Given recent attention to the issue of consensus in climate change research, this is a good time to mention a paper that came out recently by John Abraham, John Cook, John Fasullo, Peter Jacobs, Scott Mandia and Dana Nuccitelli called “Review of the consensus and asymmetric quality of research on human-induced climate change.”
I’ll paste the abstract below but first I’ll summarize it in a sentence. The few papers that explicitly deny the basic science of climate change are rightfully rejected by the peer review process because they are crap. Bit they do find more attention by main stream media, presumably because main stream media is inadequate to the task of addressing actual important issues.
Here’s the abstract for the paper published in Cosmopolis.
Climate science is a massively interdisciplinary field with different areas understood to varying degrees. One area that has been well understood for decades is the fundamental fact that humans are causing global warming. The greenhouse effect has been understood since the 1800s, and subsequent research has refined our understanding of the impact of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases on the planet. Also increasing has been the consensus among the world’s climate scientists that the basic principles of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are correct. This has been demonstrated by multiple reinforcing studies that the consensus of scientists on the basic tenets of AGW is nearly unanimous. Nevertheless, the general public in many countries remains unconvinced not only of the existence of AGW, but also of the degree of scientific consensus. Additionally, there remain a few high-profile scientists who have continued to put forth alternative explanations for observed climatic changes across the globe. Here, we summarize research on the degree of agreement amongst scientists and we assess the quality of scholarship from the contrarian scientists. Many major contrarian arguments against mainstream thinking have been strongly challenged and criticized in the scientific literature; significant flaws have often been found. The same fate has not befallen the prominent consensus studies.
Dana Nuccitelli, one of the authors, wrote a summary of the paper here, in which he notes:
Despite the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming supported by peer-reviewed research, expert opinion, the IPCC reports, and National Academies of Science and other scientific organizations from around the world, a large segment of the population remains unconvinced on the issue. A new commentary by Edward Maibach, Teresa Myers and Anthony Leiserowitz in Earth’s Future notes that most people don’t know there is a scientific consensus about human-caused climate change, which undermines public engagement on the subject.
This ‘consensus gap’ is in large part due the media giving disproportionate coverage to climate contrarians. In our paper, we sought to evaluate whether that disproportionate media coverage was justified by examining how well contrarian hypotheses have withstood scientific scrutiny and the test of time. The short answer is, not well.
The consensus gap in public opinion is mirrored by, and relates to, an expertise gap among the researchers. Abraham et al note in their paper:
Insofar as these contrarian themes are representative of other contrarian viewpoints, our findings reinforce those of Anderegg et al., (2010) who found lower expertise and prominence among the contrarian scientists and those of Doran and Zimmermann (2009) who found that as scientific expertise increased, so did certainty in the main premises of AGW. Here we find case study evidence that the science representing major contrarian views is less robust than the counterparts that reflect the AGW consensus.
I remember Jerry Rubin once saying “The masses are asses.” Wikipedia does not, and claims it was Karl Rove. Other sources cite Alexander Hamilton, but apparently it is an old Yiddish proverb. In any event, it is true, of course, but it is not really their fault. The fact that the vast majority of the public arrive at scientific conclusions as a matter of enculturation and not actually replicating the science is exactly what we expect; people are busy and simply want to be informed from reliable sources. The problem is, the sources … are not so reliable. But within climate science it is interesting to see that the non-consensus positions are expressed in the form of low quality research which tends to not pass mustard in the peer review process because it just isn’t good enough. In other words, globally, the more you actually know the more likely you are to accept the realities of climate science; within the sciences, the smarter you are the more likely you are to understand the realities of global warming.
This explains a lot of what we see in Twitter and other social media. Just sayin.
I refer you again to Dana’s post for a more detailed discussion of the paper.