Planet Gore

You Say It Best When You Say Nothing at All

Before Seth Borenstein tells the woolly kids at SEJ how to spin this claim, take a quick look at what it does and does not say.

While the harsh winter pounding many areas of North America and Europe seemingly contradicts the fact that global warming continues unabated, a new survey finds consensus among scientists about the reality of climate change and its likely cause. A group of 3,146 earth scientists surveyed around the world overwhelmingly agree that in the past 200-plus years, mean global temperatures have been rising, and that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures. . . .

In trying to overcome criticism of earlier attempts to gauge the view of earth scientists on global warming and the human impact factor, Doran and Kendall Zimmerman sought the opinion of the most complete list of earth scientists they could find, contacting more than 10,200 experts around the world listed in the 2007 edition of the American Geological Institute’s Directory of Geoscience Departments. Experts in academia and government research centers were e-mailed invitations to participate in the on-line poll conducted by the website Only those invited could participate and computer IP addresses of participants were recorded and used to prevent repeat voting. Questions used were reviewed by a polling expert who checked for bias in phrasing, such as suggesting an answer by the way a question was worded. . . .

Two questions were key: have mean global temperatures risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and has human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures. About 90 percent of the scientists agreed with the first question and 82 percent the second. In analyzing responses by sub-groups, Doran found that climatologists who are active in research showed the strongest consensus on the causes of global warming, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role. Petroleum geologists and meteorologists were among the biggest doubters, with only 47 and 64 percent respectively believing in human involvement.

Any details about what was actually asked would be enlightening, because, at least as reported, the prompt-and-response prima facie actually say nothing (“human activity,” “a role,” “involvement”), and are already being spun as saying everything (that the very authors find this necessary tells you what you need to know about the results’ worth). Despite much pre-buttal in the release about the integrity of the questions, the actual questions were not provided. Surely they will be in the journal article when published.

The importance of this is that the common and surely the intended usage here of “global warming” is of the projected future, catastrophic man-made variety (via GHGs), while as reported the conclusions say nothing about GHGs, the future, or catastrophism. Instead, it addresses the past mild, benign (beneficial) warming also coming on the heels of the Little Ice Age ending.


So the idea they seek to dispel is the inconvenient and growing public understanding that there isn’t actually a consensus (like the one Naomi Oreskes argues exists) about future projections of catastrophism–and unless we promptly enact their agenda. Yet these survey results might well reflect 100 percent agreement that Man had a significant role in the past century’s beneficial warming which, due to CO2’s logarithmic Global Warming potential, has already been imposed to the fullest extent possible. Land use is the obvious, other potential culprit which the question apparently permitted to slip in under the (subsequently advocated) guise of blaming greenhouse-warming). Or maybe respondents are saying that Europe cleaning its air a bit in the past few decades did indeed significantly contribute to the past warming, as recently reported.


Wording one’s question so sloppily (cleverly?), if as it appears was the case, is one indicator of confidence. But that they’re even trying to stretch the results tells you they are quite aware the results say little to nothing. I am sure a fellow PG’er will offer a post about author Doran’s past axe-grinding, for perspective when considering this.

Red Hot Lies readers also recall the lesson of such “most scientist” claims, illustrated by Borenstein’s effort to bail out AIT when it began taking water. “Most scientists support” turned out to actually mean a) most scientists actually chose not to see the movie, and b) most of those who did and were asked chose not to respond. Here, we actually see that nearly two-thirds of those asked did not find it worthwhile to respond.


This gives us a chance to remind PG readers of previous surveys, which this contradicts; similarly, unlike those past surveys there was no effort to block its publication, as those who have read RHL know the alarmists did previously in amazingly heavy-handed fashion with the journal Energy and Environment (by the way, what do they say now about their arguments against those two prior surveys being at all meaningful?). For example (from RHL, citations omitted):

Professor Dennis Bray of Germany who along with Hans von Storch polled climate scientists to rate the statement, “To what extent do you agree or disagree that climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic causes?” on a scale of one to seven, seven indicating strong disagreement. They received responses from 530 climate scientists in 27 countries, of whom 44 percent were either neutral or disagreed with the statement (29 percent said that warming is not mostly the result of anthropogenic causes). “These results, i.e. the mean of 3.62, seem to suggest that consensus is not all that strong and only 9.4% of the respondents strongly agree that climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic causes” (Science Magazine helpfully refused to publish the findings, by the way). Other surveys reach similar findings. . . .


The alarmists even go so far as to insert themselves in the process when researchers seek to publish data that would reflect poorly on their own alarmism but otherwise has nothing to do with them. Their fight over the claim of consensus seems as if they are protecting their queen bee, fully aware that once it falls their entire colony goes with it. So when Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte, a surgeon and researcher at King’s College Hospital in London affirmed as absurd the notion of scientific agreement on global warming, its causes, and impacts, the alarmists had to make sure he couldn’t get published.


Schulte assessed what the current literature was saying on the matter by reviewing 528 papers addressing climate change–not just obscurely referencing the phrase, as did Oreskes–published from 2004 to February 2007. This covered the period since May 2005 when the IPCC closed the Fourth Assessment Report’s window for research eligible, for complete and open consideration by authors and reviewers alike.


Schulte found that “a mere 38, or 7%, explicitly support the consensus. Daily Tech, an online magazine, says the ratio goes to 45% ‘if one considers “implicit” endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement).’ While only 32, or 6%, of the papers reject the consensus outright, Daily Tech blogger Michael Asher reports that the ‘largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis.’” Hardly consensus.

It is noteworthy how the authors singled out a relatively narrow universe as the relevant scientists who matter on this issue (describing it otherwise, of course). That is of course the group making the most money off of the issue–you may have heard alarmists mention funding once or twice, I’m not sure.


This is relatively narrow given that the alarmists’ heretofore ultimate authority, the IPCC, believes that a far different universe is the relevant set of disciplines: anthropologists, transport-policy instructors, chemists, statisticians, engineers, economists, et al. The world’s leading climate scientist, we are told–James Hansen–is an astronomer. And so on. Instead, they sought to query the group whose collective nest is being most amply feathered. Kudos to some of them for still demurring . . . whatever the question actually was.


The “doubters” were largely found in fields not dependent upon the regularly increasing billions in government and activist foundation grant money thrown at the issue. The authors then, also typically, dismiss those fields’ relevance despite having been subsets of the category which they determined was most relevant. How they feel about the IPCC’s much broader relevant universe is not stated.


Finally of course, it is highly instructive that the authors feel the need to spin the result, claiming it dispels the idea there isn’t a consensus.

In short, this is just more spin, and in a way that is as good as an admission against its value.

Next up, expect an object lesson in the alarmist noise machine’s MO, when they shrilly denounce all such efforts to parse what was and was not said; surely it will be styled as somehow seeking to deny that which in fact is not at all apparent from the conclusion, but instead must be tortured out of it. Their ritual is to be upset not that we get something wrong, but that we get it right.


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