A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Grin! William Briggs killer application for New York Times Climate Editor role

William M. Briggs would be the smartest, funniest and best informed Climate Editor the New York Times ever had. He’d put the Times back on the map as the frontline of debate. As such, there is no way he will get this job (and this is a real application). He’s the perfect candidate — the Statistician to the Stars has published actual papers on climate models, uncertainty, and yet also writes with wit and humor.

Guys like William are the reason the new media is killing the old.

A few snippets here, the whole letter at Brigg’s Blog

New York Times Is Looking For A Climate Change Editor. That’s Me!

It is the Times’s tremendous luck that I’m at liberty, ready, and willing to take on this monumental task. Together we can screw people’s heads back on straight and get them to worry about something really important. Like the rise of politics dictating science and the corrupting influence of money.

I am an actual bona fide scientist. I have published actual articles in the Journal of Climate, among many others. My specialty is in the value and goodness of models, and the expense and badness [...]

Abusing statistics in the name of global warming

UPDATED: Lovejoy has responded (in PDF and in comments. See below.)

I could tell from the headline below this was going to be a candidate for the Top-Ten most vacuous papers. It lived up to expectations, and then some.

“Odds that global warming is due to natural factors: Slim to none”

Is there anyone with the lights on at McGill University or “Climate Dynamics“? Surely ScienceDaily ought to have laughed at the press release and sent it back?

Seriously, people wield the magic wand of “statistical significance” without realizing that a/it isn’t magic, and b/ tiny p values can still mean nothing. (Depends on the hypothesis and assumptions underneath, hmm?). LoveJoy looked at 4500 years of a very squiggly line (the last 5% of this graph) and pronounced his magic tool could tell whether the last wiggle was …. ahem, unnatural. If that looks like tea-leaf reading to you, join the club.

Modern climate science can predict virtually none of the spikes and wiggles on this graph. Note the graph doesn’t include the last 100 years which adds about 1C to the rise.

Don’t look now, but it’s another Nail In the Deniers Coffin.


Odds [...]

Cook’s 97% consensus is a case study of Agnotology – ignorance and misinformation

Agnotology is the study of how ignorance grows through repetition of misleading misinformation. You might never have heard of it, but it’s the perfect term for the climate science “debate”. Predictably its use began when those convinced of man-man global warming claimed fossil fuel groups were funding misinformation. But as per usual, unskeptical scientists opened a promising new front only to got burned by the evidence.

In the latest volley, from Legates et al 2013, John Cook’s “97% consensus” survey has become the case study in agnotology. Based on incorrect results, a flawed method, and a logical fallacy,  it kept key facts hidden while sloppily blending vague language into a form that is easily and actively misinterpreted. That it passed peer-review is another damning indictment of peer review.

Cook still refuses to provide about half the data, but the data that has been made public shows (after some digging) that a mere 41 papers out of 12,000 was called a 97% consensus. The trick is that Cook et al interchangeably use different definitions of consensus.

The Bait and Switch

The Bait: In the introduction Cook states that the reason for the paper is “to determine the level of scientific consensus that human [...]

Lewandowksy, Oberauer, Gignac – Is the paper bad enough to make history?

Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles Gignac, Klaus Oberauer

The scathing blog posts are popping up everywhere. From William Briggs we get a sense of the historical importance of the Lewandowsky et al effort. One day a terrific psychological study is going to be written on the madness and mass lunacy which arose after climate change swam into the public’s ken… The cornerstone of this future pathological report may well be the peer-reviewed Psychological Science paper “NASA faked the moon landing—Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” by Stephan Lewandowsky, Klaus Oberauer, and Gilles Gignac, perhaps the completest, most representative work of its odd era. “Everything that could have been done wrong, was done wrong. Every bias that could have been manifested, was manifested. Every fallacy pertinent to the matter at hand was made. The conclusions, regurgitated from unnecessarily complicated statistical procedures, did not follow from the evidence gathered, which itself was suspect. In its way, then, the paper is a jewel, a gift to the future, a fundamental text to how easy it is to fool oneself. “ Steve McIntyre goes through the statistical tests, finds questionable practices, questions he can’t answer, and general [...]