Bravo, Richard Tol, Bravo!

Richard Tol, Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex, has finally managed to publish his comment on Cook et al. (2013), a paper that illustrates the level of consensus – with regards to Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) – in the literature. I’ve discussed Tol’s critique of this a number of times, and don’t really feel like going through it again. Basically, his analysis is not sufficient to indicate a major issue with the results in Cook et al. If you want to know more, you can read Tol’s 24 errors. You can read Collin Maessen’s post. You can read Eli’s post (which highlights an interesting problem with Tol’s error correction procedure). You can read Greg Laden’s post. You can also read Andy Skuce’s and/or GPWayne’s posts.

What I thought I might do is put this into some kind of context. You can judge for yourself the significance – or lack thereof – of this context.

  1. The Consensus Project was, essentially, a citizen science project. I know some of those involved work at universities, but most were simply volunteers who helped to rate abstracts so as to establish what fraction of those that took a position with respect to AGW, endorsed AGW. The resulting paper was one of the papers of 2013 that received the most online attention. In any other field this would be seen as a remarkable success. A citizen science project publishes a paper that has more impact than almost any other paper published that year. Not in climate science, though. In climate science you have to attack and attempt to destroy anything that goes against the narrative that you’d like to control. Personally, I find it depressing that this is the manner in which some choose to conduct themselves and – in some sense – this simply seems like another illustration of how poor the general dialogue is in the climate science debate.

  2. Richard Tol does not dispute the results of Cook et al. He has confirmed this a number of times. For example here

    Published papers that seek to test what caused the climate change over the last century and half, almost unanimously find that humans played a dominant role.

    and here

    The consensus is of course in the high nineties.

  3. Richard Tol appears to rather dislike the lead author of the Cook et al. study, and doesn’t appear to try very hard to hide his disdain (to be fair, he seems to do the same to virtually anyone who disagrees with him).

  4. Richard Tol’s goal in writing a comment about the Cook et al. study was not to try and replicate their results or to provide some kind of constructive criticism; it was simply to try and destroy their work. If you don’t believe me, you can read Richard’s own words

    I have three choices:
    a. shut up
    b. destructive comment
    c. constructive comment

    a. is wrong
    c. is not an option. I don’t have the resources to redo what they did, and I think it is silly to search a large number of papers that are off-topic; there are a number of excellent surveys of the relevant literature already, so there is no point in me replicating that.

    that leaves b

  5. Finally, the goal of these consensus studies is largely to counter claims that no such consensus exists. Additionally, these new studies take place partly because every time there is such a study, someone attacks it for one reason or another. Richard Tol’s actions essentially illustrate why we need such projects. In any other field, noone would bother as the existence of such a consensus would not be disputed. Again, not in climate science, where anything that interferes with the chosen narrative must be destroyed.

So, to summarise, Richard Tol – a Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex – has chosen to attack a very successful citizen science paper, the results of which he does not dispute, the author of which he seems to greatly dislike, and the goal of which is largely to counter exactly such attacks. Bravo, Richard Tol, Bravo!

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108 Responses to Bravo, Richard Tol, Bravo!

  1. jsam says:

    Who is wasting their money paying Tol to produce such [Self-mod]. Inquiring minds want to know.

  2. jsam,
    I doubt there’s any money changing hands. It’s probably just the “all publicity is good publicity” tactic.

  3. James Westwood says:

    In my opinion the debate around climate change should now be about the policies needed to solve it. I would think economists actually have an important role to play in this.

    Why Tol is wasting his time arguing over the exact value of the scientific concensus rather than focusing on his area of expertise, which is actually of importance, is really odd to put it mildly.

  4. James,
    I agree completely. The whole point of consensus studies is to provide evidence for the level of agreement so that we might indeed decide to move on to what is more important and, probably, more difficult aspects of this topic – what we should do. Quite why Tol should actively undermine something that is effectively arguing for a bigger role for people like himself is beyond me.

  5. jsam says:

    I think there is money changing hands, unless the good Professor is providing pro bono services. I’m not suggesting he may be paid for the report itself. But I can’t imagine the university would look upon this paper as being within the remit of the Economics Department. So I’m presuming his GWPF retainer covered its production.

  6. jsam,
    Except universities departments don’t really constrain what an academic can do with their research time. The chance that they might actually have a view on this is probably quite small. So, he was probably – quite rightly – free to work on this at his university. I don’t think the paper is open access, which means that I don’t think there was any payment for publication.

  7. jsam says:

    My lack of knowledge of the workings of academia has been thoroughly exposed. I’m not accustomed to enjoying such freedom of topic – and seemingly unencumbered by the trappings of polite society. I missed my calling. 🙂

  8. jsam,
    It is one of the beauties of such a career 🙂 . Unless you are a postdoctoral fellow, or working in some kind of research consortium, you’re largely free to research whatever you like. Of course, if you regularly do something completely unrelated to your field and you start failing to get research funding, someone might comment, but as long as you publish regularly, maintain a reasonable level of funding, properly supervise your students, …. you’re pretty free to do as you wish.

  9. verytallguy says:

    James Westwood,

    Indeed, Tol concentrating on his area of expertise appears to be sound advice, given the level of criticism of his work that area.

    I’m in no position judge the substance, but this sounds quite alarming:

    The Economic Social Research Institute has taken the unprecedented step of withdrawing the working paper that stated that up to 44% of working families with children were better off on the dole…. … because of concern that the public could be misled by its contents.
    The Institute said it understood that the lead author, Professor Richard Tol, was engaged in revising the paper.
    Prof Tol has told RTÉ News that he stands over the findings.
    Also someone who appears to be a very respected statistician concluded on his recent twice(!) corrected paper:

    “The Economic Effects of Climate Change,” by economist Richard Tol.
    … after looking at the paper more carefully, I see a bunch of other problems that, to me, make the whole analysis close to useless as it stands.
    Then there’s the Ackerman affair – Ackerman published a paper concluding of Tol’s FUND model

    update to reflect newer research and correct modelling errors is needed before FUND’s damage estimates can be relied on

    To which Tol apparently responded by threatening libel action to his new employer(!!)

    [all emphasis mine]

    Now, it may be that this level of retraction, correction and controversy is entirely normal for one in his position. Equally it may be that Richard is exceptionally brave and outspoken rather than publishing substandard work – I lack the expertise to judge.

    But concentrating on the quality of his own work rather than searching out further controversy would seem wise.

  10. vtg,
    Tol appears to have equated the Anonymous critique of his error correction as being similar to what Ackerman did

    If so, that would seem to suggest that what Ackerman did was an entirely reasonable analysis of Tol’s FUND code and Tol’s accusation of Libel was completely unfounded.

    He also seems to have lost some respect for Gelman now that he’s critiqued Tol’s work.

    It’s quite remarkable how many people have incorrectly criticised Richard Tol’s work. You’d think it statistically unlikely that they could all be wrong, and Tol always right. Of course, I’m not a statistician, so possibly I’m wrong. Maybe someone who is, could do a proper analysis.

  11. Jim Hunt says:

    @James – Precisely! My thoughts too, published earlier this very day:

    I expected an article in a learned journal entitled “Energy Policy” to mention energy policy at some juncture. I was sadly disappointed!

  12. I find one of the more interesting things that Tol said was that it doesn’t matter if the found consensus is 90 or 99%. So it shouldn’t matter if he had actually found 91%.

  13. jsam: Who is wasting their money paying Tol to produce such [Self-mod]. Inquiring minds want to know.

    And I thought this was an ironic paraphrase of Anthony Watts, who recently asked this question about a study comparing storms with female and male names. I did not read much on this, but I guess that the issue was that people do not take female storms seriously. That sounds like a much more important study as the one mentioned above.

  14. verytallguy says:

    On the Ackerman affair – given Tol’s reaction I’d conclude that your policy of remaining anonymous is wise, and that the anonymous critic of Tol’s paper was also wise to remain so.

    On Tol’s twitterisms, they strike me as an attempt to provide cover for the fact that his methodology for Cook’s study giving 91% rather than 97% doesn’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny.

    On the wider Tol controversies – the more that people look at his work, the more errors are found. That may, or may not be unusual for papers in his field, and those errors may or may not be serious – I lack the expertise to judge. I might also be biased…

    Finally, the one thing which is actually important

    ”Published papers that seek to test what caused the climate change over the last century and half, almost unanimously find that humans played a dominant role.”

    Richard Tol, on this blog

    ”“There is no doubt in my mind that the literature on climate change overwhelmingly supports the hypothesis that climate change is caused by humans. I have very little reason to doubt that the consensus is indeed correct.””

    Richard Tol, in the paper

    Remarkable indeed.

  15. John Mashey says:

    Bravo for the most amazing Ack in a peer-reviewed paper: see this..

  16. John Hartz says:

    Bavo ATTP! Bravo!

  17. dana1981 says:

    Well said ATTP. For details regarding Tol’s math error, see my Guardian post:

    To be blunt, his paper is appallingly bad. Our team identified 24 errors (details in the above post), but unfortunately the journal only allowed us a 1000 word response, so we had to publish most of the rebuttals in a document hosted at Skeptical Science. We limited our journal response (accepted but not yet published) to Tol’s glaring 91% error, also debunked by an anonymous individual in a different way.

    It’s pretty easy to catch the error. In our full sample of 12,000 abstracts, we found 78 rejection papers. In an assumed 6.7% error rate, Tol’s methodology produced 300 more. 100% = 78 and 6.7% = 300? How do you not catch that error?? How do you not understand it after it’s been explained to you several times??

    I’m reminded of a comment Tol left on this blog:

    “If I submit a comment that argues that the Cook data are inconsistent and invalid, even though they are not, my reputation is in tatters.”

  18. John M,
    My first anonymous acknowledgement 🙂

  19. Mike Pollard says:

    Richard Tol “I’m bound by the laws and customs of academics’ behaviour in public.” As an academic I have to say that whatever Tol’s laws and customs are, he is the only one bound by them. He has put himself in a class all on his own. I actually feel embarrassed for him.

  20. Marco says:

    I think Tol’s “gremlins”, as well as the fact he had the correct the paper twice, may well have some of his colleagues reconsider whether they should trust his papers.

    Dana: he can *still* maintain the data are inconsistent and invalid – if only he had received all the data he requested, he could even show it. And now it will be all *your* fault that he made such a mess and couldn’t (/sarc).

  21. dana1981 says:

    I also wanted to add that I have a physics background, and when doing physics problems you always do a sanity check on your answer. If you conclude for example that Mars rotates around the sun 1,000 times faster than Earth, you know you screwed up and you go back and check to see where you made a math mistake.

    Maybe those types of sanity checks aren’t done by ‘econometricians’, because Tol’s results fail, but he and the Energy Policy reviewers somehow didn’t notice.

  22. Dana,
    Exactly, I had a similar thought. It’s as if he trust his statistical tests so much that he doesn’t think that there’s any need to do a sanity check. It’s standard practice in physics, though. If the speed you calculate is greater than the speed of light, you’ve made a mistake.

  23. AnOilMan says:

    I believe this kind of work by Tol completely calls into question his work in economics. Tol is demonstrating motivated reasoning to the point of breaking the math.

  24. dana1981 says:

    “It’s as if he trust his statistical tests so much that he doesn’t think that there’s any need to do a sanity check.”

    Exactly – when I contacted Tol via email, explained the error and the ‘sanity check’ failure, and asked if he stood behind his analysis and result, his answer was ‘yes’ because he still believed had performed the proper statistical test. Sanity be damned, I guess.

  25. izen says:

    I think there may be some sort of time-warp problem with the statements made by Richard Tol. When he said this –

    “Although the numbers have changed, the conclusions have not. The difference between the new and old results is not statistically significant. There is no qualitative change either.”

    It was shirley intended to be part of the conclusions in his comment on Cook et al?

    I am surprised that his work on the results of rating the abstract in the Cook et al paper failed to reduce the measured consensus by this method below the psychologically all important 90%. Perhaps if he had changed the sign of a few results and arbitrarily applied a quadratic…
    But that would have no effect on the Gold Standard results used to test the raters reading abstracts method. Where the explicit testimony of the authors of a representative sample confirmed the consensus was in the high 90s.

  26. John Hartz says:

    Here’s tjhe $64,000 question: What do the powers to-be at Sussex University think of the brouhaha created by Tol over Cook et al (2013)?

    I have hard time imagining that Tol’s war on Cook et al (203) fits under his academic portfolio.

  27. Marco says:

    John, they likely don’t care. He’s got a publication, that’s all that counts. As long as he publishes and has an impact (no matter what direction), the powers-to-be at Sussex will be happy.

  28. AnOilMan says:

    Is Sussex University even an accredited institution? At this point I have to ask. What exactly are the qualifications? They can’t be very high for economics.

    Perhaps Tol should transfer to political science since that pretty much defines what he’s doing. Maybe he could work with other political scientists in his field. (Oh… he already is.)

  29. As Marco says, Sussex University probably don’t care. He’s publishing and having impact. He also has – and should have – academic freedom. As far as Sussex University itself is concerned, I have friends/colleagues who work there, have worked there, and have studied there; so – as far as I’m aware – it’s a perfectly respectable university.

  30. dbostrom says:

    In his paper Tol leaned on some quotations from material “lifted” by illegitimate means from a private, password protected and obviously non-public communications system employed by Skeptical Science authors and staff. A particular individual was singled out in Tol’s paper, with that person’s state of mind being a matter of speculation on Tol’s part and offered in support of Tol’s hypothesis about “fatigue.”

    The person Tol quoted was employed by Tol as a human research subject.

    Here’s what the University of Sussex has to say about employing human subjects in research:

    The University is committed to advancing and safeguarding high quality academic and research governance standards in all its activities. Research undertaken in accordance with
    recognised research ethics standards constitutes good research practice. This guidance document should be read in conjunction with the University‟s Research Governance Code of
    Practice (July 2011).

    Research projects that involve human participants either directly (e.g. being interviewed, answering questionnaires) and/or indirectly (e.g. accessing personal data) should be ethically reviewed via the University‟s research governance procedure. In general, this does NOT include accessing archival information, where the participants are deceased and / or the information that you are accessing is anonymised.

    ( University of Sussex Guidelines for completing the onliine application for ethical review )

    I wonder if Tol went through that process? Based on the reckless nature of the rest of the paper it seems unlikely, but perhaps he did.

  31. John Mashey says:

    Universities properly protect academic freedom, and the inherent result is that there are always professors they’d just as soon were somewhere else.
    I’d urge people not to write unfounded slurs on Sussex, unless there is some evidence of wrongdoing.

    I’ve visited hundreds of schools, and many have a few professors whose names cause rolling of eyes. Sometimes members of a department feel compelled to publicly distance themselves as they did with Don Easterbrook @ Western Washington.

    In any case, it is far better if someone publishes such material than if they are just teaching students things like … physics teachers pushing Intelligent Design, which means students have to the complaining.

  32. Just a short comment to say I agree with what John has said. Academic freedom is very important. You can’t pick and choose when it should apply.

  33. dbostrom says:

    Quite agree, John. If the University of Sussex found no problems with Tol’s use of his human subject, then we should defer to their expertise.

    In general, ethics review boards are if anything over-cautious, which is probably good.

  34. BBD says:

    Has anyone asked them yet?

  35. Marco says:

    I think it is stretching it a bit to consider Andy a “human subject” in this particular case, so I don’t think, again, that Sussex cares much.

    However, Andy has already indicated he has contacted the journal to ask them to remove the misrepresentation by Tol from the paper. It’ll be interesting to follow what they do with that complaint.

  36. Michael 2 says:

    “Finally, the goal of these consensus studies is largely to counter claims that no such consensus exists. ”

    I see it as a refinement of the word “consensus.” It obviously exists, but what does it MEAN?

    When my brother says “97 percent of scientists say…” the implication is 97 percent of ALL scientists — computer scientists, social scientists, geologists, astronomers, etc.

    Refining it to say “97 percent of the scientists working in this particular field — admission to which requires prior consensus anyway — say X.” This may still be more complicated than is acceptable for a 10 second news bite.

    One wonders about the other three percent, why did they go off the reservation?

  37. Michael 2 says:

    izen says: “It was shirley intended to be part of the conclusions in his comment on Cook et al?”

    …and don’t call me Shirley! (quoting Leslie Nielsen)

  38. izen,

    I am surprised that his work on the results of rating the abstract in the Cook et al paper failed to reduce the measured consensus by this method below the psychologically all important 90%.

    As I understand it, Tol could have applied his error correction method recursively until he reached a consensus of 50%. Of course, that would have illustrated how nonsensical his error correction method was and – I guess – some are rather put off by the term recursive 🙂

  39. John Mashey says:

    Why? Often hard to tell, but when papers move from the usual legitimate arguments over uncertainty into anti-science, try Reasons catalog.
    I’ve seen examples that I though were fit by various combinations.

  40. dbostrom says:

    Marco, it may be a question of “don’t ask questions you don’t want answered.” If you’ve seen how the typical ERB functions there’d be little doubt in your mind about whether the person was considered a subject, from the perspective of an ERB.

    Tol employed the subject’s putative thoughts and feelings in support of Tol’s hypothesis with regard to the validity of Cook et al. How is the person not a human subject? If the person’s thoughts were not used as data, why are they in the paper?

  41. Steve Bloom says:

    It’s interesting how Tol has a long history of this sort of eccentricity, but even so fairly recently was hired by Sussex U. fairly recently and appointed by IPCC WG2 to a responsible position. At this rate, before too long he’ll be IPCC chair and have an economics Nobel!

    Seriously, it seems strange but perhaps true that a close look at his IAM work never got taken. Or perhaps the economics profession is riddled with this sort of thing, which from reading Krugman may even be the case.

    Re the former possibility, it was obvious to me and I assume many other casual observers that, even if everything had been done correctly, the IAM results were on the whole so old as to be necessarily inconsistent with the AR5 science. So why were they included at all?

  42. sm says:

    A paper that names people, cites them, and puts them in uncomplimentary boxes will always run into trouble.
    I do not understand how an experienced author like Lewandowski can let this happen, or why referees and editors did not spot this. Sloppiness all around.

    Paper rightly put into the dustbin.

    Richard Tol (@RichardTol)
    March 21, 2014 at 10:08 am

  43. Magma says:

    The consensus is of course in the high nineties. R. Tol

    So Tol is going after them because they got the right answers for the ‘wrong’ reasons? Maybe Cook et al. have the other sort of gremlins, the good ones that quietly fix up errors behind the scene.

  44. > On the wider Tol controversies – the more that people look at his work, the more errors are found. That may, or may not be unusual for papers in his field, and those errors may or may not be serious – I lack the expertise to judge. I might also be biased…

    Of course this is biased.

    The more people look at a paper, the more errors are found.

  45. Marco says:

    Doug, if we for a moment assume this was a public comment (it wasn’t, and that’s where the real problem is in terms of ethics), I think it isn’t an issue. If it is, there are quite a few papers out that will need to be retracted for failure to get ERB approval in their study of “human subjects”. For example, I very much doubt that the scientific papers written about ‘climategate’ had received ERB approval, even though they explicitly examined and judged the contents of the e-mails and what they supposedly meant. Then there are the cases where people cite other people’s papers, where one could argue that also there the “feelings” and “thoughts” of those others are used.

  46. verytallguy says:


    Of course this is biased.

    The more people look at a paper, the more errors are found.

    Yes indeed, I was more thinking about how serious those might be, and perhaps, trying to be skeptical. Even before Judith helpfully reminded us of the importance of skpeticism, I might add.

  47. dbostrom says:

    Marco, think about that: if the ethical problem is that the comment was private and used without permission, then how do we disagree?

    The fact that some few (how many?) authors who should have cleared their work with an ERB got away with it in the past has nothing to do with the present. Yesterday’s successful burglar does not exculpate today’s.

    The other analogy you present is also not really appropriate; if an author publishes a paper incorporating thought, obviously there is no expectation of privacy. Seeing a couple kiss in public is not the same as hiding under their bed.

  48. dbostrom says:

    As a mental exercise, read the U of Sussex material on research ethics, perhaps do a little more reading on treatment of human subjects in social science research, and then construct a case to present to an ERB using Tol’s case. Would an ERB approve?

  49. and then construct a case to present to an ERB using Tol’s case.

    I think I did a variant of this in a comment on an earlier thread.

  50. Joshua says:

    I’d like to trust Richard’s findings – but I’d first need certification that he has gotten that gremlin infestation under control.

  51. John Hartz says:

    The number of errors contained in Tol’s paper suggests to me that he may not have been the sole author of the paper and that others may have done the analytical work, Regardless, Tol definitely has a quality control problem — as deos the Journal Physics Policy..

  52. John,
    No, I get the impression that the number of errors is entirely consistent with the work being done by Tol (well, and some Gremlins). I think you mean the “Journal of Energy Policy”, though 🙂

  53. John Hartz says:

    Something to ponder — If a person is skeptical of being skeptical, is he/she a legitimate skeptic?.

  54. John,
    In that context I think that would be someone who is confusing the work “skeptical” with the word “dubious”. I think most people who explicitly claim to “climate skeptics” are really just dubious.

  55. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: If Tol has a record of making mistakes in his work, should not the power-to-be at Sussex Unieversity be concerned?

  56. John,
    Not really. Mistakes happen. We learn from them and progress. Making a big deal out of them, or not acknowledging them, is the bigger issue – in my opinion, at least.

  57. OPatrick says:

    Tol has an article on this at the Guardian – can I suggest early commets from those who know what they are talking about?

  58. OPatrick,
    Yes, I’ve just seen that. I’m dying to know if he is capable of commenting on his own article without being moderated. I suspect not, but am happy to be proven wrong 🙂

  59. AnOilMan says:

    ATTP: But these aren’t mistakes, and his ‘work’ isn’t a paper. Its a political podium for an extremist organization and nothing more.

    Tol said he intended to handle this by being destructive.

  60. John Mashey says:

    ATTP: skeptics versus dubious
    I disagree, in part because I’ve spent a lot of time studying.
    Dubious allows for the possibility people might change their minds.
    One more time: most are pseudoskeptics.

    Here are a few examples, just from Amazon:
    1) My review of Murry Salby’s book got 200+ comments, of which many were Gavin Cawley patiently trying to explain basics to R. G. Reynolds and Morgan Wright, but they were having none of it. Morgan Wright eventually wrote his own review (“The bible of atmospheric physics” as did Lucy Skywalker, both giving it 5s. For calibration, Morgan is a retired optometrist who runs a disk golf course in upstate NY (from URL he posted in the discussion).

    2) Don’t Sell Your Coat: Surprising Truths About Climate Change got 32 5-star reviews, and 3 1-stars, of which one by Godo Stoyke has accumulated 100+ comments.
    Thsi had gone quiet, then fired up again around comment 73, with Bjorn, Godo, and then a long sequence between Godo and I. J. Sloan, who (from his Amazon profile) lives near Manchester.
    (so, along with Lucy … he’s one of *yours* :-))

    Now, if one reviews the dialogs,
    or absolutely dedicated to rejection / dismissive / denial?

    If someone says: I reject X and there is no way I will ever believe it, they are at least being honest.

  61. John,
    Yes, I agree. I was trying to distinguish between people who actually understand a topic but are still sceptical and have the ability to actively test their scepticism, and those who simply say “no, that can’t be right”.

  62. John Mashey says:

    The problem is the vagueness of English.
    Consider a 2D graph on what people think about some proposition.
    X: how much relevant expertise, say 0 to 10.
    Y: Pr(proposition) from 0 to 1
    SO, a person’s view would be shown by a vertical bar or graphic like a boxplot

  63. dana1981 says:

    Tol basically bullied The Guardian into allowing him a ‘right of reply’ editorial, but almost everything he says therein is false and was pre-bunked yesterday. It’s almost as error-riddled as the paper on which it’s based.

    What I find frustrating is that Tol refuses to admit his error, and instead keeps claiming the quality of *our* methodology was poor, when *his* methodology (on which the criticism of our paper is based) has been proven wrong.

    Basically he’s doubling down on his Gremlins. His reputation really does deserve to be in tatters at this point. At least when Ward proved he had made errors in previous papers, Tol eventually admitted it.

  64. Pingback: The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 4222

  65. Mike Pollard says:

    @dana1981. Do you think that Tol is venting his spleen simply because of this tweet to you “I published 118 neutral (in your parlance) papers. You missed 111. Of the 7 you assessed, you misclassified 4.” Is this whole thing because he thinks more of his papers should have been included in Cook13? Is he that petty?

  66. Mike,
    I think the answers to your two questions are :

    1. Don’t know.

    2. Yes.

  67. dana1981 says:

    Mike – to the first question no. If I’m being honest, I think this whole thing is just a result of Tol’s malignant narcissism. I think he saw all the attention our consensus paper got and decided he wanted a piece. Richard Tol only cares about Richard Tol, and about people paying attention to Richard Tol.

  68. Maybe jsam will tell us what he said that ultimately ended up being moderated on Tol’s Guardian article.

  69. John Hartz says:

    ATTP & John Mashey: The question I posed about skeptiicism waa meant to be a light-hearted brain teaser. By nature, I cannot function in the “very serious person mode” without taking a humor break now and then..

  70. John Hartz says:

    On the good news front…,

    When the history of how the human race responded to manmade climate change is written, Tol’s vendetta against John Cook and the SkS team of volunteers will be but a footnote. Everyone participating in this comment thread needs to take a deep breath and relax a bit..

  71. jsam says:

    Yes, I was a bit surprised by my being moderated for…

    – The “r” in “Tol” is silent.

    Given the nonsense of the Barrys and Brandons I thought I might sneak that through.:-)

    i have just commented…

    – Hasn’t Richard actually discovered the consensus is 116%? 🙂

    linking back to the critique supplied by the gunshy anonymous.

  72. BBD says:

    Tol’s confected “controversy” over C13 and much else besides is profoundly irritating. It is also redundant proof that contrarian tactic number one works all-too well.

    The lessons of the hockey stick were clearly learned well.

  73. BBD says:

    Sorry, that was @ John Hartz, re:

    Everyone participating in this comment thread needs to take a deep breath and relax a bit..

  74. John Mashey says:

    BBD: actually, in this case, it’s caused a large number of people to download Cook etal(2013).

  75. AnOilMan says:

    Don’t feed the Tol.

  76. Rachel M says:


    Who moderates the comments on Guardian articles? I always assumed the authors of the articles themselves had a say in this?

  77. jsam,
    I was going to ask how your comment got moderated while the one above did not, but I see it has now gone.

  78. Rachel M says:

    I was wondering the same thing 🙂

  79. dbostrom says:

    ATTP: I think I did a variant of [conversation with ethics board] in a comment on an earlier thread.

    Very nice!

    Governance of research involving humans is intended to be failsafe; the default position is heavily oriented to “deny.”

    What folks don’t seem to get about this is that by no stretch of the imagination did Tol have a choice about whether to slide his plan past an ERB. It’s not a even decision left to the researcher, not if some very broad tests are applied and there’s a vague hint of a positive output. Look for “5-point self-assessement checklist” on U. Sussex research governance site. That checklist is boilerplate; the protocol described there is virtually universal. The conclusion and guidance is quite definite. Ideally, Tol noted item 1 and stopped at item 3 before proceeding.

  80. dana1981 says:

    Rachel – the Guardian has its own dedicated moderators. From what I understand they’re rather overworked, and hence can only spend a few seconds looking over a comment before deciding whether it requires moderation. Hence they sometimes make mistakes. Unfortunately there are a lot of comment trolls on climate posts like mine. Overall I think they do a very good job, but sometimes they delete comments that shouldn’t have been deleted.

  81. John Hartz says:

    Doug: Thanks for ferreting out the Sussex Universtiy irules governing research involving humans.
    Isn’t it possible that Tol will claim that he did his research and wrote his paper on his own time and therefore the Sussex Universtiy rules are not applicable?

  82. jsam,

    – The “r” in “Tol” is silent.

    That reminds of a cricketing story. I played for the university cricket time for a few years. One of the players was a rather curmudgeonly History professor. There was a particular match where he stayed in for many overs without scoring much. Someone commented that he’d been the team’s anchor, to which someone replied with “is that anchor with a silent w”.

  83. jsam says:

    The collective noun for bankers is a “wunch”.

  84. Joshua says:

    ATTP –

    I really like the skeptic vs. dubious framework. Dubious is a much better description for many climate warriors, as it describes an opinion of someone who might be a skeptic or might not be a skeptic. Many “skeptics” that I’ve come across are indeed dubious, but are not people that I would generally consider skeptics as they believe in things that are highly implausible and for which they have little or not evidence.

    I will be “borrowing” the terminology.

  85. John Hartz says:

    Johsua: We need to expand the terminlogy by calling people who are dubious, “dubiers”. John Mashey will, of course, insist that we also use the term “pseudo-dubiers” to describe those people who are fake dubiers.

  86. Joshua says:

    John –

    Heh. I was trying to figure out how to turn dubious into a noun. I don’t particularly like “dubiers” because of the reference to “deniers.” How about “dubitics?”

  87. John Hartz says:

    Joshua: “Dubitics” has potential — except for the fact that it connates an image of a new type of tick.

  88. What about … dismissivists? Is that a category? Don’t dismiss him just because he had a couple of bad papers, his next one might be great. They might be giants! Peer review is the great rehabilitator. Perhaps online peer review has indeed arrived. And dueling op-ed too, lol.

  89. Marco says:

    John Hartz, no, he can’t just claim he wrote the paper on his own time. His paper lists his affiliation, and thereby he has explicitly linked it to his professional activity as an academic at Sussex (and a few other places).

  90. OPatrick says:

    Dubists and Dubism, perhaps?

  91. OPatrick says:

    And maybe there’s a place for Durrealism.

  92. John Hartz says:

    Marco: Thnks for mthe clarification.

  93. gomer says:


    It’s as if he trust his statistical tests so much that he doesn’t think that there’s any need to do a sanity check.

    I wrote an article on RationalWiki a few years ago on the adventures of Ross McKitrick, another economist. One of the comments I made was:

    McKitrick clearly never performed any sanity check on his input data and simply believed the results it produced.

    Now my background is also physics. There seems to be a common approach among physicists to dealing with problems, one which is apparently not shared by economists. I’m not sure why this should be the case, but a couple of points occur to me:
    – Physicists are notorious for quick and dirty calculations (of the “assume the cow is spherical” variety) to get a ballpark answer before even switching on the computer. Is this so ingrained that it’s second nature?
    – Is economics so complex that such ballpark calculations are impossible or worthless? They don’t get into the habit of checking if the result even makes sense because it’s a waste of time?

  94. gomer,
    Thanks, that’s fascinating. I was aware of issues with M&M’s critique of MNH98, but wasn’t aware of the other issues. The Antarctic peninsular has a population of 59 million is an impressive mistake to have made.

  95. Eli Rabett says:

    gomer, see Paul Krugman for an example of an economist who likes the quick and dirty, see Steve Williamson for the formalist version (or Tol)

  96. Pingback: Another Week in the Ecological Crisis, June 8, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered

  97. KR says:

    There’s also the rather awful and rebutted 2012 “Polynomial cointegration tests of anthropogenic impact on global warming” paper claiming CO2 wasn’t correlated with temperatures over the last 150 years. Two of the three authors are economists, using a math tool from economics to cross-correlate otherwise random looking variables for some common cause. In essence they started (based on an inappropriately used test) with the idea that forcings and temperature are uncorrelated non-stationary series, and went astray from there.

    Just one of the issues with their analysis (and there were many) is that their computations indicate CO2 influences decay over time (regardless of the CO2 level) and that temperatures are inversely correlated with methane concentrations. Given that methane is an extremely strong greenhouse gas, this should have been a head-slap sanity test indicating problems with their analysis. And they failed to spot it.

    I don’t understand this tendency with economists at all. Are economic conclusions so untestable that simple sanity checks are uncommon?

  98. jsam says:

    Richard will hate this. “Lord Stern, the world’s most authoritative climate economist…” Followed by “has issued a stark warning that the financial damage caused by global warming will be considerably greater than current models predict.”

  99. jsam,
    Yes, I’m getting the popcorn ready as we speak 🙂

  100. Pingback: De Teldersstichting en het klimaat | Sargasso

  101. jsam,
    Yes, seems Bob Ward had a point.

  102. jsam says:

    The good doctor’s employers will not be happy with this loss of face. He may need alternative employment.

    Or the correction will be absorbed as yet more evidence that the world is set against troof-finders.

  103. Steve Bloom says:

    Merely being wrong doesn’t seem to be much of an impediment to success in economics. The trick seems to be to be wrong about the desired things.

  104. Pingback: Same ol’ same ol’ | …and Then There's Physics

  105. Pingback: More nonsense – sorry, nonsensus – from Richard Tol | …and Then There's Physics

  106. Pingback: Altri giganti - Ocasapiens - Blog -

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