Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Climate change dispute

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Case Opened on 22 March 2005
Additional case merged-in on 27 May 2005
Case Closed on 26 June 2005
Case Re-Opened on 27 November 2005 at Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Climate change dispute 2
Case Closed on 18:06, 23 December 2005 (UTC)


Please do not edit this page directly unless you wish to become a participant in this request. (All participants are subject to Arbitration Committee decisions, and the ArbCom will consider each participant's role in the dispute.) Comments are very welcome on the Talk page, and will be read, in full. Evidence, no matter who can provide it, is very welcome at /Evidence. Evidence is more useful than comments.

Arbitrators will be working on a proposed decision at /Proposed decision.

Involved parties[edit]

Statement by Cortonin[edit]

Please limit your statement to 500 words

User William M. Connolley (WMC) strongly pushes his POV with systematic removal of any POV which does not match his own. His primary tactic for doing this is to use aggressive revert warring with no regard for discussion to establish consensus. This behavior has degraded a large number of articles into a battle of attentiveness, where the state of the article is determined entirely by who is around their computer to revert the articles most frequently, with no apparent aim of convergence around NPOV. William M. Connolley refuses to form consensus, accept compromise, or allow multiple perspectives to exist on controversial topics. His views on climate science are singular and narrow, which would not be at all a problem if he did not make it his ideal goal for Wikipedia to singularly represent his own view at whatever cost. Compromise is nearly impossible, because at best he treats compromise [1] as a delay until he can revert everything back to how he wants it again [2] [3]. The behaviors he has engaged in have resulted in the loss [4] to Wikipedia of a large number of good editors in the climate area, who left after finding his domination of those areas extremely difficult (or worse) to deal with.

If you want to set a standard of behavior for Wikipedia as a place where editorial consensus can be reached through mutual cooperation, then I ask you to take some sort of action now, because the climate related articles on Wikipedia are not in that state. I and many other editors interested in the topics, have better things to do with our time than sit around trying to revert pages to make sure our contributions aren't all systematically removed. The only cure for this is cooperative consensus, and we don't have it because WMC refuses to participate. Edit warring on every edit is not a solution, and I ask you to put a stop to it. Cortonin | Talk 01:36, 19 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Statement by William M. Connolley[edit]

I am a climate modeller and I know a lot about climate change and related issues. I have made contributions to almost all of the pages on glossary of climate change (which I created) many of which are non-controversial. I have happily collaborated with a number of other editors, as the discussion on global warming will make clear. I do not push my POV: I attempt to keep the pages roughly representing the scientific consensus, which is by and large represented by the IPCC reports. You will find a large number of statements in my support on the earlier RFC. I have also made contributions to a number of other areas of wiki, including two featured pictures (here) and many other pics. I frequently "patrol" the climate change pages, reverting vandalism, as well as watching for all-too-frequent POV insertions by skeptics, of which the current worst example is Cortonin. We have had a number of troublesome folk in the past: JonGwynne is the obvious one (eventually I needed to take up an RFA against him, and he left, thankfully - presumably he is one of the "good" editors whose loss C regrets). Ben was a regrettable example, but by his contributions I wouldn't call him "good" but misguided - well, see the RFC against me for details. I have been a large part of removing some POV-pushers (Ben wasn't one) from the climate pages, but this is good not bad.

By contrast, Cortonin appears to know almost nothing about global warming, yet edits there and a small number of related controversial pages almost exclusively (he occaisionally makes vague claims of physics competence, but never edits physics pages where he might make use of his knowledge). The global warming page is a good example. The current page is fairly stable, and a fair group of editors seem happy with it. It is this version onto which Cortonin put an NPOV tag, with the comment This page is in NPOV dispute until it contains description of solar variation theories and climate model criticisms.. This is his idea of consensus: to use the NPOV tag as a bludgeon to get his way, when the normal editing process removes his unwelcome additions. These additions were [5]. In particular he insisted on:

Some solar effects may be very important and are not currently accounted for by temperature-prediction climate models, such as the feedbacks due to direct changes to water vapor caused by solar variation (Sonnemann and Grygalashvyly, Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 2005)

and

There are areas in which current climate models due a significantly poor job of predicting feedback due to solar forcing of clouds and the greenhouse effect of clouds. In 2003, CCM3 was found to differ from observation by 10.5 W/m2 in the pacific cold tongue region due to an underestimate of the negative feedback due to solar forcing of clouds, and an overestimate of the positive feedback due to the greenhouse effect of clouds. (Sun et. al., Journal of Climate, 2003)

The problem with his first addition is that the reference concerned is about mesospheric water vapour: this has precious little relevance to climate change (the mesosphere being very high up and possessing little mass); we live in the troposphere. Cortonin either doesn't know this, or doesn't understand it.

The problem with the second (apart from it probably being excess detail in a section that is intended as an intro to the main article on climate models) is that its a very biased quote. The full abstract is [6]. Note that Cortonin has omitted The results show that the positive feedback from the greenhouse effect of water vapor in the model largely agrees with that from observations.. I pointed out to C that this was biased [7] and he appeared to be unable to understand this [8] - there is more in that section.

Greenhouse effect (dispute now moved over to Solar greenhouse (technical)) is another example of Cortonin pushing his ignorance. Despite this, we had a long stable compromise (this version [9] which Cortonin upset on Mar 15; I reverted with Rv: don't upset the delicate balance, but C wouldn't leave it, so the war began again). As to the content: I've provided any number of refs to the meteorological literature (all of which C dismisses, with comments like Let's compare this to the opposing quote, "heating in the usual greenhouse is due to the reduction of convection" from Jose Peixoto. No well-educated physicist would write this, so I can only assume his background is something else. I cannot find much reference to him on the web outside of that book. I do see a Jose Peixoto whose background is literature who is considered to be a good writer, but I cannot tell if this is the same one. [10]).

Another example, over at Greenhouse gas, around Jan 15th you'll find Cortonin several times adding junk numbers for the total GHE of water vapour, e.g. [11]. It needed someone (me) who knew the subject to realise that these numbers were junk (95% is implausible; the current page is stable with 60-70%).

In short, Cortonins POV is so badly biased that anyone editing a straight line is regarded by him as POV pushing. Despite knowing very little of the subject, he edits vigourously and will not accept contrary information.

Additional statements from merged-in case[edit]

Statement by William M. Connolley[edit]

User:JonGwynne already has an arbcomm judgement against him, limiting him to one revert per day. This is helpful, but I'd like to ask for it to be tightened up, based on his totally unhelpful editing pattern. As per Mavs comment [12] I request that this be folded into the case Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/William M. Connolley and Cortonin.

Since his most recent ban (he gets lots of 3RR bans, since he can never accept them [13]), he has:

  • made biased deletions of material from Ross McKitrick [17] on spurious grounds (the ref he leaves to techrev is not peer-rev either)

and thats just recently. I've reverted these, but its a waste of productive time. Despite his earlier arbcomm judgement, he shows no interest in reforming and becoming a NPOV editor: he just keeps pushing POV, which accordingly gets reverted. I believe that he deserves a ban, with some sort of extension clause if he returns after to his POV-pushing again.

(William M. Connolley 17:27, 22 May 2005 (UTC))

Statement by party 2[edit]

(in response to WMC's absurd statements about 3RR bans (and hypocritical as it turns out since he's just been nominated for another one himself)

Actually a handful of the 3RR bans I've gotten have been legitimate and I accepted those without protest. The majority have not - many of which have been the result of outright deception practiced by those whose extreme POVs I challenge here. --JonGwynne 18:46, 22 May 2005 (UTC)

(in response to WMC's absurd complaints about the redundant and useless text I removed from the MWP article)

I was simply attempting to remove WMC's persistent efforts to inject long discussions of the IPCC into everything. In this case, the information is not only discussed in detail elsewhere, there is an entire article devoted to the subject (MWP and LIA in IPCC reports) which is referenced the MWP article. Therefore, a massive and unwieldy paragraph in the summary of the article is not only inappropriate but completely redundant. It is simply an attempt by WMC to push his POV. Of course he objects to it and gets hostile in doing so because he cannot support his position with rational argument. WMC's actions are not unusual for a propagandist. --JonGwynne 18:46, 22 May 2005 (UTC)

(in reponse to WMC's unsupported and obviously untrue claim about applying the label of "leftist" to leftist organizations like UCS and LobbyWatch being "POV")

It isn't POV - it is an accurate and objective description of the organization. They are a far-left group. They take only those positions consistent with far-left idealogy and actively oppose those identified as right-wing. You had the opportunity to demonstrate a single example of them supporting a right-wing cause but failed to do so. As an example, the article on The Nation describes it as a leftist publication. So, not only have you failed to support your position, I have fact and precedent to support mine - which you might have learned if you'd bothered to investigate the issue instead of engaging in your typical knee-jerk reversions. --JonGwynne 18:46, 22 May 2005 (UTC)
See above example. The UCS is also a leftist organization. --JonGwynne 18:46, 22 May 2005 (UTC)

(in response to WMC's baseless accusation that I removed information on "spurious grounds")

The same could be said of you. You removed material on the grounds that it isn't published and then objected to the removal of your POV material on the same grounds. Why the double-standard? --JonGwynne 18:46, 22 May 2005 (UTC)

(in response to WMCs oft-repeated demand that I be banned for having the temerity to stand up to his OTT POV)

Why? You haven't been banned for your repeated and unapologetically incivil behavior? --JonGwynne 18:46, 22 May 2005 (UTC)

See comments above. --JonGwynne 18:50, 22 May 2005 (UTC)

Statement by auxiliary party[edit]

As I initially brought the RfA against William M. Connolley, I object to the merging of that case with this one. Since the start of the first case, WMC has been systematically trying to throw unrelated smoke into the air saying, "Look at that, that guy is worse than me or the same as me." This is serving only as a distraction, and has so far kept the arbitrators from focusing on WMC's negative behavior and violation of numerous Wikipedia policies. I object to adding further distraction, and encourage the arbitrators to focus on the evidence which has already been brought in the case, most of which has not yet been addressed. If the arbitrators decide to hear this case, I recommend it be considered as a separate case for the sake of reasonable focus on both cases. Cortonin | Talk 19:54, 22 May 2005 (UTC)

Indeed. It becomes all the more confusing when WMC engages in exactly the sort of behavior he is protesting in this RfA. Perhaps he should consider filing an RfA against himself. --JonGwynne 20:01, 22 May 2005 (UTC)

Preliminary decisions[edit]

Arbitrators' opinions on hearing this matter (4/4/0/0)[edit]

  • Reject. I don't see much of a case to answer here. Ambi 05:28, 19 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • Reject ➥the Epopt 11:11, 19 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • Reject. That evidence is high in volume (good formatting of lots of information, thank you!), but I'm really not convinced by it that there's a case here - David Gerard 12:24, 19 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • I'll note that if William M. Connolley feels a need to assemble a case against Cortonin, we can deal with that if it reaches that stage - David Gerard 00:46, 20 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • Accept - there are few things that irritate me more than full-scale revert wars, which is the impression I get of what's going on while reading what's here. -- Grunt 🇪🇺 14:52, 2005 Mar 19 (UTC)
  • Reject. Neutralitytalk 19:11, Mar 19, 2005 (UTC)
  • Accept - I'm not too convinced by Cortonin's evidence that William M. Connolley is the real issue here so both users need to be looked at closely. One way or another we need to stop the revert wars (which seem to be constant in this subject area). mav 03:12, 20 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • Accept per mav. Ambi 23:50, 20 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • Accept Nohat 08:41, 21 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Additional preliminary decisions from merged-in case[edit]

Arbitrators' opinions on hearing this matter (5/0/0/0)[edit]

  • Accept. Ambi 08:56, 23 May 2005 (UTC)
  • Accept Fred Bauder 11:30, May 23, 2005 (UTC)
  • Accept and merge with related open case. --mav 13:21, 23 May 2005 (UTC)
  • Accept to merge - David Gerard 21:14, 23 May 2005 (UTC)
  • Accept and merge ➥the Epopt 23:30, 25 May 2005 (UTC)

Temporary injunction[edit]

1) Since revert wars between Cortonin and William M. Connolley have continued through this arbitration, both users are hereby barred from reverting any article related to climate change more than once per 24 hour period. Each and every revert (partial or full) needs to be backed up on the relevant talk page with reliable sources (such as peer reviewed journals/works, where appropriate). Administrators can regard failure to abide by this ruling as a violation of the WP:3RR and act accordingly. Recent reverts by Cortonin [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] by William M. Connolley [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] Additional reverts by others involved in these revert wars may result in them joining this case.

Passed 4 to 0 at 22:40, 23 May 2005 (UTC)

Final decision[edit]

All numbering based on /Proposed decision (vote counts and comments are there as well)

Principles[edit]

Revert wars considered harmful[edit]

1) Revert wars are usually considered harmful, because they cause ill-will between users and negatively destabilize articles. Users are encourage to explore alternate methods of dispute resolution, such as negotiation, surveys, requests for comment, mediation, or arbitration.

Passed 8-0

Neutral point of view[edit]

2) Wikipedia's neutral point-of-view (NPOV) policy contemplates inclusion of all significant points of view regarding any subject on which there is division of opinion. However, this does not imply that all competing points of view deserve equal consideration in an article.

Passed 8-0


Consensus[edit]

3) As put forward in Wikipedia:Dispute resolution, Wikipedia works by building consensus. This is done through the use of polite discussion, in an attempt to develop a consensus regarding proper application of Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines such as Wikipedia:Neutral point of view. Surveys and the Request for comment process are designed to assist consensus-building when normal talk page communication has not worked.

Passed 8-0


Provide adequate references[edit]

4) While the content of articles is the province of Wikipedia editors, a number of Wikipedia policies relate to content in peripheral ways, for example, it is desirable to limit reversions and to provide adequate references for material included in articles. See Wikipedia:Edit war, Wikipedia:Three revert rule, Wikipedia:Check your facts, Wikipedia:Cite sources and Wikipedia:Verifiability

Passed 8-0

Ownership of articles[edit]

5) No individual or selected group of people is entitled the right to control the content of an article. (See Wikipedia:Ownership of articles.)

Passed 8-0

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia[edit]

6) The goal of this project is to build an neutral, comprehensive, and accurate encyclopedia. The authority of all policies and guidelines springs from a desire to regulate the behavior of the community in a way that will hopefully help us attain our goal. Therefore this fact must be kept in mind when those polices and guidelines are applied. The desire to apply rules for the sake of rules must be suppressed.

Passed 7-1

Relative value of references[edit]

8) Since the goal of Wikipedia is to provide accurate content, we cannot regard all references as equally valid and give them all equal weight. Editors should exercise care in the selection and use of references. The closer a reference is to current peer reviewed work, the better. Balance must also be attained by properly labeling and attributing significant dissenting views (where they exist).

Passed 7-1 with 1 abstain

Civility[edit]

9) Wikipedia editors are required to maintain a minimum level of courtesy toward one another, see Wikiquette, Civility and Wikipedia:Writers rules of engagement.

Passed 6-0

Findings of Fact[edit]

Reverts[edit]

1) Global warming, climate change, greenhouse gas and related articles have been the subject of many edit and talk page disputes. William M. Connolley and Cortonin have often been involved in these disputes (see the history of each page).

Passed 8-0


WMC's revert behavior[edit]

2) William M. Connolley often reverts edits which he considers poorly referenced or which in his opinion use a heavily-biased or otherwise inadequate reference (such as citing what a popular writer said about a global warming-related topic instead of a panel of scientists in the relevant field). [28] [29] [30]

Passed 8-0

William M. Connolley as expert[edit]

3) William M. Connolley is widely viewed in Wikipedia as being highly knowledgeable in the field he is writing about. [31] [32] [33] [34] [35]

Passed 7-1


Use of metaphor[edit]

4) Descriptions of the greenhouse effect, especially those intended for the general public or for children, often use metaphor. In addition to the basic greenhouse metaphor, the atmosphere may be described as a "blanket", or it may be stated that infrared radiation is "trapped" or "reflected" or "re-emited" by the atmosphere, see the top-ranked google hit for for "global warming". Taken literally, these metaphors can be misleading as the underlying physical mechanisms differ from those involved in the greenhouse effect, see Bad Greenhouse.

Passed 8-0

Cortonin's view of real greenhouses[edit]

5) Cortonin has persistently and aggressively advanced views which confuse metaphorical explanations of the greenhouse effect and greenhouses with the technical scientific phenomena underlying them. Despite determined efforts by other editors to inform him and point him to information on the subject he seems to have difficulty understanding both the use of metaphor and the scientific literature in the field, see Talk:Greenhouse effect. This is a persistent condition which seems likely to continue.

Passed 8-0

JonGwynne: Failure of previous remedy[edit]

6) The revert and personal attack parole placed on JonGwynne in his previous case (see Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/JonGwynne#Remedies) has slowed his revert behavior but uncivil comments on talk pages continue. Thus the previous order has not had the desired effect of encouraging him to seek consensus and be civil. He has been temp banned twice for violating this order [36]. Recent uncivil and/or combative talk page comments include: The feeble attempt to rationalize the flaws of KP by citing wishful thinking on the part of politicians and activists is also POV and, therefore, inappropriate for wikipedia. You want to write an editorial for some blog then feel free. But do please spare wikipedia your cant., Who gives a damn how "people regard him"?, Since I have completely demolished your claims regarding the quote, I'll replace it, n any case, I notice you have been unable to justify your reversions. I can only assume that this is because you can't., I have no POV, I am simply advocating an accurate and objective view. Perhaps you should consider a similar approach.. Other users were also uncivil at times, but were most often provoked in some way by JonGwynne (such as responding to an uncivil and/or combative comment by JonGwynne; see Talk:Ross McKitrick for some examples).

Passed 7-0

Remedies[edit]

Note: All remedies that refer to a period of time, for example to a ban of X months or a revert parole of Y months, are to run concurrently unless otherwise stated.

Cortonin: Six-month ban from editing certain articles[edit]

1) Due to a demonstrated propensity to revert and engage in other inappropriate editing behaviors that run counter to Wikipedia policy, Cortonin is hereby prohibited for six months from editing or modifying any article relating to climate change. This includes but is not limited to all pages in Category:Climate change and also covers page moves and the creation of new articles related to this subject, but does not include talk pages. Should he violate this prohibition, any administrator not directly involved in the dispute may block him for up to three days for the initial modification and up to a week for continued violations. Determining what constitutes a climate change-related page is left up to the discretion of the blocking administrator. Cortonin may apply to the Arbitration Committee in three months for the removal of this prohibition.

Passed 9-0

William M. Connolley: Six-month revert parole on certain articles[edit]

2) Due to a long history of reverting, often without giving adequate explanation for the reverts, William M. Connolley is hereby prohibited for six months from reverting any article relating to climate change more than once per 24 hour period (vandalism excepted). Each such revert must be backed up by a talk page comment where a reputable source is cited or asked for as appropriate (see #Relative value of references). This includes but is not limited to all pages in Category:Climate change. Violations of this order should be treated as WP:3RR violations and administrators not directly involved in the dispute should act accordingly. Determining what constitutes a climate change-related page and determining what is a 'reputable source' is left up to the discretion of the blocking administrator (who should follow the guidance at #Relative value of references). William M. Connolley may apply to the Arbitration Committee in one month for the removal of this prohibition.

Passed 5-2

JonGwynne: Three month ban from Wikipedia[edit]

3) In view of the failure of previous arbitration remedies, and continued incivility and edit warring, JonGwynne is banned from Wikipedia for three months.

Passed 6-0

JonGwynne: Six-month ban from editing certain articles[edit]

4) Should he return after successful completion of the three month ban (should this pass), JonGwynne is prohibited for six months from editing or modifying any article relating to climate change. This includes but is not limited to all pages in Category:Climate change and also covers page moves and the creation of new articles related to this subject, but does not include talk pages. Should he violate this prohibition, any administrator not directly involved in the dispute may block him for up to three days for the initial modification and up to a week for continued violations. Determining what constitutes a climate change-related page is left up to the discretion of the blocking administrator. JonGwynne may apply to the Arbitration Committee in three months for the removal of this prohibition.

Passed 6-0

Enforcement[edit]