Guest essay by Brandon Shollenberger
It’s nothing but laundering lies. The authors don’t come out and directly say anything untrue, but they intentionally create and promote misunderstandings to inflate the importance of their work.
It’s rampant dishonesty hiding behind a fig leaf of deniability. This is how I recently described Cook et al’s PR campaign for their recent paper.
I didn’t intend to follow up on this comment, but this morning I saw a quote from Dana Nuccitelli that was impossible to resist:
We were always careful to say that while the survey involved 12,000 abstracts, the 97 percent consensus was among the ~4,000 abstracts that took a position on the cause of global warming (plus the roughly 1,400 of 2,100 self-rated papers taking a position). And we were careful to point out that the consensus was that ‘humans are causing global warming.
Nuccitelli says he and his co-authors always used a particular phrasing when describing their results. I must admit, that is true. They’ve always managed to say “humans cause global warming” with the implicit qualifier of “some” (that they knew nobody would pay attention to). It’s obvious they knew the limitations of their results and didn’t want to be accused of lying. So when someone said:
Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous. Read more: http://OFA.BO/gJsdFp
They obviously knew this wasn’t supported by their work. So what did they do? Did they correct it? No. They promoted it. Time, and time again, they promoted this tweet despite knowing it was a grossly inaccurate description of their work. How could they be careful to always describe their results accurately then promote gross inaccuracies about their results? Simple. They aren’t lying if they aren’t the ones saying it.
That’s it. That’s their strategy. They say things like, “Humans cause global warming” knowing most people won’t realize they’re meaning “some amount of global warming.” When someone misunderstands them, they promote that misunderstanding. They then tell us they “were careful” not to say untrue things themselves. For example, from the same link as the tweet from “Barack Obama”:
Ninety-seven percent of scientists say global warming is mainly man-made but a wide public belief that experts are divided is making it harder to gain support for policies to curb climate change, an international study showed on Thursday.
The important thing to realize is they did this very carefully. They intentionally used wording that could be easily misunderstood then promoted misunderstandings that arose from it. In other words, they laundered lies.
As a note, the piece Nuccitelli’s quote comes from has a great deal that’s wrong about it, including the fact the author completely misrepresented my communication with him. Try to ignore that for now. Cook et al’s rampant dishonesty is far more important.