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Sceptics face yawning credibility gap

Written By: - Date published: 11:00 am, July 5th, 2010 - 34 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags:

From Bryan Walker at Hot Topic, and  republished  here with permission.

We know that the vast majority of climate scientists support the explanation of anthropogenic climate change set out by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change. That majority is now quantified in the first study of its kind published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Expert credibility in climate change.

‘Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that (i) 9798% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of anthropogenic climate change (ACC) outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and (ii) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of anthropogenic climate change are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.’

The study explains the criteria by which these conclusions were reached, paying particular attention to the question of expertise, where weight was given to the number of climate publications of researchers and to their citation levels.

‘We show that the expertise and prominence, two integral components of overall expert credibility, of climate researchers convinced by the evidence of ACC vastly overshadows that of the climate change skeptics and contrarians. This divide is even starker when considering the top researchers in each group.’

The team of four has obviously put a good deal of time into the study which was contributed for publication by Stephen Schneider (pictured). Why bother, one might ask.  Surely it’s all too apparent. It may be to readers of Hot Topic but the study notes that considerable and even growing public doubt remains about the anthropogenic cause and the level of scientific agreement about the role of anthropogenic greenhouse gases in climate change. The vocal minority of researchers and other critics who contest the conclusions of the mainstream scientific assessment has received large amounts of media attention and wields significant influence in the societal debate about climate change impacts and policy.

An analysis such as the study offers has not been conducted before, and the writers observe that it can help inform future ACC discussions. Translated into common parlance I guess that means they hope this will put paid to the idea still abroad, in at least the American media, that denial of anthropogenic climate change retains a respectable level of scientific credibility.

That may be optimistic. Journalism in general still has difficulty getting its head around the reality of mainstream climate science. The idea that there is a realistic alternative shows remarkable persistence. When I was writing occasional columns for my local paper, the Waikato Times, I discovered that my attempts to explain aspects of the current science eventually came up against an anxiety that the paper was not presenting a balanced picture. There was finally talk of pairing my column with another which would meet the paper’s obligation to offer its readers more than one opinion. I protested that I was representing mainstream science and asked why the paper should feel that needed to be balanced. I made that my last contribution and escaped the indignity of a balancing viewpoint. It seemed fairly clear that the East Anglia emails and the baseless attacks on the IPCC report by the likes of Jonathan Leake were enough to unsettle the journalists with whom I was dealing and bring back to life concerns which I thought had long been laid to rest.

One nevertheless hopes that  surveys and appraisals such as this one in a highly regarded journal will make a difference to media perception and help establish in the public mind the seriousness of the scientific understanding and predictions. It seems inconceivable that we should continue much longer refusing to face the reality.  But I’ve been thinking that for four years now.

You’d have to wonder why the people who know the most about climate simply don’t think that the ‘skeptical’ denialists amongst them have it right? The denialists appear to be a extremely small minority amongst them making a lot of noise and zero credibility.

While all scientists are skeptics by training and the kudos of disproving a major theory are immense, the last few decades have simply seen a overwhelming agreement form amongst climate scientists and more generally amongst earth scientists. Of course you’d never realize that has happened if you listen to the noisy illiterates in the media and on the blogs.

34 comments on “Sceptics face yawning credibility gap ”

  1. tsmithfield 1

    Depends what you mean by “consensus” on.

    I agree, almost complete agreement on the fact that the world is warming. Slightly less agreement, but still very strong agreement that C02 has a causal effect in the warming. Considerably less agreement when it comes to the sensitivity of the climate to increasing levels of C02. Considerable uncertainty when it comes to the likely impact of global warming on the environment.

  2. randal 2

    sceptics are usually right wing christian fundamentalists (?) or republicans who know its happenign but know they can still milk the environment before the rot really sets in.

  3. Monbiot has recently published two fascinating columns on the sceptics using differences of opinion about the likely effect of ACC on on the Amazon. They pointed to a passage in an IAEA report which suggested that 40% deforestation could occur. The figure came from WWF and it was wrong. Two scientific reports that the IAEA had relied on suggested that the potential consequence was far worse. IAEA had been far too sanguine.

    The UK’s Sunday Times was recently bollocked by the UK authorities for its sensationalist reporting of this issue. A prominant scientist Dr Simon Lewis had been interviewed and the draft article read out to him. He had agreed to its comments. A sub editor had then radically rewritten the article to suggest that the Amazon claim was bogus. The article suggested that Lewis agreed that there was doubt whereas he had always expressed concern that the Amazon was under threat. Lewis even posted a comment on the paper’s thread, pointing out that it had misrepresented his views and that the rainforest claim was not bogus. This was removed by the Sunday Times Editors!!

    A subsequent full retraction was posted by the paper after his complaint.

    Sorry, a bit long for a comment, and this is a simplification of an interesting issue involving the treatment of ACC by the conservative media. The columns are at
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2010/jul/02/ipcc-amazongate-george-monbiot and http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2010/jun/24/sunday-times-amazongate-ipcc

  4. RedLogix 4

    And Michael Mann (of the allegedly broken hockey-stick), after years of libel and smears, has been fully vindicated in this symphony length Joe Romm post. Crushing.

  5. kaplan 5

    The skeptics are surely nominees for the ultimate Darwin award.
    I mean, they appear to have completely lost any survival instinct.

    • mcflock 5.1

      assuming that they reckon they’ll have to face the consequences, as opposed to using money to protect themselves for the last few decades of their lives.

      The great Planet Earth Heist is always a possibility…

  6. RedFred 6

    No doubt our civilization is responsible for global warming

    But mean while I’ll jump into my 4 wheel drive and go buy some McDonald with extra cheese.

    I think it took about a barrel of oil to make this computer? Probably another barrel to run it over its life time.

    A quote from Derrrick Jensen work – Zygmund Bauman wrote, that “rational people will go quietly, meekly, joyously into a gas chamber, if only they are allowed to believe it is a bath-room’?Why is it that so many of us today do not resist?

    Will they shut down the Huntly power Station?
    Will Solid energy stop digging up coal?
    Will New Zealanders cling desperately to the position of highest car ownership per captia on the planet?

    Who here used public transport in the last couple of days?

    Climate change deniers are the least of our problems.

    • just saying 6.1

      I agree with you RedFred, you don’t have to be a denialist to live in denial – unfortunately the overwhelming majority of us do that.
      But if the media was not being actively prevented from presenting a genuinely balanced view, ie that the majority of experts agree, we’d all be forced to take our heads out of the sand, because we’d all be involved in serious remedial action in every level of society.
      Which is no excuse for us not acting as individuals now, where we can, of course.

    • lprent 6.2

      I’m on public transport heading home.

      • Bingo 6.2.1

        I’m on public transport heading home.

        As usual, the patronising wank of the warmist libtard

        As it happens, I walked home tonight in the rain.

        So, Lynn Prentice, you will sit at home and prattle on about “climate deniers”, whilst enjoying the warmth of your home, using the Internet, powered by fossil fuels, and preach at us as to how we need to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

        Go and crush you car, if you have one,, destroy your PC, live in a cave. Do not but products that come from China. Do not buy food that was grown more than walking distance from you
        And please fuck off and die.

        Thank you

        • lprent

          I like walking in the rain It is only a kilometer and a half to the bus stop for me. Good for the exercise.

          But generally I don’t use much fossil fuels either directly or indirectly any more. The most is probably from the boards I use. But the majority is hydroelectric.

          However, at least I don’t screwup tags – a sign of stupidity?

  7. But if the media was not being actively prevented from presenting a genuinely balanced view, ie that the majority of experts agree, we’d all be forced to take our heads out of the sand, because we’d all be involved in serious remedial action in every level of society.

    We’d all do the right thing if it wasn’t for those terrible capitalist media company owners? Yeah, right. Ever read that bit in “Collapse,” in which Jared Diamond wonders what was going through the mind of the person who cut down the last tree on Easter Island as he was busy doing it? Maybe if the Easter Islanders hadn’t had such a compliant media they would have gotten involved in remedial action at every level of society? Nah, not really. Basically, human nature ain’t pretty.

    • Bill 7.1

      Maybe the last trees on Easter Island weren’t chopped down. Maybe the rodents eating the seeds meant that regeneration didn’t happen and very large stands of trees simply died.

      Just a thought.

      Meanwhile, they had a preisthood which likely promulgated orthodoxy in the defence of power in much the same way as our msm does.

  8. hmmmm 8

    That study is an exercise in uselessness. Most skeptics agree with the propositions that CO2 increases temperature, and man has caused increased CO2 – which is what the 98% of scientists find consensus on. The question finds consensus precisely through its trivial nature.

    But what is the value of consensus? Progressives conveniently ignore comparable levels of consensus around the effect of rent control and other market restrictions


    And scientists in the past have found consensus on other issues now known to be wrong.


    What are we to conclude except a) consensus is thrown out when the answers don’t suit, and b) consensus can be found on anything if you dumb the question down enough

    • lprent 8.1

      So what you are saying is that nothing should be EVER done about anything. The consensus view may change in the future? Scientists actively work to destroy the consensus – that is how you make a name for yourself. In the meantime you make decisions based on the best available information at the time. On climate change, this is what it is. If the questions were extended to asking the climate scientists what should be done – you’d find the almost all of them would say that there need to be drastic reductions in releasing carbon from long-term stores.

      Basically you’re just being a pleasuring yourself with something that is totally obvious. Your ‘conclusion’ is simple masturbation. With that attitude nothing in the past was worth doing either.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      Progressives conveniently ignore comparable levels of consensus around the effect of rent control and other market restrictions

      Economists have consensus within their economic orthodoxy. It doesn’t translate over to the real world.

    • Macro 8.3

      Firstly, most “sceptics” do NOT agree that increasing CO2 leads to increasing temperatures. They call themselves “sceptics” but are infact ignorant “denialists”.
      Secondly, the fact of Global Warming is NOT ‘trivial”. Not Economically, Socially, or even from the point of view of human survival.
      Thirdly, what may have proved to be false in the past is not the case here. The science is too far settled, to the 95+% certain level. ie the approximately 1 degree C of global warming over the past 100 years is the result of human activity resulting from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation – not anything else. The unsettled side is just how much more warming have we already built in to the atmosphere. That’s where the interest now lies.
      The world has already agreed at Kyoto and subsequent climate conferences, that 2 degrees average global warming above pre-industrial levels is as much as we can safely go without catastrophic consequences. vis German reinsurers Munich Re have stated in a report that global claims from natural disasters increased 8 times in real terms, in the 30 years from the 1960’s to the 1990’s. And of that increase 80% was attributable to extreme weather related events. They now predict that by 2065, damages will outstrip global assets. The chances of remaining within the 2 degrees limit are looking increasingly slim, and much of that can be directly sheeted home to people with attitudes like yours.

  9. Guess Work 9

    I just dont get it. We know that global carbon dioxide levels were at least 18 times higher several thousand years ago, plants thrived and man survived. And there were no industries to cause the pollution either.


    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      Oh, look at that, a denialist running round with no facts at all…

      colour me surprised.

    • Doug 9.2

      I am not aware of CO2 levels being 18 times current levels any time during Homo sapiens short tenure on this planet. see http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/temperature-change.html

      It certainly hasn’t been this high anytime in the last 10,000 years that we, as a species, have supported ourselves by agriculture. This period has been a period of relative climate stability much loved by farmers. Now we are moving into a period of change and volatility this is the risk we face and we have never faced before.

      GW your stupidity burns like a tiger in the night

    • Macro 9.3

      Utter tosh! Your name says it all Guess Work. When CO2 levels were at the levels we now have, temperature reached 6+ degrees C above the average of today, sea levels were 75 m higher, and we may still heading towards that senario. But that was 15 MILLION years ago, and humans as we know them today were not in existence then.

  10. Gazza 10

    After all these comments Doug seems to have come up with the most sensible statement yet.
    But as it stands now,if the less wealthy countries continue to breed out of control the expanded need for housing etc will obviously decrease the agricultural land availability.
    This eventually will cause the domino effect and the eventual collapse of viable farming and a vast reduction in produce and the growing of the much needed forestry for the stability of this planet.

  11. Guess Work 11

    Next thing you will be saying is that Lord Monckton is a denier. Some people…

  12. Guess Work 12

    Cant believe anyone can take seriously a person that a few decades ago warned of the big freeze. This Schneider guy has zero credibility in the science world so why on earth should anyone listen to him in civvy street?

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