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Guest post: scrutinising the 31,000 scientists in the OISM Petition Project

Posted on 11 March 2010 by angliss

In early 2008, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) published their Petition Project, a list of names from people who all claimed to be scientists and who rejected the science behind the theory of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming (AGW). This was an attempt to by the OISM to claim that there were far more scientists opposing AGW theory than there are supporting it. This so-called petition took on special importance coming after the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, and specifically the Working Group 1 (WG1) report on the science and attribution of climate change to human civilization.

The WG1 report was authored and reviewed by approximately 2000 scientists with varying expertise in climate and related fields, and so having a list of over 30,000 scientists that rejected the WG1’s conclusions was a powerful meme that AGW skeptics and deniers could use to cast doubt on the IPCC’s conclusions and, indirectly, on the entire theory of climate disruption. And in fact, this meme has become widespread in both legacy and new media today.

It is also false.

According to the Petition Project “qualifications” page, “Signatories are approved for inclusion in the Petition Project list if they have obtained formal educational degrees at the level of Bachelor of Science or higher in appropriate scientific fields.” The fields that are considered “appropriate” by the OISM are as follows:

  • Atmosphere, Earth, and Environment fields: atmospheric science, climatology, meteorology, astronomy, astrophysics, earth science, geochemistry, geology, geophysics, geoscience, hydrology, environmental engineering, environmental science, forestry, oceanography
  • Computers and Math: computer science, mathematics, statistics
  • Physics and Aerospace: physics, nuclear engineering, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering
  • Chemistry: chemistry, chemical engineering
  • Biochemistry, Biology, and Agriculture: biochemistry, biophysics, biology, ecology, entomology, zoology, animal science, agricultural science, agricultural engineering, plant science, food science
  • Medicine: medical science, medicine
  • General Engineering and General Science: engineering, electrical engineering, metallurgy, general science

oismpet-smThe OISM’s qualifications for being a “scientist” are expansive, and as such there are a number of questions that have to be answered before we can take this list seriously. What expertise does a nuclear engineer or a medical doctor or a food scientist or mechanical engineer have that makes them qualified to have an informed opinion on the cause(s) of recent climate disruption? How many of these names are working climate scientists instead of science or math teachers or stay-at-home-mom’s with engineering degrees? How many of these people has actually published a peer-reviewed paper on climate? How many people took a look at the card that served as a “signature” (click on the image to see a larger version) and realized that they could lie about having a science degree and their deception would never be discovered?

At this point it’s literally impossible to know because the names and degrees on the list cannot be verified by anyone outside the OISM. We can only take the OISM’s word that they’re all real names, that all the degrees are correct, and so on. This does not stand up to the most basic tests of scientific credibility.

Unfortunately, the OISM’s list has had its credibility fabricated for it by individuals and groups as diverse as Steve Milloy of Fox News (see this link for a S&R investigation into the background and tactics of Steve Milloy), L. Brent Bozell of conservative “news” site Newsbusters and founder of the conservative Media Research Center, Benita M. Dodd of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, the libertarian/conservative site American Thinker (a site that has regularly failed to fact-check their AGW posts), conservative commentator Deroy Murdock (who works on Project 21 with the wife of one of Steve Milloy’s long-time associates), RightSideNews, Dakota Voice, Dennis T. Avery of the Hudson Institute, Lawrence Solomon of the Financial Post, Michelle Malkin, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, to name just a few of the better known. As a result, the OISM’s petition has been elevated to a level of credibility that is arguably undeserved.

While it’s not possible to test the validity of OISM list directly, it is possible to test the conclusions that have been drawn from the OISM list. Specifically, we can test what percentage the 30,000 “scientists” listed on the OISM petition represent when compared to the total number of scientists in the U.S. And we can then compare that to the percentage represented by the 2000 IPCC AR4 WG1-associated scientists as compared to the estimate number of U.S. climate-related scientists.

According to the OISM website, anyone with a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate of Philosophy in a field related to physical sciences is qualified as a scientist. In addition, the OISM sent the petition cards pictured above only to individuals within the U.S. Based on this information, we can us the OISM’s own guidelines to determine how many scientists there are in the U.S. and what percentage of those scientists are represented by the OISM petition.

The U.S. Department of Education tracks the number of graduates from institutions of higher education every year, and has done so since either the 1950-51 or 1970-71 school years, depending on what specifically the Dept. of Ed. was interested in. This data was last updated in the Digest of Education Statistics: 2008. We’re specifically interested in the number of degrees that have been awarded in the various scientific disciplines as defined by the OISM in the list above. This information is available in the following tables within the 2008 Digest: 296, 298, 302, 304, 310, 311, and 312. Table 1 below show how many graduates there were in the various categories defined by the Dept. of Ed. since the 1970-71 school year (click on the image for a larger version). The numbers have been corrected to account for the fact that PhD’s will usually have MS degrees as well, and that both are preceded by BS degrees.


As you can see, Table 1 shows that there were over 10.6 million science graduates as defined by the OISM since the 1970-71 school year. This is a conservative estimate as illustrated by the 242,000 graduates in biological and biomedical sciences from 1950-51 through 1969-70 alone, never mind the 166,000 engineering graduates, and so on. Many of these individuals are still alive today and would be considered scientists according to the OISM definition thereof.

The OISM website lists how many signatures they have for scientists in each of their categories. Given the number of graduates and the number of signatures claimed by the OISM, we can calculate the percentage of OISM-defined scientists who signed as referenced to the total. These results are shown in Table 2 below.


In other words, the OISM signatories represent a small fraction (~0.3%) of all science graduates, even when we use the OISM’s own definition of a scientist.

However, as mentioned above, it’s entirely reasonable to ask whether a veterinarian or forestry manager or electrical engineer should qualify as a scientist. If we remove all the engineers, medical professionals, computer scientists, and mathematicians, then the 31,478 “scientists” turn into 13,245 actual scientists, as opposed to scientists according to the OISM’s expansive definition. Of course, not all of them are working in science, but since some medical professionals and statisticians do work in science, it’s still a reasonable quick estimate.

However, it’s not reasonable to expect that all of those actual scientists are working in climate sciences. Certainly the 39 climatologists, but after that, it gets much murkier. Most geologists don’t work as climate scientists, although some certainly do. Most meteorologists do weather forecasting, but understanding the weather is radically different than understanding climate. So we can’t be sure beyond the 39 climatologists, although we can reasonably assume that the number is far less than the 13,245 actual scientists claimed by the OISM.

13,245 scientists is only 0.1% of the scientists graduated in the U.S. since the 1970-71 school year.

We can, however, compare the number of atmospheric scientists, climagologists, ocean scientists, and meteorologists who signed this petition to the number of members of the various professional organizations. For example, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) has over 55,000 members, of which over 7,200 claim that atmospheric sciences is their primary field. The OISM claims 152 atmospheric scientists. Compared to the atmospheric scientist membership in the AGU, the OISM signatories are only 2.1%, and this estimate is high given the fact that the AGU does not claim all atmospheric scientists as members.

The AGU hydrology group has over 6,000 members who call hydrology their primary field. The OISM list has 22 names that claim to be hydrologists, or 0.4%.

The AGU ocean sciences group claims approximately 6,800 members. The OISM has 83 names, or 1.2%. And again, given that AGU membership is not required to be a practicing ocean scientists, this number is inflated.

The American Meteorological Society claims over 14,000 members and the OISM claims 341 meteorologists as petition signatories. That’s only 2.4%.

It’s clear that the OISM names don’t represent a significant number of scientists when compared to either the total number of science graduates in the U.S. or to the number of practicing scientists who work in likely relevant fields. But that’s not all.

Over recent years, various organizations have set out to estimate just how widespread the supposed “scientific consensus” on AGW actually is. Two recent efforts were conducted by the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) at George Mason University and by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The STATS survey found that 84% of climate scientists surveyed “personally believe human-induced warming is occurring” and that “[o]nly 5% believe that that human activity does not contribute to greenhouse warming.” The STATS survey involved a random sampling of “489 self-identified members of either the American Meteorological Society or the American Geophysical Union” and it has a theoretical sampling error of +/- 4%.

The Pew survey was taken in early 2009 and asked over 2000 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) their opinion on various scientific issues, including climate disruption. 84% of AAAS respondents felt that “warming is due to human activity” compared to only 10% who felt that “warming is due to natural causes.” The AAAS has over 10 million members, and the results of the survey are statistically valid for the entire population with a theoretical sampling error of +/- 2.5%.

84% of 10 million scientist members of the AAAS is 8.4 million scientists who agree that climate disruption is human-caused. 84% of the climate scientists (conservatively just the members of the atmospheric science group of the AGU) is, conservatively, 6,000 scientists who have direct and expert knowledge of climate disruption. The 13,245 scientists and 152 possible climate scientists who signed the OISM petition represent a small minority of the totals.

The IPCC AR4 WG1 report was written and reviewed by approximately 2000 scientists. If we assume that the 20,000 AGU members who claim to be atmospheric scientists, ocean scientists, or hydrologists represent the pool of potential experts in climate science in the U.S., then approximately 10% of all climate scientists were directly involved in creating the over 1000 page report.

That compares to less than 1% of all OISM “scientists” who mailed a pre-printed postcard.

A more recent survey of earth scientists asked the question "Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?". 97.5% of climatologists who were actively publishing papers on climate change responded yes.(Doran 2009). What is most interesting about this study was that as the level of active research and specialization in climate science increases, so does agreement that humans are significantly changing global temperatures.

Figure 1: Response to the survey question "Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?" (Doran 2009) General public data come from a 2008 Gallup poll.

Ultimately, The OISM petition will continue to rear it’s ugly head until its fabricated credibility has been thoroughly demolished. Social conservatives and libertarians, each of which has their own ideological reasons to push the OISM petition, have been effective at keeping the “30,000 scientists reject warming chicken-littleism of IPCC” meme circulating throughout conservative media outlets, even as climate disruption-focused media have worked at limiting the damage from the OISM petition. But given the fact that the science supporting a dominantly anthropogenic cause for climate disruption is overwhelming, it’s only a matter of time before the OISM petition wilts in the heat.

Acknowledgements to Brian Angliss at Scholars and Rogues who guest wrote this post.

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Comments 101 to 142 out of 142:

  1. shawnhet, i can't understand why you continue to jump to different issues. What's the problem with parametrizations as far as the climate change thory is concerned? Is it included in the parametrizations? Again, it might be a problem of the models, not of the theory. "There is nothing wrong with trying to figure out the physics of (whatever causes the PDO), however, this is not necessary to make predictions about its effects." You can make predictions without knowing how PDO works? You can not even hindcast, at best you could could do some regressions. But without the physics you are limited to correlations, which can dismiss but not affirm the validity of any theory. As for what is what we now call PDO, you might be interested in this atmoz's post.
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  2. "i can't understand why you continue to jump to different issues. What's the problem with parametrizations as far as the climate change thory is concerned? Is it included in the parametrizations? Again, it might be a problem of the models, not of the theory." Personally, I can't see how you don't see the relevance here. You were arguing that we can just plug "the physics and chemistry" into the models and come up with some predictions(or projections). The Wiki page discusses how this is *not* what the models do - "Parameterization in a climate model refers to the method of replacing (physical)processes that are too small-scale or complex to be physically represented in the model by a simplified process. This can be contrasted with other processes—e.g., large-scale flow of the atmosphere—that are explicitly resolved within the models."(bracketed term added by me for clarity) Notice how they replace a more complex real process with a simplified process. "You can make predictions without knowing how PDO works? You can not even hindcast, at best you could could do some regressions. But without the physics you are limited to correlations, which can dismiss but not affirm the validity of any theory." Well, we could make hindcasts for periods if we got some previously undiscovered data. If we found a way to reconstruct the PDO for the last 1000 years we could use that to hindcast the temperature. IAC, there is no requirement for a theory to make predictions of the past, just that it make some testable predictions that can be tested against real world observations. Thanks for the Atmoz link, I will need some time to digest it, though. Cheers, :)
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  3. shawnhet, i'm still confused. Could you please elaborate on the link between parametrizations and AGW theory?
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  4. Ok, I'll give it a shot. Let's say that we could in theory(using physics and chemistry) calculate how each *individual* raindrop formed in the atmosphere. Such a calculation could never be performed for the entire atmosphere. So the folks who build models make guesses as to how raindrops form in much larger areas and come up with some sort of expressions to codify those guesses. These sorts of expressions are then subbed into the larger climate model to supposedly mimic the behavior of the actual climate. This is why there are many climate models, individual modellers make different guesses as to which expressions are the best approximations of the real world on the scale they are working with. If there were no differences in these parameters, each model would have identical outputs. How this applies to the theory is that changes in parameterizations will/must lead to changes in predictions of the behavior of the climate. Cheers, :)
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  5. The "guesses" of the modelers are educated by the underlying physics, chemistry etc. There is not that much variation among these guesses. Parameterizations are bounded and so are the changes resulting from different parameterizations. There is indeed a variety of GCMs, that's why IPCC takes into consideration the results of many runs for many models. However, GCMs do not show wildly different results and indeed allow to form projections within reasonable limits, so the end result is usable. It seems you're trying the tired old "skeptic" argument "we don't know for sure so we don't know at all," or something in that same vein. Disappointing from someone better informed and better reasoning than the run of the Watts' mill type of "skeptic."
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  6. I should like to know why my comments of yesterday May 7th 2010, were removed? I did not make any political, off topic or ad hominem attacks unlike numerous comments already posted. My comments were very on track and in answer to the comments of Phillipe and the unknown author. I would like to know why after seeing my comments here yesterday evening, are they now gone? Would the author of the blog care to comment?
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    Response: A comment that attacked Gore, Pachauri, Mann, Obama with underhand references to Greenpeace and Peta ventures well into the ad hominem territory and doesn't really add to the scientific debate. Feel free to repost with all the political and personal attacks removed as there was lots of scientific content in there also.
  7. Re: NQ/A (This is a reply to a comment NQ/A made on another thread, linked above) I presume you have been misinformed on this topic, else you would not have said this:
    "Daniel stated that GHG effect of CO2 is "not seriously questioned by any competent scientist anywhere". The only purpose in sending the link to the Petition Project was to show that over 31,000 scientists - surely some of whom must be "competent scientist" somewhere - provided a detailed explanation for their disagreement with AGW. I also took issue with his definition of "competent scientist" and provided links to support my position. It wasn't my intention to open a direct discussion on the petition project or climategate, but to offer those issues as causing legitimate doubt.
    Please read the main article that is the topic of this thread. My definition of "competent scientist" should be clear after reading the post. If not, then this should illuminate the remainder of the darkness remaining. The Yooper
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  8. Daniel - I'm curious, in your opinion, are there any "competent scientists" that do not believe in AGW?
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  9. Re: NQ/A (108) That depends. If you are asking me to prove the non-existence of something (which would be a silly request), then I could not do that. Scientists follow the Scientific Method:
    1. Define the question 2. Gather information and resources (observe) 3. Form hypothesis 4. Perform experiment and collect data 5. Analyze data 6. Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis 7. Publish results 8. Retest (frequently done by other scientists)
    The hypothesis that is best supported by all of the data is the one that gains eventual acceptance by other scientists. Over time, an accepted hypothesis can be verified sufficiently to become a theory. That is where the field of global warming is: Theory. Per the National Academy of Science in their publication Advancing the Science of Climate Change:
    "A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems…. Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities."
    “Very likely” means a greater than 90% likelihood of probability. I.e., pretty certain. So, in order to overturn the anthropogenic attribution of global warming, what must a scientist do? Find a viable physics-based alternative to one of the points in this chain:
    1. Increasing the level of a greenhouse gas in a planet’s atmosphere, all else being equal, will raise that planet’s surface temperature. 2. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. 3. CO2 is rising. 4. Therefore (given 1-3 above) the Earth should be warming. 5. From multiple converging lines of evidence, we know the Earth is warming. 6. The warming is moving in close correlation with the carbon dioxide. 7. The new CO2 (as shown by its isotopic signature) is mainly from burning fossil fuels. 8. Therefore the global warming currently occurring is anthropogenic (caused by mankind).
    Plenty have espoused alternative theories on blogs, but none have been able to survive scrutiny in a peer-reviewed publication. So have any scientists, using all of the data, been able to break the above chain? None that I'm aware of. Fossil fuel interests spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the US every year to lobby against any controls on fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. Vast riche$ await anyone who can scientifically break the chain of evidence & show the AGW is a non-worry (I'd chip in a couple of hundred myself). Spencer is probably the closest to a competent scientist among the denialarati. Per the Dessler/Spencer emails, Spencer believes clouds cause ENSO... So the real question is: have you found any scientist that claims to have overturned AGW? If so, who was it? In what peer-reviewed publication was their work published? Have they presented their proof to those meeting in Cancun yet? I have no wish at all for AGW to be real. You have no idea the amount of sleep I've lost over the years because of it. The thought of the world I bequeath to my young children and their children... NQ/A, with the caveat that this is a hypothetical question for thought purposes alone and answering will not constitute an admission of belief in AGW, if AGW is real and all of the predictions come true, what will you say to your grandchildren when they come to you and ask you what you did to try and stop it? Just curious. The Yooper
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  10. I think the question (108) has better answer. "Competent" to my mind means working in the field and publishing in proper peer-reviewed journals on climate(ie not E&E). Wikipedia has this list. Now some of those on list, certainly dont fit my category of "competent". Some are industry shills. However, most in fact have a nuanced position. Acceptance of physical reality but alternative theories for PARTS of climate - eg the value of climate sensitivity, relative role of GHG to other natural factors etc. Mostly they are in different class from the denialists who will simultaneously hold "its not happening, its not us, its good for us" - ie "I'll believe anything that support no change in policy". Note the number of "emeritus" class people - now that's a warning. I'd say Spenser, Lindzen (when talking to other scientists), Christy, maybe Chylek as credible people. I would read published papers on the subject from them with some respect. Many of the others are also people I would read when publishing in their respective fields as they are certainly competent there.
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  11. Moderator - please help me out here. Why does my post keep getting deleted? There are no personal attacks. I am asking a legitimate question about the one-sidedness of a previous post and have included examples and links to support the question. What seems to be the problem?
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    Moderator Response: [muoncounter] Your recent comments were deleted because they were political. If you have scientific issues to discuss, find the appropriate thread. If you are looking for a forum for ideological rants, look elsewhere.
  12. Re: NQA In addition to muoncounter's valuable counsel above, please also remember this portion of the Comments Policy:
    No accusations of deception. Any accusations of deception, fraud, dishonesty or corruption will be deleted. This applies to both sides. Stick to the science. You may criticize a person's methods but not their motives.
    Comments referring to Gore are on thin ice by themselves. If you would care to re-phrase your comment to bring it into compliance with the Comments Policy, I'm sure there are several here who would be more than happy to enjoy the discourse. The Yooper
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  13. But, Daniel’s comment “Fossil fuel interests spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the US every year to lobby against any controls on fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. Vast riche$ await anyone who can scientifically break the chain of evidence & show the AGW is a non-worry” was not political? I was specifically addressing that comment, which you allowed to stand. Furthermore, my reference to Al Gore contained absolutely no opinion – only fact.
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    Moderator Response: [muoncounter] Al Gore is not a scientist; nor are Sec of State Clinton and Pres Obama. Comments regarding money spent on legitimate research into alternative energy sources are off-topic. Comments regarding who stands to gain financially through investments in technology are indeed opinion. Come on, NQA, there's plenty to discuss here without going off the reservation.
  14. Sorry Moderator, but I have to respectfully disagree with the deletion of my post. If Daniel is going to bring up the amount of money being spent by Big Oil, he is the one bringing politics into the discussion and I don’t see why I don’t have the right to respond. How is it that you let a comment stand about millions being spent by the oil companies, but complain about comments referring to the billions spent on the AGW?
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    Moderator Response: [muoncounter] Read DB's comment again. His mention of fossil fuel industry spending is incidental to the point of the comment. Best advice: Stick to the topic, stay out of politics, stop wasting everyone's time complaining about moderation.
  15. I understand. If someone you agree with dabbles in politics with cherry-picked data that supports their position: no problemo. But, when I challenge that same cherry-picked data with irrefutable facts that are against your world view, my data is deleted and I’m accused of engaging in an ideological rant. And that works for you. That Daniel’s Big Oil comment was incidental is irrelevant – the problem remains that making such a point at all while ignoring the vast riche$ being made by AGW supporters indicates a serious disconnect with reality or intentional disingenuousness. Which is what I was addressing. Naturally, that point blew past you. Next time, muoncounter, why not just tell me to sit down and shut up. It is so much more efficient. In the meantime, Daniel, how about manning up and addressing my point. I know you know what I’m talking about – stop hiding behind your delete key.
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    Moderator Response: [Muoncounter] What would be efficient would be for you to post in accordance with the Comments Policy. No one told you to sit down and shut up; you were told that you should behave as a guest in someone's (in this case John Cook) house. The house rules are relatively simple: You don't see anyone else gratuitously dropping Al Gore references nor playing the 'man up' card, whatever that is supposed to mean. Stick to the science and the topic at hand; you might enjoy the serious discourse that results.
  16. NQA - everyone is allowed their values and their political opinions but there is only version of reality. It seems your arguments are largely politically inspired instead of an assessment of real science which is what DB gave you. Got some EVIDENCE that scientists are doing the world a favour by pointing out that their is a problem are somehow making huge amounts of cash? Does evidence for the Ptolemic system means there is good reason to doubt the earth goes around the sun? Do you make up all your judgements on reality on the basis of supposed motives? I think there are good reasons to be suspicious of meddling of those with a lot to lose but frankly its best to concentrate on the science, what is the best model for reality and leave the political hangups behind.
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  17. Re: NQA (113, 114) The focus of my comment @ 109 (itself a response to your question @ 108) was points 1-8 of a logical evidenciary chain. That you focus instead on an off-the-cuff (albeit snarky, but entirely factual) throwaway quip instead of an objective dialogue-based examination of the underlying science is both telling and troubling. Resorting to the "attack the messenger" ploy may be considered both acceptable and de rigueur in other venues...but not this one. If you wish to discuss the underlying science of both climate science and anthropogenic global warming and avoid the personal attacks - then Skeptical Science is an incredible resource for learning and the sharing of knowledge in a setting protected from the emotion colouring most other sites on the internet. Here, lay persons rub elbows with scientists of all disciplines. Here, one can learn apace at leisure alone or pick the brains of experts directly. If you wish other forms of dialogue and interaction, then Skeptical Science is not the place for you. Your call. Back to the Oscars, The Yooper
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  18. scaddenp – it remains stunning to me that my point is constantly missed. It is so very simple: when one sees only one side of an issue, it is evidence of a clouded view. Daniel, in his post, could only see the millions big oil has spent while ignoring the billions that team AGW is making. His comment was exactly this: “Vast riche$ await anyone who can scientifically break the chain of evidence & show the AGW is a non-worry”. The current state of spending is so completely OPPOSITE of this statement as to cause me to wonder about his motivation. For Daniel to make such a statement and then have the moderators (of which he is one) accuse me of engaging in politics is Orwellian. My point is NOT to bring politics into this issue, but to address his insertion of politics. And I have to apologize to you, I’m not good at substituting words and your critical question isn’t quite phrased correctly, so I can’t answer you. If you can rephrase this, I’ll give it an honest shot: “Got some EVIDENCE that scientists are doing the world a favour by pointing out that their is a problem are somehow making huge amounts of cash?”
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  19. Daniel, my apologies that my first post (which was promptly deleted) seeemed to attack the messenger. I did my best to clean that up in later posts. Which were still deleted under the guise of being ideological motivated. They were not. They specifically countered a statement you made. When you are ready to address the reason you made such a one-sided statement, I will happily engage in a conversation with you and promise to do my utmost to refrain from anything that seems like an attack.
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  20. NQA - but he is right. Any half-convincing line of evidence against AGW would be funded instantly and if you overturned science, you would have a Nobel prize. That's an incentive but you cant make anything fly. Sad. The money poured into climate research goes mostly into satellites. Scientists are not well paid. Not so for coal executives. And as for me, well I am oil and coal man! And end to those would definitely affect my funding streams. I dont think there is a single person in my department who doubts the reality of AGW either. However, I cant actually imagine that there is no use for my skills, no other problems to solve so I don't exactly fear unemployment. What I do think though is that you seek the truth however personally annoying it might be. What I do find repellant is suggestions that AGW theorists are scheming, pushing some political agenda, looking at the data one sided etc. There is a dearth of any other sensible way to look at the data. Only deception practised on blog sites and other media.
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  21. BTW, Daniel, remember that - in my many deleted posts - I agreed with the factualness of your snarky comment. Is it really impossible for us to agree that, even within sarcasm, the comment was one sided and designed to bolster your world view?
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  22. scaddenp – I appreciate everything you have to say, but, at the risk of continually being annoying, I was specifically addressing the one-sidedness of Daniel’s comment on the millions big oil is spending while ignoring the money being made on the AGW side. I’ll try to post my counter points again (again risking being deleted): 1. NOAA alone has a "climate change" budget of $437 million. 2. President Obama Awards $2.3 Billion for New Clean-Tech Manufacturing Jobs. 3. Al Gore is in line to become a Billionaire from investments in green technologies 4. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US is willing to contribute to a $100 Billion a year fund to help poorer countries mitigate the effect of climate change 5. Developing nations want $200 Billion 6. Spain's PV solar plants, which directly convert sunlight into electricity, have been charging nearly 10 times the wholesale price. Big Oil companies would have to spend 46 times more just to match POTUS's awards alone. Al Gore stands to be (single handedly) worth double what they've spent. (this is not an attack on Al Gore – congrats to him, I’m strictly putting the numbers in perspective.) And we haven't even discussed what the rest of the world is spending. The very simple fact is that there is more money to be made on the AGW side than the opposition. So, when one claims that there are riches to be made against AGW, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve entered the Twilight Zone – and THAT has been my only argument here. Why is that so difficult to understand?
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  23. NquestofApollo @122, your list is interesting, but it is not an apples and apples comparison. You are comparing Oil Industry money spent on lobbying alone with with the total revenue for research (most of which does not end up in scientists pockets), industrial applications, and profits from "green activities". For an apples and apples comparison, you would need to compare that list with the total oil company revenues, which was over a trillion dollars in 2009 for the top four companies alone. Even that is not a fair comparison, because that is a single years actual revenues, while your big ticket items are multi year expenditures, and in the case of 4 & 5, double counted and not even locked in yet. Another apples and apples comparisons is total donations to political parties in the US. Oil and Gas companies donated over 45 million dollars in 2102. Less than 3 million was donated by the alternative energy industry. Just shy of $19 million was donated on environmental issues, but that is as likely to include Koch brother donations as it is Al Gore's. Any way you slice it, there is more money to be made in, and by appeasing the oil industry (not to mention the coal industry) than there is in environmentalism. And much more to be made in spruiking denialism then there is to be made from doing climate science.
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  24. NQA - the not-so-simple fact is the scientists on the "AGW side" are not trying to make money. If you actually want to make money, it far easily to money from other side where any sort of shonky argument will do. And you can get really rich, which you cant on science salary. IEA estimates fossil fuel subsidies in 2008 at $557B annually. That represents a lot of shareholder value to protect. If you ended those, you would pay more for energy but less for tax. Seem like a good idea? Not if you live on coal subsidies. NOAA spends its money on instrumentation largely. Now if Al Gore invested in oil, what you say? I will agree that if you want to make money by investing in new technology, then investing in green technology is the way to go. That's what we need - who wants to freeze in the dark on the back of a horse? But the DB argument that you object to wasnt about technology - it was about investment in climate science -finding out what its all about - versus investing in lobbying and dirty tricks. That's the difference.
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  25. Tom - I appreciate your thoughtful counter-point and respectfully disagree. Including Oil revenues without considering their expenses and capital investment expenditures is completely missing the mark. Big Oil must actually spend money to make money. When the gov't gives away Billions of dollars and props up the "green" industry (as was done in Spain, et al) with tax payer dollars - we are not comparing apples to apples. Also, the intention of including #5 was not for the purpose of total global dollars spent, but to point out that $100 Billion a year wasn’t enough and that the motivation is a money grab. (you can claim that is conjecture - again, I will disagree). However, I will concede your point that the fund is not locked in yet - that fund is a great example of true politicking. Regardless, the point of including that fund in the list is to point to the dollar motivation of the “green” team. Unfortunately, the formula isn’t as simple as donations. Daniel’s original statement was, "Fossil fuel interests spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the US every year to lobby against any controls on fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. Vast riche$ await anyone who can scientifically break the chain of evidence & show the AGW is a non-worry (I'd chip in a couple of hundred myself)." The first sentence is accurate; the second sentence is where I’m taking issue. With Billions of dollars being GIVEN to green technologies, this constant whining about oil lobby dollars rings hollow. With regard to your last paragraph - I disagree (I know, you’re shocked). As the hour is late, any further support of my position will have to wait for another day.
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  26. scaddenp – please forgive me as I only have the energy to address one statement of yours right now, (Moderator – I’m directly answering a question). Personally, I think Al Gore started out as a true believer in the horrors of anthropogenic CO2. Now, I think he is just invested. I realize I’m being cynical, and if I’m wrong, my sincerest apologizes to Mr. Gore (no sarcasm). So, I don’t believe he would ever have invested in oil and your question is therefore too hypothetical to answer. I have a reason for believing that Gore is “invested”, it is indirect and admittedly spins off of Green Peace. More on that another day.
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  27. scaddenp at 17:30 PM, for as long as I can remember, there seems to have been a constant point made by various contributors about scientists salaries being relatively modest. So much so that one could be excused for considering that perhaps it is not the desire to get rich that directs them, but perhaps understandably the desire to survive.
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  28. Moderator - sincerest thanks for allowing the discussion to continue.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] While I'm skeptical that the direction of this comment stream will bear fruitful results, you have made a commitment to adhere to the Comment Policy (my many thanks on that!) and others have shown a willingness to engage you. As such, no one wishes to stifle discussion and ongoing dialogue between interested parties.
  29. NQuestofApollo @125, while conceding it would make sense to deduct expenses from the oil industry revenues for the comparison, you ought also then deduct expenses from the other side of the equation as well. Doing so, it still looks paltry compared, for example to Exxon's profits of $7.6 Billion for just one quarter. As to Daniel's statement, I don't know that it is true. But it is certainly true that a comfortable and easy living is available to any scientist willing to stay on message in the anti AGW speaking tour. Much easier than actual research. I don't know that financial incentives are important to either side, however. I think people try to make a living doing what they believe in. On the other hand, there are several people who gain a lot of attention for their message because what they happen to believe in coincides with what the Oil industry wants to be heard. In contrast, and especially in the US, speaking out in support of the science has alienated politicians of all stripes, and the major sources of campaign funding. Simple pragmatism has always favoured staying quiet on AGW, or opposing it.
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  30. NQA - fair enough. You could be completely right about Gore. I am not an American and from my perspective, his championing of AGW seems damaging since it seems to have instantly turned other side of political fence into an antagonist stance. It's a quandary though. Politicians divide and yet you need political solutions. Please dont confuse scientists with Green Peace -t hey get on my goat. JohnD. Perhaps a fair point. Not so much survive but be able to devote time to interesting problems. I hate working on boring ones and there is no end of those. Phil
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  31. QuestofApollo wrote : "I realize I’m being cynical, and if I’m wrong, my sincerest apologizes to Mr. Gore (no sarcasm). So, I don’t believe he would ever have invested in oil and your question is therefore too hypothetical to answer." Not wanting to get into a pointless discussion about Al Gore, but I sometimes wonder what the man has to do to, to stop so-called skeptics from constantly sniping at him : hide his money under his mattress ? Previously he was criticised for holding family stocks and shares in oil and a zinc mine, but now that he is investing in green technology (i.e. putting his money where his mouth is, as he put it) he is criticised again ! I know the so-called skeptics can't stand him and will criticise him come-what-may, but if you didn't laugh at this stuff you'd have to cry at the desperation of the tactics.
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  32. #122: "there is more money to be made on the AGW side than the opposition. So, when one claims that there are riches to be made against AGW, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve entered the Twilight Zone" Then why are so many corporate lobbies painting any financial controls on fossil fuel emissions as a 'carbon tax'? Why is there so much resistance to EPA regulation of CO2? Because corporate profits are at stake -- those are the riches that Koch Bros et al want to protect. Don't fantasize that these lobbies are concerned for middle class jobs - that would truly be living in the Zone. Which was a great show, by the way. #125: "Big Oil must actually spend money to make money. When the gov't gives away Billions of dollars" There's the core of NQA's argument: Big Oil profits are the fruit of honest labor; Big Science is living off the public trough. For that to be a legitimate equivalence, we'd have to include Big Military and the contractors whose sole income is government handouts. But that would be even further off-topic.
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  33. "Vast riche$ await anyone who can scientifically break the chain of evidence & show the AGW is a non-worry" Lets to heart of what you are taking issue with in above statement and also the question of whether AGW is result of biased evaluation of data. I think DB is right in his statement and here is why. The motivation to find that AGW is non-worry is immense for a scientist (not a technologist though as you point out). 1/ Its hard to make your name with me-too science 2/ A Nobel prize awaits your successful effort 3/ Given the half-baked stuff funded by fossil fuel fronts, its got to be easier to get money there than from cut-throat world of conventional funders. Furthermore, since mainstream scientist employers are not accessing this money on whole, you can have the money yourself instead of salary. 4/ At a personal level, who wants AGW to be true? (Yes, there are luddites and atavistic dreamers but these arent the scientists I know). Its also important to understand the difference between "lobby science" and conventional funding sources. There isnt conventional funding for "pro-AGW" science nor should there be for "anti-AGW" science. There is funding for finding out what we dont know. The funding provider is indifferent as to whether the result is supportive or not of a given theory. On the other hand, can you imagine Cato or SPPI being pleased with results that support conventional climate theory? I also know that FF has very considerable internal research capacity. However, it is choosing to fund lobbying and disinformation rather than pursue an alternative theory. My take on climate science from an outsider is that an alternative theory is going to be tough. To get that Nobel prize will require a theory that accounts for all current observations and yet lets us off the hook. For my 2c, the unknowns that are worth pursuing are: 1/ A hidden negative feedback that will reduce ECS. Clouds and aerosols are favourite but face the problem that you need a mechanism that is working now or in future but didnt work in the past as low sensitivities make paleoclimate and 20th Century climate extremely difficult. 2/ A hidden natural energy flow that somehow mimics the signature of GHG. Any others? You can hope on those, but it isnt the way to bet or vote.
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  34. OMG. So many people spending so much time and energy on a completely irrelevant aspect of the global warming debate! When are we going to collectively realize that the "messenger" is of no relative importance. All that matters are the facts. Is there an ongoing planetary average temperature increase that is in some meaningful way, associated with atmospheric CO2 levels? If so, is this increasing trend of sufficient magnitude to cause worrying humanitarian and/or environmental effects? If so, will the proposed carbon control schemes be effective in combatting the anticipated problems? The officially proposed controls are only justified if the answers are all YES, there is no doubt of these factors. BUT, because there are doubts, please don't tell me there are none, there is insufficient basis to support draconian, life- and liberty-threatening control and financial government policy implementations.
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  35. Is there an ongoing planetary average temperature increase that is in some meaningful way, associated with atmospheric CO2 levels? Yes. Far less doubt than you might imagine, but you do perhaps need to look at the theory of climate as a whole and you have some doubts here then comment on the appropriate thread. If so, is this increasing trend of sufficient magnitude to cause worrying humanitarian and/or environmental effects? "worrying" is somewhat subjective. Do the impacts detailed in the IPCC reports (as opposed to say greenpeace propoganda) worry you? They certainly worry me. If so, will the proposed carbon control schemes be effective in combating the anticipated problems? Now that is a narrow focus - if you dont like the current proposed schemes (and your comment on "life and liberty threatening control" sounds like fossil fuel propaganda not facts), then propose better ones. I am very interested in solutions that work for right-wing leanings. I would genuinely like to hear your responses to this post (you might to peruse the preceding comments.
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  36. Ken, answer the following: 1. Can science ever predict anything with 100% certainty? 2. If so, show me. If not, what level of certainty is acceptable to you? This is the problem. Scientists are certain enough to say, "we're in danger." Yet there are people who ignore the science but have the means, motivation, and morality to spread the idea that "No, there are too many uncertainties." The question you, as a non-scientist, should ask yourself is not "who should I believe?" but instead "why do I believe who and what I do believe?" Do you believe that there is significant uncertainty? Why? Who led you to believe this, and what were the arguments? There is no doubt about the basic mechanism, but it's my word against some doubter's word unless you're willing to engage the science. I've had this debate with others. It all comes down to giving up control over your beliefs. If you're not willing to spend the time to understand the issue, then you must give up some control over your beliefs and the resulting actions. Most people do that willingly in many areas of their lives. I've yet to meet the person who is totally in control of their beliefs (and probably won't; he/she's living in a cave somewhere, alone forever). The social production of scientific knowledge gives us the most objective understanding of 'reality' we can get. It's not perfect, nor are we. One of the persons with whom I was arguing claimed to be an Objectivist--someone who believes rational self-interest and the economic mode of capitalism are the keys to individual freedom. Yet this person parroted others who, in turn, had parroted others. The claims made by this person were easily dismissed with a few simple observations and the application of physical laws (that the person clearly accepted). Yet this advocate for rationality and objective thought still refused to admit error and, in fact, repeated the same errors in another, subsequent post. Whenever someone mentions individual liberty in an argument, I begin to suspect that the only things the person is interested in are defending the profit motive and excusing themselves from responsibilities. I'm not saying that you, Ken, generate this response; rather, experiences such as the one I describe above do.
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  37. Ken, see here for why stopping AGW will not end life and liberty.

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  38. Regarding, the "The OISM’s qualifications...."

    Pleaes replace "stay-at-home-mom’s with engineering degrees" with "stay-at-home-mom’s and dad's with engineering degrees"

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  39. This is a completely inadequate analysis of the presented data and should be removed.  

    You have to address and accounts for the bias in both the IPCC and OIPM crowds.
    You may as conclude that 2k/10M is 0.02% so the alarmist still loose.

    Obviosuly not every one of the 10M 'scientist' responded to the OIPM call.  
    If you want to make an attempt at using science, without knowing better the typical hit rate on an advertised item is 1%. So 30k/100k would be the best estimate we can give with the limited (read: crappy) data-set and it would have an err on the order of +/- 25%. It's useless.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] The article points out how invalid the OIPM petition is as a measure of scientific opinion. For a scientific examination of state of consensus then look at any of the 7 published studies referred to here

  40. MagmaiKH @ 139 , you seem to have missed the point that (by their own admission) the Petition project-ers began their collection of signatures in 1998 .  So it took them ten years to amass such a pitifully feeble number.

    The Petition is not just a lame duck . . . it is a very lame duckling, barely out of its shell, from an egg that's been "brooded" for 10 years.

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  41. MagmaiKH @139, the OISM petition results are not the result of an attempt to sell a product.  They are the result of two seperate mailouts of packages including the petition card, and article, and a return envelope; plus provision of the packages to an unknown number of people by direct contact; plus 23 years on the accessibility on the internet with copious free advertising on "skeptical" websites, and from opinion pieces by "skeptics" in the main stream media, and even by mentions in Congress.  The vast majority (~95%) of signatures came from the two mailouts plus associated direct contacts, so the most relevant response rate is that to mail surveys.  Mail survey response rates in the US are about 37% with wide variability.  On the false assumption that all 10 million "scientists" in the US were on the mailing list, the expected response rate woud be about 3,700,000 with the actual responses representing 0.8% of expected responses - the difference presumably being attributable to non-responses due to disagreement.

    The direct distribution, was likely significantly less than the 10 million, but was likely also biased towards those willing to sign the petition.  That means it is impossible to assess a genuine effective response rate, and the OISM petition project make no attempt to do so; nor to give out the data on how many packages have been distributed.  Presumably that is because doing so would be unflattering.  Given their refusal to properly indicate the denominator, determining the denominator as in the OP is a reasonable aproach to determining the significance of the petition.

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  42. I'm curious why 2000 words are devoted to casting suspicion on this list of scholars, in order that it simply be dismissed from the discussion. Then an overwhelming 75 out of 77 respondents from a survey covering more than 10,000 people which got 3000 responses is mis-labeled as "97%" and put forward as proof that there is a scientific consensus on the subject.

    By every logic used in this article, the "97%" figure should be laughed out of the room, not used as the basis for a claim.

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    Moderator Response:


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