We Are All Skeptics Now

April 9, 2010

I don’t generally read the Washington Times, but for some reason, I ventured over to their editorial page yesterday. Turns out, they have an editorial on Ross McKitrick. And that’s basically all it is… an editorial. The logic is appalling, and the supporting evidence is, well, unsupportive. Take this opening salvo:

The prophets of global warming continue to lament as their carefully crafted yarn unravels before their eyes. Ross McKitrick, an intrepid economics professor from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, has tugged apart the thin mathematical threads that once held together the story of climate change.

This is an editorial from the editorial staff of a newspaper, mind you, not from the univocal pen of Ann Crackpot or Glenny-Penny. (The sky is falling. The sky is falling. Oh noes!)

To begin with language about prophets, laments, “crafted yarns,” and then support it with claims of intrepid professors… it just boggles the mind. Colorful to be sure. Loaded? You bet.

The editorial continues that McKitrick has been trying to publish a “nail in the coffin” style document that has been bullied out of the peer reviewed literature by protective opportunists in the climate community. That would be a fine charge, as opportunism and protectionism clearly happen, but the editorial fails to present, or even to link to, any clear evidence that supports either the claim that this article is so damning or the claim that it has been bullied out of the peer reviewed literature for non-scientific reasons. Here’s the best they can do:

Scientific journals evaluate arguments of this sort using a peer-review process by which purportedly impartial experts in the relevant field verify the paper’s accuracy and suitability for publication. By addressing issues raised by reviewers, researchers are able to present an improved and refined final product. In Mr. McKitrick’s case, the process appears to have been abused to stifle dissent.

The leading journals Science and Nature both rejected the paper as too specialized and lacking in novelty. The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society did not respond. Reasons given for refusing the paper in other outlets frequently contradicted one another.

One of the famous leaked e-mails from the former head of the Climatic Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia sheds light on what really happens behind the scenes. “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report,” professor Phil Jones wrote in reference to a 2004 journal article by Mr. McKitrick. “Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

Again, those infernal CRU e-mails keep coming up…and it’s always the same damn one, thereby unravelling this finely crafted tapestry of a tale that the climate community has woven, all in a single sentence. Of course, offhand comments of this sort do not a case make, nor does the fact that this paper wasn’t published in Science or Nature suggest or imply that somehow it was bullied out of those journals. But never mind, inferences be damned.

Plainly, my expectations are pretty low for the characteristically yellow journalism at the Washington Times, but this exceeds even those expectations. Well done boys.


  1. The ironic thing about the “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report” quote is that they were. At least, I have a very strong recollection of reading that, hopefully I’m correct :-). Shame the WSJ didn’t notice that.

    • Yes – the papers referred to in the quote were indeed referenced in the IPCC report.

      I hope that this new paper is published in a peer review journal.

      I hope there is nothing improper going on in his difficulty in getting this paper published.

      It doesn’t help anybody if scientists try to suppress papers they disagree with – but which could be correct.

      Let them be published and then show they are incorrect (or not).

      That is the way science is supposed to work.

      Nobody ever said that just because something is published in a peer reviewed journal that it is therefore unquestionably correct.

  2. yeah, Nature keep refusing to publish my paper that concussively proves that the sky tastes like expired sambuca.

    it had numbers and strange symbols in it, so it’s clearly because the “peer” “review” “process” is biased against those who speak the truth.

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