Lewandowsky on the Right Way to Cry Wolf

Good ol’ Stephan has attached himself to another propaganda piece masquerading as science.

Statistical Language Backs Conservatism in Climate-Change Assessments

Salvador Herrando-Pérez Corey J A Bradshaw Stephan Lewandowsky David R Vieites

BioScience, Volume 69, Issue 3, 1 March 2019, Pages 209–219, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz004

Published: 18 March 2019

Here is the Abstract.

The scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is empirically settled, but communicating it to nonscientific audiences remains challenging. To be explicit about the state of knowledge on climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has adopted a vocabulary that ranks climate findings through certainty-calibrated qualifiers of confidence and likelihood. In this article, we quantified the occurrence of knowns and unknowns about “The Physical Science Basis” of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report by counting the frequency of calibrated qualifiers. We found that the tone of the IPCC’s probabilistic language is remarkably conservative (mean confidence is medium, and mean likelihood is 66%–100% or 0–33%), and emanates from the IPCC recommendations themselves, complexity of climate research, and exposure to politically motivated debates. Leveraging communication of uncertainty with overwhelming scientific consensus about anthropogenic climate change should be one element of a wider reform, whereby the creation of an IPCC outreach working group could enhance the transmission of climate science to the panel’s audiences.


This calibrated language undoubtedly reaffirms the sophisticated discourse of IPCC reports, but it might ironically jeopardize the clarity with which they might resonate with nonscientific audiences.

We know it’s bad, Naomi, that cartoonist, and somebody else said so.

Overall, the predominance of qualifiers of low to intermediate certainty reported above reveals that the tone of the probabilistic language of the IPCC’s report on the physical science of climate is remarkably conservative, and contrasts with the overwhelming scientific consensus about anthropogenic climate change (Oreskes 2004, Benestad et al. 2016, Cook et al. 2016) that the IPCC is endorsing (table 1).

And then there is the concept of “Seepage”

The reality is that contrarian views against anthropogenic climate disruption can lobby the scientific community, and the IPCC in particular, to be conservative and so reinforce contrarian views in a vicious, self-reinforcing circle—a phenomenon called seepage (Lewandowsky et al. 2015b). Why? Essentially, the IPCC must carefully gauge the costs and entailing loss of credibility of making a mistake given the heated and politicized debate about climate change, so the Panel has a tacit motivation for using a cautious language.

And then a litany of proposed propaganda strategies based on appeals to authority, how to pick, choose, and present evidence, use of font styles, and much more.

Read the whole pile here.


88 thoughts on “Lewandowsky on the Right Way to Cry Wolf

  1. Ahaha. I just read this. How appropriate.

    Once upon a time, a meteorology professor told me, when i was gonna take my first job, that “climatology is for shitty forecasters that can divide by 30.”

    • I wonder what happened to the precautionary principle. We have 75 scientists worldwide (also known as 97%) proposing and succeeding to spend trillions on a risk they perceive. Do the remaining 3,071 scientists (also known as 3%) and the rest of us have any right to stop this waste?

      • Make the politicians accountable your vote is the thing that changes things and it has been happening in lots of elections as even Merkel found out.

      • They perceive a risk? They imagine a risk. Their energy imbalance argument fails because error bounds in energy flows are ten times greater than the imagined global warming imbalance. Their temperature measurement argument fails because they cool the past to show warming which isn’t in the raw data. The downwelling flux of infrared argument fails because they never did a single experiment to measure surface warming due to that flux. When challenged to do controlled experiments they counter with what else can the flux do apart from warm the surface? I think photons can be scattered, absorbed & immediately re-emitted, or absorbed. Only one of those leads to surface warming. No wonder some of them admit: we’re going by our models, not by observation; our models are simple physics and, therefore science. Their mental gymnastics and self-delusion are amazing.

      • Has anyone gone back to the 75 and asked them what their views are now?
        Maybe their jobs depend on keeping the faith.

  2. I admit to looking forward to coverage of Lewandowsky’s scholarly dispatches, which invariably remind me of Bob Newhart’s classic skit of a phone call with Walter Raleigh, or “Nutty Walt.”

    • It’s probably better to say that “CAGW is just bad math.” Leave the ad hominem out of it.

      • NiC,

        Sorry, you’re flat out wrong. You are trying to reify an abstract idea into something real or concrete. CAGW is nothing if not a construct of bad scientists practicing bad math (and science). So no, not ad hom and fair criticism.

    • The leftist radicals view anyone that is to their right as right wing no matter their liberal positions. Hence Schumer and Pelosi are right wingers.

    • Hey, it’s Loo. He fails a reality check. It appears that he’s trying to apply statistics that he doesn’t understand to data that doesn’t exist to extract “meaningful” conclusions hidden in obscurantism.

    • IPCC are conservative like Malthusian thinking is conservative. One-half of conservatism; the half that looks to the past. Good conservatism reforms present institutions and laws for a better future in the light of evidence. Bad conservatism makes its reforms based on opinion, dogma, …, like the IPCC want to.

    • “The scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is empirically settled…”

      Really? Show me!
      I want to see the empirical data that clearly shows the anthropogenic contribution to climate change.

      • “The scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is empirically settled” …

        that’s where I stopped reading … that statement is a downright lie …

        • “that statement is a downright lie …”

          Yes, it is. The truth is the Alarmists have NO evidence that CO2 is affecting the Earth’s atmosphere and these people know it because if they had any evidence they would be showing it far and wide, but they don’t do that. Instead, they just assert that there is evidence because that’s the only thing they can do.

          The abstract starts out with a blatant lie. This is the state of climate science today.

          • That is why they say that “97% agree”, instead of “scientists have measured and proved”.
            And the media and politicians buy it.

        • I wouldn’t go quite as far as calling that a lie, but it has all the substance of puffed wheat.

          It would have been equally twaddlesque to write, “The empirical evidence for anthropogenic climate change is scientifically settled, […blah blah blah…]”

      • But, yet, once again, as always, in a way, sometimes, maybe, that depends on what your definition of is, is.

      • This is obviously the New Age definition of “empirical”. Don’t you know words are now malleable?

  3. The Pentagon calls Seepage Mission-creep, and the 58 officers who signed a petition to stop Trump’s Commission are in fact the contrarians from the Swamp.

  4. Oh, so now it’s anthropogenic climate disruption.

    Switching from a simpleton, one-syllable word like “change” to a more scholastic, three-syllable word like “disruption” makes the claim more legitimate, I suppose.

    In this Forum article, we analyze the major linguistic effort made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to communicate the (un)certainty of climate science to its target audiences, and we quantify the occurrence of knowns and unknowns present in IPCC reports by counting the frequency of statements reported to a given range of uncertainty.

    … should be rewritten as:

    In this Forum, we dramatize the major sophistic effort made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to obscure the UNcertainty of climate science from its target audiences, and we minimize the occurrence of unknowns by emphasizing and exaggerating the knowns present in IPCC reports by counting the frequency of overstatements reported to a given range of obscured uncertainty.

  5. “contrarian views against anthropogenic climate disruption can lobby the scientific community, and the IPCC in particular, to be conservative”

    The climate clownery tipping point has been brilliantly hitted !

  6. ‘The scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is empirically settled’

    Empirically? I don’t think so, Tim.

    ‘The reality is that contrarian views against anthropogenic climate disruption’

    Anyone know of a climate that has been disrupted?

    • The only way you could disrupt a climate is for a serious asteroid collision. That’d disrupt things for a while.

    • And further to that, anyone who can point me in the direction of one correct forecast for AGW? Anyone?

      How do you have empirically settled when predictions are so far off the mark? Snow was disappearing and milder winters and a “Mediterranean Climate” was the new normal.

      20 years later, more snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and we have now seen 5 years increase in the trend.

  7. Lewandowski’s reference to conservative seems to be that things that the IPCC deems to have low or moderate confidence are those which have low confidence limits even within the (flawed) models that the IPCC uses. So, even with flawed models, the IPCC puts out claims but doesn’t go all in to give them “high confidence.” He wants to abandon that approach and to say that all of these statements can be used to communicate to the public without any qualification.

    Any organization that can use the version 8.5 predictions to promote alarm has actually proves itself to be completely unhinged, but that level of alarm is not enough to suit the likes of Lewandowski and Oreskies.

    • Terms like high confidence amount to opinion. With the IPCC, that’s not even the opinion of scientists. The wording in the climate science, WG1, reports are edited after completion by scientists, such that nothing in a WG1 report will contradict the Summary for PolicyMakers. The SPM is the consensus opinion of the political appointees; none of whom are scientists. Politicians are big on consensus.

      In the case of Lewandowski, consensus amounts to agreed upon opinions of the 70 to 100 activist scientists making the most money from the climate change scam. He’s a bad propagandist.

  8. The scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is empirically settled

    When you start out with a big fat lie, there’s no point in continuing any further. At least wait until the second or third sentence to lie to me.

  9. Lewandowsky’s complaint seems to be that the UN IPCC Assessment Reports’ sections on the science of global warming leaves the production of hyper-inflated scary stories to individual scientist/activists’ imaginations. The other section’s authors additionally take on the role of writing scary ecological doom predictions based on the exaggerated RCP8.5 scenario

  10. “…the tone of the probabilistic language of the IPCC’s report on the physical science of climate is remarkably conservative…”

    So, why don’t you relax if the IPCC represents the consensus view and theirs is one of concern, but not panic? Did you ever think that you and your overly-alarmed cohort that you might be overreacting?

  11. “The scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is empirically settled”

    Stephen…I don’t think it means what you think it means !

    “Empirical | Definition of Empirical by Merriam-Webster
    Jan 23, 2019 … 1 : originating in or based on observation or experience empirical data. 2 : relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory an empirical basis for the theory. 3 : capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment empirical laws. ”

    Global warming hysteria, at least that strain that argues for immediate radical change of our entire industrial civilization and destruction of our energy infrastructure, IS NOT based on experimental data, and is not capable of being verified or disproved by observation. It’s models all the way down !

    It is rather against definition 2, …without regard for system and theory.

    And no Stephen computer models are not empirical data. The real empirical data of the temperature record (surface stations) are so adjusted, homogenized, and distorted by station censorship, it hardly qualifies as data anymore. As I learned in science classes, data is never changed, if an error is found in old data, you strike it through so the old value can be read, and a new data is put there. In the climate game, the records disappear and their adjustments are often opaque and not documented, as the crisis at the Australian BOM has recently shown.

    Thank God for the USCRN, which show no warming over its 15 year (or so) history where no adjustments are needed or alowed.

    • Well, he did say the EVIDENCE is settled, not any of the conclusions. Of course, judging by the adjustments to past temperatures, even the DATA is not settled.

    • “The scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is empirically settled”

      For AGW, Yes, or Maybe; for CAGW, No.

  12. The scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is empirically settled.

    Care to show the scientific evidence of the difference between anthropogenic climate change and climate change. If you can’t and lets face it nobody can, then it isn’t empirically settled. The theory or pure logic also failed because positive feedback has never showed up at all.

    What can be shown are the oceans doing the warming, but CO2 not demonstrably contributing beyond anything noticeable. Global cloud albedo declining a few percent contributes more warming than doubling of CO2 slowing energy loss.

    A couple of noticeable anthropogenic climate change empirically are changing environments and observational data altered to match closer to the climate model projections. Nothing else is distinguishable from natural or anthropogenic.

    • He has all the qualities needed to work in climate ‘sceince ‘ a combination of a massive ego and a thin skin , with a lack of actual academic ability and a willingness to do what ever it takes to make the ‘facts’ tow the party line and never let good pratice in the way .

    • “I try to understand how the mind works”

      He could have saved all the time, effort and money that went into getting a psych degree and become a bartender if that’s all he wanted to learn.

      As I’ve said, the fact that psychologists aren’t actually doctors is the only thing keeping them from being sued for malpractice.

      • Learn? He didn’t actually want to learn anything. He’s creating simulations in order to confound the unwary.

      • He should start by trying to figure out how his own mind works and remedy those issues.

  13. “certainty-calibrated qualifiers”

    With the slots filled with subjective assessments. The subjectivity is the weakest link in the chain.

  14. the purpose of this unremitting barrage of propaganda is to condition responses.
    it’s a science, actually, with formal rules.
    reason in not a characteristic of propaganda
    in fact, it must be self contradictory or it can’t do what it does.
    the purpose of presenting an impenetrable wall of stupid is to defeat reason..

  15. Bioscience published the hit piece on Susan Crockford. They have also other crisis articles, some even closer to the truth than numbers of polar bears. Nevertheless, they do lousy jobs of editing. From the paper—

    “To hone the communication and understanding of climate-science uncertainty to their expected audiences, the IPCC has adopted what it refers to as a “calibrated language” to rank scientific uncertainty……Medimorec and Pennycook (2015) found that the IPCC’s language is far more cautious and less emotional than the NIPCC’s, and the predominance of low to intermediate qualifiers found in our study aligns with the former observation.” Last line of M & M’s (2015) abstract–“The political controversy over climate change may cause proponents’ language to be conservative (for fear of being attacked) and opponents’ language to be aggressive (to more effectively attack). This has clear implications for the science communication of climate research.”

    “Science communication,” whatever that is, is big business. I’m getting more communications about this movement into communication and policy. I could see how the NIPCC language could be more aggressive, at least by some definitions, correction of errors always is, sometimes a little too much. Wonder how they measure pejorative language?

    • They quote:

      ….found that the IPCC’s language is far more cautious and less emotional than the NIPCC’s

      as if that described a fault of the IPCC.

      Why should an IPCC report be in any way emotional? What am I missing?!?

  16. So the IPCC is conservative in its statements of certainty? It would to interesting then to see an analysis of media coverage of the IPCC. I think you would find there is no acknowledgement of uncertainty at all.

  17. “We (the authors) think the scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is empirically settled, we demonstrate the IPCC disagrees.”

    There, fixed the abstract.

  18. The scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is empirically settled, which way predictions in this area can be accurate as long as you stick to ‘in the summer it will be warmer than at other times of the year ‘ level.
    Otherwise, it is about as ‘settled ‘ as an elephant balancing on an egg.
    Still the good news is , there is always a need for more ‘Lew paper ‘

  19. Dr. Salvador Herrando Pérez (Australian Research Associate) proudly brought to you courtesy of the Australian taxpayer.
    I notice Lewandowsky has turned up again, like the proverbial bad penny, with the CSIRO in Hobart Tasmania.

  20. What heated debate?

    There is no debate.

    We deniers say…”We observe that there has been no significant warming in 20 years”.


    We deniers follow up with: “Um…you said we’d see thermometers show the warming…like on the earth where some of us live.”


    We deniers close the “discussion” saying…to ourselves mostly: “It might be time to convene a PRESIDENT’S COMMISSION ON CLIMATE SECURITY”.

  21. He makes me embarrassed I have a degree in psychology. The mass stupidity now seen in the field. I’m not saying these people were normal—far from it. But it’s incredible how the inmates have taken over the assylum, gotten peer-reviewed publications and advanced degrees. Putting them together on a desert island seems the best solution to me. Let them attack and destroy each other….

    Thankfully, I also majored in chemistry and avoided the complete insanity I saw in the single, soft science majors.

    • I took one intro psych course in college. Nickname was ‘Nuts and Sluts’. Sort of a lifetime vaccination against nonsense.

      • Rud, me too. We called it Wacked-Out Psych. The official title was Toward Self-Understanding. This was in 1970.

      • My Psych 101 prof was Dr. Dee, a man I greatly respected…and argued with, much to the amusement of the class. Early on, a student asked if it were true that the field attracted nuts. “Yes,” he said, “but as soon as they find the healing they’re really looking for, they usually go do something else.”

        Alas, though true 60 years ago, that’s no longer the case. To keep enrollments high, psych schools stopped screening out the major nutters. Many schools no longer require therapy as part of the graduation requirements; they merely “highly recommend it.” Senior projects are done in groups, letting C- students slide through. Those who once would abandon the field or get bounced, now stay in it. The nutters have taken over the institution, as study of DSM-5 shows.

    • ‘He makes me embarrassed I have a degree in psychology.’

      Imagine how I feel – I was a sociology major – have you seen what THOSE nuts are going around saying?

      Even worse, I was journalism before I switched over to sociology.

  22. Might be my imagination, but the Weather Chanel, here in the States, had somewhat toned down their Climate Alarmism in the past few months (or I just missed it). Today, they are airing an Al Gore clip, citing a new survey by a Chicago Univ. claiming that “70% of people now believe in Climate Change” and other assorted Algoreisms.

    My first thought….they are ramping up in the face of Trump’s PCCS formation….they are starting to sweat!!

  23. They said what?

    “Leveraging communication of uncertainty with overwhelming scientific consensus about anthropogenic climate change should be one element of a wider reform, whereby the creation of an IPCC outreach working group could enhance the transmission of climate science to the panel’s audiences.”

    If I had written a sentence like that I would have been thrown out of my High School English class.

    • From a high school English exercise many years ago, as best as I recall.

      “In terms of human to animal communication, a slight inclination of the cranial structure is as equally beneficial in transmitting approbation, as is a momentary closure of the thin fold of skin that covers and protects the human eye, when directed to a visually impaired quadruped of the equine species.”


      “A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.”

      Why use 12 words of 5 letters or less, when you can use 50 or more and completely obscure the message.

    • Take their money away and give it to people who do real science. Then we might actually get something useful done; to discover more, and improve our understanding of climate change.

      You will never win them over with reason and logic because their ideas are unreasonable and illogical.

  24. With that sentence he lost all.
    “The scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is empirically settled”
    The AGW only turns up in climate models, and is not at all empirically settled or proved beyond doubt.
    The GW part is measured and is very modest, but the A part lacks a lot to be settled.

  25. Lewandowsky voluminous use of pseudo-scientific vocabulary lends him an artistic air of verisimilitude.

  26. The Geat Lakes are warming up…..
    Great Lakes are rapidly warming, likely to trigger more flooding and extreme weather

    “As the air warms, it will hold more moisture, which will likely mean heavier winter snowstorms and spring rains. There could also be more flooding in vulnerable areas.
    Not only that, summers will be hotter and drier.”

    All this contradiction in one paragraph… Thank you AP, CBC

  27. “…a phenomenon called seepage (Lewandowsky et al. 2015b).”

    Wait! Is he citing himself?

    I mean I have attempted to use my Mum as a character reference, but never actually quoted myself for personal gain.

  28. “Read the whole pile here.” No thanks. I have to pierce my eyeballs with red hot needles.

    “This calibrated language undoubtedly reaffirms the sophisticated discourse of IPCC reports…” ie reading from the same hymn book.

  29. The second part of Winston Churchill’s comment about Clement Attlee fits Lewandownski to a “T”: “Dr. Lewandowski is a very modest man. Indeed he has a lot to be modest about.”

  30. Prof Lewancowsky,
    Your views on the following would be interesting.
    The global, related social problem is the gullibility of the individual. Most people have been suckered into believing in many products that do not deserve a second look, even some that are criminally fraudulent.
    Given a restart of my life, I think that I could make a credible advertising executive, honing psychology, polling, statistics and observations of human conduct into ways of selling increasing quantities of whatever product was selected. I did not do this, preferring a career of finding new wealth through mineral discoveries of a magnitude to affect national budgets and provide quite a few extra quid into the pockets of all.
    That is, I provided actual physical goods whose value the market would assess. The Prof, on the other hand, is creating a nebulous product, not an item one can hold and not one that the market can assess with any accuracy. A block of gold versus a thought fart.
    All around me, here in Melbourne, people have been led by thought farts to buy goods under false pretenses. We can quickly get into legal trouble by being too specific, but a list of products that do no good, possibly do harm, are unwanted, that deprive society of workers doing something valuable, might include products like
    – fertilizers made from seaweed, one of the most barren starting materials one could imagine
    – alternative therapies like hideously-priced multivitamin products, definitely harmful in excess, quite useless to all but a few people with uncommon medical conditions
    – any product from homeopathy, one of the pioneering large frauds, with no scientific basis at all
    – virtually all female face cosmetics, commonly made from not much more than refined mud
    – the SUV automobile, purely a marketing product, heavier, less manoeuverable, fuel guzzling vanity product to keep up with other Moms dropping kids off at kindy
    – likewise, all-electric vehicles need for a range of a hundred ot 200 km a trip. High weight, still needs fossil fuels for charging, etc. You know all this, but some continue to fall for the con
    – the endless flow of special diets for ordinary people, little more than short-lived fashion statements
    – and a few hundred more, but you get the drift.

    I would guess that close to half of the average daily household expenditure goes to fraudulent items whose only interest is promoted by advertising campaigns. Take away the advertising input and they will flop. Society will be better off by one hell of a large amount.

    Now, with people conditioned since birth to be conned by advertising, there were plenty of sitting ducks to be exposed to the finely-hones attacks of the advertisers when global warming raised its ugly head. Prof Lewandowsky was smart enough to see the potential for his private gain, so it was a natural. His work has been tuned to keeping the con going, of course, because it pays for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, what wa dud when retirement comes and grandkids say, “Pops, what did you do to help other people?


  31. Isn’t this an admission of the uncertainty monster that Dr. Curry reminds people of?

    Isn’t this also an admission that people are trying to cover it up?

  32. I’ve noticed lately that many initial replies on this site have nothing or very little to do with the subject.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if this is some kind of leftist tactic.

    On a similar note, when I read some of the posts on info wars or prisonplanet, they were hate filled vile racist garbage. My suspicions suggest many of those posts were by leftists trying to make right-wingers look bad. We just seen something like this with that actor in Chicago.

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