Denialist Blogger Anthony Watts Posts Error Strewn “Aerial Survey” of Climate Scientists’ Homes

Read time: 4 mins

Climate science denialist blogger Anthony Watts was sure he had a gotcha moment with some of his most hated figures caught red-handed.

Mysteriously popular blogger Watts had wondered how many vocal climate scientists “practice what they preach” when it comes to how they power their homes.

So Watts carried out what he described as an “aerial survey” but what others might call “looking at maps on Google” to look on the roofs of famous climate scientists to see if they had solar panels.

Watts was reacting to research finding that Americans were more likely to follow advice on cutting fossil fuel energy use from climate scientists who had also taken personal steps to decarbonize.

Imagine Watts’ delight to find the homes of celebrated scientists like Professor Michael Mann, Dr Jonathan Overpeck and Dr Kevin Trenberth, all bereft of photovoltaic panels. What hypocrites, right?

So Watts wrote a blog post with photos of the scientists' homes and then published it. What followed was a comedy of errors and corrections - a true car crash of climate science denial bloggery.

Get DeSmog News and Alerts

DeSmog checked with several of the scientists featured.  First up is Dr Overpeck, of the University of Arizona, whose home, according to Watts, “seems completely devoid of solar power.” Overpeck told DeSmog:

Watts is using an old image of our house perhaps? We have a good-sized array deployed on our roof. Yesterday we generated 59 kWh, which more than covered our own energy use, including air-conditioning on a hot day, and thus we fed the excess back into the utility grid.”


Next up is Dr Trenberth, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, whose Colorado home was also sans solar panels, according to Watts' “aerial survey”.

Trenberth sent DeSmog pictures of his home to show panels on his roof (he later emailed Watts). He told DeSmog:

I have had solar since 1986: firstly as hot water heating, and then when we moved to our current address in 2004, we installed pv panels.”

Oh dear. 

But what about Professor Michael Mann, of Penn State University? Firstly, Watts got the wrong house. Cue rapid re-write with new image, apparently now showing Mann’s actual home.  And look, still no panels.

Except Watts forgot that solar panels are not the only way of powering your home with renewables. Many people have agreements to purchase power from renewables. Mann told DeSmog:

Anthony Watts has shown himself to be a sad, creepy, desperate man, who has nothing better to with his life than this. He apparently doesn’t understand the whole exercise was irrelevant from the start, since — as I have pointed out many times in the past — we have a plan in which all of our power comes from wind energy. As one Twitter commenter noted, we’ll probably finding him reduced to searching through people’s trash soon enough. The episode does nothing other than to demonstrate both the man’s lack of integrity and dullness of mind.”

Oops again! And ouch.

Watts had also apparently featured the homes of former NASA climate scientist Dr James Hansen, who has solar panels covering his outbuildings.

The home of Dr Thomas C. Peterson was also featured, and also showed solar panels (the only person left featured by Watts but not covered here is Dr Thomas Karl of NOAA. If we hear anything, we’ll let you know).

Watts claimed he had been careful not to reveal the addresses of any of the scientists featured, but wasn't careful enough.  Earlier versions of the post and at least one image shared through social media did show street names.  This angered UK journalist Mark Lynas, who described Watts actions as “disgusting”.

None of this appeared to have deterred Watts readers, though. “Terrific post. Warmunist hypocrits,” said one commenter. “Good work Anthony,” wrote another.

Yeh. Great work Anthony.

Mann added: “Anthony’s talents are clearly wasted on climate change denial. He really ought to be working for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.”

Main image: One of the flawed images posted by blogger Anthony Watts claiming to show climate scientists were hypocritical for not having solar panels on their roofs.

Get DeSmog News and Alerts

Get DeSmog News and Alerts