ERL rejects Richard Tol's comment on Cook et al 2013, but won't say who rejected it

Also, it appears the opinion of ONE board member is all it takes, so much for consensus.

Richard Toll provides this communication:

Rejection letter by ERL:

Article under review for Environmental Research Letters

Comment on: “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the literature” – Professor Dr Richard S J Tol

ID: ERL/477057/COM



The comment raises a number of issues with the recent study by Cook et al. It is written in a rather opinionated style, seen e.g. in the entire introductory section making political points, and in off-hand remarks like labelling Skeptical Science a “polemic blog” or in sweeping generalisations like the paper “may strengthen the belief that all is not well in climate research”.

It reads more like a blog post than a scientific comment.

The specification for ERL comments is:

“A Comment in Environmental Research Letters should make a real

contribution to the development of the subject, raising important issues about errors, controversial points or misleading results in work published in the journal recently.”

I do not think this manuscript satisfies those criteria. It is in a large part an opinion piece, in other parts it suggests better ways of analysing the published literature (e.g. using a larger database rather than just Web of Science). These are all valid points for the further discussion following the publication of a paper – colleagues will have different opinions on interpreting the results or on how this could have been done better, and it is perfectly valid to express these opinions and to go ahead and actually do the research better in order to advance the field.

I do not see that the submission has identified any clear errors in the Cook et al. paper that would call its conclusions into question – in fact he agrees that the consensus documented by Cook et al. exists. The author offers much speculation (e.g. about raters perhaps getting tired) which has no place in the scientific literature, he offers minor corrections – e.g. that the endorsement level should not be 98% but 97.6% if only explicit endorsements are counted. He spends much time on the issue of implicit endorsements, about which one can of course have different opinions, but the issue is clearly stated in the Cook et al. paper so this does not call for a published comment on the paper. He also offers an alternative interpretation of the trends – which is fine, it is always possible to interpret data differently.

All these things are valid issues for the usual discourse that exists in many informal avenues like conferences or blogs, but they do not constitute material for a formal comment.


You can read Dr. Tol’s submitted comment here and decide for yourself: As submitted to Environmental Research Letters; data

Meanwhile the email address of the editor, Daniel Kammen is here for those that wish to query him:

Kammen as editor-in-chief of ERL, has an interesting blog on the paper. From his bio there, he seems to be mostly a celebrity policy wonk, and I’m puzzled about the “1935” as he lists it here:


Daniel Kammen, Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy

Daniel Kammen

Daniel M. Kammen is the Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy at UC Berkeley, where he holds appointments in the Energy and Resources Group, the Goldman School of Public Policy, and the department of Nuclear Engineering. From 2010 to 2011 he worked for the World Bank, as its inaugural chief technical specialist for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Kammen is the founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), the co-director of the Berkeley Institute of the Environment, and director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center. He received his undergraduate (Cornell A., B. ’84) and graduate (Harvard M. A. ’86, Ph.D. ’88) training in physics. After postdoctoral work at Caltech and Harvard, Kammen was professor and chair of Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at Princeton University in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (1993-98). He moved to the UC Berkeley in 1998. Kammen is a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He hosted the Discovery Channel series ‘Ecopolis’ and has appeared on ‘NOV’ as well as ’60 Minutes.’


Of course, I suppose that we can’t expect much from an organization that has an admitted document thief on their editorial board.



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Frank Cook

>>I’m puzzled about the “1935″
My guess is that the Class of 1935 sponsored a position at the university – for example, “After forty years on the Berkeley faculty, Professor Sawyer, the Class of 1935 Professor of Energy Emeritus, accepted the appointment of Governor Schwarzenegger to head California’s air quality and climate change programs as chair of the California Air Resources Board.” from


I was hoping to see a link to a published warmist article that used the same kind of language that was rejected in this one.
REPLY: Go for it, I can’t do everything – Anthony

Also, it appears the opinion of ONE board member is all it takes, [ to do what?]
Maybe you mean all it takes is for one board member to reject a paper.
But maybe all it takes is one board member to accept a paper.
The evidence supports both hypothesis, although odds favor the former.

Perhaps it was Stefan Rahmstorf since he is a co-founder of Real Climate. I’m not familiar enough with his writing style to say though.


The comment raises a number of issues with the recent study by Cook et al. It is written in a rather opinionated style, seen e.g. in the entire introductory section making political points,
Given that the entire introduction to the Cook piece admitted to its function as a piece of political propaganda, that was entirely appropriate.
ERL only gets sqeamish about mixing politcis with science when the politics aren’t theirs. Anti-scientific bullshit.


Did anyone expect anything different? Even once-respectable science journals have caved, but ERL has always been a rag — and little more.

Steve Oak

If you agree that human generated CO2 causes GW/CC then you are in the 97(or 98)% majority so one person is, in effect, a majority. I am disappointed that you were not able to work that out yourself. /sarc
WUWT is a ray of hope in the wilderness. Keep it up please.

Peer review in action. Every bit the same utter failure it has made of climate science.


I searched briefly at ERL for language similar to Prof Tol’s in letters and comments and did not quickly find any exact matches. However, I did find one article (there may be many more, but I stopped searching to read the article) which uses relatively disparaging language about “climate skeptics”. The authors are Painter and Ashe, Environ. Res. Lett. 7 (2012) 044005 (8pp). A link to the pdf open access is
For example, they refer in the literature review section to:
“This changed in the 2000s, when McCright and Dunlap played an important role in deepening the concept of climate scepticism. Examining what they termed a ‘conservative countermovement’ to undermine climate change policy, they explored its organization within right-wing think tanks, looking first at its claims-making activities (McCright and Dunlap 2000), and then its organization and tactics. They highlighted the way such groups draw on scientific ‘experts’ linked to fossil fuel industries and concluded that ‘our nation’s failure to enact a significant climate policy is heavily influenced by the success of the conservative movement in challenging the legitimacy of global warming as a social problem’ (McCright and Dunlap 2003, p 367).”
Then, slightly later,
“Another key area of interest has continued examining the organizational links between climate scepticism and conservative think tanks/business communities (Oreskes and Conway 2010, Jaques et al 2008). Placing climate scepticism within the historical context of an anti-environmental, or even anti-scientific, turn in the politics of the American right (Buell 2003, Jacques 2006, Mooney 2006, Ashe 2011, Washington and Cook 2011, chapter 4) has helped explain its historical roots, but has also resulted in a tendency to view it as a discourse with conservative affinities, a hypothesis that has not been tested outside the US context.”
In general, it seems the notion of political context is not foreign to ERL.
Again, I did not continue searching but I suspect there is much more here.
As an aside, I do believe Prof. Tol’s paper could have struck a much drier, technical tone, but I suspect the result, i.e. rejection, would have been the same.

Gary Hladik

It appears that even a revised comment would not be acceptable to ERL. However, just being mentioned at WUWT may give it wider circulation than if ERL had published it.


To be fair to McCright and Dunlap, they apparently publish in sociological journals which seem more appropriate for the quotes taken from them. However, the translation of their results, and the attendant implied approval, into a journal for “climate science” seems to reinforce the notion that “climate science” as it seems to be practiced has become much more about social control and politics than physical science.

I’m not sure what Prof. Tol expected. The 97% has pretty much been debunked. Also, take a look at the interests of the editorial board. Only a couple of them seem like they are doing anything scientific. The rest seem to have drifted off in to social sciences.
Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory? What the heck is appropriate energy?
Why even bother with these folks?

Eli Rabett

FWIW, this reads as if the editor sent the submission to a third party who provided the last three paragraphs which read as advice to the editor. Eli understands these things.
Oh yeah the 1935 thing, what Frank Cook said.

I do not see that the submission has identified any clear errors in the Cook et al. paper that would call its conclusions into question – …..

There are three duplicate records among the 11,944 abstracts, and one case of self-plagiarism. This implies that there are four abstracts that are identical to another abstract. Of these four, two were rated differently. …..
The authors of the sampled papers were approached to rate their own work. This data could be used to validate the abstract ratings. Such a test is not reported in the original paper. Seven authors (including the current one) have publicly disagreed with the ratings of their papers.

Apparently, Kammen doesn’t believe the authors of the various papers know whether or not they’re endorsing AGW/ACC? Or maybe that’s not important. And, apparently, methodology holds no meaning in the validity of cli-sci papers. Well, we all knew that already. One almost feels sorry for Tol. He tried, anyway. But, sloppy work, fuzzy math, and data hiding have been the order of the day in cli-sci for years.

Pamela Gray

i happen to agree with the critique and reason for the rejection. The letter should have centered on the statistical shortcomings of the research, not its political nature. Color commentary has no place in a letter submitted to a research journal.


Actually, what is salient of this “editorial board” response is that they support junk science. Richard Tol’s comment centered entirely on missing data and Best Practices for conducting a survey of abstracts. The rejection addressed neither issue. If the “editorial board” was not so caught up in the politics they could have provided Prof. Tol with the data to complete his analysis. Obviously, the data does not exist anymore and if it did, would not shed any good light on the situation.
ERL comes up time and time again for lack of editorial diligence and should have no more attention than an idle gossip rag. As Richard’s reasonable points out:

Journal editors are entitled to cowardice.

The rejection did not come as a surprise. ERL has been heavily promoting the Cook paper. The editor-in-chief personally praised the paper in his blog and played a supporting role in the press release. (This is not something editors usually do.)
The rejection letter shows just how much the odds were stacked against me.
In the opening paragraph, I give five reasons why people may be less enthusiastic about climate policy and argue that the Cook paper does not take away any of these concerns. In fact, those who worry about the quality of climate research have more to worry about now.
The editor does not engage with the comment at all. Data quality, data unavailability, bias, unrepresentative sample, misinterpreted results are all swept under the carpet.
The editor highlights my concern about rater fatigue. Others have been bemused. This is a real issue in survey-based research. If a questionnaire is too long, people will “tire” of answering. They will answer as fast as they can. In a multiple choice survey, for instance, they may always pick option a.
In the Cook survey, raters performed on average 1922 tasks. One complained online about fatigue. I ran the standard statistical tests for fatigue (because Cook had not), and rejected the null of non-fatigue.
Admittedly, I did so on less than perfect data — but to dismiss this as speculation …


So now you see how the science was settled, but good.


Cheer up,Dr Tol. Being rejected by this lot is like having your comments deleted at SkS – a badge of honour!

“…suggests better ways of analysing the published literature…”
Here we see the writer wrote “analysing” with an “s” and not a “z”, thus showing it is likely someone from Europe. Hope that narrows it down a bit.


Looking at the board they all seem to be from academia, mostly alarmists, one a thief and liar, another from UN Realclimate.
Almost said it all but if course all funded by the taxpayer.

The important thing for ERL was that the author was contacted to write the piece, decisions were made, hopes were raised, and money had changed hands. How could anyone demand integrity from the likes of environmental anything under such circumstances? It’s like holding out hope for the wrong boxer.

Brian H

Typo: “Richard Toll provides …”
An excess of ells.

Stephen Richards

My god, these are RAEL suckers at the great teat of global warming. Fingers in every green pie and trough in existence.


Nothing new for those of us with experience in these matters. This is how peer-review often works, that is, with a reviewer getting out of his/her way to torpedo a paper. The proper response is to resubmit addressing the “issues” in the paper and/or directly in a communication. And, of course, by submitting elsewhere before ever considering giving up on the manuscript.
If some of you reading this comment ever find yourselves starting a career in academia, you will encounter a lynching mob at nearly every turn. Stand behind your work. Don’t give up. Distrust the criticism of every reviewer until clear proof of honesty is made evident.

Clovis Man

The ERL is clearly a warmist publication. They reject an article that do not reflect their views. No surprises there.
We need to bank this so that when they do start to back-pedal they can be held to account.


‘It reads more like a blog post than a scientific comment.’ its a fair comment to make , the cartoonists lapdog is after all little more than blogger that got grand ideas .

Gary Pearse

“It reads more like a blog post th’an a scientific comment.”
Pamela Gray says:
June 17, 2013 at 9:09 pm
“i happen to agree with the critique and reason for the rejection. The letter should have centered on the statistical shortcomings of the research, not its political nature. Color commentary has no place in a letter submitted to a research journal.”
Ditto, I felt the same way. It was a bit of a sneer rather than cold, hard scientific critique – not WUWT serious material. The shoddy work of Cook et al deserved criticism but better by someone sticking tight to the methodology and statistics.

Paul Coppin

The quoted comment in the lede is a good example of the subtlety of cognitive dissonance, something apparently endemic in warmists. In SoCal the phenomenon is simply known as “la-la-la-la!”.

“…ERL, has an interesting blog on the paper. …”
The impression I got from that blog entry was that the Editor was gushing over that paper like new father. It got the attention of the President, Gore, Waxman and all the important MSM outlets, was downloaded thousands of times, etc.
After reading that blog entry, the response back to Tol makes sense. Don’t touch my baby. I now have fame, importance and perhaps more funding.
Just how did Dana and John Cook get so big anyways?

Eli Rabett

The worked hard


but not right

I do not see that the submission has identified any clear errors in the Cook et al. paper that would call its conclusions into question – in fact he agrees that the consensus documented by Cook et al. exists.

I don’t want to say I told you so but I did,

“With the criticisms I made above remaining in the third draft, your comment will simply be dismissed as “Dr. Tol supports our position of a 90-99% consensus in the scientific literature.” Instead of a discussion on the statistical issues with Cook et al. (2013). I don’t understand the need to editorialize in this type of a technical comment as it distracts from the substance of the criticism.” – Poptech

Regardless, I see no reason with the political language cleaned up this should not be resubmitted and if necessary published elsewhere as the statistical criticism is too strong to be ignored.
I have no doubt the editors of this journal are severely biased and Dr. Tol may have to resort to publishing his criticism elsewhere.

Brandon Shollenberger

I’m a bit late to this particular development, but I have to say rejecting Richard Tol’s submission was the only sensible decision. Many of Tol’s criticisms of Cook et al’s paper have been wrong to the point of being nonsense. His position has even had him contradicting himself. I’ve discussed this in some detail over at The Blackboard, and despite responding to me many times, Tol has failed to deal with any of my rebuttals. You can see my last comment here, but the entire exchange is worth reading if you want to see how full of it Tol actually is.
I’ve arguably been the most influential critic of Cook et al’s paper, and I think it is complete garbage. Remember that when I tell you many of Richard Tol’s arguments about this paper have been completely unjustifiable. Even the slightest amount of critical analysis shows he has made claims that are not only wrong, but impossible. The fact Tol is advancing a position we might “like” does not mean we should ignore the fact his writings are akin to delusional ravings.

The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Brandon, only in your own delusional mind do you think your so called “criticisms” have been the most influential (Hint no one uses them).
Not to mention you were spectacularly wrong when you made the foolish mistake to challenge me that I had no basis to claim that Cook et al. rated papers wrong,
“As for giving you the list, you just said you’re “betting money they misclassified papers.” If this is true, I’d like to know more about this bet, and whether or not I can get in on it, before I help you get anything. Was this a rhetorical device on your part, or is money actually at stake?” – Brandon
…and got your ass handed to you,
How much money you want to bet now?
As anyone (not you) who has been doing this sort of research for any amount of time could easily see what I saw.
You also laughably claim not knowing how to comment on Dr. Tol’s blog or if there is a comment section? Aren’t you enrolled at ITT Tech in Tulsa? Talk about embarrassing.

Brandon Shollenberger

Poptech, I never “challenge[d you] that [you] had no basis to claim Cook et al. rated papers wrong.” There is absolutely nothing in what you quoted that shows me doing so. I don’t think you have a strong position to claim I have a “delusional mind” when you rest an entire case upon your failure to accurately read simple sentences.
As for not being able to view comments at Tol’s blog, I don’t think I deserve mockery simply because my browser happened to disable scripts on a web page. I have scripts disabled in general, and usually I can read blogs without that causing any problems. If you think that catching me by surprise means I deserve mockery, so be it. I don’t think you’ll find many people who will agree.
As for ITT Tech, I believe the first person to ever make an issue of that was dhogza. Other people who have adopted the same strategy have inevitably shared the same side, and their number includes Dana Nuccitelli. I find it amusing you’ve decided to adopt a tactic only people on the “alarmist” side have previously used.
Of course, they all managed to accurately say I attended ITT Tech in the past. You’re the only one who has suggested I’m still enrolled there. I guess you can’t even hope to do as well as the alarmists 😛

Brandon, so now you are going to try and pretend you were not arguing with me over whether or not Cook et al. misclassified papers? Oh please spare us all the spin.
“That aside, how long has it been since you first claimed they misclassified the papers on your list? At least a couple days, right? How long would you have gone without checking if I hadn’t said anything? If I don’t provide you the list, how long are you willing to wait to check your claim?” – Brandon
Funny how there you ridiculously tried to take credit for me doing any such checking when I planned to as soon as the data was made available. But of course you were not challenging my claim and yes you are very delusional.
Actually you do deserve mockery, even more so if you graduated ITT Tech and have your browser setup improperly. Why would you demonstrate your incompetence as Dr. Tol’s blog URL is, – blogspot is the URL for Google’s Blogger which has commenting built in. You really do not know these elementary things? How did you graduate?

Brandon, keep in mind you have none of your imaginary powers here to abuse,

Brandon Shollenberger

Poptech, I never argued papers weren’t misclassified. I merely highlighted the absurdity of you doing things like calling people liars while simultaneously saying you didn’t have the evidence you needed to support your claims. If you don’t have the evidence to justify a claim, you shouldn’t make the claim.
Aside from that, I just jerked you around because you spammed stupid things, ignored what people said and made things up. Behavior like that, and like you’re demonstrating here, should get you shunned.
(Similar to how Richard Tol’s behavior should get him shunned.)

Actually you do deserve mockery, even more so if you graduated ITT Tech and have your browser setup improperly.

This is a strange claim as the only reason my broswer didn’t load scripts was I choose to have it block all scripts by default. That isn’t being setup improperly. It’s being setup to give me additional control over my internet activities. It’s a common thing for security conscious people. That means you’re mocking me for taking a good precaution.
As for the fact I didn’t realize the URL went to a blog that had comments enabled, if you think the URLs for particular products is “elementary knowledge” in the IT world, you have a strange notion of what goes into IT. And that’s ignoring the fact most blogs can be configured to not allow comments.
That you can’t read simple sentences correctly and don’t know much about IT in no way indicates I deserve mockery. It does, however, explain why you resort to the tactics you use.

Brandon, the only thing you highlighted was your ignorance. I provided the evidence for what I called Cook a liar on multiple times, maybe you should learn how to read.
I had the evidence using methods I am not going to reveal here but made it official when it was released. How does it feel to be wrong?
What did I spam, what did I ignore and what did I make up? Please tell.
So now for embarrassing you and Dr. Tol giving you a statistical education we should be shunned?
Blocking scripting is not common except by those who are not actually employed in IT security and follow nonsensical advice they read online or in your case apparently learned at ITT tech. I am mocking you for being ignorant of not only turning off scripting in your browser but apparently not knowing the effect it has on websites – such as breaking them. If you did not misconfigured your browser you would have known comments were visible.
Seriously how did you graduate ITT Tech without knowing what Blogger is?
I have very good notion of what goes on in IT and I have yet to meet an IT professional who has not heard of Blogger. What don’t I know of IT child? Please tell me.

Brandon Shollenberger

Poptech, I think this has reached the point where we’re both just saying, “Nuh-uh, you!” I don’t see a reason to engage in such. I think anyone reading out comments here will be able to tell who is behaving reasonably and who is acting silly. But for the sake of my own amusment, let me respond to a couple things:

Blocking scripting is not common except by those who are not actually employed in IT security and follow nonsensical advice they read online or in your case apparently learned at ITT tech. I am mocking you for being ignorant of not only turning off scripting in your browser

I have no idea how you think I could be ignorant of blocking scripts when I went out of my way to block scripts. More interestingly, you continue to act as though blocking scripts merit mockery as though nobody who knows what they’re doing would do it. In reality, NoScript has won multiple awards for doing exactly that. It’s considered by many to be one of the best add-ons for a browser, and it was created for exactly the thing you suggest people don’t do.

Seriously how did you graduate ITT Tech without knowing what Blogger is?

I manged it by learning about things that would actually be useful. I suppose you could say ITT Tech sucks so much it doesn’t devote parts of its curriculum to covering low-quality products from Google. I’m not sure anyone would listen to your views of the school if you did though.
Then again, Richard Tol’s criticisms of Cook et al were blindly accepted here, and you were given a blog post despite your incessant nonsense. Maybe there are people who’ll listen.


It is not possible to have a reputable magazine and also have Peter Gleick on its Board.
Nothing the magainze pubpishes, as long as Gleick is held in esteem and in a position of influence, is worth reading.

Brandon Shollenberger

hunter, I wouldn’t go that far. It’s true the journal’s reputation is tarnished by having him on staff. However, a tarnished reputation doesn’t mean everything published in it is bad. I might not give papers published in it the benefit of doubt, but I wouldn’t dismiss them out-of-hand either.

Brandon, I noticed you failed to answer these questions,
What did I spam, what did I ignore and what did I make up? Please tell.
I am well aware you went out of your way to break the functionality of your browser based on things you read online but obviously do not understand nor have any real world experience with. No major browser comes with scripting disabled because 1. it breaks the functionality of too many web pages and 2. is not the security risk it is hyped to be by those who do not work in the IT security field.
Amazing NoScript has won “awards” from and PC World yet nothing from real security companies. Who are these “many” who consider is one of the best browser add-ons?
Since you obviously have no real world experience in these issues it is of no surprise you would be unaware that the author of NoScript maliciously circumvented other extension’s code,
I am sure this is the type of behavior you endorse.
It is not only the fact that you are using your poor choice of an extension as a excuse for not knowing of Google’s very well known and widely used blogging service but also for not recognizing it as a possible problem with the website you went to.
If ITT tech is not covering fortune 500 companies like Google and the services they provide then I would ask for a refund.
What do you mean I was given a blog post and what about it was “nonsense”? Are you unfamiliar with how many times my articles have been re-posted and cited at WUWT?
Why would anyone listen to a clueless graduate of ITT tech like yourself with no climate science experience over Dr. Tol? Let alone someone who calls for those he disagrees with to be shunned?

I would have sent the paper back for revision. The speculstion and politics were unnecessary.
There was enough solid data there without that