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« Public should be charged to see their own papers | Main | Praise for the IPCC »

Official sc(k)eptics on AGW

Donald Prothero has an article on AGW in the organ of the official sceptics movement, eSkeptic. The official sceptics are, I understand, an organisation that promotes reason and logical thought. That being the case I was surprised to see just how many logical fallacies were packed into the first few sentences:

On January 27, 2012, the Wall Street Journal ran an Opinion Editorial written by 16 people who deny the evidence of human-induced climate change. Most of the authors of the editorial were not climate scientists; one of two actual climate scientists of the group, Richard Lindzen, is a notorious global warming denier who also denies that smoking causes cancer. Predictably, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Journal refused to run a statement by 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences, although a “Letter to the Editor” by 38 of the world’s leading climate scientists1 did manage to get published there.

It doesn't improve further on.

H/T to reader Randy for this (I was actually sent this a week or so ago, but have been overwhelmed by things to write about - so sorry to Randy for the delay).

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Reader Comments (81)

They seem to have their very own Bob Ward over there, responding to every single blog post. What is it with these people who cannot tolerate disent and have to respond to EVERY single posting???


Feb 14, 2012 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

eSkeptic hmm. Thanks for presenting another source of information I can honestly say I have never seen before. Let's see, how to assess? "Richard Lindzen, is a notorious global warming denier..." erm 180 degrees flat wrong I know that because I have read Linzden before. How can anyone be so wrong? "...who also denies that smoking causes cancer" well I have never heard Lindzen say this, has anyone? If not it sounds actionable.

Feb 14, 2012 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Official Skeptic? Hmmmm... Skimmed through that, life is too short to read it in full... in summary?

We are all right wing, anti-science, anti-evolution, creationist deniers.Vested interests, energy companies... blah blah blah. Simple.

Feb 14, 2012 at 8:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Yes, I have been at labored discourse with the Official Skeptics group in my area (Denver-Boulder, Colorado, USA), to slowly educated the Believers among them. We have almost annual conferences called "Skepticamp."

At the first one (2009), I presented a brief talk on the missing hot spot, something missing from science news. Next, I presented on climategate (2010), and on the side, a technical talk on the PDO and weather. Last August, I talked about the failure of IPCC science to predict the 'pause' in warming, the argument from authority ("Trust us, we're climate scientists"), and how skeptical avoidance of it leads to AGW-skeptic conclusions. This May I might present on why today may not be as hot as the 1930s. If anyone wants to add to those Steve Goddard has covered at his web site on the topic, please drop me a note at ullr20021 at yahoo).

I think a real skeptic should know the evidence.

Too often it breaks down to political prejudice among movement "Skeptics", absent any familiarity with the evidence, as the above shows.

Feb 14, 2012 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterOrson

I was interested to see that the second comment on the article was as follows:

M.Hulme says:
February 8, 2012 at 4:34 am

An absolutely appaling piece of propoganda that mostly references an unreliable web blog. I agree with Dr Mazanec at #1 and I have to seriously consider my subscription to what is now, in my opinion, a discredited magazine.

Feb 14, 2012 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

From their Skeptical Manifesto:

" A claim becomes factual when it is confirmed to such an extent it would be reasonable to offer temporary agreement".

This seems to overlook most of the best of twentieth century philosophy.

Feb 14, 2012 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

from their "about us" page, 3rd para...

"Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are “skeptical,” we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe."

Ah, I see, clearly they're not Ideal skeptics by their own definition, they seem to be idealistic skeptics.

Can they provide the "compelling evidence" for the "ideal skeptic" community?

Feb 14, 2012 at 9:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

The line about Lindzen saying smoking does not cause cancer is just a blatant lie. The report he was involved in the only quote directly attributable to him goes something like "The science needs to be of the highest quality if a definite link between cancer and smoking is to be proven".

Feb 14, 2012 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

The Prothero article (linked above) is just an opening salvo -- a provocation for the readers to think and rethink the evidence and argument in the news, as well a what's not in it -- from the editor.

The editor of the magazine The Septic is the prolific science writer and science historian Michael Shermer. I spoke with Shermer last summer during his last book tour, and it is plain that while he believes in AGW, he does not believe it is a serious problem. Like Matt Ridley, he thinks the doubling of CO2 temperature sensitivity is no more than 1.2C degrees. (Like Ridley, Shermer is a libertarian.)

The Skeptic movement holds its annual conference in Las Vegas each July, The Amazing Meeting (or TAM), named after the professional magician turned skeptical educator, James "The Amazing" Randi.

Therefore I believe this current issue of the magazine is a setup for some of the themes to be discussed next summer. Perhaps Andrew Montford or Steve McIntyre ought to get prepared for an invitation - or magazine submission - to further the dialog?

Feb 14, 2012 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterOrson

This is a good one: (point 3)
"Melting Glaciers. Glaciers are all retreating at the highest rates ever documented. Many of those glaciers, especially in the Himalayas, Andes, Alps, and Sierras, provide most of the freshwater that the populations below the mountains depend upon—yet this fresh water supply is vanishing. "
Isn't it the winter snows that provide the water, not melting ice. Oh and the Himalayas aren't melting according to a recent report.
Maybe an eSkeptic is a sort of anti-skeptic?

Feb 14, 2012 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterEddy

I don't think that I'd want to join a club that would accept me as a member.........

Feb 14, 2012 at 9:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

They've got a nerve quoting Richard Feynman in support of their position -- his 1974 lecture about cargo cult science could have been written as the primer for how The Team conducts climate enquiries.

Feb 14, 2012 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Prothero seeks to invalidate the claims of the 16 authors of the WSJ op-ed on the grounds that most of them were not 'climate scientists' (TM).

Given that he isn't a climate scientist either, this is at best a hypocritically fatuous way to begin a hit piece.

As for his grasp of the evidence,

# Melting Glaciers. Glaciers are all retreating at the highest rates ever documented. Many of those glaciers, especially in the Himalayas, Andes, Alps, and Sierras, provide most of the freshwater that the populations below the mountains depend upon—yet this fresh water supply is vanishing. Just think about the percentage of world’s population in southern Asia (especially India) that depend on Himalayan snowmelt for their fresh water.

Presumably he's labelling the decision to send the GRACE satellites into space to measure this alleged Himalayan glacier melting as an act of crass anti-science? After all, why would we run the risk of discovering new things when we already know the revealed truth? Especially when they show that key pieces of CAGW evidence are at best gross exaggerations, at worst plain fraud.

The reality for people who can't spell sceptic correctly is that the 'converging lines of evidence' argument clearly reveals who the anti-science, anti-evidence denialists are.

Psychological projection is a common trait amongst bullies.

Feb 14, 2012 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

Looked at this article a couple of days back. Prothero gets most of his 'science' from

I thought his redrawn Moberg Northern hemisphere hockey stick looked weird as well.

Feb 14, 2012 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

If you can't stomach the text, just read the references: a wall of, with a smattering of other usual suspects. Tells you all you need to know about the level of skepticism employed in writing it.

Feb 14, 2012 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterEdward

What we are dealing with is a very dangerous development in society, the growth of fascism defined as state-supported intolerance allied to corporate interests. One way of understanding this is that the windmills occupy a position similar to the swastika in Nazi society, an ever-present symbol of the power of the supposed common purpose, pun intended, to prepare for a sustainable future.

However, it's a big confidence trick to boost earnings for the corporate interests. There will be no CO2 saving in a grid like ours once the windmills are built and the carbon offset schemes with which some NGOs, e.g. WWF, are involved are a form of neo-colonialism.

So, the bullying and the swastikas on columns are a modern form of Nazi ideology, even down to the 'green jobs' which occupy the position in our society of Das Volk.

Feb 14, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

I suspect this is the same group that have been denying the evidence for a global flood for years. In other words only accepting the science which supports their world view.
I would say as proponents of uniformitism (sic) they would have a predisposition to the AGW line.

Feb 14, 2012 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Quiet Farmer down under

The Official Skeptics as opposed to the Provisional Skeptics, as opposed to the Real and Continuity Skeptics.

It is just as well I'm just a sceptic.

Feb 14, 2012 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

@Mac.. splitter...

Feb 14, 2012 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Sadly, the Australian branch of the Skeptics has the same blind spot:

They have a number of influential members who are happy to jump on phony complementary medicine claims etc, but when it comes to climate they are dyed in the wool Believers. Notice the appeal to authority in the linked piece.

It just goes to show how deeply embedded the CAGW religion is in Western culture.

Feb 14, 2012 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

If I am correct Lindzen was concerned about SECOND hand smoking (passive) and statistics misused with this respect. Personally don't care if it was, as I can now go to a pub/restauarant without having an asthma attack.

Feb 14, 2012 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I can't get too worked up about this. Donald Protheroe seems to be getting seven bells knocked out of him by the commenters who, I assume, are all paid-up Skeptics.

As for commenter 'citizenschallenge' I suspect he only comments on eSkeptic because no-one visits his own blog. (Now, who does that remind me of?)

Feb 14, 2012 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

Its the same with the "Skeptics" in the USA. Now known as CSI the former CSICOP has supported the warmest position. I tried to get them to review M&M early on but it fell on deaf and uncritical ears. They claim to believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinay proof, but lost the thread with CAGW. And for the record their heros Houdini and Amazing Randi were not and are not scientists.

Feb 14, 2012 at 11:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterL Nettles

@L Nettles:

The last I heard, James Randi was an AGW sceptic, though I might be wrong.

Feb 14, 2012 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterJJB MKI

Its hard to see how these can be "Skeptics" when there simply willing to take anything at face value when it comes from 'the Team' who have proved themselves totally unworthy if any such approach .

Feb 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Barry Woods: If I am correct Lindzen was concerned about SECOND hand smoking (passive) and statistics misused with this respect."

I believe that was Fred Singer, who challenged a paper on second hand smoking and was correct. He's since been smeared as a believer that smoking doesn't cause cancer, even though he himself has never smoked and doesn't approve of it. Lindzen has no such pedigree.

Feb 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Figure 5. is nonsense. Where did it come from?

Feb 14, 2012 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered Commentermac

It would seem that eSkeprics and the Skeptical Science team are not really sceptical at all.

Their position is not an epistemological one rooted in the insufficiency of empirical evidence, but one that leans heavily on the authority of science and which allows them to side with the scientific establishment against cranks.

Feb 14, 2012 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Barry, Geronimo

Lindzen answered a blog about his role in the smoking causes cancer debate. You can read it here:

It would seem that Hansen et all think he is guilty of thought crime.

Feb 14, 2012 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper


After some very ugly comments ar Pharyngula and elsewhere, Randi (sort of) retracted .

"...I do not deny the finding of GW. AGW, to me, is less clear, though I accept that it is likely true."

Feb 14, 2012 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

Figure 5 is intriguing.

If you download data from and compare BEST with CRUTEM (land) temps by employing a 13 year running centred average ( as it appears to be the case in Fig 5) you don't get a perfect fit as shown in the Fig. 5.

To get to Fig 5, you offset CRUTEM data upwards to achieve a fit for the period 1950 to 1970. You then increase the slope for CRUTEM data from 1970 to get a good fit with BEST data from this period, and decrease the slope for CRUTEM data prior to 1950 to get a good fit with this part of the BEST data.

All this strongly suggests that Figure 5, the graph of 4 temperature data sets, has been produced to show that GISS, CRUTEM and NOAA agree with BEST.

The question is; Am I being overly sceptical?

Feb 14, 2012 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

One question I would ask Hansen: Does Marijuana smoke cause cancer?

Feb 14, 2012 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn in France

Personally don't care if it was, as I can now go to a pub/restauarant without having an asthma attack.

Unfortunately, this position taken by many in society is the reason bans on "public" (not truly public) smoking have been allowed to pass in spite of such terrible misuse of statistics. Most don't care, and are happy they don't have to put up with smoke in their favorite joints. My response has always been: find a new favorite joint. Nobody is forcing you to go there, and if there is a market for smokeless pubs, they will appear. Amazingly, in the US, the market for smokeless pubs is, shall we say, nonexistent - without nanny-state intervention. Wonder why?


Feb 14, 2012 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark T

The "sc(k)eptic movement" is one of the more obnoxious phenomena of recent times, much as the "fact check" business. Mostly, it´s a way of attempting to assume some mantle of authority that also happens to absolve one of the duty to reason fairly and cogently.

"I am a sc(k)eptic you see (unlike you easy-to-fool-plebes)!"

"Oh, I am a 'fact checker', and if I want to call your categorization a lie"

Feb 14, 2012 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterOkke

For most sceptics club members it's always been about fighting for the science. In basically all the areas they have fought, it's been against kooks, cheaters or superstitions. To put it bluntly, anyone not agreeing with them has always been stupid. Understanding that, their gut reaction in any issue is to support the scientists.

While the sceptics clubs do a valuable service in fighting astrology, scientology, UFO- and New Age-cults and homeopathy (to mention a few), they unfortunately and uncritically do support bad climate scientists. That's a shame.

Feb 14, 2012 at 2:16 PM | Registered CommenterVieras

...smoke in their favorite joints...
I like it, man!
As usual things are never clear-cut. The incidence of childhood asthma, for example, has increased as the prevalence of smoking has decreased. How do we explain that one?

Feb 14, 2012 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

The caption to figure 2 reads, in part: "At no point in any previous interglacial was the carbon dioxide level higher than 300 ppm, or the temperatures so high, yet we are almost to 400 ppm today."
I would concede the CO2 levels being higher than earlier (over the last few glacial cycles). However, the "temperatures so high" not only is casually tossed in without graphical evidence. The entire paragraph above it is one of misdirection by equating CO2 variation with climatic variation. Prothero claims there that "our pumping greenhouse gases into our atmosphere [...] has pushed the planet into a “super-interglacial,” already warmer than any previous warming period." Not so. Both deep ocean and ice core samples indicate that the previous interglacial (Eemian) was warmer than current times. It would seem that it has been warmer within the current interglacial as well.

Unfortunately, this article is little more than a rehash of SkS talking points, adding nothing of interest.

Feb 14, 2012 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

Feb 14, 2012 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterSleepalot

You'll have to help me out here. What's the problem with the boxed text in the headpost above ?

Feb 14, 2012 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

Similarly, Prothero's figure 4b is a complete mess. It seems he tried to use the GISS data, but failed miserably. First off, look at the vertical scale - "temperature anomaly (degrees F above 13)" -- and it varies from 0 to 50 ?? Not even close. OK, compare the data with panel 4a, above, which is almost certainly GISS, though it's outdated (ends in 2008). Doesn't match. What I think happened is that Prothero took data from GISS's site -- clearly not the current data, which is important as GISS revise their historical data periodically. However's GISS's data are conventionally given in hundredths of degrees C, which seem to have been plotted after subtracting 13. [Note -- this matched several years with a copy of GISS data from around Oct 2011. Doesn't match as well with current data.]

Now let's look at the claim that "since 2002, the overall long-term trend of warming is unequivocal." Using the older GISS data I had to hand, there is a trend from Jan2002-Dec2010 of +.0035 degC/yr; through Sept2011, the trend was +.0010 degC/yr. Both well within the standard error of such a metric. [And far from scary, even if extrapolated over a century.] With GISS' latest data, the trend from Jan2002-Dec2010 is +.0013 degC/yr. And the trend from Jan2002-Dec2011 is -0.0016 degC/yr. Unequivocal indeed.

And if HadCrut3gl is used as the temperature dataset rather than GISS, the trend from Jan2002-Dec2011 is -0.0099 degC/yr. Well, Prothero did say that such trend calculations are all about cherry-picking after all.

Prothero's is a disappointingly shallow discussion. Beginning with the smearing in the first paragraph.

Feb 14, 2012 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

You'll have to help me out here. The text looks fine: ranged left, not justified; no spelling errors or typos that I can see; an accurate reproduction of the opening sentences of the article.
Content is inaccurate on at least two counts but then we all know that so that can't be what you mean, surely.

Feb 14, 2012 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Figure 5. continues to intrigue.

The CRUTEM data doesn't go all the way back to 1880 when it is clear the data set goes all the way back to 1850.

If you plot a 13 year running centred average for CRUTEM data back to 1880 and make the adjustments in offset and slopes to make the data fit the BEST data you end up with a large uptick, almost, to 0.0C for 1880 for CRUTEM. This creates a large disparity between CRUTEM and BEST for the period 1880 to 1887.

So it points to more evidence that Figure 5. has been deliberated produced to create the false impression that all the temperature data sets agree. They do not, as it stands BEST is an outlier. There is something manifestly different between the methodolgies for GISS, NOAA, CRUTEM and BEST.

I wonder who produced Figure 5?

Feb 14, 2012 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I find it ironic that non-smoking private establishments open to the public were never banned, the right of freedom of assembly or to open a smoke-free establishment was never prohibited. As this market niche became known, the market began to respond to it - long before bans.

Due to a concatenation of vested interests, the freedom to open a smoking-allowed establishment as well as the freedom of assembly of smokers, and their non-smoking friends, in a private establishment open to the public is now prohibited.

If you look beyond the consensus media articles, you also find a huge influence on pub and bar closures as well as on the increasing isolation of individuals, especially the elderly.

And if you look at the SHS "science" as Lindzen has done (and I), you will find a morass of pseudo-scientific "studies", replete with questionable (often unpublished) "data."

Feb 14, 2012 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterKendra

@Mike Jackson.
Perhaps you could say what content is inaccurate and we'll take it from there.

Feb 14, 2012 at 4:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

@Hengist Mc(heart-of)Stone

"As one of the many people who believe in human-induced global warming, the majority of which are not climate scientists, you are a notorious global warmist who also believes that smoking should be banned across the planet, Predictably, your favorite blog refuses to publish any material that goes against your beliefs, although ad-hom attacks on skeptical scientists are often published."

How am I doing so far?

Feb 14, 2012 at 4:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete

Kendra, the trick, as far as I recall, was to roll together many studies (all of which had shown a small but insignificant hazard ratio) into a "metastudy" which allowed the overall trifling hazard ratio magically to assume significance. Epidemiology is a treasure trove of junk science.

Feb 14, 2012 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Let's have a look, shall we?
In the first place I doubt you could find anywhere where Professor Lindzen has denied that earth is warmer now than it was, say, 150 years ago so to classify him as a "notorious global warming denier" could be considered inaccurate, wouldn't you say?
Neither have I seen anywhere a statement by him that smoking does not cause cancer. Have you?
You might like to consider while you're at it whether smoking does indeed "cause" cancer. I smoked for 40 years and haven't got cancer, lung or otherwise. So the bald statement "smoking causes cancer" is just one more example of the sort of sloppy thinking that fanatics and control freaks engage in when they can't be bothered to apply what they are pleased to call their minds.
If you want to claim that there is considerable evidence that smoking increases the risk of contracting lung cancer then I will agree with you but that is not the same thing as "causing" it.

Feb 14, 2012 at 4:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

nice one, Pete. It is truly very difficult to resist the urge to mock Hengist.

Feb 14, 2012 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

I'm personally very please I can sit in a pub without having smoke blown all over me. As for the article under discussion, it is surely a spoof, nobody could be that pig ignorant, even with a geology degree.

Feb 14, 2012 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterjason

Especially, not even with.....

Feb 14, 2012 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterjason

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