Climate Denial and Manufacturing Legitimacy

January 25, 2012

Guest Post by Colin Maessen:

The scientific discussion has long since moved on from whether we are causing the increase in our planets temperature to fine tuning what effects this will have. We know it is happening, we are responsible for it and we are now in the process of finding out that we have been underestimating it.

Yet, the so-called sceptics have managed to delay action, very effectively spreading misinformation. A considerable amount of misinformation comes from the blogosphere, where familiar and long-debunked claims about climate change are repeated time and time again.

Case in point, Anthony Watts with his website Watts Up With That:

Being called out does not stop him from spreading obvious misinformation.

So how does he manage to still hold on to the trust of his readers?

The reasons are many, and have lot to do with the mindset of a science denier, but he does have his methods for creating the illusion of legitimacy. One of these methods is gaming the internet vote for certain dubious “science blog” awards.

When Watts won the 2011 Bloggie Award in the category Best Science Blog, he gave full credit to his loyal readership:

This was truly surprising. According to the Bloggies Facebook page, WUWT has been named the first ever winner of the Best Science Blog category (new this year for the Bloggies), beating Wired and Boing Boing, both of whom have way more reach and traffic than we do. I suppose it demonstrates the loyalty of our readers.

These awards are won by popular vote, rather than merit. Those that rouse or manufacture enough support, can engineer a win in the submitted category – in this case resulting in “science” awards for a blog that routinely misinforms on scientific subjects and even slanders scientists.

Watts is at it  again for the 2012 Bloggies:

Well, it is that time of year again. You can nominate your favorite blogs for top honors in the 2012 Bloggies Awards. As many know, WUWT won last year in the Best Science Blog category. This year, Science and Technology blogs have been combined into a single category, so the competition will likely be stronger.

I also followed up on his advice and joined in to vote, which also meant I had an interesting opportunity. If you submit nominees for the Bloggies you can indicate that you are interested in being selected as a one of the 200 randomly selected voters who choose the finalists.

And I was selected as one of those 200 voters. Thanks to this I am in the possession of a ballot to vote for the finalists and a list of the candidates for “Best Science or Technology Weblog”. For your convenience I’ve marked the ‘sceptic’ sites in orange and the actual science sites that report accurately on climate change in green (order as they appeared on the ballot):


The listing is flooded with sites spreading misinformation on climate science, just one site on it that is dedicated to combatting the misinformation on climate, and two that from time to time highlight mainstream climate science and call out denialism. It’s an indication of the (often “astro turfed”) swarming behavior that often allows climate deniers to punch above their actual weight.

How should the pro-science community counter this?

The above lists of candidates will be distilled into a list of finalists, five of them in total. On February 1st, everyone will be able to vote for the finalists. This is your chance to help an actual science blog to win this category.

Mark this date in you agenda, and go to the Bloggies website to let your voice be heard.  Go to your favorite climate science site and notify them so they can spread the word – and join me next year to submit your favorite science sites.

It might not seem a big thing to do, but it is important to stop misinformers from getting awards that they can use to legitimize the misinformation they spread. The majority of the population support the proposed changes for dealing with climate change, even when they might not believe that we are the cause – since most of those changes are needed in any case to compete technologically, and provide a less toxic, more livable planet for our children.

Let our voices be heard.


22 Responses to “Climate Denial and Manufacturing Legitimacy”

  1. dana1981 Says:

    Holy cow. I’m glad to see SkS on that list, but the deniers must have absolutely flooded the voting. Goddard, Jo Nova, Bishop Hill, Tallbloke, etc. etc. Is there any crappy climate denialist blog not on that list??

    Well, maybe the many denialist blogs on the list will split the denialist vote, and a truly good website will win this time. One can only hope.

    • SkS and Pharyngula are two of the blogs that I submitted as nominees and glad they did make it to this list. I just hope they will still be listed as one of the 5 finalists.

  2. dana1981 Says:

    OMG, I just noticed that Climate Depot is on the list. Wow is all I can say. What a sham.

  3. jasonpettitt Says:

    So gaming the finalists’ selection process with a bit of click fraud is clearly a cinch. But having filled the ranks with denio-blogs, which of the many will they now vote for? Gaming fail, I’d have thought.

    Also, some sort of credible science communication award might be in order.

    • Well these are the candidates that were up for voting for the selection process for the finalists. And everyone will be able to vote on the selected finalists from 1st of februari. You can bet that wuwt will point his readers to this open voting. Even if wuwt didn’t make it as a finalist, this will have an influence.

      There are also credible awards for public communication on science. For example won the Eureka Prize for Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge.

      • jasonpettitt Says:

        Perhaps I wasn’t clear.

        By flooding the selection process with so much enthusiasm the denio-vote is now split 11 ways. Whereas anyone thinking a blog that advocates mainstream climate science over woo is deserving of a win will have a pretty good idea from the choice of 1 which to go for.

        If you see what I mean.

        So yeah – as much as I find Skeptical Science a bit dry sometimes, you can’t deny that it’s an absolutely brilliant resource. No doubt worthy of its Eureka award and quite likely deserving of votes for a webblog award too.

        I certainly know who I’ll be voting for.

        • Ah like that.

          Yeah it’s now waiting on how many of the 200 randomly selected voters are in the ‘sceptic’ camp. That is something we only will be able to see when the five finalists are announced on the 1st of februari.

  4. kokuaguy Says:

    Maybe the responsible citizens of the internet should try to reach consensus as to where to place our votes. Is there a recommendation from Peter Sinclair? Since I don’t see climatecrocks on the list, the only other one I’m familiar with is skepticalscience, so if we were taking nominations I’d choose that one. I would also readily defer to any other nominations if a consensus were possible. Primarily we need to stop a science denier site from winning. It’s a disgrace and this organization should be ashamed for letting this happen.

  5. […] Legitimacy January 25th, 2012 Collin Maessen No responses The following post was originally published on ClimateCrocks as a guest post.The scientific discussion has long since moved on from whether we are causing the increase in our […]

  6. otter17 Says:

    Skeptical Science is always a favorite of mine since it is so well-organized and accessible, yet still very rigorous in its treatment of the scientific concepts.

    Bad Astronomy is an excellent choice, too. I like how that blog covers critical thinking for many subjects.

    • otter17 Says:

      Wow, I just noticed that is in the list. Isn’t that… special.

      Hopefully Rush Limbaugh’s former “man in Washington” (Morano) doesn’t get a mention on the Limbaugh radio show or that would likely be an easy win for Climate Depot if it makes the finals.

  7. For a nice satire on / parody of Watts’ craporama, go to The Daily Show home site, go to the video archive and look up Aasif Mandvi report, “Science–What’s It Up To?”

  8. dana1981 Says:

    We’re trying to figure out how to respond if SkS makes the final cut. My suggestion is that we should ask them to either change the name from “best” to “most popular” science blog (since the voting is a popularity contest and has nothing to do with the quality of each site), or withdraw SkS from consideration. In short, as long as they’re going to give this award to horrible sites based on a popular vote and continue to call the winner “best”, we should boycott it.

    WUWT is likely to repeat anyway. Watts has hoards of rabid fans who will do his bidding and vote for his site repeatedly. For one of the most anti-science sites on the web to win an award for “best science blog” even once, let alone repeat, is an utter disgrace.

  9. […] first created in 2011. (Before then, it was known as “Computer and Technology”.) Is it, some ask, being gamed by climate […]

  10. […] first created in 2011. (Before then, it was known as “Computer and Technology”.) Is it, some ask, being gamed by climate […]

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