consensus

Science in Trouble

Science, as practiced today, is in trouble mainly because of money and politics. Much grant money flows from government which seeks results that will confirm the current political orthodoxy. And there are many willing takers.

A good scientist is always skeptical, but often that skepticism may be a career breaker. You as a reader should also be skeptical when a new Study claims this or that. This is especially true in the fields of climate and medical research.

Below are introductions to five articles dealing with the trouble with science today.

Annals Of Fake, Politicized “Science”

by Francis Menton

If you have never read President Dwight Eisenhower’s January 1961 farewell address, you should. It’s not long. He clearly foresaw the oncoming unchecked expansion of the federal government, and the associated dangers. The famous passage deals with the risks to science from the new-found gusher of federal grant spending:

A steadily increasing share [of scientific research] is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government. Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. . . . The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

Fast-forward 55 years, and we are deep in the dystopia that Eisenhower foresaw. In science today, government funding is everything, and control of it empowers orthodoxy enforcement and the banishment of skeptics and dissenters — the antithesis of science. Many examples can be cited of science gone completely off the rails through the perverse incentives of government monopoly funding. But really, nothing can top the hysteria — underwritten by tens of billions of dollars of annual federal spending — of the climate change machine. Read more

Advocacy research, incentives and the practice of science

by Dr. Judith Curry

There is a problem with the practice of science. Because of poor scientific practices, and improper incentives, few papers with useful scientific findings are published in leading journals. The problem appears to be growing due to funding for advocacy research.

Funding for researchers is often provided to gain support for a favored hypothesis. Researchers are also rewarded for finding evidence that supports hypotheses favored by senior colleagues. These incentives leads to what we call “advocacy research,” an approach that is contrary to the definition of science. In addition, university researchers are typically rewarded with selection and promotion on the basis of their performance against measures that have the effect of distracting them from doing useful scientific research. Read more

Politics and the Changing Norms of Science

by Lucas Bergkamp

“The politician is sometimes tempted to encroach on the normal territory of the scientific estate. In such issues the problem is less often whether politics will presume to dictate to science than it is how much politics is to be influenced by the new findings of science.”

The climate change debate has exposed a deeper problem with our science and scientific knowledge. The problem is not that science is unable to answer all of our questions. Rather, the problem is that the body politic has come to see science as an instrument to pass on ‘hot potatoes,’ i.e. complex issues raising a large range of empirical questions and implicating important value judgments. Scientists have failed to point out the limits of science and to bounce the ball back to the politicians. In the market for ‘evidence’ for policy making, politicians demand arguments for their desired policies, which scientists supply in the form of research and reports. Their research, however, does little to resolve the policy issues faced by the body politic, and does not advance social progress. Climate science is the poster child of these developments. Read more

Peer Review, Why skepticism is essential

by Donna Laframboise

Peer-reviewed research is reliable, so the reasoning goes. Non-peer-reviewed research is not. The IPCC makes exclusive use of the former, therefore its conclusions can be trusted.* This argument has long been used to deflect criticism and to repel contrary climate perspectives.

But behind it lies a dubious assumption: that academic publications are a sound foundation on which to base real-world decisions. In fact, science is currently in the grip of a ’reproducibility crisis’ so severe that the editor of a prominent journal has declared that ‘much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue’. Media coverage declaring that ’science is broken’ has become commonplace. Read report (40 pages)

*In her book, Laframboise shows that in fact, about 28% of sources used by the IPCC were from magazine articles, press releases, and unpublished papers. (See book review)

 The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 scientists

by Julia Belluz, Brad Plumer, and Brian Resnick

In the past several years, many scientists have become afflicted with a serious case of doubt — doubt in the very institution of science.

The scientific process, in its ideal form, is elegant: Ask a question, set up an objective test, and get an answer. Repeat. Science is rarely practiced to that ideal. But Copernicus believed in that ideal. So did the rocket scientists behind the moon landing.

Today, scientists’ success often isn’t measured by the quality of their questions or the rigor of their methods. It’s instead measured by how much grant money they win, the number of studies they publish, and how they spin their findings to appeal to the public.

Scientists often learn more from studies that fail. But failed studies can mean career death. So instead, they’re incentivized to generate positive results they can publish. And the phrase “publish or perish” hangs over nearly every decision. Read more

Read also: On consensus in science

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Covering up the inconvenient consensus on global cooling

TempHistory21The world had been cooling since the 1940s and by the 1970s the consensus of climate scientists was that we were about to enter another “ice age” or at least to return to the cold of the “little ice age” (the period from about 1300 to 1870).

Dire predictions appeared in the popular press; see here for a sampling of story headlines.

“During the 1970s the media promoted global cooling alarmism with dire threats of a new ice age. Extreme weather events were hyped as signs of the coming apocalypse and man-made pollution was blamed as the cause. Environmental extremists called for everything from outlawing the internal combustion engine to communist style population controls.”

Does that sound familiar?

There were many scientific papers supporting future cooling also. People trying to justify the current human-caused global warming scam by claiming a supporting consensus of scientists want to get rid of that previous consensus which said global cooling was the existential danger.

This previous cooling consensus, and attempts to erase it, are the subject of an article by Kenneth Richard writing in the NoTricksZone blog (link to article). The article is titled: “Massive Cover-up Exposed: 285 Papers From 1960s-’80s Reveal Robust Global Cooling Scientific ‘Consensus.’”

At the end of the article, Richard gives links to and abstracts of many papers from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s which predict global cooling to come.

The first part of Richard’s article concerns the coverup of the existence these papers:

Beginning in 2003, software engineer William Connolley quietly removed the highly inconvenient references to the global cooling scare of the 1970s from Wikipedia, the world’s most influential and accessed informational source.

It had to be done. Too many skeptics were (correctly) pointing out that the scientific “consensus” during the 1960s and 1970s was that the Earth had been cooling for decades, and that nascent theorizing regarding the potential for a CO2-induced global warming were still questionable and uncertain.

Not only did Connolley — a co-founder (along with Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt) of the realclimate.com blog — successfully remove (or rewrite) the history of the 1970s global cooling scare from the Wikipedia record, he also erased (or rewrote) references to the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age so as to help create the impression that the paleoclimate is shaped like Mann’s hockey stick graph, with unprecedented and dangerous 20th/21st century warmth.

A 2009 investigative report from UK’s Telegraph detailed the extent of dictatorial-like powers Connolley possessed at Wikipedia, allowing him to remove inconvenient scientific information that didn’t conform to his point of view.

“All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles.

Richard also discusses an attempt to say that there really wasn’t a cooling consensus at all so we should now believe the “real” consensus of human-caused warming.

Ironically, some scientists are again predicting a cooling phase because solar cycles (sunspot numbers) are weakening which leads to more cloud cover and cooling.

Beware of claimed consensus in science:

“Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.” – Michael Crichton

See these articles about the warming consensus:

On consensus in science

“Cooking” Consensus on Climate Change

The 97 percent consensus for human caused climate change debunked again

 

The past is getting cooler – government data manipulation designed to make the present look warmer in relation to the past.

 

Book Review – Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming

Why-Scientists-disagree front-coverThis book by climate scientists Craig D. Idso, Robert M. Carter, and S. Fred Singer is a tour-de-force on the scientific debate about global warming. The book is relatively short, just 101 pages divided into seven chapters. Each chapter leads off with a summary of key findings, and each chapter section is supported by many references to the scientific literature.

The book is published by the Heartland Institute. You can download the entire book as a PDF file (7.8Mb) for free here, or buy a hard copy from the Heartland Store ($14.95).

Many books and papers about global warming contain many, sometimes confusing, graphs. Not this one. Some readers may be happy to know that there are only three graphs in the whole book. The authors get right to the point with their succinct, easy-to-read explanations.

Here is a brief summary, key findings of each chapter, and my comments:

Chapter 1: No Consensus:

“The articles and surveys most commonly cited as showing support for a ‘scientific consensus’ in favor of the catastrophic man-made global warming hypothesis are without exception methodologically flawed and often deliberately misleading.”

This chapter examines each major paper that claims consensus and exposes its flaws. This chapter also provides evidence for lack of consensus.

Chapter 2: Why Scientists Disagree:
The key points provide the major reasons for disagreement:

“Climate is an interdisciplinary subject requiring insights from many fields. Very few scholars have mastery of more than one or two of these disciplines.”

“Fundamental uncertainties arise from insufficient observational evidence, disagreements over how to interpret data, and how to set the parameters of models.”

“The United Nations’ Intergovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), created to find and disseminate research finding a human impact on global climate, is not a credible source. It is agenda-driven, a political rather than scientific body, and some allege it is corrupt.”

“Climate scientists, like all humans, can be biased. Origins of bias include careerism, grant-seeking, political views, and confirmation bias.”

Chapter 3: Scientific method versus Political science:

In this chapter the authors contrast the proper methods of scientific investigation with what goes on in climate science.

“The hypothesis implicit in all IPCC writings, though rarely explicitly stated, is that dangerous global warming is resulting, or will result, from human-related greenhouse gas emissions.”

“The null hypothesis is that currently observed changes in global climate indices and the physical environment, as well as current changes in animal and plant characteristics, are the result of natural variability.” (The IPCC has never presented any physical evidence to refute the null hypothesis.)

“In contradiction of the scientific method, IPCC assumes its implicit hypothesis is correct and that its only duty is to collect evidence and make plausible arguments in the hypothesis’s favor.”

Chapter 4: Flawed Projections:

This chapter examines the climate modeling used by the IPCC and shows how all their predictions (projections) have been wrong.

Chapter 5: False Postulates:

This chapter shows that modern warming is neither unprecedented nor unnatural. Rather, the following statements are supported by observation evidence.

“Neither the rate nor the magnitude of the reported late twentieth century surface warming (1979–2000) lay outside normal natural variability.”

“The late twentieth century warm peak was of no greater magnitude than previous peaks caused entirely by natural forcings and feedbacks.”

“Historically, increases in atmospheric CO2 followed increases in temperature, they did not precede them. Therefore, CO2 levels could not have forced temperatures to rise.”

“Solar forcings are not too small to explain twentieth century warming. In fact, their effect could be equal to or greater than the effect of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

“A warming of 2°C or more during the twenty-first century would probably not be harmful, on balance, because many areas of the world would benefit from or adjust to climate change.”

Chapter 6: Unreliable Circumstantial Evidence:

This chapter debunks scary climate claims.

Chapter 7: Policy Implications:

The authors recommend: “Rather than rely exclusively on IPCC for scientific advice,
policymakers should seek out advice from independent, non-government organizations and scientists who are free of financial and political conflicts of interest.”
“Rather than invest scarce world resources in a quixotic campaign based on politicized and unreliable science, world leaders would do well to turn their attention to the real problems their people and their planet face.”

The book concludes with this:

Policymakers should resist pressure from lobby groups to silence scientists who question the authority of IPCC to claim to speak for “climate science.”

The distinguished British biologist Conrad Waddington wrote in 1941,

“It is … important that scientists must be ready for their pet theories to turn out to be wrong. Science as a whole certainly cannot allow its judgment about facts to be distorted by ideas of what ought to be true, or what one may hope to be true.” (Waddington, 1941).

This prescient statement merits careful examination by those who continue to assert the fashionable belief, in the face of strong empirical evidence to the contrary, that human CO2 emissions are going to cause dangerous global warming.

I highly recommend this book for those who want to know the real story of global warming, and I recommend it especially for those who believe the IPCC and government propaganda.

Montini versus Ducey on climate change

Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini takes on Governor Ducey and the Arizona legislature in an editorial “Flawed forecast from Ducey and climate change skeptics” in which Montini demonstrates his own ignorance on the subject of climate change.

Montini admits his ignorance by writing “I’m not scientifically equipped to illuminate the governor on this issue.” Nevertheless, he goes on to attempt just that.

Montini’s article is a study in the methods of fact-free reporting. He denigrates his targets by calling them “deniers;” he invokes a (mythical) consensus; and he appeals to the authority of flawed IPCC reports. All of these tactics are invalid forms of argument. The form of argument used by Montini is typical of those with an agenda, but few facts.

Perhaps Mr. Montini (and Governor Ducey) would benefit by reading about some facts in these articles:

The 97 percent consensus of human caused climate change debunked again

This article breaks down the methodology of how the “97 percent” figure was derived and shows that of almost 12,000 papers reviewed, only about 8 percent endorse the contention that human carbon dioxide emissions are the major cause of global warming.

On Consensus in Science shows a history of consensus in science and how it has often been wrong. Consensus is opinion, not fact. “It does not matter who you are, or how smart you are, or what title you have, or how many of you there are, and certainly not how many papers your side has published, if your prediction is wrong then your hypothesis is wrong. Period.” –Richard Feynman

“I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. – Michael Crichton

University of Arizona Researchers Use Citizen Poll To Justify Climate Policy

Researchers from the University of Arizona and Stanford University used a contractor to conduct a survey by telephone of 803 Arizona residents about their views on global warming. They then conflated this very small sample into representing the views of all Arizonans.

UN IPCC Synthesis Report is a pack of lies

In five major reports since 1990, the IPCC has published thousands of pages of material, none of which provide any physical or observational evidence that our carbon dioxide emissions have a significant effect on global temperature. All their dire predictions are based on “garbage-in-garbage-out” computer modeling.

The following articles discuss the real, observational scientific evidence:

Evidence that CO2 emissions do not intensify the greenhouse effect

Study shows that greenhouse gas induced warming decreased in last 14 years

Climate change in perspective

The 97 percent consensus for human caused climate change debunked again

That great climate scientist, Secretary of State John Kerry, has been pontificating on global warming and thereby demonstrating his ignorance of science. Kerry says that because 97% of climate scientists say humans are causing most of the global warming, it must be so. Kerry compares the Law of Gravity to anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Kerry misses a major point: the Law of Gravity is demonstrable; anthropogenic global warming is not.

The myth of the much-quoted 97% consensus comes, most recently from a paper by John Cook: “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature.”

I discuss that paper in a Wryheat post “Cooking Consensus on Climate Change.”

John Cook, proprietor of the grossly mis-named website, SkepticalScience, published a study in which he claims, “A new survey of over 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science papers by our citizen science team at Skeptical Science has found a 97% consensus among papers taking a position on the cause of global warming in the peer-reviewed literature that humans are responsible.” The gullible press took that to mean that 97% of the 12,000 papers supported the contention that humans were responsible for most global warming.

Delving into that paper, we find that out of 11,944 peer-reviewed papers examined, only 64 papers (0.5%) explicitly endorsed and quantified AGW as being greater than 50% of warming. Another 922 papers (7.7%) explicitly endorse AGW but do not quantify the percentage of warming. That means that just 8.2% of “climate scientists” actually say that carbon dioxide emissions play a significant role in driving global temperature. Another 2,910 (24.4%) implicitly endorse AGW, but that alleged endorsement is a subjective call by the reviewer. That adds up to 32.6% of papers endorsing AGW, not 97%. All the other papers took no position or rejected AGW.

There data are presented graphically here:

Cooks consensus

So, out of 11,944 peer-reviewed papers examined only 8.2% explicitly endorse AGW. It takes much cherry picking to conflate that into “97% of climate scientists.”

The graphic comes from an essay by David Middleton : “Science Lessons for Secretary of State John F. Kerry.”

The alleged 97% consensus is debunked, but, even if 97% of climate scientists supported AGW it still would not make it true because it is not demonstrable with physical evidence. For more on consensus, see my article “On Consensus in Science.”

And remember, consensus is “the first refuge of scoundrels” – Michael Crichton.

UPDATE:

‘The 97% climate consensus’starts to crumble with 485 new papers in 2017 that question it

 

A broad survey of climate change literature for 2017 reveals that the alleged “consensus” behind the dangers of anthropogenic global warming is not nearly as settled among climate scientists as people imagine.

Author Kenneth Richard found that during the course of the year 2017, at least 485 scientific papers were published that in some way questioned the supposed consensus regarding the perils of human CO2 emissions or the efficacy of climate models to predict the future.

According to Richard’s analysis, the 485 new papers underscore the “significant limitations and uncertainties inherent in our understanding of climate and climate changes,” which in turn suggests that climate science is not nearly as settled as media reports and some policymakers would have people believe.

Richard broke the skeptical positions into four main categories, with each of the individual papers expounding at least one of these positions, and sometimes more.

N(1) Natural mechanisms play well more than a negligible role (as claimed by the IPCC) in the net changes in the climate system, which includes temperature variations, precipitation patterns, weather events, etc., and the influence of increased CO2 concentrations on climatic changes are less pronounced than currently imagined.

N(2) The warming/sea levels/glacier and sea ice retreat/hurricane and drought intensities…experienced during the modern era are neither unprecedented or remarkable, nor do they fall outside the range of natural variability, as clearly shown in the first 150 graphs (from 2017) on this list.

N(3) The computer climate models are not reliable or consistently accurate, and projections of future climate states are little more than speculation as the uncertainty and error ranges are enormous in a non-linear climate system.

N(4) Current emissions-mitigation policies, especially related to the advocacy for renewables, are often ineffective and even harmful to the environment, whereas elevated CO2 and a warmer climate provide unheralded benefits to the biosphere (i.e., a greener planet and enhanced crop yields).

Below are the two links to the list of 485 papers as well as the guideline for the lists’ categorization.

Skeptic Papers 2017 (1)

Skeptic Papers 2017 (2)

Part 1. Natural Mechanisms Of Weather, Climate Change  

  • Solar Influence On Climate (121)
  • ENSO, NAO, AMO, PDO Climate Influence (44)
  • Modern Climate In Phase With Natural Variability (13)
  • Cloud/Aerosol Climate Influence (9)
  • Volcanic/Tectonic Climate Influence (6)
  • The CO2 Greenhouse Effect – Climate Driver? (14)

Part 2. Unsettled Science, Failed Climate Modeling

  • Climate Model Unreliability/Biases/Errors and the Pause (28)
  • Failing Renewable Energy, Climate Policies (12)
  • Wind Power Harming The Environment, Biosphere (8)
  • Elevated CO2 Greens Planet, Produces Higher Crop Yields (13)
  • Warming Beneficial, Does Not Harm Humans, Wildlife (5)
  • Warming, Acidification Not Harming Oceanic Biosphere (17)
  • Decreases In Extreme, Unstable Weather With Warming (3)
  • Urban Heat Island: Raising Surface Temperatures Artificially (5)
  • No Increasing Trends In Intense Hurricanes (4)
  • No Increasing Trends In Drought/Flood Frequency, Severity (3)
  • Natural CO2, Methane Sources Out-Emit Human Source (4)
  • Increasing Snow Cover Since The 1950s (2)
  • Miscellaneous (7)

Part 3. Natural Climate Change Observation, Reconstruction

  • Lack Of Anthropogenic/CO2 Signal In Sea Level Rise (38)
  • No Net Warming During 20th (21st) Century (12)
  • A Warmer Past: Non-Hockey Stick Reconstructions (60)
  • Abrupt, Degrees-Per-Decade Natural Global Warming (7)
  • A Model-Defying Cryosphere, Polar Ice (32)
  • Antarctic Ice Melting In High Geothermal Heat Flux Areas (4)
  • Recent Cooling In The North Atlantic, Southern Ocean (10)

“Cooking” Consensus on Climate Change

John Cook, proprietor of the grossly mis-named website, SkepticalScience, published a study in which Cook claims, “A new survey of over 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science papers by our citizen science team at Skeptical Science has found a 97% consensus among papers taking a position on the cause of global warming in the peer-reviewed literature that humans are responsible.”  That’s the headline picked up by the gullible press.

Unlike what would be implied by the name, SkepticalScience is a proponent of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

The study involved reading the abstracts from 11,944 papers which contained the words “global warming” or “global climate change” published in the period 1991-2011.  The “team” rated these papers according to seven criteria judging their support for AGW, see definitions of the categories in table 2 of Cook’s published paper here.

The actual findings of the survey, in Cook’s own words: “We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming.”  So how do you get a 97% consensus out of that?

That question has been discussed on many blogs.  The best explanation I’ve found is one by Dutch researcher Marcel Crok, “Cook’s survey not only meaningless but also misleading.

Here are some excerpts [I made minor edits of spelling]:

Cook et al. selected around 12,000 scientific abstracts that contained the words “global warming” or “global climate change” published in the period 1991-2011. With a large group of volunteers they then rated the papers using 7 categories. Around 8000 of the abstracts (2/3) take no clear position on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Of the remaining ~4000 abstracts more than 97% “endorse AGW” according to the paper. Only a tiny amount (78 papers) “reject AGW”. Hence they claim again that there is a consensus, that the debate is over and also that there is a gap between scientists and the public.

Now here comes the misleading part. If an abstract/paper “endorses AGW”…[this means that] change is real, man-made and dangerous.

To the credit of the researchers they made all their results available in a searchable database. Their rating system is online as well. There are 7 levels of endorsement, going from quantified endorsement of AGW all the way down to a quantified rejection of AGW. Seems fair enough. But here  is the issue. Only the first category can be regarded as a real or strong endorsement of AGW. Here is the description of category 1:

1. Explicit Endorsement of AGW with quantification

1.1 Mention that human activity is a dominant influence or has caused most of recent climate change (>50%).

1.2 Endorsing the IPCC without explicitly quantifying doesn’t count as explicit endorsement – that would be implicit.

Now specifically look at 1.1. This comes close to the iconic statement from the IPCC AR4 report which said that “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” Now if 97% of the abstracts would repeat in slightly varying terms this major conclusion, then at least the conclusion of the survey would be more or less fair. However the survey doesn’t come even close.

Brandon Shollenberger, who is guest blogger at The Blackboard, was the first who reported that actually only 65 papers have been rated “category 1.” Yes that’s right, only 65 abstracts clearly “mention that human activity is a dominant influence or has caused most of recent climate change (>50%);” 65 on a total of 12,000 is 0.5%. So a completely fair conclusion from their survey is that only 1 in 200 abstracts explicitly mentioned that humans are dominating climate. If you ignore the 8000 papers that were labeled category 4 (neutral, meaning having no position on AGW) the 65 would be 1.6%.  The paper reported that only 78 papers (1.9% if you ignore the 8000 neutral abstracts) rejected AGW.

Now where is the 97% endorsement of AGW coming from? What the authors did is to add up the numbers of categories 1 to 3 and of the categories 5 to 7 which I show below:

Category 1: 65 [Explicit endorsement with quantification]

Category 2: 934 [Explicit endorsement without quantification]

Category 3: 2933 [Implicit endorsement]

Category 4: 8261 [No position or uncertain]

Category 5: 53 [Implicit rejection]

Category 6: 15 [Explicit rejection without quantification]

Category 7: 10 [Explicit rejection with quantification]

Total:         12271

As you can see the 78 “rejection of AGW” abstracts are the added number of categories 5-7. Categories 1-3 together add up to 3932 papers. This 3932 divided by 4010 (the total of categories 1-3 + 5-7) gives their impressive 97% …However of these 3932 abstracts 2933 (75%) fall in category 3. Now how strong is the endorsement of AGW in this category? Here is the description:

3. Implicit Endorsement of AGW

3.1 Mitigation papers that examine GHG emission reduction or carbon sequestration, linking it to climate change.

3.2 Climate modeling papers that talks about emission scenarios and subsequent warming or other climate impacts from increased CO2 in the abstract implicitly endorse that GHGs cause warming.

3.3 Paleoclimate papers that link CO2 to climate change.

3.4 Papers about climate policy (specifically mitigation of GHG emissions) unless they restrict their focus to non-GHG issues like CFC emissions in which case neutral.

3.5 Modeling of increased CO2 effect on regional temperature – not explicitly saying global warming but implying warming from CO2.

3.6 Endorsement of IPCC findings is usually an implicit endorsement.

I like 3.2: “endorse that GHG’s cause warming.” I also strongly agree with this part of 3.5: “implying warming from CO2?. The meaningless result of their whole exercise is that 75% of the abstracts that say something about AGW at all “link CO2 to climate change” or “imply warming from CO2. [This does not necessarily mean endorsement or consensus.]

If we just say “Humans cause some global warming,” we could be supporting a value 20% or 90%. Despite being able to support either position, we’d land in the top categories. That means the results will automatically be skewed toward the top.

Australian science reporter Jo Nova has some other choice comments in her post, “Cook’s fallacy ‘97% consensus’ study is a marketing ploy some journalists will fall for.”

“What does a study of 20 years of abstracts tell us about the global climate? Nothing. But it says quite a lot about the way government funding influences the scientific process.”

Jo Nova cuts to the chase with the following points (which are further explained in her post):

1. Thousands of papers support man-made climate change, but not one found the evidence that matters.

2. Cook’s study shows 66% of papers didn’t endorse man-made global warming. Cook calls this “an overwhelming consensus”.

3. Cook’s method is a logical fallacy: Argument from Authority. This is not science, it’s PR.

4. The number of papers is a proxy for funding.

5. Most of these consensus papers assume the theory is correct but never checked. They are irrelevant.

Read her post for seven more points.

All of this is about consensus, as if consensus is equated with truth, but it isn’t, see my post “On Consensus in Science.”  In that post I show the origins of previous claims of consensus and show several examples of famous errors of consensus.

“It does not matter who you are, or how smart you are, or what title you have, or how many of you there are, and certainly not how many papers your side has published, if your prediction is wrong then your hypothesis is wrong. Period.” -Richard Feynman

“I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.” -Michael Crichton.

UPDATE: Cook’s 97% consensus study falsely classifies scientists’ papers according to the scientists that published them.

On consensus in science

“Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory.” –Stephen Hawking

“It does not matter who you are, or how smart you are, or what title you have, or how many of you there are, and certainly not how many papers your side has published, if your prediction is wrong then your hypothesis is wrong. Period.” –Richard Feynman

“Who would dare assert that we know all there is to be known?” –Galileo Galilei

On many of my posts about climate change, I get comments from believers in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming that take issue with what I have written.  That’s fine.  But, instead of presenting facts to support their case, many of these commenters resort to invoking the myth alleging that about 98% of climate scientists say human carbon dioxide emissions are the major cause of recent warming. This alleged consensus, they say, must mean it’s true and should end all argument.  Some of these commenters also seem to be confused about cause and effect, and so conflate the perceived incidence of warming or cooling with attribution of cause.

So let’s look first at where these consensus numbers came from and then I will comment more generally on consensus in science.

One source was from a study by Peter Doran and Maggie Zimmerman at the University of Illinois. (See here and here.) They emailed 10,257 scientists and asked two questions:

Question 1: “When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?” I would answer that temperatures have risen because in the 20th Century the planet warmed from the depths of the “Little Ice Age.” The answer to this question is verifiable by observation of physical evidence.

Question 2 (the controversial question): “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures? The researchers didn’t define “significant.” This question solicits an opinion. The basic premise of the question has not been verified by physical evidence.

Of the original 10,257 scientists queried, 3,146 responded. Of those, Doran and Zimmerman whittled the number down to 77 who had been successful in getting more than half of their papers recently accepted by peer-reviewed climate science journals. Of the 77, 75 answered “yes” to question 2,that’s 97.4%. So, in that study the whole 98% claim is based on 75 positive answers out of 3,146 respondents.

The other possible source for the consensus myth is a paper by Anderegg et al, in PNAS. In that study, the researchers didn’t bother to poll scientists, rather they scanned the literature and constructed a “database of 1,372 climate researchers based on authorship of scientific assessment reports and membership on multi-signatory statements about ACC [anthropogenic climate change]” as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The researchers then arbitrarily assigned “expert” status to those who had published at least 20 papers. That cut the number of “experts” to 908. In the supporting material at the end of the paper we find that of the original 1,372 researchers, 619 were contributors to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment report, and 212 were signatories to the UN’s Bali declaration. After culling duplicate names, the paper’s authors wound up with 472 “experts” out of tens of thousands of practicing researchers.

We see from the two studies, therefore, that this claim of a 98% consensus comes from carefully culled researchers, most of whom worked on the IPCC reports, are said to believe that humans are the principal cause of climate change. The 98% consensus consists of researchers who have a vested interest in continuing the myth of significant global warming caused by human carbon dioxide emissions. Follow the money. The 98% consensus is just another manipulated number pulled out of the air.

Now, let’s turn to a more general discussion of consensus.

Dr. Judith Curry, Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has a long paper on consensus in climate science. She begins by saying: “The manufactured consensus of the IPCC has had the unintended consequences of distorting the science, elevating the voices of scientists that dispute the consensus, and motivating actions by the consensus scientists and their supporters that have diminished the public’s trust in the IPCC.”

She goes on the write: “With genuinely well-established scientific theories, ‘consensus’ is not discussed and the concept of consensus is arguably irrelevant… While a consensus may arise surrounding a specific scientific hypothesis or theory, the existence of a consensus is not itself the evidence.” And she notes: “If the objective of scientific research is to obtain truth and avoid error, how might a consensus seeking process introduce bias into the science and increase the chances for error? ‘Confirmation bias’ is a well-known psychological principle that connotes the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations, or an existing hypothesis. Confirmation bias usually refers to unwitting selectivity in the acquisition and interpretation of evidence.”

There are some famous failures of consensus in history. The pre-eminent one was the belief that the Earth was the center of the universe. That was the prevailing consensus 500 years ago. That consensus was shown to be in error, first by Nicolaus Copernicus and later by Galileo, Kepler, and Newton.

In 1912, Alfred Wegener, building on earlier work by Frank Bursley Taylor, proposed that the continents did not have a permanent spacial relationship to each other, i.e., there was continental drift. Wegener could not, however, provide a reasonable mechanism for his hypothesis, therefore the consensus, for 50 years, was that he was wrong. By the 1960s, geological research did provide the mechanism and Wegener’s continental drift became part of the larger theory of plate tectonics.

Those who credulously invoke the “ 98% consensus” as an argument are displaying an ignorance of the facts and of how science works.  I refer you to Michael Crichton who said:

“I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.”

“Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.”

The 98% climate consensus, where did the number come from?

The mainstream media is all exercised that some Republican candidates, notably Rick Perry, do not agree that humans are the principal cause of global warming. Typical of the stories is one from the Los Angeles Times, reprinted in the Arizona Daily Star, that quotes Jon Huntsman as saying, “Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I’m saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can’t run from science.” The Star headlined the article: “GOP’s Huntsman a voice of reason on global warming.”

Let’s take a closer look at “science” and see where the 98% number came from. It probably came from a paper from the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science titled “Expert credibility in climate change.”

In that paper, researchers scanned the literature and constructed a “database of 1,372 climate researchers based on authorship of scientific assessment reports and membership on multisignatory statements about ACC [anthropogenic climate change]” as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The researchers then arbitrarily assigned “expert” status to those who had published at least 20 papers. That cut the number of “experts” to 908. In the supporting material at the end of the paper we find that of the original 1,372 researchers, 619 were contributors to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment report, and 212 were signatories to the UN’s Bali declaration. After culling duplicate names, the paper’s authors wound up with 472 “experts” out of tens of thousands of practicing researchers.

Therefore, 98% of carefully culled researchers, most of whom worked on the IPCC reports, are said to believe that humans are the principal cause of climate change. The 98% consensus consists of researchers who have a vested interest in continuing the myth of significant global warming caused by human carbon dioxide emissions. Follow the money. The 98% consensus is just another manipulated number pulled out of the air.

As Steve Milloy put it, “The study’s premise that unless you’ve published 20 papers on climate your views don’t matter or are uninformed is patently arbitrary and absurd. This doesn’t make these researchers correct or credible, just employed.”

Mr. Huntsman and the Arizona Daily Star should check the sources.

And Mr. Huntsman should read:

A Perspective on Climate Change

UPDATE: see “Cooking” Consensus on Climate Change