It's never fun to have to issue a correction, but a few weeks ago we said that the only non-disinfo outlet to take notice of Anthony Watts' Heartland-funded attempt to cast doubt on thermometer readings was in the form of a letter to the editor that Tony sent to the Chico Enterprise-Record. It was true when we wrote it, but now, another mainstream outlet has taken notice, so that's no longer technically true. Unfortunately, though, for Tony and his "our once-primary funder gave his $1.6 billion company to someone else" sponsors at the tobacco-loving Heartland Institute, that outlet is PolitiFact.
And far from the sort of coverage Heartland was hoping it was paying Watts to generate, this one isn't going to help them lie about climate change, as it looks at the claim that "96% of U.S. climate data is corrupted" and finds it glaringly "False."
The story quotes Zeke Hausfather's assessment: "The correct approach is to write a scientific paper and submit it to a scientific journal. In this specific case, the author of the report, Anthony Watts, submitted a paper on the topic around 10 years ago, but was unable to successfully convince other scientists of the validity of his findings and to pass the peer review process."
And there's NOAA’s John Batemen, who pointed out that Watts is, at best, a modern Christopher Columbus, in that he's pretending to discover something plenty of people already know about, as scientists are well aware that asphalt is hotter than grass and have "developed techniques to account for and correct these potential problems.”
Amazingly though, this isn't even the dumbest thing to appear on Watts' website lately. That dubious honor goes to guest poster Eric Worrall (one of the regulars Watts has posting in his stead because he's clearly lost whatever passion he once had for this stuff) who asks "Is WSJ quietly practicing more balanced reporting on climate change?"
Worrall said that "a scattering of surprisingly climate skeptic stories has started appearing lately in the pages of America’s premier financial journal. But there may be an important deeper reason which explains why this is suddenly happening."
Except Worrall, in addition to being ignorant or intentionally stupid about climate change, also apparently needs some basic media literacy help, because of the three examples he cites, not are actually "stories" written by WSJ reporters. Instead, the pieces are all from the Journal's opinion page: two are op-eds, and the third a column by James Freeman. All are bog-standard WSJ opinion page disinformation. And, yes, those are more of what Worrall would consider "balanced" than the actual stories published by the WSJ's reporters, which thanks to journalistic norms like fact-checking, doesn't run disinfo like the opinion page does. But that's always been the case! So whatever Worrall thinks "explains why this is suddenly happening" is surely wrong, because nothing has suddenly happened!
And we bring this up, not only because we keep a close eye on the WSJ's opinion page as the premier source of climate disinformation, and have documented how they ran more fossil fuel propaganda during the first month of the Ukraine war than they have ever before, but because it shows how the Watts and Worrall crew are, at best, intellectually lazy and stupid, and at worst, intentionally deceiving their audience even in one-off posts like this to advance a narrative.
Worrall says he has "a theory that something changed when HSBC martyred senior executive Stuart Kirk," and that has led to some sort of reckoning with bankers, who … apparently control the Wall Street Journal? Worrall doesn't make that leap himself, and instead just puts the conspiracy theory under the header "Why is this happening?" and lets his equally lazy readers fill in the blanks themselves.
Now, if he had even the smallest amount of intellectual integrity or scientific acumen, he would, y'know, test his theory before publishing it online. Crazy idea, right?
Worrall could have slapped the rest of the WSJ's opinion page coverage of climate change into a spreadsheet, and done a quantitative analysis to see if there have been changes over time. That's what we've done! (Have we mentioned that we're hiring a research assistant since the top of this newsletter? No? Well, here's the link!) Take a quick scroll through those 1,000+ op-eds, columns and editorials, and see if it seems like the tone has been notably more critical of climate science and policy than the ones that preceded the July 8th news about Stuart Kirk. We've even done you the favor of highlighting climate-accurate pieces in green.
Of the 33 opinions published, how dramatically would you think the ratio of "alarmist" to "skeptical" content would need to change to justify Worrall's theory that the WSJ's opinions have gotten more "balanced" since then? If the WSJ reflected the 97% consensus in 97% of its opinion content, how far would it need to drop to make one search for "an important deeper reason which explains why this is suddenly happening"? To 75% correct, 25% "balanced", in the way Worrall uses the term? Or more like 50/50?
Because in reality, a place Worrall apparently fears to tread, the WSJ has published 33 pieces of climate opinion content, and a grand total of one (1) of them was accurate and honest about the reality of carbon pollution and climate change. Of the 33 pieces that came before it? Zero!
So maybe it's not that Worrall is lazy and unwilling to actually do something resembling science and testing a hypothesis before publishing it. Maybe he did do some counting, and found that actually, if anything, the WSJ's opinion page ran less "surprisingly climate skeptic stories" after Kirk's outburst, as 1/33 is more than 0/33, but still wanted to give readers his "important deeper reason which explains why this is suddenly happening" anyway, because, well, he had to post something, and it's not like Tony Watts is actually contributing to his blog any more!