Fastest disinformer retraction: Watts says Goddard’s “Arctic ice increasing by 50000 km2 per year” post is “an example of what not to do when graphing trends”

Plus science blogosphere roundup: “Fred Pearce is a rubbish journalist” and Eric Stieg on PNAS

Ironygate:  The king of cherry picking just threw the prince (jester?) of cherry picking under the bus for picking some really, really bad cherries:


Thank you Anthony Watts for leaving this nonsense on your blog and acknowledging it as “an example of what not to do when graphing trends, to illustrate that trends are very often slaves to endpoints” — as opposed to 99% of your other posts, which you continue to embrace even though they are also examples of what not to do, such as these recent absurdities:

“The death spiral continues, with Arctic ice extent and thickness nearly identical to what it was 10 years ago.” (5/31)

“Over the last three years, Arctic Ice has gained significantly in thickness”¦.  Conclusion : Should we expect a nice recovery this summer due to the thicker ice? You bet ya.” (6/2)

“Arctic Basin ice generally looks healthier than 20 years ago.” (6/23)

Those laughable conclusions should have been a warning sign to Watts not to keep posting Goddard’s nonsense — except, of course, nonsensical graphing, cherry picking endpoints, and generally making up stuff is what Watts specializes in (see links below).

Since I generally don’t read WattsUpWithThat, except when I am doing a post on Arctic ice and looking for a good LOL, I wouldn’t have actually caught this if I hadn’t been reading the comments at Tamino, one of which notes:

BTW, “the mistake was noted by Steven immediately after publication,” is Watts-speak for “Ian H pointed it out in comment #3 within maybe 15 minutes after the posting.”

Tamino has a good post debunking Watts/Goddard on Arctic ice thickness (here).

This CP post originally began as a round up of science blogs, with this opening:  The bad news is there’s too much damn stuff to report on or debunk.  The good news is there’s a lot of good analysis and debunking in the science blogosphere.

Who knew that the debunking would be by the disinformers themselves!

Here’s more:

If anyone needs evidence that the “reporting” crutch of He Said, She Said is still being employed by stenographers masquerading as journalists, here’s Fred Pearce in New Scientist.

No serious effort is made to inform the reader which of the parties is actually supported by reality. Note the weasel wording and false balance throughout, e.g.: “some of the researchers involved take issue with a suggestion that greenhouse gases are not primarily responsible for global warming”; “Foster’s team concludes”¦ But de Freitas says”; “The vitriol continues”; etc. It’s a stereotypical example of the “on the one hand, on the other” style that has so distorted the public’s understanding of the issue of anthropogenic climate change.

It’s 2010, FFS. This article should be held up as a model for how reporting should not be done.

Last week, CEI’s Christopher Horner, writing at Pajamas Media claimed that Gabriel Calzada (author of a dodgy study claiming that Spain’s green energy program had cost many jobs) had been mailed a dismantled bomb by a solar energy company. As Ed Darrell observes, the story is preposterous (even without considering the source), but a whole lot of self-styled global warming skeptics uncritically accepted it. And even after the story was completely retracted, folks like Anthony Watts and Andrew Bolt did not make corrections.

… a new paper in PNAS (Anderegg et al, 2010) that tries to assess the credibility of scientists who have made public declarations about policy directions….

It is completely legitimate to examine the credentials of people making public statements (on any side of any issue) – especially if they make a claim to scientific expertise.  The database that Jim Prall has assembled allows anyone to look this expertise up – and since any new source of information is useful, we think this can be generally supported. Prall’s database has a number of issues of course, most of them minor but some which might be considered more problematic: it relies on citation statistics, which have well-known problems (though mostly across fields rather than within them), it uses Google Scholar rather than the standard (ISI) citation index, and there are almost certainly some confusions between people with similar names. Different methodologies could be tried – ranking via h-index perhaps – but the as long as small differences are not blown out of proportion, the rankings he comes up with appear reasonable….

So, do the climate scientists who have publicly declared that they are ‘convinced of the evidence’ that emission policies are required have more credentials and expertise than the signers of statements declaring the opposite? Yes. That doesn’t demonstrate who’s policy prescription is correct of course, and it remains a viable (if somewhat uncommon) position to acknowledge that despite most climate scientists agreeing that there is a problem, one still might not want to do anything about emissions. Does making a list of signers of public statements, or authors of the IPCC reports, constitute a ‘delegitimization’ of their views? Not in the slightest. If someone’s views are widely discounted, it is most likely because of what they have said, not who they sign letters with.

However, any attempt to use political opinions (as opposed to scientific merit) to affect funding, influence academic hiring, launch investigations, or personally harass scientists has no place in a free society – from whichever direction that comes. In this context, we note that once the categorization goes beyond a self-declared policy position, one is on very thin ice because the danger of ‘guilt by association’. For instance, one of us (Eric) feels more strongly that some of Prall’s classifications in his dataset cross a line (for more on Eric’s view, see his comments at Dotearth).

More on PNAS soon.

Related Posts on Watts:


26 Responses to Fastest disinformer retraction: Watts says Goddard’s “Arctic ice increasing by 50000 km2 per year” post is “an example of what not to do when graphing trends”

  1. Matto says:

    With all due respect Joe, isn’t picking on WUWT just targeting low hanging fruit? His readers have their minds made up and won’t change no matter how persuasive the argument. How about laying the smackdown on Bjorn Lomborg who just published an op-ed in a national British newspaper:

    Or an even better idea: spend some holiday weekend time with your family out enjoying the atmosphere you’ve been fighting so valiantly for!

    Kind Regards,

    [JR: The family is away, and what remains the most widely read of the disinformers — by far. Not worth a lot of effort, I grant you, but as I said this piece began as a survey of what some of the other scienceblogs were saying.]

  2. “mea culpa, mea máxima culpa”
    (what I have done and in what I have failed to do)

    It will be interesting to see who digs in deeper, and who starts to apologize, and how they craft the apology. As the mistake becomes clearer, we will see who has learned and who will struggle with hardened delusion.

    The late Robert S. McNamara apologized for the VietNam war. And by making the documentary the “Fog of War” offered a sort of retribution.

    Now I learn (via WitsEnd) that Nixon was well briefed in the looming dangers of global warming.

    With the colossal looming danger of AGW, the stakes are so high, the uncaring risk so great, the dismissing of simple precautions have been such a blunder, that the apologies will have to be spectacular.

  3. TYM says:

    Notice how WUWT started their optimistic “WUWT Arctic Sea Ice News” weekly posts back in April, when it looked like the Arctic sea ice extent was going to go above the “average” line that it has been beneath for so many years now.
    This talk of “WUWT Arctic Sea Ice News” continued until June 14:
    What was going on in mid-June ?
    Oh right, record low Arctic sea ice extents.

    What’s an honest “skeptic” to do ?
    Sea Ice News #10

    Forget about the ARCTIC, did you notice how the ice is GROWING down in Antarctica ?
    Yup, now the focus is on “Sea Ice”.

    Don’t expect any “Whoops, we were clueless” when the Arctic summer sea ice minimum breaks the record this year or next over at the support-group-for-grown-up-bad-science-students.

  4. Lou Grinzo says:


    Yep, Nixon knew and so did Johnson, as in the report from the Presidential Science Advisory Committee, “Restoring the Quality of Our Environment” which included this excerpt, Introduction and Appendix Y4, “Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide”

  5. Lou Grinzo says:

    In general, I expect to see fairly big events (at least big to those of us who follow this stuff closely) to erode the ranks of the deniers until we’re left with the truly deranged, hardest of the hardcore, the climate science equivalent of the “HIV causes AIDS” deniers.

    Unlike the Y2k doomers who had no choice but to abandon ship once the magic date and the ensuing months passed without incident, CC deniers will linger like a bad smell as they slowly dissipate.

  6. toby says:

    I agree with Matto, I read this post on WUWT, entered a 3-line comment and went about my business.

    Not worth teh attention of this blog.

  7. J Bowers says:

    Re. #1 Matto

    Watts is cited all over the internet, especially at MSM comments sections, and as far as I’m concerned there can’t be enough debunkings. His blog is taken very seriously by many as if it were the Nature newsletter. For a witty and ongoing counter to WUWT I recommend a read of Wott’s Up With That? run by Ben. Irreverant, and to the point.

  8. Leif says:

    …”the apologies will have to be spectacular.” richard, @2.

    I am going to put on my Gray Panther Hat on a moment.

    The green conversion is going to take lots of money.

    A small percent of the population control over 90% of the wealth.

    The largest recipient of the beneficial windfall of sustainable energy will be the masses. A livable planet far into the future. (Shared with the Tin Hats I would add.)

    The largest contributer to the wealth of the very rich is in fact the masses of humanity that come before.

    In essence the poor have already worked and earned and payed taxes on the very capital that is hidden in foreign accounts. That $50 million golden parachute is profits on the blood,sweat and tears of the workers of the world.

    So in all fairness I say that the Big Money of the world take a hit for Humanity. I would entertain a few options. Financing a sustainable economy at NO Interest and minimal profits, might be the least painful.

    The curious thing is that if corporations figured that they could make more money in a green economy than a fossil economy there would be no disinformation campaigns, no Fox, no Tea Baggers, no compromised politicians prevent the people from acting rationally to a global threat. Do we have to guarantee bigger profits to get Big Money to allow humanity a shot at more than a few generations?

    You bet Richard, they owe us big time.

  9. Die Zauberflotist says:

    We may have to use some force to get corporations (and many people) to give up their addiction to fossil fuel. These people are stuck in the past, unable to recognize the beauty and efficiency of solar, wind, geothermal etc. It may require more acquisition of corporate entities by a concerned and determined administration to bring these things to reality. You are right re Faux News and Teabaggers. Without the steady flow of Big Oil money into their coffers, they will wither and die.

  10. adelady says:

    Thank you Leif. This is my big bugbear.

    Surely the much-vaunted entrepreneurial spirit should be invigorated by new opportunities to make buckets of cash from this?

    And the gleaming eyes should be able to pick out the offerings from various governments to subsidise such new ventures.

    But they don’t pick up the cash on offer. And they overlook the chance to negotiate for more while they *spend* good money on defence against what they call attacks.

    Entrepreneurs ain’t what they used to be.

  11. villabolo says:

    Lou Grinzo says:
    July 3, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    “In general, I expect to see fairly big events (at least big to those of us who follow this stuff closely) to erode the ranks of the deniers until we’re left with the truly deranged, hardest of the hardcore, the climate science equivalent of the “HIV causes AIDS” deniers.”
    Never, ever, underestimate the power of rationalization to perpetuate a delusion. I’ve already noticed on WUWT commentaries a shift towards an alternative “explanation”.

    It states that it was normal for the Arctic to be ice free oftentimes throughout recent Geological history and even Human history! Needless to say, Carbon Dioxide played no role in those situations.

    I don’t believe for one second that the anti-AGW crowd is going to vaporize. Remember that the Oil Companies have a firm interest in the matter and that they have been bankrolling the whole Denier Noise Machine.

    They will simply reinvent their delusions. I predict that those delusions will be a shifting towards “Natural Global Warming” by ALL deniers and the “long term” beneficial effects of this “natural” Global Warming even as it starts battering us in the short term.

    “Unlike the Y2k doomers who had no choice but to abandon ship once the magic date and the ensuing months passed without incident, CC deniers will linger like a bad smell as they slowly dissipate.”
    Businesses hired computer technicians up the Ying Yang which is why problems were avoided. Had they not done so the situation would have been much worse.

    When the time came, there only a few minor glitches here and there.

  12. chek says:

    Lou Grinzo said:”Unlike the Y2k doomers who had no choice but to abandon ship once the magic date and the ensuing months passed without incident”

    Lou, as someone who had a bunch of RTC checking to do I can assure that the reason the Y2K bug had little impact was BECAUSE preventative action was taken in time, NOT because the problem didn’t exist.

    Please do not perpetrate the myth that it was some kind of hoax through your own ignorance.

  13. Edpeak says:

    The corporate “Entrepreneurs” never WERE “what they used to be.

    Good god, maximizing short-term profit is no way for an intelligent speices to organize its economy. What are you hoping for, for that insanity to continue, so we can live a bit longer? You’re hoping for that rare alignment to happen on time and before its too late, an alignment between what humanity needs for survival, on the one hand, and “maximizing profits” on the other hand, so we can buy a little more time? Then what?

    Then we just wait a little longer and the next disasters, when short term corporate profits do NOT align with human survival needs and THEN we’re screwed.

    No, I’d rather hope and work to make a reality, an economic model that doesn’t base on totalitarian, top-down, undemocratic, “one dollar=one vote” corporate feudalism, corporate rule, economics based on never-ending exponential growth on a finite planet, economics to maximize profits over people but much worse than that actually: maximizing short term profits..

    As the U.S. auto industry and now BP have proven, these artificial legal entities we call corporations can’t even protect their own long-term profits, so blind is the drive for maximizer shorter term profits, much less, able to protect human needs. Time to dismantle and replace these institutions, rather than praying that they save us in the nick of time.

    Start building sustainable democratic grassroots bottom-up steady state economic models now, but no need to wait for those to be finished to work on climate: press for change nationally but realize it’s going to be depressingly slow and probably by itself will not be enough to save humanity; so at the same time, start with local and state and regional clean energy and other ecological projects.

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    Observed event –


    [JR: Thanks. Post coming.]

  15. mike roddy says:

    I agree that Watts is an idiot and a soft target, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop spanking him. You can still see that grinning face on network TV from time to time, but he really belongs on Comedy Central.

    What mystifies me is why the total collapse of Watts’ raison d’etre- the “Temperature Stations Project”- was ignored by the media. Maybe they are short of deniers that are not obviously insane (Monckton, Morano), and Watts fills programmers’ needs. Whatever the reason, this has been a terrible oversight.

  16. I can proudly say that I have never read even one of his posts. Many emails from viewers quoting them told me long ago that it would be a great waste of time to do so. Dr. Serreze put it better than anyone else.

    His followers are the “dismissives” (See Ed Maibach’s study Global Warming’s Six America’s), which by their definition are not susceptible to any sort of scientific reason.

  17. Colorado Bob says:

    An extreme rain event going on in Texas tonight , raining very hard here.

  18. ozajh says:

    Chek #12,


    I can still remember the stunned look on the faces when I announced in a preliminary Y2K meeting that a crude scan of the code for one application suite had yielded 175,000 check items . . .

  19. paulm says:

    Fascinating series…
    So small fact, the Greenland ice sheet is melting 3x faster now than 10yrs ago.

    Thats 3x faster ie 50 cubic km 1990s – 150 cubic km now!!!!!!
    Anyone figure out what the rate is going to be 10yrs hence?

  20. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    check #12
    ozajh # 18

    The system I was peripherally involved in was throwing out some strange results for calculations post 31/12/2000. The sad thing is if management had got the message a little earlier, the huge effort fixing the old system would have put us a long way towards producing the new system. Instead we fixed a system that was scrapped a few years later.

    I am fairly sure that some of the code was translated spaghetti from the early seventies. Management never would pay for an entire rewrite while patching was cheaper in the short term.

    The costs of cutting carbon emissions seems like so much deja vu. Act now and we can fix the climate for little or no cost, wait and it will cost the earth.

  21. Esop says:

    That is true, the anti-reality crowd went from “sea ice is increasing” to “ice free arctic is normal” in a matter of months, just like they went from “Maunder minimum is coming” last year to “the warming is natural” this year. Their short (and long) term predictions are always dead wrong, but the press never bothers to hold them responsible, instead giving them a free-pass to spout their lies. However, if there is a misprint in the IPCC report, you can bet it will be front page news, declaring AGW to be a hoax.

  22. Colorado Bob says:

    JR –
    Second wettest July on record here , and we still got 4 weeks to go.

  23. Wit's End says:

    Lou Grinzo, that document is fascinating! They are already talking about geoengineering by putting reflective particles in the ocean and seeding clouds – that’s how seriously they took it back then.

    Which is just a testimonial to the ruthless efficacy of the massive, orchestrated, well-funded campaign to make everybody forget about it and buy more stuff.

    How can I get a link to the subpanel reports, do you know?

    Thanks for posting that!

    And speaking of wet weather, it is flooding in Saskatchewan:

    “…here is some news from Saskatchewan, the unprecedented flood of the week’ this time in Yorkton:
    Dean Clark, fire chief in Yorkton, said early reports indicated some homes were so extensively flooded the basements were washed out and the homes may not be fixable.
    “When we get the water dealt with we’ll be able to assess that,” said Clark, who said the damage was freakishly intense given that Yorkton isn’t near large water bodies and doesn’t have a river running through it.
    “It’s the first time I’ve seen rain come straight across,” he said.
    Homes in other low lying areas throughout the city were flooded, but not as significantly as downtown.
    Yorkton is not the only area on the Prairies to feel nature’s wrath.Earlier this week, heavy rains delivered 80 millimetres of rain to parts of Saskatoon, flooding basements and knocking down trees and power lines.
    In southeastern Alberta, flash flooding last month at Irvine, near Medicine Hat, forced dozens from their homes and stranded others. Some had to be rescued by boats or a helicopter. The same system washed out a section of the Trans-Canada Highway near Maple Creek, Sask.
    Premier Brad Wall announced Friday that a cabinet committee has been formed to co-ordinate the province’s response to “unprecedented flooding faced by Saskatchewan people.”
    “The heavy rains have caused widespread havoc — and needs of Saskatchewan people must be addressed as quickly as possible,” he said.
    The premier toured the flood zone in Yorkton, calling it “shocking.”
    “If folks could see the street we’re on now, they’ll know that most of this block is under water. These basements don’t have a couple of inches in them, they’re full to the rafters, some of the water’s on the main floors already,” said Wall.
    “It’s unbelievable that much rain could fall in that short a span on a part of the province that’s already saturated. All of Saskatchewan’s like a big sponge that’s full right now, there’s no place for water to go.”

  24. MapleLeaf says:

    Well, this is a breath of fresh air:

    Someone in NewScientist taking Pearce to task.

  25. wili says:

    Speaking of Arctic ice, the coverage graphs show a bit of a slowing in the rate of melt–will we follow the 2006 pattern now and end up with more ice than the 07 minimum? Or is this a temporary glitch that will soon be followed by more gut-wrenchingly precipitous drops?

  26. Jim Eager says:

    Wili, only time will tell. Personally I’m betting on 2010 ending up the new 2nd or 3rd lowest extent at the end of the melt season.