A Resource For Understanding the Consensus

Hi all. If you haven’t heard, Richard Tol got his paper criticizing the Cook et al consensus paper published. Cook et al (with a slightly different lineup, including Stephan Lewandowsky) have responded. The University of Queensland has endorsed their response. Their response contains at least one blatant lie.

Yes. I said lie. In their response, Cook et al explicitly state they:

classified abstracts of climate science papers based on the level of endorsement that most of the recent global warming is man-made (AGW, Categories 1–3), rejection or minimisation of AGW (Categories 5–7), or ‘no position’ on AGW (Category 4).

But as everybody knows, Categories 2 and 3 did not say anything about “the level of endorsement that most of the recent global warming is man-made.” Categories 2 and 3 said nothing about how much of recent global warming humans are responsible for. This is incredibly obvious given Category 2 was labeled in the paper, “(2) Explicit endorsement without quantification.”

Of the 3,896 they rated as “Endorse AGW,” they only rated 64 as endorsing the notion “most of the recent global warming is man-made.” The other 3,832 did not. John Cook, Dana Nuccitelli and the rest all know this, but they still published a paper which claimed 3,896 abstracts were rated as saying “most of the recent global warming is man-made.” In other words, they lied.

The blatancy of that lie offended me enough I decided to do something. I decided to make a resource for people interested in the global warming consensus debate. My goal is to collect all the arguments about the consensus and present them in a single, centralized location that allows people to easily examine any argument (and its references).

I’ve begun doing so on my website. You can see what I’ve written so far here. I currently have one main page that’ll serve as an introduction and overview, plus links to four more pages which discuss individual topics. There’s a lot more to cover, but I think what’s posted already is rather damning and informative.

The aesthetics suck, and I don’t know how quickly I’ll work through things, but I think it could be useful for some people. And who knows? If John Cook and his associates keep annoying me as much as they did today, I might find the motivation to make this well-crafted.

June 7th Update: I’ve added a page covering one of the initial points of dispute, involving one of Richard Tol’s primary criticisms of the paper. Here’s a direct link to the new page. Also, over the next few days, I plan to add a simple navigation option so people can jump directly to specific articles.



  1. “based on the level of endorsement that most of the recent global warming is man-made (AGW, Categories 1–3),”
    “(2) Explicit endorsement without quantification.”

    This could be argued as 2) is endorsement with no specified level of endorsement. No level is itself a level.

    Something similar came up at Lucia’s with regards to emissions scenarios. IPCC says no probability is assigned, and the scientist wrote a paper with the assumption that all scenarios are equally likely.

  2. MikeN, not specifying an amount of quantification means the amount could range from 0 to 100%. The range of 0 to 50% was labeled rejecting the consensus. You can’t say, “No level is a level, therefore it must be in a high level, not a low one.” That’s what Cook et al are trying to do.

    There is no way anyone would ever take their statement as covering papers which just say things like, “Methane is a greenhouse gas.”

  3. Yes that is yet another example of the authors finessing a stronger meaning the paper doesn’t have.

    It is a strange habit that seems to crop up a lot with the SkS crowd. It might be worth collecting these occasions – starting with the blank acceptance and promotion of the Presidential tweet.

    This tendency convinces me that the authors really don’t have a grasp about what they mean themselves when they talk about consensus. It seems such an obvious psychological flaw in their group behaviour that I find it ironic they all seem to be so keen on applying psychological techniques on the public without AFAIK ever looking at their own tendencies.

    I’m sure they want it to mean that. And this explains their delight when third parties take the burden of responsibility off their shoulders and add weight to the implication, like the President Obama tweet, but they dare not think about how really mundane their work is. I think this explains all the inflated numbers with these guys; the huge number of papers studied, the 24 errors they found in Tol! – Look at the numbers! Just for God sake don’t ever consider how poor and meaningless their whole endeavour really is 😉

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