The Island of Doubt

Tim Lambert beat me to it (surprise), so you can read Deltoid’s take on the new poll of the Earth sciences that finds that the more your working life is dominated by climatology, the more likely you are to accept the basic conclusions of the anthropogenic global warming consensus. I’ll just add a couple of thoughts.


The survey, which appears in the latest issue of EOS, the official (subs req’d) newsletter of the American Geophysical Union, contrasts the findings of a recent Gallup poll to its own. When asked a variant of the question “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?” Gallup reported just 58% of the general public would answer in the affirmative.

The EOS poll asked about 10,000 scientists the same question. Of the 3146 who responded, 82% agreed. That may sound like there’s still a significant number of dissenters. But that sample was of “Earth scientists” in general, and…

… as the level of active research and specialization in climate science increases, so does agreement with the two primary questions (Figure 1). In our survey, the most specialized and knowledgeable respondents (with regard to climate
change) are those who listed climate science as their area of expertise and who also have published more than 50% of
their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change.

The respondents included only 79 climatologists who “listed climate science as their area of expertise and who also have published more than 50% of their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change.” Of those 79, the number who replied “yes” was 77, or 97.4%. Knowledge of the state of the science and acceptance of AGW basics are strongly correlated. And it is consistent with the proposition that the belief that climate change isn’t real or isn’t related to human activity is held primarily by those with little expertise in the field

It would have been nice if the sample size of working climate specialists was larger, of course. But these things take a lot of effort, and a good many scientists believe, with good justification, that polls of scientific opinion are not the best way to determine scientific questions. Science, so the argument goes, is not a democratic exercise. It doesn’t matter what people believe, only what the data show. So I doubt we’re going to get anything better than this, although James Annan and colleagues did try, unsucessfully, to get their own survey published in EOS a while back and it’s worth another look. That one, which involved 140 climatologists who publish regularly in the better climate journals, concluded that:

The claim that the human input of CO2 is not an important climate forcing is found to be false in our survey. However, there remains substantial disagreement about the magnitude of its impacts.

It is also worth repeating that Annan et al found that “No scientists were willing to admit to the statement that global warming is a fabrication and that human activity is not having any significant effect on climate.”

Curiously, Annan reports that their poll was rejected by EOS because EOS doesn’t publish polls.

None of this proves anything about global warming. All it does is remind us that there’s an association between expertise and a particular point of view, which is why activists like Bill McKibben and Al Gore, or journalists like Andy Revkin and Ross Gelbspan (and me), who have at best only a smattering of academic training on climatology, defer to those who make their living trying to figure out what’s really going on with the planet’s ecosystem. People like James Hansen, Gavin Schmidt, and Stephen Schneider. When it comes right down to it, you shouldn’t need a poll to tell you whom to trust.

Comments

  1. #1 Joe
    January 21, 2009

    Small nitpick. The newsletter is Eos, after the Greek goddess of dawn, not EOS.

  2. #2 Dan G.
    January 21, 2009

    From what I have read it is the geologists who most often do not accept the AGW theory. Theirs is a world of rocks and permanence and change which occurs extremely slowly. Plus many of them are in the coal or oil business.

  3. #3 RED
    January 21, 2009

    Everyone that doesn’t buy the stupid religion hoax is an irrelevant idiot. If you get funding from propagating the hoax, or if it makes you feel moraaly superior to worship at the temple, then you are a brilliant scientist. Just stating the obvious, of course.

  4. #4 Goober
    January 22, 2009

    Hey Goober. You should parrot some bs you find on the internet about so-called global warming. Then add in some liberal political and social commentary and insult a few people too. Then post it on your “science” blog. Goober.

  5. #5 Dr. Doctor Theoretical Sir
    January 22, 2009

    Anybody see the big news? “New research from the University of Washington (UW) shows that for the last 50 years, much of Antarctica has been warming at a rate comparable to the rest of the world. The data was taken from satellite readings that were able to estimate temperatures from inaccessible areas in the interior and mathematical estimations were used to fill in the rest of the missing data”. wait, what???? “…was used to estimate and fill in the rest of the data with math models?” oh god, here we go again…. James – you should do a good tipping point post on this one math model. And don’t forget to throw in your usual demeaning insults and supporting political views – you know, do your usual.

  6. #6 Mark
    January 22, 2009

    “Small nitpick. The newsletter is Eos, after the Greek goddess of dawn, not EOS.”

    Too right. EOS stands for “Earth Observing System”, as in NASA EOS. And a bunch of other things, I expect.

    Dr. Doctor Theoretical Sir (11:20 am): oh god here we go again, again: why don’t you people go play with blogs that like this kind of opinionated disinformation? There’s a whole bunch of ‘em on the intertubes. Ditto Goober.

  7. #7 Mike B.
    January 22, 2009

    I wanted to add my voice to that of James and Dan G. that geologists are all mostly slow-thinking chunks of chum that are mostly absent any ability to really comprehend any current events. Besides having petrified sedimentary brains, they are also mostly traitors that have sold their souls to the coal and oil business. I think we are safe to ignore anything that they say. And really, we should think about cleaning house at the universities that are producing these geologists. You are either a part of the solution or you are a part of the problem, and geologists today are definitely of the latter category.

  8. #8 Hume's Toast
    January 22, 2009

    You have to wonder, don’t you, if there is anything dumber or more dishonest than a geologist these days?

  9. #9 Chunk O'chummer
    January 22, 2009

    Very Good Mike B!!! Now you are doing it the Hrynyshyn way. You learn quick. Sticking to the science!! Well played and some good new names to call people you disagree with. I think Brent and Trent need bingo partners, so you should look them up and make it a pseudo manage a trois.

  10. #10 Justin Sayor
    January 22, 2009

    You have to sign up for global warming church service before you are allowed to “know anything” at all related to climatology. Just sayin’…..

  11. #11 Doo Darr
    January 22, 2009

    James, with all the bad economic news coming out pretty much ever since the dems took over in Congress two years ago, and more and more people losing their jobs (especially biologists), don’t you feel bad about single-handedly putting Forecast Earth out of business? and those were greeny weeny eco-jobs too. shame on you.

  12. #12 McWhatever
    January 22, 2009

    Doo Darr: the worst economic news of the last 100 years was the coup in 2000 (or the appointment of Bush, however you wanna look at it)–duh!

    Science, as school should have taught you, is concerned with drawing conclusions from observable phenomenon–if one doesn’t observe the science–i.e. examine the papers, the methodology, the repeatability of results, it is reasonable to assume that one won’t know the science. Considering the Bush imperative to “preach the controversy,” (anyone remember the internal memo that leaked in 01 or 02 that urged this as the Admin’s course, but also said that Global Warming would only be deniable for another decade or so?) it’s understandable that “ordinary folk”–of whom plenty are scientists, develop a skepticism. It would have, at one point, seemed more likely that AGM is not possible than that an administration could get away with making decisions based solely on ideology and not fact (remember all of Bush’s policy staff resigning? “Good politics is good policy”?)–but now we SHOULD know better. It’s too late anyway–we deserve what we got coming!

  13. #13 McWhatever
    January 22, 2009

    p.s.: funny how the conversation has shifted from does Global Warming Exist? to Do Humans Contribute? The first was a question/controversy in the media from the 80s until Gore won an academy award–in 2000 the neocons denied GW (global warming, not the other catastrophe) altogether!

  14. #14 James Hrynyshyn
    January 22, 2009

    McWhatever, I’m going to have to ask you to stick to the science like me. If you are going to use my site for political commentary, it must be thinly veiled and snarky and not so obvious. Although, you can be extremely rude and insulting if you want, and also name-calling is encouraged. So, please play by the rules or I will have to put up a fake registration requirement for you. – James Hrynyshyn

  15. #15 McWhatever
    January 22, 2009

    Point well taken, James. Turning to the immor(t)al example of Richard Dawson….

    Survey Says!:
    58% of Americans believe in AGW
    57% of Americans believe in Angels
    (I’m really interested in the 7% overlap here!)
    48% believe in Bible-style creationism
    39% believe in God-guided evolution
    10% accept evolution alone

    among scientists:
    5% believe in magic creation or magic evolution
    95% accept evolution alone

    More clergymen believe in evolution than scientists do creation.

    From these data we can extract the following conclusions:
    people are terrifying;
    evolution has taken 150 years more of evidence to gain a level of acceptance equivalent to the acceptance of global warming;
    people are more inclined to believe in science if they haven’t been conditioned to assume eternal damnation if they acknowledge observed phenomenon;
    the jury’s still out on the “theory” of gravity.

  16. #16 mgr
    January 22, 2009

    Dan G., Mike B., and Humes Ghost:

    I think you confuse petrologists with geologists. Confirmation for global warming came from geochemists in the 1970′s. Please stop soiling an otherwise good blog.

    Mike

  17. #17 Me Mgr 2
    January 22, 2009

    mgr – AGW religious alarmism knows no bounds. All are insulted equally. algore akbar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111111

  18. #18 Its So TRUE
    January 22, 2009

    You have to ask yourself one question, Punk! Did I fire all of my insults, or just a few snarky ones? Well, to tell you the truth, PUNK, in all the excitement I kinda lost track myself. So you have to ask yourself one question PUNK. DO I FEEL LUCKY? Well, DO yOU….. PUNK???? The real question is —— why did the trolls attack James? Why James? Why noone else? Why only James? Why is James so different than the other loser bloggers all over this site????? The AGW debate has been around forever. It’s pretty much a polarizing issue. Most Blogs just do their own thing and each crowd huddles around their own faith (fairly) peacefully. So – Why does James generate the volume of Trolls? (lots of ‘em). hmmmmmmm. I believe I, and only I, have fingered this thing out. ask the question. do the research. Why only James? the answer is obvious for anyone with functioning eye-lids…………… Anyone can have their own faith. Noone likes a total a$$Ho7#. Go forth and have your faith. Don’t be an @$$. H07E. yes I’m talking to you. Asshole. don’t be an asshole. it’s pretty much good advice. (NIKE7 at midnite be there or be square!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) – Code Pink should hire James for ‘sensitivity training; ahahahahahahaahahahahahahaahahahahahaha

  19. #19 Smiley
    January 23, 2009

    Yo Jimmy. Isn’t a pseudoscience blogger really just another word for stay-at-home bioligist dad? I think maybe that’s true. It’s good that you have a cause though. However misguided it may be. I’m sure it gets you out of the house every now and then. Have Fun!

  20. #20 Mr. Ed
    January 23, 2009

    Wow, James, I have to hand it to you. You really attract an unusual and high-order species of troll. Your trolls are both witty and philosophical, while at the same time being infuriating and insulting. It usually takes some really extreme political rhetoric to attract trolls like this. You must be the tip of the spear for an intolerant and extremist political or religious faction.

  21. #21 Hrynny the Nynny
    January 23, 2009

    James thank you for your “thoughts” in addition to the parroting and insults you normally post. It means a lot coming from a biologist pseudojournalist.

  22. #22 Martha Stuart
    January 23, 2009

    You too can Copy & Paste this on your favorite Science Blog:

    IT’S A PARTY! – James HersheyM&M is now hosting a mid-winter’s troll party over on his blog; Island of Doubt. He is hoping that you will send some your best over to dance with his trolls, plus maybe loan him a cup of sugar, or maybe a pound a of cheese, or a cup of tea.

  23. #23 The Star Wars Kid
    January 23, 2009

    The more you know about bloggery……

  24. #24 Yer Granny
    January 23, 2009

    This all reminds of that big Global Cooling Scare we had to laugh through in the 70s. Same thing from the same ole self-righteous hystericals.

  25. #25 Richard Simons
    January 23, 2009

    This all reminds of that big Global Cooling Scare we had to laugh through in the 70s.

    Oh dear. Thirty years and it has still not registered with some people that the cooling scare was the result of a news magazine not properly reading a report from scientists. The original claim was that, if only the Milankovitch cycles affected Earth’s climate, a new ice age could be expected in 10,000 years but even then scientists were well aware that global warming was likely to take place in the next few decades.

  26. #26 Yer Grandpa
    January 23, 2009

    I remember the Global Cooling scare too. Same Crap as Global Warming. Same Shysters. Same hysterical media coverage. what a joke.

  27. #27 Justin Sayor
    January 23, 2009

    IT TOTALLY reminds me of the Global Cooling hoax too. same day different hysteria. stupid liberals. We should be much more hysterical about meteors, ebola, bird flu and carpal tunnel I think. Just Sayin’.

  28. #28 the Knotty Knot
    January 24, 2009

    James, I for one just want to thank you for always being the voice of sanity, for being the reasoned one in a time of chaos, for being the calming wind in the face of a hurricane, for always sticking to journalistic integrity and sticking to the science. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAH. NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. #29 TheEngima32
    January 25, 2009

    Boy… did you ever thinking about doing something about the troll infestation you’ve got here? They’re posting a lot of bullshit.

    Although I will hand it to you – you’re drawin’ em, and that’s a good thing, because it takes the truth to draw out these lower-order animals. Keep up the good work.

    Enigma

  30. #30 suz 2 b u
    January 25, 2009

    enigman. Rhymes with VAGINA man. Just sayin’…..

  31. #31 Dr. Doctor Sir
    January 25, 2009

    Snow falls in United Arab Emirates for only second time in recorded history…
    ——————————————————————————–
    Must be a hole in the CO2 blanket. Quick somebody do something. They need a couple extra ppm of CO2 tipped on over up there at the UAE. oh, p.s. James you are an assbite.

  32. #32 Enema32
    January 25, 2009

    Regarding the previous comments about geologists being stupid and being sell outs to big business; I concur. Geologists today are truly without merit. There isn’t one that I would trust. Frankly, I’m not sure which is worse, your common County Ag Agent, or a geologist.

  33. #33 Big Tim
    January 25, 2009

    Geologists were probably behind the big Global Cooling Scare too. Remember that? I sure do.

  34. #34 Prez BarackO
    January 26, 2009

    Snow falls in United Arab Emirates for only second time in recorded history…

    Listen up, we gonna solve global warmin. no problem. We gonna give $600 million to planned parenthood so we can put a case of condoms on the desk of every school child in America. Then, we gonna make abortion-on-demand available everywhere. All them stinkin little kids exhale a bunch of CO2, and we gonna cut the birth rate to nothin. That’ll solve climate change. We’ll keep the economy in the dumpster with all our stupid bailouts. Then, no one will want to come here. Less people means cleaner air in America! That was easy. That’s why they call me the messiah.

  35. #35 paulm
    January 26, 2009

    We are missing the point and the boat on the opportunity that the down turn is presenting.

    It is disappointing to see that our leaders are not getting it – look at all the money they have committed to try and kick start the old consumer base paradigm that got us in to this dilemma and which is relentlessly driving our CO2 upwards.(Climate change envoy calls for state aid to create low-carbon economy)

    You can see how it happens, with the mad panic that has engulfed us all as we stare over the cliff at the gaping depression sucking us in.

    This year is it!

    If we don’t switch our bail out packages and infrastructure spending towards obtaining the target for 100% CO2 reduction. then we are hosed for sure. There won’t be a second chance. We will have wasted the money, the political effort and the time (the oh so precious time) correcting the more urgent at the expense of the most essential.(Climate change in 2009: the defining issue)

    We won’t make it below 3degrees then! And that means we are looking at +5degrees eventually. (I think we are probably past the tipping point at this time, but lets not go there until we have to)

    It must be fate that Obama arrived at this moment. If he is able to realize that this is the most crucial point in the history of mankind and is able to engage the international effort needed, then there is hope.

    God bless America.

  36. #36 Luna_the_cat
    January 26, 2009

    Definitely time to spray for trolls. And sock-puppets.

  37. #37 Your Mom
    January 26, 2009

    To Trent the Cowgirl – don’t play with the socks that have been sprayed. At least don’t put them in your mouth anymore.

  38. #38 sohbet sitesi
    August 19, 2009

    Thank you my admin.

  39. #39 common tater
    October 14, 2009

    I guess the average scientist or specifically climatologists are all too busy squirreling away on observing the evidence that supports AGM that they would rather not respond to a poll from NASA that would help the world grasp the urgency of the situation that ironically the scientists have laid before us. It would be nice if they could conflict their scientific souls and be a little controversial no matter that polls of scientific opinion are not the best way to determine scientific questions. It does matter what people believe the people are the central theme of AGM, If the people don’t see a firm support from the scientific community then; what the data shows is irrelevant there’s no point in studying this problem if it isn’t to educate the people who are in fact at the core of the problem. Unless they have observed no supporting evidence for AGM which could be a logical conclusion of not responding to this poll if I were of the raving climate change denier camp.

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