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.
- 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.
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.
The consensus is of course in the high nineties.
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).
Coming soon to a university near you … Cook, Marcott, Turney http://t.co/umII5C3ZaY
— Richard Tol (@RichardTol) May 18, 2014
@citizenjoesmith No. I'd rather see those three leave academia.
— Richard Tol (@RichardTol) May 18, 2014
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
- 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!