Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
There’s an old saying that “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see either one being made” … and I fear the same is true for far too much of what passes for climate “science” these days.
However, ignoring such wise advice, I’ve taken another look under the hood at the data from the abysmal Nature Communications paper entitled “Discrepancies in scientific authority and media visibility of climate change scientists and contrarians.” My previous analysis of the paper is here on WUWT.
In that article, it says that the “Source Data files” for the article are located here. That seemed hopeful, so I looked at that page. There, they say:
We document the media visibility and climate change research achievements of two groups of individuals representing some of the most prominent figures in their respective domains: 386 climate change contrarians (CCC) juxtaposed with 386 expert climate change scientists (CCS). These data were collected from the Media Cloud project (MC), an open data project hosted by the MIT Center for Civic Media and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.
Enclosed are raw MC data and parsed media article data files obtained from two types of MC database queries:
(i) ~105,000 media articles derived from the MC search query ”climate AND change AND global AND warming”;
(ii) 772 individual data files, for each member of the CCC and CCS groups, each derived from a single MC search query ”MemberFullName AND climate”.
Well hooray, that sounded great, that the raw data was “enclosed”. I was even happier to see that they’d provided the computer code they’d used, viz:
Source code: provided in a Mathematica (v11.1) notebook (MediaSource_Annotated_ALL_2256.nb using MediaSource_Annotated_ALL_2256.txt) reproduces the subpanels for Fig. 5 in the following research article
Outstanding, I thought, I have everything I need to replicate the study—the full code and data as used to do the calculations! That hardly ever happens … but then I noticed the caveat at the top of the page:
Data Files: This dataset is private for peer review and will be released on January 1, 2020.
Grrr … these jokers write a “scientific” paper and then they don’t release the code or the data for six months after publication? That’s not science, that a buncha guys engaged in what we used to call “hitchhiking to Chicago” accompanied by the appropriate obscene one-handed gesture with the thumb extended…
Undeterred, I went to take a look at the “Mediacloud” that they referred to. It’s an interesting dataset of hundreds of thousands of articles, and I’ll likely make use of it in the future. But it turns out that there was a huge problem … you can’t just enter e.g. “Willis Eschenbach” AND climate as their web page fatuously claims. You also need to specify just which sources you are searching, as well as the date range you’re interested in … and their information page says nothing about either one.
Now, in my list of media mentions in the Supplementary Information from their paper, there are only 40 results … but when I searched the entire Mediacloud dataset from 2001-01-01 to the present for my name plus “climate” as they say that they did, I got over 500 results … say what?
I’ve written to the corresponding author listed on that web page for clarification on this matter, but I’m not optimistic about the speed of his response … he may have other things on his mind at the moment.
Frustrated at Mediacloud, I returned to the paper’s data. In total there are over 60,000 media mentions between all of the 386 of us who are identified as “contrarians”. I decided to see which websites got the most mentions. Here are the top twenty, along with the number of times they were referenced:
- lagunabeachindy.com: 6279
- climatedepot.com: 4877
- feedproxy.google.com: 3908
- huffingtonpost.com: 2543
- adsabs.harvard.edu: 1442
- blogs.discovermagazine.com: 1115
- thinkprogress.org: 871
- desmogblog.com: 827
- freerepublic.com: 709
- dallasnews.com: 650
- en.wikipedia.org: 641
- theguardian.com: 609
- democracynow.org: 515
- examiner.com: 426
- jonjayray.comuv.com: 411
- salon.com: 398
- web.archive.org: 384
- nhinsider.com: 379
- wattsupwiththat.com: 355
- news.yahoo.com: 334
There are some real howlers in just these top twenty. First, as near as I can tell the most referenced site, the local California newspaper “Laguna Beach Independent” with 6,279 mentions, doesn’t contain any of the 386 listed names. Totally bogus, useless, and distorts the results in every direction.
Next, DeSmogBlog has 827 mentions … all of which will probably be strongly negative. After all, that’s their schtick, negative reviews of “contrarians”. I’ll return to this question of negative and positive mentions in a moment.
Then there’s “jonjayray.comuv.com” with 411 mentions, which is a dead link. Nobody home, the website is not “pining for the fjords” as they say.
And “feedproxy.google.com” seems to be an aggregator which often references a study or news article more than once. Here’s an example of such double-counting, from one person’s list of media mentions:
http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/firedoglake/fdl/~3/8KMa0w83rPo/,en,Firedoglake,809,247540225,CNBC Caught Soliciting Op-Ed Calling Climate Change A ‘Hoax’,2014-6-30
http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/firedoglake/fdl/~3/8KMa0w83rPo/,en,pamshouseblend.com,58791,247551206,CNBC Caught Soliciting Op-Ed Calling Climate Change A ‘Hoax’,2014-6-30″
Note that both of these links reference the same underlying document, “CNBC Caught Soliciting Op-Ed Calling Climate Change A ‘Hoax’”, but the document is located on two different websites. I didn’t have the heart or the time to find out how often that occurred … but the example above was from the very first person I looked at who had feedproxy.google.com in their list of mentions.
(I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the abysmal lack of quality control on their list of websites, because after all these authors are obviously devout Thermageddians … but still, those egregious errors were a real shock to me. My high school science teacher would have had a fit if we’d done that.)
Next, as I mentioned above, looking at that list I was struck by the fact that there is a huge difference between being mentioned on say DeSmogBlog, which will almost assuredly be a negative review, and being mentioned on ClimateDepot, which is much more likely to be positive in nature. But how could I quantify that?
To answer the question, I went back to Mediacloud. They have about a thousand websites which they have categorized as either Left, Center Left, Center, Center Right, or Right. So I decided to see how many times each category of websites was mentioned in the 60,000 media mentions for contrarians … here are those numbers.
- Left: 6628
- Center Left: 4051
- Center: 2241
- Center Right: 2056
- Right: 4582
- Total Left: 10679
- Total Right: 6638
As you can see, there are about 50% more mentions on left-leaning websites than on right-leaning … so it appears quite possible that, rather than “contrarians” getting more good publicity than mainstream climate scientists as the paper claims, per their calculations “contrarians” are getting more bad publicity than mainstream climentarians.
Finally, before I left the subject and the website behind, I used Mediacloud to see how a couple of other people fared. Recall that all 386 of us “contrarians” garnered about 60,000 media mentions between us.
I first took a look at the media mentions of St. Greta of Thunberg, the Patron Saint of the Easily Led. Since she burst on the scene a few months ago, she has gotten no less than 36,517 mentions in the media, about 60% of the total of all the “contrarians” listed in their study.
I then looked at the man who has made more money out of climate hysteria than any living human being, the multimillionaire Climate Goracle, Mr. Al Gore himself. A search of Mediacloud for ‘”Al Gore” AND climate’ returned a total of 92,718 hits.
So while the clueless authors of this paper are so concerned about how much air time we “contrarians” get, between them just Al Gore and Greta Thunberg alone got twice the number of media mentions as all of us climate “contrarians” combined …
Gotta say, every time I look at this heap of steaming bovine waste products it gets worse … but hopefully, this will be the last time I have to look at how this particular sausage was made.