Toles on Global Warming Denialism

What Tom Toles said: Election digest.

If you can’t accept the conclusions of 98 percent of the scientists whose FIELD IT IS, then why even bother with science? If that high a percentage of field of study is to be discounted ENTIRELY, then we are in deep trouble, which, of course, we are. It would be so simple if it were just a matter of ignoring the yelping commenters hereabouts: “Move on, Mr. Cartoonist! Chill out Tommy! There are more important things to worry about!”

Really? Which would those things be? This may be the only political issue whose results could be catastrophic PERMANENTLY. But the deliberate dust storm thrown up by fossil-fuel-centric interests has succeeded in contaminating and paralyzing the American response. Quite a victory for the deniers! It looks like mass-suicide to me.

43 Responses to “Toles on Global Warming Denialism”

  1. shcb Says:

    Two problems with this study:

    1) “We compiled a database of 1.372 climate researchers and classified each researcher as either convinced by the evidence (CE) for anthropogenic climate change or unconvinced by the evidence (UE) for ACC.” What if the evidence were not correct? The primary source is the IPCC,


    I started to write the above, then I went to the methods page

    Ethan is right, this is too politicized, if I doubted you Ethan, I apologize. They didn’t interview people, they didn’t see what the reasons people in the group were for or against the issue at hand, or to what degree. They just picked a few letters sent to politicians by self selected groups on both sides and tallied up the numbers. Hell Knarly could take one side of an issue, I could take the other, we could spend the afternoon on our laptops by Knarly’s pool over a few of Canada’s finest brews, have my daughter type up a professional looking report and have as much credibility as this piece of garbage.

  2. Smith Says:

    I guess this bears repeating, since we have a grand example right above me.

    “It’s funny. Conservatives did everything they could to politicize this issue, and now they turn around and complain that we should abandon this issue because it has become too politicized. I guess that’s the best you can do when there is no scientific evidence to actually support your opinions.”

  3. jbc Says:

    I think there’s a kernel in all of us that wants to believe we are correct, and looks for confirmation of our pre-existing views. Confirmation bias, it’s called.

    Then we have Fox News and right-wing talk radio, which have raised the supplying of (slanted and cherrypicked, when not invented outright) confirmatory evidence for a priori right-wing views to an explicit business model.

    Let that hum along for a while and you get what we have now: large percentages of people convinced that global warming is a myth, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists have concluded that it’s real. Why? Because the deniers have sacrificed their ability to think critically on the altar of their own righteousness, and they prefer the bullshit they’re being fed by right-wing outlets to actual information.

    This wouldn’t bother me so much, except that I and my descendants will have to live in the impoverished world that results.

  4. shcb Says:

    What does Fox News have to do with using a bogus study as evidence?

  5. shcb Says:

    Really, you can’t be happy with their methodology.

  6. jbc Says:

    Their methodology was fine. It wasn’t a scientific study of climate science per se. It was a study of the relative authority and qualifications of scientists who have self-identified as being on one side of the issue or the other. Granted, that’s a side issue in terms of the larger question about what is actually happening with the climate. But it matters because people with a concealed political agenda are attempting to equate the authority and qualifications of scientists on one side with those on the other.

    Did you read the actual paper? It’s only three pages long. I really don’t understand how you could read that paper’s conclusion (that something like 97%-98% of actively publishing climate scientists agree with the consensus position articulated by the IPCC), and come away with the viewpoint you’ve articulated here, unless you’re willing to believe in a global conspiracy theory that requires that thousands (literally) of actively publishing scientists in every part of the world are intentionally fudging their data to conceal the truth.

    shcb, meet the 9/11 truthers, with their controlled-demolition explanation for the fall of the WTC towers. Over in this corner is the guy who got Buzz Aldrin to punch him in the nose by insisting the Apollo landings were faked. On the other side of the room is that guy who posts YouTube videos of the toxic chemtrails produced by passing jets. Enjoy yourselves, guys. The grownups will be down the hall, trying to figure out how to run a world filled with delusional nutjobs.

  7. Smith Says:

    “thousands (literally) of actively publishing scientists in every part of the world are intentionally fudging their data to conceal the truth.”

    shcb opined it so hard that he convicted it into reality.

    “meet the 9/11 truthers, with their controlled-demolition explanation for the fall of the WTC towers.”

    Massive derail in 3, 2, …..

  8. knarlyknight Says:


    I’m sure you do not really want to drag a 911 discussion into this thread.

    Yet it is interesting that the oofficial and highly politicised 911 Reports are riddled with similar biases and manipulations of which you have criticised the climate change deniers.

    In contrast, 1249 architectural and engineering professionals have signed the petition demanding of Congress a truly independent investigation.

    That’s not 98% but it is a highly significant number of serious people who have put their professional reputations on the line and showed the bravery to stand up to disreputable arguments such as your attempts to link serious findings that are inconsistent with a simple structural collapse due to aircraft impact and fire ( ) to amateur speculations about fake moon landings.

  9. knarlyknight Says:

    And Smith, thank you for the introduction. :-)

  10. knarlyknight Says:

    …but it really wouldn’t be complete without a link to the information on the right hand sidebar at

    I’m done now. Thank you for your understanding.

  11. Smith Says:

    That was actually a bit shorter than I had anticipated. You’re slipping ;-)

  12. shcb Says:

    Mann’s report was leveled at the climate research, but the bulk of the criticism has nothing to do with the climate research, but with the methods of collection, the manipulation of statistical data, the sloppiness of the code in the model, and the secrecy and stonewalling. Of course none of these criteria would show up in this report because those experts were excluded. Since you obviously read the report you probably also noticed that they made no attempt to weed out self citation, so someone like Mann might write two articles, the second of which references himself a number of times and get credit for all those citations. There was also no attempt to filter cronyism, you call me da man and I call you da man and we both da man.

    I really don’t know how my thoughtful analysis of this piece equates me to a 911 truther, you seem to agree with me that this is very unscientific and is little more than anecdotal. I guess it’s just your defense mechanism to decide that anyone who disagrees with you is either an idiot or religious which of course in your mind you are the same thing or are some kind of conspiracy nut. Arrogance is so wasteful. I assume it is about time for you to pile several meaningless posts on top of this to cover it up, that seems to be your modus operandi.

    One last item, perhaps climatologists really aren’t very good with math, by my count there were 903 people cited in this report that believe that man is primarily responsible for global warming and 472 that don’t, even without a calculator I can tell you that isn’t 97 to 98%.

  13. jbc Says:

    I think you’re mistaking “remembers how he previously realized that talking to shcb is kind of a waste of time, and goes back to posting items in the blog” with “flees in terror at the awesomeness that is the shcb intellectual juggernaut, posting many new items in hopes no one will notice how badly he was pwned in the comments.”

    The part that remains interesting to me, at least a little, is your motivation. You like to talk as if you’ve investigated this in great detail, and have singlehandedly uncovered all kinds of methodological failures that the large majority of the world’s climate scientists, with many, many more years of relevant training and experience, have somehow overlooked. But no one looking at this objectively, at least no one with an idea of how science works, is ever going to believe that. So you’re selling a fiction that no one is buying. Why? What do you gain by it?

    My assumption is that you have some kind of deep-rooted emotional need to be right in the face of disagreement, and that that need is so powerful that it outweighs your need to actually be right. That’s the sense in which you remind me of a 9/11 truther, or Jenny McCarthy on the autism-vaccine link, or a UFOologist talking about secret autopsies at Roswell. You can try to engage with those folks in an intellectually honest way, tease out their assumptions and show them the evidence that makes their position fantastically unlikely, but they are so committed that they can’t accept the possibility of error. They have so much invested, identify so strongly with the conspiracy theory, that it is always easier for them to just posit some new, grander version of the conspiracy theory rather than admit that they were wrong.

    It’s intellectually dishonest. You adopt the verbal forms of someone examining the truth of the subject, someone who is willing to subject his views to critical scrutiny, but you’re not actually willing to go there. You refuse to treat your own a priori position as falsifiable, so you miss what is by far the simplest explanation: That your views about the earth’s climate don’t match those of climate scientists because you are wrong. Instead, you offer a much less-likely explanation: Your views don’t match those of climate scientists because those scientists are suffering from a massive shared hallucination, or are engaged in a huge criminal conspiracy, or are all so incompetent that an engineer — excuse me, a senior engineer — in an unrelated field can in a few hours of dabbling uncover fatal errors in their methodology that they themselves are somehow unable to recognize, even with the benefits of peer review.

    I think your analysis of climate research is largely an exercise in anomaly hunting. See this article for an interesting discussion (much more interesting than this one): Anomaly hunting.

  14. Smith Says:

    “an engineer — excuse me, a senior engineer — in an unrelated field can in a few hours of dabbling uncover fatal errors in their methodology that they themselves are somehow unable to recognize, even with the benefits of peer review.”

    Reminds me of this:

  15. shcb Says:

    Na, I watched you through the years, when you start to lose the argument you just pile up bunch of garbage on top of the thread and bury it. It’s understandable, we all have a deep-rooted emotional need to be right in the face of disagreement. My motivations are the same as yours, to win the argument, the biggest difference is I’m not so arrogant as to think I have won by simply showing up.

    I certainly haven’t uncovered all kinds of mythological failures made by the majority of the world’s climate scientists, as you do, I simply listen to experts in the field and try to determine who I believe in who I don’t. In many cases I do use my expertise as a senior engineer. For instance only a very, very small percentage of people have the ability to make such an earth shattering discovery that something is amiss when an opponent makes the assertion that 98% of the group agrees on a subject by using a study that shows the disparity is roughly 50%.

    Now that 50% seems about right to me, as anecdotal evidence look at the small group here; you and NL seem to be the only two that are really convinced that man is the chief cause of global warming and that we must pull out all the stops to prevent it. Ethan and I seem to be about equal in our assessment of the situation, Knarly plays follow the leader and Smith and Enky will say whatever is contrary to the conservative, looks pretty evenly distributed to me.

    Look at the original polling of scientists that signed on to this theory back at the turn-of-the-century, I believe there were a little over 2000 of them, if you look at some of the follow-up questions they were asked, and not just at the raw numbers, what you found were about half of them grudgingly signed on to the theory with the assumption that science was done correctly. They also expressed grave concerns that that wasn’t the case but they simply didn’t have the evidence to prove their gut feeling.

    I also find it interesting to study you a little, it reinforces a lot of stereotypes about liberals and it is interesting to see you ignore half the argumentors and denigrate them and those that dare doubt you, oh arrogant one. Better get one of those podcasts fired up.

  16. shcb Says:

    Imagine what you guys would do if I presented an article that showed 48% of the people polled in an unscientific study said that they preferred the underhand flip to the overhand flop in tidily winks as opposed to the 52% that preferred the opposite technique, so therefore 98% of people prefer the underhand flip, you guys would skewer me. Of course it would be wrong for you guys to point that out since you aren’t tidily wink experts, or at least don’t have a degree in that area.

  17. jbc Says:

    I’m happy to let you “win” the argument, if by “win” you mean “talk longest and most repetitively.” But since you apparently either haven’t read the linked-to paper in the original item, or have chosen to disregard and misrepresent what the “97% to 98%” figure refers to, let me summarize for the benefit of anyone else still following along:

    Anderegg et al. compiled a list of 1,372 climate researchers who have taken public positions for or against the IPCC conclusions. They winnowed that group down to 908 researchers who have authored at least 20 papers on climate. They then ranked that group by the total number of climate publications each has authored, and looked at the proportion of scientists “convinced by the evidence” (CE) and “unconvinced by the evidence” (UE) among researchers with the greatest prominence (that is, with the greatest number of published papers).

    The UE group comprises only 2% of the top 50 climate researchers as ranked by expertise (number of climate publications), 3% of researchers of the top 100, and 2.5% of the top 200, excluding researchers present in both groups…

    Did you follow that? Of the top 50 researchers in the study, as ranked by the number of climate papers they have published, 49 agreed with the IPCC conclusions. Only 1 did not.

    49 to 1.

    When they added in the next 50 most-prominent climate scientists, they picked up 2 more UE scientists.

    97 to 3.

    When they added in the next 100 most-prominent, for a sample of the top 200, they picked up 2 more UE scientists.

    195 to 5.

    That, my arithmetically skeptical friend, is where the “97% to 98%” figure comes from. It is not found simply by counting noses on each side of the debate (though that approach is understandably popular with those — like you — engaged in climate change denialism). It is found by looking more carefully, to answer the question, “yes, I realize there is disagreement, but who, exactly, is doing the disagreeing?” The answer is: They are fringe people outside the mainstream of currently publishing climate scientists. Among the most-prominent climate researchers, there is near-unanimity: The IPCC conclusions are correct. The deniers are wrong.

    This is as close as a scientific community will ever come to consensus. These are “evolution is real”, “the Earth orbits the Sun” kind of numbers. The position you are advocating (that the IPCC conclusions are incorrect) is simply wrong, to the extent that we’re willing to listen to the scientific experts who study the question.

    You’re unwilling to believe what those scientists are saying. I get that. That’s fine. I can’t make you.

    But I don’t have to treat your refusal to do so as anything other than the childish obstinacy that I believe it to be. You have your own reasons for clinging to your views. But the rest of society is under no obligation to go along, and indeed, has compelling reasons not to.

  18. shcb Says:

    You said 98% of climate experts, not 98% of the most prolific writers win no filter to weed out cronyism and self citation.

  19. jbc Says:

    Ah, but there is a filter. That’s the whole point. It’s called “peer review”, and it is exactly the presence of that filter that makes the number of articles a reasonable measure of the relative prominence of different scientists.

    Cronyism and self-citation are the tools of the deniers. It is what allows them to succeed in pretending to the lay public and to careless reporters that a legitimate scientific controversy exists regarding the IPCC conclusions.

    Getting published in a scientific journal is much harder than getting an appearance to spout nonsense on Fox News (well, it’s hard in a different way). It’s much harder than being listed in an open letter sent to news organizations alongside superficially impressive-looking but ultimately irrelevant credentials as a petroleum engineer or a TV weatherman. It’s much harder than getting an industry front group to publish a whitepaper containing conclusions that were pre-ordained by the companies underwriting the research.

    Before a piece can be published in a reputable scientific journal, it has to go through the process of being reviewed by peers with recognized standing in the field. Those peers weed out things like obvious bias and methodological errors. They weed out papers that betray a lack of knowledge of what has already been hashed out in previous scientific debate. They weed out misleading industry propaganda. Yes, you occasionally will get a peer reviewer with a pet peeve or a personality conflict with an author that prevents something from being published that should be. But that’s why you have a lot of journals, and a lot of peer reviewers, and an open process for debating and evaluating the arguments that do make it into print.

    I realize that you will now go on to claim that this makes your point: That Mann and his cronies are self-citing each other, and excluding researchers who disagree with them. That they have succeeded so spectacularly in this endeavor that virtually all of the top 200 climate researchers in the world, when ranked by number of published articles in reputable climate journals, are collaborating with them in a grand liberal conspiracy to foist a false-to-fact and alarmist misinterpretation of the evidence on the rest of us. But that you, with the power of your solid conservative common sense, your disdain for Al Gore, and your careful selection of information from conservative bloggers and news outlets, have managed to see through this. In fact, your position is that the truth you have found is so self-evident that it is us, not you, who are guilty of arrogance by clinging to our childlike belief that the 200 most-prominent climate scientists in the world are a more trustworthy source on this subject than you are.

    Knock yourself out.

  20. Steve Says:

    Hmm. shcb did me a great favor. He brought out the very best of jbc’s logical and explanatory powers. This thread has been short, concise, and incredibly informative. It also never derailed, all the comments are related to the original topic of the post. Sweet!

  21. knarlyknight Says:

    Not bad.

    Also peer reviewed for the better part of a year:

    Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe
    pp.7-31 (25) Authors: Niels H. Harrit, Jeffrey Farrer, Steven E. Jones, Kevin R. Ryan, Frank M. Legge, Daniel Farnsworth, Gregg Roberts, James R. Gourley, Bradley R. Larsen


  22. Smith Says:

    “I watched you through the years, when you start to lose the argument you just pile up bunch of garbage on top of the thread and bury it.”

    Hmmm…apparently JBC needs to obtain shcb’s permission to post new topics on this blog. That’s some amazing arrogance (and I know a thing or two about arrogance).

    Hey shcb, if you continue grasping at straws, eventually you’ll be able to make yourself a fine hat. (I know how much your kind enjoys folksy nonsense.)

  23. jbc Says:

    Knarly, the presence of a single peer-reviewed article claiming the discovery of “thermitic material” in 9/11 dust is insufficient to support a controlled-demolition explanation for 9/11.

    I’ll make you an offer: I’ll promise to give that link a careful read, if you’ll promise to give a careful read to the link I gave earlier in the discussion from Steven Novella on anomaly hunting. Deal?

  24. shcb Says:

    Boy, that is a long way around the block to divide two numbers, this was written in 2004, a year before this whole skepticism really got going good with M&M’s article.

  25. knarlyknight Says:


    Thank you for your respectful offer. I get your point and will consider the Novella article more closely. I wouldn’t want you to waste your time reading in detail the particular article I posted; although it withstands scientific scrutiny and the the anomaly it describes is telling, something suggests to me that you will fail to make the required connection.

    Maybe I should examine your article more closely before suggesting this, but aren’t plenty of supposed open and shut crimes actually re-opened and solved due to the appearance of anomalies present as a result of detailed forensic analysis?

  26. knarlyknight Says:

    Besides, there are more intuitive and just as compelling studies on the simpler physics of the “collapse” than the erudite physics/chemistry paper; with similar implications.

    and there is also this:

  27. shcb Says:

    Even with all the problems involved with this article, I think the most important thing to look at is that JBC chose, underline and italicize chose, to use a quote from an article that said 98% of climate scientists agree that man is causing global warming. What the article actually says is that 98% of the most actively published climate scientists agree that man is causing global warming. This is where the issue becomes politicized, sure it’s just a small change of wording, but it’s a large change in meaning. And then you guys complain about Fox news reporting accurately?

  28. Smith Says:

    “And then you guys complain about Fox news reporting accurately?”

    So what you are saying is that Fox News’ integrity is equivalent to that of a blog? Perhaps we have found some common ground.

  29. shcb Says:

    Perhaps :)

  30. Smith Says:

    People try to claim Fox is divisive, but look how it brought us together ;-)

  31. shcb Says:

    Yeah, bosom buddies to the end :) but seriously, I thing some, underline and italicize some, blogs have evolved into fairly reliable sources and the news networks have gone the other direction so I think your statement is more or less true by the law of averages. I don’t think Fox is any better or worse than the other networks, they are just different. And yes they are divisive I suppose, but they are conservative, kind of goes with the territory, that is one of the stereotypes of conservatives that is true, we’re competitive and we like to mix it up a little, sometimes just for sport.

  32. Smith Says:

    Oh yeah, as I’ve said in the past, mainstream American news media is a disaster. There is too much opinion and not enough factual reporting. Way too much emphasis on having talking heads battle it out in lieu of actually researching issues and presenting solid, fact-based reports.

  33. shcb Says:

    yeah, and I’m not so sure it is all their fault (they have free will so it is their fault, but they have to feed their kids), I think it is just a casualty of the 24 hour news cycle. In fact I wonder if we aren’t getting close to a niche market of a news organization that advertises they only report twice a day after they have given the issue 5 minutes of thought.

  34. NorthernLite Says:

    Just got back from vacation (again :). Great discussion here. I think the best line goes to jbc’s: “Getting published in a scientific journal is much harder than getting an appearance to spout nonsense on Fox News…”

  35. shcb Says:

    Yeah, that was a cute line.

  36. NorthernLite Says:

    Hey shcb, congrats on the new members of the family.

    Here’s another line I thought was cute:

    ”Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”
    —Rep. Michelle Bachmann, April, 2009

  37. shcb Says:


    Water isn’t bad for you either unless you’re 6 feet under it with cinder blocks tied to your feet.

  38. shcb Says:

    But to be fair you would have to see what the context was when she used that phrase. The EPA was going to or has, don’t know the status, classify co2 as a harmful or poisonous gas because that would put global warming regulation under EPA regulations circumventing the congress and congressional debate, not a good thing for democracy. If that is what she was referring to, her point is valid, if it was that just because something is not toxic in one quantity or circumstance it isn’t in another her point is not valid.

  39. Smith Says:

    I can’t see her name without thinking of these guys:

  40. shcb Says:

    I thought the same thing!!!! the kids are probably saying “who?”

  41. shcb Says:

    that song is on my iPod, oh my!

    He’s aged

    and I know… the answer to the question above is “guess who”

  42. Smith Says:

    See, not only is Santa Claus real, he has a rock band too.

    Looks like they are having a partial reunion.

  43. shcb Says:

    you just never know what those crazy Canadians are going to do next.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.