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400 ‘prominent scientists’ dispute climate change?

At first glance the it appears that the list of 400 ‘prominent scientists’ who dispute the consensus on climate change complied by Senator James “global warming is a hoax” Inhofe is a serious challenge to the commonly accepted consensus on climate change.

Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called “consensus” on man-made global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore.

While at first this sounds like an impressive list it is probably worth examining it in closer detail, after all Senator Inhofe believed that science fiction writer Micheal Crichton was a credible expert on climate change, and got him to testify at a Congressional hearing on climate change.

The question is: does their opinion matter? Should you revise your views about climate change accordingly?

Considering the source, I think we all know the answer to that. To understand why Inhofe’s claims are fundamentally bogus, consider the following scenario: imagine a child is diagnosed with cancer. Who are his parents going to take him to in order to determine the best course of treatment?

Most people would take the child to a specialist. Not just someone with a PhD in a technical subject, but an actual medical doctor. And not just any medical doctor, but someone who was a specialist in cancer. And not just any specialist in cancer, but someone who was a specialist in pediatric cancer. And, if possible, not just any pediatric oncologist, but someone who specialized in that particular type of cancer.

Expertise matters. Not everyone’s opinion is equally valid.

The list of skeptics on the EPW blog contains few bona fide climate specialists. In fact, the only criteria to get on the list, as far as I can tell, is having a PhD and some credential that makes you an academic. So Freeman Dyson makes lists. While I’m certain he’s a smart guy, I would not take a sick child to him, and I won’t take a sick planet to him either. In both cases, he simply does not have the relevant specialist knowledge.

That also applies the large number of social scientists, computer programmers, engineers, etc., without any specialist knowledge on this problem.

The bottom line is that the opinions of most of the skeptics on the list are simply not credible.

It’s not too hard to dredge up 400 people in all the world who think the lunar landing was a farce or believe that Elvis is living in Albuquerque, much like it isn’t too hard to dig up 400 people with a vague background in the field of science who find something to dispute in climate science. That doesn’t mean their views should be lauded and held up as scientific proof that global warming isn’t so bad. There haven’t been any peer-reviewed scientific studies validating any claims that the planet is either not warming, or not warming because of humans, and the world’s most-respected climatologists are all in agreement.

The bar to be considered a ‘prominent scientist’ by Inhofe seems to be set very low.

we have the likes of this from Inhofe’s list:

CBS Chicago affiliate Chief Meteorologist Steve Baskerville expressed skepticism that there is a “consensus” about mankind’s role in global warming.

Wow, a TV weatherman expressed skepticism. If only the IPCC had been told of this in time, they could have scrapped their entire report. Seriously, Wikipedia says “Baskerville is an alumnus of Temple University and holds a Certificate in Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State University.” I guess Inhofe has a pretty low bar for “prominent scientists” — but then again he once had science fiction writer Michael Crichton testify at a hearing on climate science.

I don’t mean to single out Baskerville. Inhofe has a lot of meteorologists on his list, including Weather Channel Founder John Coleman. I have previously explained why Coleman doesn’t know what he is talking about on climate, and why meteorologists in general have no inherent credibility on climatology. In any case, they obviously are NOT prominent scientists.

Then we have people like French geomagnetism (!) scientist Vincent Courtillot, geophysicist Louis Le Mouël, geophysicist Claude Allègre, geomagnetism (!!) scientist Frederic Fluteau, geomagnetism (!!!) scientist Yves Gallet, and scientist Agnes Genevey — whose “research” on global warming is brutally picked apart by RealClimate here and especially here (and again here by other scientists), who together “expose a pattern of suspicious errors and omissions that pervades” their work.

So, yes, the Inhofe list is utterly ignorable compared to either the IPCC report or the Bali declaration by actual prominent climate scientists. The notion it is relevant to the climate debate is laughable, as even a cursuory examination makes clear.

But perhaps more importantly Inhofe’s list features people who don’t even question the fact that climate change is real and it is caused by humans.

None of the global warming discussions mention the word ‘nanotechnology. Yet nanotechnology will eliminate the need for fossil fuels within 20 years…. I think global warming is real but it has been modest thus far – 1 degree f. in 100 years. It would be concern if that continued or accelerated for a long period of time, but that’s not going to happen. –Ray Kurzweil [also not a climatologist]

The fact is that many on Inhofe’s list aren’t climate scientists, and therefor their opinions on climate science shouldn’t matter. They shouldn’t influence policy makers.

What does Inhofe’s list have to do at all with the normal scientific process? What do meteorologists and economists have to do with the normal process of climate science? Should scientists really be influenced at all by one inventor’s wild claim that nanotechnology will eliminate fossil fuels in 20 years. Or by a contrived and mistake-riddled study by geomagnetists?

The real question that needs to be asked, is why these ‘prominent scientists’ aren’t using the established methods to challenge peer-reviewed research? Why aren’t they writing peer-reviewed response papers, or conducting original peer-reviewed research?

As a taxpayer, to start with, I am outraged that my taxes are used to support such truthiness and distortions.

As a human being, I am outraged that such deniers (Roadblock Republicans) are able to stand in the way toward moving the nation and the Globe toward a more sensible energy future.

And, as an analyst, I am outraged that such mediocrity is allowed to be pedaled as a “report” with the imprimateur of the US government and a US Senate Committee behind it.

UPDATE: The Daily Green has looked at the background of everyone on Inhofe’s list, concluding that the climate experts on this list are nothing more than economists, mathematicians, amateurs, TV weathermen and industry hacks. I think I’ll continue to listen to actual climate scientists.

9 Responses to 400 ‘prominent scientists’ dispute climate change?

  1. Of course, “consensus” is all in how you define it. The scientists spreading panic over global warming (or “climate change”, as they call it, whenever and wherever a cooling trend is demonstrated) have managed to build themselves a position from which they can claim the consensus is absolute by ensuring their work is peer reviewed only by those scientists who already agree with them.

    It’s an echo chamber.

    As for questioning the credentials of certain skeptics, that’s certainly fair play. So is turnabout. For example, what is one to make of the claims made by David Suzuki, who is a geneticist, or George Monbiot (mr out-of-control-unstoppable-warming), who is a zoologist?

    Like it or not, the consensus only exists among those who agree. There are plenty of scientists (be they funded by Exxon or otherwise) who don’t.

    I just keep wondering what it is the so-called “consensus police” are afraid of. Why do they so desperately need to curtail debate?

  2. I’ll stick to the definition of consensus provided by Merriam-Webster: “a general agreement”. Note how it doesn’t say an absolute agreement.

    You are absolutely correct is asserting that David Suzuki, George Monbiot, and even Al Gore are not experts on climate change. They are nothing more than celebrity spokesmen, they are not part of the scientific debate, and thus those that wish to challenge the science behind climate change need to do more than challenge the climate change spokesmen. They need to challenge the actual science.

    by ensuring their work is peer reviewed only by those scientists who already agree with them.

    That is not how the peer-review process works. A scientist has no say as to who reviews their work. Furthermore if the peer-review process was not conducive to new ideas that challenge the established paradigm it would be useless as the established method for scientific debate. This claim if true would challenge the very way humanity accumulates knowledge about the natural world. Thankfully there is virtually no evidence to back up this outlandish claim. The peer-review process is anything but am echo chamber, and this should be apparent to anyone who spends some time reading scientific journals.

    Science (as an institution) spends vast amounts of time and money attempting to prove itself wrong, and that is precisely what makes it so powerful. The question that you should be asking is why these scientists that dispute the consensus aren’t challenging the science using the established methods? Why aren’t they publishing original research?

    As mentioned in this post, it wouldn’t be difficult to find 400 ‘scientists’ who dispute the consensus on the theory of evolution, but the reason they aren’t taken seriously is because they don’t publish peer-reviewed research and thus aren’t part of the scientific debate. The same thing holds true for those ‘scientists’ who dispute the climate change consensus.

    I just keep wondering what it is the so-called “consensus police” are afraid of. Why do they so desperately need to curtail debate?

    While I obviously can’t speak for everyone I can say that I have no wish to curtail the scientific debate, however, what many do wish to curtain the wildly inaccurate popular debate on climate science. Personally I would have no problem admitting I may have been wrong if a serious challenge to the climate change consensus arises in the peer-reviewed literature.

    The general public (and that includes both me and you) is in no position to challenge the climate science. We simply don’t have the required expertise. This is precisely why scientific research is peer-reviewed; it allows non-experts to be easily and reliably be able to determine the validity of a particular theory or a body of research. It essentially functions as a BS filter, filtering out junk science that may be convincing enough to fool non-experts, but that does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

    As a non-expert who is fully aware of my inability to properly analyze the science, I will place my trust only on peer-reviewed scientific research. Anything else would be irrational.

  3. I fully understand how peer review works. Sadly, most of the activist scientists studying global warming are not using traditional peer review process. They’re using one in which their work is being reviewed only by those who they know agree with it.

    You’re precisely right: the idea of peer review is, partially, to encourage criticism of scientific work when necessary.

    Yet given the fact that a good number of scientists insist on standing by the “hockey stick” model, claiming it’s supported via peer review, despite it being proven to be inaccurate, clearly the peer review process is being subverted.

    I applaud you for welcoming debate regarding climate change. Clearly, both sides of the issue have a long way to go before we can have an open and honest debate. Let’s not pretend that the number of dissenters who are conveniently funded by Exxon isn’t troubling.

  4. Sadly, most of the activist scientists studying global warming are not using traditional peer review process. They’re using one in which their work is being reviewed only by those who they know agree with it.

    Forgive me if I don’t believe you. Do you have any actual evidence supporting this claim? As I said before a scientists submitting his work to be peer-reviewed has no say in who reviews it. You can claim this is false but unless you bring convincing evidence to the table I am not going to believe you.

    As for the Mann et al. ‘Hockey Stick’ climate reconstruction it certainly has many uncertainties associated with it, but Mann and others were very aware of the limitations of such a reconstruction.

    That being said there have been many newer independent climate reconstructions (which have improved on the original hockey stick graph) and the vast majority of them fall within the margins of error of the original hockey stick graph, as was highlighted by a 2006 report by the National Academy of Science.

    The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on ice caps and the retreat of glaciers around the world

    The ‘controversy’ over the hockey stick graph is based on oversimplified analysis of the reconstruction, and is not part of the scientific debate.

    See here for more info on the hockey stick.

  5. ScruffyDan,

    If you feel that GW is a fact and that the peer reviewed materials prove it, just go to junkscience.com and claim your $125,000 prize.

  6. Fortunately science isn’t decided by the type of debates promoted by Steve Milloy @ junkscience.com

    It is through research that scientists debate.

    What Milloy and others have effectively done is convince a large portion of the public that scientific findings are nothing more than an opinion to be considered and debated in the same way one might debate whether Britney Spears deserves custody of her children.

    So if Milloy and the BMI want a “scientific debate,” I would suggest that instead of spending all their time and money on specious arguments, they instead fund actual research and begin to prove or disprove the evidence for human-induced climate change.

  7. “I would suggest that instead of spending all their time and money on specious arguments, they instead fund actual research and begin to prove or disprove the evidence for human-induced climate change.”

    That is a job that should be completed before the punishments are handed out. And it is the proposers of AGW theory that should be presenting the evidence and doing that very job.

    It is not up to us to disprove their theory.

    If the science is settled show us the science. An engineering quality paper on the effect of CO2 on atmospheric temperatures would be a good start – not the century old stuff but a new approach that actually offers proof of the theory.

  8. it is the proposers of AGW theory that should be presenting the evidence and doing that very job.

    And that has been done. In fact it has been done so conclusively that the IPCC the National Academies of Science from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the USA, the American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society of London, the Geological Society of America, the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, thousands of peer-reviewed journals, and even the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, all agree with the notion that our GHG emissions are causing climate change.

    In fact no scientific body of national or international standing is known to reject the basic findings of the human influence on the recent climate.

    To say otherwise is to ignore a mountain of evidence.

  9. In fact after taking a look at your site, I came across some statements that anyone who looks at the critically would find very troubling.

    not even the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) presents definite scientific proof that “most” of the present warming is caused by the greenhouse effect

    Of course not. Nothing in science is definitive, and the IPCC in both the summary and the full report explicitly state the confidence of their conclusions. To claim that there is no definitive proof is absurd since no scientific theory can be proved (gravity, evolution… etc) definitively.

    and since they thought that no other forcing [other than CO2] function is likely to be the cause

    Obviously you have not read the IPCC report, because they identify and quantify several other forcings, and feedbacks that have influences on the climate.

    And then there is the usual nonsense about ice cores, and CO2 lag.

    Three such obvious errors in the first few lines on your site are enough to conclude that you are either dishonest or misinformed, either way I wont look in your direction for information in regard to this topic in the future.

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