A piece of global warming denialism was published today in the conservative Financial Post. Normally it wouldn’t be that noteworthy, except that it was oddly included in Sigma Xi’s daily “Science in the News” digest. The article attacks the idea that there is a scientific consensus (embodied by the IPCC) regarding global warming. In a sense, the author is correct. The science regarding global warming is ongoing, and there are myriad subtleties to work out. Of course, this is not what the author is referring to. Although the scientific community as a whole agrees that the earth is warming, that this warming is due to carbon dioxide, and that the human carbon dioxide emissions have contributed to this warming, the author of this piece disputes this. To do this, he relies on outdated studies, vague and unreferenced arguments, and on misleading surveys (of non-scientists).
I run a site on global warming (www.globalwarming-factorfiction.com). It is designed to try to give both sides of the issue, I think I do a fairly good job of it since WSJ.com has referenced me several times.
I think we need to look more closely at Mr. Griffin’s words. If GW is caused by nefarious human activity than we should do something about it. But if GW is caused by the natural changes of global climate, then we need to live with it and adapt. There is a high likelihood that the latter is true and many climate scientists think humans are not the root cause. In fact, in a recent study of scientists only 39% felt that carbon dioxide reductions were a priority (http://globalwarming-factorfiction.com/2007/06/02/they-call-this-a-consensus/).
We simply do not know enough about our climate to take dramatic action on this issue.
The commenter is referring to today’s article from the Financial Post, but, to be fair to the original article, he exaggerates quite a bit. The original article writes:
A more recent indicator comes from the U.S.-based National Registry of Environmental Professionals, an accrediting organization whose 12,000 environmental practitioners have standing with U.S. government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. In a November, 2006, survey of its members, it found that only 59% think human activities are largely responsible for the warming that has occurred, and only 39% make their priority the curbing of carbon emissions. And 71% believe the increase in hurricanes is likely natural, not easily attributed to human activities.
This is a bit more accurate, but still misleading. Here are the key findings from the National Registry of Environmental Professionals (NREP):
- “59 percent respond that current climactic activity exceeding norms calibrated by over 100 years of weather data collection can be, in large part, attributed to human activity.”
- “58 percent of those practitioners surveyed think the U.S. is in a position to begin taking concrete public policy steps that have a good chance of slowing the negative effects of global warming.”
- “67 percent report they think the U.S. Government is NOT doing enough to address the effects of global warming.”
- “53 percent of professionals polled consider international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, provide a solid framework from which large volume energy producing countries like the U.S. can play a positive role in combating the effects of global climate change.”
In regards to the 39% number mentioned above, the question was “Which human activity would you say should be regulated the most to generate an effective public policy response to global warming?” 38.6% of respondents answered “carbon emissions as a whole.” The remaining 61.4% gave a variety of other answers, including “energy production”, “modes of transportation”, “deforestation”, “ocean pollution”, and “air pollution”. This in no way implies that “only 39% [of scientists] felt that carbon dioxide reductions were a priority,” as the commenter claimed.
So, although these results clearly demonstrate that a majority of respondents agree with the prevailing scientific views on global warming, there is no true consensus. This, however, is incredibly misleading. The Financial Post article is about the scientific consensus, but the NREP is not an organization of scientists, much less climate scientists. It is a professional accreditation organization, and if one actually looks at its registry, there are almost no academic scientists represented among its membership.
I consider it incredibly misleading to include a survey of non-scientists as evidence that scientists dispute the global warming consensus.
If you really want to know about the scientific consensus about global warming, a good place to start is here. And, for more information, check out the rest of the Gristmill’s full guide to “How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic” (hat tip to Pharyngula).