A new paper shows why the climate policy debate is broken

Summary: An important new peer-reviewed paper about climate change reveals much about climate science, the public policy debate, and the role of science institutions in America. Here is a quick look at it and its lessons for us.

Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!

Your affectionate uncle,
Screwtape {From C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters}.

Postcards from the frontier of science

Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy

Posted yesterday in Bioscience (an Oxford Academic journal).

By Jeffrey A. Harvey, Daphne van den Berg, Jacintha Ellers, Remko Kampen, Thomas W. Crowther, Peter Roessingh, Bart Verheggen, Rascha J. M. Nuijten, Eric Post, Stephan Lewandowsky, Ian Stirling, Meena Balgopal, Steven C. Amstrup, and Michael E. Mann.

This is an important new paper by a team of blue-chip authors. It reveals much about modern science, and shows one reason the campaign for policy action to fight climate change has produced so little despite so much invested over the past three decades. It defies standard analysis, so I will take you on a page by page tour. Each page makes a new low! You can draw your own conclusions.

First section of the paper.

The opening repeats scientists’ consensus about global warming, as described in the IPCC’s reports (which I support). But it quickly goes off the rails.

“However, much of the public …believes scientists continue to debate AGW causes or even process …”

People believe that because it is true. The Working Group 1 report in the IPCC’s AR5 (2014) describes the confidence of its conclusions and forecasts. A large fraction of these conclusions are rated “likely” or less, which the IPCC defines as …

“In this Report the following terms have been used to indicate the assessed likelihood of an outcome or a result: Virtually Certain 99–100% probability, Extremely Likely: 95–100%, Very Likely 90–100%, Likely 66–100%, About As Likely As Not 33–66%, Unlikely 0–33% …”

To see the many fundamental issues debated by climate scientists, look at the “Climate Change Statement Review Workshop” Climate held by the American Physical Society (APS) in NYC on 8 January 2014. See this summary by Rupert Darwall and the full transcript.

“A blog is a website that contains regularly updated online personal ideas, comments, and/or hyperlinks provided by the writer (Nisbet and Kotcher 2013).”

With commendable precision, the authors define the term “blog” (although that citation does not appear in the references and Google does not show the quote). But the authors do not define the more important and vaguer terms “denier”, “science denier”, “climate change denier”, and “AGW-denier.” Worse, they use these different terms interchangeably. Peer review should have caught this.

“Indeed, credible estimates suggest that the entire Arctic may be ice-free during summer within several decades (Snape and Forster 2014, Stroeve and Notz 2015, Notz and Stroeve 2017), a process that, as has been suggested by both theoretical and empirical evidence, will drastically reduce polar-bear populations across their range …”

The authors fail to mention previous “credible estimates” that have proven to be false. To mention a few…

2002: “Arctic melting will open new sea passages“, in which Peter Wadhams of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge says “Within a decade we can expect regular summer trade there.” Not by 2012. Not by 2017.

2007: “Arctic summers ice-free ‘by 2013’.” “Professor Wieslaw Maslowski told an American Geophysical Union meeting that previous projections had underestimated the processes now driving ice loss. …So given that fact, you can argue that may be our projection of 2013 is already too conservative.” Nope.

2008: “NSIDC — Arctic melt passes the point of no return, “We hate to say we told you so, but we did.” But the polar ice minimum extents in 2008 and 2017 were almost identical.

“To characterize how blogs and related online sources frame the topic of AGW, we identified a total of 90 blogs covering climate-change topics that mentioned both polar bears and sea ice.”

This is climate science, so the paper neither identifies the 90 blogs nor the methodology used in this analysis. There is no Supplement with that additional information. Update: Bart Verheggen, one of the authors, posted a comment at his website -“There is a supplemental information accompanying the paper, which is not on the journal website yet; I don’t know why not. It should hopefully be published there soon, and/or on the lead institute’s website (NIOO).” Update: the supplemental has been posted; see below.

About Susan Crockford and her work.

The next section is the core of the paper, examining her writings about polar bears. The authors misrepresent her qualifications and her analysis. Any competent peer review would have forced revisions.

“Approximately 80% of the denier blogs cited here referred to one particular denier blog, Polar Bear Science, by Susan Crockford, as their primary source of discussion and debate on the status of polar bears. Notably, as of this writing, Crockford has neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on polar bears. …scientists such as Crockford who are described as “experts” on denier blogs in fact typically have little in the way of relevant expertise, and their expertise is often self-manufactured to serve alternative agendas.”

This is a serious misrepresentation of relevant facts. The authors fail to mention her Ph.D. in zoology (her dissertation mentions polar bear evolution) and her peer-reviewed publications (details here). She is even cited in a paper published in Bioscience. {That is a different Crockford.} As for relevance, there is a long tradition of scientists leveraging their basic training into other fields. Darwin’s education before joining HMS Beagle gave him little preparation to discover evolution. Stephen Jay Gould — the great paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science — did his empirical research studying snails.

“Crockford vigorously criticizes, without supporting evidence, the findings of several leading researchers who have studied polar bears in the field for decades.”

This is a deliberate lie. Nobody who has read her work can honestly say that. See this post, for example. Also see her major paper, described below. One can question her evidence and logic, but not that she provides much evidence.

“A primary approach of Crockford’s and other denier blogs is to frame uncertainty by focusing on the present and to question the accuracy of future predictions — implying that the rapid loss of Arctic ice recorded over the past 40 years induced by AGW cannot serve as a guide to future conditions.”

The authors give no citation for this claim. I have never seen Crockford say anything remotely like that.

More claims.

“Denier blogs that downplay the threats of AGW to Arctic ice and polar bears rely heavily on arguments that …it is therefore difficult or even impossible to predict what will happen in the future.”

That is part of a long paragraph of unclear meaning. But this claim attributed to “denier blogs” is quite correct. How did this error pass even a cursory peer review? As climate scientist Kevin E. Trenberth said (repeating what so many others have said during the past two decades)…

“In fact there are no predictions by IPCC at all. And there never have been. The IPCC instead proffers ‘what if’ projections of future climate that correspond to certain emissions scenarios. There are a number of assumptions that go into these emissions scenarios. They are intended to cover a range of possible self consistent ‘story lines’ that then provide decision makers with information about which paths might be more desirable. But they do not consider many things like the recovery of the ozone layer, for instance, or observed trends in forcing agents. There is no estimate, even probabilistically, as to the likelihood of any emissions scenario and no best guess.”

Given the difficulty of making predictions, the IPCC’s reports describe various scenarios of future events. AR5 uses four Representative Concentration Pathways, scenarios ranging from good to horrific.

There is another page of analysis and claims in this paper, but it is more of the same. The authors conduct a complex — and only sketchily described {update: see my note above} — classification and analysis of “denier” blogs. Given their gross misrepresentation of Crockford and her work, I see no reason to consider it seriously.

One last oddity: many of the attacks in the paper apply just as well to itself. Reverse the white and black hats in these two claims and they make just as much sense.

“For example, scientific blogs provide context and associated evidence, whereas denier blogs often remove context or misinterpret examples. …Rhetorical devices to evoke fear and other emotions, such as implying that the public is under threat from deceitful scientists, are common tactics employed by science-denier groups.”

Update: the supplemental is posted

Bioscience posted the supplementary information here. It shows the websites studied, and how they were classified. Even a brief look shows this is sloppy work.

It includes Science Daily, Science News, and Phys.org — which are not “blogs” by the definition used in the paper.

There is no definition of the classifications. There is no information supporting the classification of each “blog”. For example, Crockford’s website is coded as as “ice decline: no”, “ice stable: yes”, and “ice natural: yes”. She discusses polar bears, not future sea ice trends, causes of sea ice trends, or AGW. Past work by one of the authors, Lewandowsky, contained subjective and often erroneous coding of such things.

The supplement does not discuss the methodology used.

My Conclusions

This paper follows the forms of science without its substance. In this respect is resembles pseudoscience more than science.

This paper demonstrates the often discussed institutional failures in modern science. Papers whose claims are easily disproven. Sloppy peer review. Politicization. These are the elements creating the replication crisis, slowly spreading through the science (details here). That would have been a small problem in 1817, but is one we cannot afford in 2017.

Let’s hope that scientists begin institutional reforms as soon as possible. The rot seen in this paper, directed as it is at a major public policy issue, can have ugly repercussions.

Polar Bear on small ice flow

Decide for yourself. See her paper

Crockford documents her theory in “Testing the hypothesis that routine sea ice coverage of 3-5 mkm2 results in a greater than 30% decline in population size of polar bears (Ursus maritimus)”, posted at Peer J Preprints (not peer reviewed) — Abstract…

“The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) was the first species to be classified as threatened with extinction based on predictions of future conditions rather than current status. These predictions were made using expert-opinion forecasts of population declines linked to modeled habitat loss – first by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List in 2006, and then by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 2008 under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), based on data collected to 2005 and 2006, respectively.

Both assessments predicted significant population declines of polar bears would result by mid-century as a consequence of summer sea ice extent rapidly reaching 3-5 mkm2 on a regular basis: the IUCN predicted a >30% decline in total population, while the USFWS predicted the global population would decline by 67% (including total extirpation of ten subpopulations within two vulnerable ecoregions).

“Biologists involved in these conservation assessments had to make several critical assumptions about how polar bears might be affected by future habitat loss, since sea ice conditions predicted to occur by 2050 had not occurred prior to 2006. However, summer sea ice declines have been much faster than expected: low ice levels not expected until mid-century (about 3-5 mkm2) have occurred regularly since 2007. Realization of predicted sea ice levels allows the ‘rapid sea ice decline = population decline’ assumption for polar bears to be treated as a testable hypothesis.

“Data collected between 2007 and 2015 reveal that polar bear numbers have not declined as predicted and no subpopulation has been extirpated. Several subpopulations expected to be at high risk of decline remained stable and five showed increases in population size. Another at-risk subpopulation was not counted but showed marked improvement in reproductive parameters and body condition with less summer ice. As a consequence, the hypothesis that repeated summer sea ice levels of below 5 mkm2 will cause significant population declines in polar bears is rejected, a result that indicates the ESA and IUCN judgments to list polar bears as threatened based on future risks of habitat loss were scientifically unfounded and that similar predictions for Arctic seals and walrus may be likewise flawed.

“The lack of a demonstrable ‘rapid sea ice decline = population decline’ relationship for polar bears also potentially invalidates updated survival model outputs that predict catastrophic population declines should the Arctic become ice-free in summer.”

Her paper was ignored, using their role as “gatekeepers” to keep challenges out of the debate. Now they have taken a second step: rebuttal by smears and lies. Let’s respond to this unscientific behavior by scientists: circulate this paper and force them to rationally respond to it.

Update: see this interview of Dr. Crockford by Anthony Watts about this paper.

Susan Crockford

About the author

Susan Crockford is a zoologist with more than 35 years of experience, including published work on the Holocene history of Arctic animals. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia (a “non-remunerated professional zooarcheologist associate”) and co-owner of a private consulting company, Pacific Identifications Inc. See her publications here and her website Polar Bear Science.

She has written a book about her work: Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change (described below; review here), a book for young adults, Polar Bear Facts & Myths: A Science Summary for All Ages (review here), and a novel, Eaten — a polar bear attack thriller.

For More Information

(a)  Responses to this paper.

Crockford posted a reply here: “Polar bears refused to die as predicted and this is how the propheseers respond.” Thomas Fuller wrote “Climate Scientists Harassing Women (asexually, of course)” at Climate Skepticism.

(b)  Contrast this Bioscience paper with a solid and useful peer-reviewed paper: “Recurrence rates of large explosive volcanic eruptions” by N. I. Deligne et al. in Journal of Geophysical Research – Solid Earth, June 2010. Extreme value analysis can help us better see the recurrence rates of extreme natural phenomena. They look at volcanoes, but it can work as well for extreme weather.

(c)  If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see this about the keys to understanding climate change and these posts about polar bears…

  1. Mother Jones sounds the alarm about the warming North Pole — Exploiting the polar bear story for political gain.
  2. Twenty stories of good news about polar bears!
  3. Are 30 thousand species going extinct every year?
  4. Good news about polar bears, thriving as the arctic warms!
Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change
Available at Amazon.

I strongly recommend her book!

Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change.

This is a fascinating book about one of our fellow top predators in the age of global warming. It describes how we almost exterminated them, their slow recovery — and new role as poster animals in the debate about global warming. The author briefly and clearly describes how they survive in one of the harshest environments on Earth, and how each year the weather determines how many live or die. She brings the perspective of a zoologist to review the forecasts by specialists of these bears’ fate as the Earth warms.

It provides a brief on-the-ground look at the dynamics of one kind of climate change in a warming world. Crockford writes well. The photos of are excellent and the illustrations are clear. It needs better maps, discussing places not mentioned on them. Crockford says more in 50 pages than others in one hundred.

See my review of the book.


49 thoughts on “A new paper shows why the climate policy debate is broken”

  1. Pingback: Denier blogs ignore polar bear science: study – Michael Jackson

  2. Pingback: Nearly all climate-change denial blogs quote exactly the same dubious research – Michael Jackson

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  4. It is unfortunate that the paper described Susan Crockford’s blog as a “denier” blog as a way to discredit her work (and associate it with holocaust deniers and flat-earthers). She fully acknowledges that sea-ice levels have declined since the high ice levels of the 70’s. Although I haven’t read much of her work, I haven’t seen any evidence that she disagrees that there has been warming nor that humans have had some influence on climate.

    An advantage of her perspective is that she has studied the long-term climate of the Arctic as part of her work. Coincidentally, today I came across a description of two more papers on temperature reconstructions of the Holocene in the Arctic (here: http://notrickszone.com/2017/11/30/2-more-new-papers-affirm-there-is-more-arctic-ice-coverage-today-than-during-the-1400s/ ). It should come as no surprise that polar bears can survive and even thrive in warmer Arctic climates.

    Thank you for challenging this paper that attacks her work. It saddens me that the politicization of this topic makes it impossible to make real progress in discussing realistic futures for the Arctic. All of us should be glad that polar bears and the Arctic ecosystem show such resiliency.

  5. Dr. Crockford must be very good at her profession to have so many lies about her work told so many times by so many people. Thank goodness there are folks like her that still do the research first to collect whole data and then make logical decisions about what the data means rather than starting with the politically( and usually financially) convenient answers followed by torturing dubious data to make it conform to some curious dogma. Telling it straight in the politically motivated climate arena requires a tough skin. I appreciate her persistence to preserve good science.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      “Dr. Crockford must be very good at her profession to have so many lies about her work told so many times by so many people.”

      Science is a social process done by people, not gods. So it has all the usual petty and unfair tactics that people bring to every event. This paper is propaganda, not science — not an uncommon thing to see in major science journals.

      “Telling it straight in the politically motivated climate arena requires a tough skin. ”

      Sad but true. As a supporter of the IPCC and major climate agencies, I’m in the middle of this firefight — often attacked by both sides. Not fun.

  6. Pingback: An ugly new paper shows why the climate policy debate is broken | Newsfeed - Hasslefree allsorts

  7. Those trying to force the global warming threat upon us use any trick to support their absurd arguments. Trillions have been spent on renewable energy programs that don’t provide the required energy needs and thus lives are lost. England claims thousands of elderly died the winter of 2016-17 because they could not afford heat.

    1. Larry, the excess winter deaths in England and Wales for 2016-2017 are estimated by ONS to be 34,300
      figure 1 here:
      Obviously, proving that this is definitively due to fuel poverty is probably not possible, but I think the idea that the poor elderly are at increased risk of death in winter should not be dismissed out of hand.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        I think most people know that. But the graph shows the effect of winter. How much of that is from income inequality, changes in wages, changes in social security and welfare programs, changes in the cost of electricity from business factors, and scores of other factors?

        Stating that more people die in winter than summer provides zip evidence supporting James statement that “Trillions have been spent on renewable energy programs that don’t provide the required energy needs and thus lives are lost.”

      2. Crispin in Waterloo

        Larry and Michael

        See Gasparrini (two r”s) 2015 for a look at the effects of hot vs cold, and chronic modest cold which kills far more than the extremes together.

        The excess death stat for the UK is dwarfed by the figure for China where chronic underheating is common.

        The UK number is quite legitimately ascribed to temperature in spite of it not being disaggregated for other contributing causes. Part of the Global Burden of Disease exercise considers such things .it is not a medical diagnosis, it is a population statistic used for informing public health policy. Extreme cold kills rapidly. Chronic cold kills broadly.

  8. Can someone please explain why they chose Dr. Crockford for strawman?
    There must be plenty of much weaker “denier” bloggers they could make a reasonable case against. I counted 14 authors and they couldn’t find anything worse among the 45 “science denier” blogs they surveyed?
    Did they need the polar bears meme to get into Bioscience ?

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      That’s a good question, but one only the authors can answer. I doubt they were looking for the “worst” skeptic. In geopolitical strategy Martin van Creveld describes the power of weakness — piling on a much weaker foe looks like bullying — or wasting time.

      Guessing — they picked someone respected as an authority in skeptical circles, whose work addressed a weak aspect of the alarmist narrative. As the paper said, polar bears’ “status has received considerable attention, given their cultural significance and charismatic nature.”

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        Thanks for the additional color on this. This is increasingly how the Left plays politics: dirty, using any means — from litigation and sheep-like students chanting to violence – to suppress its foes.

    2. manicbeancounter

      I would suggest the answer why they singled Dr Crockford lies in the inclusion of Prof. Michael Mann in the authors and the brief mention of the comment.
      “Another strategy is to selectively attack prominent lines of research providing compelling evidence of AGW. Mann and colleagues’ (1998) “hockey-stick” graph (see also Mann 2012), in which temperature reconstructions have been made over the past millennium, is a prime example of the latter.”
      The authors fail to point out that other reconstructions (including Mann and colleagues 2008) have failed to replicate the elimination of the Medieval Warm Period, nor the flaws in the study.
      Included in the authors list is Stephan Lewandowsky, a Professor of Cognitive Psychology who has been behind a number of other hit pieces against skeptics. The message is that if academics endorse the mantras of climate alarmism they will get citations in peer-reviewed journals, whereas if they challenge the existing mantras they will get smeared.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor

        Manic Bean Counter,

        I don’t know if that is true or not. But I prefer to avoid personalities in analysis of papers. It’s just guesswork and at the end of the day means nothing.

        Let’s focus on the science.

  9. I’ve worked in the Arctic in areas where we had to keep polar bear scouts to avoid messing with them, and/or where we carried rifles just in case we did run into a hungry bear. Based on what I see and have studied, the ice cover on polar bears should be focused on the extent and nature of sea ice fairly close to the coast (say within 50-100 km?

    I also tend to think there has to be a fine grained look at the data, because a solid pressure ice field with very continued ridges doesn’t seem to be a good environment for seals. The seals I’ve seen seem to like broken ice, or ice where they can pop through a hole.

    Therefore the question is whether the particular type of ice polar bears like because they find it easy to catch seals is more or less prevalent. I suspect it’s also more useful to develop some sort of index to guesstimate polar bear weight from photographs to figure out if they are eating enough, and of course counting the number of bears over control areas should be very useful.

    The paper we are discussing seems to be pure garbage, a hatchet attack which really doesn’t have any sound figures or logic behind it.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      Thank you for sharing your first-person experience!

      The key to remember in this, as in so many kinds of science, is the research is conducted as best they can with little funding. That’s why population estimates for polar bears are at best rough estimates.

  10. Thanks for the feedback.
    I did a quick google and found most references to the article in warmist blogs with no traction in mainstream media (not counting the Guardian).
    If your guess is correct it may be for internal use, adressing a weak aspect of their narrative they overplayed and now requiring damage control in their own ranks. The notion an animal that has survived icefree conditions and iceages should be in danger frome AGW is both silly and since it’s also irrelevant for the magnitude of any AGW, why keep on defending a poor choice for postergirl?

    I thought the lawsuit was a joke I could enjoy unfold but your link made me realise it’s a serious matter for Clark. I can’t understand Stanford allows this.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      “with no traction in mainstream media (not counting the Guardian).”

      Not remotely correct.

      Bob Weber wrote the first news story about this — for The Canadian Press, Canada’s leading news wire service (Wikipedia). His article already has been run by the National Post, The Globe and Mail, CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), the Winnipeg Free Press, the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Vancouver Sun, CHEK-TV, and The Star. Probably others, too.

      Major and minor papers are reporting about this story, with not a critical word. These are the stories I found from a quick search on the first day.

      The Science News websites are running it prominently, which guarantees more coverage in the next week, such as ScienceDaily Inside Science, and Phys.Org. These are “feeder” sites to the news media.

  11. I don’t know why they are moaning about global warming. In my opinion the world is a better place when its two or three degree warmer than today, especially in the northern colder regions! Every time it was colder I.E. in Sweden there was a big migration to America, because of poor food supply!

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      This has been analyzed to an extent almost never before in history. Three degrees more warming would have catastrophic effects on the world, especially on the tropics – and cause polar melting that would devastate coasts.

      If that has not been made clear to you yet, than there is not more to be said.

    2. Hi Larry, I don’t think so. The tropics will get more precipitation than they get today, because a higher temperature will transport more water from the sea to the interior. In other words, warming will be higher in the polar regions than in the tropics. In Roman times, the Sahara was farmland and no desert!

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        “I don’t think so.”

        What is the relevance of your comment to this paper?

    3. @Larry: That’s the that is the first and most important question: what does global warming mean for us and our environment?

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        First, that’s not how science works. Climate scientists work on many other questions. Many are more important over the long term than generating forecasts about effects on “us and our environment.” For example, research into esoteric questions about the deep processes of weather and climate — which often have no immediate practical application, but eventually produce revolutionary results.

        Second, you misunderstand the subject of this paper. It discusses an issue of no importance to climate science but great importance to the climate policy debate: how the public is informed. It is process question: bad processes increase the odds of bad policy outcomes.

  12. Pingback: 14 Climate Bullies Attack Susan Crockford For Telling The Truth About Polar Bears | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

  13. This is a serious misrepresentation of relevant facts. The authors fail to mention her Ph.D. in zoology (her dissertation mentions polar bear evolution) and her peer-reviewed publications (details here). She is even cited in a paper published in Bioscience. {That is a different Crockford.}

    Oh man that ‘peer-reviewed’ section on Crockford’s personal blog is hilarious. Besides not having published in a PR journal in over 5 years, none of her PR publications have been on polar bears. None. So basically when the authors claim ‘Crockford has neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on polar bears’, they are characterizing her work 100% accurately.

    The really funny part is the work directly related to polar bears that she includes in her ‘peer-reviewed’ section. It’s literally a couple of letters to the editor of some scientific journals (my dog knows letters are not peer-reviewed), a self-published ebook (which she bought an ISBN for, funnily enough), and a dubious claim that her unpublished dissertation ‘discusses’ polar bears. Friggin’ amateur hour. There is no misrepresentation from the authors of the paper. The only misrepresentation comes from Crockford (regarding her own work) and you (regarding the article).

    As for relevance, there is a long tradition of scientists leveraging their basic training into other fields. Darwin’s education before joining HMS Beagle gave him little preparation to discover evolution. Stephen Jay Gould — the great paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science — did his empirical research studying snails.

    Gould was controversial in many ways, even radical. Many prominent scientists hated his scientific ideas and despised his outspoken political opinions yet he was able to publish prolifically and conduct important research despite that opposition. Gould was the opposite of Crockford: a brilliant scientist often at odds with the scientific consensus instead of a charlatan promoted by entrenched special interests for their own motives.

    The Darwin comparison is even sillier. If you took your point seriously, you would have to conclude that any crank opposed to the current scientific consensus is about to be vindicated. That’s the thing with bucking the scientific consensus: there’s usually very good reasons why most scientists accept it. Being contrarian and correct is far harder than just being contrarian.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      Many scientists researching polar bears have PhD’s in zoology, and I’m sure they consider their degree highly relevant. Describing her background without mentioning the PhD in zoology is a material omission. You muttering about other stuff is irrelevant.

      Your comments about Gould are nonsense. He published work outside what your standards would consider his area of expertise. They were controversial but considered good science (much good science is controversial) — and had a strong effect.

      Your comments about Darwin are too dumb for response.

    2. What a surprise, you can’t point to a single peer-reviewed article or piece of original research on polar bears authored by Crockford because none exist (as the article accurately states). The Zoology PhD is a non sequitur you keep harping on because your other misrepresentations are so transparent. There are creationists with PhDs in biology and anti-vaxxers with equally advanced credentials. Are they all on the brink of a Kuhnian paradigm shift in your opinion?

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        (1) “because your other misrepresentations are so transparent.”

        Please be specific. What “other misrepresentations”?

        (2) “you keep harping on”

        False. You guys — not me — are “harping on” this one sentence in the 276 sentences in this post. I assume that’s because you lack meaningful reply to the more serious points I raise.

        (3) If you think a PhD is irrelevant, share your theory with some polar bear scientists.

    3. “He published work outside what your standards would consider his area of expertise”

      Operative word is published. He was published despite being controversial. He was respected though he often had fierce disagreements with others in the scientific community. He’s about as clear a counter-example to your view that ‘scientists’ like Crockford are shunned only for being contrarian and not for being piss-poor scientists.

    4. What “other misrepresentations”?

      The ones discussed at length above. Again, self-published ebooks and letters to the editor are not peer-reviewed. Pretending they are is misrepresentation. Saying ‘Crockford has neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on polar bears’ is not a misrepresentation. Hope that clears things up.

      this one sentence in the 276 sentences in this post

      It’s natural to try to change the subject after being caught in a lie.

      If you think a PhD is irrelevant, share your theory with some polar bear scientists.

      No one said it was irrelevant. It’s a non sequitur because no one has ever claimed she didn’t have a PhD or even insinuated it. Examining someone’s published scientific work critically, especially when they lie about it on their personal blog, is a key part of assessing someones credibility. That your view doesn’t change even after realizing Crockford lied about her publications shows that you are blinkered and will simply ignore any evidence that doesn’t conform to your biases.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        “Hope that clears things up.”

        Yes. It shows that you are liar. I never said those things.

        “It’s natural to try to change the subject after being caught in a lie.”

        It was a direct rebuttal to your statement.

        “It’s a non sequitur because no one has ever claimed she didn’t have a PhD or even insinuated it. ”

        You are making stuff up. That’s irrelevant to what I said. I said that it was relevant, and not mentioning it was a material omission.


  14. manicbeancounter

    In the first part of the article, you correctly point out that the claims of AGW explaining most of the warming contradict the statements of the IPCC. It is interesting to look at what support the authors do offer. The full quote

    The vast majority of scientists agree that most of the warming since the Industrial Revolution is explained by rising atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations (Doran and Zimmerman 2009, Cook et al. 2013, Stenhouse et al. 2014, Carlton et al 2015, Verheggen et al. 2015),

    They are opinion surveys.

    Doran and Zimmerman 2009 asked two questions

    1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

    2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

    Significant” is not synonymous with “most“.

    Cook et. al 2013 looked at the endorsement of AGW theory, not the estimates of how much warming was due to AGW.

    So instead of IPCC evidence, the authors chose to misinterpret dodgy consensus opinion polls. Any proper peer reviewer (someone with knowledge of the literature) should have picked up on the misinterpretation of sources. As Stephan Lewandowsky was the doctoral supervisor of John Cook and Cook et. al 2013 was included in Cook’s doctoral dissertation, there is no excuse for misinterpretation.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Manic Bean Counter,

      “that the claims of AGW explaining most of the warming contradict the statements of the IPCC.”

      I say nothing like that. I say the IPCC’s work shows that scientists continue to debate “to debate AGW causes or even process” of AGW. Just as they debate causes and processes of gravity. But the core theory of both is well understood and well-supported.

      The authors shows that the vast majority of climate scientists agree with the basic statement of AGW. Surveys are an appropriate way to do so (they are not “dodgy consensus opinion polls”). The IPCC marshals the evidence from the climate science literature, another way to do so. Both agree.

      I don’t see your point.

  15. Larry Kummer, Editor

    From a new post by Dr. Crockford at Polar Bear Science.


    As I said when this paper first came out, this response is all about my reasoned and fully referenced criticisms of Steve Amstrup’s work in particular (although I have taken issue with some of Stirling’s recent work as well).

    The evidence that Steve Amstrup is willing to lie in order to publicly degrade me and my work in retribution for not taking everything he says as the gospel truth comes from an article at Motherboard yesterday. In it, Amstrup was quoted as saying:

     “You don’t have to read far in her material to see that it is full of unsubstantiated statements and personal attacks on scientists, using names like eco-terrorists, fraudsters, green terrorists and scammers,” Amstrup said.

    I wrote Motherboard and asked for clarification that this was indeed what Amstrup said because I know it to be a lie. Check for yourself using the search function on my blog, it’s easy to do. I have never used any of those terms to refer to anyone, let alone a fellow scientist.

    Late in the day, I got this response from the writer of the piece:

    “Thank you for your note. A clarification has been added to the article. (my emphasis)

    “You don’t have to read far in her material to see that it is full of unsubstantiated statements and personal attacks on scientists, using names like eco-terrorists, fraudsters, green terrorists and scammers,” Amstrup said. In a follow-up email on Friday, Amstrup clarified that these statements to Motherboard were meant to reflect the climate denier community as a whole, rather than Crockford in particular.

    Except Amstrup specificially referred to my work. I insisted further clarification was necessary but rather than noting that I had, in fact, never used those terms on my blog, the author added this statement:

    “In an email to Motherboard, Crockford denied using those terms on her blog.”

    So, the author of the Motherboard piece was willing to take Amstrup’s word for an egregious accusation and when Amstrup was caught in a lie, was unwilling to make that clear.

  16. Bronner and Russell are example of what is wrong with the Harvey et al paper and its defenses. They are basically arguing about credentials instead of about the science. It’s a typical tactic in politics or legal maneuvering. Scientific journals should not publish such nonsense.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      I have a different perspective. Looking at credentials is legitimate, although daft to consider that definitive (that’s a guild mentality, that only the anointed can see the esoteric secrets).

      My objection is different — and obviously salient, as seen by the frenzied attempts to ignore it. When stating credentials, one must present the relevant ones. Saying a PhD is not relevant shows the extent to which the authors — and their fans — will violate norms to discredit their foes.

      Also interesting is that they focus on this tiny detail, not mentioning the much more serious errors in the paper. This is the only point I make to which they have a reply (however weak). Their other tactic, a classic for climate activists, is to make up stuff and give rebuttals to it. Nine years ago (almost exactly) I listed the 8 common tactics of climate alarmists to avoid the science. They haven’t changed a whit.

  17. Basically? Crockford upset Amstrup and Stirling and got media attention. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/02/25/ten-dire-polar-bear-predictions-that-have-failed-as-global-population-hits-20-31k/

    Rather than rebut her work on polar bears, they go after the person.. Using 14 aurhors to bring scientific authority.. because if 14 people say so that out waysthe one.. ie ‘consensus’ (Einstein had a response to that sort of behaviour)

    What did all these authors actually contribute to this paper, besides moral support?

  18. Note in the WUWT sceptic blog article, I linked, Crockford cites many relevant sources..

    Yet the paper claims, the sceptic blogs refer to only one source (Crockford). it would be interesting to see if this article was referred to in the SI

    WUWT/Crockford cite


    2015 Red list (extinctions)

    Failed predictions, 1)
    reference this (includes Stirling)

    links to studies
    Crockford anlysis

    a selection of mainstream sources cited by Crockford in that single WUWT article.

  19. (bit long, sorry in advance)

    The not mention your target’s academic credentials method has been used before in this paper..
    (by Lewandowsky, Cook)


    The intent to persuade that sceptics make contradictory statement, and compare it to a psychology paper that this is what conspiracy theorists do.. the lead quotes and title of the paper are not subtle in doing this

    The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ mechanics of the rejection of (climate) science: simulating coherence by conspiracism
    Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, Elisabeth Lloyd


    “CO2 keeps our planet warm ….”
          — Ian Plimer, Australian climate “skeptic”, Heaven & Earth, p. 411

    “Temperature and CO2are not connected.”
          — Ian Plimer, Australian climate “skeptic”, Heaven & Earth, p. 278

    “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
          — The White Queen, in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

    “Skeptic”, Ian Plimer is Professor Ian Plimer a highly cited geologist (and well know sceptic Australian opponent of Cook/Lewandowsky) and a former Eureka prize winner.

    I wonder if the peer reviewers of this paper knew about his academic credentials, they would have obtained a copy of the book to check the quotes in context?

    The first he is describing the greenhouse effect and ghg gases,and remember water vapour is the dominant greenhouse gas. The second quote, he refers to a period more recently (last million years, when CO2 is <0.04% of the atmosphere…and that changes in the warmth of the atmosphere wer not connected with CO2 in an earlier period geological period when CO2 had a low ppm, but temps were higher

    The whole paper is a rehash of a 6 year old Skeptical Science blog post by John Cook.

    BUT earlier Cook uses a longer quote..

    "Together with water vapour, CO2 keeps our planet warm so that covered in ice, too hot or devoid of liquid water" Heaven & Earth, 2009 Page 411

    So Lewandowsky, Cook knowingly shortened the quote, lest anyone think that 'skeptic' (actually Professor) Plimer might think something slightly different to Lewandowsky's Cook assertions and actually check the references. Even some of the commenters at Cook's website checked the references and didn't think they were contradictory.

    this in my opinion, is deliberately dishonest – they had previously used the longer quote.

    They then tie this with the – Dead and Alice" Wood et al Psychology paper, that main claim that individual conspiracy theorists can believe mutually contradictory conspiracy theories at the same time, That Princes Diana was murdered, and she faked her won death – at the same time.. thus Pllmer (and Watts) and sceptics in general are as mad as these guys)


    Problem there, is not a single person in the Dead and Alive paper, actually believed this n=0, none of the 137, 2nd year, 20 year old, mainly female psychology students 'surveyed' believed that. Data is available on request.

    The paper further lists a number of other quotes /contradictions to Plimer and other sceptics (Watts) which on close inspect are not.. They then describe over two hundred other "sceptic contradictions".

    the reference to this just John Cooks website. The quotes are, not actual quotes, very short pharse, no context, no references to a sceptic source, just paraphrases any contributor to the website , could add to the table. Over a hundred written by James Wight, a then teenage home schooled boy, who on his own blog says he is at war with sceptics/deniers (he is also a super admin at Cook's website) .

    An example
    CO2 is just a trace gas – CO2 is plant food – John Cook

    (both are "true", Cook desn't explain the contradiction, or any source to which sceptic said it, in what context )

    four more:
    – It's the sun – Other planets are warming – jyushchyshyn

    – It's the sun – Iapetus is warming – jyushchyshyn

    – It's the sun – Mars is warming -jyushchyshyn

    – It's the sun – Jupiter is warming – jyushchyshyn

    (goodness knows how that is contradictory, they support the argument, Cook allows this, and no explanation)

    – Extreme weather isn't caused by global warming – It snowed somewhere – James Wight

    – no quotes, no references, just assertions by activists.

    and this passed 'peer review'

    they are laughable contradictions..
    so laughable I added four of my own to the SKS contradictions table, and reference to this paper and nobody even noticed! (I just picked 2 items from a drop down list and added a comment)

    one of them

    – China pollutes more – Chinese station data is missing – Barry Woods
    Comment: sounds contradictory, but on close inspection talking about 2 entirely different subjects, not able to link to references of any "sceptics" saying his? this would help.

    so joke references, I doubt if any peer reviewers even looked.

    Is there is a pattern of behaviour here perhaps "activism abusing science as a weapon" ? –
    Prof Henry Markram (referring to Lewandowsky/Cook's actions with the retracted Recursive Fury paper.)

    Write a paper, attack a sceptical opponent, or a sceptic theme, no matter the quality of the paper, get it in a journal and get the headlines?

    Alice in Wonderland – paper conclusion

    There is considerable evidence that the rejection of (climate) science involves a component of conspiracist discourse. In this article, we provided preliminary evidence that the pseudo-scientific arguments that underpin climate science denial are mutually incoherent, which is a known attribute of conspiracist ideation. The lack of mechanisms to self-correct the scientific incoherencies manifest in denialist discourse further evidences that this is not the level at which rational activity is focused, and we must move to a higher level, looking at the role of conspiracist ideation in the political realm. At that political level, climate denial achieves coherence in its uniform and unifying opposition to GHG emission cuts. The coherent political stance of denial may not be undercut by its scientific incoherence. Climate science denial is therefore perhaps best understood as a rational activity that replaces a coherent body of science with an incoherent and conspiracist body of pseudo-science for political reasons and with considerable political coherence and effectiveness.

  20. Pingback: Energy & Environmental Newsletter: December 18, 2017 - Master Resource

  21. Crispin in Waterloo

    “A primary approach of Crockford’s and other denier blogs is to frame uncertainty by focusing on the present and to question the accuracy of future predictions — implying that the rapid loss of Arctic ice recorded over the past 40 years induced by AGW cannot serve as a guide to future conditions.”

    And the comment:

    “The authors give no citation for this claim. I have never seen Crockford say anything remotely like that.”

    This technique of projecting an argument onto skeptics who they disagree with, or fear, has a consistent pattern. It consists of making a plausible claim about “deniers in general” as to a type of argument, centred on the notion of uncertainty. They hope no one will investigate.

    Uncertainty is a technical term with a standard definition when applied to statistics. When numbers are uncertain, and properly stated, they speak for themselves and have no need of skeptics to point them out. The authors should be doing that as a matter of course. 2015 being 0.001 ±1.2 C warmer than 2014 with a confidence of 38% is a very uncertain number. Yet that didn’t prevent Gavin at NASA proclaiming it the warmest year evah, even though it is pseudoscience to make such a claim. Gavin, if it was an airplane, would you fly in it? I didn’t think so.

    I frequently see this fake “uncertainty” argument written by the usual suspects when denigrating skeptical views. It holds that the core argument of a skeptical view is that the state of knowledge is not certain enough to make definitive statements about a future climate state. There are occasions when such an argument is worth making, such as a future state in 2100 which gives some temperature like 16 ±15 C. However most of the time this assertion about what skeptic arguments contain is completely wrong. A claim that polar bears are declining in number is contradicted by surveys showing it is increasing, and increasing while ice coverage declines. That is not relying on “uncertainty”, it is relying on animal counts and statistics. The claim for a total decline is incorrect.

    The “rapid ice loss of the past 40 years” is not a scientific statement. That is not how real scientists speak or write. Define “rapid”. Define “loss”. Why only the past 40 years? Why has the decline stopped for the past 12 years of these mythical 40 years of rapid decline? Where is the evidence that this supposed rapid decline has an anthropogenic cause? It has been declining for about 13,000 years.

    The critics of Dr Crockford engage in playground emotive point scoring while casually lying, and they know they are lying. They are obviously worried that their promised catastrophe has not materialized, and is not going to materialize. They will soon enough look like Trump-baiters standing in a room full of deflated comrades and sagging balloons hearing the Muller report for the first time, realising as it sinks in there is going to be no victory party, again.

    The longer they continue to misrepresent polar bear science and attack every messenger who contradicts them, the longer they look like fat seals waiting for the inevitable fatal bite from a mouthful of facts.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      I agree, and would state this even more strongly. The core of the replication crisis (although not the only driver) is misuse of statistics. This is rampant in climate science. Note the few statisticians as co-authors or working on reports by the IPCC and major climate agencies. That is especially unfortunately since stat analysis is the core to much of their analysis – which is often done by novel stat methods. This is a major theme of the analysis by Steve McIntyre posted at Climate Audit.

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