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What do you get when you put 100 climate scientists in a room?

Posted on 22 July 2010 by John Cook

No, this isn't a joke (although you're welcome to post a punchline in the comments if you can come up with a funny answer). Instead, I was imagining what would happen if you filled a room with the world's leading experts on climate science - the scientists who are actively publishing climate science papers in the peer-reviewed literature. If you asked this group of climate experts if they thought humans were causing global warming, what would they say? Here's a visualisation of the response (obviously green are convinced that humans are causing climate change, red are skeptical):

Why does this matter? Does a consensus of climate experts prove that humans are causing global warming? No, science doesn't work that way. The evidence for man-made global warming lies in the multiple, independent observations that confirm man's influence on climate . It's not based just on theory or models or even just a single dataset but many different observations all pointing to a consistent result. In my quieter moments of introspection when I wonder if this could all be wrong, ultimately I can't avoid all the different lines of evidence.

But not everyone has the time or inclination to dig through the peer-reviewed literature to uncover all the empirical evidence. Or read the thousands of pages in the IPCC reports. When it comes to complex science, whether it be climate science or heart surgery or how a plane manages to stay up in the air, we defer to the experts who do this stuff for a living. Why? Because they know every nook and cranny of their area of expertise. Every day when they go to work, climate scientists are knee deep in the full body of evidence. They arrive at their opinion of man-made global warming by taking into account all this evidence. The reason why there's a consensus of scientists is because there's a consensus of evidence.

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Comments 151 to 161 out of 161:

  1. KR, ref. #221 (was #227), I think that we’ll have to agree to disagree on how bad scientist Hansen’s model is at forecasting global temperatures. You claim that “Luboš Motl .. posts from a clear ideological framework rather than a scientific one in the climate arena… “.Lubos has the significant advantage over us in that he does at least have a track record in one of the numerous scientific disciplines involved in improving our poor understanding of global climate processes and drivers. I place you in that “ideological framework” category and have no reason to believe that you have any scientific expertise whatsoever. If I am mistaken on that then perhaps you’d like to Ref. #228 (was #234), thanks for identifying what you consider to be three independent data sets that scientists use to estimate mean global temperatures (note that I am talking about near-surface temperature estimates such as those used by The Hadley Centre scientists, - see comment #207/217 (were #213/223). I have no disagreement about the satellite data being independent (although I understand that that those data do not refer to near-surface but to lower troposphere which may or may not be comparable). It is interesting to see what those expert climate scientists Dr. Roy Spencer and Professor John Chrisy have to say. According to their assessment of global temperatures at June 2010 (2) see there has been something like 0.13C per decade increase during the past 30 years, which, if continued (and that’s a big IF), would give a mere 1.6C increase in mean global lower atmospheric temperature by 2100, not the 6-7C forecast by some scientists. Of course we mustn’t overlook the fact that this is all pure speculation, since we (including the scientists) have no idea what global mean temperatures will be in 2100. I am not convinced about the independence those GHCN and GSOD data bases from each other so will try to make time to take a closer look at them before commenting further. Meanwhile you may like to read what the Climate Sceptic said in its 2008 “Temperature Measurement” article ( As I’m off on a week’s holiday with my lovely grand children you’ll have to wait for my next set of comments until I’m back, around 7th August.
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  2. Pete Ridley (#150 & #151) Sorry to hear that you will be taking a break as many of your comments make perfect sense to me. When Barry Brook pushes nuclear power as the only long term basis for an industrial civilisation I support him. "Renewables" are wonderful but they will not deliver enough power to sustain first world living standards at an affordable cost. Barry's #1 argument for Nuclear Power Plants is to save the planet from increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. My #1 reason for using nuclear power is economics; NPPs will provide the cheapest electricity in the long term (centuries rather than decades). As you point, out coal is often the source of the cheapest electricity today. When "Scott" posted a study that showed nuclear power as cheaper than coal, my bulls**t detector activated as you will see in this link: The interesting thing about Barry's blog is that it may help conservatives to work with their political opponents. Maybe Barry can lead us beyond politics. You mention electric vehicles as "personal transport". In my estimation such vehicles can be economic for many uses, including commuting to work. I own an electric car which is fun to drive. I just wish it had the performance of the EV1 described in the Sony movie "Who Killed the Electric Car". I will not be buying a Chevy "Volt" because at $33,500 ($41,000 minus $7,500 government subsidy) it is far too expensive. You can buy a new road worthy electric car here for as little as $3,000 ($9,000 minus $6,000 federal tax credit).
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  3. gallopingcamel, I think that you misunderstood my comment about nuclear power being viable for private transport. I wasn’t referring to electric cars, which do have a use, for example as you say for commuting. I see their drawback being their expensive batteries (life-cycle costing) and low energy capacity compared with petrol/diesel engines. Few of us even in the developed economies can afford to have one car for commuting or short distance journeys and another for long-distance. The millions of aspiring car owners in developing economies, e.g. in Asia, have their eyes on one low-cost vehicle suitable for carrying a large family long distances. Perhaps the hybrid is the answer. As for Barry Brook leading us anywhere – not for me thanks. Best regards, Pete Ridley.
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  4. FTFY: I have produced a subjective and fairly poorly thought out attempted rebuttal of the PNAS paper by Andresson. It looks to me that because their methodology was systematic, and designed to generate a sample of data, it's fine. You're demanding a census which is really not possible without a good deal of resources. Anyway, if they were to use ISI web of science, which has less inclusive indexing criteria, this would be unacceptable to you as well, due to poorly thought out reasons that you have inflicted on us previously ;).
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  5. poptech #156 This really is tiresome. As the methodology is systematic it is quite reproducible, although I agree that (as with much social research) they may not have explained every part of the data collection process -a problem relating to space constraints in journals . Anyway, another fixed that for you: "I think I have irrefutably demonstrated ..." Again, it seems that the level of discussion, and your 'legend in his own mind' approach suggests that its really not worth engaging you in discussion.
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  6. Poptech wrote : "The PNAS paper has been completely discredited...", Poptech ! Boy, you do rate yourself, don't you ? Anyway, since you have now produced an Energy & Environment type paper (i.e. not peer-reviewed in a real journal - perhaps you could send your work to them, to be published ? I reckon you stand a good chance), it will no doubt now be included in your little list of 'Papers that Poptech reckons are sceptical of AGW (alarmist or not), despite what the original authors may think', and at least this time you will be able to state correctly that you know exactly what the writer is trying to say !
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  7. Poptech, instead of wasting everyone's time on here, why don't you ask the authors themselves. Perhaps they can help you out with your problems. Or, going by your past behaviour, you can tell them where they are wrong and what they really meant. I would suggest, though, that you are more civil and less self-regarding when/if you do contact them. Otherwise, they may ignore you or try to humour you - just as happens on every website you spam.
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  8. What do you get when you put 99 climate scientists who support The (significant human-made global climate change) Hypothesis in a room with a sceptical climate scientist like Dr. Roy Spencer – red faces? I think that Claude Sandroff (Note 1 - American Thinker) would agree with this. In his article “Global Warming, R.I.P” he reviews Spencer’s latest book on the subject (Note 1). [quotes removed]
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    Moderator Response: Unfortunately the policy of "American Thinker" with regard to language explicitly attributing bad intentions to scientists etc. does not comply with that of Skeptical Science.
  9. As the moderator took exception to some of the quotes I offered in my previous version of this comment I have removed what I believe was objected to so you’ll have to refer to the article itself for the full context. Here’s the revision. What do you get when you put 99 climate scientists who support The (significant human-made global climate change) Hypothesis in a room with a sceptical climate scientist like Dr. Roy Spencer – red faces? I think that Claude Sandroff (Note 1 - American Thinker) would agree with this. In his article “Global Warming, R.I.P” he reviews Spencer’s latest book on the subject (Note 2). Readwhat he says when talking about “.. this highly skilled climatologist and his The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled The World's Top Climate Scientists, .. ”. Sanroff concludes “Some .. Westerners might in their affluence be able to afford expensive energy alternatives to power -- things like wind and solar that don't directly involve the emission of CO2. But the rest of the world cannot. Cheap, affordable energy, the kind that comes from coal, natural gas and oil, is a prerequisite for any society to rise economically. Spencer seems thrilled to be able to tell the developing world that they have a free pass to burn hydrocarbons and prosper”. I’m sure that you’ll all love reading the rest of Sandroff’s article and delight in reading Spencer’s book. It’s “Written in a style that should be attractive to both warming newcomers and scientists from other fields,” so is ideal for the inexpert contributors to this blog. Spencer’s book does just what is being called for in the “Communicating climate science in plain English” thread. NOTES: 1) see 2) see Best regards, Pete Ridley.
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  10. I don't think Wayne Johnston (at 11:52 AM on 22 July, 2010) got the credits he deserved for his comment (#9). That is a very funny answer to the original question!
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  11. Yes I liked that one.
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