The Grand Tradition of Propaganda in Climate Releases: To Understand Lewandowsky You Must Travel A Long Road

I feel for Jose Duarte–I really do. He’s taking apart Lewandowky’s latest effort, which is not very difficult to do. Lewandowsky is not just a charlatan–he’s incompetent as well. But Duarte seems really surprised–almost shocked–at how low Lewandowsky can stoop to get his message through to the media. It reminds me of me, back in the carefree and naive days of 2011 when I was writing about Anderegg, Prall, et al. I couldn’t believe that people could engage in such blatant manipulation of data to score political points and calling it science.

Lewandowsky’s latest effort is garbage, of course. (Hint–his 27th citation is to ‘Lewandowsky S, Oberauer K, Gignac GE (2013) NASA faked the moon landing—therefore (climate) science is a hoax: An anatomy of the motivated rejection of science’, a work that lives on only in infamy. Here, Lewandowsky did (surprise!) another tainted survey and managed to find a 37,000 year old participant. And a five year old one. And managed to include them both in his results. I strongly urge everyone to read Lewandowsky’s paper, especially the introduction, where he finds that almost everyone opposes some sort of cause that is dealt with by science, many because they see a conspiracy somewhere, but conservatives oppose climate science because they are conspiracy ideationists.

But to understand the how and why of Lewandowsky, you have to go back a ways and travel a road that started in 2004 with Naomi Oreskes, continued with Anderegg, Prall et al in 2010, reached a climax with Lewandowsky’s occasional co-author John Cook (of Skeptical Science) before arriving at the anti-climax that is Lewandowsky’s contribution.

In the name of establishing what nobody disputes–that a majority of climate scientists believes that humans have contributed to the 0.8C warming the earth has experienced over the past century or so–each of these authors, not scientists themselves, have not made a real effort to quantify the consensus, but rather to cook the books to deligitimize their opponents–skeptics of the consensus.

Before we go on, I should note a couple of things. First, it is clear that a majority of scientists do indeed support the scientific consensus position on climate change (although the scientific consensus is much narrower than the political pronouncements you hear on a daily basis). Von Storch, in a survey of published climate scientists in 2008, showed that roughly 81%  66%of published scientists agreed with most of the main consensus points and almost none disagreed in a major way with the IPCC reviews of the literature. Von Storch’s findings were supported by another survey conducted in 2012 by Bart Verheggen et al.

However, a 19% 34% level of disagreement is apparently too much for the politicized prophets of climate doom, especially when the 19% 34% includes some heavyweights in the climate arena, such as Richard Lindzen and in physics, such as Freeman Dyson. So a concerted effort was launched to conceal this level of disagreement and to trash those who disagree with them.

Let’s start at the beginning, with Naomi Oreskes.


In 2004, Naomi Oreskes published a paper in Science titled “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change“. It purported to be an analysis of a literature search for papers with the keywords “climate change”, although she later corrected this to say the search terms used were “global climate change”. The search yielded 928 academic papers published between 1993 and 2003 in the ISI database and Oreskes’ analysis said that 75% of the papers either explicitly or implicitly supported the consensus view of climate change, while none directly disputed it. I’ve never seen what her criteria were for the six segments of belief/disbelief. If someone knows what they were I’d appreciate a reference.

Be that as it may, a number  of publications by noted skeptics during the period between 1993 and 2003 escaped Oreskes’ attention. To be fair, there may be legitimate reasons why the results didn’t turn up in her search. The words “climate change” may not appear consecutively in the title, for example. For example, skeptical scientist Richard Lindzen’s 1993 paper ‘Climate Dynamics and Global Change‘ may not have appeared in the results because Climate and Change are not together. And skeptical scientist John Christy’s 2000 paper, ‘Assessing levels of uncertainty in recent temperature time series’ doesn’t have ‘climate’ or ‘change’ in the title at all. Similarly, Nils-Axel Morner’s 2003 paper, ‘Sunspot activity, solar wind, Earth’s rotation and climate on a decadal time-scale‘ may have been missed.

But why was Morner’s controversial and widely publicized 2003 paper ‘Expected Sea Level Changes In The Next Century‘ not included? It certainly dealt with global climate change. But only ‘Change’ appears in the title…

But that’s really not the point. Oreskes was familiar with the literature and she had to have been aware that skeptics were publishing during the period in question. She should have either expanded her search to include other terms or notified her paper’s readers that there were many existing papers published during this period that opposed the consensus but did not show up in the search results.

Skeptical scientist Richard Lindzen in fact published at least 107 peer reviewed papers between 1993 and 2003. Skeptical scientist John Christy published 18 in the same time frame. Morner published numerous papers in that time frame. Garth Paltridge published at least one,  A physical basis for a maximum of thermodynamic dissipation of the climate system. Again, though, it didn’t have the magic words in the title.

Note that I haven’t searched on a number of notable skeptics, such as William Happer, Roy Singer, Soon, Balunias, etc.

The point is that Oreskes knew there were papers being published by skeptics. She chose perhaps the only search string that would keep them out of the results, misstating the search terms she used and when ‘global climate change’ was finally acknowledged as the search term, it was easy to see why only those who belong to the consensus came up–only consensus adherents would think to include those words in a paper.

Next up: I return to my old stomping grounds to take on Anderegg, Prall et al.

45 responses to “The Grand Tradition of Propaganda in Climate Releases: To Understand Lewandowsky You Must Travel A Long Road

  1. Unfortunately, there’s not clear agreement on just what the “scientific consensus position” consists of. Consider the following statements:
    1. The earth has warmed.
    2. The earth will continue to warm.
    2a. I am virtually certain that the earth will continue to warm.
    3. Man’s activity has contributed to the warming.
    3a I am virtually certain that man’s activity has contributed to the warming.
    4. Man’s activity has caused over half of the warming.
    4a. I am virtually certain that man’s activity has caused over half of the warming.
    5. Future warming will be harmful
    6. Future warming will be catastrophic.
    7. Various proposed steps — such as international agreements, carbon tax, conservation efforts, encouragement of wind and solar energy — will be sufficient to avert a climate change catastrophe.

    This post seems to say 1, 2, 3 and 4 are contained within the “scientific consensus position”. Some research methods implicitly use a definition comprising just 1, 2 and 3. Some lay people have been misled to believe that the scientific consensus includes 1,2,3,4,5,6 and 7. Apparently President Obama is included within this group.

    Then there’s the separate question of the degree of uncertainty. Various surveys typically don’t ask for a scientist’s degree of certainty. They wrongly assume that a high degree of agreement among scientists proves that most scientists are highly certain of their opinions. I’d like to see a survey directly asking scientists how certain they are in their climate beliefs. I think it would show considerable uncertainty.

  2. There are few people I disagree with more than Naomi Oreskes (Michael Bloomberg?), but she is a world class propagandist.
    She started her career in the uranium industry. Then she went on to a well financed career revising scientific history. I wish people would take a critical look at her history of the “plate tectonic revolution.” Her description of the opposition is complete nonsense.
    She is now shilling for the nuke and fracking industries but somehow is managing to pass herself off as an environmentalist. Her article in The Nation was a classic. People actually thought she was opposed to fracking, but it was actually the best apology for fracking I ever read. She completely misstates the problem and then acts like a little bit of oversight can solve it.

    • You said it! She had an op-ed article in last Sunday’s NY Times that inaccurately stated the facts on current climate and completely balled up the history and applicability of statistics. My very liberal wife, a professional statistician, stopped reading the article in disgust when she hit some of the nonsense. It’s sad that an article representing both Harvard University and the New York Times could get so many things wrong. It tells us that these two formerly institutions are no longer as reliable as they used to be.

      • I just read the article. She doesn’t understand statistical significance, yet she is supposed to be the authority.
        CO2 production correlates with urbanization, land use changes, and human development in general. A correlation of a climate variable with one of these will look like a correlation with CO2, It’s not a cause OR a coincidence.

      • I meant statistical inference in the post below.

  3. I, for the life of me, cannot understand why anyone (anyone!) pays attention to Lewandowsky. I suppose it is similar to Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin, where the only enjoyment I get is from how crazy they make liberals act sometimes.
    You have to admit to yourself at some point that you too enjoy the political theater of it all. It would be even more boring without it. And at the snail’s pace climate science moves at, somebody needs to throw some fire crackers in every now and then to keep people awake.
    When efforts such as these are given a much larger public profile then they obviously deserve, it is a prima facie case that politics has won the day over science.
    The paper counting episodes invoke a bit of circular reasoning, skeptical papers are kept out of journals, and then after counting papers we find no skeptical papers, therefore the science is settled. A bit of a self fulfilling prophesy.
    It is a bit curious why given the weight of actual legitimate science behind the cause, why many choose to still overreach (and wayyyyyyy overreach in some cases) which has the net effect of killing their credibility. It is a huge gift that skeptics exploit continuously. This is shown by how few people quote the IPCC anymore, instead opting to quote some whacko single “made for the media” paper which pronounce doom. In fact I quote the IPCC much more often as a skeptic nowadays. Curious indeed.

  4. I just came inside. Lake Erie is frozen over as far as I can see. This has to be a record.

    • As much as I can tell, this is the earliest for this much ice coverage since 1976.

    • Well in my neck of the woods, we just hit year 9 and counting with no Cat3+ hurricane landfalls in the US, by far the longest hurricane drought in the last century.

      What does this mean? Probably nothing but “routine” deviations in sparse and erratic statistical trend data. Conversely imagine if we just completed a decade of the highest number of Cat3+ hurricane landfalls in the US. How would that be received? Pretty predictable, here is evidence of this:

      After 5 (!!!) major hurricanes hit Florida in 2004 / 2005 the insurance industry panicked and using very questionable climate models justified a huge insurance increase based on model estimates that hurricanes would immediately be stronger and occur 30% more frequently. Thank you climate science. But I’m not bitter, ha ha. 10 years of rate increases later and rates have just started to fall. We now only pay twice as much as the US average.

  5. Tom, I am a retired property/casualty reinsurance actuary. You are right about what happened after all those hurricanes. Of course, by now after so few hurricanes in recent years, there’s little reason to think that climate change made windstorms worse. But, at the time, it wasn’t so clear.

    Going back, hurricanes were fairly moderate through the 1970’s and 1980’s. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was a shock. Europe had a series of large windstorms, one in 1987 and then 4 of them in 1990. So, there was some reason to suspect that windstorm frequencies and/or severities had gotten worse.

    Of course, as you point out, such an assumption was in the interest of the insurance companies, because it justified higher prices. If it makes you feel any better, the rate increases imposed on insurance companies for reinsurance companies were bigger than the increases imposed on the public by the primary insurance companies.

    • This was a very interesting episode in the negative consequences of market economics. The state of Florida (regulator of insurance) rejected a lot of these increases and the insurance industry for the most part left the state entirely. Perfectly valid reaction. Citizens Insurance was run by the state and at some point carried 30% to 40% of all homeowners policies. I’m no fan of the (legally colluding) insurance industry here but understand the economics. I think there is a fundamental problem of the risks of hurricanes only evening out over decades versus the typical risk window of investors being almost annual. The economics of car insurance are much more predictable for example. Hurricane reinsurance in the US is more like going to Vegas.

  6. Hi David

    The very low frequency and total cyclonic intensity of hurricanes in the past few years would probably be considered a climate signal, if alarmists hadn’t been so busy shouting that hurricanes were getting more frequent and more intense…

    • For the record:
      Global Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE)

      I think the latest best guess is that cyclone activity varies on a multiple decadal cycle of undefined length and undefined current phase driven by an undefined set of forcings. Hope that clears things up.

    • In this paper two 14 year olds believed in the moon landing conspiracy!…
      (7 or 8 minors included

      Now why did Lew retract the age of respondents from the limited dataset he sent to an enquirer of Moon Hoax…

      the methodology allowed for the inclusion of 10 to 17 year olds…
      he only excluded those under 10 (and over 95) in the earlier Moon Hoax paper

  7. Couple of points. Tom, insurance companies can’t legally collude prices. That practice was nullified by a 1944 Supreme Court decision. Insurance companies can share data to help calculate what rates to charge. The reason companies pulled out of Florida, or reduced their exposure there, is that they increased their opinion as to the magnitude of the largest likely loss. Regardless of rates, no company wants to bet its entire existence on the risk of a Florida hurricane. Some big companies walked away from business even though they believed that business to be quite profitable.

    ThomasWFulller2 — yes the lull in hurricanes might be considered a climate signal, but not necessarily one related to global warming. Past history shows a lot of fluctuation in annual hurricane losses and also some kind of vague, long-term cycles,. So, the recent lull in hurricanes might be viewed as part of a natural cycle.

  8. The $82 Billion Prediction

    “The Sarasota Herald-Tribune has an revealing article today about the creation in 2006 of a “short-term” hurricane risk prediction from a company called Risk Management Solutions. The Herald-Tribune reports that the prediction was worth $82 billion to the reinsurance industry. It was created in just 4 hours by 4 hurricane experts, none of whom apparently informed of the purposes to which their expertise was to be put.”

  9. Thanks for the link to Pielke’s article. Pielke is shocked that hurricane probabilities were set by judgment, rather than just past history. However, if one believes, or even suspects, that conditions in the future will not be exactly like the past, then past history alone will give the wrong answer.

    BTW RMS is one of several companies selling similar models. As I recall, all these models judgmentally increased the hurricane probabilities after the terrible storms in 2005.

  10. David,

    When all insurance companies simultaneously decide to change from historical damage estimates to model based estimates, then some people would call that,,,.collusion. Others call it sharing data. One can say that re-insurers were the source of this, and collusion is about impossible to prove anyway without a smoking gun.

    The Pulitzer Prize winning investigation into the Florida insurance industry was by the same Sarasota Herald Tribune. It was an 8 part series that made the industry look very bad in 2011.

    Hurricane models: garbage in, gospel out

    “no company wants to bet its entire existence on the risk of a Florida hurricane”

    Then don’t sell insurance in Florida! Because I can tell you that the buyers of insurance think they are buying insurance from the risk of a Florida hurricane. In fact don’t sell insurance at all if you don’t like risk. Go sell french fries.

    Also don’t create pup companies (State Farm Florida) so that in the event of a major catastrophe, the pup company can optionally simply declare bankruptcy and leave the parent company (State Farm) without a debt burden. Meanwhile the pup company sends up annual profits to the parent company. This scheme stinks to high heaven. Of course it is more complicated than this because all insurance companies must post effective bonds to prove they can pay and re-insurance companies bear a lot of the burden.

    I am all for letting the market sort it out, let’s just make sure the market forces are honestly implemented. It’s a hard problem. The insurance industry has legitimate needs that must be addressed.

    Homeowners are somewhat at the mercy of the market. Not carrying insurance is not an option when you have a mortgage. Even if you own your house, you must buy mandated total coverage and cannot buy catastrophic coverage only. It’s a mess at both ends.

    • I take your point, Tom. You evidently have a good understanding of insurance. It’s not collusion, because the companies wind up charging different rates. You are correct that the companies all switched to using models for the component of the rate to cover hurricanes. That’s because the Florida Insurance Dept. was willing to approve rates based on these models. The prior method of figuring out what to charge for natural catastrophes was very crude, so the models were rightly regarded as an improvement.

      Your point about companies not selling insurance if they didn’t like the risk is exactly what happened. Companies with large market shares chose to sell less insurance. New companies came in to cover the business that had been dumped. My impression is that these new companies charged rates that were often higher than the large company they replaced.

      One more point. I wasn’t meaning to justify what the insurance companies did. Rather I was trying to explain what they did from their POV.

  11. Here is the entire insurance article series:

  12. I wasn’t that shocked by Lewandowsky’s (andLewandowsky and Cook’s conduct – Fury paper) I was surprised they were so lacking in self awareness.. and how amateur it all was.

    I was shocked by Prof Erich Eichs reposne to me, the journal Psychological Science, the APS, University of Western Australia, Bristo Uni, AGU, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Western Australia, and the entire field of psychology that let this happen.. and say nothing and do nothing (except for Jose)

    • Tom, I was going to be less circumspect about my true identity this time around, but then Barry shows up..
      So could you please protect my anonymity?

    • Barry, I think that Lewandowsky’s paper was pure nonsense and dangerous. But scientific ethics only requires responses made to requests made in good faith by scientists. I wouldn’t share data with you either.

      • “…scientific ethics only requires responses made to requests made in good faith by scientists.”

        It’s a poor set of ethics that gives cover for cliques – like the Team – to prevent or delay any outside criticism of their work. It would be better for the actual advancement of science to give out the data even if it might prove embarrassingly wrong.

      • What do you mean when Barry shows up. I don’t know you (never camec across you)or care who you care. Sonwhy the smear.

        This is science. The should be available to anybody! Genghis Khan and Mother Teresa included.

        Moon hoax paper included 10-17’year olds. It had three respondents believing in the moon hoax. Which duartes has also tore apart.

        The PLOS One paper included to 14 year olds that believed in moon hoax. Minors!

        Lewandowsky redacted AGE from the partial dataset for Moon Hoax Log12. Is it too much for science to ask can we all see the full dataset (including age) tonbsee how many children he used to get his result?

        As we KNOW lewandowsy thinks that it is ok to include minors from PLOS One. Researching into conspiracy theories that include from anonymous online surveys, that includes data from children, has to be about as junk as you can get.

      • Marty I corrspnded with lewandows in good faith in 2012..
        And found an error,which I privately corresponded with him.

        He then breaks all thought of ethics and conduct and went after me and others in retaliation in the now retracted Recursive Fury paper

        Why do you say\imply about my good faith or motives. Why smear me like that

      • Barry, what comes around, goes around. Your posts here 2 years ago were fabrications and malicious. You aren’t after the truth or even winning an argument about the origin of climate change. Your trying to perpetuate a false narrative about the history of the debate. We don’t need you.

      • Dear “Marty” ;-D

        you appear to be making up the rules of science as you go:

        “But scientific ethics only requires responses made to requests made in good faith by scientists.”

        Paranoid paranormal nonsense. What are you, a mind reader? You’re not allowed to second-guess the motives of the petitioner.

        Worried about bad faith? Then stop doing bad science.

        “I wouldn’t share data with you either.”

        Nor with McIntyre, presumably, on account of he’s not a scientist.

        So much the worse for you then! To answer Phil Jones’ idiotic, antiscientific question:

        Why should I make my data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?

        Because my aim is to try and find something wrong with it.

      • Brad,
        While I agree with you that Marty’s comment on information was unfortunate, I don’t think it was representative of his point of view.

      • hunter,

        thanks. Not sure I entirely follow. I don’t know Marty, but are you suggesting he was being facetious? It’s unlike me to be taken in by sarcasm!

      • Brad,
        I cannot speak for Marty but my impression is he would not actually in context support the sort of things implied by his one statement irt to suppression and control of science. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that is what he really meant.

      • Glad to hear that, hunter! I’m also rather skeptical of Marty’s characterisation of Barry:

        Your posts here 2 years ago were fabrications and malicious.

        Do you know which posts he might mean? Because that doesn’t sound like the Barry I know. Then again, doesn’t everyone who lives next door to a serial killer say the same thing? 😉

  13. Tom, I looked at Prall’s list. I know 14 of them personally. I respect all of them. The one who surprised me most was Michael Garstang. He was advocating man made climate change in the 60’s and had the data to back it up.. He had a model where land use changes would cause wind patterns to change warming the Arctic but not the Antarctic. (I’m simplifying) His predictions were actually pretty close to what happened.
    My point is that the real target of people like Prall, are those with theories of man made climate change that don’t demonize CO2. The ones that don’t create an excuse for nukes and fracked gas.

  14. On lists: I am not on Prall’s list but I am on Greenpeace’s list, Exxon Secrets. I am also on a list of closet Creationists, . I have been out of work several times and looking for a job, and believe me, these lists matter.

    I am going to start making a list of alarmists that received money from nuclear or fracking groups.
    Al Gore
    Naomi Oreskes
    Newt Gingrich
    John McCain
    Richard Muller
    George Monbiot
    Jeffrey Sachs
    John Kerry
    Jim Hansen

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