Nature Communications has just published an article, “Discrepancy in scientific authority and media visibility of climate change scientists and contrarians,” which contains a list of 386 “climate change contrarians” whom the authors think have undue influence on public discussions about climate change.
Author Professor Alex Petersen says “It’s time to stop giving these people visibility, which can be easily spun into false authority. By tracking the digital traces of specific individuals in vast troves of publicly available media data, we developed methods to hold people and media outlets accountable for their roles in the climate-change-denialism movement, which has given rise to climate change misinformation at scale.”
Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars responds:
“The associated press release makes clear that the article is meant to prepare a blacklist of people whom media organizations should shun. I have just written an open letter to Nature Communications, already published on the National Association of Scholars’ website, to criticize their publication of an article that is a how-to guide for censorship rather than scientific inquiry. We worry that Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media will use this blacklist as a first draft for algorithms that will censor climate change skeptics by removing them from public visibility.”
The supposed distinction between scientists and contrarians is based on the fallacy that academic journals are all there is to science. As I recently pointed out in “Videos are Science”, science is a body of discourse, not a body of journals. Articles published on the Web, such as here at CFACT, are just as much science as any journal. So are tweets for that matter. Science is a global marketplace of ideas.
In fact the list of 386 active skeptics, this study’s working data, reportedly comes from the DeSmogBlog blog, not from any journal. Last I knew DeSmogBlog is run by a Canadian public relations firm. It specializes in attack dossiers on climate change skeptics.
It is good to know there are this many active skeptics. (I am on the list.) Actually there are many more and I have seen a lot of blog complaints from people who were not listed.
As I pointed out recently, some blacklisting of skeptics is already happening. Google is using DeSmogBlog data to lard the search results for individual skeptics with attack pieces, including the DeSmogBlog dossier. See my “How Google discriminates against conservatives and skeptics.”
There is clearly an emerging pattern of abuse and censorship here. As I suggest in “Reining in Google” perhaps the Federal Communications Commission should step in, or even the Justice Department. My understanding is that Senate hearings may be in the works as well. Google has a lot to answer for.
Judith Curry’s excellent blog “Climate, etc.” has an extensive learned discussion of this reprehensible study. ( https://judithcurry.com/) As of this writing there are almost 200 comments, many by prominent skeptics. Curry, past chair of Georgia Tech’s Atmospheric Sciences Department, is properly scornful, saying:
” This ranks as the worst paper I have ever seen published in a reputable journal.”
Amusingly the authors, like many alarmists, seem not to understand their own findings. They call for holding media outlets “accountable” for giving attention to skeptics. But they also point out that skeptics are especially prevalent in blogs, which are uncontrollable.
Mainstream media is already top heavy with alarmism. They could stop mentioning skepticism entirely and it would not matter, because skeptics own the blogosphere. This is the populist power of the Internet. We no longer depend on left wing mainstream media for information, more for laughs.
When it comes to the climate change debate, biased mainstream media is no longer significant. Blacklisting skeptics will not work.