Sinclair vs Watts

Many of you probably are familiar with Peter Sinclair’s Climate Denial Crock of the Week channel, which dispels popular climate myths.

Many of you are probably also familiar with Anthony Watts and his blog Watt’s Up With That.

Several weeks ago, Sinclair created a video called “What’s Up With Watts?” in which he debunked the idea that the urban heat island effect is skewing the temperature records – the very premise of Watt’s Surface Stations project. He discussed how the temperature readings in urban centers are calibrated with nearby rural stations so that any heat bias is removed. Most impressive was a graph of the temperature readings from stations Watts deemed satisfactory; they showed the same upward trend as all of the stations together. NASA’s obviously doing a pretty good job of correcting that GISS data.

However, just a few days ago, Watts complained to YouTube and got the video removed on basis of a “copyright claim”. It is my knowledge (although I might be wrong) that YouTube will remove any video as soon as anyone complains about copyright.

The  only mention on Watt’s blog of the incident was a comment from a reader:

“Sorry to post off topic (although the comments are all backslapping anyway) but is there a reason you (Anthony) filed a DMCA complaint against Greenman3610’s youtube video “Watts up with Watts”?

From Youtube:
“This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Anthony Watts”

Surely his video falls under fair use. Relying on the nanny state to attack critics or am I missing something?

REPLY: I don’t care to discuss my reasons here as they are private and unrelated to this discussion. Google agreed that complaint was valid and removed the video. – Anthony”

But as Kevin Grandia from DeSmogBlog writes,

“Quite frankly I don’t know what part of the video Watts would have a problem with. There’s nothing I saw in the video that appears to break any copyright as it relates to Watts.

Now maybe he took issue with the short (credited) clip at the beginning from Will Ferrell’s Anchorman movie…. but I think this is more about a video that thoroughly shreds Watts and his argument that the world is wrong about climate change and he is right.”

If the copyright claim was indeed about the Anchorman clip (most likely to conceal other motives, however – you could spend your whole life filing complaints about YouTube videos that had clips from movies) it will be all too easy for Sinclair to edit that out of the video and repost it.

Otherwise, Watts hasn’t got a leg to stand on. It really exposes a person’s motives when they don’t even write a logical rebuttal when they take issue to their arguments being challenged – they simply censor those challenges instead.


19 thoughts on “Sinclair vs Watts

  1. You’re right in that Google just executes any DMCA request as soon as it arrives. It’s their way of covering themselves – legitimate claims have the video removed, illegitimate ones get challenged, and illegitimate challenges get defeated in proceedings. It’s because of this automatic removal that it’s so popular with would-be YouTube censors, and it tends to come back to bite them.

    Watts is now in such esteemed company as Ray Comfort and Ken Ham, who have used similarly baseless DMCA requests to silence critics of their particular brand of creationism. It got so bad on YouTube at one point that several of the science / anti-creationism YouTubers banded together to make the DMCA Abuse channel, highlighting attempts just like these and supporting victims of these false claims. I’ve relayed Peter to it already, and he’s replied that he’s interested in challenging.

    (Of course, after DMCA Abuse took off, people just switched to votebotting and false flagging. Currently those seem contained to the creationists, but it’s probably only a matter of time before the climate deniers pick it up. They’ve already got the sock puppetting down.)

    If Sinclair wants, another good segment to include is the basic SurfaceStations observation that Tamino made here: That’s prime examples of good and bad siting actually show similar trends (identical during the post-1975 warming), but Watts has jimmied the graph axes to make the “good” one appear to be cooling. Of course, after showing the NOAA analysis (which is itself virtually identical to an independent analysis done by John V at ClimateAudit, of all places), that might just be overkill.

  2. While Mr Watts rightly critizes the deficiencies of U.S. weather stations, it seems close to impossible to rebute the analysis that the NOAA made in response to Mr Watts work. Had Mr Sinclair not made his video available, I would be unaware of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admistration’s rebuttal. Mr Watts actions do seem to be a high handed act of censorship.

    An interesting question is, “Why, if the American conservative movement is so certain that the data related to the question of global warming is faulty, didn’t they provide the funding to bring these weather stations into compliance with the relevant standards?”

    Joe Romm recently commented that the American satelite network, that monitors Earth for purposes of evaluating the pace of global warming, is on the threshold of collapse. Despite the claims made by the Republicans over the last decade that the science is not complete, when the time comes to fund said science, nary a dime is to be found. It is all rather strange. It is as if they truely don’t want an unimpeachable answer to their questions, but that couldn’t be the case. After all, these are good & decent men we are speaking of.


  3. Funny story: Shortly after I wrote my earlier comment, dprjones (one of the users in the DMCA Abuse group) put up a great introduction to the DMCA. It stressed a point I wasn’t entirely certain on earlier.

    Under copyright law, YouTube would be liable for any copyright violation that its users post to it, and would be the most vulnerable to lawsuits due to its size. The DMCA has a clause in it that allows an exemption for YouTube if YouTube obeys certain strictures. One of these strictures is that challenged material is removed or otherwise blocked off within a short period of receiving the DMCA takedown claim – note that this does not rely upon any assessment from YouTube or its owners.

    Essentially, Google is required by law to remove challenged material, whether they agree with it or not, if they want to remain protected from potential lawsuits. With this in mind, re-read what Anthony had to say on the subject.

    • What an abuse of YouTube’s legal obligations! It’s good that there’s a DMCA Abuse group. It’s really quite needed when people are willing to stoop to such tactics.

  4. “If the copyright claim was indeed about the Anchorman clip…” Then Watts just committed perjury since he doesn’t own the copyrights to Anchorman.

    I wouldn’t put this past him, but my bet is his ‘objection’ lies somewhere else.

    • I don’t think it’s “perjury” to report copyright infringement on something you don’t own. Those who own copyright to feature films can’t possibly spend their days surfing YouTube to find videos they can report.

      My bet is that his objection certainly does lie somewhere else, but he may be using this as an excuse to get it removed.

  5. Brian, agreed. Watts is either oblivious or dishonest, but either way, using Google to make an argument from authority is a deeply flawed response. It is discouraging to see this sort of behavior among some of the most popular climate skeptics.

    Brian, I think it’s curious that you and I have both heard of dprjones. He only has, what, 9000 subscribers? Perhaps the sort of people who watch anti-creationist videos are the same sort of people who watch/read anti-denialist stuff.

  6. Patrick, there’s nothing rightful about Watts’ criticism. Note:

    The HCN is old, and wasn’t designed to gather the sort of detailed data that’s best for the climate models. That said, with suitable corrections it’s more than up to the task of providing gross metrics like the overall temp trend for the continental U.S.

    What the climate models want is detailed data that’s still reliable even for limited areas where only a station or two are involved. When this was realized (about 15 years ago), an entirely new system (the CRN) was designed and built, and the last of its 100+ stations were being completed around the time Watts started his project. A subset of the HCN stations will now be upgraded to CRN standards to provide additional local data.

    Watts doesn’t much like talking about the CRN. Of interest is what happened when someone went to the trouble of comparing Watts’ “worst HCN station ever” to the nearby CRN station. The upshot: Watts is fantasizing when he imagines that something like a sidewalk next to a station will create an ongoing differential bias (e.g. increasing maximum daily temps without changing anything else). Note that the Tucson HCN is adjacent to some serious pavement and that this has no apparent effect on the data. A change to a station can result instead in a step-change bias, but the best (really the only) way to winkle those out is to take advantage of the fact that surrounding stations won’t have had the same change at the same time. This is exactly what is done.

    Note down in the comments in the linked post that the person who originally told Watts about the CRN siting standards also told him that only step biases would be involved, and that a bunch of careful measurement work would be needed before there was even the possibility of a useful result. The same person mentions that Watts did some initial testing (never completed) involving Stevenson screens, but neglected to use redundant temperature sensors even though sensor error is the most obvious source of potential bias.

  7. “I don’t think it’s “perjury” to report copyright infringement on something you don’t own”

    Technically you are correct. The law states that either the copyright owner or someone authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner can issue a take down. No one else.

    As for the whole perjury thing, this is what the law states. “A statement of the accuracy of the notice and, under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on the behalf of the owner [512(c)(3)(A)(vi)]”

    In other words if you submit a fraudulent takedown notice then you have committed perjury. At least that is how I read it, but IANAL

  8. Steve Bloom, by saying that Mr Watts “rightly” criticized the deficiencies of those HCN stations that are not meeting the standards of the NOAA I mean that he and his associates are within their rights in doing so, and that potentially such criticisms could advance the public good. Insofar as some of the stations within the network do not meet the highest NOAA standards it is factually correct to make note of this. That is the full extent of my intended meaning.

    That his intent is to cast doubt is blatantly obvious given the contents of his website, Most of the content of his site is objectionable both in terms of tone, and intent.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a good brief article on the CRN network, and on the ongoing efforts to upgrade the HCN network.


    • He wants to contact Watts to ask what his problem with the video was, so he can edit it as needed/repost it as it originally was/add in a bit about unfair censorship.

      If he cannot find a way to contact Watts, or Watts refuses to give a legitimate reason, he will post a video which is an open letter to Watts asking him what his problem was.

      That, to my knowledge, is Sinclair’s plan. He’s definitely not going to let this go.

  9. Brian D, are you the same Brian D who is responsible for this quote?

    “Watts’ argument boils down to saying that cookies taste bad because flour tastes bad and thus flour ruins the cookie. Flour might taste bad on its own, but you aren’t eating flour, you’re eating a cookie.”

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