On Wednesday, denier blog Watts Up With That posted something by Russell Cook, a man who for years has been on a quixotic crusade to attack every example of the scholarship showing how the fossil fuel industry created and funds climate denial and disinformation. This time, Cook set his sights on a recent study about the US electric utility industry's role in spreading climate disinformation, which we also talked about recently.
Cook claims, "if I had been permitted to fact-check review this paper, I would have barred it for publication because it contains a minimum of six major errors" that "are enough to warrant a retraction request."
What are these egregious errors? First is that supposedly the denial campaign wasn't actually about denial, and wasn't by a front group because one of the ads placed "to show the public that there was another side to the issue" happened to admit it was funded by coal companies and electric utilities.
The other supposed errors aren't any more damning- Russell has quibbles with the origins of the documents, as though who and where they were kept is pertinent to what happened, whether a group can co-found something and then not run it (of course, that's what "found" means!); whether the totally-not-denial campaigns really "collapsed" or were just "terminated", a difference without distinction; and our personal favorite, that the not-a-front group was actually called the "Information Council for the Environment," not "on the Environment," as the paper wrongly names it.
None of this changes any of the findings, most of it is just a matter of Cook being in denial about climate denial, and the only "real" error is a preposition in a name with no bearing on the campaign of climate disinformation discussed.
But, it does establish that WUWT is not opposed to criticizing a peer-reviewed paper's findings and discussing retraction if there are errors identified after publication.
Which is relevant because two days later, WUWT ran a piece headlined Climate Scientists Want to Ban Dissenting Views. In this context, criticizing a paper's findings, and discussion retraction due to errors, is "the worst sort of censorship."
Surely you can guess why the stark difference in takes. This time, it was (real) climate scientists telling AFP that a study claiming climate change isn't influencing extreme weather "isn't good scientifically," in the words of Peter Cox. Per Richard Betts, it "gives the appearance of being specifically written to make the case that there is no climate crisis, rather than presenting an objective, comprehensive, up-to-date assessment."
The authors claiming there's no evidence of a climate crisis "simply ignore studies that don't fit their narrative and have come to the opposite conclusion," according to Stefan Rahmstorf. Specifically, Friederike Otto pointed out, "they do not have a section on heat waves," only referencing them in passing, despite that being one line of evidence "where the observed trends are so incredibly obvious."
Even still, the AFP story notes that Rahmstorf and Otto said the study should be withdrawn from the journal, but Betts "stopped short" of that. Cox was also concerned that retracting the study would "lead to further publicity and could be presented as censorship."
And sure enough, the story in which one of the scientists specifically says the "not good scientifically" study shouldn't be withdrawn out of fear of backlash, still generated backlash!
Because no matter what the actual substance, deniers are always going to complain that climate scientists "want to ban dissenting views" when they criticize shoddy science, even after themselves trying to pretend that a meaningless "for" and "of" switch in a name is "warranting a retraction request."