Anthony Watts Is Right Because He’s Older Than Me

Last week, the leading climate skeptic blogger Anthony Watts criticized my writing based upon my age and looks–and other, er, observations:

For the record, it is now official; Chris Mooney is a paid political hack disguising himself as a science writer. I’m going back to calling him a “kid blogger”, because no adult could have thought processes that give conclusions like this.

With this, Watts posted a picture of what I look like. I’m 34. 

I would like to note some reasoning fallacies here. First, there is the obvious ad hominem fallacy—trying to discredit my intellectual arguments by saying negative personal things about me. Relatedly, Watts is also poisoning the well—he throws in these negatives before beginning to evaluate any argument, thus biasing readers against me before they actually assess evidence or claims.

There is also another fallacy here that conservatives, in particular, tend to commit—indeed, it pervades their view of issues like welfare policy. It’s called the fundamental attribution error, and it entails attributing someone’s behavior to something inherent in them (why doesn’t that lazy poor person try harder to get a job), rather than to the situation in which they find themselves (debilitating conditions of poverty). Thus, e.g., I make dumb arguments because I’m young and don’t know any better. 

Why is this argument invalid?

Simple: Even if I do make dumb arguments, it does not follow that my age is the cause of my behavior. There are most assuredly 34 year old climate skeptics out there who would happily make the arguments that Watts wants to hear. Moreover, there are senior, older climate scientists—many, many of them—who would call my statements scientifically accurate.

So what can Watts really hope to prove by talking about my age?  It's hard here, incidentally, not to think of Jonah Goldberg's claim that conservatives should “beat” the socialism out of the youth these days–and that we should raise the voting age because the kids are so dumb.

[As for “paid political hack”—is this supposed to mean that I do political consulting or strategy work? I do not. And “science writer”? In 2009, the American Meteorological Society gave me a book award for writing “an accurate and comprehensive overview of the evolving debate on the impacts of global warming and hurricanes that illustrates the complexities of this significant scientific problem.” So my science writing has been assessed well by…scientists. I write about politics, too, obviously, and always have.] 

An interesting question is what triggered this. The answer is that it was my writing about all the latest extreme weather in the context of climate change. I made some mild and quite scientifically supported statements—simply noting that climate change has made the latest extreme heat more likely by loading the dice, but also noting that we could easily roll a cold winter later this year…and then discussing all the politics of this.

Everybody’s writing similar stuff; everybody’s pointing out that this is what global warming looks like—welcome to the rest of our lives–and we are even getting past once-obligatory but often misleading disclaimers about the difference between weather and climate. It is in this context (situational) that Watts makes his claim that, in essence, he's right because he's older than me.

I can certainly see how this context—this news cycle—would be threatening to climate skeptics. People are actually starting to see that global warming is changing the world in a way that we don't like. Major media, especially television, are starting to cover this reality. I fully expect that we will see measurable impact on public opinion from all of this—and perhaps the skeptics do as well.

So perhaps derogating sources of inconvenient information–in this case, me–is to be fully expected in this context.

In any case, you can read Watts’ comments for plenty more attacks. If I had to name a fav, it would be this one:

Frame Mooney’s piece and hang it on the wall as a horrible reminder of a brain not fit for use as a doorstop.


In conclusion, I want to say something on the topic of youth, age, and conservatism. This reflection is prompted both by Jonah Goldberg's “beat the socialism out of them” comment–which, hilariously, led the comedian Jamie Kilstein to challenge Goldberg to a fight, something we discussed on the latest Point of Inquiry–and now Watts' age-related remarks.

The left-right battle between rebel youth and tut-tutting elders is, surely, as old as we are.  It is a human tradition and a human constant that some young people, wanting to explore, wanting to be different, challenge received wisdom and the older generation. And that, ironically, is precisely why conservatives ought to embrace this dynamic and have much more respect for young people: Because young people challenging old people is part of who we are–our fundamental heritage. Isn't our heritage something conservatives are supposed to defend and even, perhaps, worship? 

I realize, though, that in writing this post I am only a kid–so I may be missing something. If so, I'm sure all the grown-ups who are reading will point it out.


Hey, Chris; I’m significantly older than both you and him, so I guess – at least on Mr Watts’ criteria – that makes me qualified to pass judgement.

Watts is a political-driven animal who has a nasty tongue. You’re intellectually head and shoulders above him. Don’t let him annoy you and try not to rise to the bait. Nobody who has a brain could ever take him seriously.

Keep up the good work.   

galore, and I’ll show you an empty page.  This is of course different from you showing me a man who never made a mistake and my showing you a guy who never did anything, because the use of such from rightwingers is nothing more or less than a tacit concession on their part that you win, as is almost always the case when the messenger as opposed to the message is attacked.

This is not to say of course, that credibility issues and the criteria that establish it are never fair game or without merit, but the ones casting such stones should be damn near if not completely beyond reproach.  The one about your “dumb arguments” is particularly amusing, considering Watt’s has been getting his dumb arguments and ideas shoved up his anal cavity for years now, and so frequently that one could make the reasonable and sustainable case, he likes that kinda figurative stimulation.  You might imagine given my nic, (which is why I chose it) if I had a nickel for every time I’ve read that hollow declaration from some rightwinger over this and that, I’d be a rich guy.  If you’re so “dumb”, then the arguments you make should be childsplay for a genius like Watt’s to completely refute, no?

Their hollow declarations of this sort objectively prove one thing and one thing only – the hollowness of their heads.  And if you wanted to make a foray into the personal as he does and has for a long time relied heavily upon, perhaps his/their dishonesty as well.

As one old enough to be your daddy, I’d like to commend and  congratulate you for exploring and seeking explanations for the mental malady collectively afflicting modern rightwingers, because it has been a pet peeve of mine since joining the internet community more than a decade ago. It was my first observation and the subject of my first post to them and lefties, because like you apparently, I thought it fundamentally important as knowing the enemy always is in war.  Prior to that, I had never observed, thought about, or interacted with them sufficiently enough to understand or appreciate how corrupted they were and remain from top to bottom on the rightwing pecking order.  You have brought what I would characterize as, much needed attention to the biggest fly in our political ointment.  They lap this kinda crap (logical fallacies, etc) up whether it’s applied to chartacter assassinations or not.  For example, he’s “fighting you here in the court of public opinion because he knows he’d lose in a fact finding forum!”. 

And all the goon Watt’s really accomplished with that effort (other than establish he’s an inept and hapless goon, which is hardly news) was make it clear you’re having an effect that he has only desperate stupidity to ameliorate it with, although I’m sure his rightwing audience see it as a stomping he administered worthy of a Perry Mason.

Well done Chris – keep up the good work. It’s a fight worth fighting, and indeed, must be fought, given the stakes.

Not having a climate background…

Not studying any climate material…

Not being an expert…

Not graduating from university…

Anthony Watts is a fine blogger.  His view on conspiracy theories is legendary.

The last circuits click together in the human brain around age 26. Younger people tend to be detail obsessed and to see the big picture less. By 34, you can be considered to be matureaccording to brain psychologists, although they do say people continue to mature and gain in judgement. Businesses prefer upper management in their 50s. People in their 30s are fully satisfactory for most positions; physicians for instance are fully qualified once they have completed their long training, typically by early 30s.

Some people never have judgement. Some people have egos that get in the way of real judgement. Someone with no formal training in science should understand they have a substantial amount of work to do before they criticize people with a lot more knowledge. Anthony Watts clearly does not understand the BASIC science involved in global warming. If we didn’t have any carbon dioxide in the air, we wouldn’t have an earth that sustains life. 

CO2 is able to absorb infrared radiation in the same way H20 is able to absorb microwave radiation. If the science of CO2 was wrong, we wouldn’t have microwave ovens.

Watts lacks the judgement to understand what he doesn’t know. His criticism of you for your age is just inane.

Nice one Chris. Getting under Watts skin and drawing such obvious frustration can only be a good thing.

But Watts has a hide playing the political card. For someone with ties to the Republican party, has a very right wing theme running through his blog (even deniers admit it’s a conservative blog) and he has a post or two on Al Gore and how he is such a bad dude at least once a week, I mean wtf?


I concluded a long time ago that people like Watts and Monckton are probably making a very good living being entertainers.  To maximize income they seek out sensationalism, rather than science.  They each put on their own types of show that appeal to their crowd that will in turn reward them, similar to Rush Limbaugh.  As long as they are rewarded they will continue.

Chris is also ”cashing in” with a sort of counter-entertainment approach, and (gasp!) backing up his assertions with science.

I don’t begrudge any of these people’s sources of income provided it doesn’t do greater societal harm. (There is actually some value to getting all of the loonie ideas out on the table where others can shoot them down.)  I predict the climate skeptic entertainers will escape all consequences other than their income sources will wane (e.g. heartland institute).


In all honesty Chris, you need to see yourself as some Conservatives see you. I mean Conservatives, not necesarily “denialist” conservatives, or whatever you guys call them.

To that group, that article was one of the silliest things to come along in a while in the blogosphere. Seriously. Get some of your non-CAGW buddies to read it and see what they think and hope they will be honest with you.


“In all honesty Chris, you need to see yourself as some Conservatives see you.”

Lara , why does Chris need to see himself as Conservatives see him? Does Watts need to see himself as liberals see him, or how climate realists see him? Do you think either would really give a shit?

“To that group, that article was one of the silliest things to come along in a while”

Yet, besides being a member on this board, you didn’t comment at the time of the article, but only now decide that it is silly because Watts has told you to feel that way. Independent thought in action Lara, nice one.

“Seriously. Get some of your non-CAGW buddies to read it and see what they think and hope they will be honest with you.”

Now that is silly Lara. Do you think there would be a single article that Chris writes that a denier would agree with? Let alone that particular one? Gee Lara, no prizes fo guessing that none of them would agree with anything Chris writes.


“In all honesty Chris, you need to see yourself as some Conservatives see you.”

If you lack independant thought.

Haven’t read anything Mooney has written.

Easily duped by uneducated consipracy theorists like Watts.

Note to inbred ingrates, and Watts followers; Correlation does not equal causation.  So grow up and learn a little math before you open your traps and speak nonsense.

Truth be told, it is actually the majority of that post by “What's Up With That Watts?” that is ad hominem attack. That is 52% of the words he writes are inane insults as opposed to 48% arguing his case (or more correctly, trying to argue his case). Perhaps he has difficulty differentiating his case from inane insults, not because he is a ridiculously stupid fellow, but because of the nature of the case he attempts to present.

Watts's case is “…that (Chris) Mooney can’t even do basic research on the derecho like I did.” Watts points out that his own research was very easy. Ah yes. It shows because his supporting evidence is contradictory and fails to dig deep enough to do the word “research” justice.

Storms like this derecho are common, says Watts. He presents an NOAA map showing that “Washington DC area and much of the eastern seaboard gets one about every four years.” Watts then quotes Roy Spencer who suggests the storm only got reported because it hit a location rich in journalists.
So either it's an unusual location to be hit, or it's something that hits Washington regularly. But can it be both? That's a tricky one!

If Watts had spent a little more time on his derecho research, he would have found the graphs at The one he features was derived from these graphs which show that summer “moderate and high intensity” derechos have struck the DC area just 3 times in the years 1980-2001 according to a study of which there are “A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION” It is explained that the sorts of event being reported (presumably mainly 'moderate' derechos) are likely not to have been noticed in sparcely populated areas. Wow! These are big wide-ranging storms then!
And if Watts had spent even a little more time on his “research” he may have found the NOAA report on the 2012 storm which concludes “…it will go down in history as one of the most intense and devasting examples in recent history.

“Watts then quotes Roy Spencer who suggests the storm only got reported because it hit a location rich in journalists.”

Oh my goodness, yes. Chicago, Baltimore and Washington have oodles! of reporters. Plus many other citiies and towns in the 600 mile swath and 9 states the June 29 derecho hit. Clever of Spencer to realize that!

Regarding Watts’ comment of:

“Frame Mooney’s piece and hang it on the wall as a horrible reminder of a brain not fit for use as a doorstop.”

  If I did,it would have the opposite effect that Watts intended…I would be thinking of Watts himself.

  Rereading my comment,I feel that my inferrence that Anthony Watts’ brain might be not fit for use as a doorstop is petty and an unfair ad hominem.

So let me take this opportunity to say that I sincerely believe that Anthony Watts’ brain would make a very suitable doorstop.

Hope this clears things up.

When it gets down to ageism, your argument is lost, Anthony.  

I remember a lawyer complaining how his client lost his case as soon as he started testifying, lost it by explaining to the judge his (racist) reasons for doing what he did.  The client was somehow sure that the judge would understand his reasoning, since from his own point of view, racism was common sense.

It may seem like common-sense to you, Anthony, what you say about Chris.  It just sounds like bile to the rest of us.