Spot the recycled denial IV – climate case built on thin foundation

In this series, I aim to teach you to recognise the recycled denialism that is rife in the public arena these days.

I don’t refute this nonsense by constructing a new argument each time which, point-by-point, shows why their claims are not supported by the evidence. This is pointless, since the majority of non-greenhouse theorists (‘sceptics’) blithely ignore any such counterpoints and simply repeat the same arguments elsewhere. Instead I rebutt by hyperlinking to some of the wealth of explanatory material out there on the world wide web. For reasons of general accessibility, the articles l link to are predominantly pitched for a lay audience – but they are consistent in linking to the peer-reviewed primary scientific literature (sometimes I’ll link straight to the journal papers). I focus primarily on the science content of the piece, except where non-science arguments are clearly false and demand correction.


Today there is a new piece out in The Australian, by John McLean, a climate data analyst with the Australian Climate Science Coalition, a group who works closely with the International Climate Science Coalition. Its members include Prof Ian Plimer and Dr David Evans, both of whom have featured in previous versions of ‘Spot the recycled denial’, so I guess this makes it a triumvirate of spin.

Here is the first paragraph:

ROSS Garnaut made it clear in his interim report that his climate change review takes as a starting point – not as a belief but on the balance of probabilities – that the claims made in the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are correct.

Had he made even a cursory examination of the integrity of those IPCC claims he would have found a very troubling picture.

The IPCC encourages us to believe that about 2500 climate scientists supported the claim of a significant human influence on climate. It fails to clarify that the claim was made in chapter nine of the working group one contribution and that the contributions of working groups two and three were based on the assumption that the claim was correct. The first eight chapters of the WG1 contribution were mainly concerned with climatic observations and the authors expressed no opinion about the claim made in chapter nine, and chapters 10 and 11 assumed the claim to be correct. The entire IPCC thesis therefore stands or falls on the claims of just one chapter.

The full article can be read here

I’ve decided to change the format of this series a little. In most cases, rather than reproducing the article in full and hyperlinking the refuted claims, I’ll simply list them below with some links to the relevant scientific information or debunking. It will be up to you to look at the original and pinpoint these recycled arguments:

1. The IPCC process is biased/flawed or driven by a political agenda

[Short response: The IPCC is a UN review body with scientists nominated by each participating country; it conducts no primary research because its job is to summarise the already peer-reviewed scientific literature; its conclusions have been endorsed by the national science academies of all G8+5 countries and many others; some of its predictions have been shown to be overly conservative]

More information:

2. The supposed consensus among scientists is a sham, thousands of scientists dispute a human role in global warming

[Short response: Climate warming due to human activity is mainstream science involving a huge number of research disciplines; consensus does not mean that every single scientist agrees with man-made climate change, but that the vast majority does agree; this is reflected in the peer-reviewed literature, for which surveys have found >99% of the primary scientific literature explicitly or implicitly endorse this view; former Science editor Donald Kennedy said: “Consensus as strong as the one that has developed around this topic is rare in science“]

More information:

3. The climate change agenda is being driven by a narrow self-interested coterie of climate modellers

[Short response: As any practicing scientist will tell you, science does not and cannot work by collusion. Why would scientists be urging a halt to emissions when playing up the uncertainties (‘we think this is a problem but need more research to be sure…’) would be a surer path to continued funding investment? Finally, to quote Michael Tobis: “Probably the weakest reason for mistrusting us climate scientists is the idea that we are in it for the money. When I was a starving grad student, I told a dignified lady from rural Mississippi that I was doing climate modeling. She was briefly taken aback. After a beat, she gathered her wits and politely replied “Oh, that must be… lucrative“.]

More information:

EDIT: Tim Lambert’s (Deltoid) take on the above piece can now be found here, with some interesting details on John McLean’s background.

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

45 replies on “Spot the recycled denial IV – climate case built on thin foundation”

I posted this in the Deltoid thread:

On Sunday I submitted an op-ed for publication in The Australian criticising the lack of ambition in the Garnaut draft supplementary report. It was rejected by The Australian but published yesterday in The Courier Mail:,23739,24312553-27197,00.html.

Obviously I am biased in this matter, but to me it seems illuminating in the editorial direction taken by The Australian that it rejected my op-ed for yesterday’s paper to instead choose John McLean’s positively weird and poorly written attack against the IPCC:,25197,24315169-7583,00.html.

Even leaving aside the fact that McLean’s argument is so weird and weak it would fall over in the wind on a dead calm day, it is old news – it is not a contribution of new material to the public debate. It is a rehash of old, tired arguments about the IPCC using Garnaut as an excuse for the regurgitation. The reason for publishing it simply appears to be The Australian’s editorial stance of promoting climate change sceptics/deniers/contrarians.

It is a very strange and schizophrenic newspaper – it has some of the best reporting in the country and some of the worst.


“It is a very strange and schizophrenic newspaper – it has some of the best reporting in the country and some of the worst.”

Can you clear up an ambiguity for me? (Since I don’t normally read it.)

As was discussed in thread in Deltoid, see esp comments 3, 8, the Wall Street Journal has long seemed (pre-Murdoch) very schizophrenic between News (reporting) and OpEd, with the former being quite good, and actually fairly pervasively so. OpEd is different.

Is the Australian similar? Or is it that OpEd is what it is, and reporting by itself varies from best to worst? I would be sad if WSJ reporting got flaky as well; OpEd is just a few pages so can be ignored.


I applaud the resolute approach of Barry Brook in countering dangerous climate sceptic obfuscation by presenting carefully documented views of top scientists and top scientific bodies about the worsening Climate Emergency.

I am a modestly productive biological scientist (4 decade career, over 100 scientific papers, dozens of chapters in books, 4 books including a huge pharmacological reference text, still lecturing to university science students) and was first made aware of our impact on the biosphere from Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” (early 1960s) and by the seminal warnings from the Club of Rome (early 1970s). I became aware of the growing seriousness of anthropogenic global warming in the 1980s and the acute threat to populous megadelta countries like Bangladesh in the 1990s – and acted on these concerns through writing and lecturing.

Scientists have their particular specialities and, while always remaining properly sceptical as scientists, take very seriously the considered pronouncements of outstanding scientists and scientific bodies in their own and other disciplines – just as we would take very seriously the advice of top medical specialists about a life-threatening medical condition.

I belong to a community climate action group, the Yarra Valley Climate Action Group (see: ) which in turn is associated with an umbrella organization, the Climate Emergency Network (see: ) and have been putting carefully documented Climate Emergency Fact Sheets on the Web for public education (see: ), notably “Climate emergency: what top Australian scientists say”: and “Climate emergency: what top world scientifc experts say”: .

Thus, for example, Dr James Hansen (top US climate scientist; Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; member of the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences; 2007 Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science) with 8 UK, French and US climate change scientist co-authors (2008): “Paleoclimate data show that climate sensitivity is ~3 deg-C for doubled CO2 [carbon dioxide; atmospheric CO2 280 ppm pre-industrial], including only fast feedback processes. Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower surface albedo feedbacks, is ~6 deg-C for doubled CO2 for the range of climate states between glacial conditions and ice-free Antarctica. Decreasing CO2 was the main cause of a cooling trend that began 50 million years ago, large scale glaciation occurring when CO2 fell to 450 +/- 100 ppm [parts per million], a level that will be exceeded within decades, barring prompt policy changes. If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm. The largest uncertainty in the target arises from possible changes of non-CO2 forcings. An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects” (see: ).

Yet in 2008 we have pro-Coal, non-scientist, economist Garnaut’s Recommendation of “10% off 2000 GHG emissions by 2020” and a target of 450 ppm for atmospheric CO2 concentration (goodbye Great Barrier Reef but no doubt music to the ears for pro-Coal Rudd-Nelson Lib-Labs). Garnaut’s latest has been roundly condemned for its gross insufficiency by 3 top Australian climate scientists, namely Professor David Karoly (University of Melbourne), Dr Bill Hare (Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) and Professor Amanda Lynch (Monash University), of whom all are associated with the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC (see “What top Australian climate experts say about Garnaut’s final recommendation”: ) .

Careful analysis of data on Australia fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution from the official US Energy Information Administration (see: ) provides detailed data for over the last decade of Australian fossil fuel-derived Domestic, Exported and Total CO2 pollution that, for example, were 352, 348 and 700 millions of tonnes CO2 (Mt CO2) in 2000.

If you plot this data versus time you obtain 3 beautiful straight lines that on extrapolation yield values of Australian Domestic, Exported and Total CO2 pollution of 540, 750 and 1,290 Mt CO2 in 2020 (i.e. the “business as usual” projection). However Professor Garnaut’s recommendation of essentially “10% off 2000 Domestic CO2 pollution by 2020” in actual REALITY means Domestic, Exported and Total CO2 pollution of 317, 750 and 1,067 Mt CO2 .in 2020 – an INCREASE by 2020 of 52% on the 2000 value of Total Australian fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution (see: ) .

True love of Australia means de facto (as opposed to rhetorical) love of fellow Australians, Australia fauna and flora and Australian values (e.g. being “fair dinkum” i.e. telling the truth). I have no political affiliation but it is quite clear now to ME PERSONALLY that it is no longer morally possible to vote for the ecocidal, climate criminal Lib-Labs.

Please inform everyone you can about the intellectual and moral failure of Lib-Lab Australian politicians over the Climate Emergency – and please feel free to re-publish and otherwise disseminate the views of TOP SCIENTISTS about the climate emergency and other Fact Sheets provided as a public service by the Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: .


Oh Dear, Barry. Did I upset you? It seems that I must have since you respond with such nonsense.

Nowhere did I say that the IPCC process is biased/flawed or driven by a polticial agenda, I merely pointed out that, according to the iformation in the IPCC report, the authors of the crucial chapter are very largely members of a network of climate modellers. Now maybe the IPCC approved the selection of these people to write the chapter or maybe it was simply less than diligent in obtaining a wide range of views as its procedures say should be done, that’s not the issue, the problem is the narrowness of opinions.

I did NOT mention any overwhelming scientific consensus but since you bring it up I have to asjk if you have any proof. Maybe a credible survey of all qualified climatologists (forget biologists and such even though they might be scientists) …

You also say that I posit that “The climate change agenda is being driven by a narrow self-interested coterie of climate modellers.” No, I didn’t say that either. I only said that the crucial chapter was written by such people. Is that “driving an agenda”? I doubt it given that that chapter is just one part of the Working Group I contribution and that government representatives have the final say … well, sort of .. they can only accept or reject the final draft of any chapter and those representatives are not exactly impartial if they’ve put their hands up to be government reps.

Barry, would you like to tell us all why a coterie of climate modellers and no other climatologists should be allowed to write the pivotal chapter?

In my opinion it’s like gathering 50 people of whom 45 are known to be Labor supporters and asking who the best prime minister was, but your opinion may differ.

Also can you tell us if you were involved with the IPCC process either as author or reviewer? This may have had a bearing on the statements that you falsely attribute to me.


John McLean
1. Hmmm, I seem to have touched a nerve – not the first time for you, I see:
and follow up comments here:

2. So your alternative is to have review chapters written by people who are not expert in the area. Right, but that would hardly make the IPCC an expert review body, and so kind of defeats the purpose of the organisation’s established principles and purpose.

As I stated above, the IPCC does no primary research, and they can’t make stuff up -they can only review/collate/summarise what is already published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

3. I guess you didn’t read my links re: consensus. Ahh well. To paraphrase Douglas Adams: “Proof is an illusion, a denialist’s proof doubly so”.

4. I’m glad you don’t think it is agenda driven then. Nice to hear it from you.

5. Because they are the experts in the areas. Perhaps some postmen should have done it? Or did you mean only selected climate scientists such as Lindzen, Spencer and Christy? i.e. only the very few published scientists that dispute elements of the mainstream view (i.e. that which is represented in the peer-reviewed published literature, which they are summarising for the IPCC). No need for them to have worked, or be working on, GCM development of course.

6. Is it? That’s a rather strange opinion, but perhaps not surprising given your attempted distortions of the IPCC process.

7. No, and no (but you just couldn’t help dangling another vested interest theory, could you?).


I’m really not sure I understand McLean’s point regarding chapter 9. The IPCC does no original work of its own, but instead is basically a glorified literature survey. What, I ask, is the problem with getting a group of experts in a particular field (eg. Climate modelling, simulation and projection) to go through a large body of peer reviewed literature, and condense it into a single chapter? Surely experts in the field are the best qualified to do so? What is the problem then, to have a group of experts with a broader knowledge of climate science in general, put the work of the modelling group in perspective, as is done in the IPCC SPM?

Does John take issue with the chapter in question? Is it not supported by the literature it cites? Does the “vested interest” of the authors make them unable to condense a huge volume of scientific work into a single chapter? Is there other work that contradicts their claims (that is written in peer reviewed journal articles)? Since the review of the chapter is open to all comers (including “skeptics” and thoses with no knowledge of the field), how does this create a “coterie” of climate modellers? What, pray sir, is your point?

If you’ve got a problem with the IPCC process, fine. But it might help you make your case if you actually had something of relevance to pratle on about.


I’m delighted to see John posting here, I was forwarded a document “Prejudiced Authors, Prejudiced Findings” some months ago, and had the following comments.

In any case, I fear the document is flawed. For instance we read: “Indeed, it has been known since Lorenz (1963) that the initial state of the climate can never be known to a sufficient precision to allow reliable projections of its future evolution beyond a few
days or weeks.” (this is on page 13). This is an extraordinary statement given that we can and regularly do make reliable projections about the future evolution of the climate beyond this period. For instance I can state now: “In the southern hemisphere, for the next ten years, the average temperature in winter(JJA) will be colder than summer(DJF)”.

He states: “However, the models are not capable of distinguishing between natural and anthropogenic temperature changes, because the climate sensitivity to anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide is an input to the models, not an output from them (Akasofu, 2008).” A minor nit is that he does not include a bibliography, but I could find no paper of Akasofu published in 2008 which supports this statement. Another minor nit is he often does not state which kind of model he is railing against, I suspect AOGCMs from context. A much bigger problem is that it is outright false. Read “An Introduction to Three Dimensional Climate Modeling”, Washington and Parkinson, sections 3.6.1-2 describe quite clearly how it is used as an input. More generally in the criticism of models in the document he does not address their physicality. He states that there might be something the models miss; fair enough, but it would be nice if he would identify precisely what they miss.

The document is littered with fundamental errors of this kind. These are not esoteric issues, these are easily understood and easily refuted.


“In my opinion it’s like gathering 50 people of whom 45 are known to be Labor supporters and asking who the best prime minister was, but your opinion may differ.”

And if you were to have a group of people all insisting that Billy McMahon was Australia’s greatest Prime Minister, you might dismiss their views as the eccentric ramblings of a bunch of oddballs.


ChrisC, The literature it cites? Do you mean the references of which 40% of author lists have at least one chapter author? Citing their own work does not add credibility.

“…a group of experts with a broader knowledge of climate science in general, put the work of the modelling group in perspective, as is done in the IPCC SPM”. Surely you know that the SPM is approved by government representatives and is not subject to any other review.

Yes, chapter 9 was open to reviewers from all kinds of areas but over 60% of comments were rejected by the IPCC authors so we can probably assume that the coterie of climate modellers didn’t much like being criticised.


“…so we can probably assume that the coterie of climate modellers didn’t much like being criticised.” Is this puerile offering typical of your careful analysis, John?


Especially cause 59% of those 60% of rejected comments were made by one old codger with a gripe or two (or a million), a NZ ex-coal chemist Dr Vincent Gray and included such stunning insights as:

“Insert after “to” “the utterly ridiculous assumption of”

Insert after “Bayesian” “(or super-guesswork)”

Insert before “Calibrated” “Bogus” …

More details here:

and for more rejected wacko comments, see:

So we can probably assume the IPCC authors were wondering what he was smokin – it must have been good stuff.


John MacLean.

Maybe a credible survey of all qualified climatologists (forget biologists and such even though they might be scientists)

You seem to have a problem with non-climatology scientists commenting on the veracity of climate scientists’ work. This leads me to ask what your qualifications are to similarly comment on the science?


John McLean… you didn’t answer my question. What is your beef? Do you claim that the authors are not correctly interpreting the literature (I personally think that since many authors of the primary literature are represented amongst the IPCC chapter 9 authors that this would mitigate against this)? Is the primary literature wrong? Are they ignoring important contrary work? If so, which work should have been included? Or is your point simply that citing ones own work invalidates it? If this is the case, I find your arguments pretty weak.

Are you aware of how science works? It is a collabortive, cumulative process. For example, a quick glance at the bibliograpohy of Chapter 9 reveals that the overwhelming majority of papers cited have more than one author. In climatology, being a multi-disiplinary subject, papers are often co-authored by people with expertise in different fields. Pretty quickly, the network of involved parties grows. This is very common in most scientific fields. As such, dipping ones toes into the cited work in chapter 9 reveals mathematicians, meteorologists, atmospheric physicists, glaciologists, oceanographers, paleobotanists…

As for your claim about 60% of rejected comments, I agree. But, I would ask you if you think there is a reason these comments were rejected? Perhaps you could ask your buddy Vincent Gray, who submitted almost 50% (527) of these? Perhaps you have not seen the, ahem, quality of such comments, so I’ll point some out:

‘Insert after “to” “the utterly ridiculous assumption of’

‘Insert after “Bayesian” “(or super-guesswork)’

‘Insert before “Calibrated” “Bogus”‘

‘Replace “is very likely” with possible” (There were several of these)

As the long suffering editors pointed out: “We thank Vincent for his diligence in wriritng so many comments. However, the comments would be much more useful if they were backed up by other than opinion. …”

If you can’t work out why these comments were rejected…it is because the “coterie of climate modellers” probably would have liked some substantive critism, rather than conspriacy theories presented with no evidence. As Tim Lambert has pointed out, only 16% of comments from other reviewers were rejected.

Originally I thought I may be missing your point. I think I’ve now come to the conclusion that you don’t have one.


John McLean is obviously a shit stirrer with an agenda. The fact that he may be an accomplished networker goes to show that his need to be heard borders on pathological. How can I make these claims? I’m a member of a community and the human race, I’ve met just about every personality type there is and in my opinion he is just another needy, loudmouth,know-it-all who seems to enjoy upsetting people. They’re a dime a dozen. Yes,’The Australian’ keeps strange bed fellows.


John Mashey @ 3:

“The Australian” used to be an excellent newspaper, and limited its ideological hard-right editorial position to the editorial pieces. Unfortunately, over recent years, the reporting has become infected with the same ideological stance, to the point where it’s barely readable. They still do some extremely good work (Haneef and the Wheat Board scandal spring to mind), but you have to wade through a lot of cruft to get to it. I no longer bother.


John(#3). The Australian does not maintain a strict distinction between news and editorial (not that such a distinction strictly exists because the editor’s choice of “news” stories affects what makes it into the paper). “News” items are also sometimes little more that reporting of a politician’s or industry shill’s views, so effectively they become op-eds badged as “news”. There are some very good reporters at the paper but there are also a fair share of hacks and, to use your term, the reporting is “flaky”. The op-ed section promotes a lot of climate contrarian writers with seemingly little basic fact checking.


What David said. The Op-Ed page is uniformly terrible. As a figleaf they give a regular spot, well away from Op-Ed to Phillip Adams who also gets the occasional column on the page. I don’t think they’ve ever had the same sharp separation between editorial and news that the WSJ has, but it’s broken down almost completely in recent years. The general science reporting is still good, and water has been OK until recently, but the environment beat is covered by a former coal lobbyist and it shows.

The good stuff, like Haneef and AWB arose when one of their reporters got onto a great news story, though inconvenient for the Howard government, and the paper decided to run with it, in which case, the editorial line typically backed up the news reporting. They are still covering the echoes of these cases well, but with Howard gone this kind of story is unlikely to recur.


“…the editor’s choice of “news” stories affects what makes it into the paper.”

As is the case with every ‘popular’ source of information like a newspaper be it a magazine, radio current affairs program or a TV news bulletin for example.

“The op-ed section promotes a lot of climate contrarian writers with seemingly little basic fact checking.”

Thats why its called ‘op-ed’.

It was conceived by Herbert Bayard Swope who said “…nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting, so I devised a method of cleaning off the page opposite the editorial, which became the most important in America . . . and thereupon I decided to print opinions, ignoring facts.”

He also said “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure – which is: Try to please everybody.”


Barry, this sums up the exceptionally naive AGW’s anthropocentric mind virus quite well.

. . imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in. It fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well. It must have been made to have me in it!’ –Douglas Adams


How does it sum it up Keiran? I don’t follow your point. Are you claiming that it is hubris, not volumes of scientific evidence, that causes us to attribute recent global warming to human activity? Where is your alternative evidence?


You must follow Barry’s links to info on John McLean – really had me laughing – although I should know by now that writers of this type of repetitive rubbish are always not what they claim to be and always have a bias or agenda. Great to see more intelligent and respected commentators cropping up on this blog. Another quality blog on CC/GW – pity the sceptic blogs are so lacking in science and so full of vitriol! Then again maybe that is good – they must put off any intelligent visitor seeking answers not denialism.


re: 17, 18, 19 The Australian
Sigh, the reason I asked of course, was as possible harbinger of future directions at the WSJ, and while I hoped you wouldn’t give the answer I feared, I suspected my fears would be right.

We haven’t yet detected the effect, but we’re watching, as there are many people around here who get the WSJ for the reporting. I’ve actually been favorably surprised of late on various political topics, so maybe there’s still hope.


PeterW @ 14…what debate? You’re not suggesting Mclean is taking part in some kind of debate? As you point out @ 20, he is merely grist to ‘The Australian’ op-ed mill. His entire piece is a ludicrous exercise in trainspotting, after which the authors of Chapter 9 are labelled/libelled as a “..narrow self-interested coterie..”, an accusation about which he dissembles @ 5. We are misled, Garnaut is a dupe of scientific cronyism, the IPCC’s integrity is questionable…even the Illuminati are running scared.


I can see that a host of acolytes haunt this blog so I will keep it brief abd then depart for more intelligent discussion.

I see that Barry has dragged up his puerile ramblings of “nexus6”. I am so pleased that my comments gave him such obvious satisfaction, “stress relief” I think they call it.

My point then with “Luke” and continues to be, that critics who merely cite other people’s work, especially the laughable Wikipedia and RealClimate, and show no original thinking are a waste of time. Luke like Barry, to the best of my knowledge, has no formal qualification in any scientific discipline that can contribute anything to climatology.

In Luke’s case I persisted with my questioning in order to get the message across. With Barry I don’t have to because his academic qualifications are available for all to see.


Dear John,

To follow on from post 27, please can you also give us some examples of your own original thinking on climate change (inventing the profession of “Climate Data Analyst” doesn’t qualify by the way)? Just one example will do as a start. Please don’t argue that it is in your Energy and Environment paper as that is (in your own words) a review.

Of course you won’t avoid the question – after all you got so cross (and insulting) with Luke…

So, to repeat my question again, please give us an example of your own original thinking on climate change.



That Nexus 6 page does not shed you in the best light John I’m afraid…

Before you get cross – can I state that I only have undergrad quals in enviro engineering and physics. There you go you didn’t have to ask.

I must admit though I don’t really see what Luke’s quals have to do with it… Maclean claims to be something… is asked to back it up as Luke can;t seem to find any references to Macleans credentials… to which the answer is tantamount to a schoolyard game of “I know you are so what am I.”

That said if the IPCC science is so flawed it shouldn’t be hard for you to start clocking up some serious climate journal publications John.

I have plenty of opinions on climate science… but I don;t actually expect anyone to take much notice of them… much like David Evans and John Mc


Luke like Barry, to the best of my knowledge, has no formal qualification in any scientific discipline that can contribute anything to climatology.

In Luke’s case I persisted with my questioning in order to get the message across. With Barry I don’t have to because his academic qualifications are available for all to see.

For the second time, McLean, what are your qualifications in climate science, or any science for that matter, that permit you to comment on climate change above the many scientists who you are disparaging without justifiable reason? And further, how do you determine when professional experience in a discipline supercedes an institutional education? Many experts gain their skills via non-undergraduate routes, and after all, who taught the first ‘climate scientists’?

I hear a lot of hot air, and I see no substance at all, coming from your direction. What was that word again… ‘acolytes’?



So, let’s decode what John McLean is saying here:

1. People who are not denialists are ‘acolytes’

2. RealClimate, a blog run by professional climatologists such as Gavin Schmidt, Stephan Rahmstorf, Ray Pierrehumbert, David Archer etc. are ‘laughable’ because they … errr… run RealClimate.

3. One must, each and every time, use ‘original thinking’ to refute recycled sceptical arguments – you can’t use the same rejoinder twice, especially if it answers the ‘query’!

4. Only people with a formal qualification in climatology or related discipline (whatever that may be) is qualified to comment on or contribute to climatological issues. It doesn’t matter if you’ve published peer reviewed papers on climate science or related fields in the top academic journals – you must have that climatology degree or PhD, or you’re out for life. So people such as James Hansen (astrophysics and mathematics), Ken Caldeira (geochemistry), etc. MUST also be ignored, as must I indeed, because I have only studied and published in Earth systems science and computational and statistical modelling.

That is despite climate science actually cutting across a swathe of disciplines, as explained here:
They’re all OUT!

5. Conversely, climate modellers are not permitted to comment on the climate modelling peer-reviewed literature, which is what must be reviewed in the climate modelling section of the IPCC report, because they have are too close to the discipline and are also the authors of some of the studies being reviewed, so must have a vested interest.

6. So putting 2, 4 and 5 together, non-specialists in climatology are unqualified to comment and are not credible, but neither are specialists, who are unable to comment or be believed because of a vested interest.

7. Luke, being a supposed amateur, is not qualified to comment on the viewpoint of John McLean, an amateur who have never published a peer-reviewed primary research paper.

8. Indeed, the grand conclusions of all of this distorted chain of logic is that only John McLean, or people who say the same sort of guff as John McLean, such as members of the Australian Climate Science Coalition, are qualified or able to comment on any aspect of climate science.

Follow that? :S


John McLean.

I have reread your piece and your posts with continued incredulity, and yet again I would ask you to address the scientific issues that have been asked of you, whether it be on your capacity to comment, or on the scientific matters themselves.

All I have seen is a lot of sniping from behind the security of the Aus’s diminishing reputation, but not a skerrick of true ability to engage with the people who generate the science that you criticise. Rather than running away when you’re put on the spot, you should defend yourself and your claims.

A real ‘analyst’ would be able to do so with erudite dexterity and polite professionalism, but as far as I can see these are as lacking here as is the science content of your claims.

Even an ‘ordinary’ investigative journalist would display greater professionalism than what we’ve seen.

Oh, and my notoriously morbid curiosity wonders where it would be that you go for ‘intelligent conversation’…


Perhaps I missed the part of the article where McLean actually stated which peer reviewed literature he felt was under-represented in chapter 9?

The only paragraph that wasn’t purely playing the man was this:

These models are said to require a human component to reasonably match historical temperatures and the modellers claim that this proves a human influence on climate, but the human factor is an input so a corresponding output is no surprise. A more plausible reason for the mismatch without this influence is that the models are incomplete and contain errors, but of course chapter nine could never admit this.

This is laughably vague. If John knows of better models that should have been used, why doesn’t he simply state them? If no such models exist, why not state that? Because readers might then wonder why they should discount the best available science based on a one sentence assertion that their being wrong is more plausible?


Here is John McLean’s website.

Oddly, it says:
“Computer consultant and occasional travel photographer”

I’m still curious about the meaning of “climate data analyst.”

From that label, I might have thought that such people did a *lot* of work with real statistics, linear regressions, significance tests, maybe some real physics. I did a casual perusal of his site, but I didn’t find a lot of that, but I didn’t look too hard.
I usually think of data analysis as something a little deeper than graphing datasets, with random cherry-picking, but maybe that’s just me.

Perhaps, oh Aussies, since he has a provided a website of his work, and since he is one of yours, people might split up the work and go through those web pages and comment here in some organized fashion on the nature and quality of what they find.

For instance, someone might look at a Sept 20, 2005 paper, Arctic Ice, just to pick a random example of current interest.


“I can see that a host of acolytes haunt this blog so I will keep it brief abd then depart for more intelligent discussion.”

Ouch… what I come back. I certainly can’t compete with that! How about it gang? Do we declare that John has proved us all wrong with this stunning piece of “intelligent discussion”?


John Mashey #36,

“For instance, someone might look at a Sept 20, 2005 paper, Arctic Ice, just to pick a
random example of current interest.”

Method: Pick some data, line it up with some other data on some graphs, then muse about what it might mean.

Conclusion: NH sea ice area isn’t perfectly correlated with the global (yes, global) temperature anomaly. And maybe NH sea ice area has something to do with ocean currents.

It seems so dreadfully unfair that it is typically 20 years or more before the Nobel Prize committees recognise such pathbreaking achievements in science.

Seriously, the problem with this and similar “analysis” to be found on McClean’s site is not that it’s ill-informed, amateurish claptrap, but that it’s that it found its way into Australia’s national broadsheet newspaper.


John McLean – “I can see that a host of acolytes haunt this blog so I will keep it brief abd then depart for more intelligent discussion.”

I guess that would include Jen’s blog where the level of conversation has reached new lows. How is the wisdom of Graeme Bird going? Has Jen coughed up the evidence for her claims yet BTW?

Barry – I one suggested to Coby Beck that he number the points in his excellent series on “How to talk to a climate change skeptic”. In this way you could save heaps of time in refuting this piece from McLean just by quoting the relevant numbers.

However I just noticed that in his move to scienceblogs he has done just this. You can now respond with 1a or 2c – brilliant!


John McLean will find the intelligent discussion he is seeking in the pages of today’s Courier Mail where geologist Bob Carter is very concerned about the threat of natural climate change and considers that “the hypothesis that human carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming has failed the tests to which it has been subjected”:,23739,24325021-27197,00.html.

It reminded me of the funny post on RealClimate a couple of weeks ago, “Are geologists different?” in which Bob featured:


re: #40 ender

1) Barry’s blogroll includes Skeptical Science, which has a very well organized set of bad arguments & their debunks. This sort of thing is especially useful in word-count-constrained cases, since we all know it takes less words to create confusion than to undo it.

2) By the way, people may be interested in teh early origins of denialism, and if you haven’t seen Naomi Oreskes’ video American Denial of Global Warming, see it, but there’s also a short piece at Times Online by her and Jonathan Renouf, especially about William Nierenberg.

DeSMogBlog’s article already stirred a counter-attack by Nicolas Nierenberg on Naomi, but if you read that thread, you’ll find some interesting material. [I found one of the original committee members who’d let me quote them…]


John McLean has a fan club at Marohasy’s blog which, contrary to the statements issued prior to its move, is still as snarky and bizarre as ever.

The discerning reader is warned away from actually entering here, unless said reader is interested in the posts that McLean himself makes on the thread.


Gaz, #39, I have to agree. That people who will distort the truth to back up their strongly held opinions or to protect their incomes would believe climate scientists do the same shouldn’t be surprise. The Australian’s owners and editors are doing what brings readers – and advertisers – to them. Climate denial is unfortunately undeniably popular and running with that slant probably appears to be bringing readership, or at least be staving off loss of readership. Ultimately it will depend on the owners and editors understanding the reality and urgency of climate change on a personal level and having that flow through. Or else the once great paper will devolve into an Aussie version of the National Inquirer.

A tipping point has to be passed, past which declarations of climate scepticism have the immediate consequence of losing them the respect of those around them and where persistant vocal denialism causes people to back away refusing to be associated with someone wilfully endangering our collective future. I’m not sure we are there yet or will even get there in time – that a major Australian newspaper still strongly supports the denialist view (and lots of others still happily include denialist pieces) isn’t encouraging .


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