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Friday, November 09, 2007

Fake Global Warming Study Fools Four, Reuters Runs Wire Story

Reuters tried to make a mountain out of a molehill Thursday with its story "Hoax Bacteria Study Tricks Climate Skeptics."

The story, and a related post on the Reuters blog, implied that a noteworthy number of so-called global warming skeptics had been fooled by a fake "study" purporting to disprove the manmade global warming theory.

Said Reuters:
A hoax scientific study pointing to ocean bacteria as the overwhelming cause of global warming fooled some skeptics on Thursday who doubt growing evidence that human activities are to blame.

Laden with scientific jargon and published online in the previously unknown "Journal of Geoclimatic Studies" based in Japan, the report suggested the findings could be "the death of manmade global warming theory."

Skeptics jumped on the report. A British scientist e-mailed the report to 2,000 colleagues before spotting it was a spoof. Another from the U.S. called it a "blockbuster."

Blogger skeptic Neil Craig wrote: "This could not be more damaging to manmade global warming theory ... I somehow doubt if this is going to be on the BBC news."

It was not clear who was behind the report, which said bacteria in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans emitted at least 300 times more carbon dioxide than industrial activity -- a finding that, if true, would overturn the widely held view of scientists that burning fossil fuels are the main cause of warming...
"Skeptics jumped on the report" implies that a noteworthy number of skeptics -- at least noteworthy enough to warrant a wire story -- reprinted, referenced or endorsed the hoax study. But how many did?

The anti-skepticism website DeSmogBlog catalogued those who fell for the hoax, coming up with this list:
Benny Peiser, who forwards copies of news articles and studies on climate matters to his "CCNet" e-mail list several times each day. Peiser sent a copy of the hoax study to his list Wednesday without comment and sent out a hoax warning to the list about an hour later.

A Scottish blogger (the Neil Craig quoted by Reuters) whose Sitemeter stats shows his blog receives an average of 175 visitors a day.

A North Carolina think-tank (allegedly; the post was swiftly removed and I have not seen it).

Blogger Angry Steve (allegedly; the post is gone), who describes himself as "an angry, violent man, trapped in a lazy, pacifist's body," and whose blog averages 5 visitors a day.

A post by "Mr. G" in a blog called PEER Review FL, which bills itself as "Florida's Premier Conservative blog."

Something called "Test Blog," which doesn't appear to be a real blog.

Ron Bailey on Reason Magazine's Hit & Run blog.

In addition, I know of one skeptic who forwarded the hoax study without comment to his e-mail list, then sent out a hoax warning 30 minutes later.
How many skeptics, then, fell for the hoax?

Of the eight individuals and blogs cited above, three don't appear to be skeptics.

Ron Bailey, who posted the study at Reason's Hit & Run, says he is not a skeptic. I could find no evidence on Angry Steve's blog that he is a skeptic. Mr. G seems to be undecided about global warming. The "Test Blog" doesn't appear to be real. So that leaves Benny Peiser, the North Carolina think-tank, the Scottish blogger with 175 daily readers and the individual I know as the four skeptics who were fooled by the hoax. Three of the four were fooled only briefly.

Reuters ran with the headline "Hoax Bacteria Study Tricks Climate Skeptics." I suppose the headline, "Four Climate Skeptics Fooled by Elaborate Hoax Attempt; Three Briefly" didn't appeal to them. No point in wasting good Reuters ink covering the fact that the vast majority of the skeptics who received copies of the hoax study didn't fall for it. (Look at the obviously fake graphs on the study and you'll see one reason why.)

It's amazing how little it takes to warrant a wire story on Reuters these days.

Note: Radio host Rush Limbaugh apparently also briefly believed the hoax was genuine, though apparently in his case it was because he misread a hoax warning from a prominent "skeptic" scientist. Because Rush mistakenly believed he was receiving an endorsed study from a source who was actually trying to warn him against it, I have not included Rush in my comments above.

Addendum: The hoax architect, David Thorpe, posted here about his handiwork ("Within a few hours, the blogosphere was ablaze with the news, and a number of bloggers fell for the scam."). I draw attention to this because Thorpe used as partial proof that his scam had "smoked out" skeptics that "Reason Magazine posted the story and then tore it down..."

As the person at Reason who posted it is open about his belief in the man-made global warming theory, he's no skeptic. So an alarmist runs a scam intended to catch skeptics, catches an alarmist, and calls that proof he succeeded.

With reasoning power like that, it is no wonder some of these guys believe in the man-made global warming theory...

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:51 AM

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