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Meet The Denominator

Posted on 13 February 2011 by Rob Honeycutt

As most here have followed the climate issue for some time I'm sure we have each been faced with climate skeptics throwing out big numbers related to different aspects of climate science.

There is the ever present "31,000 Scientists Who Challenge Global Warming," the infamous Oregon Petition.

And then many of us have run into the ever ravenous PopTech (Andrew) and his, now, 850 Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism of "Man-Made" Global Warming (AGW) Alarm

These folks have yet to meet….   The Denominator!

Fig 1  -  Okay, this is really the Terminator but bear with me, the effect is about the same.

In this exercise we are going to give both the Oregon Petition and PopTech's 850 papers the benefit of the doubt.  We know there are many many reasons to challenge the assumptions of their claims but there is one thing they can not defend.  They are only presenting one side of the equation.

First, let's look at the Oregon Petition.  They define "scientist" as anyone with a BS degree or better. They state, "This includes primarily those with BS, MS, or PhD degrees in science, engineering, or related disciplines."  Thus, 31,000 is their numerator.

According to the US Census for 2000, 28 million people had bachelors degrees and 16 million had graduate or professional degrees.  We'll safely assume that half of the bachelor degrees are BA's and not BS degrees.  In 2000 that represented about 10% of the population.  If the proportions hold today it leaves us with a total of 31 million people of the current US population of 312 million (Note: the Oregon Petition is limited to the US).

Numerator, meet The Denominator!  31,000 over 31,200,000 comes to 0.00099.  Or roughly 0.1% of persons holding a BS or better have signed the petition challenging anthropogenic global warming, assuming that every single signature on the list is legitimate.  This is what The Denominator does.  He crushes big numbers into itty-bitty numbers.

Now let's look at PopTech's 850 papers.  Even mainstream skeptics like Roger Pielke Jr. as well as others have taken exception to PopTech's list but again, we're going to give him the benefit of the doubt and allow him the concept that 850 peer reviewed papers actually do challenge AGW alarm.  (I know it's a stretch but we're going to cut him a break, this time.)

Here I just went to Google Scholar.  I limited the search to the term "climate change" and only searched articles in the subject areas of 1) Biology, Life Science and Environmental Science, and 2) Physics, Astronomy and Planetary Science.  That returned 954,000 articles.  I did a pretty thorough perusal of 200 articles of the 100 pages of results and it looks like they are all actual papers and not just references to any blogs or websites.  A number are listed as "[citation]" so we might pull out about 10% for good measure.  But everything else looks to be published works in a very wide variety of scientific journals.  I intentionally left out the 177,000 papers that result when I do the same search on "global warming" since I don't know how many of those will be duplicate hits.

Numerator, meet The Denominator!  What we are left with is about 850,000 peer reviewed papers on climate change for the 850 peer reviewed papers that PopTech presents.  That leaves our friend with 0.1% of peer reviewed papers that challenge AGW alarm, as defined by him.  

I'm sure some folks will find ways to quibble about the numbers but I don't think even the very best debater can appreciably alter the resulting percentages.  And if they try…

"I'll be back."

Update (Feb 18):  In the comments Poptech has brought up several valid points about the search results I came up with.  In an effort to better quantify the denominator I did some additional research. I did year by year searches going back 40 years on "climate change" and "global warming", excluded citations, and checked for various other erroneous results. 
The outcome was, without even addressing the accuracy of the numerator, that the percentage does not change dramatically.  My first cursory search returned 0.1%.  The more detailed work resulted in 0.45%.  It's a big improvement for Poptech, by almost a factor of 5, but still the denominator is so large that it dwarfs the numerator. If a qualified outside group were to audit Poptech's list I believe the numerator would also shrink significantly. 
There is plenty of room for skepticism in all areas of science. Good science relies on healthy skepticism.  One highly biased individual creating a subjective list does not rise to the level of good scientific skepticism.

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Comments 501 to 526 out of 526:

  1. "I went through each paper to see if it supported my position." Either that is false or your reading comprehension fails to accomplish that goal. You acknowledged earlier that the Mavromichalaki paper did not support your position. Perhaps you should have said each paper but one; or perhaps most papers? How can we know? Trust you? When you just threw that one inaccurate statement for the sake of argument?
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  2. Poptech sorry poptech, even your rhetoric is feeble. I point out that you are applying a double standard by refusing to accept arguments based on subjective information: "Whether a paper supports your personal skepticism of AGW alarm is entirely subjective" and you reply "Just like any papers that you would consider to implicitly supporting alarm." Yes, but it is you that is refusing to accept subjective information, not me, hence that doesn't excuse your double standard does it? *I don't reject your list for its subjectivity, but I do reject individual papers that are known to be incorrect, or individual papers where the text of the paper is inconsistent with your intepretation of the abstract, or where your reason for inclusion is a logical fallacy (for instance a paper showing there has been natural climate change in the past does not mean that the current climnate change is natural).
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  3. Feeble rethoric is an understatement. PT says "This is incorrect, I stated it did not fully support my position, "I was finally able to obtain a full copy of the paper and do not believe it fully meets the list's criteria". None of this changes the fact that I did go through them prior to adding them." That you do not see the irony here confirms that your reading comprehension might not enable you to stick to your own standards, so I'll point it to you. You said you went through the papers before adding them. Then you describe how you "finally" were able to obtain a copy of the Mavromichalaki paper so you then realized it did not meet your criteria. That was after having already included it in the list. That is a confession that either you did not really go through the paper before including it in the list, or that the "going through" means a kind of examination that does not allow you to understand what the paper is about. Perhaps you meant just reading the abstract. In which case, I will challenge you to point what, in the paper's abstract, supports your position. What we see here is not even feeble rethoric any more, I can't really think of a name for it.
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  4. We've come back around to the topic of the post - meet the denominator. The 2010 US federal budget for climate change research was $2.12 billion. The total budget was $3.59 trillion. Climate change research accounted for 0.06% of the federal budget. More money went to oil subsidies than went to climate change research. In 2006, $3.5 billion went to oil subsidies. Government Financial Subsidies Budget of the United States Government Thanks are due to NQuestofApollo for referencing the climate change research funding.
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  5. What is the purpose for the increased funding and what is the relevance to the validity of the accumulated scientific knowledge that has resulted from it?
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  6. Poptech@754 Ignoring the attempts at rhetoric, which are way too dull to bother with any longer, and sticking to the science. The fact that climate change has been caused by solar forcing in the past is no reason to be skeptical of anthropogenic climate change now; your argument is based on a logical fallacy. Forest fires have been cause by lighning for millions of years, but that is no reason for skepticism that they are also caused by carelessly discarded cigarettes and deliberate arson now. Hence the paper we were discussing earlier is only grounds for skepticism if you are not bothered about the logical consistancy of your position. Of course I am not saying that there is no evidence for CO2 as a driver of climate. There have been occasions where rises in long-lived GHGs (principally CO2) have driven climate change, for instance the emergence from the cryogenian snowball Earth (which cannot be explained using changes in solar forcing becuase of albedo feedback). There have also been occasions where increased chemical weathering due to uplift of mountain ranges caused a fall in CO2 resulting in cooling. However that is beside the point, the fact that CO2 was rarely a primary driver of paleoclimate (where it has acted principally as a feedback mechanism) doesn't mean it can't be a primary driver now that we are over-riding the feedback mechanism by burning fossil fuels - so that is another logical fallacy on your part. Besides, the fact that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas does not rest on the idea that it has ever been a primary driver of climate, so that is a straw man on your part. It is based on experimental evidence, it is based on observation, and it is based on well developed theory.
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  7. The papers are listed to support skepticism thus a paper that demonstrates a precedent of natural climate change caused by solar activity supports skepticism of CO2 being a past primary climate driver, which supports skepticism of it being a present primary climate driver. Wow. I think there should be a new name for this sort of convoluted 'logic' - 'Pop logic'. I must try and write a paper which demonstrates a precedent of forest fires caused by lightning, which supports skepticism of humans being the cause of past forest fires, which supports skepticism of them being a present cause of forest fires. "Perhaps you meant just reading the abstract. In which case, I will challenge you to point what, in the paper's abstract, supports your position." This error has already been corrected. I am not going to waste time debating papers I have removed from the list. Ah, so you can't point out any support from that abstract because there isn't any, because you misread it somehow. Undoubtedly not the first time that has happened with you and your little list and it won't be the last time. Guaranteed. Rob Honeycutt, "Climate is a hot topic because of people's alarm about AGW." Incorrect, this is due to increased government funding. And finally we have the conspiracy theory : 'Follow the money'. It always ends up all being a conspiracy theory with those who, ultimately, have no other arguments. Once that hole has been dug, there is no escape for any so-called skeptic except retreat into fully-fledged denial.
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  8. JMurphy, "there should be a new name for this sort of convoluted 'logic'- 'Pop logic'" That's catchy, but it would only apply if 'logic' applied to the fundamental dogma of PTism: Demonstrating that A and B were both past mechanisms of change somehow validates skepticism of B as a present 'primary mechanism' of change, regardless of the circumstances of either A or B. In this Bizarro world, the past is the key to the present. Your lightning-forest fire analogy is a good one; here's another: Radiation caused cancer in the past, thus competing with past cigarette-smoking. Hence we justify being skeptical that cigarette smoking causes cancer today. There's no doubt we can flood the pages of SkS with similar nonsensical examples, akin to the debunk this myth exercise, but that would be just as productive as spending 700+ more comments on this thread. You do have to admire this level of illogic, rising (almost) to Alice in Wonderland proportions: `Take some more tea,' the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly. `I've had nothing yet,' Alice replied in an offended tone, `so I can't take more.' `You mean you can't take less,' said the Hatter: `it's very easy to take more than nothing.' Having slain this ParTicular Jabberwock, it's time to move on.
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  9. Defendent's lawyer: "Your honor and member's of the jury, there is reasonable doubt to acquit my client on the charge of vehicular homicide because humans died naturally before automobiles were invented. I rest my case."
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  10. Yes, funding for climate change research has increased. That is not in dispute. The reason is. (hmm, this point sounds familiar) Was it: A) Prior research showed the need for more research to better define the scope & severity of the issue. B) A vast conspiracy of politicians and fat cat scientists with the intention of hiding the results of prior research and hoodwinking the general populace.
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  11. Andrew... We have this thing called the National Academy whose job it is to advise the government on issues like this. They have clearly stated that AGW is a very serious concern. For the government to ignore the views of the Academy and fail to fund research into climate issues would be gravely concerning.
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  12. Andrew at 766... The George C Marshall institute? That's your source?
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  13. poptech@758 "This means that over the years the amount of government funding climate change research has received has increased." I dont think that anyone would dispute that Climate Change research has been receiving an increasing amount of money over the last 30 years. This is logical if it is considered an important topic worth researching. Why do you bring it up? What relevance does it have to the conversation we are having? You may also want to look into the vast increase in Space and Astronautics funding since the 1920s.
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  14. Poptech@773 What evidence do you have to support your assertion that it is C and not A? For this to be a non-conspiracy then you need to provide more to back up your claim than vague accusations of impropriety by faceless government officials.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] I appreciate your tenacity on this thread, but let's please try & steer the conversation away from the dangerous waters of conspiracy & impropriety, where many dangers lurk to menace comment safety. Thanks!
  15. Andrew... I didn't see any of your comments that were deleted but I have to say that I understand the heavy handed moderation. The climate issue is very politically charged and prone to easily go off topic. There have been a great many times when my own comments have been deleted on other threads, so you're not alone. When this happens I usually have to take a step back and figure out why I've crossed the line and how I can try to steer my comments toward the science at hand. Consider the moderation here at SkS to be a form of on-the-fly peer review.
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  16. 776 Rob Honeycutt: "Consider the moderation here at SkS to be a form of on-the-fly peer review." Yes, but do we have the numbers of how many deleted post where AGW alarmist and how many where AGW anti-alarmist; obviously counting ones which where just off topic as anti-alarmist, and objective and subjective ad-homonym attacks as alarmist? If we don't; what are they trying to hide?!?!
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  17. Les... Obviously, all I can offer you is anecdotal evidence. I have heard from many pro-AGW folks that they also get heavily moderated. And I read comments from skeptics here all day long. Most of us are fairly accustomed to posting on unmoderated sites and have a habit of aggressive commenting. The heavy moderation here requires that we all think before we post. Stick to the science, stick to the topic and keep it civil. If we do that, regardless of our position, our comments won't get deleted.
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  18. So Poptech came on SkS's FB page in defence of his 850 Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism of "Man-Made" Global Warming (AGW) Alarm. Since he kept insisting that the papers by Roger A. Pielke Jr. and his father supported AGW skepticism I decided to read the Rogers' papers on Poptech's list. I've just finished reading "An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere". That paper is skeptical, but not in the fashion of the contrarians. It's more skeptical in the way science in naturally skeptical and analyzes a problem between ground and satellite sensors that climate scientists appear to have been working on for some time now. So, that's one paper that Poptech should remove IMHO.
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  19. Poptech You said, "All papers are listed because they support a skeptic's argument against AGW or AGW Alarm." So, yes you did unless you've reinvented english and logic. The paper, "An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere" does not fall into the Sqeptic category (despite some apparent flaws) as these issues are known the climate scientists and are a matter of public record. Ergo, the paper falls into the realm of the usual skepticism which naturally prevails all of science and this paper is another attempt to resolve said issues.
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  20. #782 Alarmists do not use the UAH satellite record but instead use the ones that show a more pronounced warming. ergo, the IPCC are not alarmist.
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  21. WSteven said... "So, yes you did unless you've reinvented english and logic." Ding! Ding! Ding! Yes, Johnny, we have a winner! This is exactly Poptech's calling card. The alternate reality of Poptech logic.
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  22. Please let this tread die. It is more maddening than the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics thread since it is all opinion and devoid of science content.
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  23. Hi all, Poptech is on record claiming that articles on his list are "peer reviewed" because they "can be" peer reviewed: -------------------------------------- Poptech: "[My list] is overwhelmi­ng evidence of a peer-revie­wed papers supporting skeptic arguments against AGW or AGW Alarm" Me: "Your joke of a list counts multiple 'viewpoint­­' - aka OpEd - articles authored by non-natura­­l scientist Sonja Boehmer-Ch­­­ristians­e­n. How do you know that said articles have been peer reviewed?" Poptech: "Because these can be and you have not demonstrat­ed otherwise."
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  24. Poptech: "That is a false and distorted context of what I stated." Again no, it is not. Let me break this down for you again, Poptech: 1. I asked you how you knew that some articles that are on your list of purportedly "peer reviewed" papers were in fact peer reviewed. [1] 2. You responded by saying "because" said articles "can be" peer reviewed. [2] HTH. -------------------------------------- [1] Me: "Your joke of a list counts multiple "viewpoint " - aka OpEd - articles authored by non-natura l scientist Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen. How do you know that said articles have been peer reviewed? " [2] Poptech: "Because these can be and you have not demonstrated otherwise. "
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    Apologies I know this his is an old thread, but I have recently become interested in the whole debate around climate science, and I find this an invaluable and informative resource 

    I only today saw poptech's blog - fairly standard contrarian fair

    but I can't help thinking it is a mistake to delete poptech's post

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Well it actually was a mistake. An mistaken push of "spammer" button which deletes posts and account. Given that poptech had long been in violation of comments policy, as well as tiresome troll who could not imagine any data that might change his mind, the effort to restore his posts wasnt worth it. If you think poptech has anywhere managed to say something worth discussing, feel free to comment on an appropriate thread.

  26. ah OK, thanks for the explanation

    My understanding of the science involved is embarrassingly low, but I do try and read/understand the explanations of the myths

    but what really helps though is reading though the comments at the end of each explanation

    it is here you see stunning examples of the “dunning kruger” effect, the inability to address the facts, and “do the math” – and if they do “do the math”, show how it is relevant to the actual issue at hand

    so to me they make the case they are arguing against, I may not be a scientist – but bulsh1t is a universal language – and I know it when I see/read it

    anyway, well done and keep up the great work

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