Survey: Less Than Half of all Published Scientists Endorse Global Warming Theory?

Back to the septic tripe I fear (thanks Fergus). From, whatever that is, we have someone "updating Oreskes". And the work has been submitted to... yes you guessed it, E+E. Bit of a hint there re quality. Does this come under be careful what you wish for?

Oreskes said The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

The dailytech doesn't trouble to tell us exactly what the new categories are, but says Of 528 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers "implicit" endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no "consensus." which means it can't be using the same as Oreskes, since O doesn't distinguish implicit endorsement from neutrality.

But the new study does find 32 papers that reject the consensus. The dailytech article says that the consensus is defined as humans were having at least some effect on global climate change and I would be very surprised to see a paper rejecting that. More likely, the new study is using some other definition (perhaps the Benny Peiser definition, which amounted to "I don't understand this abstract but something in it looks usable to me").

I wonder if the 32 will survive any better than Peisers 34 did?

[Updates: st finds me the reliably septic Monckton who reports *7* papers explicitly rejecting the consensus, and 32-7 implicitly rejecting it. Tim Lambert has had a go at the 7. I don't have access at home, so won't comment much yet, but reading the bit about Cao (which TL thinks doesn't belong) it seems clear that the new work is using a different definition of "consensus" to O; and its not clear what that defn might be. I'm also baffled by one of the new categories - "Quantitative evidence for the consensus" - that apparently has no papers in it. Shurely shome mishtake -W]

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)this is a paper/book you can access, unlike the one by the medical consultant in E+E.

Here is another reason to conduct an opinion poll which isn't led by an implicit (or explicit) agenda: Given the sensitivity of results to a host of potential sources of error, a poll which at least attempts to avoid leading to its own conclusions, and which is a honest attempt to capture scientists opinions, is all the more important.

The septic tribe has already started picking up on the Schulte report on Dailytech; expect more flying carp over the next few days.

Also, which journals are counted? The number of sceptics would be higher if E&E was counted. (Is E&E even on Web of Science?)

On an unrelated note: the DailyTech site, very nice to look at, seems aimed at a techie audience. I've noticed that techies form a disproportionate number of sceptics. Is it because the job attracts libertarians? You'd think computer geeks, of all people, would know not to trust just anything on the Internet.

I just re-read the DailyTech piece, and just had to add this: in the context of making a point about how the IPCC SPM was "written not by scientists at all, but by politicians, and approved, word-by-word, by political representatives from member nations" -- as if this made the document a tree-hugging lentil-munching mess, the article ends with this 'gotcha':

By contrast, the ISI Web of Science database covers 8,700 journals and publications, including every leading scientific journal in the world.

Because the IPCC obviously wouldn't be doing its job right unless it factored in the back catalogue of Journal of Biomedical Optics.

"But the new study does find 32 papers that reject the consensus."

Moving slightly off topic here bit doesn't each and every scientific paper published "reject the consensus"? You know, new knowledge and all that?

[That sounds like an idealistic (Popperian?) view. It would also depend rather strongly on what your defn of "the consensus" is. Using the defn here, clearly new papers don't have to reject it, they can add more detail to it -W]

It's interesting how categorisation can work. Schulte's first three categories (endorse, implicitly endorse, neutral) overlap with Oreskes' first five categories. That fact that half the abstracts are "neutral" isn't in the least surprising - any modelling paper, for example, would probably be classified as "neutral", as would ecological studies of the effects of climate change. The more established the idea, the less ink people dedicate to endorsing it. People have moved beyond the question of "is climate change happening".

With regards to the issue of finding 32 dissenters - it's all a matter of how you choose to interpret things. Take for example this, the first 2004 paper that pops up, [Guglielmin M, Observations on permafrost ground thermal regimes from Antarctica and the Italian Alps, and their relevance to global climate change. GLOBAL AND PLANETARY CHANGE 40 (1-2): 159-167 JAN 2004]:

Analysis of the MAGST history, obtained by applying a simple heat conduction one-dimensional model, revealed the occurrence of a cold period from 1820 to 1940 followed by a warming period until 1978. Since the beginning of the 1980s, temperature dropped (less than 2degreesC) until the middle 1990s, when a new period of warming started. All these climatic changes fit well with the glacial fluctuations in the area and with other paleoclimatic information derived from different proxy data.

Sounds like the kind of thing a sceptic would call rejection of the consensus ("it's just cyclical!") when, in fact, it doesn't look like they were asking that question at all.

My letter to the milkman this morning was decidedly neutral on the subject.

From the previous Peiser vs. Oreskes drama. I wonder, if she had it to do over again, whether or not Oreskes would have presented an even stronger case for consensus. Although I agree that it isn't entirely meaningful outside influencing public opinion.

Still having problems with English reading comprehension, eh, Lubos? Only a handful of those papers could be described as disagreeing with the consensus. Regarding some of the recent ones, the Schwartz, Tsonis and Flanner papers don't challenge the consensus. I found your critique of the handling of the Kak paper both instructive and ironic, BTW.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 30 Aug 2007 #permalink

Typical string theorist, Motl. Your page takes an hour to load and is filled with mathematical gibberish.

Otherwise I concur with IANR; if they did a text search for "IPCC consensus + We're all doomed!" they wouldn't likely find much.

Oreskes has a pretty watered-down view of "consensus":

"how many of these papers present evidence that refutes the statement: 'Global climate change is occurring, and human activities are at least part of the reason why'? The answer is remarkable: none."


"First, let's make clear what the scientific consensus is. It is over the reality of human-induced climate change. Scientists predicted a long time ago that increasing greenhouse gas emissions could change the climate, and now there is overwhelming evidence that it is changing the climate and that these changes are in addition to natural variability."

Nothing so elaborate as Dr. Stoat's 3 (or 4?) part description. No clear conformance to the negotiated language of the IPCC. Surely, Mr. Stoat might find Prof. Oreskes approach a bit wanting? Or does coming up with the "right" answer make such details unimportant?

Do I detect the scent of a straw man in Oreskes work?

[Thoroughly mixed metaphors at the end, and whatever it may be O's work clearly isn't a strawman (it wasn't deliberately set up to be knocked down).

I have my own consensus position (does that make sense? I mean, I have my own statement of it) bu I agree that part of the problem here may be that its not clear quite what consensus things are being assessed against.

From the Science article, O quotes "Human activities ... are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents ... that absorb or scatter radiant energy. ... [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations" and thats probably the nub of it. The statement you quote from the ametsoc - "at least part of the reason" - is too weak (though the second one is OK), and I wouldn't be happy with it. If there are papers lying between, that would be a problem. However, since Peiser didn't find any, in practice it may not matter -W]

By septic tank (not verified) on 30 Aug 2007 #permalink

Geez, this whole knockdown strawman debate is about something known since Arrhenius and stated clearly in the Charney report? Are you serious?

Pretty narrow stuff, eh? And this matters why?

[Hard to know what you mean by this. If you mean, "is this worth talking about", then you seem to have answered your own question in the affirmative -W]

Sounds like somebody has you guys chasing your tails. I'm outta here. What a joke. Maybe you guys can next find those few who think there are still WMDs in Iraq and argue about them on your blogs. That'll stop the war. Right. What an absolute complete waste of effort.

[cut for politeness -W]

By septic tank (not verified) on 30 Aug 2007 #permalink

That moncky link was a bit of fun. Here's the first sentence:
"It is often said that there is a scientific "consensus" to the effect that climate change will be "catastrophic" and that, on this question, "the debate is over".

By whom is this often said, one's eminence? Notice also that cunning little conjunction. Now there's a strawperson for you...

Luckily, the piece also cites half a dozen of the paper that Schulze identifies as 'counter-consensual': Cao et al 2005; Gerhard 2004; Leiserowitz 2005; Lai et al 2005; Moser '05; Shaviv '06; ZhenShan and Xian '07. Reading through what VM quotes though, I am not sure how many if any of these (apart from thr really obvious contenders)would actually count as 'counter-consensual. Anyone know these papers?

1) It appears that this news was strongly spread by Marc Morano, at least some people got email from him. Given the near-instantaneous appearance in numerous blogs, it's clear that Marc has a good list.

2) He used to work for Rush Limbaugh, then for Cybercast News Service (source of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claims against John Kerry, attacks on John Murtha, etc, etc).

3) Now works for Senator James Inhofe.

Note the interesting process:
a) An article is submitted to E &E, a journal with an interesting past.

b) Before it is even published (assuming it went through peer review already, perhaps Benny Peiser checked it out), descriptions of it are blasted all over the place.

c) DailyTech claims to have obtained a pre-publication copy ... which seems like a fairly strange place to publish. Has anyone actually *seen* this paper? One can hope that it will be published sometime.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 30 Aug 2007 #permalink

Dear Mr Bloom, whether a paper disagres with a "consensus" depends on how you define the nonsensical, absurd, and irrelevant word "consensus". What I mean is that these are papers that contradict lies produced by the global warming movement - including many members of the IPCC - about the statements that are supposedly settled by science. For example the absurd statement that global warming will lead to a catastrophe or that there are no major natural climate drivers or that science supports the opinion that climate change should be "wrestled with". You're just spreading fog and lies, it's useless to talk to bigots like you.

I look forwards to Lubos withdrawing from "conversation" with all us bigots.

It is true libertarians tend to be denialist about AGW. As someone who leans libertarian myself, I can tell you why; it's hard to find a libertarian solution to AGW. The standard libertarian solution to the Tragedy of the Commons - privatize the commons - is often the optimal approach, but there doesn't seem to be a reasonable way to privatize the atmosphere. If there were, someone would have tried already.

Hey, do you think it's possible that one solution might not be the universal answer to all problems?

[You're likely right, but its not very flattering to the Libertarians: "we can't solve this problem via libertarian methods, ergo we'll assume the problem doesn't exist" is illogical, captain.

Incidentally, there is no "tragedy of the commons". Commons were not free-for-alls: various well-defined commoners had well-defined rights, and they were managed -W]

One indication of consensus would be statements by the professional associations of the scientists who study climate. Both the American Geophysical Union and the American Meterological Association have issued statements that human activities explain the recent warming of the earth. The National Academy of Sciences has a similar statement, as do the National Academies of all the G8 countries and China, India, and Brazil. If, as the denialists claim, there is no consensus on the cause of GW, then are the above organizations:
a) deluded
b) dishonest
c) part of a grand conspiracy
d) correct


Oh, guthrie, you're just jealous. :)

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 01 Sep 2007 #permalink

Steve I say this often even though it's wildly inappropriate for these climate discussions. I think it's a pure fact that Motl's bizarre approach to science in anything where his cranky right-wing sensibilities are aroused are going to be off-putting, especially to people just starting out in science. The more people see his site, the more they'll have a chance to think, Jesus, if that's your brain on string theory, no thanks! Of course, that'd be unfair and inaccurate, but it'd also be helpful. It's becoming clearer all the time that string and brane theory are dead ends, or at best the results can be and should be reformulated without depending on its core concepts, so that will improve the next generation of theoretical physicists.

This ties together a lot of the issues people talk about on scienceblogs. In theoretical physics, string theory has come very close to having a preponderance of scientists support it (because it's such a detached field, and progress in some areas is prohibitively expensive) which would give the denialists an example of a field of science where "the consensus was wrong" in a sense. It's evolving away from that, both by design and by the usual social evolution process, which as Kuhn and others describe it is pretty Darwinian.

It's also an example of facts eventually modifying consensus when it's off, though. And I do think Motl serves an evolutionary function. Eat the pale red berries and you'll be like him, primates!

By Marion Delgado (not verified) on 03 Sep 2007 #permalink