Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Readership of all major "sceptic" blogs is going down

In my first post of this series I showed that the readership of WUWT and Climate Audit has gone down considerably according to social bookmarking site Alexa; see below. (It also showed that the number of comments at WUWT is down by 100 comments a day since beginning 2012.)

reach of WUWT according to Alexa

reach of Climate Audit according to Alexa

I looked a bit further on Alexa and this good news is not limited to these two. All the "sceptics" blogs I knew and had statistics are going down. Bishop Hill, Climate Depot, Global Warming, Judith Curry, Junk Science, Motls, and The Blackboard (Rank exploits) are all going down. Interestingly the curves look very different for every site and unfortunately they show some artificial spikes. Did I miss a well known blog?

reach of Bishop Hill (UK) according to Alexa

reach of Climate Depot according to Alexa

reach of Global Warming according to Alexa

reach of Judith Curry according to Alexa

reach of Junk Science according to Alexa

reach of Motls according to Alexa

reach of Rank Exploits (The Blackboard) according to Alexa

reach of Steven Goddard according to Alexa

As I showed in my second post in this series, this decline is not due to a decline in interest in the general public. The climate science blogs and Google searches are stable. See below for Real Climate and Skeptical Science.

reach of RealClimate according to Alexa

reach of Skeptical Science according to Alexa

Four independent lines of evidence

We now have four lines of evidence for a decline of the "sceptic" community: the decreasing number of readers of all major climate sceptic blogs according to Alexa, the reduction in the number of comments at WUWT and the number of Google searches for "global warming" and other climate sceptic terms and opinion polls on climate change that show that even in the USA an increasing majority accepts the basic science.

The evidence starts to look pretty convincing. Maybe we can soon talk about the science without being distracted by noise and deliberate misinformation. Who said climatologists do not like decreasing trends?

Previous posts

The age of Climategate is almost over
Shows that the number of readers of WUWT and climate audit is going down and that the number of comments at WUWT is down by 100 comments a day.
Decline in the number of climate "sceptics", reactions and new evidence
Shows that climate science blogs have a stable readership, that the number of Google searches for climate sceptics terms is down and for climate science terms is stable and finally that opinion polls show that more and more people accept the basic science.


Paul S said...

The reach statistic refers to a percentage rather than absolute numbers so declining reach can occur if the Alexa sample population spread their collective attention wider (which is likely to happen with an increasingly diversified user population). Given that the Internet is still fairly new and growing it's probable that declining reach could occur with a stable readership size in absolute numbers. I just had a look at the hugely popular site and that shows a steady decline too.

It's still interesting, therefore, to note the comparison between "skeptic" sites and mainstream science sites. It suggests that the latter are attracting new people, while the former are at least stagnant.

The demographics were interesting too. Climate Audit appears to be particularly male-dominated, so possibly their inability to attract women, while female Internet participation increases, could explain part of their declining reach.

Real Climate is the least gender-biased climate-related site, at least of ones I checked.

WUWT don't have as much of a gender-bias as other "skeptic" sites, which may explain the relative stability up to 2012. The huge decline since then is interesting - maybe simply a function of the extreme year of weather in the USA, leading to a loss of confidence in the WUWT message.

Victor Venema said...

That could be part of the picture. In my second post I wrote about Google trends.

Interesting is that Google trends shows that searches with "global warming" and the terms more typical for "sceptics" such as conspiracy, controversy, doesn't exist, fake, is fake, myth, natural, skeptics, is not real, junk science, lies, not real, are going down. Whereas searches for "climate change" and more science oriented key words such as, articles, causes, adaptation, and agriculture, data, education, effects, for kids, health, impacts, jobs, journal, lesson plans middle school mitigation, predictions, research, science, statistics, vulnerability are either stable or are even going up.

If you look at the geography of the search terms, you will see that the "sceptics" are mainly in the USA, UK and Australia, which are saturated markets, whereas the climate science search words also often come from developing countries.

On the other hand, you can also limit the Google Trends graphs to "sceptic" searches only from people in the USA and the pattern does not change much.

Still with readerships going down by a factor 2 or 3 in one or a few years, I do not think that it is all explained a change in geography. It is not a subtle effect.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Victor Venema said...

Please stay on topic. This comment on this post is incomprehensible for outsiders. Feel free to mail me.

mike roddy said...

The trend is nice, but it's a bummer to see that WUWT readership still exceeds Cook's and Gavin's blogs. What about Climate Progress?

Victor Venema said...

@Mike. I think it is not that bad. People with a normal opinion do not have to go to a climate blog to read why the newspapers are lying to them. They can just read and watch the normal news.

So people reading SkS and RC will be very science interested or very worried about climate change and how WUWT and co block progress on this issue.

Unfortunately, you cannot look at Climate Progress directly. Alexa only gives figures for complete web sites. The web site Think Progress is on,, has an Alexa traffic ranking of 4,907. And is thus much more read than WUWT, which has "only" a ranking of 24,894. Today I am getting a lot of traffic from Dialy Kos, which also has a much better traffic rank: 4,102.

rpauli said...

Great report - I suspect that most denialist sites and comment writers might be reputation professionals working in a managed campaign to promote carbon capitalism - either by direct corporate interests or by ideology (only the IRS insists on separating these into different groups).

Your report could indicate a change in tactics by message makers - rather than message readers. Maybe readers are moving away from dedicated sites "Did you read in WUWT?" to the more hyper targeted blogs where comments are a major part of the message - Andy Revkin's Dot Earth, for instance has always had an unusually high percentage of deniers (more than the defined fractions of the public).

It might be interesting to see if there are Twitter campaigns, although I am not sure how to measure that.

I am only guessing, but with destabilizing weather calamities, the pro-carbon message campaign now may be shifting to "separating climate destabilization from climate warming" and "keeping carbon out of the cause"

The Koch news item in the Guardian that he is launching a $150,000 campaign to prevent a carbon tax, seems like a diversionary feint. This from a man who spent $25 million to defeat Obama, seems more plausible that he would launch a new and different campaign strategy to keep his coal moving. His risk is that so many are beginning to see the wisdom of stranding all coal assets. I suspect the Koch tactic now will be to push media to talk about ANYTHING else but this idea. So opposing carbon tax, seems tepid compared to the smarter meme: 'keep carbon underground - start with coal'

Of course, this would be exceedingly difficult to prove or measure. But the most plausible is often the most possible.

Girma said...

Victor Venema said...

You seem to have studied this topic more than I did, but I have a tendency to believe the "climate sceptics" when they claim that they are intrinsically motivated and do not sprout their nonsense for the money.

As WUWT states, the sceptics behave much too unprofessional to be paid for their work. It is a lovely post that reads like a funding request to the Koch Brothers and like a request to followers to moderate themselves:

19. Certain fringe or off-topic comments would be “moderated” out, because they step on people’s toes and don’t play well in Peoria. E.g., New World Order theorizing, bolshy bashing, boot-the-UN and tar-and-feather-‘em remarks, and most attribution-of-motives comments. Populist “venting” of all sorts would be toned down; instead the stress would be on sweet reasonableness and out-reaching to the average citizen and opinion-leader. Any media pro would advise that course, especially one with a big funder behind him (who wouldn’t want to be tarred by association with tin-foil-hat opinions (if news of a link ever came out)). Such a “mainstream” tone and mindset would be the fingerprint of any top-down campaign on a scientific topic.

In addition, contrarians aren’t interested in playing up to an audience—they are focused almost entirely on mocking and scoring points against the enemy.
Big Oil? Baby Oil is more like it. Ologeneous overlords? My companions and I on Skull Island laugh until we vomit.

Why pay someone for something they are doing anyway?

The professionals are working in the background and make sure that the voices of the "sceptics" are amplified in the public media, make sure that the are portrait as equals to scientists, are invited to parliamentary commissions, organize conservative syndicated columns spreading "sceptic" disinformation, and reinforce the idea that you have to invite "sceptics" in climate discussions for "balance".

In my view, balance in the media would mean that you invite an independent scientist to comment on new science. Some news items on climate "sceptics" are fine, no need to act as if they do not exist, but a few percent would be sufficient. When discussing a new AIDS treatment, you also do not invite someone who does not believe HIV causes AIDS for balance.

That "sceptics" write more comments is natural. Why write a comment on Dot Earth: I fully agree with the article. The people that are annoyed are the ones that react, you see that on most news topics.

Victor Venema said...

Girma, how does linking to a picture that shows that the observed global mean temperature is on the low side of the model projections, make any contribution to the topic of the dwindling readership of your community?

You just did something very typical for climate "sceptics", by linking to a suggestive picture and not to a text providing context.

In such a text the "sceptic" would either have to misinform his audience or he would have to write that the picture does not proof that the projections are wrong. The former would make it possible to attack the message, the latter is not desirable to the non-sceptical "sceptic". Thus one just leaves out the text. Very "smart".

If the observed temperature would always be close to the mean, the uncertainty estimate would be wrong. It should be outside of the 95% uncertainty level 5% of the time.

Girma said...

Man made global warming => The greatest scientific ..... in the history of science.

You just need to see one picture to conclude the above for your self:

What does the data show?

The climate pattern has not changed since 1880!

Victor Venema said...

Dear Girma, I still fail to see the relationship of your comments with the topic of this post.

However, while I am not sure whether one picture is sufficient to convince me, I am happy to see that you show the HADCRUT4) global mean temperature computed by the UK Hadley Centre and the Climate Research Unit as unequivocal proof for your thesis.

I guess that the means that you also hold the temperature reconstructions of James Hansen from GISS and of the National Climate Data Centre (NCDC) to be reliable as these two curves are very similar to the HADCRUT4 curve.

Then we agree with each other. The main topic of this blog is the reliability of the climate record. Other people are better qualified to discuss the causes of global warming with you.

Or is the relation with the post, that you hold the temperature record to be reliable and that you thus understand why the major "sceptic" blogs are losing readers? These blogs are constantly spreading doubt about the quality of the climate record and spread hatred against scientists working on improving it. You want to state that it is natural that such nonsense leads to a reduction in readership?

Girma said...

Dear Victor

The problem I have with the IPCC is that it projected for a warming rate of 0.2 deg C/decade. However, the following link

shows a warming rate of only 0.06 deg c/decade.

As a result, IPCC's projection is not supported by the data. That is why I say man made global warming theory is not supported by the observed data.

Thank you for being very civil. Cheers.

Victor Venema said...

Given the strong natural variability in the climate system, which you can also see around the linear trend in your plots, it may be better to speak of 2 degrees per century as about 0.2 degrees per decade, or 0.02 degrees per year, or 0.00005 degrees per day.

Your argument implicitly assumes that the projected warming for the future is equal to the warming seen in the past. Extrapolation is very dangerous. If climate scientists would do so, you or at least your colleagues would complain and rightly so. In the beginning of the period you studied, greenhouse gasses were not that important yet.

It is maybe a bit of nit picking, but while it is great that you read the IPCC reports, I feel it is wrong to claim that the IPCC made these projections. The IPCC reviews the scientific literature.

In the first plot you showed us, the observed warming is still within the error margin (even if it would be allowed to out of it once in a while). Thus I do not see how you can claim that the theory is not supported by the observed data. (And a model run is not a theory, I would personally expect that climate models show too little long-term variability.)