03 April, 2012

On The Universal Scientific Acceptance of Anthropogenic Global Climate Change

One of the drawbacks about discussions on Facebook is that not everybody allows their posts to be visible to the public. This can make some arguments hard to follow, such as when only one side's comments are visible, or even impossible to read when the whole debate appears under someone's private page.

Although I certainly am not in the habit of liberating the private content of others here on my blog, there are some occasions where it seems at least partly worthwhile. This is one such occasion.

Last week, I had a small back-and-forth with one of my old school friends on the issue of global climate change. Ordinarily, it would have consisted of little more than a single corrective comment, but he challenged my facts, forcing me to go out and actually look up the data that supports my side. It was only an hour or so of work, but it was nontrivial to verify, and some of my other facebook friends requested that I copy the discussion over to a public forum so that it is readable. What follows is the discussion in full.

(For reference, the original discussion was a post on my friend's wall, but unless you are friends with him, it will not be visible to you through that link.)

Danny Jackson:
‎31,000 Scientists Reject 'Global Warming' Agenda

Eric Herboso:
Scientists are just people, like you and me. We are all easily deluded. What counts is not what a group of people think or say on a topic, but what EXPERTS say on the topic.

I will point out that the majority of scientists in this petition drive have only bachelor's degrees. Of those 9000 with doctorate degrees, the Petition Project refuses to say how many have their PhD in a relevant field. For example, they point out that 3000 have earth science degrees, and that 9000 have PhDs, but they do not bother mentioning how many of those 3000 people actually have a terminal degree in a relevant field with regard to this question. If the overlap were large, I'd have expected them to advertise it.

I find this petition project to be very misleading. It's one thing to debate the merits of a scientific theory, but it's quite another to actually claim that the science is not already settled on the global warming issue. Whether you think the science is correct or not is a point of debate; but to make it seem like scientists disagree on the issue is just ludicrous. From 1993 to 2003, not a single paper was published in the scientific literature that questioned the validity of global warming. Several surveys of actual climatologists working in the field right now consistently show that over 95% believe global warming exist, and most of the rest offer no opinion. The total number of relevant scientists that do not believe in global warming is 0%, and is limited to a half dozen responses in surveys of thousands. Confidence levels drop to ~85% when asking if that global warming is man-made, but the remaining respondents still offer no opinion. Even on the man-made question, 0% are willing to say that they believe it is not man-made.

Debating the merits of global warming science is one thing. But I think the Petition Project is being dishonest by making it seem like the debate is going on among climatologists. The debate ended in scientific circles years ago, and is limited to only nonscientists today. You really should not be using the Petition Project as evidence of anything at all.

I have to admit that I haven't read the article yet, but I would say that the petition drive is a good way to show that not all scientists agree that anthropogenic global warming is happening. I can say that with the other side of the debate the majority of scientists don't know enough about the subject of climate change to be experts in the subject. I believe the main issue against the claims that anthropogenic climate change is happening is the fact that climate change figures line-up much more accurately with the changes of sunspot activity on the sun. When one looks at how temperatures have changed in comparison amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, it doesn't agree. Now I'll have to point out that these figures were calculated by climatologists who do not have any stake in the climate change band wagon. The figures collected by the climate change proponents actually are not accurate in that the temperatures were taken over the years in areas where there is likely to be a lot of heat e.g. near airports, parking lots, factories, etc. The those Climate Gate emails are also very incriminating in that they show that the made proponents of anthropogenic climate change have been covering up the truth. And the truth is that global temperatures have been dropping for the past 7 to 10 years.

As a non-climatologist, I don't feel entirely comfortable arguing the scientific merits without doing more research than I'm willing to undertake at the moment. Nevertheless, I think arguing about science is a good thing, and should be done far more often in today's society.

Yet what I was trying to get at before was not an argument about global warming, but about the specific tactic used by the Petition Project in the article you originally linked. Just now, you wrote "not all scientists agree that anthropogenic global warming is happening", and it is on this point in particular that I find so incredibly implausible.

It is one thing to debate the merits of the science, and I like seeing such debates occur in society. But when you misrepresent the relevant scientific community's views on a topic, that is just completely misleading. Yes, there are a lot of scientists that think global warming isn't real. But these scientists are dentists and chemists and psychologists. When you point out that those scientists disagree, you are putting "scientists" up on a pedestal, as though their opinion mattered. But it doesn't. The only scientists whose opinion matters are the climatologists that actually work on the issue. Among these people, nearly every single one believes in global warming (~95%), and the vast majority believe it to be caused by man (~85%).

I welcome debate on the issue of science. I think such debate is fun and interesting. (My second favorite field is philosophy of science, after all.) But I feel that groups like the Petition Project are not debating the science. They are just outright trying to mislead the public. Debate on the science is good, but making it seem like scientists disagree on the issue is downright fraudulent. If there were actual debate among relevant scientists on the global warming issue, then there would be published papers arguing against global warming by climatologists. But there aren't any. AT ALL. Not even one.

By all means, I approve of debating the science. But remember that the debate is among people who don't actually work in the field, like you and me, and the 31,000 scientists in the Petition Project that do not publish papers in that field. When the Petition Project acts as though there is debate on global warming among scientists in that field, they are just being facetious in misleading readers. That is the part I disapprove of; the science debate, on the other hand, is quite enjoyable for me.

Really? Absolutely no published papers from climatologists showing problems with claims in favor of anthropogenic climate change? A simple Google search has brought me these articles:





‎(I know this is long, so if you don't feel like reading it all, please at least skip to the final paragraph. It holds a revised statement that should make this issue clear.)

The "no published articles" claim I made earlier originally came from my memory of a meta-study done by Oreskes (and a follow-up by Peter Norvig) that found zero articles published in the preceding decade. But since you have questioned me on it here, I decided to do a bit of research to defend my earlier claim.

The original metastudy by Oreskes (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/306/5702/1686.full) was published in 2004 and showed not a single academic paper on global climate change in the preceding ten years argued against it. A follow-up by Norvig (http://norvig.com/oreskes.html) on the same data verifies the 0% claim.

Of course, this info is from 1993-2004. You might rightly complain that it is too old. What about the years since then? Specifically, what about the papers you cited in your reply?

Your first link refers to Spencer & Braswell's "On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth's Radiant Energy Balance". While it was indeed published in 2011, no one in the industry takes it seriously. The very fact that the editor of the publishing journal resigned over the whole thing is proof enough that this was an extreme minority view. I won't bother referring to the details of the paper other than to say that the authors neglected to understand that the null hypothesis is not the default position.

Your second link is to a list of Larry Vardiman's articles. I found 14 articles that mention "global warming" written by him, none of which have been published in a peer reviewed journal. Most are hosted at icr.org, with no reference to them even having been submitted for publication. (http://scholar.google.com/scholar?as_q=%22global+warming%22&as_sauthors=Larry+Vardiman)

Your third link is to a list of Michael Oard's articles. I found 11 that mention "global warming" by him, none of which have been published in a peer reviewed journal. Most are hosted at creation.com, and do not reference them ever having been submitted for publication. (http://scholar.google.com/scholar?as_q=%22global+warming%22&as_sauthors=Michael+Oard)

Your fourth link is a specific article by Michael Oard, which is one of the 11 from the third link. Again, this article has never been published in a peer-reviewed journal. The only publication note is from the "Journal of Creation", which does not use disinterested reviewers.

(I'm sure Vardiman and Oard publish plenty of peer reviewed articles. Hell, even I've been published in a peer reviewed journal. But it appears that their successful publications have been ones that did not have "global warming" written within them.)

Out of the four links you gave, only one involves a paper published in a peer reviewed journal, and the ensuing scandal caused the editor in chief to resign. So I decided to see if I could find any more examples on my own.

In an hour of scouring scholar.google.com, I could find only two in addition to your first link. Both agree with global warming, and argue only about its cause.

2005: Jan Veizer published in Geoscience Canada (http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/GC/article/view/2691/3113) agreeing that global warming occurs, but he argues that the cause is the sun.

2009: John Christy published in Energy and Environment (http://www.pas.rochester.edu/~douglass/papers/E&E%20douglass_christy-color.pdf) admitting that global warming occurs, but argues evidence of what causes it is so far inconclusive.

Of course, I did not do an exhaustive search. Maybe more could be found. But my point is that while I searched for these two examples, I passed tens of thousands of articles that agree on man-caused climate change. Sure, there's a lot of debate on forums and blogs, but when it comes to peer reviewed articles, there is no question: nearly every relevant scientist agrees on the issue, and debate ended long ago.

Just to make sure you understand what I mean by this, consider that EVERY single scientific body either concurs or is noncommittal on the issue of human-caused climate change. The last scientific group to hold out was the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which retracted its dissent in 2007.

I will repeat this to ensure it is understood: As of 29 March 2012, there are zero scientific bodies that reject the idea of human-caused climate change. Every single scientific group in the entire world agrees with human-caused climate change. The only hold-outs are individuals, and they dissent only on tv and radio, not in peer-reviewed publications. Of course, human-caused global warming might still be untrue (the scientific consensus has been wrong before); but the fact is that the vast majority of scientists believe that it is true.

You say none of the articles by Larry Vardiman or Michael Oard are peer reviewed, but they don't have to be published in main-stream sources to be peer-reviewed. None of the articles by Larry Vardiman and Michael Oard or any of the creationists scientists I trust are published without being properly peer-reviewed by scientists with knowledge in the subject the article speaks of, and about any biblical truths or arguments made in the articles. So your statement that they are not peer-reviewed is not correct. Btw AiG and CMI actually have their own peer-reviewed research journals-- the Answers Research Journal and the Journal of Creation respectively.

Okay. I just did a quick google search and there are articles all over the web about scepticism from scientists about anthropogenic climate change.

Btw consensus means nothing when it comes to what is true. If consensus had anything to do with what is true, then we would have to say that Islam is true because the majority of people in the world are Muslim. Geocentricism was once the consensus view of scientists. In Germany, it was the consensus view that Hitler and the Nazi Party were good for Germany.

I don't mean to directly contradict you, but calling yourself "peer reviewed" does not make you peer reviewed. I am sure that many people published in Answers Research Journal and the Journal of Creation are respectable scientists and have been published in actual peer reviewed journals. But papers only published in ARJ or TJ are not really peer reviewed.

Peer review means you subject your submitted articles to people in the field from all over the place. They must be disinterested parties from across religious, political, and national spectrums. The ARJ and TJ do not do this. I'm not saying that articles in them are wrong; they very well may be correct. But they are definitely not peer reviewed. It's not peer review if you only get reviewed by people that already agree with you.

As for the link you posted, try clicking a few of those google results. Those are papers that are looking into why the public thinks global climate change isn't real despite consensus. The first google result you posted argues that is a political movement largely generated by nonscientists; the second google result is about how newspapers are misrepresenting scientists; the third is about how the media cites scientists opposed to global warming that don't seem to exist. Please verify what I've just said by clicking the links you posted on your own. I'm honestly not making any of this up.

However, your point on consensus is well said. Consensus has often been wrong throughout history, even among scientists. I actually think that mistaken consensus in the history of science is one of the most fascinating fields I've ever studied. The philosophy of science is replete with examples of scientists agreeing on things they never really should have agreed to. In the field of quantum physics right now, for example, there is a huge group of physicists that believe in M-theory [sic], despite no proof having yet been submitted. It really and truly is a fascinating topic for me.

Another thing, no magazine or journal is unbiased. Everyone is biased. E.g. You would likely never see a pro-creation article in Smithsonian Magazine, no matter how well backed-up by research. In fact, someone tried to publish a paper that leaned toward intelligent design. The writer of the article was not even an ID advocate. The guy who published the article was fired for it.

All publications are indeed biased. On that we certainly agree.

Again, I am not commenting on the merits of the articles. I am only pointing out that such articles are not published in peer reviewed journals. Peer-reviewed journals are all inherently biased based on their field. Climate journals, for example, are biased toward the weight of evidence in climate science. That's just how science works. It is no wonder that papers on theories that directly contradict much of the currently published results have a terribly difficult time getting through peer review.

It may turn out that the scientists are wrong. But it cannot be denied that the scientists all agree on the position favoring human-caused climate change.

You probably aren't interested, but as the subject of scientific consensus really and truly deeply interests me, I can't help but to encourage you to look up controversial theories on the philosophy of scientific consensus, such as Feyerabend's theory that all of science has no relation to truth and Kuhn's paradigm shift theory that hypothesizes that scientific consensus is NEVER based on pure logic and facts, but depends heavily on the personal opinions of scientists working in the field.

None of this has to do with climate change consensus, really, but deals with more basic scientific concepts like "what is heat?" or "why do we fall only down and never up?". It is more interesting when the science in question has reached such a level of consensus that almost every person on the planet agrees with the current paradigm; that way you can focus on the meaning behind that consensus more clearly.

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