Bad Argument XLVI: Wikipedia follows in the footsteps of the Discovery Institute

By Adam Cuerden

Global warming is one of those topics where the scientific consensus is being actively undermined by people with an agenda. However, despite the oil industry being known to fund the vast majority of the people claiming it’s not real, somehow, people claim the climate scientists are the ones attempting to mislead the public for their own gain. Better yet, the organisations and many of the people doing the obfuscation are the same ones that worked for the tobacco companies during the attempts to suppress the fact that smoking causes cancer. If you want to read more about this, I can highly recommend Erik M. Conway and Naomi Oreskes’s The Merchants of Doubt.

Wikipedia can usually be trusted to come down on the right side of science versus pseudoscience, at least if you ignore tiny articles that the sensible editors haven’t noticed yet. Which makes the existence of an article consisting of little more than quotes from global warming deniers, with no real attempt to even discuss, let alone mention that the arguments are long refuted, all the more shocking. And it’s survived five rounds of attempting to have it deleted without any significant changes.

So, let’s discuss Wikipedia’s “List of scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming“. This is basically the global warming denialist version of the Discovery Institute’s A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism – a lot of idiots speaking far out of their field of expertise, and making shit up.

It starts with a very brief and rather anaemic presentation of the conclusions of the IPCC report, leaving out the data, arguments, and reasons for such conclusions. This lack of arguments and reasons will not be maintained when it comes to the denialist side, however: The rest of the article follows the simple format of listing the academic qualifications and any titles that might sound good to the reader for every single denialist they could find, followed by a quote by them… taken largely from propaganda pieces. For example:

Ivar Giaever, Nobel Laureate in physics and professor emeritus at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said in a 2011 email explaining his failure to renew his membership of the American Physical Society: “In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible? The claim (how can you measure the average temperature of the whole earth for a whole year?) is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me is that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this ‘warming’ period.” He calls global warming the “new religion,” and, along with more than 100 scientists, wrote in a letter to President Obama, “We maintain that the case for alarm regarding climate change is grossly overstated.” Giaever also refers to climate science as “pseudoscience”.


Petr Chylek, Space and Remote Sensing Sciences researcher, Los Alamos National Laboratory said in a 2002 magazine article: “Carbon dioxide should not be considered as a dominant force behind the current warming…how much of the [temperature] increase can be ascribed to CO2, to changes in solar activity, or to the natural variability of climate is uncertain”[54]

Do they discuss these arguments, present the rebuttals and the reaction by other scientists? No, and, further, these are propaganda pieces by and large, and the quotes seem selected to be the ones best suited for propoganda use. On the other side, the best they do is to present a few graphs with vaguely pro-AGW tone, then use original research (explicitly forbidden by Wikipedia) to present a third graph that claims that global warming does correlate with sunspots – however, this interpretation is unsourced; and the graph has the ominous file name “File:NOAAsourcebutnotofficialsunclimate 3b.gif” and does not actually link to the article NOAA used it in.

This sidebox – the only thing actually presenting any sort of data in favour of AGW existing – concludes:

Both consensus and non-consensus scientific views involve multiple climate change influences including solar variability and internal forcings, plus human influences such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use change. However, they differ on issues such as how sensitive they think the climate system is to increases in greenhouse gases.

What’s the source for that summing up? Roy Spencer, global warming denialist, and intelligent design advocate.

In short, this article is one of the worst denialist takeovers of Wikipedia, and, yet, has managed to survive several attempts to have it removed as unencyclopaedic, often by making promises that some of the issues will be fixed, such as the quotes being removed… which are promptly ignored as soon as the process ends. (You may note the first section contains fewer quotes than later sections. That was as far as the last attempt to fix this article was allowed to go, and it never progressed further.) The talk page archives show a hostile group of regulars who drive off any editors who see a problem with it as they arrive, preventing sufficient numbers from ever forming to fix any of the issues.

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