Does Willis Eschenbach have Any Honor?

Let’s find out.

He wrote a new post at WUWT claiming this about James Hansen’s 1988 prediction of the course of temperature change over the following 30 years:


Back then, he said the globe would warm up by two to five degrees by 2018 with five degrees being under the “business as usual” rubric … not. Here’s the story as written up in “Spin” magazine in 1988.

I’m familiar with Hansen’s 1988 predictions. I’ve blogged about it.

I don’t get my scientific information from “Spin” magazine, and I certainly didn’t get James Hansen’s 1988 predictions from “Spin” magazine. I got it from the source: Hansen’s original publication.

Hansen and his co-authors said no such thing. Here’s the graph of projected temperature change under the three scenarios considered:

Keep in mind that 2°F is 1.1°C, and 5°F is 2.8°C. Does it look to you like any of the projections reaches 2.8°C? Does it look like none of them is less than 1.1°C?

Of course not. Because they don’t. The lowest value in 2018 is 0.6°C (a little more than half of what’s claimed in Willis’s article), the highest is about 1.3°C (less than half what’s claimed in Willis’s article).

For those interested in what actually happened, here’s the data from NASA GISS:

We haven’t reached 2018 yet, but the 2017-so-far value is 0.93°C — about midway between the extremes in Hansen’s 1988 paper. If we use the smoothed value, so as not to exaggerate because of year-to-year fluctuations, 2017-so-far is at 0.85°C.

Willis’s “scholarship” is deplorable. He seems unaware that the numbers in Hansen’s graph are not temperatures “since 1988,” they’re temperature anomalies relative to the 1951-1980 baseline used by NASA. Most of all, he bases his article on an erroneous statement from “Spin” magazine, when it’s ridiculously easy to retrieve the original paper and find out the truth.

But that’s not all. He slanders Hansen with this opening line:

Well, Dr. James Hansen, the man who invented the global warming scam …

and later adds this gem:

… running his usual con job …

IF Willis Eschenbach has any honor at all, he will change the post to admit his mistake, and I don’t mean a “see update at the end of the post” so people will start out with the wrong idea. I certainly don’t mean “delete the post” so he can hide his embarrassment. I mean up front, at the top, very first thing, admit that he was wrong and that he failed to find out the truth in spite of the ease of doing so.

And he will apologize to James Hansen.

Does Willis have enough honor to do so? We’ll find out.


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28 responses to “Does Willis Eschenbach have Any Honor?

  1. Blast from the past: https://tamino.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/message-to-anthony-watts/

    Back in 2010, you asked Anthony Watts this:

    If you have any honor at all, you’ll set the record straight. You owe it to everyone, and especially to NOAA, to admit that you were wrong. And you certainly owe it to NOAA to apologize. You need to make a highly visible, highly public admission of error, and apology, for using falsehoods to accuse others of fraud.

    Are you man enough?

    It’s been over seven years, and nobody doubts that we know the answer to the bolded question. I rather doubt that Eschenbach is any more honorable, but maybe — just maybe — he will surprise us.

    [Response: Perhaps readers would like to comment on Willis’s post, to alert him about this one.]

  2. I gather from a range of Eschenbach’s comments and posts on various sites that he considers himself to be a hard-headed, objective, honorable realist who calls things the way he sees them… but anyone who starts a post in July 2017 with “the man who invented the global warming scam” is none of those.

    He’s just a foolish, ignorant man writing for an even more foolish, ignorant audience.

  3. IF Willis Eschenbach has any honor at all,

    Mr Eschenbach is knowledgeable about global warming?
    To have a series of post on the worlds most viewed scientific blog on climate change one would presume he must be.
    He him self holds Henson as the man who invented the global warming scam …
    Having been commenting on the subject for a long time he would have had the source and content of Henson’s paper pointed out to him more the once.
    Yet he is ignorant about the contents of this seminal work.
    The audience of informed members of WUWT shears this ignorance.

    Willful ignorance repeated into an echochamber of willful ignorance.

    There is no honor in willfully ignoring what you know to be true. .

    [Response: It’s not “Henson,” it’s “Hansen.”]

  4. To be fair to Willis, the Hansen et al. (1988) paper was almost impossible to find online. It took me nearly a minute to find it on Hansen’s GISS publication page.
    https://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha02700w.html

    [Response: You could also have followed the link I included in this post. Of course that would have taken an entire … 3 seconds?]

  5. @Magma, @Tamino,

    I posted a suggestion there. We’ll see if it survives moderation.

    What’s odd is that the ilk believe “He said/She said” when it would be trivially easy to compare Dr Hansen’s forecasts with actual results. Can’t they read graphs?

    In addition to the climate work, the other remarkable thing about this 1988 paper is that they also needed to forecast emissions.

    • Wonderin Willis the “carpenter and house builder” (https://www.desmogblog.com/willis-eschenbach) once again hit his thumb with the hammer. He also apparently didn’t pay attention to the adage “measure twice and cut once”

    • hyper…
      I saw that post of yours and Willis’ response – which enraged me – so after a conciliatory pat on his back along with a (primary aim) kick in the balls to richardscourtney for his general/usual nastiness and hypocrisy, this time aimed a Mosher (who was merely pointing out Willis’s boob).
      I posted this….
      However Willis, on reading further up-thread I come across this….

      “hypergeometric July 22, 2017 at 5:03 pm
      Um, Mr Eschenbach, why don’t you actually look at the original paper, its graphs, and then at actual data before you blather away criticizing it. Your criticism is rather like a thirteen-year-old marking up a poster with crayons.
      I think a retraction is in order, as do others. Of course Anthony Watts doesn’t ever retract either, apparently.”

      “Willis Eschenbach July 22, 2017 at 7:44 pm
      However, you’d do well to retract and apologize for your baseless nastiness, your pathetic lack of research, and your puerile assumptions … or not. Your reputation, your choice. Sadly, however, I often find that those hiding behind an alias are happy to attack but rarely apologize … they just pick another alias and move on to their next nastiness.

      Not a good look Willis, and perhaps an apology from you?
      As I said above – this site has the contributors it deserves.

      More than ever it is evident (for those above the rabbit warren) that the aim is to just keep the fanboys cheering and enjoying the hugs and kisses available at WUWT.
      Note they are still saying that Hansen was “wrong”.
      So no, they cannot “read a graph”.
      Because they don’t want to.

      • @Tony Banton,

        I almost never visit WUWT, but after Tamino’s assessment, I had to see how bad it was. And it was worse than I imagined from reading this post. I never returned to see who or what said what about my Comment, and I did not follow the conversation. I do not intend to do so.

        The mismatch between the Eschenbach portrait of the Hansen, Fung, Lacis, Rind, Lebedeff, Ruedy, and Russell 1988 paper and the paper itself cannot in any conceivable way be based upon a reasonable read of it, and simply amounts to character assassination, in my opinion. Professor Michael Mann gets a lot of that at his Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars page at Amazon.com, which I have defended there at some length. There, too, the spitball-throwers don’t understand the great innovation Professor Mann made with the tree ring data, a thoroughly statistical one, bringing the SVD to bear, and I have explained that there.

        I think who I am and what my reputation is is quite widely known, or should be, and I suspect they are performing a “Let’s all burn the critic in effigy” skit for The Faithful there at WUWT. Or it could be something else. Frankly, I don’t care. I have had a Science Denier or two cross paths at my own blog, and I do not tolerate them as kindly as does Tamino or ATTP (of And Then There’s Physics). I guess my style of moderation is inspired by the great evo-devo biologist, PZ Myers, which I followed for years.

        I have the great fortune of being employed in a technical field, as a statistician, in private industry, so I don’t depend or reflect on a university or a public sector organization. I’m successful and well rewards. I’m also pretty active in the environmental movement, and have been since 1972, but I never associate myself with my employer, except to applaud them when they do something good with respect to the environment. One of my proudest moments dueling online was when an individual who was Worshipping Carbon called me a “Tree Hugging Eco-Weenie”. From time to time I do enjoy engaging with Deniers, but it’s usually in a public forum like a national or international newspaper, not a seedy blog like WUWT. That’s because I was a debater for several years in high school. Great fun.

        I have called (climate) scientists to task when it seemed appropriate (here, here, and elsewhere, mostly on use of frequentist techniques), and these have been mentioned, without peer review of course, in, e.g., Nature Climate Change‘s summary of discussion on articles, which I never expected but graciously expect. I also have been wrong, as we all are from time to time, and I am grateful for the time and discussions with climate scientists and others when I am. Dr Glen Peters corrected me, for example, when I too casually dismissed the idea that the soils and ocean subsystems of climate might be slowing down in their acceptance of CO2, and I learned an awful lot both from that exchange and reading up on what I needed to know to properly understand it.

        So, I’m a bit Alfred E. Newman about Science Deniers. They are putting on a show for an audience. That’s it.

        Thanks for your support, and concern. It’s good.

    • “they also needed to forecast emissions”

      The forecasting work in that era was not only incredibly accurate in terms of modeling but most importantly shows that global cooperation can significantly reduce GHG forcing without cratering the global economy. Hansen’s projections showed that, by now, climate forcing would mostly be due to CFCs if emissions had continued to grow exponentially. Instead thanks to the Montreal Protocol they’ve shrunk to near insignificance.

  6. Harry Twinotter

    I don’t think Willis Eschenbach will retract anything. I think he writes these article in bad faith.

  7. Willis owned up to the mistake, but doubled down on maligning Hansen.

    • Yeah. Good comments on WUWT, by the way, Barry. Willis is now complaining about not being able to respond here. He could respond there, though but still hasn’t apologised to Hansen, despite his been shown to be wrong in several respects.

  8. Phil Clarke

    As a Brit, I’d never heard of ‘Spin’ magazine – assumed at first it covered the political PR industry, perhaps tangentially related to climate politics.

    But let me get this straight, Eschenberg claims he read and reviewed Hansen’s paper, albeit 11 years ago, but then defames the scientist and parrots a misrepresentation of Hansen’s work from um, a pop music magazine !?

    Two error-strewn pieces in a row. Does anyone take Willis seriously? If so, why?

    • You have to admit it’s pretty amusing that Willis defended his erroneous and insult-filled arricle by self-righteously protesting that Hypergeometric was wrong to assume that the errors in Willis’ article were due to not reading Hansen’s article.

      Hypergeometric should have assumed that Willis reading the original article was not any protection against misunderstanding and misrepresenting Hansen’s work.

      Bad Hypergeometric!

  9. Title: “Does Willis Eschenbach have Any Honor?”
    Second line of post: “He wrote a new post at WUWT…”

    Damn, that was quick. Men of honor would not post on WTFUWT

  10. Nick Stokes has a really good post on Hansen 1988 projections

    with a nice interactive graphic that overlays current temperature datasets against the famous Hansen chart

    what it shows is just how remarkable Hansen’s paper was !!!

    https://moyhu.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/update-check-on-hansens-1988-projections.html

    science is hard – conspiracies are easy

  11. Turboblocke

    Predictions? Hmm surely they were projections?

  12. Philippe Chantreau

    I strongly object to calling WUWT a “scientific” blog, even only as a quote of their own page. That may be what they call themselves, but it doesn’t make it a reality. They have not evolved much since the good old “carbonic snow in Antarctica” days…

  13. For GISS2017 I predict 0.89+-0.05 using a multi-linear regression model, see
    https://moyhu.blogspot.de/2017/01/prospects-for-2017.html?showComment=1500450119664#c4120512075358352559

  14. It is not about ‘honor’. This a lobbyist supported by big oil, coal and the governments bought by them. The guy has won the day. Forget apologies, better anticipate the possibiliy of jail or camp for you and me.

  15. I take issue with the whole concept of this OP which asks “Does Willis Eschenbach have Any Honor?”
    It seems it is not actually a matter of Willis Eschenbach lacking honour, it is that he lacks a basic understanding of what he writes about. (Of course I assume the alternative, of him being a bare-faced liar that tries to cut his lies at a level he can thinks he can get away with, is not the case.)

    As noted by Barry up-thread, poor Willis has now ‘corrected’ his OP stating “note that the Spin article, as pointed out by Mosh and Tamino among others, is in error.” And the size of that error he had managed to assume for himself by copying Spin Magazine was interestingly (using the words Willis uses to describe Hansen et al’s prediction in Willis’s now ‘corrected’ OP) “He was wrong by a factor of 3. So obviously, he needs an excuse for this failure.”

    However, with this ‘correction’, is poor Willis back on the straight-&-narrow? Sadly not.

    He still fails to comprehend the paper he criticises. Firstly Hansen et al (1988) sets out three senarios and poor Willis, obsessed by CO2 emissions, fails to grasp what these different scenarios are about. He tells us “Since then [1988] we’ve had a continued expansion of fossil fuel use, as in his [Hansen et al’s] most alarmist scenario. Given that amount of CO2 emissions, his [Hansen et al’s] prediction was that by now, temperatures would have gone up by 1°C “
    There are two worrying aspects to such a statement. Firstly, Hansen et al do not model “CO2 emissions”. They model the forcing from atmospheric concentrations not on emissions. Thus Scenario A, which Willis says best represents the outcome since 1988, has average annual CO2 increases of 2.5ppm(v) and rising. On the grounds of CO2 alone, Scenario B is actually closer being 1.9ppm(v) and steady (although the outcome since 1988 isn’t so great and CO2-wise the outcome does lie between these two scenarios).
    The second worrying aspect is that poor Willis fails to see all the other forcings in Scenario A that have not happened. And this is despite such comparisons being carried out already (because Poor Willis is not the first deluded climate denier to travel this particular path that neede rebutting). Indeed such a comparison is helpfully linked in the OP above. Presumably poor Willis failed to notice. In that comparison it is Scenario C that is seen as most representative.
    If you measure up the rise projected by each scenario 1988-2016, you get something like A = +1.0°C, B = +0.7°C, C = +0.3°C. So even after his ‘correction’ poor Willis is still “wrong by a factor of 3. So obviously, he needs an excuse for this failure.”

    And even there we are not at an end to the errors of poor Willis. Would you credit it? He goes and compares Hansen et al’s prediction of “Annual-mean global surface air temperature” with Woy Spencers UAH TLT saying – “Obviously, nothing like that [ie A = +1.0°C] has happened. Despite the fact that millions of folks believed his prediction in 1988 and continue to listen to him today, the UAH MSU satellite data says that since 1988 it’s warmed by … well … about a third of a degree. Not one degree. A third of a degree. He was wrong by a factor of 3. So obviously, he needs an excuse for this failure.”
    A +0.33°C rise is probably not so bad an assessment for the UAH TLT rise since 1988 but a similar analysis of the RSS TLT yields a result of +0.57°C which should give just a tiny bit of alarm to even poor Willis. And anyway TLT is not surface. All the surface records yield a temperture rise of between +0.53°C and +0.60°C.

    It seems poor WIllis is so wrong that even after his ‘correction’ he remains wronger than he accuses Hansen et al of being and remains almost as wrong as Spin magazine. Someone should tell him to call it a day. This is too embarrasing.
    But then, if on Planet Wattsupia you are all that stupid, you probably don’t reailise how stupid you are.

    (There remains the matter of the SLR that Willis also badly misrepresents in grand fashion in that same OP of his.)