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How do meteorologists fit into the 97% global warming consensus?

Posted on 2 December 2013 by dana1981

Several surveys have found relatively low acceptance of human-caused global warming amongst meteorologists. For example, a 2009 survey found that among Earth scientists, only economic geologists (47 percent) had lower acceptance of human-caused global warming than meteorologists (64 percent). A new paper by social scientists from George Mason University, the American Meteorological Society (AMS), and Yale University reports results from a survey of members of the AMS to determine the factors associated with their views on climate change.

Climate Scientists and Meteorologists, Apples and Oranges

Predictably, many climate contrarians have already misrepresented this paper. In fact, the Heartland Institute (of Unabomber billboard infamy) misrepresented the study so badly (and arguably impersonated the AMS in a mass emailing), the AMS executive director (who is a co-author of the paper) took the unusual step of issuing a public reprimand against their behavior.

The misrepresentations of the study have claimed that it contradicts the 97 percent expert consensus on human-caused global warming. The prior studies that have found this high level of consensus were based specifically on climate experts – namely asking what those who do climate science research think, or what their peer-reviewed papers say about the causes of global warming.

The AMS on the other hand is not comprised primarily of climate experts. Some of its members do climate research, but only 13 percent of survey participants described climate as their field of expertise. Among those respondents with climate expertise who have published their climate research, this survey found that 93 percent agreed that humans have contributed significantly to global warming over the past 150 years (78 percent said it's mostly human-caused, 10 percent said it's equally caused by humans and natural processes, and 5 percent said the precise degree of human causation is unclear, but that humans have contributed). Just 2 percent of AMS climate experts said global warming is mostly natural, 1 percent said global warming isn't happening, and the remaining 4 percent were unsure about global warming or human causation.

The authors also note that they asked about contributions to global warming over the past 150 years, whereas climate scientists are most confident that humans are the dominant cause of global warming over the past 50 years. Some survey participants sent emails implying that if the question had more narrowly focused on the past 50 years, even more respondents might have said that global warming is mostly human-caused.

Importantly, most AMS members are not climate researchers, nor is scientific research of any kind their primary occupation (for example, weather forecasters). Among those AMS members who haven't recently published in the peer-reviewed literature, just 62 percent agreed that humans are causing global warming, with 37 percent saying humans are the main cause over the past 150 years.

The bottom line is that the previous studies finding 97 percent expert consensus on human-caused global warming are not directly comparable to this new study, which surveyed all AMS members, most of whom are not climate experts. The study's lead author, Neil Stenhouse, agrees that the Heartland Institute's James Taylor has misrepresented their study.

"Mr. Taylor's claims are highly misleading, but we expect that from someone with a long history of distorting the truth about global warming. We found high levels of consensus on global warming among the climate experts in our sample. You only see low levels of consensus in the sample if you also look at the views of people who are not climate experts."

What's Causing Meteorologist Skepticism?

When we actually examine the questions the study does investigate, as opposed to the contrarian approach of twisting the results to try and make them fit preconceived notions, it contains a lot of interesting information. The authors proposed four hypotheses to explain the variation in AMS members' views on global warming. They found evidence supporting each of the four hypotheses. In terms of predicting meteorologists' positions on human-caused global warming, listed in order from strongest to weakest, these were:

1) Perceived scientific consensus on global warming
2) Political ideology
3) Climate expertise
4) Perceived conflict among AMS members on global warming

Interestingly, the strongest single factor in predicting meteorologists' acceptance of human-caused global warming was their perception of the level of expert consensus on the subject. This result is consistent with previous research finding that people are more likely to accept this reality and support taking climate action if they're aware of the expert climate consensus. Like most people who are not expert in a particular field, most meteorologists also defer to the expert consensus...when they're aware that expert consensus exists. This is precisely why climate contrarians work so hard to deny that the climate consensus is real. The authors suggest tackling this misconception head-on.

"First, the strong relationship between perceived scientific consensus and other views on climate change suggests that communication centered on the high level of scientific consensus may be effective in encouraging engagement by scientific professionals."

Political ideology was the second strongest predictor of meteorologists' positions on global warming. Conservative AMS members were significantly more likely to doubt the reality of human-caused climate change. This tells us that the relatively high rate of rejections of the climate consensus isn't based on science, because the scientific evidence has nothing to do with politics.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 59:

  1. I don't comment on The Guardian, so I post my question here.

    In The Guardian Comments, user PearOfAnguish raises the issue of distinction between Conservative and conservative. Can anyone with UK background explain the distinction and why it is important in the context herein?

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  2. The "debate" over consensus reminds me so much of Einstein's comment on the debate over General Relativity:

    "THIS world is a strange madhouse. Every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political affiliation."

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  3. Chemware... And that was a quote made over a discussion of Relativity when it was a brand new theory. It was the scientific world grappling with understanding this dramatic and profound new theory.

    Greenhouse gas theory is now about 150 years old. The same grappling around took place about 100 years ago promarily between Angstrom and Arrhenius. It was determined about 75 years ago that Angstrom was wrong and Arrhenius was right.

    Since then science has, as with relativity, been refining its understanding of the theory. 

    Discussion of the current consensus on AGW is merely a way of weighing the relative risks involved with continuing to emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As in: Are you willing to bet the future of humanity on the position of 3% of scientists or 97% of scientists?

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  4. Chrizkos.   Conservative is a noun and refers to a political party (or a member of that party) that is to the centre right of politics.  Often Conservsative is used as a derogatory epithet by those to the political  left of centre to denigrate those with whom they disagree. The word conservative is an adjective used to describe those who are inclined to accept the status quo and are not entirely comfortable with change

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  5. If they are member/voter of Conservative, then how is the term a derogatory epithet?(unlike calling someone mildly centre left a commie, or someone mildly centre-right a facist).

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  6. In my experience, "Tory" is the more common derogatory epithet, as in "Tory Blair" directed at a New Labour Prime Minister. "New Labour" as a derogatory epithet is falling out of use, but not yet archaic.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Let's shut this down. It's off-topic.

  7. I am wondering why we are requested to follow a link to the Guardian to read to the end of the article?  The end, reproduced below, hardly seems a sufficient addition to the article to warrant inserting the link rather than just finishing the article:

    "This is also evident from the fact that meteorologists with more climate expertise are more likely to accept human-caused global warming. According to this study, the relatively low level of consensus across all AMS members is due to a combination of factors: lack of awareness of the expert consensus, political bias, and lack of climate expertise.

    In any case, the 97 percent expert consensus on human-caused global warming is still a reality."

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  8. Tom... I'm sure that's a reprint restriction put on Dana by the Guardian. 

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  9. I think we can learn something from meteorologists. They use models of the earth’s physical weather systems to forecast the future. 20 years ago I wouldn’t believe a weather forecast for more than one or two days ahead – but now in most situations we can rely on the basic forecast over 5 days to a week. Meteorology is an older science that climate science – but the adjusting of models to make better predictions in common to both, including the knowledge and experience of how we should use the modeling results when we know we don’t have all the factors yet in our software. Our Climate science models are mostly slight variations around what we know at present (the scientific consensus in the climate science anno 2013). And they all fail in some degree, indicating that we havn’t included all the factors in the correct way yet. Small wonder – it’s a vast subject and we have lots to learn. I expect that in 10-20 years our climate models will be very much better and we will look back and think how little we knew in 2013.

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  10. MartinG@9,

    In fact GCM are exactly the same in climate science and meteo, AFA algorithms and results are concerned. The only difference is that air and heat transfer between cells are the average/prevailing signals and simulated in longer timesteps while weather predictions try to simulate momentous air/heat transfer based on latest observations within shorter timescale. Both use the same technique of parametrisation/randomisation of unknown or too complex to describe physical phenomenons. So no surprise climate science and meteo going head to head in their modeling accuracy here.

    What differs those two are the long-term forcing: e.g. radiative balance changes due to carbon cycle disruption and geo feedback. Those forcings are obviously irrelevant on weather forecasting timescale, therefore a good weatherman can be totally ignorant of those forcings and still be doing a good job in his field. As we know, understanding of such forcings (that are the professional domain of climate scientists only) is essential to appreciate AGW. That explains why the incidence of AGW ignorance/denial is higher among weathermen rather than among climate scientists.

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  11. Tom@7, Rob@6,

    I inferred that awhile ago. What I am wondering is: why Dana's articles are not clearly marked at the begining "this is a partial reprint from the Guardian; go here or the original" but hide that under the rather inhibitive link at the end.

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  12. MartinG, while climate modelling will undoubtedly continue to improve it is unlikely that the results of climate models 10-20 years from now will be significantly different from those of current climate models. They will likely be more detailed and able to give us a better idea of regional impacts, but the overall prediction isn't going to change much (just as it hasn't changed much in the past 40 years).

    I look at the difference between weather and climate modelling as a matter of significant unknowns. The same factor may have a large impact on one and no apparent impact on the other. For example, a strong wind lasting a few hours could drastically alter the local weather prediction, but would have no impact on the global temperature balance. Thus, uncertainty about local winds is a significant issue for weather modelling... but not for climate modelling.

    Because weather modelling can be impacted by so many more 'small' and transitory factors it is vastly more complicated than climate modelling. There really aren't a lot of significant unknowns left in climate modelling. All the major factors have been identified and the remaining uncertainties are mostly around the precise values of a few of these factors (e.g. cloud feedbacks).

    I've seen many meteorologists argue that climate models can't be accurate because weather models can't be that precise... but this just isn't valid because they are modelling different things. Climate modellers don't need to worry about every errant breeze... weather modellers do.

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  13. MartinG, I consider the link between long term global climate modeling and near term regional weather forecasting as a continuum of forecasting that is modeled using different start point information with varying levels of accuracy depending on what is trying to be forecast.

    On the nearest end of the continuum is the attempt to forecast things like what weather events will occur at an exact location and when they can be expected at a specific location. Such forecasts are based on observations of nearby existing weather patterns and climate features (like highs and lows) projected forward a short time. They do not consider the total global system, only the aspects that will have a near term affect of on a specific location. In regions near surface disruptions like mountains the forecasts are very unreliable. In some cases significant storm systems have formed in Calgary, Alberta (a place in the foothills of the mountains I am familiar with) without any real forecast that they would form, other than seeing the clouds rapidly build.

    The global climate forecasting is based on global scale modeling. As others have commented it uses understanding of influences on the global system that are irrelevant in regional near term forecasting. It actually is the more reliable modeling. It is only 'surprised' by random impacts like dust from volcanic eruptions and El Nino/La Nina events which have short term affects on the global trend (affects that average out over a long term evaluation).

    A similar averaging out of local weather is possible, but the resulting information is less meaningful for people wanting to know what next week's weather will be like. A similar uncertainty exists with what any specific regions future weather will be like decades into the future.

    The real challenging forecasting is the prediction of weather in an upcoming growing season in any specific region. These forecasts are important to allow farmers to chose the most appropriate crop and actions for the anticipated weather during the season. This regional forecast being wrong ca lead to significant losses of crop production.

    Probably the biggest concern about the accelerated change of global climate due to the influence of rapidly increased CO2 emissions accumulating in the environment is the increased uncertainty of the results. What is certain is that climate change will occur more rapidly as the global warming occurs more rapidly. The exact changes in weather in any specific location become more uncertain. That can make predicting the upcoming growing conditions even less reliable.

    So, one of the biggest concerns about human impacts accelerating the rate of global warming is the increased uncertainty of important to know things like local growing conditions for the coming season, or the severity of extreme weather events in any given location.

    All that said, getting energy from burning fossil fuels cannot be continued for the billions of years that humanity should be looking forward to enjoying on this amazing planet. It is a damaging dead-end activity that really needs to be stopped sooner than those who enjoy benefiting from it are willing to give up benefiting from it.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] This sidebar discussion of climate models is off-topic for this thread. If you and other commenters wish to continue the discussion, please take the discussion to a more appropriate thread.

  14. The main difference between wheather forecasters and climate scientists, is that while wheater forecasters give us very usefull and reliable information, including the uncertainty rates, the climate scientists, never had matched their predictions. At least, by now, I believe in wheater forecasts, but I don't believe in 100 years climate predictions.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Unless you provide reputable sources for your global assertions about climate scientists, your statments constitute "sloganeering" which is prohibited by the SkS Comments Polcy. Please read the Comments Policy and adhere to it.

  15. Licorj...  But those climate forcasts are very likely to be extremely important for your grandchildren.

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  16. Licorj - Your comment shows a common misunderstanding, and a lack of knowledge regarding model predictions. I would suggest reading The difference between weather and climate as a relevant thread.

    Climate science has a long history of accurate predictions regarding GHGs and temperature, starting with Arrhenius 1896 (and no, that date is not an error).

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  17. KR - Theoretically, the wheater forecasters should be the easiest kind of scientists, should expected to be convinced about AGW, by climate scientists.

    Why, it is not happening ?

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  18. Licorj:

    "KR - Theoretically, the wheater forecasters should be the easiest kind of scientists, should expected to be convinced about AGW, by climate scientists.

    Why, it is not happening ?"

    Most weather forecasters aren't scientists.  While in modern times most have a undergraduate years university degree, very few have a graduate degree, and very few are practicing scientists.

    The most famous (ex-)weather forecaster in the denialist camp, Anthony Watts, only has a high school degree - he's old enough to have been certified as a broadcast meteorologist before the requirement (in the US, at least) for an undergraduate degree was adopted.  There are plenty of older weather forecasters out there working in media who don't have an undergraduate.

    What made you think they're scientists?  When you watch the weather forecast on TV, do you think "oh, there's a scientist on TV!" ????

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  19. dhogaza - I was assuming that the AMS is scientific association. Of course, all of their associated are scientists. There are not specific numbers about older weather forecasters(high school) repondents. I can not realize how manny they are.

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  20. John, You have to help me out here. I read this study, then your article. You make this statement:

    “…but only 13 percent of survey participants described climate as their field of expertise. Among those respondents with climate expertise who have published their climate research, this survey found that 93 percent agreed that humans have contributed significantly to global warming over the past 150 years”
    Now my first issue is you seem to discount people who identified as Meteorology/Atmospheric Science (66%) as if they know nothing about this topic nor have they studied it. If you want to be taken seriously you must admit that people in Meteorology/Atmospheric Science are far more versed in the topic than geologist
    The Study then states “93% of actively publishing climate scientists indicated they are convinced that humans have contributed to global warming” Line 357. You took it upon yourself to twist the results and stick in the word Significantly. The Study does not say that. (You are losing credibility fast here).

    Then we have the reasons for the Skepticism.
    406 We found that perceived scientific consensus was the factor most strongly associated with AMS members’ views about global warming. This suggests that scientists’ thinking on scientific topics may be subject to the same kinds of social normative influences that affect the general public. Rather than rationally weighing the evidence and deciding for themselves, as would be expected under more traditional ideas of scientific judgment, scientists may also use the views of a relevant peer group as a social cue for forming their own views.
    So what we have is a situation where these scientists are agreeing with the “consensus” just to fit in. Which indicates that if they take the time to look at the data and the science they will likely not come up with the consensus opinion.

    The bottom line here is that the 97% consensus is highly unlikely amongst those who study the climate. But hey, let us not forget; The consensus was the Wright Brothers would never fly and Robert Goddard would never build a liquid propelled rocket to get us to the moon. Fortunately in Science, the consensus means nothing.

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  21. One other thing here; This is a SURVEY. This is not valid research by any stretch of the imagination. To perform valid research the one would need to gather a list of all climate scientists. Then using sampling theory the sample size would be determined and the respondents would be selected totally at random. Anything that removes this randomness from the sample set invalidates the “study”. This lack of randomness is exactly what invalidates the Oreskes study as well as your own study.

    This AMS study is the closest thing we have gotten so far to an unbiased study.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Your personal opinions have little or no value in this venue. Please read the SKS Comments Policy and adhere to it.

  22. From what I can see, the main take-away from this survey is that there are many people trained as meteorologists who are woefully ignorant about the state of the art in climate science. That's not exactly surprising here in the US, at least, given the fact that undergraduate meteorology programs rarely require much in the way of climate science coursework. A couple years ago, I informally checked out the requirements of several such programs in different universities spread across the country, and I didn't encounter a single one that required more than one course in climate science.

    Even then, I think it is fairly obvious that taking a single undergraduate course in climate science is far from enough to claim expertise in that field. If that weren't the case, given my five semesters as a metallurgical/materials engineering student, I would be an expert in everything from thermodynamics to modern physics, to calculus (I took a couple of those courses twice, so I would really be an expert if this metric did apply), and cultural anthropology (my one free elective choice my first year at college).

    A potentially more interesting question to ask is this: what were the beliefs of the professors teaching these undergraduate meteorology students on the subject of global warming/anthropomorphic climate change? If the professors came through the academic pipeline more than twenty or thirty years ago, I doubt they knew nearly as much as I do about the subject. Another is this: how has and/or is the subject of climate change been addressed in the core text books in meteorology programs. Stephen Jay Gould's interesting essay "The Case of the Creeping Fox Terrier Clone," reprinted in Bully for Brontosaurus, illustrates just how perverse textbook authors can be when it comes to rehashing old material.

    When it comes to this kind of thing, I suspect a modified version of the old saying, "You are what you eat," really does tend to apply: "You believe what you are taught." If, as I suspect, meteorologists up through the year 2000 or so were educated in a near total vacuum where climate change is concerned, I don't see any reason to be surprised that holders of degrees in the field tend to be skeptics. After all, the bulk of their intellectual focus was on understanding weather.

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  23. Then using sampling theory the sample size would be determined and the respondents would be selected totally at random.

    I don't see how that is true. The only reason you choose a sample rather than look at the whole population is because of cost. Usually it costs too much too examine all the data (to call everyone in the US to find out the outcome of an election, for example). But if you can, you should always look at the complete population, or as much of the complete popuation as you can. Both Oreskes and Sketpical Science did so, so I cannot see how their studies are somehow invalidated.

    The only way your argument might have some truth to it is if you showed that the the scientists' views included in either study were somehow not representative. For example, it might be that scientists who view AGW as human-caused might be more likely to respond. But you don't show any such bias in either study. The fact that both studies appeared in major scientific publications seems to refute a bias collecting the responses.

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  24. Scarecrow: The Study then states “93% of actively publishing climate scientists indicated they are convinced that humans have contributed to global warming” Line 357. You took it upon yourself to twist the results and stick in the word Significantly.

    Skeptical Science didn't put the word "Significantly" in quotes. Dana  thought "Significantly" summed up the study. I would agree. Here is the full quote from the study:

    93% of actively publishing climate scientists indicated they are convinced that humans have contributed to global warming. Our findings also revealed that majorities of experts view human activity as the primary cause of recent climate change

    If the majorities or experts find human activity as the "primary cause of recent climate change," isn't that the same as saying humans have contributed to AGW "Significantly?"

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  25. If I were to take a guess at this question,I would posit that the experience of meteorologists facing the daunting challenges of greater than very short term weather predictions might incorrectly lead them to believe that it is impossible for other scientists to make any  decadal or longer projections of climate with anything approaching accuracy.

    This is of course the classis apples to oranges comparison that the title implies,but I suspect that there is an element of that bias going on.

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  26. Scarecrow57 @21, all attempts to sample a population, including those which are fully randomized are "surveys".  The term you are looking for is a "convenience sample".  Convenience surveys do indeed have several disadvantages, including no gaurantee that they are representative of the population as a whole.  Specifically with regard to surveys on controversial issues, it is likely that those with a strong opinion will preferentially respond, thereby distorting the result.  It may also be the case that percieved views of the conductor of the survey may also bias results.  That does not mean that convenience samples are useless, only that generalizing from such samples to the whole population is risky.

    In this particular case, the questionaire was emailed to all members of the AMS (excluding associate and student members).  There was an effective 26.3% response rate.  It is possible, but unlikely that so large a response would be significantly biased with respect to the original population.  This is quite unlike the most prominent form of convenience survey in which watchers of a particular news program are asked to phone in (thereby accruing an expense) with response rates well below 10% of the viewership, and unlikely to be more than a fraction of a percent of the population they represent.  You may well have seen pronouncements that the later are scientifically useless (they are), but that is because of the multiple biases introduced by the sampling method plus the very small size of the sample.

    Finally, Naomi Oreskes sampled all of a specific portion of the literature.  Hers was not a convenience sample, and was not biased by the methodology.  

    The Cook et al survey was in two parts.  The first part was an exhaustive survey of the literature as reported by one of two major indexing organizations.  As such, it was not a convenience sample and is almost as close to exhaustive as you could obtain.  Richard Tol has compared that sample to that from another indexing organization, showing that there are differences in the composition of the samples.  What he does not mention, however, although it is very easy to work out, is that difference in composition would make less than 1% of a difference to the result.  Even then, he has no grounds to assume the second sample is more representative than that actually used.

    The second part of Cook et al was a convenience sample of all authors from the exhaustive survey with discoverable email adresses.  Because it was a convenience sample of the entire population, and because there was a significant response, the results are not likely to be far of those of a representative survey.  Never-the-less, caution should be applied in interpreting the results of that part of the survey.  

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  27. dhogaza @18, the survey was limited to full members, ie, it excluded associate and student members.  Therefore all respondents to the survey either have a bachelors degree in meteorology, or equivalent academic knowledge; or have demonstrated "professional or scholarly expertise" in meteorology.  That later category likely includes Anthony Watts based on his being an author of a relevent scientific publication.  However, it is not true that most, or even a significant number of those surveyed lack scientific credentials on meteorology.

    What is true is that a large minority of those sampled (43.9%) conduct no research in any area, and that only a small minority (12.7%) conduct research on climate; or which an even smaller minority (6.8%) have climate as a career focus.  Acceptance of an anthropogenic cause for global warming is strongest in that smallest, most expert group, and declines with the fall of expertise.  That shows that it is something other than expert knowledge that is driving the low levels of acceptance of an anthropogenic cause to global warming among meteorologists. 

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  28. Scarecrow57 @20:

    "The Study then states “93% of actively publishing climate scientists indicated they are convinced that humans have contributed to global warming” Line 357. You took it upon yourself to twist the results and stick in the word Significantly. The Study does not say that. (You are losing credibility fast here)."

    The study reports that of those members of the AMS who (a) have a publication focus on climate, and (b) whose are of expertise is climate, 78% indicate that most of warming over the last 150 years is the result of human causes; and 10% indicate that human and natural causes are about equal.  If they are about equal, that certainly indicates the human causes are significant.

    Where you do have a point is with the further 5% who think that there is insufficient evidence to say  whether the causes are mostly human or natural, but who indicate that there is some human causation.  That indicates agnosticism about the level of either human or natural causation; and hence the proportions of both.  That agnosticism may allow the possibility that it is mostly human caused, but may also allow the possibility that human factors contributed as little as, for example, 5% to the warming.  I believe it is an over-interpretation by Dana to include this among those who think that humans are "a significant cause" of the warming.

    On the other hand, Dana was upfront about the figures, noting in brackets where he got them from, and thereby allowing you to form your own opinion.  In contrast, you deleted that explication, trying to portray Dana's claim as a misreporting of the data.  There is a difference between incorrect quotation or misrepresentation (which you are guilty of) and a mistaken interpretation (which is all Dana is guilty of).  The former results in a rapid loss of credibility indeed.  The later does not. 

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  29. What is a very disconcerning conclusion from this survey is the finding that  political ideology was the second strongest predictor of respondent's global warming views.  So why is global warming so influenced by political leanings?   I am not aware of any other  areas of science so strongly influenced by political ideology.  Surely this needs discussing as it seems  possible a climate scientist with a particular political view might conceivably and perhaps subconsciously, allow this view to influence his/her science.  I'm surprised that this aspect of the report has attracted so little attention here

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Climate science is not influenced by "Political (partisan) ideology." Rather, Political ideology is the filter through which many people view and interpret the science.

  30. Tom Curtis:

    "However, it is not true that most, or even a significant number of those surveyed lack scientific credentials on meteorology."

    I have an undergraduate degree in mathematics.  That does not make me a mathematician.

    If getting an undergraduate degree in meteorology makes one a "scientist", as "Licorj" might suggest, then obviously I picked the wrong degree.  I could've been a "physicist" by earning a BS in physics, etc etc.

    I don't really buy it, though.

    I do have mathematics credentials, though, due to my BS Mathematics.  That is not inconsistent with my not being a mathematician.  The vast majority of respondents to this survey will have "scientific credentials" in the same sense that I have mathematics credentials.  This does not make them scientists (Licorj's word) any more than my credentials make me a mathematician.

    On the other hand, if you want to declare me a mathematic, can I put that on my resume and quote you? :)


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  31. Poster:

    " I am not aware of any other areas of science so strongly influenced by political ideology."

    Evolutionary biology.

    Note that the influence of political ideology mostly disappears among those who are actually versed in climate science research, according to this (and other) surveys.

    Just like evolutionary biology ...

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  32. Tom Curtis:

    "dhogaza @18, the survey was limited to full members, ie, it excluded associate and student members. Therefore all respondents to the survey either have a bachelors degree in meteorology, or equivalent academic knowledge; or have demonstrated "professional or scholarly expertise" in meteorology. That later category likely includes Anthony Watts based on his being an author of a relevent scientific publication."

    The AMS requirements were not as stringent in the past, as I indicated in my first comment.  Watts is there because he's old enough to have escaped the need for a degree.  He was a member long, long before he was an author of a relevent scientific publication.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please explain what you mean by "relevant scientific publication."

  33. dhogaza @30, point taken.  I read your initial post too superficially.

    @32, I am aware that the AMS seal of approval, which A Watts has, and which does not require a bachelors degree has been superceded by a new AMS certification which requires a bachelors degree (at minimum).  I cannot, however, find any information about when the Associate member category was introduced, other than that it was prior to 2003 and (presumably) after 1922. Can you cite a source indicating the time at which associate memberships were introduced?  Further, can you show that members at that time that did not qualify for full membership under the new rules were allowed to retain full membership?  

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  34. Poster,

    You need to keep in mind that AGW only became politicized in the last 10 years or so.  Most of the established scientists, like Hansen, Schneider and Jones were studying AGW long before that.  There is no reason to suspect that the older AGW scientists were affected by ideology when they went into studing climate.  In addition, surveys of AGW scientists indicate that they are a varied group of individuals, as would be expected.  It is a denier meme that the scienitsts are biased, no data exists to show that.  This just means that the members of the AMS have listened to these denier memes, not that they are true.  You need to consider how biased you are, suggesting that this meme might be true without supporting data.

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  35. What seems to be missing in both the article and the discussion here is the sociological aspect. Meteorologists are performers; they hear every day about how they did their act, the audience reacts and actors are keen to please. The other group they must please is their employer(s). (plural because they have to think about the next gig.) That corporation has very sharp input from its advertisers and corporate heads.

    In another article, I commented that meteorologists need to communicate understanding of climate change better. This article provides excellent information to understand the prescient error of my prior comment. Meteorologists are the problem in public misperception. Several people have commented with a similar error: “If you can’t convince these scientists…”. It seems our job is to watch the TV, got to plug it in, and call the station each time the weatherman makes wrong comments about climate change. They are sensitive to these comments.


    0 0
  36. Michael Sweet  It is the finding of the AMS reported from their survey of their members that political ideology had a significant association with it's members views on global warming.  This is hardly a "denier's meme" but a statistically derived result from the survey data.  To suggest I have a political bias because I accurately report what the AMS said seems a rather odd comment.  The survey also found scientific consensus was the most significant association with its members views on global warming.  By your logic that must also be a denier's meme as it also is a findng from the survey.  Of course it is not but neither in this instance is the finding of the political ideology association.  Both are results from the data derived from the survey and not as you say "meme without supporting data" 

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  37. Poster,

    Perhaps I misread your comment.

    The scientists who do the work studying AGW are not politically biased.  The general public has become biased in the last 10 years.  Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is commonly quoted as saying that he was in favor of doing something about AGW until he heard what the possible cost was.  Scientists are not biased by potential costs, they study nature.  If the AMS found that their members are biased due to politics, that does not mean anything relative to the accuracy of scientific studies of AGW.  It means that the AMS members are not very well informed.  That is consistent with the fact that many of the AMS members are television performers who have little knowledge of AGW (Anthony Watts being a prime example).

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  38. "Further, can you show that members at that time that did not qualify for full membership under the new rules were allowed to retain full membership?"

    Hmmm, I see various endorsements such as the Seal (as you say, held by Watts), Certified Broadcast Meteorologist (the more modern endorsement requiring an undergrad degree), and a Certified Consulting Meteorologist (more stringent).

    But I see nothing in the membership requirements that indicates one must hold one of those endorsements to be a full member.

    And absolutely nothing to indicate that the move from the Seal of Approval to the CBM program would lead to those not chosing to become CBMs to lose full membership.

    What is it in the published criteria for membership that would lead you to believe this?

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  39. "[JH] Please explain what you mean by "relevant scientific publication""

    Well, Tom Curtis used the term first.  In my response, I'm assuming he meant the paper (or papers?) which listed Watts as a co-author along with Pielke, Sr and a long laundry list of others.

    This, for instance:

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Thanks for the clarification. 

  40. Poster, I think there are a number of processes at work the led to politicising of climate science. I dont think the subject was controversial at all until it became obvious that some action was needed. Proposed solutions included:

    • International treaties (“it’s a move to World Government”, “UN is restricting our freedoms”).
    • Carbon costing. (“we don’t want no stinking taxes”)
    • Moratoriums on some activities (eg building thermal power). (“Government restrictions on business freedom”).

    Ie. things that raised big red flags for some political ideologies. Rather than propose solutions that fitted their ideology, most found it is easier to deny a problem existed. Who wants to pay more for their energy, especially if you figure the cost from climate change wont be paid by you? Furthermore, restrictions on FF usage pose a substantial risk to shareholder value in FF companies so there is no shortage of funding for political opposition.

    Coupled with that, in many parts of the world, you have highly politicized media, and populations that choose to hear news from sources where is it framed to suit their ideological biases (left and right). If your only source of information on climate science was Fox news, then you would have a very incorrect understanding.

    Finally, once a stance becomes associated with an ideology, then tribal affiliations take over. There is plenty of misinformation sites to assure those troubled about truth that climate science is wrong.

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  41. Michael Sweet and Scaddenp.  With the greatest respect I am not certain that either of you have read the report of the AMS Survey.  If I am mistaken, my sincere apologies.  The point I have been trying to make (unsuccessfully it seems) is that the political idelogy of the scientists who are members of the AMS influences their attitude to climate change.  I'm not referring to anyone other than these scientists.  To clarify this it probably  is best to quote the report itself.  

    "While we found that higher expertise was associated with a greater likelihood of viewingas real and harmful, this relationship was less strong than for political ideology and perceived consensus_. (Lines 435-437).   "More than any other result of the study, this would be strong evidence against the idea that expert scientists' views on politically controversial topics can be completely objective". (Lines 439-441)

    This influence of political ideology on the objective views of climate scientists should give some cause for pause.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Two points: 

    1. Very few of the meteorologists who responded to the AMS are climate scientists.

    2. The body of climate change science has been and continues to be assembled by thousands of scientists from around the world.  For the overwhelming majority, the partisan politics of the US are totally irrelevant to their scientific endeavors.

    WARNING: Excessive repetition is prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy. Please read the policy and adhere to it.

    [JH] Upon further review, I withdraw the above. 

  42. Sorry for this.  Lines 435-437 in Post 41 should read ""While we found that higher expertise was associated with a greater likelihood of viewing global warming as real and harmful, this relationship was less strong than for political ideology and perceived consensus."

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  43. Poster, I would firstly agree that no individual scientists view on controversial topic will be completely objective. The practise of science itself is about recognizing that everyone has cognitive biases.

    However, I also think they are drawing too strong a conclusion from their data. Their measurement of expertise doesnt distinquish what a PhD was in, but more importantly, if you were worried about political bias influencing the practise of climate science, ie those doing active research (as evidenced by publishing) in climate science, then the papers results speak for themselves (Table 1).

    My comment on why political bias enters climate science still stands.

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  44. Poster wrote: "This influence of political ideology on the objective views of climate scientists should give some cause for pause."

    The flaw in your logic... the vast majority of AMS members are not climate scientists.

    0 0
  45. dhogaza @39, I am trying to establish the basis for your claim @32 that there exist a significant number of full members of the AMS lacking even a relevant bachelors degree, which you support by claiming that associate memberships did not exist at the time A Watts became a member, and that at that time people became members without that degree, and retained their full membership once associate membership were introduced.  You have provided no documentary evidence of this claim, and nor can I find any.  I mention the AMS seal of approval in the of chance that of chance that your claim is based on the situation with regard to the seal of approval.

    Regardless of that, however, I have a better way of determining the likely proportion of people holding different credentials within the survey.  Specifically, in 2008, an extensive survey of AMS membership demographics was published.   It found that among full members and retired members only, in 2005, 46% had doctorates, 26% had masters degrees, 26% had bachelors degrees, while only 2% had less than the equivalent of a bachelors degree.  In the actual survey on gobal warming, 52% had a PhD so that we can presume the sample to by slightly better educated than that in the 2008 study.  It is fair to presume, therefore, that only about one quarter of respondents had a highest educational attainment of a bachelors degree, and only a very small number having not even a bachelors degree. 

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  46. Supplement to my post @45 - I must be thinking slowly this morning.  Anyway, I finally got around to looking at the actual summary data for the AMS survey, and find that 52% have PhDs, 28% have MS or MAs, 19% have BS or BAs, while less than 1% have lower level qualifications.  I am concerned that the methodology makes no distinction between an MS or an MA for determining expertise in climate science

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  47. Having had a closer look at the data, I have serious doubts as to whether the articles conclusions are warranted by the data.  In particular, expertise is graded in the paper by a compound index.  First three indices are generated based on responses to three questions.  For the first index, respondents who publish primarilly on climate are given a grade of 2, those who publish primarilly on other areas are given a 1, while those who do not publish are given a 0.  For the second index, those whose "area of expertise" is climate are given a 1, with all others given a 0.  Finally, those with a PhD are given a 2, those with a Masters are given a 1, and all others are given a 0.  The final expertise index is the sum of the three individual indices.

    These indices produce some odd result.  To begin with, it shows those who publish on climate to be twice as expert, all else being equal, to those who publish in other areas.  So taken, the coefficient of determination (R^2) for experts in climate, atmosphere and other are, respectively, 0.885, 0.882, and 0.961.  These values strongly suggest that within groups, expertise in the form of publishing area explains far more of the variance than is explained by all factors examined in the paper, which is odd.  More importantly, if it is assumed that publication in another area represents 2/3rds the difference in expertise between those who publish on climate and those who do not, rather than on half, the coefficent of determinations rise to 0.976, 0.959, and 1 respectively.  Assuming that it represents just one third of the difference in expertise drops the coefficient of determination 0.74, 0.695 and 0.856 respectively.

    I am not arguing here for any particular scale of expertise.  Rather I am merely noting the influence an essentially arbitrary scaling of "expertise" has on the result.

    Going one step further, I created a two part composite index based on the proceedure used in the paper, excluding only educational standard as I do not have the relevant result.  The resulting composite index had a coefficient of determination of 0.955.  That by itself would appear to be a very strong result, suggesting that expertise is the dominant explanation of variance in the result.  Given that, and given that expertise was only the third strongest explanation of variance in the papers results, that suggests that adding in an index of educational standard confounded the result.  That is, it appears a large portion of meteorologists with PhDs, not being experts in climate, and not publishing on climate (and therefore having no particular professional knowledge on climate) but still having a rating of 3 on expertise; and rejecting anthropogenic cause may have concealed the fact that expertise was the dominant factor in determining opinions on climate change.

    Without additional information I cannot draw that strong a conclusion.  I would need to test the correlation of determination between acceptance of anthropogenic cause and the full expertise index to see if it does (as I conjecture) significantly reduce the coefficient of determination.  Further I would have to test all four factors against the reduced expertise index (or get somebody to do it for me).  However, this preliminary look is strongly suggestive, and the authors of the paper report no analysis to suggest the compound index of expertise has not confounded factors in a way that conceals the true influence of expertise.   

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  48. Tom Curtis:

    "you support by claiming that associate memberships did not exist at the time A Watts became a member"

    I never said this.

    What I responded to was a comment by Licorj that stated:

    "Theoretically, the wheat[h]er forecasters should be the easiest kind of scientists, should expected to be convinced about AGW, by climate scientists."

    I responded by saying:

    "Most weather forecasters aren't scientists. While in modern times most have a undergraduate years university degree, very few have a graduate degree, and very few are practicing scientists."

    No reference to the paper.

    You then proceeded to attack me for things I never said, and unfortunately I rose to the bait and tried to defend those unsaid things.


    Let's get down to the nitty-gritty:

    Do you believe that most of the weather forecasters we see on, say, TV, are practising scientists?

    Now, going forward, where is your evidence that the AMS purged meteorologists who had previously earned the "Seal of Approval" from their full membership rolls?

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  49. Dhogaza @48, what you wrote, verbatim was:

    "The AMS requirements were not as stringent in the past, as I indicated in my first comment. Watts is there because he's old enough to have escaped the need for a degree. He was a member long, long before he was an author of a relevent scientific publication."

    OK, where is your evidence that Watts was ever member of the AMS rather than an associate member?

    Where is your evidence, given that you have evidence of his full membership, that he retained full membership when associate membership was introduced?

    And, where is you evidence that Watts was a special case in either of the above - for lacking that, what was true of Watts could be true of any other non-degreeed member or associate member of the AMS from the same era?  You now claim that the assertions I attributed to you @45 where not yours.  No, they were merely direct implications of your assertions and the assumption that Watts was not a special case.  So unless you want to assert he was, stop evading your own claims, and defend them.  Or admit you were wrong.

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  50. Tom,

    In the USA there is little difference between a BA and a BS or an MA and an MS.  For a survey like this I would consider them equivalent.  I used to hire scientists and I just looked for a masters degree, I did not look at whether it was an MS or an MA.  The school that granted the degree, and the specific classes taken, were more important.

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