Shulte vs Oreskes: How NOT to debate science

The breathless debate spawned by U.K. endocrinologist Dr. Klaus-Martin Shulte offers a perfect case study in how NOT to debate serious scientific issues.

Shulte - motivated, we are led to believe, by a desire to ease the minds of defenceless children who are worried about climate change - has launched what can fairly be described as an effort to repudiate the work of Dr. Naomi Oreskes. Oreskes demonstrated in the prestigious journal Science that there is remarkable consensus in legitimate scientific literature about climate change. Shulte's article is purported to counter that finding.

Few people have actually seen his yet-to-be-published “peer-reviewed” paper, but somehow its conclusions are being touted by the leading climate change deniers in the U.S. and the U.K. Oreskes, who has good reason to be tired and frustrated after facing three years of constant abuse over the same still-golden 2004 article, has responded sharply to the criticism that was being attributed to Shulte. And now the good endocrinologist is accusing Oreskes of being “discourteous” and is demanding an apology.

I hope she tells him to stick it in his ear.

The whole notion of peer-reviewed science was developed, in part, to protect everyone from getting into this kind of ridiculous mud fest. In real scientific circles, ethical researchers prepare papers in good faith and then they submit those papers to reputable publications (of which Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen's journal Energy and Environment may or may not be one). Said papers are then reviewed by a group of experts who a) know something about the field (excusing “Viscount Monckton” and Marc Morano) and who b) have the minimum amount of discretion necessary to prevent them sharing the papers around until they are truly ready for publication.

I have no idea how the denier community received Shulte's draft ahead of its publication. Maybe he left a copy on the Tube on his way home and the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley happened along and picked it up. But somehow this purportedly peer-reviewed study is all over the Denier News, fully bolstered with interpretation and further comment. And in the face of that flurry of criticism, Oreskes apparently felt moved to respond - to defend a reputation that has survived previous such attacks unscathed.

If Shulte has the goods, we'll be interested to see the evidence when it actually comes time to publish. In the meantime, he, his Viscount buddy and Senator James Inhofe's pet weasel are just playing politics - same as always. 


Thank you for explaining the situation so clearly. I never cease to be amazed by the frantic clamouring of the denialist camp whenever ANYthing that could be interpreted as running counter to the rising tide of evidence for AGW pops up, no matter what the source.

I love the wee beastie in the photo! What is it?

There is no Schulte versus Oreskes debate. Oreskes’ research was suspect and controversial long before Schulte came along.

Oreskes researched published scientific papers in the decade leading up to 2004. Schulte has does the same thing, applying the same methodology he says, for the period from 2004. They deal with two different periods in time. Schulte himself says he made no effort to refute Oreskes.

What really has alarmists’ shorts in a knot is that Schulte appears to knock the props from under a central tenet of the alarmist faith, namely the alleged scientific consensus. That’s why we have Kevin and Richard desperately trying to change the channel here by making this about a British lord, a US Senate aide, sly innuendos about pay-offs and anything else they can think of.

BTW, you would think people connected with this website would tread carefully with their sly hints about suspect financing given the Desmog financial relationship with John Lefebvre. He pleaded guilty in July to illegally transferring Internet gambling funds from the US as part of a firm called NeTeller PLC. Did Desmog benefit from this unlawful activity? How’s that for innuendo?

Uh… It’s been tried. Someone tried to debunk this before.

He ended up with some serious egg and an entire breakfast on his face.

A typical example of the type who find it ‘suspect’

No innuendo intended.

Government Accountability Project (GAP)
Talk live with Rick Piltz about Censorship of Climate Science

Free Conference Call and Q&A

Wednesday, September 12th, 6:00 - 7:00 PM eastern

Featuring Rick Piltz, Director of Climate Science Watch and federal climate science whistleblower,
& Tarek Maasarani, GAP staff Attorney and co-author of Atmosphere of Pressure and Redacting the Science of Climate Change.

To register for this call, email Richard Kim-Solloway at [email protected]
To listen to our previous calls, visit

In 2005, GAP helped Rick Piltz – formerly a senior staffer in the U.S Climate Change Science Program - blow the whistle on the White House’s improper editing and censorship of scientific reports on global warming intended for the public and Congress.

GAP helped Rick release two major reports to The New York Times that documented the actual hand-editing by Chief of Staff Philip Cooney – a lawyer and former climate team leader with the American Petroleum Institute – thereby launching a media frenzy that resulted in the resignation of the “former” lobbyist, who left to work for ExxonMobil.

With Piltz’ leadership GAP has launched Climate Science Watch, a GAP program that reaches out to scientists, helps them fight off censorship, and brings to light the continued politicization of environmental science. He is also featured in the award-winning documentary, Everything’s Cool.

GAP also represented Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s top climate scientists, who blew the whistle on NASA’s attempts to silence him. Hansen’s disclosures led GAP Staff Attorney, Tarek Massarani, to conduct a year-long investigation that found objectionable and possibly illegal restrictions on the communication of scientific information to the media.

His findings, summarized in the report Redacting the Science of Climate Change, included examples of the delaying, monitoring, screening, and denying of interviews, as well as the delay, denial, and inappropriate editing of press releases.

GAP also released a joint Atmosphere of Pressure report with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that combined GAP’s investigative reporting and legal analysis with the results of a UCS survey of federal climate scientists. The reports received broad national attention and have already been presented in testimony at two congressional oversight hearings.

Please stop posting this on every post we do, or I will unfortunately have to ban your IP - I love what you guys are doing and will be involved in the conference call, but please stop spamming our comments section. 

On Deltoid, they’ve looked at the abstracts more carefully. They found that only 2 out of the 7 identified as going against the consensus actually did so. That is, Schulte was incompetent.

It’s now clear that Schulte’s paper did not either misrepresent or even criticize Oreskes. He merely updated her research and found that the unanimity she identified was no longer evident. He also considered the question whether the published literature endorsed the notion (not considered by Oreskes) of climate catastrophe, and found that it did not. The ad-hominem attacks on him are not appropriate: and the one which is said to have been made by her is particularly inappropriate, since she had not read his paper before she thrice accused him of “misrepresentation” when he had not in fact misrepresented her. That is not the conduct of a competent academic scientist, and it casts doubt on the reliability of her original essay, which was not itself peer-reviewed and has been cited in only 17 scientific papers in the three years since it was published. It is better not to seize on material such as that of Oreskes merely because it seems congenial to our point of view. It wasn’t a very good essay, really.

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