Archive for April 2010

Global Warming Controversy. Part 3. The Wikipedia Labyrinth

6 April 2010


Notwithstanding Wikipedia’s superb usefulness as a source of instant factual information, the collective treatment of the articles on global warming and climate change by Wikipedians offers a very good example of two fundamental (congenital) shortcomings of Wikipedia as a reliable source of information:
1. its unbalanced treatment of many controversial subjects, especially those involving beliefs (religious, spiritual and political).
2. Wikipedia’s anti-encyclopedic encouragement of short articles (i.e. those occupying 32 KB of Hard Drive space – i.e. about 1,000 words, or 3 printed pages).

Evidence of the first flaw is to be seen in Wikipedia articles on Climate Change and Global Warming as well as in other hotly contested subjects like, for example, Scientology, Sun Myung Moon, Prem Rawat (aka in the 1970s as the divine Maharaji / Guru Mahara Ji), and Sathya Sai Baba. All of these Wikipedia articles are fiercely “protected” by determined devotees and followers who are willing to spend endless hours on their mission of excluding and deleting any inconvenient facts about the subject of their adoration.

The second flaw takes the shape of fragmentation of important topics over several or many different articles (which are not always adequately cross-referenced). This systematic fragmentation makes if difficult for readers to get a detailed and balanced view of the Wikipedia topics where it occurs. The preference for short articles also gives the small number of partisans and activists for sectarian points of view a golden opportunity to “hive off” potentially awkward aspects like Criticism of XYZ into separate articles. (Wikipedia even recommends this procedure!) Even basic (as opposed to Full) Bibliographies may be shunted off from their topic, which is especially attractive to activists and zealots if inconvenient books and articles are on such lists. Even when a direct link is offered to these separated segments of a Wikipedia topic, there is a high risk that net surfers will lazily avoid making that further vital click to balance the knowledge they are gleaning from the ‘cleansed’ version of the topic.
Global Warming, etc.

To deal with the wide ramifications and ongoing reverberations of (Anthropogenic) Global Warming and Climate Change, this Wikipedia facilitation of fragmentation has now spawned over 50 articles (including, in recent years, articles on the orthodox and sceptical protagonists and some of their book titles). For reader interest, a list is provided at the end of this article – a list not available on Wikipedia.)

For years now, as Lawrence Solomon, and other sceptics, have recently pointed out, here and here, many of the above Wikipedia articles
on global warming, etc. have been zealously patrolled and protected by indefatigable defenders of orthodox global warming science and of the IPCC. The most notable (and, for the past few years, notorious) of these Wiki-guardians is William M. Connolley, a founding member of the 2004 RealClimate website (see Part 2 of this blog series). “Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement” (L. Solomon). Solomon’s articles also narrate part of his personal experiences as a Wikipedian contributor (User) – facts he contributed were banished from the articles by the ever-vigilant “ warmist” activists, Connolley and his allies.

The Wikipedia article about this IPCC paladin gives succinct information on Connolley’s activities:
“Connolley was a member of the RealClimate website until 2007,[8][9] and he operates a website and blog that discuss climate issues.[10][11][12] […]”
“ His editing was also the subject of hearings by Wikipedia’s arbitration committee after a complaint was filed that he was pushing his own point of view in an article by removing material representing opposing viewpoints. A “one-revert-a-day” editing restriction was imposed on him, but later revoked. He told The New Yorker that Wikipedia “gives no privilege to those who know what they’re talking about.”[15] Connolley served as a Wikipedia sysop, a form of website administrator, until his status was removed by the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee in September 2009.[16][17][18]”
(from Wikipedia: William M. Connolley)

(Note: Connolley’s Wikipedia contributions have averaged over 6,000 per year since 2003. However, unlike the vast majority of Wikipedia registered Users, Connolley uses his real name, for which, whatever his reasons, he is to be commended.)

The extremes to which such Wikipedia zealots have gone on these topics will not come as a surprise to anyone who has also seen (or suffered from) the strenuous edit warring and filibustering that goes on, month after month and year after year, in other similarly controversial Wikipedia sites, where total editing time seems immaterial and where less determined contributors find their contributions deleted. (“Since I first tried to correct the distortions on this [Wikipedia] page, it has changed 28 times,” L.Solomon).

If you have not read his work before, I recommend to you Solomon’s excellent detective work on Connolley and other Wikipedia activists referenced above (plus this earlier one on the Wikipedia problem: 8 July 2008, Wikipropaganda. Anthony Watts’ recent contribution and readers’ comments on this topic are also of interest to all who value truth and balance in debate.

List of relevant Wikipedia articles (April 2010)

Climate change
Global warming
Global warming controversy
(Climate change controversy – directed to Global Warming Controversy)

and all of the following:

Action on climate change
Attribution of recent climate change
Avoiding dangerous climate change
Business action on climate change
Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy
Climate change consensus
Climate change response
(“Climategate” is directed to “Climatic Research Unit emails controversy”)
Climatic Research Unit
Climatic Research Unit documents
Climatic Research Unit emails controversy
Description of the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age in IPCC reports
Economics of climate change
Economics of global warming
Effects of global warming
Global warming conspiracy theory
Glossary of climate change
History of climate change science
Hockey stick controversy
Index of climate change articles
Individual and political action on climate change
Individual and political action on climate changeLow-carbon economy
List of authors from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis [= IPCC 2007]
List of climate scientists
List of scientists opposing the manistream scientific assessment of global warming
Mitigation of global warming
Politics of global warming
Religious action on climate change
Renewable energy commercialization
Scientific opinion on climate change
The Clean Tech Revolution
The Cool War

And central topics like:
Criticism of the IPCC AR4
Garnaut climate change review
Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change

Plus many individual biographical sketches of scientists and other protagonists like:
Michael E. Mann, Stephen McIntyre, Anthony Watts, William M. Connolley, Bob Carter, Ian Plimer, Al Gore, Rajendra Pachauri, etc. And even separate articles on books dealing with scientific aspects or controversial topics:
The Real Global Warming Disaster
Heaven and Earth
The Hockey Stick Illusion

Other Wikipedia references to this vast area of knowledge are offered in the following Wikipedia CATEGORIES listed at the foot of each article (each giving multiple topic links).
Climate change assessment and attributions
Climate change: feedback and causes
Global warming (as a CATEGORY)
Economics and climate change
Energy economics
Environmental controversies
Environmental skepticism