It will come as no surprise to many people that the scientific opinion on climate change is not reflected in the population at large. Worse still, some politically motivated journalists and activists deliberately use confusing arguments to convince their readers that experts are still undecided on climate science. Whilst such propaganda is mainly confined to personal blogs and political columns this activity appears to have spilled over into user contributor answer sites.

One such case is Wikianswers, the user generated component of The latter site became highly successful by amalgamating reference sources into one convenient search friendly location. However, the majority of its inbound links are now from Wikianswers, a company bought by the owners of in 2006, which uses a completely different method.

In Wikianswers, questions can be asked, and answers can be provided, by online volunteers overseen by Supervisors. These volunteer Supervisors are given additional tools, known as "Super Powers", enabling them to make higher-level edits. Other roles contributing to quality management include Premier Answerers, Special  Project Assistants, Mentors, Bug Catchers and those participating in special site-wide programs such as Vandal Patrol, Community Outreach. Training Programmes are also available within these roles for new participants.
Despite this extensive organisational structure, some subject areas on Wikianswers appear to have escaped even the most basic quality standards. The answers related to climate change are particularly poor.  For example, one question asks:

The answer states:

“…..All man made activities make up less then 3% of all CO2 emissions and 0.28% of all green house gas emissions” (1)

This answer is highly misleading since it compares man’s contribution of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) to the large annual turnover of CO2.  It also seems to have been prompted by a deliberately leading question. In fact man contributes virtually all of net increase in CO2 emissions to the atmosphere every year. A business would not be allowed to minimise the appearance of a consistent loss to it’s investors by confusing this figure with its turnover, yet Climate deniers use this sort of deception all the time with climate change!  

To further support this 3% figure, an outrageous paper by E G Beck is referenced. Beck is a schoolteacher without any professional background in climate change. This paper generally claims that CO2 atmospheric concentrations have not been steadily increasing over the last few centuries, contrary to all other studies. However, this view is not only based on faulty data, but its validity would require multiple lines of established evidence to be overturned!

In fact, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have risen from approximately 260-280 ppm around the time of the Industrial revolution to more than 390 ppm, today. Before this time, concentrations had been relatively stable for at least a thousand years, and probably since the last ice age. This provides strong evidence that virtually all this rise (approximately 30% of today's total) is due to anthropogenic activities. This is further confirmed by isotopic evidence in which the type of carbon found in the atmosphere indicates that it originates from fossil fuel based material.

That man contributes virtually all the CO2 increase isn’t even contentious amongst the few remaining climate scientists which are still classed as sceptics! The bottom line is that Beck’s paper, and this answer belong firmly in ‘flat earth’ territory.

Another question asks:

The rather garbled and inconsistent answer provided in Wikianswers states:

“1. Water vapor is an odd one in the list as it is naturally occurring. It may be responsible for more than 80% of the greenhouse effect
2. CFCs include many different compounds (all man created)
3. Carbon dioxide is the most common man made gas taking over more than 9% of the greenhouse effect. Man produces less then 7% of all CO2.

forcing [my emphasis] numbers for all significant green houses gases are as follows:
water vapor 36-72%
carbon dioxide 9-26%
methane 4-9%
ozone 3-7%”

....The 1880's were considered to have concentrations around 440 PPM according to most sources and experiments of that day. Stern, (a peer reviewed researcher), published this information in 2007, but politics prevents keeping people from seeing this as a crisis. (1)

In fact, water vapour contributes to around 50% of the greenhouse effect and CO2 around 20%. However, more importantly water isn’t responsible for any climate forcing at all. It provides what is technically termed as feedback. That is it merely amplifies the effect of external forcing's such as CO2 which can be added to the atmosphere. In contrast, adding more or less water vapour at low altitudes without altering anything else will have little effect. This is an essential point to make when considering which is the most ‘important’ greenhouse gas. Note also the inconsistent and incorrect statement about man’s contribution of CO2, and the repeated claim of higher CO2 concentrations in the 19th century than today!

These problems, along with multiple other inaccuracies contained in the global warming section, were raised with the community supervisor and quality supervisor of Wikianswers. The former replied, with the following remarkable statement:

"… On the site, we consider Global Warming to be as debatable a topic as Politics or Religion. This is why we allow for multiple viewpoints and opinions…."

What possible grounds are there for this policy?  Unlike politics and religion, climate change science is subject to the same rigorous scientific procedures as the other established scientific disciplines. Moreover, the conclusions from multiple independent investigations all point to a single, consistent answer. That is, the main drivers of global warming since the industrial revolution, are greenhouse gases emitted from mans industrial and agricultural activities.

To emphasise this, a recent assessment on the views of climate scientists concluded with the following remark.

“It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely non-existent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes”.

However despite this, Wikianswers allows any opinion on this particular subject leading to multiple answers reflecting a range of views. Or at least this is what it seemed, until I started adding answers of my own! Suddenly these answers and related comments started to get deleted by supervisors, leaving the familiar myths used by the climate denier community prominently left in place to confuse people.  Other possible tactics included:

locking question and discussion threads to new answers once a sceptical position has been written
closing forum threads to new replies that highlight this difficulty
‘overzealous’ supervisors removing answers due to accusations of removing other contributors answers!
removing answers for rebuking other answers, although not consistently!

In other words, scientific points of view were getting suppressed. More annoyingly, a major offender was a supervisor who continued to deny the evidence. This was despite being provided with a full and detailed explanation by several knowledgeable contributors who also pointed him to peer reviewed documents. His response was to lock both the relevant question and the associated discussion to prevent further ‘views’ being expressed.

Now to be fair, all my answers on Wikianswers have not been deleted, and some other contributions are definitely supportive of the scientific evidence on climate change. Therefore, it remains unclear how many of these unfortunate edits are due to malicious denial of the science. Perhaps there are just a few bad apples combined with ignorance, misinterpretation and lethargy of the management. However, it is clear that is still being used as a platform to spread climate denial. Another serious problem is that Wikianswers could easily become confused with far better managed information sites. This may bring the user generated concept, which is often unfairly criticised, into disrepute.

(1) Correct on the 17th Feb 2011. Note the answers may be be subsequently unlocked or subject to change in the future

Environmental Transport Systems.Report.Spreadsheets.Articles.About.Feedback.FAQ.


Environmental Transport Systems


Alternative Transportation Solutions through

Integrated Strategies and Technologies



Environmental Transport Systems.Report.Spreadsheets.Articles.About.Feedback.FAQ.