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.