In Wonderland, consensus science is done in scientific journals and “contrarian” science in newspapers

Still looking at the “Alice in Wonderland” paper of Lewandowsky, Cook and Lloyd. The theme that I noticed in the previous posts was that the authors misrepresent the skeptics by not giving context and nuance, therefor skeptics looked stupid and ignorant. There is apparently another way in which this effect is achieved in this paper.

I found this when I looked somewhat deeper in table 1, in which contradicting arguments from contrarians were listed. I started with the first row (“Future climate cannot be predicted” vs. “We are heading into an ice age”):

aiw table1 row1

There was a section with about the same description and that had more information about these contradicting arguments. For reference (my emphasis):

1.3.5 The climate cannot be predicted but we are heading into an ice age

The argument that future climate change cannot be predicted with any accuracy is commonly expressed in the form that weather forecasters cannot predict next week’s weather, so how can they possibly predict climate over the next century (Hickman 2010). This argument is fallacious because it conflates weather (short-term, localised changes subject to internal variability) with climate (long-term, wide-scale regional or global changes driven largely by external forcing). Predictions of the former are highly sensitive to imprecision in the estimates of initial values (i.e., the current state of weather) and hence lose skill after several days, whereas projections of the latter are insensitive to initial values, and are instead aggregated across numerous possible initial states to extract the long-term anthropogenic climate signal from among the natural variability. An intuitive everyday example of this ability to project future climate is the seasonal cycle: we can state with considerable confidence that Minnesota will always be warmer in July than in January.

Setting aside the fallacious nature of the argument regarding weather forecasts, contrarians have also argued that the future climate is headed towards an ice age, most commonly attributed to decreased solar activity (Johnson 2013). This prediction has been falsified by climate modelling that found that decreased solar activity will have a miniscule effect compared to the warming effect from greenhouse gas emissions (Feulner and Rahmstorf 2010). Setting aside falsification of the prediction, the inherent contradiction in this pair of arguments is to argue that future climate cannot be predicted while also predicting a future ice age (Rose 2010).

Either we cannot know what happens in the future, in which case predictions of an ice age are entirely fantastical, or we can in principle anticipate how the climate will evolve in the future, in which case climate projections cannot be dismissed by a blanket appeal to ignorance.

There were four links, 1 from the consensus (Feulner and Rahmstorf 2010) and 3 skeptical (Hickman 2010, Johnson 2013 and Rose 2010).

The first one was Hickman 2010, who apparently said that weather forecasters couldn’t even predict next week weather, let alone the climate over the next century. That was countered in the paper as “climate is not weather”.

I had never heard of a skeptical scientist named Hickman, so I followed the link to land on … a newspaper. Hickman was Martin Hickman …

… journalist at the Independant.

The article that was linked to is titled: “Global warming is ‘bulls**t’ says Ryanair boss O’Leary”. As the title suggest an interview with Ryanair boss O’Leary, who ventilated his disbelief towards climate predictions (in some strong language, as also indicated by the title). He was, after the interview, rebutted by a scientist.

Is this really the best they could find? A swearing CEO in probably a casual interview, later “corrected” by a scientist? Of course then it will be very easy to rebut the whole thing in the simplest terms by saying that “weather is not climate”. Make a caricature of your opponent, then one can easily declare victory.

The second link was to Johnson 2013. That Johnson apparently claimed that future climate is headed towards an ice age. Again, I did not yet heard of a skeptical scientist named Johnson. When I followed the link, I found out who that Johnson actually was …

… Boris Johnson

At that time Mayor of London.

The link went to a Telegraph article titled “It’s snowing, and it really feels like the start of a mini ice age”.

Let’s repeat that: It really feels like the start of a mini ice age.

In the article some ramblings on the five previous winters (the article is written in 2013) and whether it was possible that Piers Corbyn (a astrophysicist who predicted a cooling period attributed to the sun) could be right.

Let me repeat that: could be right.

It ended with (my emphasis):

I am speaking only as a layman who observes that there is plenty of snow in our winters these days, and who wonders whether it might be time for government to start taking seriously the possibility – however remote – that Corbyn is right. If he is, that will have big implications for agriculture, tourism, transport, aviation policy and the economy as a whole. Of course it still seems a bit nuts to talk of the encroachment of a mini ice age.

But it doesn’t seem as nuts as it did five years ago. I look at the snowy waste outside, and I have an open mind.

That is a “what-if-in-the-remote-possibility-that” rambling of someone who had to manage a city and in need of real-world data to be able to do that. And this newspaper article is the publication used to prove that contrarians argue that we are heading towards an ice age?


The paper continues with the claim that this prediction is falsified by climate modeling …


A prediction falsified by … a mathematical model?

How relevant would that be? As far as I know, model data is equivalent to a hypothesis. I don’t find a hypothesis falsified by another hypothesis really convincing. There is also quite a gap between the two regarding when they can get falsified (decades versus almost a century).

Just my two cents.

The link went to the Geophysical Research Letters article titled “On the effect of a new grand minimum of solar activity on the future climate on Earth”. Apparently Georg Feulner and Stefan Rahmstorf entered lower solar activity into a climate model and found that the corresponding temperature decrease is much smaller than the warming expected from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century.

I have no problem believing that. If that model is trained on CO2 levels to make its prediction, I wouldn’t expect anything else.

Back to the paper again. At the last link it was claimed that the “inherent contradiction in this pair of arguments is to argue that future climate cannot be predicted while also predicting a future ice age”. So I expected an article in which those two claims were made. The link went to Rose 2010. I followed the link and this Rose seems to be …

David Rose …

… journalist at the Dailymail.

The article, titled “The mini ice age starts here”, is about the predictions of two scientists, Mojib Latif (Leibniz Institute at Germany’s Kiel University and leading member of the IPCC) and Anastasios Tsonis (head of University of Wisconsin Atmospheric Sciences Group). I didn’t hear about Tsonis before, but Latif is not exactly a contrarian nor a denier. Latif apparently saw ocean currents change and on basis of this he predicted a cooling trend of 20 years or more.

Tsonis also saw signs of cooling ahead (MDO cold mode) and even published his results in Geophysical Research Letters (I think it is probably it is this paper: Has the climate recently shifted?).

Hey, why was linked to the Dailymail (a newspaper) when the scientific paper was published in the Geophysical Research Letters (a scientific journal)?

What about the “that future climate cannot be predicted”-claim in the paper? This comes closest:

‘These models cannot be trusted to predict the weather for a week, yet they are running them to give readings for 100 years.’

Although I think it is rather short-sighted claim, it doesn’t say that the future can not be predicted, it says that the mathematical models can’t predict the future. The article even gave the mechanism of why they think it will be cooling in the next decades (reversal of ocean cycle and a MDO cold mode). Scientifically speaking, it would be more honest to debunk those claims than to dismiss a newspaper article…

Concluding, my impression is that the paper is rigged. The consensus view is represented by scientists with a link to a scientific journal (in this case Geophysical Research Letters). While the skeptic view is represented by journalists with a link to a newspapereven when the skeptical scientist published his work in the same scientific journal

This is absolutely ridiculous.

This is not a scientific paper, this is a witch hunt.


5 thoughts on “In Wonderland, consensus science is done in scientific journals and “contrarian” science in newspapers

  1. Barry Woods

    the witch is Ian Plimer – co-author Cook has been after him for years…


    5 years ago, Cook’s goal was to discredit Plimer, a well known Aussie sceptic (Professor of Geology) frequently on TV, politicians quoted him, and his book Heaven and Earth
    Cook wrote – Plimer vs Plimer, out of context ‘short’ quotes, reused in this paper making out Plimer contradicts himself, he aggressively pushed this into the media.

    and labelled Plimer (like Curry, Pielke) as a ‘Climate Misinformer’

    With this new paper, not enough to discredit him, he must be smeared as psychological defective.. “activism abusing science as a weapon”. It doesn’t matter if this paper is junk, or science ignores it, or comments get submitted, or even ultimately retracted. Lew has written papers about how hard it is to get misinformation retracted once it is out in the world!

    psychology being abused to attack political opponents – is rather chilling…

    leaked forum…. (just a few highlights, they discuss Plimers ‘excrement’ quite a lot)

    “Point of this article
    John Cook

    Plimer is still around, having an influence. George Pell just posted a piece in The Australian, citing Plimer and is heavily influenced by him. I suspect many Aussie liberal politicians are still influenced by him. And he has a new book coming out targeted at children.

    My goal is primarily to discredit him, have him considered an unreliable source of information. And provide a resource (Plimer vs Plimer) for people to refer to whenever he rears his ugly head.”

    Cook boasts about where his sks articles get quoted – his Plimer vs PLimer “contradictions”..

    “Plimer vs. Plimer

    Dana Nuccitelli
    Plimer vs Plimer: a one man contradiction

    Posted on 9 December 2011 by John Cook
    As an ex-teacher I would welcome the book in my class. After having read the book with my class, and yes, parents would be welcome, too, I would then ask them to check the claims made by Plimer. By the time they had read comments such as those by Professor Ian Enting on Plimer’s work and Skeptical Science’s Plimer vs Plimer, I would think my class would know Ian Plimer had written another fictional work and they would be even more convinced humans were the major cause of this present climate fever.
    His 2009 book, “Heaven and Earth”, was an embarrassing collage of half-truths, misinformation and misquotes of respectable scientists. Climate scientist Ian Enting published a detailed rebuttalof its arguments, while there is now even a web site Plimer vs Plimer, exposing the internal contradictions in Plimer’s case.”

    “The disinformation skeptics
    John Cook

    Perhaps we should consider series focusing on the “disinformation deniers”. The ones who just vomit out any old rubbish. Hold them accountable. Monckton, Bob Carter, Pat Michaels, Ian Plimer. The worst of the bad bunch. Make them so toxic, even skeptic blogs will think twice before reposting their stuff.

    I guess we’ll see how Monckton Myths matures and if it is effective, we’ll consider this idea.…%20Bob%20Carter.html

    Possibly the best way to respond to Plimer’s book
    John Cook

    To continue to drive the “one man contradiction” theme, post pairs of quotes where H&E contradicts Expelled. There are sure to be many examples. You don’t want to bombard people with mountains of science. You just want to provide a simple, compelling narrative. The narrative of Plimer being undone by Plimer is a strong, simple idea and establishes that he has no credibility.

    “News cover this and surprisingly cite SkS
    John Cook


    John Cook of Sceptical Science, a website designed to explain what peer-reviewed science has to say about global warming, has branded Prof Plimer “a one man contradiction”. He quotes Heaven and Earth on the webpage “Plimer vs Plimer” to highlight what he says is Prof Plimer’s use and abuse of information in support of his own arguments.

    Pity they don’t link to us. But the “one man contradiction” is a nice meme to get out there.”


  2. Barry Woods

    This is a rehash of old Skeptical Science (John Cook, co-author) material – Plimer vs Plimer…

    And here we can show just how dishonest Cook is, in that original page Plimer vs Plimer, he used a longer quote…

    “Together with water vapour, CO2 keeps our planet warm so that it is not covered in ice, too hot or devoid of liquid water.” Heaven and Earth pg411

    In the new paper, he just puts:
    “CO2 keeps our planet warm” Heaven and Earth pg411

    So, Cook knowingly dropped water vapour, to make his new quote in this paper to look more mutually incoherent. But I doubt if Any peer reviewer obtained a copy of the book, to check the quote/context

    Can anyone be bothered to write a comment to the journal, Cook, Lew and Lloyd get paid (well) to write this stuff, it is their day job.. I don’t have the time, work, kids, elderly parents, etc.

    Brandon also followed the quote to the sources and showed they do not contardict each other..

    Prof Lewandowsky wrote an opinion piece in OpenDemocracy, smearing Plimer/sceptics in the same way last year (presumably the paper was being written/submitted)

    ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ mechanics: the rejection of (climate) science
    STEPHAN LEWANDOWSKY 23 October 2015

    It was pointed out in the comments back then, I had a copy of the book, the quotes used (when checked with the sources/context) did not actually contradict each other)

  3. Pingback: More Bad Smells from the Lew-cum-Cookhouse | Climate Scepticism

  4. Barry Woods

    Dame Julia Slingo – is clearly incoherent/contradictory aswell. Chief Scientist of the Met Office speaking a Royal society meeting, talking about the then observed slowdown/pause in global surface temps (responding to another speaker saying the current 15 yrs was irrelevant..

    At a Royal Society meeting in 2013, Julia Slingo of the Met office played devil’s advocate and posed the following question to Prof Jochen Marotzke of the German Max Planck Institute of Meteorology, see the 42:46 mark

    “…it’s a great presentation about 15 years being irrelevant, but I think, some of us might say if you look at the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and it’s timescale that it appears to work, it could be 30 years, and therefore I think, you know, we are still not out of the woods yet on this one. … If you do think it’s internal variability, and you say we do think the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is a key component of this, and it’s now in it’s particular phase, but was previously in the opposite phase, could you not therefore explain the accelerated warming of the 80s and 90s as being driven by the other phase of natural variability?”

    Reported at:

    audio here:
    [audio src="" /]

    Of course now that Lewandowsky has published a paper that all this talk of slowdown/pause in temperature is ‘seepage’ from sceptics into climate scientist minds, that they should stop spending time on this observed data.

    not surprisingly he got quite a lot of push back on that paper from climate scientists..
    Prof Richard Betts

    climate scientist Betts/Thorne in the comments here:


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