A New Climate Survey Tells Us What?

By Keith Kloor | May 16, 2013 12:50 pm

Sometimes I think the climate debate remains stalled because those who are most concerned refuse to ask the pertinent questions. Instead, they keep refighting old battles that are no longer relevant to a constructive discourse. The latest example is this survey by John Cook et al that is getting a lot of undeserved attention in the mainstream media. I say that because, questionable methodology aside, the survey tells us nothing new and is, as science journalist David Appell noted, “a meaningless exercise.”

The main finding, which was just published in the journal Environmental Research Letters:

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 in the peer-reviewed literature that humans are causing global warming.

This strikes me as T-shirt worthy. Oh wait

In a short post at his blog, Appell says these kinds of survey numbers

are made for lazy journalists who don’t want to examine the complexity of the science, reporters who just want a number that quickly and easily supports their position.

He’s right. In a minute, I’ll get to the kinds of complexities that would be good to examine, but first let’s look at the premise for the survey, as stated: 

An accurate perception of the degree of scientific consensus is an essential element to public support for climate policy (Ding et al 2011). Communicating the scientific consensus also increases people’s acceptance that climate change (CC) is happening (Lewandowsky et al 2012). Despite numerous indicators of a consensus, there is wide public perception that climate scientists disagree over the fundamental cause of global warming (GW; Leiserowitz et al 2012, Pew 2012).

To start, Cook willfully ignores the “salience” issue that cognitive researchers have pointed out in recent years. That’s the main obstacle to greater public support for action from the large majority of people who already agree that global warming is real and worrisome. Then there is the deep partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats on the climate issue (with Republicans much less likely to believe the scientific consensus than Democrats), though there is evidence that denial is not a tenable position for the Republican party.

As for an overall snapshot of trending public attitudes on climate change, let’s look at this latest Gallup report, as distilled by the National Center for Science Education:

“U.S. worry about global warming is heading back up after several years of expanded public skepticism,”according (PDF) to a new poll from Gallup. Also heading back up are the rate of understanding that most scientists accept global warming and the rate of accepting that increases in the global temperature over the last century are mostly due to human activity. But those who think that global warming’s effects will affect them in their lifetime are still in a minority.

Note that last sentence, which I bolded. For a longer view, let’s go to Gallup’s wrap-up:

Gallup trends throughout the past decade — and some stretching back to 1989 — have shown generally consistent majority support for the idea that global warming is real, that human activities cause it, and that news reports on it are correct, if not underestimated.

That said, it is indisputable that there remains “considerable confusion within the American public about the level of scientific agreement” on the causes of global warming, as discussed in the latest report by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Would it be better if there was less confusion? Of course. But If 75 percent of the general public, instead of say, 50 percent, attributed global warming to industrial society and its greenhouse gases, would that make people more concerned about climate change? Probably not, because in the same Yale report, there’s this:

Over many years of research, we have consistently found that, on average, Americans view climate change as a threat distant in space and time–a risk that will affect far away places, other species, or future generations more than people here and now.

That. Is. The. Stumbling. Block.

Getting past that is going to require a frank debate about future uncertainties, risks, and scenarios, and the reconciliation of competing values. Meanwhile, in a recent talk, climate researcher Mike Hulme asks if is wise to even continue emphasizing scientific consensus in the climate debate– “as an end to argument?”  It is a thought provoking piece that quotes from a 2011 essay in Nature by Arizona State University’s Daniel Sarewitz, who said:

Science would provide better value to politics if it articulated the broadest set of plausible interpretations, options and perspectives, imagined by the best experts, rather than forcing convergence to an allegedly unified voice.

I bet this is something that 97 percent of climate scientists would agree on.

UPDATE: Yale’s Dan Kahan says it best.

 

  • bobito

    Changing the title to “97% of Climate Scientists agree that we’re causing SOME LEVEL of global warming” would make the article transparent and bulletproof to argument.

    Perhaps it wouldn’t fit on the T-Shirt…

    • Buddy199

      You could also say that 97% of climate scientists agree that you will never get funded if you present a research proposal that’s not in line with the AGW consensus.

      • http://twitter.com/andrewadams99 Andrew Adams

        Well you could say that but some of us might ask for evidence to support that claim.

        • Nullius in Verba

          It won’t be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically?

          • http://twitter.com/andrewadams99 Andrew Adams

            I don’t really follow you. The argument isn’t about maths.

          • Buddy199

            I was joking with the exact number but I do think the underlying point is something that should be seriously considered in this discussion.

          • http://twitter.com/andrewadams99 Andrew Adams

            OK, to address your point seriously, first of all you would need to actually present evidence thtat funding proposals are being rejected specifically because they are not in line with the “AGW consensus.” And even if that happens it’s not necessarily going to be unreasonable – I doubt anyone is going to provide funding for research which disputes the existence of the greenhouse effect or that rising CO2 levels are due to human activity.

            I would also make the point that even if research ultimately supports the AGW consensus it doesn’t necessarily mean it initially assumed it to be correct or set out to prove it so. And there are certainly areas (clouds and aerosols for example) where it is widely agreed more research is needed and indeed is taking place, and it could ultimately go either way and imply the problem is either more or less severe than we think. Look at the cosmic ray issue – this was the skeptics’ big hope for an alternative explanation for recent warming which would minimise the effect of CO2. The research was funded, the results came in and it turns out hat they don’t have much effect after all and so it supports rather than undermines the consensus.
            Of course there are other areas of research, specifically around impacts, which necessarily have to implicitly accept the consensus position, but then given that these are the areas where there is most uncertainty we should surely welcome more research.

          • kdk33

            You could use some common sense to figure out that government won’t fund research on climate non-problems.

            Or not.

          • Nullius in Verba

            To take the point seriously, you’d be very unlikely to get explicit evidence, either way, since the reasons for rejection are generally confidential, and where they’re not there are many other excuses and euphemisms available.

            But it’s fairly well-known in most academic circles that publicly-funded science is seen more positively if it is seen as relevant to the funder’s current interests, and that governments make certain pots of money available for research on specific hot topics – such as climate change – which one can tap into. You want to do research on blue-toed tree frogs, but there’s only very limited interest in that subject. So what you do is insert some words on how it will address the latest hot topic, and it stands a better chance. A lot of biology field papers used to cite conservation – actually you’re only interested in finding out what the critters do, but the funders can show they’re spending the public’s money on a good cause, and the scientists can do some science, and everybody’s happy. Climate change is just the latest buzzword.

            And less directly – it’s well known that scientists need to get published to get more funding, and there is some evidence that publication is harder for sceptics.

            In Cook’s survey, they found around 4,000 papers that mentioned in the abstract that humans cause some amount of global warming, but only 143 specified how much of the observed warming humans are responsible for. Of these, 78 said it was less than half, 65 said it was more than half.

            About 9,000 papers mentioned global warming but took no position.

            Most scientists do exactly what the general public does – take the climate scientists’ word for it uncritically, without any actual understanding of what the evidence is. They then apply the conclusions to their own research. They haven’t checked the data or maths. They haven’t thought about it deeply, or applied any special scientific training. They just follow the herd.

            Counting up opinions is not science. What people ought to be interested in is the reasons for their belief. Why do the general public believe or disbelieve – because they understand the science or because they’ve heard that’s what scientists say? Why do scientists in other fields believe or disbelieve – because they’ve examined and critically assessed the evidence, and the arguments from both sides, or because they’ve heard that’s what all the other scientists say?

            Very few people – scientists or not – even understand how the greenhouse effect works! How many know that attribution studies are unable to account for all the uncertainties, that sensitivity is poorly constrained, and that many of the firm conclusions asserted are therefore based not on quantified science but on ‘expert judgement’?

            Hence the results of surveys like this are not relevant to the science – only to the politics.

          • jh

            “Most scientists do exactly what the general public does – take the climate scientists’ word for it uncritically, without any actual understanding of what the evidence is.”

            I offer a caveat – they may agree or disagree with the previous work, but to some extent they’re forced to accept it and make an effort to build on it. Unless they’re challenging a basic precept of the previous research, then a critical discussion of that research is sensibly beyond the scope of the paper.

            A good example is a paper that came out a while back on forest fires in the west. The central point of the research was to establish the pre-historic forest fire record and compare it to many climatic and other variables to see which variables drive changes forest fire severity and frequency. In that context it’s beyond the scope of the paper to write any kind of critical discussion of continental temp records – such a discussion would be another paper altogether. The appropriate way for the researchers to handle the established land-surface temp record is to use a neutral reference to it and move on. For the moment, it’s established and discussion is beyond the scope of the paper.

            So in that sense Cook’s survey is a joke. It doesn’t take any such nuances into consideration.

          • http://twitter.com/andrewadams99 Andrew Adams

            NiV

            To take the point seriously, you’d be very unlikely to get explicit evidence, either way, since the reasons for rejection are generally confidential, and where they’re not there are many other excuses and euphemisms available.

            Probably fair.

            But it’s fairly well-known in most academic circles that publicly-funded science is seen more positively if it is seen as relevant to the funder’s current interests, and that governments make certain pots of money available for research on specific hot topics – such as climate change – which one can tap into.

            Sure, that’s not unreasonable. There is only a limited amount of money available, it make sense to spend it on areas which are actually relevant. I don’t doubt that researchers might need to make their research appear “relevant” in order to get funding, and those allocating grant funds have to take thiese kind of things into account. But it could also be true that climate change and conservation issues could actually be relevant to the habitat of blue-toed tree frogs and so in some cases there is a genuine cross-over.

            Climate change is just the latest buzzword.

            No, climate change is a genuine concern.

            Most scientists do exactly what the general public does – take the climate scientists’ word for it uncritically, without any actual understanding of what the evidence is. They then apply the conclusions to their own research. They haven’t checked the data or maths. They haven’t thought about it deeply, or applied any special scientific training. They just follow the herd.

            It is not the job of, say, environmental scientists to verify the findings of climate scientists from first principles, their job is to say if the climate changes in line with expectations then these are the likely consequences. That doesn’t mean though that they do not have an understanding of the essential principles on which climate projections are made and for you to say otherwise is just an assertion.

            Counting up opinions is not science. What people ought to be interested in is the reasons for their belief. Why do the general public believe or disbelieve – because they understand the science or because they’ve heard that’s what scientists say?

            People can be interested in all sorts of different things. Those kind of questions can be interesting, but if you want to understand what the public believes about science it can help to know what the science actually says.

            Very few people – scientists or not – even understand how the greenhouse effect works!

            So what? It is well established that it does work – the exact mechanism might be interesting to some (it is to me) but it has no real relevance for the important questions about climate change.

            How many know that attribution studies are unable to account for all the uncertainties, that sensitivity is poorly constrained, and that many of the firm conclusions asserted are therefore based not on quantified science but on ‘expert judgement’?

            I think most of us who actually follow the arguments around climate change are aware of the uncertainties. I doubt the general public knows about those issues in detail, but I expect a lot of them know that there are uncertainties. Just saying to them “there are uncertainties in these particluar areas” doesn’t tell them much because they are not able to evaluate the extent to which those uncertainties undermine the case for action. So yes, they rely on expert judgement.

            Hence the results of surveys like this are not relevant to the science – only to the politics.

            Sure – the scientific consensus exists independently of whether one counts papers or conducts surveys and whether to take action on climate change is essentially a political decision. Surveys like this can inform the political debate, they certainly don’t change the science.

          • Nullius in Verba

            Those are all fair points. I think I can agree with a lot of that.

          • Nullius in Verba

            You don’t recognise the quote?

          • http://twitter.com/andrewadams99 Andrew Adams

            Yes I do now you mention it.

  • http://twitter.com/CountCarbon Robert Wilson

    The Skeptical Science crew seem rather enamoured by this 97% statistic, so much so that they now have a blog with the title: “Climate Consensus: the 97%.”

    This title only seem to indicate that they are a rather pompous and intolerable bunch.

    This statistic is also a good way for them to shut down debate over things were there genuinely is one, for example in this recent post (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/may/01/roy-spencer-wrong-fossil-fuels-expensive) on fossil fuel subsidies. The economics of energy have absolutely nothing to do with climate science, and this 97% statistic. So, all in all I would much rather debate with people who simply put their own view forward and don’t hide behind a consensus, in particularly when one does not exist.

    • http://twitter.com/andrewadams99 Andrew Adams

      The survey makes no claim to say anything about the economics of energy. But maybe there will be more space for discussion of that issue and others where there are genuine questions which need to raised if there is widespread acceptance of the areas where there is real scientific agreement and we don’t waste our time on things which are, if not “settled” then at least very well understood.

      • jh

        Andrew: there is widespread acceptance of the basic principles of global warming. The question, for the billionth time, is how much? How damaging ecologically? And how economically damaging are the solutions.

        For pete’s sake, even Anthony Watts accepts global warming. Where, oh where, are all these deniers?

        • Tom Fuller

          Von Storch did a pretty good survey of scientists who had published on climate related issues. I think it was in 2010. The majority is clear–but it’s about 81%, not 97%. And there is far less agreement on extent, consequences and the little question of what to do about it all…

        • http://twitter.com/andrewadams99 Andrew Adams

          jh,
          There seem to be plenty of commenters at WUWT and other “skeptical” blogs such as Curry’s who question the basic principles of global warming and there are still some quite vocal people in the public eye who dismiss AGW as a “hoax”. But even if they are a small hardcore of contrarians and not representative they may still have influence and there is still, as others have pointed out, a section of the public which doesn’t so much “deny” the basic facts, they just don’t properly understand the extent to which there is widespread scientific agreement on certain questions.
          I do agree that the sort of questions you raised are important and are not addressed by the survey but I think we are more likely to get meaningful discussion on the genuine areas of uncertaintly and engage more people to consider those issues if there is widespread agreement on the less uncertain questions.

          • jh

            “they may still have influence”

            Are you kidding me? I bet 99.5% of the general public never reads a single climate blog. The public is more interested in Looney Toons reruns and the latest episode of Survivor.

            There are still people that believe the moon landings were a hoax, but you’d be hard pressed to find their influence on space policy. And despite the anti-vaxxers, vaccines are still a pillar of government policy.

            This incessant search for the source of “denial” is a psychotic obsession of the Climate Concerned Community that has no relevance to solving any problem.

            This concern with attacking enemies as opposed to solving problems is reflected in their favored solutions to the problem, which seem more designed to hurt their perceived enemies than to address the problems they’re purportedly designed to solve. That’s why they don’t engage in a realistic discussion of possible outcomes: because the only outcome that will support their attack on their perceived enemies is the worst-case scenario.

          • http://twitter.com/andrewadams99 Andrew Adams

            People don’t read blogs but they read newspapers, they hear politicians and opinion formers holding forth on TV, radio etc.
            This is an essentially political argument, it’s not surprising that people on both sides devote a certain amount of time attacking their opponents, it’s no different from any political issue.
            I agree that sometimes this can divert attention from discussing solutions, it can actually be a welcome one because solutions are hard. But there is still a lot of discussion (and disagreement) about solutions, just not necessarily in forums frequented by skeptics.

          • Keith Kloor

            Andrew,
            Thanks for your comments on this thread. I find myself agreeing with much that you say, but at the same I have to agree with JH about the unhealthy obsession with climate denial (and, I might add, those nefarious fossil fuel interests). It’s a bit like the obsession with Heartland that some folks have had. By now, I think the people that are most passionate either way are in a fixed position. They are immovable.

            Personally, I think there is a sizable majority that believes global warming is real and that humans are causing it, to an extent that is probably going to be hard to pin down. So then the pertinent questions are how bad is it going to get and when, which of course is also hard to pin down.

            These are admittedly tricky questions to have a reasonable debate over (much less what to do about it), but that is the place we need to get to, instead of spinning our wheels over the scientific consensus and playing whack a mole with Marc Morano.

          • Tom C

            Andrew – Catastrophic global warming is a hoax.

  • Buddy199

    It isn’t so much skepticism about the science as of the solutions being pushed, which pretty much boil down to the usual liberal prescriptions for any problem: more taxes, more spending, more regulation – if that doesn’t work, increase all three. With the “solutions” being administered by the same types who are doing such a marvelous job running the I.R.S., for instance.

    • HarryWiggs

      Just exactly when did doing something about an action, committed by equally as many conservatives, as has been by liberals meant a tinker’s damn when it come to robust-supported-by-100-years-of-solid-physical evidence? This meme is tired, old, noting but noise and a distraction to an issue that faces us ALL, irrespective of political stripe, or, in your case, obvious ideology that hates anything liberal…like, y’know, scientific truths.

  • Nick Lowe
  • Marlowe Johnson

    “In Spring 2013, more Americans believe that “most scientists think global warming is happening” than believe “there is a lot of disagreement among scientists” (42% versus 33%, respectively). This confirms the reversal of a prior trend, in which Americans were more likely to believe scientists disagreed than agreed about the existence of global warming.”

    “Three in ten Americans (29%) agree that they could easily change their mind about global warming, a 3-point drop since September 2012 and a 9-point drop since March 2012.”

    Now Keith should we abandon the 33% who still think there is a lot of disagreement? Or are none of those people among the 29% who would change their minds?

    FWIW, it would be nice if the folks at Yale would include willingness-to-pay and other policy related questions more often in their annual reports.

    • Keith Kloor

      If you drill down in that 33%, you’ll note the hardcore that deny consensus are those that are not persuadable. But fine with me if everyone wants to keep knocking themselves out to win ‘em over.

      • thingsbreak

        >if you drill down in that 33%, you’ll note the hardcore that deny consensus are those that are not persuadable.

        Where is the breakdown of respondents that you’re referencing here?

        There are dismissives who fully acknowledge that the scientists all agree but say that it’s groupthink or a giant conspiracy. There are also people who think scientists disagree and who would be more supportive of action if they knew about the consensus. But none of that stuff is discussed, AFAIK, in the report Marlowe is citing.

        • jh

          Marlowe,

          Buddy199 posted a survey last week showing that the environment is an important issue for 2% of Americans. I’ve seen similar numbers in many other surveys.

          It doesn’t matter how many Americans believe in climate change. It just doesn’t matter when the economy is in the tank; when terrorism is a serious threat; when, aside from the economy in general, even those that have jobs are struggling; and when our education system is perceived to be in the tank.

          So once you convince everyone that climate change is real, then you have to convince them that it’s more important than everything else they’re facing. If convincing people about climate change was the most important factor in getting policy changes, those policy changes would have occurred a decade ago.

      • Marlowe Johnson

        eh? could you elaborate Keith? I don’t see that 33% broken out in the way that you describe…

  • pvincell

    I’m puzzled by the negative reaction to the paper. I read peer-reviewed research journals, and it is next to impossible to find papers that question the fundamentals of anthropogenic global warming. How fast will it happen? How bad will it get? Those are legitimate areas of scientific research. However, many Americans don’t realize that the fundamentals are settled science. Studies also show that a majority of Americans trust scientists, so I still see value in documenting and communicating scientific consensus, whether it is on climate change, or smoking, or anything else where funded public-relation campaigns are designed to undercut legitimate science.

    • jh

      “it is next to impossible to find papers that question the fundamentals”

      If you characterize “fundamentals” as the basic idea that CO2 causes warming, then you’re correct.

      Beyond that, however, there are plenty of papers that question the standard wisdom of the IPCC presentation of climate science and climate issues. Over the last few years, the IPCC version of climate science has taken a rather nasty beating. Estimates of climate sensitivity are falling well below the IPCC standard of 3°C/doubling of CO2; extreme weather attribution isn’t making any progress; UHI has been confirmed, even if researchers still think they can expunge it from the global temperature record upon which projections are based; after a long fight, the current temperature “pause” has been accepted as significant even by the core promoters of doom and gloom scenarios, even though they still claim it wasn’t unexpected and doesn’t change anything.

      It’s exceedingly rare in science for anyone to write a paper that says “hypothesis X is wrong”. The normal procedure is to support hypothesis Y or modify hypothesis X (Xb) to accommodate the new information. If the rest of the community accepts Y or Xb, Xa disappears as though it never existed.

      • HarryWiggs

        Source, and link, to “all those papers.” WUWT and PoopTech don’t count.

        • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

          Ad hominem, all the papers are fully cited and sourced to scholarly peer-reviewed journals.

    • Peter Wilson

      “I read peer-reviewed research journals, and it is next to impossible to find papers that question the fundamentals of anthropogenic global warming”

      I’m sorry to hear you are having this problem, but I can’t understand why. Allow me to help.

      http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html.

      There’s about 1100 there, should keep you going for a while.

      • HarryWiggs

        PopTech as credible research…snort.

        • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

          Ad hominem, all the papers are fully cited and sourced to scholarly peer-reviewed journals.

      • pvincell

        Took at look at the link. Many are citations from low-impact journals. As a publishing scientist, I can promise you that we all aim for as high a journal as we think the work merits. Many of these journals in this list not not likely sources of Nobel prize-winners (nor am I, in all humility, but we’re talking about the list of citations).

        The first recent citation I found on the list from a high-impact journal was http://www.knmi.nl/~laagland/KIK/Documenten_2008/2007JD008740.pdf. I read the abstract, and I conclude that the authors are not disputing a significant role of greenhouse gas emissions in causing warming–they are simply proposing reduced estimates of climate sensitivity–a perfectly valid thing do do with scientific evidence. I’ll repeat that there is much we don’t know, but the fundamentals are well-established. Many times I have dug deeply into papers skeptical about the fundamentals, and eventually flaws become evident. Plus, it is common for “skeptics” to misunderstand or misrepresent the work. Plus, I attended a weeks worth of scientific talks at the 2012 American Geophysical Union, and looked at thousands of posters. If the science of skepticism is even halfway decent, where were they all week?

        Thank you for the list–I will save it and may go back to it in the future. But I have dug into so many “dead ends” from skeptics that I have decided to put my attention towards other tasks that are more productive and less unpleasant. Believe what you want.

        I’m signing off, because continuing discussions like these typically isn’t t productive.

        With respect,
        Paul

        • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

          Paul why would you ignore peer-reviewed papers based on subjective criteria such as “high-impact”?

          Your paper selection does not make any sense.

          Is 2007 considered recent and 2006 not?

          Is Geophysical Research Letters not considered a “high-impact” journal?

          • pvincell

            Impact factors are not subjective; there are published quantitative values for each journal.

            The paper selection was semi-arbitrary. I scanned the list, saw that many papers were is journals with low impact factors or were old (reflecting a time when there was less agreement among publishing scientists). The link I provided was the first I saw from within a few years and which was also in a top journal. When I saw the title and source of the paper, as a scientist, I wanted to see what they said. I wasn’t looking to prove anybody wrong–I was looking to see what the authors said and their evidence for it. Again, I am not trying to present a point of view; I am trying to see what Nature is telling us. As noted above, the paper I selected turned out to be an example of a paper that supports the fundamental scientific understanding of global warming (see below), though it provided for lower estimates of climate sensitivity. So it doesn’t really represent a negation of accepted science, though its presence on the list suggests it is.

            I’ll reinforce an earlier point: I don’t ignore any peer-reviewed paper. However, I am not going to track down a thousand papers, mostly in low-impact journals or old, read each one, and then read all the follow-up papers. I’ve done that plenty of times, and the ones that attempt to negate a significant human influence on climate never stand up to follow-up analyses. Should I read and each? Sure, maybe in a perfect world. But I don’t have to–that is done every day by publishing experts, and the publishing experts have given their assessment of each paper on this list in their follow-up papers: though the analyses they conducted, through what they wrote in follow-up papers and their use of evidence to support their conclusions, and through their citation (or lack thereof) of the papers on this list. Significant papers don’t merely get published in high-impact journals, they get cited–heavily–by other investigators. Check the citation frequency of the papers on this list, and see for yourself what the follow-up papers say.

            I’m not trying to say the world will end in this century, guys. I am saying that there *is* a scientific consensus as follows (and this is abundantly reflected in peer-reviewed literature and in the science presented at the American Geophysical Union):

            1. Certain gases, called “greenhouse gases”, trap infrared radiation.

            2. These are increasing very rapidly in our atmosphere, as a result primarily of human activities.

            3. Earth is warming very rapidly ( as measured in geological times scales).

            4. These observations are related. That is to say, there is a significant to substantial human influence on the warming. In deed, we have a *theory* to explain the warming as being due in large part to greenhouse gases.

            5. This will eventually have mostly negative (and potentially very destructive) effects on Earth’s climate. It also appears that some of these negative impacts ave already begun.

            I know each of you has gotten to your beliefs honestly. All I am saying is that this is the scientific consensus. It is no different with tobacco–if you want to believe tobacco smoke is harmless, you can find papers that will support your position. However, look at the journals they are in, look at their citation rate, and look what the papers say when they do cite them.

            Finally, go to the American Geophysical Union meeting in December. I am serious, go. Bring the list and talk to experts. San Francisco is a great city–go and participate! See what scientists relaly say–don’t rely on blogs, where the work can be twisted, misrepresented, or subject to cherry-picking.

            With respect,
            Paul

          • pvincell

            I should add a note. Sometimes ideology represents an unspoken component of this whole topic. The University of Kentucky invited three excellent self-described conservatives who gave thoughtful perspectives on climate change. You can watch the video at http://bit.ly/135gvNa. The starting times for each speaker are noted at the link, so you don’t have to watch the entire thing.

            With respect,

            Paul

          • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

            I am only interested in scientific arguments,

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcGgLoPpbBw

          • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

            Impact factors are subjectively created. I did not say they were subjectively applied. “Impact Factor” is irrelevant to the scientific validity of a paper. You are using it to arbitrarily dismiss papers.

            Define a “few years” and define a “top journal”.

            Low climate sensitivity is not an accepted position by the IPCC or AGW advocates. The list makes it very clear that papers are included that support skeptic arguments against AGW Alarm. Thus your argument is a strawman.

            The rebuttals section of the list addresses your arguments,

            Criticism: Paper [Insert Name] does not argue against AGW.

            Rebuttal: This is a strawman argument as the list not only includes papers that support skeptic arguments against ACC/AGW but also ACC/AGW Alarm. Thus, a paper does not have to argue against AGW to still support skeptic arguments against alarmist conclusions (e.g. Hurricanes are getting worse due to global warming). Valid skeptic arguments include that AGW is exaggerated or inconsequential, such as those made by Richard S. Lindzen Ph.D. Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT and John R. Christy Ph.D. Professor of Atmospheric Science at UHA.

            Criticism: Paper [Insert Name] is outdated.

            Rebuttal: The age of any scientific paper is irrelevant. Using this argument would mean dismissing Svante Arrhenius’s 1896 paper “On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of the ground” and the basis for greenhouse theory. Regardless, there are over 800 papers published since 2000 on the list.

            Citations are merely a determination of popularity not scientific validity.

            You continue to use arbitrary excuses and flawed analogies to dismiss scientifically valid papers. That is not scientific but ideologically biased.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    I suspect that where you see value keith sees opportunity cost pvincell. I agree with you fwiw.

  • mikes

    Ding et al

    “Although a majority of US citizens think that the president and Congress should address global warming, only a minority think it should be a high priority1. Previous research has shown that four key beliefs about climate change—that it is real, human caused, serious and solvable—are important predictors of support for climate policies2. Other research has shown that organized opponents of climate legislation have sought to undermine public support by instilling the belief that there is widespread disagreement among climate scientists about these points3—a view shown to be widely held by the public1. Here we examine if this misperception is consequential. We show that the misperception is strongly associated with reduced levels of policy support and injunctive beliefs (that is, beliefs that action should be taken to mitigate global warming). The relationship is mediated by the four previously identified key beliefs about climate change, especially people’s certainty that global warming is occurring. In short, people who believe that scientists disagree on global warming tend to feel less certain that global warming is occurring, and show less support for climate policy. This suggests the potential importance of correcting the widely held public misperception about lack of scientific agreement on global warming.”

    http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v1/n9/full/nclimate1295.html

    • mikes

      Abstract

      Given the well-documented campaign in the USA to deny the reality and seriousness of anthropogenic climate change (a major goal of which is to “manufacture uncertainty” in the minds of policy-makers and the general public), we examine the influence that perception of the scientific agreement on global warming has on the public’s beliefs about global warming and support for government action to reduce emissions. A recent study by Ding et al. (Nat Clim Chang 1:462–466,2011) using nationally representative survey data from 2010 finds that misperception of scientific agreement among climate scientists is associated with lower levels of support for climate policy and beliefs that action should be taken to deal with global warming. Our study replicates and extends Ding et al. (Nat Clim Chang 1:462–466, 2011) using nationally representative survey data from March 2012. We generally confirm their findings, suggesting that the crucial role of perceived scientific
      agreement on views of global warming and support for climate policy is robust. Further, we show that political orientation has a significant influence on perceived scientific agreement, global warming beliefs, and support for government action to reduce emissions. Our results suggest the importance of improving public perception of the scientific agreement on global warming, but in ways that do not trigger or aggravate ideological or partisan divisions.

      http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-013-0704-9

    • mikes

      http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v3/n4/full/nclimate1720.html

      Abstract

      Although most experts agree that CO2 emissions are causing anthropogenic global warming (AGW), public concern has been declining. One reason for this decline is the ‘manufacture of doubt’ by political and vested interests, which often challenge the existence of the scientific consensus. The role of perceived consensus in shaping public opinion is therefore of considerable interest: in particular, it is unknown whether consensus determines people’s beliefs causally. It is also unclear whether perception of consensus can override people’s ‘worldviews’, which are known to foster rejection of AGW. Study 1 shows that acceptance of several scientific propositions—from HIV/AIDS to AGW—is captured by a common factor that is correlated with another factor that captures perceived scientific consensus. Study 2 reveals a causal role of perceived consensus by showing that acceptance of AGW increases when consensus is highlighted. Consensus information also neutralizes the effect of worldview.

    • Tom Scharf

      Al Gore climate spam machine in action.

      • HarryWiggs

        Got anything relevant, or new, to add, denier?

  • plutarchnet

    From the start, you’ve lost me. You say that Cook’s article is getting a ‘lot’ of attention in the mainstream media. Yet google returns only 1 US media source, ABC, talking about it. Climate blogosphere echo chamber is a different matter than mainstream media, I’d think.

    Odd that Appel complains, and you second, that the results “are made for lazy journalists who don’t want to examine the complexity of the science, reporters who just want a number that quickly and easily supports their position.”

    The oddity being that scientists have often been condemned by another of the people you link to — Matt Nisbet — for acting as if they could ignore the lazy journalists. Certainly the Heartland Institute, CATO, etc. are not ignoring the lazy journalists.

    After condemning Cook for ignoring research, you point to an opinion piece as being evidence (The Coming GOP Civil War Over Climate Change). Opinions are neither research nor evidence. And, at the same time as you condemn him for ignoring research, you ignore the research that he linked to — that answers your nominally larger question about the value of doing work like he did.

    In any case, it’s odd to see you arguing in favor of the deficit model, in this case, deficit of knowledge on the immediacy of climate issues — your “This. Is. The. Stumbling. Block.” See your own article http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2011/07/06/why-the-climate-debate-is-a-culture-war

    So, there, you condemn scientists for using the deficit model, and here you condemn them for _not_ using the deficit model. Do any scientists ever do the right thing re. climate in your view?

    • HarryWiggs

      Tangential to your point, I’d like to know what the writer’s bona fides are to flatly make this statement: ” I say that because, questionable methodology aside…” Really? Please show where Cook’s methodology is “questionable.”

      • plutarchnet

        It’s an even more important question, given that Kahan has issued an update that Kloor is ignoring, which is rather different than Kloor’s presentation here. In part, Kahan says:

        It’s that I regard the authors of the scientific consensus study as serious scholars whose work is motivated by a very appropriate synthesis of scholarly and public aims. I think it’s likely they and I disagree about certain issues relating to science communication. But if so, those are the sorts of disagreements that people with a shared commitment to understanding a complicated matter are bound to have;…

        and

        No one should regard the manner in which I expressed myself as implying
        that I regard the authors as people whom I see as unworthy of being
        engaged in exactly that way.

  • thingsbreak

    Hi Keith,

    The American’s Attitudes and Beliefs surveys demonstrate a large gap between the public’s perception of scientific agreement on climate vs. what consensus actually is.

    That’s important.

    Other work has demonstrated that information about the consensus both predicts and influences public’s beliefs about climate change as well as support for action on climate change.

    That’s really important.

    If public perception of consensus is something that is standing in the way of support for action, which it sure appears to be, then why is a paper demonstrating the strength of that consensus in the scientific literature not a valuable contribution?

    Put differently, the people who do communication science for a living, for groups you’re citing, think it’s a big deal. What do you know that they don’t?

    • jh

      Because you’re mistaken: public perception on the reality or lack thereof of climate change is completely irrelevant. The question to the public is this: what’s most important to me today?.

      It’s hard to imagine that climate change could be the answer for most people.

    • Keith Kloor
      • thingsbreak

        So what “you know” is a snarky blog post written by Kahan. Whose belief (that ideology/worldview negates the power of scientific consensus/expertise) is directly refuted by the social science papers (Ding, Lewandowsky, others in prep) people keep asking you about?

        It’s easy to rely on the opinions of people you like and agree with. It’s a very convenient heuristic that is ingrained at least culturally if not hardwired in humans. Under normal circumstances, it’s hard to fault someone for doing it.

        I would hope, though, that maybe as a journalist you would find it appropriate to push past that, actually engage meaningfully with the subject matter, read the papers before writing them off, etc.

        It’s certainly harder, and the incentives for doing it might not seem like great motivation. After all, the denialists will ding you for taking any position remotely connected to the consensus. And realizing that Kahan is wrong would probably cause a little mental discomfort. Seeing the importance (of demonstrating the consensus) on public beliefs and support for action may also cause you to change your mind about agreeing with Revkin and Appell. Doing a public turnabout is also unpleasant, and again, disagreeing with an ingroup is hard.

        The reward is that you’ll have done due diligence, expanded your knowledge base, and be in a position to weigh in on this sort of topic with more authority.

        Is that incentive enough? I guess it depends on how much you value those less tangible rewards relative to ingroup agreement.

        • Keith Kloor

          Funny how you position this, as if one side (the one your taking) is right and the other is wrong. I could suggest you do the same as you’re asking of me, but I suspect your tribalism is more ingrained than mine.

          Anyway, maybe I’ve carefully considered the arguments and evidence presented by both sides and find one stronger than the other.

          But you go ahead and bow down to that deficit model totem. I’m fairly certain that, absent some breakthrough in technology, we’ll be having this same discussion–10,000 news stories about the climate change consensus later– in ten years.

          • thingsbreak

            “Funny how you position this, as if one side (the one your taking) is right and the other is wrong”

            Well, as it currently stands, that’s what the balance of evidence tells us, Keith. Dan Kahan is a great researcher! I am not disparaging him personally. But unless he has a raft of papers in the pipeline saying otherwise, his opinion on this issue isn’t supported by the social science we actually have.

            Kahan has looked at a very narrow aspect of the issue- whether cultural cognition can impact the way people evaluate expertise- and is assuming that this holds true for information demonstrating the existence of scientific consensus.

            Those are two very different questions, and there are very good reasons, involving things like social normative pressure, to believe that individuals will be more persuaded by consensus than expertise.

            And the social science we have on this bears this out. Informing people of the consensus neutralizes the kind of cultural cognition Kahan thinks makes papers like this irrelevant. Information about the consensus changes people’s beliefs about the science, and it also changes people’s beliefs about whether or not we should take action.

            So on this particular issue, Kahan is wrong. Now, it is certainly possible that he is sitting on a mountain of data which show all of the other studies which have documented the power of consensus are somehow invalid, but that doesn’t strike me as particularly likely and nor is he even bothering to make such a claim. Instead, he dashed off a snarky response based on an opinion that is out of line with the scientific evidence. And you ditto-ed it because it fits your narrative.

            “I could suggest you do the same as you’re asking of me, but I suspect your tribalism is more ingrained than mine.”

            Your suspicion would be misplaced. I actually have read the relevant literature on this, and was strongly persuaded by Kahan re: expertise. It actually took me a while to admit that the other side was addressing the appropriate question and had the evidence to back themselves up. I was a little embarrassed because I was perhaps a little overconfident in my earlier position and had to acknowledge that. For what it’s worth, I am still a huge Kahan supporter about cultural cognition generally.

            “Anyway, maybe I’ve carefully considered the arguments and evidence presented by both sides and find one stronger than the other.”

            Maybe you have. I would bet a significant sum of money that prior to the pushback you received, you had not read any of the relevant papers in full- this paper, Ding et al., Lewandowsky et al., McCright et al., etc.

            But maybe you did. So just tell us. Did you?

            “you go ahead and bow down to that deficit model totem”

            Why are you denying the social science on this? It isn’t deficit model stuff, BTW. It’s probably much more related to tapping into social conformity heuristics than it is in rationally persuading people.

            “I’m fairly certain that, absent some breakthrough in technology”

            Of course you are, because you’re a member of that tribe and rarely try to view things from outside that lens.

            Let me know what you end up doing. I know there are quite a few readers convinced that you’re going to double down with plugging your ears and stick with your buds on this, but I think you’ve got enough pride to actually take the challenge.

          • Keith Kloor

            As much as I’m loathe to respond to your condescension, I’ll just say that I’ve been closely following the related social and cognitive science since the late 2000s.

            You’re entitled to focus narrowly on the consensus science aspect and draw your own conclusions. I’ll continue to look at what the research says in the main and draw my own conclusion.

            Incidentally, I imagine you read this bit from one social scientist who is highly thought of by climate hawks. From the Guardian (what follows are the exact relevant passages):

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/16/climate-research-nearly-unanimous-humans-causes

            However, Prof Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University who studies the forces underlying attitudes towards climate change, disputed the idea that educating the public about the broad scientific agreement on the causes of climate change would have an effect on public opinion – or on the political conditions for climate action.

            He said he was doubtful that convincing the public of a scientific consensus on climate change would help advance the prospects for political action. Having elite leaders call for climate action would be far more powerful, he said.

            “I don’t think people really want to come around to grips with the fact that climate change is a highly ideological issue and it is not amenable to the information deficit model,” he said.

            “The information deficit model, this idea that if you just pile on more information people will get convinced, is just completely inadequate, he said. “It strengthens the people who actually read and pay attention but it is certainly not going to change or shift the opinions of others.”

          • thingsbreak

            “I’ll just say that I’ve been closely following the related social and cognitive science since the late 2000s.”

            That’s genuinely impressive, no snark from me. I think that’s awesome.

            But does that also mean that you read in full any of the papers I and others have been asking about, that actually deal directly with the question at hand directly? It’s a pretty simple yes or no response.

            “You’re entitled to focus narrowly on the consensus science aspect”

            You mean focus on the actual topic under discussion? And you frame that as a negative (too narrow)? That’s a little odd.Why wouldn’t people talking about the specific topic focus on the specific topic?

            “I’ll continue to look at what the research says in the main and draw my own conclusion.”

            Obviously you’re free to draw whatever conclusions you want, by focusing and ignoring whatever you want.

            What you’re not free to do, though, is pretend that the social science on the actual issue at hand supports the dismissive stance you and your pals have taken here.

            Read the relevant papers. It won’t kill you. I promise.

            “this bit from one social scientist who is highly thought of by climate hawks”

            First, I think “climate hawks” is stupid. I know you lump me in with that group, but you’re wrong to do so.

            Second, I’m not interested in people’s gut feelings about this. Gut feelings about topics like this are wrong. A lot. About any number of things. Show me the papers. Don’t show me an opinion.

            Whenever Kahan gets around to overturning the papers that show his model is wrong, show me that.

            Whenever Brulle gets around to publishing his gut feeling in the form of an actual paper, show me that.

            “Brulle… disputed the idea that educating the public about [the consensus] would have an effect”

            Educating? I don’t know, and I don’t care. Pushing the consensus works, and I don’t think it has to do with education or the deficit model of learning. It probably has a lot more to do with normative pressure.

            “on public opinion – or on the political conditions for climate action.”

            Either Brulle is unaware of or is ignoring the literature here. You don’t have to rely on his gut. You can assess the evidence we have on this topic.

            I have already explained to you that this isn’t a question of the deficit model. Do you acknowledge that? I have asked you repeatedly about which papers you read before dismissing them. Do you want to answer that?

            “As much as I’m loathe to respond to your condescension”

            Is there anything more condescending than weighing in on a topic, as a someone who is ostensibly a journalist, without bothering to do actual research?

            I don’t know. I guess I will lose my bet. It’s a shame, I thought your sense of pride in your craft would push you outside of your comfort zone. Oh well.

          • Keith Kloor

            Wow, first you dismiss Kahan, now Brulle. Now that’s impressive. Yeah, I’m sure you know better than these guys.

            “I don’t know. I guess I will lose my bet. It’s a shame, I thought your sense of pride in your craft would push you outside of your comfort zone. Oh well.”

            Wow, do you try this reverse psychology stuff on your kids, too?

            I think I’ve had enough of your patronization for one thread.

            Oh well.

          • thingsbreak

            “first you dismiss Kahan, now Brulle”

            Absolutely false. I respect both of them *as researchers*. I don’t dismiss their body of work or individual studies.

            I certainly don’t need to tell you that there is a difference between what someone can claim in the presence of a non-challanging interviewer vs. what they can get published in the scientific literature.

            Rather than dismissing researchers I have explicitly said I respect, I am simply asking you to show me the scientific literature backing up their causal comments.

            I am also just asking you to be honest with your readers about whether or not you actually read the papers you’re dismissing prior to the push-back you received. That shouldn’t be a tough thing to answer.

            “Wow, do you try this reverse psychology stuff on your kids, too?”

            I was just being honest. It’s not meant to be an appeal to your better angels or anything, although I was hoping to win the argument. I assume you respond to incentives like we all do. I simply took the position that your sense of pride was greater than your desire for ingroup self-affirmation. I lost. It happens. Lesson learned.

            Learning a lot of lessons about “journalism” today apparently.

          • Keith Kloor

            Instead of playing these silly games with me, why don’t you go over to Dan Kahan’s blog, where he is answering questions that you are raising (he gave one to Marlowe that is excellent).

            BTW, the first thing I did after reading the Cook et al paper was look up those citations to those papers and read them.

            Now go over and troll Kahan–he has way more patience than me.

          • plutarchnet

            Mostly he’s ignoring the scientists and any serious response. His answer to Marlowe was merely ‘I’m right, they’re wrong. They should do it differently’ — but not saying how they should do it differently; to be exact he said: “The alternative is to communicate w/ people in ways that show respect for their identities and their communities.” How does that look? Certainly it isn’t what he’s doing with respect to Cook et al. Both you and he are just saying that Cook et al. have a knowledge deficit, and damning them for that. Exactly what you both say doesn’t work.

            Oh, and providing yet another free rein environment for wholesale condemnation of any scientists who talk about climate or do the science.

          • thingsbreak

            “why don’t you go over to Dan Kahan’s blog, where he is answering questions that you are raising… go over and troll Kahan”

            Thanks for your suggestion, Keith. I actually had a lengthy discussion with him on Twitter about some of these issues, like why he and Revkin are presenting Kahan et al. as though it tests the influence of consensus specifically, when it actually doesn’t. Neither of them have actually given a direct answer to that. Maybe you would like to try, as it now seems like you’re saying you have read that paper in full?

            “(he gave one to Marlowe that is excellent)”

            The only answer he gave to Marlowe seems like a dodge to me, as do his responses to Bob Grumbine, and some others, who can’t seem to get him to actually speak to specifics.

            “BTW, the first thing I did after reading the Cook et al paper was look up those citations to those papers and read them.”

            Hey, that’s awesome! I think that means I won my little side bet. So, with that information in hand, you can now also clearly state when you read them relative to when you wrote this post. And explain how not discussing those other papers in your post is not some sort of massive cherry pick about the literature on consensus invocation.

            Now that you’re saying you’ve read all of those papers, that puts things into an interesting sort of tension. Because you either wrote this post without having read them, which would be kind of embarrassing, and not particularly great journalism. Or you had read them before writing this post but wrote the post as though they simply didn’t exist. Which is probably even worse, but I guess depends on one’s perspective.

            So which was it?

            Either way, I am glad that you can now agree, having read those papers, that they actually show the impact of using the consensus specifically, and Kahan et al. does not, despite how Kahan and others are spinning.

          • mikes

            From LGV 2012:

            “At first glance, our results challenge the results of Kahan and colleagues, that perceived consensus operates like any other fact that is equally subject to dismissal as other evidence surrounding AGW (ref. 12). However, on closer inspection, the study by Kahan did not provide socially-normative information about a consensus (that is, `97 out of 100′) but instead presented participants with an informational vignette, attributed to a fictional expert, that either described the risk from climate change or downplayed it. Because this manipulation provided anecdotal rather than social-norming information, it is not surprising that participants rated the source as less trustworthy if the message was worldview dissonant. Normative information, by contrast, is widely assumed to be more resilient to ideologically-motivated dismissal30,31, a fact confirmed by the present studies and related results. Techniques for the delivery of normative information to the public have been developed in the context of AIDS-education. Delivery of peer-normative information has been shown to reduce the incidence of high-risk sexual behaviour”

            We now have 5 separate Journalists so far, Kloor, Revkin, Plummer, Samenow, Appell, all referencing each other with great frequency, but no referencing the most pertinent and newest work from McCright, Ding, or Lewandowski. Work that specifically speaks to the importance of the Cook study.

          • thingsbreak

            “We now have 5 separate Journalists so far, Kloor, Revkin, Plummer, Samenow, Appell, all referencing each other with great frequency, but no referencing the most pertinent and newest work from McCright, Ding, or Lewandowski. Work that specifically speaks to the importance of the Cook study.”

            And all referencing Kahan, despite the fact that Kahan et al. didn’t actually test what they’re claiming he did.

            Interesting, isn’t it?

          • mikes

            It’s truly unbelievable. Speechless.

          • Tom Fuller

            You shouldn’t cite Lewandowsky. His recent papers are based on inaccurate data collected under deceptive pretenses. You invalidate your point. Much in the way that he is discrediting his discipline.

          • thingsbreak

            Attempted source degradation non-responsive to the paper cited, which has had zero complaints. Go troll someone else, thanks.

        • Tom C

          TB – You are citing Lewandowsky? You find incompetent clowns compelling? Maybe, just maybe, its the Lewandowskys of the world that cause people to not believe the “consensus”.

          • thingsbreak

            Source degradation, non-responsive to the paper cited or any of the other evidence. Go troll someone else.

          • Nullius in Verba

            What do you mean by “non-responsive to the paper cited”? The only citation I see is “(Ding, Lewandowsky, others in prep)” – I don’t see how anyone can be expected to have read “others in prep”, so presumably you’re referring to Ding and Lewandowsky. How can pointing out that Lewandowsky’s recent papers are based on inaccurate data collected under false pretences be “non-responsive to the paper cited”, when the paper you cited was “Lewandowsky”? Did you mean a different Lewandowsky paper? Perhaps you meant ‘Lewandowsky’ rather than ‘Lewandowsky’?

            I I don’t see where you’re “responsive” to the researchers Keith cited, either, apart from repeating your original citations. Which I have to agree with the two Toms are a joke.

            No wonder there’s such a disconnect between what the public believe and what the climate clique believe about the “consensus”.

          • thingsbreak

            “What do you mean by”

            It’s pretty straightforward. No one has raised complaints about *the paper I actually cited*. Ignoring that paper in order to attack the author for imaginary trespasses in other contexts is non-responsive to the issue I am discussing.

            If this still isn’t clear enough for you, I can try to find an even simpler way of expressing it. Let me know.

            “I I don’t see where you’re ‘responsive’ to the researchers Keith cited, either”

            Keith isn’t citing papers. He’s citing opinions. Which he certainly can if that’s his prerogative. But pretending that opinions hold equal weight to the actual evidence on the subject at hand that exists in the literature is silly.

            My “response” is that people are bad at guessing about this sort of thing, which is why you actually need to perform studies on it. Not opine. And when you actually look at the phenomenon in question- not a somewhat related but different dynamic, but the actual thing under discussion- the opinions Keith has cited are not representative of the body of evidence that we have.

          • Nullius in Verba

            The paper you “actually cited” was simply “Lewandowsky”, yes?

            (If you think the trespasses are imaginary, I don’t have much confidence in your own ethics. But that’s a matter for your own conscience, I guess.)

            “Keith isn’t citing papers. He’s citing opinions.”

            All papers are opinions. They’re just opinions written down and put in a journal. They’re not gospel. They’re mostly not even properly checked. Until they’re independently replicated, the claim that they are “evidence” is backed only by the honour and integrity of the researchers.

            I’ve seen some of the evidence Kahan’s got, and I had a look at at least one of the papers you cited, and I think Kahan’s got the better evidence. I’m also pretty sure that it’s not the sort of thing someone with Keith’s training could spot, and that you knew it. Which means I think your only purpose in simply citing the paper, rather than explaining what the evidence/argument was in terms the layman could understand, was to ensure he couldn’t argue back – to use Euler’s argument against Diderot, in other words. That was not one of Euler’s most admirable moments.

            I don’t entirely agree with Kahan, either, but I do think it’s perfectly reasonable for a layman to pay attention to him, and it ought to take more than vague allusions to “the literature” to discourage anyone from doing so. I’m sure you can do better.

            “Lewandowsky…” Oh dear! :-)

  • JonFrum

    Where do I get my ’1000 out of 1000 medical doctors and researchers agree that stress causes ulcers!’ shirt?

    • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.slyfield Matthew Slyfield

      No, that would be 11 out of 10 doctors agree that X.

  • Kuze81

    Alright, I’m going to throw some facts at you so strap in:

    Fact: 97% of scientists agree that we’re going to die horrible weather related deaths. Those who survive will eat one another in a Mad Max style post-apocalyptic nightmare. This is a scientific FACT, 97% of scientists agree to this. Stop denying science, bumpkin.

    Fact: 97% of scientists agree that if we don’t subsidize solar panel companies you hate science and your brain is probably incapable of thinking scientifically at all (Lewandowsky 2009)

    Fact: 97% of scientists agree that the main cause of continued growth in C02 emissions is Anthony Watts and not hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indians and others who stubbornly resist returning to subsistence farming.

  • kdk33

    What is it EXACTLY that 97% of scientists are agreeing to. The IR spectra of CO2? The instrumental temperature record? Proxy studies? Climate sensitivity? The rate of sea level rise? The weather next year on May 11? The value of lives in developing countries? The amount of income to which each US citizen is entitled? Government subsidies for green energy start-ups? The government allocation for climate change research?

    The issue isn’t climate change, it is this: how will we as society(s) allocate our resources moving forward.

    Once you understand the question, you see how idiotic are these little surveys.

    • Tom C

      Kdk33 nails it here.

    • HarryWiggs

      You didn’t read the paper, did you? If you had, you’d know the answers to your questions, and how wrong you are.

      • kdk33

        Are you suggesting the survey is not idiotic?

        This whole thread is idiotic. We are now arguing about the argument about the studies about why people don’t “believe” in climate change. As has been pointed out, climate changes hardly anyone disagrees, and hardly anyone disagrees with the fundamentals of the GHG theory – at least not enough to matter. Mental masturbation. It’s not the question.

        If you, Harry, are amongst the climate concerned.then I have a question for you: how many people are you willing to kill to lower CO2 emissions? Roughly speaking.

        • HarryWiggs

          In fact, it’s mental “mathturbation” that most denialists engage in. You also conveninetly avoided my assertion had you actually READ the paper, and/or kept up with the current science, your questions would be answered, and NOT in the way you’d probably like.

          The “how many people are you willing to kill” is nothing more than a red herring: if we do NOT change our ways, Mother Nature *will* kill enough of us to solve the issue, thought not for a few thousand years, the time it will take for CO2 to drop back to levels in which we evolved.

          • kdk33

            snoooze

  • Andy Skuce

    Recognizing consensus is important for non-specialists. For example, I changed my mind on the dangers of GMO’s and nuclear energy based largely on the consensus of experts, not because I read the scientific literature first-hand.

    With luck, maybe some climate skeptics will change their minds as result of reading the Cook et al paper. Of course, this won’t resolve the climate crisis by itself, but nobody ever claimed it would.

  • Tom Scharf

    97% of climate scientists agree that humans have an impact on global warming. I can believe that.

    So what?

    Good luck finding 97% agreement on these questions:

    Is it dangerous? In what ways? When? Where? How accurate are the future attributions? Have they held up so far? Should we do something about climate change? What should we do? How much would this cost? How likely would this action be effective? Is it worth it? Can’t we just adapt?

    The 97% number is just used a political bludgeon. It is well past it’s sell by date on effectiveness at this point.

    The greens don’t want to talk about the hard questions, because…they…are…hard…and…advocates…are…lazy.

    This perception that if only people would agree with the consensus, that greens will get a blank check to do whatever they wish is pure fantasy. Unicorn chasing.

    • Martin

      It’s this rather dodgy reframing of “97% of a selected minority group of researchers agree that humans have an impact on global warming” to “97% of scientists agree that we must stop using fossil fuels to avoid disaster” that makes the earlier survey ‘questionable’.

      Putting such ‘questionable methodologies aside’ is, well, putting the point beside.

  • http://www.facebook.com/neal.j.king Neal J. King

    Keith,

    The Republican spin-doctor, Frank Luntz, told the GOP decades ago that the way to prevent action on global warming was to convince the American people that scientists don’t really agree on the cause. The GOP and their conservative friends followed through on that advice, and that is why Americans, almost uniquely in the world, think that scientists are split 50/50. This study provides a corrective to the misunderstanding promulgated by the spinners, by showing that, of the 12,000 papers selected for examination for a fair criterion, those papers that addressed the question of cause of global warming favored the human cause by 97%. (There were also many papers that DID NOT ADDRESS that question, and cannot be counted on either the pro or con side of the consensus.) It’s true that more has to be done to move people off the dime; but it’s also true that a “plausible deniability” makes it easier to do nothing. This study removes that plausible deniability, and thus represents progress.

    • Nullius in Verba

      “those papers that addressed the question of cause of global warming favored the human cause by 97%.”

      You mean 65 papers that said it was mostly man-made versus 78 that said it was mostly not. The rest didn’t quantify it.

      That’s the trouble with this sort of paper. Word gets around, and soon nobody believes anything they say.

  • David Young

    The problem here is that human beings are short term focused and have always been to a large extent. When people are starving or suffering perceived economic privation, their attention is focused on that short term pain. And we are in bad economic times which are unlikely to end anytime soon. So, the probability of political action is nill. In this climate, scientists would do best to focus on the science and possible technological fixes such as energy technology, geoengineering, adaptation, etc.

    Basically, the whole climate scientist as activist thing has been a disaster as it usually is. We are beseeched daily by political and scientific activists of all stripes claiming that disaster is about to strike if we don’t support their cause and more critically give them money. Remember AIDS and how everyone was at risk. By the way, that’s an excellent illustration of why it will be virtually impossible to ration fossil fuels. A little like rationing sex, a solution that’s quite good for the other guy, but not for you. A little like Gore and Hansen jetting all over the world to tell us we should reduce our carbon footprint.

    In short, this is not a communication problem, but a hubris problem. To motivate people, you must first understand human nature and offer a solution that really addresses the whole range of human needs and desires.

  • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

    97% Study Falsely Classifies Scientists’ Papers, according to the scientists that published them

    http://www.populartechnology.net/2013/05/97-study-falsely-classifies-scientists.html

    The paper, Cook et al. (2013) ‘Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature’ searched the Web of Science for the phrases “global warming” and “global climate change” then categorizing these results to their alleged level of endorsement of AGW. These results were then used to allege a 97% consensus on human-caused global warming.

    To get to the truth, I emailed a sample of scientists who’s papers were used in the study and asked them if the categorization by Cook et al. (2013) is an accurate representation of their paper. Their responses are eye opening and evidence that the Cook et al. (2013) team falsely classified scientists’ papers as “endorsing AGW”, apparently believing to know more about the papers than their authors.

    “It would be incorrect to claim that our paper was an endorsement of CO2-induced global warming.” – Craig D. Idso

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »