Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Paper Shatters the "Consensus" Myth

There are many methods out there to silence the political opposition, yet, the most effective one is to simply deny the existence of an opposition, and liberals in government along with many in the environmentalist lobby have been employing this technique, successfully convincing the public that no debate exists on the threat of climate change, that there is a scientific consensus.
Now I said I wouldn’t bother delving into the “consensus” debate, but there has been a paper released by
Fergus W.M. Brown, CPE, UCLAN, Preston, UK
Roger A. Pielke Sr. CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
James D. Annan, FRCGC/JAMSTEC, Yokohama, Japan.

The paper is Is there agreement amongst climate scientists on the IPCC AR4 WG1?
"ABSTRACT. An online poll of scientists' opinions shows that, while there is strong agreement on the important role of anthropogenically-caused radiative forcing ofCO2 in climate change and with the largest group supporting the IPCC report, there is not a universal agreement among climate scientists about climate science as represented in the IPCC's WG1. 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. The IPCC WG1 perspective is the mean response, though there are interesting differences between mean responses in the USA and in the EU. There are, also, a significant number of climate scientists who disagree with the IPCC WG1 perspective."

The text reads,

"In our poll, there were 140 responses out of the 1807 who were contacted by the first author. The authors participated along with poll specialist David Jepson (Bsc Hons) in writing the polling questions (see Table 1 for the questions), but had no knowledge of who participated in the polling. It is interesting to note, however, that among the respondents were a substantial number of senior scientists and leading figures in science, whose support and interest in the poll were much appreciated. It is important to recognize that we are not presenting the results as representing anything other than the views of those who responded as we have no way to assess the relationship of the responders with the total relevant population.The results are quite informative. 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 [0%]. In total, 18% responded that the IPCC AR4 WG1 Report probably
overstates the role of CO2, or exaggerates the risks implied by focusing on
CO2 dominated Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), to a greater or lesser degree. A further 17% expressed the opinion that the Report probably underestimates or
seriously underestimates the consequences of anthropogenic CO2 -induced AGW and that the associated risks are more severe than is implied in the report. The remaining 65% expressed some degree of concurrence with the report’s science basis, of which the largest group [47% of all respondents] selected option 5. The exact response rates are given in Figure 1." [Emphasis added.]

(These were the options given in the poll. Options 1-3 were grouped together as scientists who feel the UN IPCC has overstated the threat.)

"Which one statement most nearly matches your personal opinion about the physical science basis of global warming, as exemplified by the IPCC WG1 report?
* [If your personal opinion falls between two adjacent statements, please mark both]
1. There is no warming; it is a fabrication based on inaccurate/inappropriate measurement. Human activity is not having any significant effect on Climate. The data on which such assumptions are made is so compromised as to be worthless. The physical science basis of AGW theory is founded on a false hypothesis.
2. Any recent warming is most likely natural. Human input of CO2 has very little to do with it. Solar, naturally varying water vapour and similar variables can explain most or all of the climate changes. Projections based on Global Climate Models are unreliable because these are based on too many assumptions and unreliable datasets. 3. There are changes in the atmosphere, including added CO2 from human activities, but significant climate effects are likely to be all within natural limits. The ’scares’ are exaggerations with a political motive. The undue emphasis on CO2 diverts attention away from other, important research on climate variability and change.
4. There is warming and the human addition of CO2 causes some of it, but the science is too uncertain to be confident about current attributions of the precise role of CO2 with respect to other climate forcings. The IPCC WG1 overestimates the role of CO2 relative to other forcings, including a diverse variety of human climate forcings.
5. The scientific basis for human impacts on climate is well represented by the IPCC WG1 report. The lead scientists know what they are doing. We are warming the planet, with CO2 as the main culprit. At least some of the forecast consequences of this change are based on robust evidence.
6. The IPCC WG1 is compromised by political intervention; I agree with those scientists who say that the IPCC WG1 is underestimating the problem. Action to reduce human emissions of CO2 in order to mitigate against serious consequences is more urgent than the report suggests. This should be done irrespective of other climate and environmental considerations.
7. The IPCC WG1 seriously understates the human influence on climate. I agree with those scientists who say that major mitigation responses are needed immediately to prevent catastrophic serious warming and other impacts projected to result from human emissions of CO2. We are seriously damaging the Earth’s climate, and will continue to face devastating consequences for many years."

Keep in mind that these statistics are based on the 140 responses received out of the 1807 polls sent out. Only a small portion of the climate science community is represented here, and while the numbers may indicate the general position of climate science community, it could be somewhat skewed.

This recent paper’s results are about what I would have expected; a clear majority of climate scientists agree with the UN or believe it is too conservative in its predictions, yet by no means do the results of the poll justify the description of a “consensus” in the climate science community. This, of course, means that statements made by many in government, especially on the left (although Republicans don’t have a clean record either) have made and continue to make false statements on the state of the debate on climate change. There is no consensus. The debate is not over. The science is not settled. I can think of a lot of issues where much less than 20% of those involved turned out to be wrong. In fact, it would be very interesting to see what percent of climate scientists bought into the “global cooling” scare of the ’70s (This could be large or small; I truly have no idea.).

It may be tempting to say that the science favors the AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) proponents because the results of the poll favored them. I would contend that when science becomes politicized, it becomes a business. Activist groups, universities, and government organizations can buy the conclusions that they need. As skeptics are being compared to “holocaust deniers” and as climate change is becoming a human rights issue, universities that are supposed to be supporting open discourse are suppressing it. When the judgment is foregone, the necessity for debate perishes, and academia has allowed this to happen. We must also beware of federal and intergovernmental organizations, for the issue of climate change is a great way to expand bureaucratic power and influence.

The state of open discourse concerning climate change in the global community is horrific. Today, those who stand up against the “consensus” are shot down as “deniers” and few will publicize their opinions. There has even been problems with publishing this specific paper. I quote this next passage from Roger Pielke Sr.’s weblog, Climate Science:
"After the survey was completed last summer and the article written, it was submitted to the AGU publication EOS as a “Forum piece. The EOS description of a Forum is that it ”contains thought-provoking contributions expected to stimulate further discussion, within the newspaper or as part of Eos Online Discussions. Appropriate Forum topics include current or proposed science policy, discussion related to current research in our fields especially scientific controversies, the relationship of our science to society, or practices that affect our fields, science in general, or AGU as an organization. Commentary solely on the science reported in research journals is not appropriate.”
Our article certainly fits this description. However, after 4 months without a decision, our contribution was summarily rejected by Fred Spilhous without review. He said our article did not fit EOS policy. We disagreed, of course, based on the explicit EOS policy given above, but our follow request for an appeal was ignored. We then submitted to Nature Precedings where their policy states “Nature Precedings is a
place for researchers to share pre-publication research, unpublished manuscripts,
presentations, posters, white papers, technical papers, supplementary findings, and other scientific documents. Submissions are screened by our professional curation team for relevance and quality, but are not subjected to peer review. We welcome high-quality contributions from biology, medicine (except clinical trials), chemistry and the earth sciences.”
Our article was quickly rejected without explanation.
From this experience, it is clear that the AGU EOS and Nature Precedings Editors are using their positions to suppress evidence that there is more diversity of views on climate, and the human role in altering climate, than is represented in the narrowly focused 2007 IPCC report."
I would like to conclude by saying that academia must stop treating the climate change issue as a foregone conclusion. There is nothing wrong with encouraging debate, and providing a forum for open discourse is the best way to create leaders for tomorrow. By turning opinion into fact, and by treating contentious issues as simple moral issues, we are creating followers, not leaders for the next century.

This coming Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I will be attending the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, sponsored by the Heartland Institute. Somewhere around 60 skeptic experts will be speaking, including Craig Loehle and Ross McKitrick (who I will definitely attempt to talk to). Craig Loehle recently published a paper titled A 2000-Year Global Temperature Reconstruction Based on Non-Treering Proxies. This is important because, as Steve McIntyre of ClimateAudit put it,

“… Loehle’s network is the first network to be constructed using series in which every proxy as input to the network has already been calibrated to temperature in a peer reviewed article. This is pretty amazing when you think about it. It’s actually breathtaking. Every prior network has included some, if not a majority, of uncalibrated proxies.”
Loehle’s findings were in contradiction to Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph, and in my opinion, Loehle’s reconstruction is much more reliable than Mann’s. Ross McKitrick is part of the McIntyre-McKitrick team that has systematically torn apart Michael Mann’s treering reconstruction. The conference should be very exciting, and many of the big names will be there. When I return, I’ll write up a summary of the presentations.


Anonymous said...

Hi, could you post the full reference to 'is there agreement amongst climate scientists...' as I can't find it on Google Scholar.


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