Just Keep Calling It Fact-Checking And Someday They'll Believe You

By Carl Zimmer | April 30, 2009 9:14 am

Zachary Smith at Talking Points Memo, among others, notes that the Washington Post editorial page editor is still claiming that George Will’s many misrepresentations about global warming were subject to “careful fact-checking,” some two months after many people showed they were anything but–including some who explained the errors in the Washington Post itself. It’s a sad coda to a long tale of op-ed woe.


Comments (19)

  1. beryl

    Sounds as though the Washington Post needs to check with New Yorker about what constitutes fact checking.

  2. kanimal

    Global warming may be happening but whether or not it’s man made is still up for debate. Currently there are over 750 prominent scientists that are skeptical than man has any effect on global temperatures. This should make everyone wonder; why such a push to control carbon emissions when there is so little evidence that it would have any effect? Because it’s all about control. Evidence be damned, they must tell you how to live because you are wasteful; you have to much freedom to do what you want. You must be told how to live.
    I, for one, am not going to let a bunch of misanthropic scientists run my life.

  3. Owen

    kanimal – you keep saying “prominent scientists”, I do not think it means what you think it means. /inigo montoya

    Just one example of fact checking (hmm – wasn’t that what this post was about?) from this wikipedia article on the Oregon Petition to which you refer.

    In a 2005 op-ed in the Hawaii Reporter, Todd Shelly wrote:
    “ In less than 10 minutes of casual scanning, I found duplicate names (Did two Joe R. Eaglemans and two David Tompkins sign the petition, or were some individuals counted twice?), single names without even an initial (Biolchini), corporate names (Graybeal & Sayre, Inc. How does a business sign a petition?), and an apparently phony single name (Redwine, Ph.D.). These examples underscore a major weakness of the list: there is no way to check the authenticity of the names. Names are given, but no identifying information (e.g., institutional affiliation) is provided. Why the lack of transparency?[22] ”

  4. Steve A

    May I ask if you don’t want “a bunch of misanthropic scientists run my life” you value 750 of them to tell you you are correct?

    Your number has a lot of problems. Who are these people? Often times they are retired or haven’t published any papers in a peer reviewed source that relates to the issue. Not always, but it comes up more often than not.

    Beyond that, there was a survey done by Peter Doran, University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor of earth and environmental sciences.


    3,146 earth scientists were interviewed. To quote: “Two questions were key: have mean global temperatures risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and has human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures. About 90 percent of the scientists agreed with the first question and 82 percent the second.”

    However: “In analyzing responses by sub-groups, Doran found that climatologists who are active in research showed the strongest consensus on the causes of global warming, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role.”

    Seems a lot more authoritative to me.

  5. kanimal

    Owen and Steve A; Here is a link for you: http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=10fe77b0-802a-23ad-4df1-fc38ed4f85e3

    Owen; don’t use Wikipedia for fact checking.
    Steve A; You can believe a ‘survey’ is authoritative but my link is much more convincing.

    Here’s a quote from it;
    “Retired Award Winning NASA Atmospheric Scientist Dr. William W. Vaughan, recipient of the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, a former Division Chief of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and author of more than 100 refereed journal articles, monographs, and papers, also now points to natural causes of recent climate changes. “The cause of these global changes is fundamentally due to the Sun and its effect on the Earth as it moves about in its orbit. Not from man-made activities,” Vaughan told the minority staff on the Environment and Public Works Committee on February 6, 2009.

    Geology Professor Uberto Crescenti of the University G.d’Annunzio in Italy, the past president of the Society of Italian Geologists also agrees that nature, not mankind is ruling the climate. “I think that climatic changes have natural causes according to geological data…I am very glad to sign the U.S. Senate’s report of scientists against the theory of man-made global warming,” Crescenti told the minority staff on the Environment and Public Works Committee on January 15, 2009.

    UN IPCC Scientist Dr. Steven M. Japar, a PhD atmospheric chemist who was part of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Second (1995) and Third (2001) Assessment Reports, and has authored 83 peer-reviewed publications and in the areas of climate change, atmospheric chemistry, air pollutions and vehicle emissions, challenged the IPCC’s climate claims.

    “Temperature measurements show that the [climate model-predicted mid-troposphere] hot zone is non-existent. This is more than sufficient to invalidate global climate models and projections made with them!” Japar told the minority staff on the Environment and Public Works Committee on January 7, 2009.

    Mathematical Physicist Dr. Frank Tipler, professor at Tulane University who has authored 58 peer-reviewed publications and five books, ridiculed man-made climate claims. “Whether the ice caps melt, or expand — whatever happens — the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) theorists claim it confirms their theory. A perfect example of a pseudo-science like astrology,” Tipler wrote on December 22, 2008. “

  6. kanimal

    My apologies. It’s 709.

  7. kanimal

    Washington, DC: Fifty-nine additional scientists from around the world have been added to the U.S. Senate Minority Report of dissenting scientists, pushing the total to over 700 skeptical international scientists – a dramatic increase from the original 650 scientists featured in the initial December 11, 2008 release. The 59 additional scientists added to the 255-page Senate Minority report since the initial release 13 ½ weeks ago represents an average of over four skeptical scientists a week. This updated report – which includes yet another former UN IPCC scientist – represents an additional 300 (and growing) scientists and climate researchers since the initial report’s release in December 2007.

    The over 700 dissenting scientists are now more than 13 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media-hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers. The 59 additional scientists hail from all over the world, including Japan, Italy, UK, Czech Republic, Canada, Netherlands, the U.S. and many are affiliated with prestigious institutions including, NASA, U.S. Navy, U.S. Defense Department, Energy Department, U.S. Air Force, the Philosophical Society of Washington (the oldest scientific society in Washington), Princeton University, Tulane University, American University, Oregon State University, U.S. Naval Academy and EPA.

    The explosion of skeptical scientific voices is accelerating unabated in 2009. A March 14, 2009 article in the Australian revealed that Japanese scientists are now at the forefront of rejecting man-made climate fears prompted by the UN IPCC.

    Prominent Japanese Geologist Dr. Shigenori Maruyama, a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences who has authored more than 125 scientific publications, said in March 2009 that “there was widespread skepticism among his colleagues about the IPCC’s fourth and latest assessment report that most of the observed global temperature increase since the mid-20th century ‘is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” Maruyama noted that when this question was raised at a Japan Geoscience Union symposium last year, ‘the result showed 90 per cent of the participants do not believe the IPCC report.” [Also See: The prestigious International Geological Congress, dubbed the geologists’ equivalent of the Olympic Games, was held in Norway in August 2008 and prominently featured the voices of scientists skeptical of man-made global warming fears. [ See: Skeptical scientists overwhelm conference: ‘2/3 of presenters and question-askers were hostile to, even dismissive of, the UN IPCC’ & see full reports here & here –More analyses of recent developments see report’s introduction here. ]

    “I do not find the supposed scientific consensus among my colleagues,” noted Earth Scientist Dr. Javier Cuadros on March 3, 2009. Cuadros, of the UK Natural History Museum, specializes in Clay Mineralogy and has published more than 30 scientific papers.

    Award-Winning Princeton University Physicist Dr. Robert H. Austin, who has published 170 scientific papers and was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, lamented the current fears over global warming.

    “Unfortunately, Climate Science has become Political Science…It is tragic that some perhaps well-meaning but politically motivated scientists who should know better have whipped up a global frenzy about a phenomena which is statistically questionable at best,” Austin told the minority staff on the Environment and Public Works Committee on March 2, 2009.

    ‘Could turn the climate change world upside down’

    The rise in skeptical scientists are responding not only to an increase in dire “predictions” of climate change, but also a steady stream of peer-reviewed studies, analyses, real world data, and inconvenient developments have further cast doubts on the claims of man-made global warming fear activists. The latest peer-reviewed study in Geophysical Research Letters is being touted as a development that “could turn the climate change world upside down.” The study finds that the “Earth is undergoing natural climate shift.” The March 15, 2009 article in WISN.com details the research of Dr. Anastasios Tsonis of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “We realized a lot of changes in the past century from warmer to cooler and then back to warmer were all natural,” Tsonis said. “I don’t think we can say much about what the humans are doing,” he added.

    Tsonis further added: “The temperature has flattened and is actually going down. We are seeing a new shift towards cooler temperatures that will last for probably about three decades.” [ See also: Peer-Reviewed Study Finds Global Warming could stop ‘for up to 30 years! Warming ‘On Hold?…’Could go into hiding for decades’ study finds – Discovery.com – March 2, 2009 ]

    Climate ‘primarily being driven by natural forcing mechanisms’

    Climatologist and Paloeclimate researcher Dr. Diane Douglas, who has authored or edited over 200 technical reports, also declared natural factors are dominating climate, not CO2. “The recent ‘panic’ to control GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and billions of dollars being dedicated for the task has me deeply concerned that US, and other countries are spending precious global funds to stop global warming, when it is primarily being driven by natural forcing mechanisms,” Douglas, who is releasing a major new paper she authored that will be presented at a UNESCO conference in Ghent, Belgium on March 20, 2009, told the minority staff on the Environment and Public Works Committee on March 10, 2009.

    Carl: Kanimal, it would be nice if you provided a link for the source of this so that people can evaluate it. I’m deeply skeptical, given that I’ve spoken to Tsonis myself, and what you’ve posted here does not reflect his actual views: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2009/03/04/checking-george-will-the-perils-of-time-travel/

  8. kanimal

    I did list the link in my post right after Steve A’s response to me. Here it is again: http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=10fe77b0-802a-23ad-4df1-fc38ed4f85e3

    I encourage everyone to read it.

    Carl: Thanks for the clarification. However, the material on Tsonis is still misleading.

  9. Josh in California
  10. Jeanette Garcia

    I am keeping track of this expedition going on right now in the Arctic Ocean where independent scientist’s are measuring the ice depth. http://www.catlinarcticsurvey.com/environment_global.aspx

    From a lay persons view, I can’t see how trashing the air and the environment we live in would not have an effect on, or at least hasten global warming. I would put my trust in responsible research studies rather then listen to sloppy journalist’s reporting about research done by individuals who are paid by large corporations who can then bend the truth to suit their finances.

  11. Steve A


    Your logic here is strange. So I quote a survey of active scientist, and you link to a US Rep’s site (Inhofe) blog about dissenters who signed a list. Why is that more authoritative than than active participants in the field? Becuase you believe them? I can find a lot more people who believe and actively research climate change now. A lot more than 700. Check out:


    And Jeanette Garcia has it right. I trust the science more. Where are the papersagainst climate change? Where are the peered review articles? So far, all those authorities against climate change are just making statements in the press. Deniers howl at James Hansen, Director of NASA’s GISS, when he makes similar statements. The lack of anti-climate change papers is not because the science is being held down, it’s because its not there.

    BTW, on Inhofe’s list:

    “Worse still, when Andrew Dessler started contacting some of the actual climate scientists listed, many of them expressed first shock, then horror, and then e-mailed Inhofe’s staff and demanded to be taken off, since they didn’t disagree with the scientific consensus on climate change at all. ”



    From last year:

  12. kanimal

    Steve A is just wantonly ignorant. Really read the report. And, again, listing Wikipedia and some blogs just doesn’t cut it. There are a lot of anti-climate change papers out there. The problem is getting the blind to read them.

  13. Woody Tanaka

    “Really read the report. And, again, listing Wikipedia and some blogs just doesn’t cut it.”

    And Inhofe does??? LOL!

    Inhofe is such an idiot that once, after he was insulted by being called “Tweedledum,” the fictional character actually sprang into existence in order to note his objection to the comparison. He’s that much of an idiot Inhofe is.

  14. Steve A

    “Steve A is just wantonly ignorant. ”

    Must mean I’m speaking the truth. Every time I make a legitimate point to a climate change denier, I start getting personally insulted. I wonder why. Could it be that the argument is so poor that is all they have.

    “And, again, listing Wikipedia and some blogs just doesn’t cut it.”

    Hmm…Let’s take it slow and look at your link, shall we?


    See that word after Minority? What is it? Could it be blog? Wow. You sure showed me.
    I can start posting all the articles on papers if you want, or even the studies that come out every week. But what have you shown so far? Nothing. A list of people that anyone can sign and declaations of beliefs. Those aren’t scientific studies or proof. Show me papers in Nature, Science, American Geophysical review, etc.

    BTW, you’re also talking with someone who got a masters degree in the subject and has worked at NASA Goddard for a summer with climate models. I’m not some random person you can intimidate with insults when you have nothing left to argue.

  15. Fact checking? I thought you were talking about the (“FACT CHECK”) after a political bit of news I received from my WebMail Earthlink connection. What a lie, as I see it. I responded by saying I don’t need my headlines to be “fact checked” by whomever is writing them. I think for myself.

  16. Robert

    Those of us in Oklahoma with brains would gladly give Inhofe to any other state that wants him.

  17. Theodore

    A generalist is a person who learns less and less about more and more until they know nothing about everything . A specialist is a person who learns more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing. Most scientists are specialists, they can speak with great authority within their field of study. When they speak outside of that field they are speaking only as an educated person with no more authority than any one else. If you could say that 700 scientists who have studied climate have said climate change is not human caused it would mean something. Saying “700 scientists” without stating their fields of study is about the same as saying “700 people picked at random”


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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