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David Stockwell and Anthony Cox reply to Lewandowsky and His Lies, Dam Lies and Statistics

COGNITIVE science is about the action and process of knowing, that is about intelligence and rational and non-rational intellectual processes. Professor Stephan Lewandowsky is a professor of Psychology specialising in cognitive process. He thinks the cognitive processes of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) sceptics is deficient and on the same level as “truthers” and other “conspiracy theorists”.  Furthermore, he is not backward in telling anyone who will listen that sceptics are “damn liars”.

Lewandowsky’s fulminations against sceptics continues a sinister trend in the AGW debate with a number of prominent AGW supporters casting aspersions about the moral legitimacy of scepticism and calling for sceptics to be jailed or prosecuted or at the very least banned as Senator Bob Brown advocates for leading sceptic Andrew Bolt.  However,  Lewandowsky’s diatribes go beyond legal and political action and calls into doubt the sanity of the sceptical position.

This is serious, for merely questioning the ‘science’ of AGW one now faces the opprobrium of having one’s mental ability questioned.

Lewandowsky has been very active, having several articles published at the ABC’s Unleashed. His most recent one is  cunning.  Apparently realising that the old stand-by of arguing from authority is not having any success in converting an increasingly cynical public, Lewandowsky has attempted to directly involve the public in the scientific process of validating the evidence for AGW. This process is described in his latest ABC article:

Because Lewandowsky is an award winning statistician and uses statistics in this latest paper another award winning statistician, Dr David Stockwell, thought having his sanity queried was worth the risk of highlighting the egregious statistical errors of Lewandowsky’s article.

While prepared to publish Lewandowsky’s offensive opinion, the ABC refused to publish the following rebuttal: 

Lewandowsky and the Statistics of Global Warming

Professor Lewandowsky says: “Statistics, when done properly, provide a robust and revealing tool to understand reality.”

He is right; statistics can help us understand the why and how of our physical world; good statistics can even help us prepare for our future. Have the statistics of anthropogenic global warming [AGW] helped us understand our physical world and helped us prepare for our future?
Lewandowsky warns us that “Single events carry little information” and to use single events to prove AGW is untrue is “cherry-picking”. In Lewandowsky’s opinion, one cold British winter [actually there have been three] does not a summer make. Rather it is the long-term changes which prove AGW, the reduction in the Arctic ice-cap, the rising seas and the increasing temperature.

This is true. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change [IPCC] says that a minimum of 30 years have to be taken into account before any conclusions about changes in the physical reality of climate can be made. But the Arctic ice-cap was smaller in the 1930’s, and warmer, according to researcher Professor Petr Chylek. Sea levels have been rising for the last 10 thousand years, since the current interglacial or warm period began, at rates of increase much more rapid than the rates of today. And temperature has been increasing in the modern era since 1850, well before AGW is supposed to have begun.

This is the point about statistics; they are only as good as the information or data: the raw numbers. “Cherry picking” a section of data is not the only way of corrupting a statistical analysis; omitting or changing the data can do it as well. For instance Lewandowsky says “the Arctic icecap has shrunk by an area roughly equivalent to the size of Western Australia since 1980”. It sounds bad doesn’t it? It must be AGW. But this is the statistical technique of omission. What the Professor has not mentioned is that the Antarctic has increased in size since 1980 by an area roughly equivalent to two Western Australias. So, overall ice levels have increased.

Lewandowsky used two graphs to prove that the full range of data will reveal the truth and allow people to so readily see the trend that they can predict the future. The two graphs show identical data but with different headings; one an imaginary share price and the other the official temperature record of the IPCC, NASA GISS.

Even if we accept the NASA GISS temperature record as accurate the important issue is whether CO2 caused the trend. CO2 alone can’t have. CO2 has been increasing during the 20th Century at a constant rate but the temperature anomalies show many periods with cooling. Is it “cherry-picking” to focus on these cool periods?

No.  And for two reasons. Firstly, some of the cooler periods are longer than 30 years and so represent a climate period. It is legitimate to regard a cooler period as a contradiction to AGW and that some other factor is affecting the climate.

Secondly, Lewandowsky has not considered that there may be a better statistical explanation for the temperature record; choosing an inferior explanation is hard to justify. In fact there is a better explanation than CO2.

The better explanation is the Sun. One measure of the Sun’s influence on the Earth’s climate is called the Total Solar Irradiance [TSI]. TSI is a measure of the absolute intensity of solar radiation, integrated over the entire solar irradiance spectrum incident on the Earth’s atmosphere, that is, the sunlight reaching the atmosphere. Proxies of TSI such as sunspots go as far back as 1600. Figure 6.5 of the last IPCC report, AR4, shows the derived variations in TSI over this period according to a number of studies.

How can a comparison of whether TSI is a better explanation than AGW for the temperature anomalies of NASA GISS be done?

It can be done through statistics. Dr Jeffrey Glassman has compared the correlation between TSI and the temperature record over the 20th Century and found a 90% correlation. By comparison meteorologist Joseph D’Aleo calculates a statistical correlation between CO2 and temperature of only 42%.

Both the science of the Sun and AGW are supposedly well established yet the amount of money being invested in AGW is vastly greater than that being spent researching the Sun with less than half the statistical justification. This may be good business but it is not good science.

Lewandowsky says that for statistics to be effective one should use “All the data, for the entire globe, and for all available years.”

But Lewandowsky has not met his own criteria of “All the data”. The NASA GISS record is NOT the complete temperature record of AGW. The complete record is much longer.

Take Michael Mann’s hockey-stick.  The hockey-stick is a 2000 year temperature record based on dendro-climatic or tree-ring data. The hockey-stick purports to show an even temperature until the 20th Century when temperature increases at the same time as CO2.

 We have already seen that TSI is a better statistical explanation for the 20th Century but what is the best explanation the rest of the 2000 years?

The best explanation is not CO2. A new paper which was published with the honour of occupying the entire edition of a major research journal, The Annals of Applied Statistics, shows this. The paper is by two expert statisticians, Blakeley McShane and Abraham Wyner, who show the hockey-stick is based on flawed statistics and the Medieval Warm Period [MWP] was as warm and probably warmer than today.

In the spirit of Lewandowsky’s study we showed his graphs to David Stockwell’s school-age daughters who also thought the trend would be up. However, when the girls were shown a 2000 year temperature record consistent with McShane and Wyner’s analysis, they extended the graph downwards. The conclusion? Perception of trend direction depends on the duration examined.

More importantly, when asked if this was a good way to predict the future global temperature of the planet they said “Of course not!” Smart girls.

McShane and Wyner’s study is a major contradiction to AGW. Real data, and a variety of statistical methods, including those relied on by AGW proponents, fail to show anything unusual about the present temperature; and that includes Lewandowsky’s record extremes which the IPCC has shown to have occurred nine times over the last 1000 years.

With the past and the present statistically defeated for AGW what can AGW do? As Lewandowsky shows, like any fortune teller, it looks to the future where, statistically, anything is possible.

Predictions are the stock in trade of AGW.  All the AGW experts have used statistics to tell us what the future climate will be. The results have been statistically improbable in that they have been wrong at both the short term and the long term. For instance, in the short term the MET, England’s national weather service, has predicted mild winters from 2008; the winters have been some of the coldest in the last century. In 2005 the MET predicted a cold winter; it was mild.

In Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology [BoM] and CSIRO have predicted on the basis of climate model projections that the severity and intensity of droughts will double by 2050. David Stockwell has published a peer-reviewed statistical comparison of their models with the observations, which shows droughts decreasing over the last century, while the models showed droughts increasing last century.  The claim of an increasing drought trend in Australia was based on invalid model simulations. This is a classic case of the statistical method of garbage in, garbage out.

In 2007, CSIRO and BoM scientists Power and Smith published a paper claiming that due to increasing greenhouse gasses the Southern Oscillation Index [SOI] has shifted to a permanently lower level. This echoed a claim by NASA scientist Jim Hansen that one of the consequences of AGW might be permanent El Niño (hot, dry) conditions, leading to persistent droughts in Australia. However in a 2008 paper Professor Neville Nicholls showed that the change in the SOI was not statistically significant and the apparent decrease was largely due to a run of El Niño events during the late part of the 20th Century.

The recent strong La Niña (cool, wet) and high SOI conditions contributing to flooding in Australia has shown Nicholls’ statistical analysis is correct. Despite comments by prominent AGW scientists like David Karoly, Ian Lowe and Tim Flannery these are entirely natural conditions; the flood records for Queensland show that in the past, before AGW began, there were bigger and regular floods. As Professor Stewart Franks notes natural variability is creating the weather not AGW.

Lewandowsky in his study has gone to the public, for vindication. One can only hope his study instructions were not as forthcoming as the condemnation in his article of the “damn liars” who “deny climate science”.

The general public is the ultimate arbiter and that is as it should be in a democracy. Science and statistics are the handmaidens of public decision making and they should be transparent and honest, “crystal clear” as Lewandowsky says. If they aren’t then the numbers will not stack up.

The numbers of AGW don’t stack up and Lewandowsky’s test subjects will be left to decide whether lies, damned lies OR statistics best describes AGW.


83 Responses to “David Stockwell and Anthony Cox reply to Lewandowsky and His Lies, Dam Lies and Statistics”

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  1. Comment from: Luke

    So again on a thread about moral high ground the boys just cannot help themselves with quote mining. Yes you be the judge indeed.

    A selective little snippet from Power and Smith was offered. We’ll let that go as commented on above.

    So let’s have another little snippet missed by David from Power and Kociuba who actually ALSO said further on ” So while the
    SOI is an excellent indicator of interannual variability in
    both the equatorial MSLP gradient and the WC, it is a
    highly misleading indicator of long-term equatorial changes linked to global warming. Our results also indicate that
    the observed decline in the SOI in recent decades has been
    driven by natural, internally generated variability. …………..

    The 2010 global
    warming signal is already a major contributor to interdecadal variability in the SOI, equal to 45% of the standard
    deviation of 30-year running averages of the SOI. This
    figure is projected to increase to nearly 340% by the end of
    the 21st century. Implications that these discoveries have
    for understanding recent climatic change and for seasonal

    You guys just can’t help yourselves can you?

    And Val – I know it’s – but this refers to the URL links above in case you’re having any trouble.

  2. Comment from: val majkus

    Luke and where’s your link? it’s certainly not in your reply … so how can we check it … link it and tell us where it is and we’ll check
    otherwise you’ve got no credibility
    what does this mean without links
    (your words) And Val – I know it’s – but this refers to the URL links above in case you’re having any trouble

  3. Comment from: manalive

    Lewandowsky’s Drum piece is a sample of the extent to which the matter has descended to the level of schoolyard name-calling. It reminds me of the serial westerns I used to enjoy at the local flea house in the 40s, the black hats vs. the white hats.

    In Australia, as a political instrument, AGW (in the revolutionary sense) is either dead or in a deep coma and for that we have to thank Bolt in particular for his relentless exposure in the MSM of the lies and exaggerations used to promote it as a pretext for an unprecedented extension of the dead hand of government into our lives.

  4. Comment from: val majkus

    Luke try to replicate your replies upon David Stockwell’s reply (above)

    an assertion
    (a link)

    an assertion
    (a link)


    that’s the way to make your comments robust

  5. Comment from: Luke

    Gee Val – it’s sooooooo hard – click Stockwell’s 1st and last links

  6. Comment from: Luke

  7. Comment from: Luke

  8. Comment from: val majkus

    No Luke you’re making no sense;
    read my comment above again
    I know you don’t want to learn but when you’re not a scientist (and even when you are) you have to rely upon links as well as assertions
    an assertion
    (a link)

    an assertion
    (a link)


    otherwise your comments make as much sense as your recent post did

    Just a link without an assertion makes no sense

  9. Comment from: val majkus

    and an assertion without a link when you’re not an expert makes no sense either
    so repeat again
    an assertion
    (a link)

    an assertion
    (a link)


  10. Comment from: hunter

    The climatologists have provided crap advice at great cost and to their personal aggrandizement long enough.
    Time for the weathermen, civil engineers, property owners and political class to get to things that actually work.
    Enough bs from over paid bureaucrats dancing the CYA tango.

  11. Comment from: cohenite

    So luke, Power and Kociuba think that AGW will cause 340% of the standard deviation of the SOI during the 21stC? Can that be translated to temperature change?

  12. Comment from: Luke

    Cohers – so while we’ve been squabbling Scott’s been hard at it. So it’s the Walker not the SOI after all eh… false gods.

  13. Comment from: cohenite

    luke, David’s WC paper is an empirical paper:

    And finds this:

    “Generalized changes in WC are unsupported
    given our results and findings: no evidence for weakening of the
    Walker circulation, disagreements over upper troposphere humidity levels,
    inconsistency of various feedbacks in the ENSO region, and low sensitivity
    of horizontal transport to the radiation budget changes.”

    Power and Smith’s alternative paper is based on model simulations with projections into the 21stC based on an anomalous period of El Nino’s which finished in 1998. Did you even read the above response to Lewandowsky which noted that estimating future trends on the basis of inadequate data length is statistically unsound? This is what Power and Smith have done.

  14. Comment from: Alexander K

    Luke, your arm-waving is tiresome, mate. Take some time out to do some solid reading then when you come back, follow the excellent advice you have been given by Val Majkus and others. If you wish to raise your blood pressure arguing that model simulations are relevant to anything in the real and chaotic world of climate and weather, that’s your choice – if others won’t listen to your fallacious arguments and rudeness, that’s their choice.

  15. Comment from: val majkus

    OMG….Maximum CO2 Will Warm Earth for 20 Milliseconds
    To explain the complete Earth energy flow that is expressed as short-term weather and long-term weather requires two, not easily approachable science subjects: Thermodynamic and Particle Physics. Identifying the forces and interactions is a complex subject for those with lifetimes of scientific study. It is first important to establish the heat flow that is in question, the Infrared (IR) emission of electromagnetic energy, absorbed by exposure to the Sun and continuously radiated back into space.

    The Warmist claim is that this energy is ‘captured’ by CO2 which then warms the planet. When the predicted warming ended in 1998, was modified to ‘change’ and then ‘disrupts’ the climate. The term ‘greenhouse’ is a focus group selected word with emotive connotations. The correct term is insulation, which does not WARM you, but only slows the rate of temperature change.

    This is more than a question of semantics. This term and this Faux Science have been intended to create a Faux Commodity Market, a Faux Energy Tax and unnecessary Faux Energy Use Controls. This is the ultimate power grab by out-of-control monopolists who are intent on controlling all human behavior.

    All substances absorb and emit electromagnetic energy in discrete spectrum bands. The Earths outgoing Infrared energy is in a narrow band and can be absorbed by CO2 only in the 5 and 15 micron wavelength range. There is a finite amount of this IR energy, so the absorption is not directly connected with the amount of CO2. The term ‘absorption’ is misleading also, for the amount of time that this IR flow is ‘interrupted’, called the lapse rate is a fraction of a millisecond.

    The majority of the space around an atom is void. Most IR energy passes through the CO2 molecules with no impact. The further you go above the surface of the Earth, the less air and the less CO2 you and outgoing IR waves will impact. Professor Nasif Nahle of the UA de Nuevo Leon has done the ‘mean free travel’ calculations on the IR escape rate. Outgoing IR energy is delayed by at most 22 milliseconds.

    That is the total extent of ‘global warming’. All of the Planets CO2, the 97% from natural and the 3% from man delay temperature change by an immeasurably small amount of time. And this ‘delayed’ heat transfer is NOT radiated back to Earth. It is leaving a ‘hot’ Earth at the speed of light for a ‘cool’ outer space and is only delayed momentarily.

    Joseph A. Olson, PE,

    AND how much warming are we talking about?
    post by Ira Glickstein which includes a chart for the a graphic of the NASA GISS Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index that indicates the official climate Team estimate of about 0.8ºC net warming since 1880 the majority of which they allocate to human activities

    Hmmm…I don’t feel endangered by AGW … does anyone else?

  16. Comment from: val majkus

    sorry link for the initial quotes in my post above

  17. Comment from: Luke

    Honestly Val – are you some sort of fool for denialist crap. If you want to play scientist and use references – it’s not standard practice to espouse utter fanciful bullshit without comprehensive referencing of the current consensus position and then illustrate where it’s wrong. And try to use the peer reviewed literature eh? Not some blog comment.

    And does it ever occur to you that you can measure this supposedly non-existent radiation any night in your backyard. Man have you no discriminating ability. Not even Lindzen or Spencer would give any truck to this sort of dross.

  18. Comment from: cohenite

    luke, we spoke about the relative energy transfers of back radiation at night, which is a measure of the “pure” greenhouse effect, and insolation, and I believe Gavin was going to put out saucers of water to illustrate the point. He has never got back; I bet he put out saucers of milk instead and has measured his neighbourhood cat population and is too ashamed to admit it.

  19. Comment from: val majkus

    Luke your comment is a bit like what I expected; didn’t think you’d like it; don’t get too defensive now – you’ll give yourself an ulcer

  20. Comment from: Luke

    Just make with the references Val as per your gold standard.

  21. Comment from: val majkus

    I have my doubts about you Luke; you scream and shout too much; sorry … and you never come with a credible response (or at least you might have done I just haven’t seen it)

    When in difficulties when in doubt
    run in circles scream and shout

  22. Comment from: gavin

    cohenite; that must have been some trivia way back, I don’t even recall the context but you can go dig it up again.

    Since I can’t touch my toes (not for the usual reason) saucers of water are out quite out order so we use the odd po goezunder type or something just as deep in the garage and in the make shift storage area under the house in case a cat gets shut in. They last only a few weeks before becoming bone dry in either place regardless of mishaps.

    BTW its the potted tomato plants that use their pan water quick as and most of them now reach the gutters above hence we are too busy watching for killer wilt to be watching too much blog nonsense.

    37C days and 19-20 nights


  23. Comment from: el gordo

    Let’s try and get some backbone into the blog with articulate, intelligent and witty comments. Restrict waffle and abuse, if possible, otherwise we lose credibility.

    Hello Gavin, could you direct me to a link showing sea level between 1250 BC to 800 BC?

  24. Comment from: val majkus

    Let’s try and get some backbone into the blog with articulate, intelligent and witty comments

    Totally agree El gordo

  25. Comment from: Luke

    Did you say articulate and intelligent?

    That’s witty !

  26. Comment from: gavin

    el gordo; let’s focus on the here now with agw hey

    note; the “anomaly” that impacts most downunder this season

    get the animated view here

  27. Comment from: cohenite

    I quite agree; in the article the recent paper of McShane and Wyner is referred to; this paper simply decimates the historical basis of AGW; this paper is given a full review at its publication as shown at the bottom here:

    The McKitrick and McIntyre comment says this:

    “It also needs to be clearly recognized, that, even though MW results are rather discouraging for the reconstructions using the Mann et al 2008 network, they are, in a sense, a best case as they assume that the quality of the data set is satisfactory (thereby not taking a position on prominent controversies over the proxies within this data set. For example, the Korttajarvi sediment series have been contaminated in their modern portion by bridge and other construction sediments, a point made in the original publication (Tiljander et al 2003).”

    In fact, from a statistical viewpoint M&W completely dismantle Mann’s statistics; if the problems with the data [and only the most doozy AGW supporter could possibly claim that Mann's samples are good] then AGW must rest on the temperature and climate period from ~1850.

    In that period from 1850 it is clear that CO2 is not a dominant player, if a player at all. I defy luke and Gavin the cat man, or indeed anyone to present any evidence from the modern era to substantiate AGW.

  28. Comment from: gavin

    every now and then we see a whole load of bs “science” dumped here by those who have never done a physics course or measurement job.

    This week I met a Phd student from Vietnam who is experimenting with light speed circuit design so we had a little chat about wave guides in general. The previous day it was a chance meeting with a former agency boss who for a time managed the ITU so we had a quick bash at the NBN from opposite sides of the track. Today it was a book customer who wished not to believe in human progress so I borrowed from the other two. Denial come in many disguises.

    I leave this link for val

  29. Comment from: el gordo

    Gavin walks into the shed and throws down a paper on Val’s desk, knowing it’s a narrow field. Although our mate is no longer exactly a scientist, he does exhibit the arrogance and pride of the AGW fraternity. Has interesting conversations with people of worth….

    ‘Let’s focus on the here now with agw,’ said Gavin. No, we haven’t found the AGW signal amid the noise and as the ice cores tell us, CO2 lags temperature rise by around 800 years.

  30. Comment from: val majkus

    thanks el gordo; I must admit I have been fascinated by Charles Anderson (a materials physicist)
    “It appears that if any “greenhouse effect” occurs due to CO2 in our atmosphere, that effect is very small compared to the 3-dimensional effects of distributed heat with convection heat transfer. That this is so has long been known by NASA, which nonetheless has played a very major role in the promotion of AGW alarmism on the basis of greenhouse gases!”

    I’m no physicist but …

  31. Comment from: cohenite

    el, our gavin is a master; take this paragraph:

    “This week I met a Phd student from Vietnam who is experimenting with light speed circuit design so we had a little chat about wave guides in general. The previous day it was a chance meeting with a former agency boss who for a time managed the ITU so we had a quick bash at the NBN from opposite sides of the track. Today it was a book customer who wished not to believe in human progress so I borrowed from the other two. Denial come in many disguises”

    Wading pass the usual studied ‘aw shucks’ tone and lack of artiface the inherent subtlety becomes apparent; for instance, what are we to make of “from opposite sides of the track”? Does gavin support the NBN or oppose it; or is this a symbolic reference to gavin’s love of nature and dislike of civilisation; are the tracks the tracks which divide us from our true natural selves?

    And what does this mean: “who wished not to believe in human progress so I borrowed from the other two. “? Human progress? Borrowed what? And what disguises?

    Sinister and complex? On the other hand maybe he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

  32. Comment from: Louis Hissink


    night time downwelling of IR does not necessarily mean it’s due to a greenhouse effect. The usual Stephan Boltzmann equation posits that the earth should be 0 degrees Celsius at its surface but the physical error is in the assumption that the earth’s objective surface is the rocky and liquid bit; wrong, its the limit of the atmosphere and that is the stratopause. There is therefore no thermal anomaly to explain, and no need for a greenhouse gas theory to explain poorly understood physics.

    As for the downwelling IR, electric currents produce those too and the earth’s atmosphere is dominated by them, usually in the dark current mode, often as arc mode discharges, (Lightning) or occasionally as glow discharges of the polar auroras. The existence of an ambien electric field implies the existence of electric currents as well, and all electric currents passing through matter generate…….

  33. Comment from: el gordo

    In the absence of a Tip thread, I’ll just drop this here.

    Congratulations on being there and I hope the Sceptics win.

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