When I read the new Cook et al 2018 paper for the first time, the one thing that stood out was that the example arguments were simplified versions of skeptical arguments, stripped down of any nuance and context, therefor not representative anymore. I already foresaw many posts in my future about these fabrications…
In the meanwhile I found the discussion of Barry Woods on Twitter, tirelessly calling out the many misrepresentations in the paper. The reaction of some of his opponents, that this doesn’t matter because the compiled arguments are fallacious anyway, puzzled me. I couldn’t grasp that they were just okay with:
- The authors (or Cook and the SkS team) coming up with simplified, unnuanced arguments based on what they think their opponents believe
- then Cook et al show that these simplified, unnuanced arguments are logically fallacious
- thus providing proof that their opponents are wrong and therefor should be safely ignored when it comes to those issues.
That is about as close as one can get to a straw man argument. For those who are not familiar with this type of fallacy, according to wikipedia the definition of a straw man argument is (my emphasis):
A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent.
The examples Cook et al used were textbook examples of this type of argument, but the defenders of the paper were undeterred by it or maybe did not understand the concept. It seemed to shed of them like water off a duck’s back. I couldn’t really understand that, given that it is pretty clear for everybody to see.
Until I found following tweet:
In the beginning of this month, the new paper of Cook et al (John Cook et al 2018 Environ. Res. Lett. 13 024018) was published. I was quite busy around that time, so it was only when I was finalizing my last post that I suddenly realized that I didn’t have a look at it yet. Time to finally read that paper.
The paper is titled “Deconstructing climate misinformation to identify reasoning errors” and there is also a video abstract in which the approach of the paper is explained in very simple terms. Although I am not that keen on watching videos, I gave it a try.
Screenshot of the abstract video Cook et al 2018 paper
Having read the paper in the meanwhile, the video illustrates perfectly the strength and the weakness of the paper.
Let us first look how the story goes.
On the same day that I published the post on the IPCC, the political organization that is mistaken for a scientific organization, an article was published in a Belgian newspaper, titled Belgian expert: “It’s inevitable: large parts of Flanders are going to be under water”, in which exactly the same error was stated (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):
The highborn professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele is a regular at the United Nations as a climate expert, advises Presidents on the rising sea level and was for many years Vice-President of the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is the most important scientific climate panel in the world, that was awarded with the Nobel Prize.
It is an interview with van Ypersele about sea level rise and its influence on the Belgian coastal region. Some excerpts (translated from Dutch):
And those negative effects will also be felt in Flanders. “We can’t prevent large parts of the region will be under water. Within three hundred years, maybe earlier: it will happen. Much of the region doesn’t lie much above sea level.”
Did he really say 300 years?
Luckily, there is some hope … (translated from Dutch):
A new communication handbook for IPCC scientists is published. It is compiled by Climate Outreach and was commissioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group I Technical Support Unit. They want this handbook out “ahead of the IPCC’s 1.5 degrees special report later this year”.
The handbook also comes with a video explaining the 6 principles to help IPCC scientists better communicate their work. They already lost me in the second sentence in that video though:
The facts are there, thanks in great part to the IPCC – the world’s leading scientific body on climate change
From the department of everyone-gets-a-price comes this tweet (translated from Dutch):
Also in the field of wind energy, we are currently at the top in Europe
Huuuurrrraaaah! Belgium is at the top in the EU for something!