is lower than IPCC-published estimates of same. A cursory review of his comments on various "sceptical" blogs indicates that he's quick to brand the IPCC and its consensus supporters as liars. He really doesn't like the SkS crew, which was behind Cook et al. (2013), and his self-published book being promoted by Watts is not the first time he's been given space on WUWT to air out similar views.
Anthony Watts / 1 day ago March 12, 2016
I don’t like to use the word “fraud”, and I can’t recall if I’ve ever used it in a title. In this case it is warranted. Brandon Shollenberger writes of a new book, The Climate Wars: How the Consensus is Enforced, that proves without a doubt that John Cook and his “Skeptical Science” team are nothing but a gang of “say anything” activists, and that the much repeated “97% consensus” is indeed nothing more than a manufactured outcome.
Oddly, or perhaps not so much as I dig into it, there's some bad blood between he and Anthony for comments Shollenberger made about WUWT on his own blog (h/t WUWT comment MikeN March 12, 2016 at 10:40 am):
There are not words to express the level of contempt I feel for Anthony Watts and the things he has either done himself, actively encouraged others to do or tacitly encouraged by happily tolerating them even as he knew they were wrong and/or dishonest. At this point I can only say Watts is either a deranged sociopath with no sense of morality who derives sexual pleasure by spreading lies to the greatest number of people possible or is an idiot savant whose one field of mastery is deluding himself into believing whatever idiotic things he finds most convenient at any given moment.The final phrase, "whose one field of mastery is deluding himself into believing whatever idiotic things he finds most convenient at any given moment", is about the only thing I wholeheartedly agree with Shollenberger on. Having an orgasm spreading FUD I deem over the top -- if we MUST impute motive, I think the man just doesn't want to pay taxes on CO2 emissions.
Never one to let personal feelings get in the way of disseminating lies about "lies", Anthony himself weighs in on why he's promoting Shollenberger's new book:
Anthony WattsIn keeping with the theme, climate contrarianism does make for strange bedfellows at times. Any port in a storm, as they say.
March 12, 2016 at 7:31 pm
I’m not at all happy with Brandon’s choice of words, but in this case, getting the word out on this superseded my disgust with his labeling.
I’ve been called worse. Once some fool claimed I have sex with farm animals.
With the stage set, and my schadenfreude fed, I'll get on with it.
The BookIt's available as an e-book for the low price of $0.99 on Amazon. With some credit due, Shollenberger also hosts it for free on his own blog. So let's have a read. Top of pg. 4:
Enforcement TacticsThere's also a consensus that the Earth orbits the Sun, that both are spherical bodies, that the Moon is NOT made of cheese (we know this because 12 human beings actually set foot on it and brought back, you know, actual rocks as evidence), that all these celestial bodies orbit each other as described by Newtonian laws of motion (later amended by Einstein who fine-tuned gravity's function in the mix). As well, it's long been established that humans did indeed evolve from common ape ancestors, that we're not the only species to have derived from prior forms due to Natural Selection and/or selective breeding.
There is a 97% consensus on global warming. If you don't agree, you will be mocked and ridiculed. If you disagree, you'll be labeled a conspiracy nut. If you try to find the data proving this consensus, you'll be labeled a criminal, threatened with lawsuits and told you're going to be reported to the police.
You will also be mocked and ridiculed for not agreeing with those long-established tenets of scientific knowledge. Lawsuits? Probably not, but much depends on how much a pain in the arse you make yourself.
Dredging around someone's web server looking for unprotected directories that a reasonable person would clearly understand was meant to contain private information is one way to be a large pain in the arse. Bottom of pg. 4:
[... ] take a look at the sort of things I happened to find when poking around in publicly accessible portions of Cook's websites. Here is an image of him, created by him or one of his Skeptical Science group members and posted to his website:Link in the original. Top of pg. 5 in the book shows one of the images, John Cook's face photoshopped into a vintage portrait of an Nazi SS officer, with the insignia replaced with various Skeptical Science logos. Skeptical Science. SS. Get it? Poking fun at their detractors who in seriousness compare the SkS team to murderously xenophobic nationalistic fascists.
There aren't enough irony meters in the world. It gets better. Going back to Shollenberger's Please Go Die in a Fire post on his own blog:
Anthony Watts, this is shameful. You’ve just promoted an article in which a man is smeared for things like, having had a divorce and supposedly being brain damaged That much might just be disreputable, but what reaches the levels of truly disgusting is promoting this article when it smears a person for his father having fought in the German army in WWII to make a Nazi smear.My bold, to emphasize the distinct lack of self-awareness. And yes, this is me at my most diplomatic, giving-the-benefit-of-the-doubt, self.
There’s far more to say, but given how dishonorable and disgusting this is, I don’t think there’s any point. Anyone who thinks this piece is acceptable, much less deserving of promotion and support, is a vile, wretched soul who shut up and go away. And that’s the nicest thing I can say about this obscene hit piece.
After a number of pages devoted to not-Nazis, musing about when hacking isn't and other irrelevancies, he gets to his central point:
They came up with their categories so they could examine both ideas. In fact, Nuccitell specifically said:I gather that Nuccitelli's comment was lifted from some of the files Shollenberger obtained from SkS servers. And from this, that the cardinal sin committed by Cook et al. (2013) is that they didn't stick with how Nuccitelli "originally" envisioned the results.
The way I see the final paper is that we’ll conclude ‘There’s an x% consensus supporting the AGW theory, and y% explicitly put the human contribution at >50%’.
If we plug in the numbers from their study into Nuccitelli's proposal for how to publish their conclusions, we get:
There’s a 97% consensus supporting the AGW theory, and 1.6% put the human contribution at >50%.
Seriously, that's it. He expects what researchers say in private when putting together a study to stand, set in concrete, until the thing is complete, peer-reviewed and published.
For shit's sake. We'd still be using stone hammers if that's how scientific enquiry actually worked, if that.
The balance of the book goes on to, yet again, rehash "flawed" methodology. Beating a dead horse might describe it if the horse were actually dead. More, this is another example of me (and others) dragging an almost dead horse to water and not being terribly surprised that it doesn't drink out of sheer stubborn stupidity.
A More Detailed RebuttalShollenberger engaged me directly on the WUWT thread. And I responded (Shollenberger's text in bold):
Brandon Gates March 13, 2016 at 4:29 pmIf you click on the comment link, you'll see what actually appeared:
The reality is Cook et al didn’t do this.
It wouldn't be the first time someone in this forum struggled to recognize reality.
One of the central points I’ve made is the descriptions they gave of their methodology were false, as well as how they described the results generated by that methodology.
I get it that you disagree with their methodology. That does not make it necessarily false.
I went so far as to demonstrate this by quoting the second author of the paper on how to describe their results, a quote you criticized me for posting… even though it was an author of the paper who I was quoting.
No, I didn't criticize you for quoting Nuccitelli's pre-publication comments:
There’s an x% consensus supporting the AGW theory, and y% explicitly put the human contribution at >50%.
I did err when I stated that you had not apparently read the actual classification used in the published paper:
Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.
What I continue to dispute is that this constitutes being "misleading" or a deliberate "deception", especially since they explicitly described their methods in the body of the paper and supporting supplemental material, including how they binned their own abstract ratings and author surveys.
I honestly have no idea what you think you’re saying.
I honestly don't know how I could make it any more clear to you. I'm beginning to wonder whether your expressed confusion is deliberate.
If you think I have said something wrong, I suggest you quote what I said and explain how it is wrong with sufficient detail or reference for people to verify what you say.
Don't be obtuse. Here, again, is the crux of my argument to date:
Why should your own subjective categorization be any more valid than theirs? Since when is a difference of opinion an a priori example of malfeasance?
They are, of course, rhetorical questions. You are entirely free to answer them literally if you choose. At the very least, you might stop pretending that I haven't made an intelligble point in asking them.
Until you do so, it will just continue to look like you haven’t even read what you’re criticizing.
Brandon Gates March 13, 2016 at 4:29 pmWhich brings me to a post-script ...
[SNIP – come up with a better argument than “you are being obtuse”. Stop wasting everybody’s time – Anthony
The WHUTTers Don't Like Being Poked With Their Own SchtickI didn't even originally set out to address Shollenberger's horseradish, because Anthony's lede sentence gave me a serious case of the giggles:
I don’t like to use the word “fraud”, and I can’t recall if I’ve ever used it in a title.My first post in the article still stands, and is very much in keeping with Shollenberger's "bbbbbbut you changed your mind!" theme:
Brandon Gates March 12, 2016 at 4:26 pmThe apologia was predictably inept. Here we have dbstealey being his usual logically impaired and content-free self:
I don’t like to use the word “fraud”, and I can’t recall if I’ve ever used it in a title.
You have a category for tagging posts “fraud”. Two articles of the five tagged “fraud” contain the word in the title:
UK Conference of Science Journalists: ‘institutions unlikely to fairly investigate allegations of fraud made against their own’
Anthony Watts / July 1, 2012
Guest post by Douglas J. Keenan
The 2012 UK Conference of Science Journalists was held on June 25th. The programme is available on the UKCSJ web site. The conference is intended for science journalists, as its name says; I attended at the kind invitation of the President of the Association of British Science Writers, Connie St Louis.
I went to two of the sessions. The first was a session was entitled “What can journalists do to uncover scientific misconduct?”. The second was the plenary at the end. What follows is my perspective on those sessions.
Euro Carbon Market Fraud – trade suspended
Anthony Watts / January 20, 2011
From the Telegraph: European carbon market suspended over fraud fears
The European carbon market has been thrown into turmoil after the scandal-hit scheme was suspended for a week over suspicions of fraud.
I would say you’re not exactly shy about using the word, or allowing guest authors to use it. You’re certainly not shy about alleging that climate scientists are politically motivated to reach laughably wrong conclusions. And you are of course quite vocal when they respond to your vacuous accusations of “mendacity” with “denigration”.
In short, self-awareness does not appear to be one of your strong points. Your sudden aversion to using the word “fraud” is but another example of it.
dbstealey March 12, 2016 at 5:08 pmAnother one:
You’re certainly not shy about alleging that climate scientists are politically motivated to reach laughably wrong conclusions.
It waddles like a duck. It has feathers. It quacks like a duck.
It’s a duck.
And after posting hundreds of thousands of words expressing your true belief in dangerous manmade global warming, you could easily put together an article of your own, instead of criticizing what other writers say.
I know why you don’t: your true belief would get cut to ribbons in short order. Because when it comes right down to the nitty gritty, you have no solid measurements, facts, or evidence to support your belief. You just believe. That’s enough for you, but it’s not enough for skeptics of that particular scare. We need the facts and measurements that your side hasn’t been able to produce.
Chip Javert March 12, 2016 at 6:26 pmSo I lowered the boom:
I’m unclear on how comprehensive WUWT’s category for tagging posts “fraud” is, and I don’t know how many posts WUWT has over the review period (>10,000?).
In some of the material you reference, WUWT appeared to use “fraud” in the title because the attached third party material used the term (i.e.:the term was not initiated by WUWT). Even so 2/10,000 = 0.02%.
However, finding 2 articles with fraud in the title definitely does not support your judgement & charge of “self-awareness does not appear to be one of [Anthony’s] strong points. Your sudden aversion to using the word “fraud” is but another example of it.”
Geez. We got some serious nit-picking going on.
Brandon Gates March 12, 2016 at 9:10 pmWellllllll .... I pointed out that Chip was complaining about sample size, justifying a bit of a longish post, and submitted a MUCH a shorter version:
[snip – you’re done with this, the point’s been made. there is no need to clutter up the thread with a multi-page comment -mod]
Brandon Gates March 12, 2016 at 9:40 pmNote that it initially made it through moderation intact, mod's bottom comment justifying the yuuuuge amount of text as the reason for nixing it. A second moderator subsequently killed the entire response.
[it was a huge amount of text for a comment – all decisions are final -mod]
Uncharacteristically for me, words fail.
Ric Werme March 12, 2016 at 9:38 pmA pattern emerges. Side note, "deranged sociopath" is Shollenberger (from his Please Go Die in a Fire post on his own blog), not me. Ric may have confused us, it's happened before.
Please take the time to read my comments. Especially http://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/03/12/the-cook-97-consensus-paper-exposed-by-new-book-for-the-fraud-that-it-really-is/#comment-2164766
Anthony has often discouraged people from claiming fraud without good supporting evidence. Pretty decent for a “deranged sociopath,” wouldn’t you say?
Brandon Gates March 12, 2016 at 10:00 pm
A final one, I promise:
Alan Robertson March 13, 2016 at 6:19 amVintage Robertson: building strawmen, playing dumb, guilt by association, broad-sweeping hand-waving assertion. My response made it through and actually still lives as of this writing (3/13/2016 10:20 PM PDT):
We are all aware that this site shines a light in some very dark corners, so why do you try to make something of the practice? Are you defending “deliberate scientific malfeasance”, or arguing against its exposure? What?
Your denigration of our host is not surprising, in light of the company you keep over at that stalker/hate blog, neither is the fact that you come here feigning distaste for use of terms like “fraud”, for the same reason. We have a good picture of you already, but do keep filling in any blanks for new readers.
Your off- topic thread bombing diversion didn’t work this time, but your self- exposure (again) was almost worth your appearance.
Brandon Gates March 13, 2016 at 4:59 pmI lied. There is one more. My first reply mentioning Shollenberger also still stands, and is probably worthy of mention for the context of his direct reply to me:
Your denigration of our host is not surprising, in light of the company you keep over at that stalker/hate blog, neither is the fact that you come here feigning distaste for use of terms like “fraud”, for the same reason.
Splash one irony meter. I don’t have any distaste for the word “fraud” itself, and never feigned such. As even my subsequent (shorter) comments have been binned, it’s pretty clear that the length of the original comment in this subthread wasn’t so unwelcome as the content. I find this more than a little amusing.
We have a good picture of you already, but do keep filling in any blanks for new readers.
I wouldn’t wish to diminish your ability to think for me better than I can for myself. By all means, carry on with your self-soothing fantasies.
Brandon Gates March 12, 2016 at 5:05 pmLinks in the original. And it's Cook (2013), dammit, not 2015, a mistake I've made previously and need to stop doing.
As written, this sentence doesn’t make sense. By definition, the human contribution to AGW is 100%.
Indeed. However, as written in AR5, the attribution statement is:
More than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature (GMST) from 1951 to 2010 is very likely due to the observed anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations.
Cook et al (2015) [sic] define the “consensus position” on AGW thus …
We examined a large sample of the scientific literature on global CC, published over a 21 year period, in order to determine the level of scientific consensus that human activity is very likely causing most of the current GW (anthropogenic global warming, or AGW).
… which is compatible with the AR5 statement. Anyone who actually reads Cook (2015) and cares to honestly evaluate what it says will find this statement:
Among papers expressing a position on AGW, an overwhelming percentage (97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings) endorses the scientific consensus on AGW.
The close agreement between the two figures suggests that Shollenberger’s accusations of “cheating” on the part of those who rated the abstracts, and “deception” on the part of Cook et al. are unfounded and therefore lacking merit. It’s at least as dubious as pretending the IPCC attribution statement makes the logical error of assigning < 100% of anthropogenic forcings to AGW when it clearly does not.
Alright, enough of this self-important bullshit. Main point is, next time one of these gibbering twits trots out a sob story about how they've been "censored" at a consensus AGW blog for raising "inconvenient 'facts'", I now have the perfect anecdotal antidote.