Category Archives: Climate Communication

Define “AGW”

Spread over the Cook et al 2018 paper are the terms “anthropogenic climate change” and “anthropogenic global warming”. It is also mentioned a in table S2 of the supplementary material. I assume that “anthropogenic global warming” means that global temperatures are rising and humans have an impact. This seems to be supported by the consensus claim from the paper (my emphasis):

There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming (Cook et al 2016), with a number of studies converging on 97% agreement among publishing climate scientists or relevant climate papers (Doran and Zimmerman 2009, Anderegg et al 2010, Cook et al 2013, Carlton et al 2015).

That is a far cry from the previous statement in the Alice in Wonderland paper. In that paper, the claim was made that there is a consensus that global warming “presents a global problem”. A claim that obviously was unsupported by the papers that were referenced.

At least he skipped the “dangerous” part of the claim. It is now in line with what the referenced papers researched. As explained in the link above, the referenced papers investigated the claim that global temperatures are rising and that humans have an influence in this. Not whether it is dangerous. Not whether something should be done about it.

However, I don’t think that the term “AGW” is used in this way in the paper. This sentence in the abstract makes me think that he means something different (my emphasis):

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Learning critical thinking by following uncritically

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:

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Video abstract of the Cook et al 2018 paper: nice idea, but low on substance

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.

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Projecting sea level 300, nah, 1000 years in the future

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):

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The IPCC, the world’s leading scienti…, err, political body

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

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The fifty-times-more-deaths-by-weather news item: the contribution of the “expert”

In previous two posts, I explained a television news item explaining the scientific paper in which was proposed that there would be fifty times more deaths in the period 2070 to 2100. This post will focus on the dubious contribution of the expert in that news item. It was not really clear to me why he was invited. I expected that he was interviewed to explain the content or conclusions of the paper, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

The expert had seven lines in total, yet only two of them were related to the paper. These are his first two lines (translated from Dutch):

The heat is clearly the effect that will make the majority of victims. Flooding by rivers, by sea, but also by forest fires and extreme weather, storms etc.

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The one and only solution

Continuing from previous post in which I described the start of a television news item on the modeled impacts of future weather on Europe. After that introduction, an expert was brought up to explain the paper a bit more, in this case Serge De Gheldere. As far as I know, he is an engineer (specialized in material technology and product design) who got his climate training from no one less than Al Gore, so I was a bit puzzled what his expertise was concerning this specific paper.

He first explained the outcome of the paper (translated from Dutch):

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