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The 5 characteristics of global warming consensus denial

Posted on 28 May 2013 by John Cook, dana1981

All movements that reject an overwhelming scientific consensus show 5 inevitable characteristics. They celebrate fake experts, cherry pick the data, argue using misrepresentation and logical fallacies, indulge in conspiracy theories, and demand impossible expectations of what research can deliver.

These characteristics are seen in the movements that deny the scientific consensus on vaccination, HIV and AIDS and the link between smoking and cancer. They are also abundantly evident in the movement that denies the scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming.

Industry and conservative groups have been attacking scientific consensus for decades. As far back as 1991, Western Fuels Association launched a $510,000 campaign to "reposition global warming as theory (not fact)" in the public perception. A memo from communications strategist Frank Luntz leaked in 2002 advised Republican politicians to "continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate." In a recent analysis of syndicated conservative opinion pieces spanning 2007 to 2010, the most popular myth was “there is no consensus”.

While opponents of climate action have persistently sought to manufacture doubt, the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming has grown so robust, it now manifests itself in a number of ways. Scientific organisations of many types and nationalities endorse the consensus. Several surveys of the climate science community measure overwhelming agreement. A 2004 analysis of peer-reviewed research found zero papers rejecting the consensus.

It's within this context that the Skeptical Science analysis finding 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming has drawn an incredible amount of media attention. Hundreds of media stories documented our survey and results. Our team members participated in a number of interviews to discuss the paper, including on Al Jazeera, CNN, and ABC. President Obama even Tweeted about our results to his 31 million followers.

The story has been so popular mainly because our results present a simple but critical message. There is a wide gap between the public perception and the reality of the expert consensus on human-caused global warming. Additionally, research has shown that perception of consensus is linked to support for climate policy. This is true along most of the ideological spectrum – when people are aware of the expert consensus on human-caused global warming, they are more likely to support taking action to solve the problem.

The 5 characteristics of consensus denial

Thus although our results were straightforward and consistent with previous research, we were not surprised when they met with resistance from certain groups, and we anticipated the critiques with an FAQ. However, in reviewing the various criticisms of our paper, we noticed some common threads amongst them. A 2009 paper published in the European Journal of Public Health by Pascal Diethelm and Martin McKee discussed five characteristics common to movements that deny a scientific consensus:

1) Cherry picking;
2) Fake experts;
3) Misrepresentation and logical fallacies;
4) Impossible expectations of what research can deliver; and
5) Conspiracy theories;.

These characteristics were present throughout the criticisms of our paper, and in fact we found examples of each of the five characteristics among them.

Cherry picking several scientists out of 1,200

For example, the author of one blog post contacted a handful of the scientists whose papers were included in our survey and claimed that we had 'falsely classified' their papers. Climate economist Richard Tol also echoed the criticism of our paper in this blog post. This particular criticism manages to check off three of the five characteristics of scientific denialism.

Specifically contacting these few scientists is a classic example of cherry picking. Our survey received responses from 1,200 climate researchers; the author of the post in question carefully selected a few of them who all just happen to be well-known climate 'skeptics'. The purpose of getting 1,200 scientists to classify their own research was to independently check our ratings against the very authors who wrote the papers. The result - independent confirmation of an overwhelming consensus:

The growth of the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming in the peer-reviewed literature from 1991 to 2011, from Cook et al. (2013)

Magnifying the dissenting minority

The fake expert strategy is really about manufacturing the appearance of ongoing debate. Usually it involves using non-experts who have done no actual climate research as dissenting voices.  Another variant of this strategy in the textbook authored by John Cook and G. Thomas Farmer, Climate Change Science: A Modern Synthesis:

"A variation of the Fake Expert strategy is to take the handful of remaining dissenting climate scientists and magnify their voices to give the impression of more significant disagreement then there actually is."

The handful of scientists contacted for this blog post are among the less than 3% of climate researchers who dispute human-caused global warming. As a result, the voices of this small minority of 'skeptics' are magnified.

Third, this is a misrepresentation of our study (we'll come to more misrepresentations and logical fallacies shortly). The Skeptical Science team categorized the papers based solely on their abstracts, whereas the scientists were asked about the contents of their full papers. We invited the scientific authors to categorize their own papers, so if they responded, their 'correct' classifications of the full papers are included in our database. As illustrated in the graphic above, we found the same 97% consensus in both the abstracts-only and author self-rating methods.

Unrealistic expectations - a tactic perfected by the tobacco industry

Another characteristic of movements that deny a consensus involves unrealistic expectations. The tobacco industry perfected this approach in the 1970s, demanding ever-more stringent levels of proof that smoking caused cancer in order to delay government regulation of their products. This technique of unrealistic expectations was illustrated in another blog post claiming that only papers which quantify the human contribution to global warming count as part of the consensus. Most climate-related research doesn't quantify how much global warming humans are causing, or specify the human contribution the abstract; there's simply no reason to.

We didn't expect scientists to go into nitty gritty detail about settled science in the valuable real estate of the abstract (the short summary at the start of the paper). However, we did expect to see it more often in the full paper, and that's exactly what we observed. When scientists were asked to rate the level of endorsement of their own papers, in the 237 papers that actually specified the proportion of human-caused global warming, over 96% agreed that humans have caused more than half of the recent global warming.

Misrepresentations and logical fallacies

Christopher Monckton, who John Abraham exposed as habitually misrepresenting climate scientists' research, has also misrepresented our results. Monckton compared apples to oranges by looking at other consensus studies in an effort to argue that our results show a 'collapsing' consensus. On the contrary, using a consistent apples-to-apples comparison over a two-decade span, we showed that the consensus on human-caused global warming is growing.

In recent years, fewer papers have taken a position on the cause of global warming. This was predicted by Naomi Oreskes in 2007, who noted that scientists will move on to focus on questions that are not settled. Some blogs advanced a related logical fallacy by claiming that this shows 'an increase in uncertainty.' However, if uncertainty over the cause of global warming were increasing, we would expect to see the percentage of papers rejecting or minimizing human-caused global warming increasing. On the contrary, rejection studies are becoming less common as well. That scientists feel the issue is settled science actually suggests there is more certainty about the causes of global warming.

Conspiracy theories

Finally, a conspiracy theory has been proposed, suggesting that the consensus is simply a result of scientific journals refusing to publish papers that reject human-caused global warming. Our survey included results from 1,980 journals publishing papers by over 10,000 scientists from over 70 different countries. For all of these nearly two thousand international scientific journals to block 'skeptic' research would involve a massive conspiracy indeed.

Due to the importance of our results, we fully expect the resistance to continue, and we fully expect those who resist our findings to continue to exhibit the five characteristics of scientific denialism. However, we have used two independent methods and find the same 97% consensus as in previous studies. Our results are robust

This post was adapted from a Guardian article by Dana Nuccitelli.

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Comments 51 to 81 out of 81:

  1. @RomanM #50:

    You state: 

    I agree with some of the other comments that journal gatekeeping may have played some role in this process, but it seems much more obvious that the major reason for the proliferation of global warming and climate change papers is the many billions of dollars which have been allotted over the last 20 years to such research.

    What is the source of your assertion that many billions of dollars have been expended by climate scientsts over the past 20 years?  

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  2. RomanM - A fascinating choice of threads for your comment, given that your statement "I agree with some of the other comments that journal gatekeeping may have played some role in this process..." is a direct fit for #5, Conspiracy theories. Your "...many billions of dollars..." line is another denial myth, that climate scientists are in it for the money - and I dare you to live on an average academic salary and honestly say that. 

    The Cook paper is about and is reporting percentages as a conclusion about consensus, not the raw numbers. However, those raw numbers were given in the paper. See Figure 1 of the paper, total numbers and percentages. Your argument makes no sense whatsoever. 

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  3. @John Hartz  #50

    You might start by looking at this pdf from the US government:

    http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/112xx/doc11224/03-26-climatechange.pdf

    See Figure 1 and Table 1 at the beginning of the document.  This is just one source of funding, albeit a very important one.

    @KR  #51

    Am  I  missing something?  I don't see any annual "raw numbers".  "Raw numbers" are found in a Table, not a Figure.  If you read my blog post at CA, you willl see that I had to digitize the Figure to get a reasonable approximation of the "raw numbers" ffor analyzing the regressions.  try digitizing the red triangles in Figure 1 if you think those are "raw numbers".

    As far as "living on an academic salary", I spent 40 years doing just that before retiring from my "day job" five years ago to live on a pension.  I still do an online stat course for my university just to keep my hand in the academic environment. 

    Are you telling me that acquiring research funds is not important for a professor?  I did not say that they are "in it for the money".

    And yes, I am aware that the paper is "presenting percentages."  However if you think that this means that the "raw numbers" shouldn't also be automatically reported, you are extremely naive.

     

     

     

     

     

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  4. RomanM - I have replied to you on the relevant thread

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  5. @KR  #54

    I posted on this thread because the work that I did was referenced in the head post.  Do you expect that if I am to reply to that referencing, I need to wander around the site looking for a "better place"?

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  6. RomanM:

    Thank you for the link to the Congressional Budget Office report, Federal Climate Change Programs: Funding History and Policy Issues published in March 2010. 

    According to Table 3 of the CBO report, the annual federal budget for climate science programs averaged roughly $2 billion (in 2009 dollars) over the twelve year period 1998 thru 2009.

    Do you believe that this level of funding was exorbitant? 

    Do you believe that the money was well spent?

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  7. RomanM - My apologies, but I had missed that particular link to your blog post among the many in the 5 characteristics of global warming consensus denial overview.

    Your objections were met in the paper itself and the FAQ - percentages of denial in climate science have remained in the <5% level, mentions of AGW in abstracts have decreased over time since it is not controversial. Abstracts are small - when I write an abstract I devote that limited space to new information and issues, not wasting it on background matters settled decades ago. Your argument claiming increasing uncertainty is simply absurd. 

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  8. RomanM,

    Supplementing John Hartz's comment "According to Table 3 of the CBO report, the annual federal budget for climate science programs averaged roughly $2 billion (in 2009 dollars) over the twelve year period 1998 thru 2009", I'll point out that according to table 3, more than half of that $2G/yrwent to NASA. The text of the report states that

    NASA's efforts have been dominated by the design, development, and procurement of satellites engaged in the observation of the planet and its atmosphere and the analysis of the data that those satellites collect.

    The data collected by those satellites is available to all researchers, whether they support the consensus or not. What a gravy train for skeptics!

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  9. Usual implications over climate science funding is that its just climate scientists trying to line their own pockets. (maybe this tells a lot about the way the accusers think). However, when you look at what climate science money is spent on, it mostly instrumentation - especially satellites. Scientists draw their usual, modest salaries.

    As to government priorities - if predictions showed a catastrophic asteroid impact likely in 2050, wouldn't you expect governments to fund research into checking this was correct and investigating methods to avoid collision? If anything, governments are underfunding science and instead subsidizing fossil fuels. How does that make sense?

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  10. @John Hartz #56

    Exorbitant?  It's only from one source and it is not peanuts.  Was this type of money even available before 1990 or is it new funding attracting people from physics, geology, biology, etc. to the new pickings?  Was it well spent?  Not particularly, given the overall contribution to the picture of the world at this point.  However, this is not a central issue to the points in my initial post.

    @KR #57

    The data set you pointed to was not particullarly helpful.

    It was indeed "a bit late in getting posted" so I had not seen it. However, have you looked at any of it yourself? If you recall, the analysis that I did was on the self-ratings of the authors. You might notice that that information is not included in the 2 megabytes of data found there.

    The information should have been given in tables in the Supplementary document which had very little numeric content.

    What specific "objections" are you talking about.  My points referred to the self-rated by authors papers which clearly would have been done using the paper rather than asking themselves what was said in the abstract.  And I don't recalling saying anything about "uncertainty".

    The analysis issues are still there... but I don't have time to discuss them now.

     

     

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  11. RomanM:

    Your initital post had an edge to it and I am just trying to understand where you are coming from. When you speak in broad generalities, you can expect to be questioned by SkS readers and authors. You appear to resent the fact that the federal government has  funded climate science research. Is that because you fundamentally disagree with  the findings of scientists and scientific bodies that mankind's activites do affect the Earth's climate system? 

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  12. RomanM - The self-ratings, as stated in the FAQ, were "...conducted under the promise of confidentiality for all participants". I suspect you are out of luck in terms of obtaining raw data there.

    ---

    Cook et al stated (repeatedly) that they used a simple linear regression on their data, and their analysis appears to be consistent with those statements. You have stated your opinion that they should have used different statistics - but invalidates nothing stated in Cook et al. You have a difference of opinion.

    That is because, reading your post, I found that your differences of opinion regarding appropriate statistical complexity made absolutely no difference with respect to the Cook et al conclusion:

    The number of papers rejecting AGW is a miniscule proportion of the published research, with the percentage slightly decreasing over time. Among papers expressing a position on AGW, an overwhelming percentage (97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings) endorses the scientific consensus on AGW.

    And none of your statistical differences justify the rather obnoxious and ideological language you used - language that (to me) indicates you are approaching the topic with a pre-formed opinion:

    Yet another propaganda essay masquerading as a scientific paper has been published .... The latest entry, Quantifying the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature, written by a team of activist bloggers led by John Cook of the antithetically named Skeptical Science blog, attempts to further the meme of a 97% consensus of scientific support for a faltering Global Warming movement...the weak data gathering / data interpretation methodology and the truly incredible spin-one’s-head- around algorithm for generating a value of “97” which conveniently ignores a large proportion of the data.

    Those statements are certainly not supported by the rest of your post. At all. 

    My best guess at your overall conclusion came from the line "...the Endorse group showing a decrease of almost 9 percentage points over the 20 year period." If I was wrong, if a claim of increasing uncertainty was not your point, I'm really at loss as to what it might be. Particularly since you have drawn no conclusions nor made any point regarding the 97% you seem so very upset about in your introductory paragraph. 

    ---

    You feel Cook et al should have used more complex statistical treatments - fine. But that wouldn't change the papers conclusions in any way. 97% is still the percentage of papers expressing an opinion that endorse the consensus on AGW. 

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  13. RomanM:

    1)  The blog post referenced in the article above was not yours, but that by Anthony Watts, how explicitly states:  

    "The number of papers endorsing AGW is falling, while the number of papers with no position is increasing. Looks like an increase in uncertainty to me."

    That sentiment was not attributed to you, and is unwarrented by your results.   Ergo the article above does not criticize (or even take notice of) your blogpost.

    Do you wish to endorse Watts' understanding of the implications of your blogpost?

    2)  Your blogpost seems very incomplete to me.  Although it carefully analyzes the trends in papers for reject, endorse, and noposition, it does not analyze the relative trend of endorse to reject.  By my calculation, a simple linear regression shows that endorsements are increasing at a rate of 0.34% a year as a percentage of papers that take a position (ie, papers excluding noposition papers) from an already high base (91.7% average over the first five years).  I would be very interested to see your GLM trend and statistical significance for that statistic.  I am also curious as to why you did not caclulate it in your original post, given that it is the most germaine statistic given your thesis and the headline result of Cook et al.

    3)  As an aside, it is clear that the increasing percentage of endorsement papers as a percentage of papers with a position completely refutes Watts' hypothesis as to why the percentage of neutral papers is increasing.  Indeed, that fact shows that John Cook and Dana were entirely justified to claim above that:

    "However, if uncertainty over the cause of global warming were increasing, we would expect to see the percentage of papers rejecting or minimizing human-caused global warming increasing. On the contrary, rejection studies are becoming less common as well. That scientists feel the issue is settled science actually suggests there is more certainty about the causes of global warming."

    Do you disagree? 

    4)  Your cited source on funding shows a near constant level of funding over the years 1998 -2009, a period over which self rated papers increased nine-fold.  If your theory that it is desire for funding that drives climate science had any merit, a slowly increasing level of funding would be expected to be matched by a slowly increasing level of research.  As a result, it appears to me that in addition to being libellous, your theory has no merit.  The best that can be said for it is that it is a terribly convenient theory for people who find themselves rejecting the scientific consensus for ideological reasons.

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  14. @Tom Curtis #53

    [moderation complaint snipped] However, I will first address the points in your comment.

    1) The blog post referenced in the article above was not yours, but that by Anthony Watts...

    Is this argument based on some sort of technicality? The WUWT post paraphrased the title of my CA post, showed a graph created by me from that post and provided a link to my post, and it has nothing to do with my work? Possibly the fact that my name was misspelled caused some confusion.

    "The number of papers endorsing AGW is falling, while the number of papers with no position is increasing. Looks like an increase in uncertainty to me."
    That sentiment was not attributed to you, and is unwarrented by your results. Ergo the article above does not criticize (or even take notice of) your blogpost.

    Do you wish to endorse Watts' understanding of the implications of your blogpost?

    It may have mischaracterized my position slightly. Replace the word "number" by the word "percentage". The glm procedure applied to these two groups gives the results:

    Endorse: Mean annual change in percentage points over the period of the study = -0.44, p-value = 0.0402
    No Position: Mean annual change in percentage points over the period of the study = 0.60, p-value = 0.0041

    Both of these were characterized in the paper as showing no demonstrable trend.

    2) Your blogpost seems very incomplete to me. Although it carefully analyzes the trends in papers for reject, endorse, and noposition, it does not analyze the relative trend of endorse to reject. By my calculation, a simple linear regression shows that endorsements are increasing at a rate of 0.34% a year as a percentage of papers that take a position (ie, papers excluding noposition papers) from an already high base (91.7% average over the first five years). I would be very interested to see your GLM trend and statistical significance for that statistic. I am also curious as to why you did not caclulate it in your original post, given that it is the most germaine statistic given your thesis and the headline result of Cook et al.

    I didn't bother calculating them because the "germane" 97% statistic is ill-conceived. If you have 97 people in the Endorse group, 3 people in the Reject group and 0 in the No Position group, you get a 97% "Consensus". If you have 97 people in the Endorse group, 3 people in the Reject group and 1000000 in the No Position group, you still get a 97% "Consensus".This statistic would not be particularly robust by either statistical or common sense standards and could produce radically different results for just slightly different data sets.

    However as a favour to you (and the authors), I have calculated what you have requested and one more for "completeness"

    Endorse (from Endorse + Reject): Mean annual change in percentage points over the period of the study = 0.26, p-value = 0.0159
    Endorse (from Endorse + No Position): Mean annual change in percentage points over the period of the study = -0.56, p-value = 0.009

    3) As an aside, it is clear that the increasing percentage of endorsement papers as a percentage of papers with a position completely refutes Watts' hypothesis as to why the percentage of neutral papers is increasing. Indeed, that fact shows that John Cook and Dana were entirely justified to claim above that:

    "However, if uncertainty over the cause of global warming were increasing, we would expect to see the percentage of papers rejecting or minimizing human-caused global warming increasing. On the contrary, rejection studies are becoming less common as well. That scientists feel the issue is settled science actually suggests there is more certainty about the causes of global warming."

    Do you disagree?

    I have given what I consider to be a very plausible reason for why the percentage of "rejection" studies would well go down under increasing research funding , but it is apparently "off-topic ideology."

    4) Your cited source on funding shows a near constant level of funding over the years 1998 -2009, a period over which self rated papers increased nine-fold. If your theory that it is desire for funding that drives climate science had any merit, a slowly increasing level of funding would be expected to be matched by a slowly increasing level of research. As a result, it appears to me that in addition to being libellous, your theory has no merit. The best that can be said for it is that it is a terribly convenient theory for people who find themselves rejecting the scientific consensus for ideological reasons.

    Your argument is clearly wrong. Ask yourself how many of these approximately 12000 papers did NOT have any research funding. If as you say, the number of papers increased nine-fold during this period where did the nine times as much funding come from? Your argument that slowly increasing the funding will slowly increase the numbers is also wrong. Grants are often multiyear and various delays in writing and publication push some the papers into later time periods. Furthermore, I only referenced a single source of funding. Add in new sources at various intervals and the rate goes up dramatically.

    From ny own personal experiences in academia, funding is extremely important to researchers.  If the money becomes available, people willl apply for that money and papers will be written - some good, some not so good. How you get the idea that indicating the importance of acquiring research funding is "libellous" I can only wonder...

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    Moderator Response:

    [Dikran Marsupial] Moderation complaint snipped.  Moderation complaints are by definition off-topic.  Normally posts containing moderation complaints are simply deleted as off-topic.  On this occasion I have edited the post instead, however this is an unnecessary burden on the moderators, and next time the moderator is unlikely to be so lenient.  Please familiarise yourself with the comments policy.

  15. I refreshed the page to check for further comments and somehow, my comment seems to have reappeared in its original format.

    I do not intend to post here again.

     

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    Moderator Response:

    [Dikran Marsupial] As KR says, it is a known bug feature of the site, I've deleted the duplicate.

  16. RomanM and others - Refreshing a page on this site will resubmit a comment; a known limitation/bug on this site. It's certainly happened to me on occasion. 

    If I correctly recall previous mentions of this issue, it's a known bug that just hasn't reached the top of the webmaster list yet...

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  17. RomanM's postulates that increased funding for climate science research will distort the objectivity of the scientists receiving the funds.

    The implicit assumption embedded in this argument is the false belief that there are pro-AGW strings attached to the funding.  

    I challengte RomanM and his denier brethren to provide hard evidence that such strings exist. If they cannot, their belief is nothing more than another imaginary conspiracy theory. 

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  18. The hypothesis that climate research funds have pro-AGW strings attached includes the premise that during the George Bush administration there were pro-AGW strings attached to funding.  James Hansen widely documented that the Bush administration attempted to gag climate scientists who had pro-AGW information.  This directly contradicts and falsifies the hypothesis that funding is based on supporting the science of AGW. 

    At one time I saw a post online asking skeptical scientists to document funding problems they had due to being skeptical of AGW.  The only case of funding being cut was documented by James Hansen who had funding cut because he was pro AGW.  Can RomanM document cases of skeptics losing funding because of their climate position, or is he just making this up?  It is easy to slander climate scientists with baseless claims of bias. 

    In reality, scientists like Lindzen and Spencer have trouble obtaining funding because they have a long history of being wrong and their proposals have no merit.  Who would you want to be a graduate student for: a scientist like Hansen who has a long history of making important discoveries or a scienitst like Lindzen who has a long history of being wrong?  Who would you give a grant to?  I would work for and fund Hansen, since he has used his past grants wisely and has interesting new proposals.  We see that Lindzen has no grad students and few scientists want to work with him.  This is because his ideas have no merit to informed graduate students and scientists.

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  19. While the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Government Accountability Project are advocacy organizations (i.e., like all advocacy groups, consider sources and data carefully), their 2007 report on political pressure regarding climate science is very interesting.

    They conducted in depth interviews and document examinations (GAP) and surveyed federal climate scientists (UCS, 1,600 queried, 279 replies), arriving at similar conclusions:

    2007 UCS/GAP survey results

     Asked to quantify the number of incidents of interference of all types, 150 scientists (58 percent) said they had personally experienced one or more such incidents within the past five years, for a total of at least 435 incidents of political interference.

    This interference increased with direct involvement in climate science, with more than 3/4 of active climate researchers reporting incidents, 1/4 of those having 6+ incidents over the last five years. 

    There were also complaints about inadequate funding, poor morale, and blocking of press releases that "..highlight research into the causes and consequences of global warming."

    ---

    RomanM's assertions about a pro-AGW research bias don't seem to hold in the US. 

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  20. RomanM @64:

    1)  "Is this argument based on some sort of technicality?"

    You can call it a technicality if you like, but the post above says that:

    "Some blogs advanced a related logical fallacy by claiming that this shows 'an increase in uncertainty.'"  (My emphasis)

    The bolded phrase is a direct quote from Watts' gloss on your blog.  In contrast, the word "uncertainty" appears only twice on your blogpost, once in quoting Watts' title in a trackback, and again in quoting Watts in the same trackback.  Your blogpost makes a technical point about a (purportedly) superior methods for calculating the trends calculated in Cook et al.   Watts puts a gloss on that by presenting a "reason" for the trends.  It is the latter that is criticized above, not the former.

    Curiously, although you have been invited to comment on Watts "reason", you have not done so - either here, nor at WUWT (although at WUWT you did take the time to misrepresent a PR campaign as a source funding for scientific research).

    2)  Thankyou for calculating the GLM trends for endorsement and rejection of AGW as a percentage of papers taking a position.  For readers who missed them, I think they need highlighting:

    "Endorse (from Endorse + Reject): Mean annual change in percentage points over the period of the study = 0.26, p-value = 0.0159


    Endorse (from Endorse + No Position): Mean annual change in percentage points over the period of the study = -0.56, p-value = 0.009"

    I note that the figures are statistically significant.

    I further note that:

    • If there was an increase in uncertainty about AGW, there would be an increase of rejection papers relative to endorsement papers.  Therefore these statistics clearly falsify Watts explanation of the trends you calculated in your blogpost.
    • If the increase in endorsement papers relative to rejection papers were due to scientists chasing funding, then there would be an increase in endorsement papers relative to neutral papers as well.  (Afterall, if your funding is premised on your getting the "right results", there is no point in leaving people in doubt as to whether or not you got the "right result".)  Ergo the total figures refute your explanation as well.

    Further, despite your claim that the figures are not robust, the 97% figure (or close to it) turns up in study after study of this sort.  The claim of a lack of robustness is hardly credible.  What is more, the mere fact that noposition percentage can be boosted or reduced by variations in publications in non-related fields, or by the simple increase in papers that take AGW as read, shows that it is the percentage of endorsement or rejection papers among papers taking a position that is germane.  Your argument to the contrary is simply not credible.

    3)  I did not ask you to discuss your particular theory, but the theory advanced in the post above, and that advanced by Watts.  I find it odd that despite the fact that you appear to disagree with Watts when he claims the trends in the data are explained by increased uncertainty, you have now twice declined to state your disagreement publicly when asked to do so.  Further, you posted on Watts thread without feeling it necessary to correct his error.  I have noted the reticence in "climate auditors" to correct even the most outragious errors by Watts and his ilk before.

    4)  Given the fact that you cannot defend your position in detail on this site, I will not pursue this matter beyond rebutting the specific argument you did make.  I note, however, that others have responded more than adequately IMO.

    Turning to the specific point you made, the time frame of the funding exceeds that of a typical funding grant and the time taken to publish papers.  That being the case, if the funding had started up in 1998, we would expect a ramp up of papers over five years, followed by a plateau.  Instead we see an accelerating rise in the number of climate change papers.

    Further, you claim in defence of your argument that, "Add in new sources at various intervals and the rate goes up dramatically."  Your only evidence of these "new sources" being added in, however, is the increase in papers which makes your conjecture entirely circular.  Without that conjecture, the evidence shows that researching global warming shows that more and more researchers are trying to divide up a constant pie; making climate related research a field researchers guided by money would avoid.

    Finally, your claim is not that increased funding explains the increase in research; but that the (assumed) increased funding explains the increasing proportion of endorsement papers.  That is only an explanation if the funding is premised on certain results, or the researchers are shaping their results to gain funding.  Both charges are clearly libellous.  As your intention in making the charge is clearly to denigrate climate scientists, you should not pretend otherwise.  The pretence is cowardice, pure and simple.

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  21. This site is suppose to be about science and not politics.  Consensus is a political argument and not a scientific one.  Accordingly the consensus project should be deleted from this site.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] You are skating on the thin ice of sloganeering. Please cease and desist.

    Also. please read and adhere to the SkS Comments Policy. 

    Posting comments on SkS is a privelege, not a right. 

  22. William Haas,  the TCP is a survey that tells us where the mainstram scientific position lies on the question of AGW, that is a question about science, not politics.  Try reading up on the philosophy of science (e.g. Kuhn), you will find that the emergence of a concensus is essentially what defines a scientific paradigm

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  23. Wrong, William Haas.  This site is about the communication of climate science to the general public.  That task is essentially political (in the broad sense, not the crude RepDem, LibCon, RightLeft sense).  Comments are expected to be supported with evidence, preferably that generated through the scientific process.

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  24. William Haas: I should make the obvious point that The Consensus Project and the associated discussion is centered around a peer-reviewed article published in a mainstream scientific journal. Even if we adopted your narrow definition of what SkS should cover, TCP would still be be within that scope. 

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  25. Psst,

    I decided to share this with those skeptical folks at the so-called SkepticForum:

    The 5 characteristics of global warming consensus denial

    http://www.skepticforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=20381&p=337071#p337071

     

    Might turn into a raucous discussion   ; -  }

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  26. Thanks for these 5 characteristics of global warming consensus denial. I would, tentatively, add a sixth: head-in-the-sandism. A complete refusal to engage. The mind simply shuts down as soon as the words climate change or global warming are uttered. Active denial, of the kind outlined in this post, can be met with evidence. The passive denial I am talking about is blind,  deliberately autistic. I suspect that if you prodded a passive denier hard enough he/she would have to revert to one or more of the five characteristics outlined. The willfully complacent head-in-the-sand denier is perhaps the most difficult to deal with as no communication is possilbe.

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  27. John Hartz @67 - I think the denial rationale based on "strings attached" to funding is a bit more subtle than simply alleging an explicit, quid-pro-quo arrangement like, "we provide funding, you provide evidence and explanations supporting AGW."  Their rationale, as I have heard it explained, is that climate scientists live in fear of the entire field becoming obsolete (or at least massively downsized) if they acknowledged the alleged "truth" that there is no AGW, because then there would be no crisis to contend with and money would be better spent elsewhere.  Therefore, they have all agreed, either tacitly or explicitly, to falsify, manipulate, and/or explain away data that does not tend to support AGW, on a massive global scale.  

    This cynical theory is not so easy to refute simply by saying that academic researchers are not paid huge salaries - one might even argue that living on a low income makes you all the more dependent on and defensive of the income you do have, because you are not able to put much away as a safety net.  Therefore, I don't believe that it is so easy to refute this type of conspiracy theory in a framework of cold, amoral, economic self-interest.  

    What makes the theory so implausible to me is precisely its extreme cynicism.  I simply cannot believe that 97% of the thousands of researchers in an entire field of science are so profoundly corrupt that they would devote their careers to systematically publishing lies.  The economics of academic research science do also tie into my view, in that I think self-selection would tend to remove most people who would so compromise their morals for financial gain from the pool of people who end up in a career that they knew from the start would not be very lucrative.  

    But that said, I even doubt that 97% of business executives are that corrupt.  You will sometimes get this retort from a "skeptic"/denier conspiracy theorist: "How can you assign only noble motives to scientific researchers and only evil motives to corporations and/or their executives?" Thus trying to turn tables and make you look like the conspiracy theorist.  But this is a misleading comparison.  Even if it is the case that 97% of fossil fuel executives publicly deny AGW (I don't know that in reality the figure is that high), it would not be analagous to what they are accusing scientists of, namely, systematically distorting the truth in their field of expertise.  At least oil executives could be excused for misunderstanding the science of AGW because it is not their expertise.  What skeptics/deniers are accusing the climate science community of, on the other hand, is far more damning - knowingly and deliberately lying to the public about a subject that they understand better than anyone else, such that there is no higher authority to step in and correct them!  It would be more analogous to 97% of oil execs, for example, systematically lying to their shareholders about their reserves/assets, their revenues/costs, their business plans/strategies, their negotiations/projects, their "prospectus," or whatever it is that they understand better than anyone else.  

    It is very, very hard to reach someone who is cynical enough to believe that sort of thing.  Case in point - one of my coworkers is an adamant AGW denier (which, incidentally, is what got me interested in actively researching the topic - before talking to him, I didn't expect to ever encounter an educated person who held such views, and so it kind of woke me up and spurred me to action).  After one of the recent mass-murder tragedies, I think it was either Newtown or the Boston Marathon bombing, I overheard him saying to someone in the office that he was surprised that this kind of attack didn't happen more often than it does, given that there is no way to be 100% secure against it.  In contemplating these words, I found myself thinking that I am not surprised.  Rather, I think that the most obvious explanation is that people who are so mentally disturbed (or what he would probably call "evil") to do something so terrible are few and far between.  For the profoundly cynical, however, there often must be some other hidden explanation, if the most obvious explanation is not nefarious enough.  

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  28. (Moderators: This is the second time one of my comments showed up blank. I think it's happening when I type into the source box and don't click "basic" to preview before hitting submit.)

    jdixon1980 @77: Stephen Schneider and Marshall Shepherd both pointed out that scientists who are only motivated by funding would deny that the science is solid. That would keep the gravy train coming: "the science is so uncertain; we need more funding."

    Also, the recent consensus project shows that most papers in Web of Science containing the phrase "global climate change" don't bother to address human causation, just like most astronomy papers don't bother to address the fact that the Earth orbits the Sun.

    If scientists were as motivated by funding as the conspiracy theorists suggest, more papers would take positions on human causation in order to get more of the funding gravy train.

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  29. jdixon1980 #77:

    A word of caution -- Trying to think like a die-hard climate denier may be dangerous to one's mental health. 

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  30. Good comment, jdixon1980. I've always thought the funding argument absurd because all scientists are dependent on funding, all researchers need grants. What about those physicists/mathematicians of M Theory with their eleven dimensional multiverse? What could be crazier than that? They have to keep juggling those eleven dimensions just to keep their funding going! And don't get me started on black holes! Now there's a racket!

    John Hartz is right: stay clear and keep sane!

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  31. DS @ 78: But what if they say, no, the scientists have come up with a better scheme than trying to sell uncertainty as to human cause, because there is only so long they could drag that out before their funders threw their hands up and said look, we've given you enough money, and if you're not sure by now, we must not be causing it.  Instead, their scheme is to present a united front on human cause, and claim that they need enormous sums to create and continually refine computer models, study the impacts of various projected scenarios, propose and periodically revise emissions targets, periodically reassess climate sensitivity, etc. etc., thus creating an inherently self-perpetuating stream of research funding.  Unlike the "uncertainty" approach which is bound to wear thin eventually, with this strategy there will be no point at which the gravy will stop, because the "so-called 'consensus'" as to human cause and seriousness of the problem attaches great importance to the research pertaining to details.  

    Of course, it's silly - those who are so inclined can always come up with convoluted rationalizations for believing in grand conspiracies.  And John Hartz @ 79 is probably right - by trying to get inside their heads and preemptively refute every kooky thing they may come up with, I will never succeed in guiding them to sanity, but I may succeed in driving myself insane!  

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