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Why we need to talk about the scientific consensus on climate change

Posted on 20 November 2014 by John Cook

An interesting sequence of events followed the publication of a scientific paper the Skeptical Science team published in May last year. The paper found a 97% consensus that humans were causing global warming in relevant scientific papers. Finding an overwhelming consensus was nothing new. Studies in 2009 and 2010 also found 97% agreement among climate scientists on human-caused global warming. Nevertheless, the paper attracted much media attention, including tweets from Elon Musk and President Obama.

We expected our work would be attacked from those who reject climate science. We weren’t disappointed. Since publication, hundreds of blog posts, reports, videos, papers and op-eds have been published attacking our paper. A year and a half later, there is no sign of slowing. But this is just the latest chapter in over two decades of manufactured doubt on the scientific consensus about climate change.

What did surprise me were criticisms from scientists who accept the science on climate change. They weren’t arguing against the existence of a consensus, but whether we should be communicating the consensus. This surprised me, as our approach to climate communication was evidence-based, drawing on social science research. So in response, I along with co-author Peter Jacobs have published a scholarly paper summarising all the evidence and research underscoring the importance of consensus messaging.

One objection against consensus messaging is that scientists should be talking about evidence, rather than consensus. After all, our understanding of climate change is based on empirical measurements, not a show of hands. But this objection misunderstands the point of consensus messaging. It’s not about “proving” human-caused global warming. It’s about expressing the state of scientific understanding of climate change, which is built on a growing body of evidence.

Consensus messaging recognises the fact that people rely on expert opinion when it comes to complex scientific issues. Studies in 2011 and 2013 found that perception of scientific consensus is a gateway belief that has a flow-on effect to a number of other beliefs and attitudes. When people are aware of the high level of scientific agreement on human-caused global warming, they’re more likely to accept that climate change is happening, that humans are causing it and support policies to reduce carbon pollution.

Another argument against consensus messaging is that public understanding of the climate issue has moved on from fundamental issues such as the consensus. The evidence says otherwise. Public surveys have found that the public are deeply unaware of the consensus. On average, the public think there’s a 50:50 debate. There are several contributors to this “consensus gap”, including mainstream media’s tendency to give contrarian voices equal weight with the climate science community.

Funnily enough, a third objection to consensus messaging argues that we shouldn’t communicate consensus because public views have not moved on. In other words, the fact that public opinion about consensus hasn’t shifted over the last decade implies that consensus messaging is ineffective.

Dan Kahan argues that consensus is a polarizing message. Liberals are predisposed to respond positively to consensus messaging. Meanwhile, conservatives are more likely to reject the scientific consensus.

Political ideology certainly does influence people’s attitudes towards climate change. The following graph shows data I’ve collected from a representative sample of Americans, asking them how many climate scientists agreed about human-caused global warming. The horizontal access in this graph represents political ideology (specifically, support for an unregulated free market, free of interference from government).

These data come from research by John Cook, taken from a survey of a US representative sample (N=200).

These data come from research by John Cook, taken from a survey of a US representative sample (N=200).

Two important features jump out from this figure.
Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 70:

  1. "We expected our work would be attacked from those who reject climate science. We weren’t disappointed." You mean "attacked from those who reject consensus as science". Nobody rejects science when it is real science, not just opinions of "scientists".

    1 2
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  2. topal - Nobody rejects science when it's real science??? Please tell that to climate deniers who say that CO2 isn't being increased by anthropogenic activity, that it has no effect on temperatures, that it's all some unknown long term cycle, that it's cosmic rays, that all of the science is a malicous plot by the Illuminati, etc. etc. etc. 

    Because those are people documentably rejecting real science. 

    Scientific consensus on complex issues is notable because we (the public) use it to evaluate those issues. And like tobacco research, climate science and consensus is under constant attack by those who wish to disuade any action on the subject. Which is both a rejection of science, and a campaign of disinformation intended to prevent public policy changes, by a very small segment of the population. 

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  3. topal:

    No, John Cook is correct.

    The majority of people attacking Cook et al 2013 are people who reject climate science.

    If you really think "[n]obody rejects science when it is real science" then I am sorry to say you are, at best, extraordinarily misinformed.

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  4. Do you think that Obama's tweet was a fair representation of your study? I'm thinking particularly of the way that he added 'dangerous' to the consensus. I may have missed it, but I couldn't find the word danger in your ERL publication, or the Guardian blog post you linked to announcing it.

    Does this matter? I think it does. Many skeptics (including e.g. Christopher Monckton, Patrick Michaels and Roy Spencer) have claimed that they are part of 'the 97%' on the grounds that they believe climate change is real and man made.

    I suspect that if the consensus was 'real, man made and dangerous' then they would have a much harder time claiming to be part of the consensus.

    To quote one of your critics, Andrew Montford:

    "Differences over extent of any human influence is the essence of the climate debate. The vast majority of those involved – scientists, economists, commentators, activists, environmentalists and sceptics – accept that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that will, other things being equal, warm the planet. But whether the effect is large or small is unknown and the subject of furious debate. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report shows a range of figures for effective climate sensitivity – the amount of warming that can be expected from a doubling of carbon dioxide levels. At one end are studies based on observations and suggesting little more than 1◦C of warming per doubling. If true, this would mean that climate change was inconsequential. At the other end are estimates based on computer simulations, which would, if realised, be disastrous."

    In short, these skeptics often claim that your study simply missed the point.

    It may be that you're not interested in engaging with skeptics such as Montford or Michaels, and are more interested in talking to a wider 'unconvinced' public (although even there, I believe you have things wrong). Have you considered the possibility that some of the "criticisms from scientists who accept the science on climate change" arose because those scientists are engaging with a different audience, skeptics such as Montford and Michaels, where simply asserting that climate change is 'real and man made' does indeed miss the point?

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  5. JoeK...  The fact is, climate change is dangerous on a business-as-usual emissions path. 

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  6. JoeK... The "skeptics" who've claimed to be part of the 97% are deliberately misreading the research. None of those you listed endorse the IPCC position on climate change, which is the fundamental basis of the study. They all minimize human contribution, thus they are clearly part of the 3%.

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  7. JoeK @4, Cook et al did not test the consensus on whether or not AGW was dangerous.  The did, however, test the conensus on whether or not humans have caused at least 50% of recent warming.  Monckton, Michaels, and Spencer all reject that claim and are not part of the 97%.  What is more, one of the very first "skeptical" critiques of Cook et al was that it redefined the target in that the IPCC "consensus" was that 100% or warming over the twentieth century was anthropogenic.  That claim was made by Nicolas Scaffeta, and was the basis of his claiming that Cook et al incorrectly categorized his paper (which claimed in the abstract that the Sun contributed "as much as" 25-35%" of recent warming, and hence by elimination that AGW was responsible for at least 65%).

    The fun bit is that those skeptics who claim that they are part of the consensus because they accept that adding CO2 to the atmosphere does not cool it also claim that Scaffeta's paper was incorrectly rated - which is an inconsistent position.  The point is that both claims are rhetorical, and are not expected by their proponents to actually be logically cohesive, only to serve a purpose.

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  8. JoeK @4 & Rob @ 5 & 6.

    While I agree with Rob's comments, the danger is not just BAU emisions for the future but that the inertia in the climate system at 400 ppme CO2 means that with out reduction to 350 ppme CO2 or lower in the next 100 years approximately we have lost the worlds coastal cities! It's not just a metre of sea level rise but 12 -25 metres at equilibrium.

    What is not talked about anywhere near enough is that every developed country person needs to remove 300 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere for all the coastal cities to be kept and the oceans from loosing fish. People talk about being carbon neutral as if it's the mark to aim for. That is the just "for now" mark to aim for but we really do need to stop coal use dead and then take the 300 tonnes Carbon per westerner out of the air!

    The state of WAIS is that it's now too late to save it from sliding into the sea in the next few hundred years with out a drop to 350 ppm. That is the largest lost of our best arible land since the end of the last ice age.

    The world economy and coastal land is closely tied to the survival interests of a large part of the worlds current population. The inability of a significant portion of the wealthy to end the funding of fossil fuels (at the rate that would pay for the switch to sustainable non carbon energy) is a real and current threat to civilisation for the next 10,000 years as a minimium.

    To end humanities civilisation in one ignorant generation of one eyed wealth is remarkably dangerous by anyones definition of dangerous.

    The danger is that the current CO2 levels take us out of the Holoscene climate state of the last 7 - 10,000 years that has allowed civilisation to develop. The cost to make the needed changes is do-able currently but the door is closing.

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  9. "scientists should be talking about evidence, rather than consensus."  That's valid... for Scientists.  But the debate in the media and public venues is not a Scientific debate, it's a Policy debate.  This is what the general public should debate, not the Science, for which they are naturally ill-informed.  Indeed, as any denier can tell (as every denier has told you), a single Scientist (a Galileo, if you will?) can with evidence win the Scientific debate.  But policy, as every Galileo will tell you, is made through consensus.  

    Doubly strange, many deniers will pledge fealty to the concept of 'meritocracy', and in the very next sentence, unaware of the irony, will tell you 'those Scientists' don't know their Science.

    If Cook etal are casting about for another project, it would be fun to determine through abstracts just how long this overwhelming consensus has existed.  I'm guessing, since around 1980.  

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  10. ubrew12:

    If Cook etal are casting about for another project, it would be fun to determine through abstracts just how long this overwhelming consensus has existed. I'm guessing, since around 1980.

    Cook et al did look at the extent of consensus over time, at least back to 1990, as per Figure 3 in the paper.

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  11. Rob Honeycutt,

    "The fact is, climate change is dangerous on a business-as-usual emissions path."

    The fact is, Cook et al did not test the consensus on whether or not AGW was dangerous.

    It's understandable if a third party (Obama/OFA) mistakenly misrepresents a study's findings.  It's unacceptable that the author(s) of that study made no effort to correct the mistake, and instead promoted and perpetuated the misrepresentation.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] You are entitled to express your own opinions on this website. You are not entitled to repeat them ad naseum. Per the SkS Comments Policy:

    • Comments should avoid excessive repetition. Discussions which circle back on themselves and involve endless repetition of points already discussed do not help clarify relevant points. They are merely tiresome to participants and a barrier to readers. If moderators believe you are being excessively repetitive, they will advise you as such, and any further repetition will be treated as being off topic.
  12. Tom Curtis,

    "The did, however, test the conensus on whether or not humans have caused at least 50% of recent warming."

    Yes, and they found that 64 out of of 4,014 abstracts which expressed a position (1.6%) offered "explicit endorsement with quantification".

    Abstracts that were rated Level 2 ("explicit endorsement without quantification") or Level 3 ("implicit endorsement") cannot generally be claimed to support the position that humans caused "most" global warming (>50%) if they only endorse the weaker position that humans are a cause of warming (>0%).

    And yes, I understand that abstracts which explicity or implicitly minimized human contribution (<50%) are categorized as Levels 5, 6, and 7.

    Including the Level 2 and Level 3 abstracts which only offer the weaker endorsement of human responsibility as >0%, with those papers that attributed >50% to human activity, and claiming that all of them endorse "most" warming is, in my opinion, a misrepresentation of the study's findings.

    0 1
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] If my memory serves me correctly, you have previously gone around this track with Tom Curtis and other commenters on the threads to other posts about The Consensus Project. There is no need to regurgitate those discussions on this thread.

  13. JH,

    If anyone can show me where the authors made any effort to publicly correct the error (the word "dangerous") in the Obama/OFA tweet, I'll very happily stand corrected.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please reread my previous comment. It's all about the prohibition of excessive repetition by commenters.  

  14. Russ...  My point was that, it's not unjustified for OFA to make such a statement. It was a tweet after all, not an official presidential memorandum. 

    On a business-as-usual path, per the IPCC position (which Cook13 was referencing), climate change is very likely to be dangerous. Cook13 did not test for "dangerous" but it's perfectly rational to infer that position based on IPCC reports, the APS statement, NAS statements, etc.

    Spoken/written language is not math. You cannot apply mathematical precision to words. There is no need to issue a correction for the use of the word "dangerous" because, if we do not take action, climate change is very dangerous. The OFA was making broader, and perfectly justifiable, inferences in their use of language.

    The other thing I would note is, the issue of the OFA tweet always comes up as a distraction to the overall point of Cook13. There is a misperception in the general population relative to how certain science is about human causation for climate change. The exact phrasing of a single tweet does absolutely nothing to address or respond to that issue.

    Here's what keeps happening. "Skeptics" (a term I'm getting very tired of using because deniers are clearly not being skeptical at all) jump on the most tiny nuances of accuracy in order to try to reject what is blatantly obvious to the broad scientific community.

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  15. Russ @12...  No one participating in the rating of abstracts did their ratings as you're stating. Nor did any of the author self-ratings get applied that way.

    Once again, this is a case of deniers attempting to reframe the study in a way that deliberately misinterprets the paper.

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  16. Moderation Comment:

    All: Given the SkS Comments Policy's prohibition against dogpiling, I hereby designate Rob Honeycutt as the official responder to Russ R on this thread. 

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  17. ubrew 

    "If Cook etal are casting about for another project, it would be fun to determine through abstracts just how long this overwhelming consensus has existed. I'm guessing, since around 1980."

    If I remember rightly, different elements of the consensus have emerged at different times.   Consensus about the greenhouse mechanisms was probably the 50-60s. Consensus about CO2 increase and the human cause of it was early-mid 60's. Consensus about the effect of how increasing GHGs worked within climate models with various feedbacks and spatial features was late 70s-early 80s. That was the state of the game when I was a grad student.

    Temperature change was not really clear until the late 80s, and some I knew and respected at the time argued it wasn't really certain that change was above natural variation even then (they did not agree with Hansen — we sometimes forget the level of unertainty at the time).  So I would say consensus really developed on that front in the 90s when temp change became clear in a number of ways.  The rest of the time has just been making sure other hypotheses (solar radiation etc) aren't really responsible, and detailing responses to make sure they agree with the GHG predictions. The UAH satellite fiasco probably extended the debate a bit, so it depends on what you mean by consensus. 

    The thing that really absolutely nailed it on for me was the fact  that you simply could not get a climate model to give you the observed temperature change withuot including greenhouse gases.  Interestingly, I always found this convincing for the very reason AGW skeptics find models unconvincing.  If you can't get a climate model, with all the complex processes, approximations and feedbacks involved, to reproduce observed change in global temps, then that almost certainly really rules out natural causes as a possible factor.  In other words, I always focused on the negative result in those papers, which to me is very convincing, especially since natural causes could explain a lot of the climate variations early in the 20th century.

    Anyway, the development of consensus around complicated topics like AGW is always peicemeal and complex.  It would be so cool to really map that out empirically through time, but it would take quite a bit of work!  

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  18. Composer99@10: yes, of course, I see that now.

    Stephen Baines@17: assuming the policy response was driven by scientific consensus (or, at least, authoritative scientific concern) then the fact that Lyndon Johnson felt compelled to address Congress on this issue in 1965 is compelling.  Here is US federal spending on renewable energy, 1975-2005 (in 2005 dollars)US federal spending on renewable energy, 1975-2005 (in 2005 dollars)

    I think a substantial impetus behind those policy decisions, 1975-1980, was concern over Climate Change (with a change in administration the process shifted back to favoring fossil fuels).  And I think that concern reflected the Scientific consensus of its day.

    On policy, the consensus among experts matters, and so does its history for those left picking up the pieces of 'what went wrong'.  To take another example: if you have to delay the invasion of a country to search for WMD, to give the weapons inspectors already in the country time to pack up and leave, something in your information stream has gone horribly awry. 'What did you know, and when did you know it' becomes more than academic, in that case.

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  19. Rob Honeycutt @,

    "My point was that, it's not unjustified for OFA to make such a statement. It was a tweet after all, not an official presidential memorandum."

    And I agree with you on this... as I wrote above:  "It's understandable if a third party (Obama/OFA) mistakenly misrepresents a study's findings."

    I'm not faulting them at all for what's likely an honest mistake in a non-official social media tweet.

    But the authors of the study certainly know better and should't knowingly perpetuate misrepresentations of their findings.  I'm sorry for being repetitive on this point, but the authors repeatedly link to and promote the Obama/OFA tweet (as in this post), and I've yet to see a single clarification from any of them pointing out that the description of their findings wasn't entirely accurate.

    We'll just have to agree to disagree on what standards we expect.

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  20. Russ R. - That Obama tweet may have overstated Cook et al, but is in essence correct. The consensus in climate science is that recent climate change is overwhelmingly identified as anthropogenic in cause, and furthermore (as per AAR5 on Impacts) there is a consensus that climate change will have significant impacts that while a value judgement can quite reasonably be described as "dangerous"

    Unless you think there is support for a consensus that the impacts of climate change won't be expensive, disruptive, and/or harmful. In which case I would expect some references thereof. 

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  21. Russ: I've yet to see a single clarification from any of them [the authors] pointing out that the description of their findings wasn't entirely accurate.

    Well, I did, in this blog post. I wrote:

    ...The paper received a lot of positive coverage, including Tweets from Barack Obama, Al Gore and Elon Musk. (They didn’t always get the details quite right: our survey was of the literature, not of scientists’ opinions and we had nothing to say about how dangerous climate change would be.)

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  22. Russ @19... The challenge here is that the standards you apply are only applied to one side of the issue. You're more than willing to overlook egegious errors on the "skeptic" side but on the side of science the standards are such that no detail is too small to haggle. 

    Again, the OFA was perfectly justified in their phrasing because "dangerous" is clearly an implication of the IPCC position on human causation of climate change. 

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  23. Rob Honeycutt @15,

    " No one participating in the rating of abstracts did their ratings as you're stating. Nor did any of the author self-ratings get applied that way."

    Alright then.  Let's be very specific about how abstracts were rated.

    Consider the following abstract to the Level 3 rated paper Effect Of Encapsulated Calcium Carbide On Dinitrogen, Nitrous-oxide, Methane, And Carbon-dioxide Emissions From Flooded Rice, Bronson & Mosier (1991):

    "The efficiency of N use in flooded rice is usually low, chiefly due to gaseous losses. Emission of CH4, a gas implicated in global warming, can also be substantial in flooded rice. In a greenhouse study, the nitrification inhibitor encapsulated calcium carbide (a slow-release source of acetylene) was added with 75, 150, and 225 mg of 75 atom % 15N urea-N to flooded pots containing 18-day-old rice (Oryza sativa L.) plants. Urea treatments without calcium carbide were included as controls. After the application of encapsulated calcium carbide, 3.6 μg N2, 12.4 μg N2O-N, and 3.6 mg CH4 were emitted per pot in 30 days. Without calcium carbide, 3.0 mg N2, 22.8 μg N2O-N, and 39.0 mg CH4 per pot were emitted during the same period. The rate of N added had a positive effect on N2 and N2O emissions, but the effect on CH4 emissions varied with time. Carbon dioxide emissions were lower with encapsulated calcium carbide than without. The use of encapsulated calcium carbide appears effective in eliminating N2 losses, and in minimizing emissions of the “greenhouse gases” N2O and CH4 in flooded rice."

    I've bolded the only the specific references to climate change.  The authors are very clear in pointing out that N2O and CH4, which are released from rice growing, are greenhouse gases.  

    They discuss CO2, another GHG, but without any mention of its warming contribution, and they do so in the same manner as N2, which has no warming potential.

    From the above acknowledgement that CH4 and N2O are GHGs, and that rice growing releases these gases, one can conclude that some warming must be manmade.  But the paper makes no quantification of how much of the total observed warming is manmade, and therefore can't possibly be taken as an endorsement that most warming is human caused.

    So unless I'm mistaken, this abstract fits into the category of endorsing the weak position (humans cause >0%), but not endorsing the strong position (humans cause >50%).  Nor does it minimize human contribution (endorsing <50%).

    Is my interpretation correct?

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  24. ubrew12 @18,


    The reason for the uptake in spending for alternative fuels at that time was due to oil embargos (and general instability of supply) from OPEC nations, not due to any concern over climate change.

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  25. Andy Skuce,

    Thank you.  I hadn't previously seen your blog or that post.  I stand corrected.

    Good on you for making that distinction.  

    I'd encourage the editors of this site to do likewise whenever they reference the Obama/OFA tweet.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Your recommendation has been duely noted — multiple times in fact. Any future posts by you that repeat your recommendtion will be summarily dismissed. Enough already!

  26. Russ @23...  (sigh)

    1) Only categories 1 and 7 quantify.

    2) Ask yourself this question: Does this paper minimise human contribution relative to the IPCC position? 

    We're talking about the endorsement or rejection of the IPCC position on global warming. The paper is offering a mechanism to reduce emissions of methane due to rice cultivation. Why the heck would they be concerned about reducing methane emissions if global warming is primarily a product of natural variation?

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  27. And, btw, your interpretation is clearly incorrect.

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  28. "I'd encourage the editors of this site to do likewise whenever they reference the Obama/OFA tweet."

    Then we can also assume that you would expect every "skeptic" blog out there to make similar qualifications every single time they mention the "pause." They must acknowledge when they cherry pick RSS. They must clearly state that there is warming in all the other data sets. They must also acknowledge cherry picking of start dates to present such a claim. And with models they must also clearly acknowledge when they are choosing single year baselines when comparing models to surface temps.

    I could provide you a list a mile long where "skeptics" are vastly more egregious in their presentations of information. But, I don't need to really do that because all you have to do is go to the "Most Used Myths" section of SkS in the left side column of this webpage.

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  29. Rob Honeycutt @26 & 27,

    I'm not disputing the rating assigned to the Bronson & Mosier (1991) abstract above.  I just don't see how the abstract as written can possibly be intepreted as a claim that humans cause most (>50%) of warming.

    "We're talking about the endorsement or rejection of the IPCC position on global warming. The paper is offering a mechanism to reduce emissions of methane due to rice cultivation. Why the heck would they be concerned about reducing methane emissions if global warming is primarily a product of natural variation?"

    That's great... it's an implicit endorsement of the IPCC's general position.  But it's not support for a specific claim that most warming is man-made.

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  30. Russ...  Cook13 was not attempting to only locate papers that quantitatively endorse the IPCC position. We were also looking at papers that implicitly endorse, as well as explicitly endorse without quantifying.

    The abstract you posted is a category 3. An implicit endorsement. It's not an implicit rejection since it does not minimize the IPCC position. It does not need to have a specific claim relative to >50% of warming. Any paper that made a specific claim would be an explicit endorsement (cat 2), and any paper quantifying the endorsement would be a category 1, explicit with quantification.

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  31. Russ... Think of the exersize as being like this:

    You have a large bowl of puzzle pieces in front of you. The puzzle pieces come from several different puzzles. Your task is to find out what percentage of them fit one specific puzzle. That puzzle is the IPCC position stating that there is a >95% likelihood that more than half of warming over the past 50 years is due to human causes.

    There are seven other smaller bowls in front of you that you can place the pieces in, ranging from clearly fit to clearly do not fit. And you have one bowl in the middle for pieces that do not fit either way.

    What you are doing is conflating bowls 2&3 with bowls 5,6&7 in order to say that you can only build the puzzle with the pieces from bowl 1. This is clearly wrong. 

    The abstract you're presenting very clearly fits the idea that humans are the primary cause of warming. We have a problem with global warming and they are presenting a study that addresses one small issue related to that problem. 

    There is another puzzle (or likely several different puzzles) that can be constructed with the pieces from the rejection bowls that suggest that humans are not primarily responsible for global warming. The pieces in bowls 2&3 are ones that do not fit those puzzles.

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  32. Rob Honeycutt @30,

    Thank you for finally admitting that a Level 3 rating "does not need to have a specific claim relative to >50% of warming."   That's spelled out very clearly in the paper's methodology.

    But if Level 3 papers don't need to make a specific claim that humans are causing >50% of warming (and most that I've looked at make no such claim), then how can anyone claim that 97.1% of the abstracts find that humans are causing most warming?   The paper itself doesn't even make that claim... it only states:  "Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming."

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  33. Russ...  This is getting almost surreal.

    Yes, 97.1% of the papers do endorse the position that humans are causing global warming. Some do so implicitly. Some do so explicitly. Some do so explicitly and also quantify.

    Likewise, 2.9% of the papers reject the position that humans are causing warming. Some do so implicitly. Some do so explicitly. Some do so explicitly and also quantify.

    The example you presented is a paper that implicitly endorses that position, and does not implicitly reject that position.

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  34. And Russ...  There is nothing about "finally admitting" anything. I have said now exactly what I've been saying all along, and the exact same thing that I've been stating since the paper was published.

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  35. I get the sense that you fail to grasp the definition of "implicit."

    1. implied though not plainly expressed.
    "comments seen as implicit criticism of the policies"
    synonyms: implied, hinted at, suggested, insinuated

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  36. Moderation Comment:

    Rob Honeycutt & Russ R:

    You have now entered into the Neverland of Excessive Repitition. Please cease and desist. Your future posts will be summarily deleted if they repeat what you have already posted on this thread.

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  37. Absolutely agreed.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Thank you.

  38. Russ R wants to make much of the fact that Cook et al did not assess the level of endorsement in the scientific literature (not the level of the concensus per se) about how dangerous AGW is.  He acts as if the level of consensus among climate scientists of how dangerous AGW is has never been assessed, but of course, it has been.  Specifically, In Bray and von Storch (2010), respondents were asked:

    "22. How convinced are you that climate change poses a very serious and dangerous threat tohumanity?"

    Responses were on a seven point scale, with 1 being "not at all convinced", and 7 being "very much convinced", which makes 4 "about 50/50".  In response to that question, a plurality of scientists responded that they were very much convinced that "climate change poses a very serious and dangerous threat to humanity".  In all, 78.9% of respondents are convinced that at least on balance of probabilities, "climate change poses a very serious and dangerous threat to humanity" (response of 5+).  That compares to just 9.3% who think that on balance of probabilities, "climate change [does not pose] a very serious and dangerous threat to humanity" (response of 3-).  10.8% are fifty-fifty on the topic (response of 4).

    Those who are not so sure of the threat may be reacting to the wording, which literally aserts not just a dangerous threat, but a "very serious and dangerous threat", and not just to the economy, or to people in low lying areas, or the poor, but to humanity itself.  On the other hand, I suspect many of those who consider the threat real do not consider it to be an existential threat, but only a generalized threat in which many (even a majority) of the population will not have their lives threatened.  A better defined question may well have had a more overwhelming response, but with a lower modal value.

    I am uncomfortable describing less than  90% assent as a "consensus".  Clearly, however, far more than a super majority of climate scientists consider global warming to be potentially a very serious threat; and among those who disagree, few (1.16%) would consider such an outcome to be unrealistic.  So, while Russ R wants to make it clear that Cook et al (2013) did not address the issue of how dangerous AGW was, the fact remains that there is overwelhming scientific suport for the claim that AGW is dangerous. 

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  39. franklefkin@24: you are suggesting that American conservatives don't care about energy independence.  Carter cared: hence-renewables.  Reagan didn't care: hence-no renewables.  Nope.  In American politics, energy independence from the Middle East is a major political talking point among conservatives.  That's been true since the OPEC embargo.  But, if true, why did Reagan nix research that would have led to just such an energy independence?  The result indicates that neither side cares as much about energy independence (the subsequent push for 'Globalization' underscores this point).  What then, spurred Carter's investment?  I say Global Warming.  

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  40. ubrew12.  From I remember, having lived through it as a yong person, frankelfkin is actually correct, for the most part.  The oil embargo by OPEC created a huge increase in gas proces and shortages at gas stations that led to a large recession.  Energy independence was considered a key national security and economic issue by Carter.  His stated energy policy pretty clearly asserts this.  He was also interested in controlling environmental damage, but he was mostly thinking about atmospheric and water pollution by power plants and strip mining — including effects of acid rain.  

    By the time Reagan entered the white house OPEC had adopted a far less econcomically destabilizing pricing scheme - possibly due to competition from other sources.  The issue of energy independence had stopped being a political winner, and he claimed he was interested in market solutions that did not involve government intervention.  Acid rain and ozone would be the major environmental battles of the 80s in the US.

    One thing Carter did do in his policy was have money set aside to study effects of CO2 on the climate.  

    "--The President will request almost $3 million to study the long-term effects of carbon dioxide from coal and other hydrocarbons on the atmosphere (budget)."

    It's down the list a bit though. Doesn't seem like it was the major priority, and I (having lived through it all) don't remember it being mentioned as being important in the political landscape of the time. 

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  41. Stephen Baines @40

    "econcomically" ... a shining example of "in typo veritas". It has always struck me that those who dismiss climate models are so certain about the predictive power of economic models forcasts of financial devastation when their track record is, to put it charitably, less than robust.

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  42. Glad to see my horrible typing may serve a larger purpose!  That way I don't have to learn how to correct it.

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  43. There is only one way to curtail CO2 levels and that is to stop burning fossil fuels. We all know that. The problem is that the oil and coal companies have massive amounts of money to make sure they can continue their activities. Facts and science are not the issue, its the money that supports the program of misinformation, fully backed by the media and ploiticians of the big polluting countries. We need to move on without them as they are not going to change.

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  44. There are many portentous statements in the comments on this topic but recent polls suggest that the 97%  consensus of climate scientists is not yet generally shared.  A recent paper in Nature Climate Change (LINK) shows only 35% 0f Americans believe global warming was the cause of the warm winter in 2012.  The lead author (Aaron McCright) made this comment about the study:

    ""There's been a lot of talk among climate scientists, politicians and journalists that warmer winters like this would change people's minds," McCright said. "That the more people are exposed to climate change, the more they'll be convinced. This study suggests this is not the case."


    This seems in accord with the survey of Australians by Channel 9 which asked > 122000 people "Do you believe in man-made global warming?" and showed about 40000 did and about 82000 did not.  And in accord also  with a 91% response of "No" to the ABC (Australia) program Radio National  question "Is the IPCC right that on current fossil use projectories, we are heading for a global warming of four or five degrees by century's end?" (LINK)

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Changed URL's to links. You can find the link tool on the second tab above the comments box.

  45. I am probably overly presumptuous in thinking  there may be replies to this comment.  Should there be please note I did not know before posting this paper had been put up on WUWT.  Naturally I cannot prove this but am making this disclaimer to mitigate to some extent,  the opprobrium with which comments such as this often engender. 

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  46. Ashton, there is no doubt that the misinformation campaigns conducted by those who have a vested interest in the continuing unabated use of fossil fuels have been very effective, thank you for confirming that. There is also no doubt that the general population does not realize the level of agreement among specialists who actually know what they're talking about, hence the need to talk about the 97% consensus. I am personally convinced, however, that no matter how much evidence stares at them in the face (such as the various Australian weather event of these past years), the general population will believe what is most convenient, or most pleasing, as people are still nowadays very resistant to rational thinking.

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  47. In his Wonkblog post of Nov 24, 2014, Chris Mooney presents the findings of the new paper that Ashton #44 has referenced.

    Mooney's post is titled, Do Democrats and Republicans actually experience the weather differently? 

    The citation for of the research paper under discussion is:

    The impacts of temperature anomalies and political orientation on perceived winter warming, Aaron M. McCright, Riley E. Dunlap & Chenyang Xiao, Nature Climate Change (2014) doi:10.1038/nclimate2443

    Received 28 Jan 2014: Accepted 20 Oct 2014: Published online 24 Nov 2014

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  48. As I live in Australia not the US, I can only speculate on the question "Do Democrats and Republicans actually experience the weather differently?". Physiologically probably not- at least only to the extent that physiological response may be determined by the particular environment and climate conditions usually experienced. Psychologically-probably yes. In Australia, Greens and Labor supporters are considered, whether fairly or not, to look to government for solutions and so prefer large government. Liberals and Nationals, with the same caveats, tend to rely on themselves and prefer small government. Moving from fossil fuels to other forms of energy incurs costs.  Greens and Labor supporters are considered, whether fairly or not, to believe they should be financially compensated for these costs by the government with increased taxation providing the funds for this.  Conversely, Liberals and Nationals, with the same caveats, are considered not to be in favour of increased taxation, do not expect government recompense and so are less inclined to support extra personal financial imposts.  With the above caveats of course, Greens and Labor supporters are thought to be more sensitive to the environment whereas Liberal and National supporters are thought more in favour of increasing economic performance. This may impact on their psychological response to the weather with the Greens/Labor being more psychologically responsive than Liberal/Nationals.  Whether this speculation is a) valid and b) applies to Democrats and Republicans is eminently debatable. There are, of course, many other possible differences but I think mental attitudes can impact on responses to physical conditions

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  49. Ashton - Curiously enough, in the US there is a very odd conflict between ideology and reality. From Slate

    With some exceptions, what we regard as red states are sent a whole lot more of your hard-earned tax dollars than the traditional blue states. In effect, supposedly indolent, “tax and spend” liberals actually subsidize the individualistic, pure, and hard-working lifestyle of our conservative countrymen.

    Odd, in that those whose personal identities are most tied to individualism, self reliance, and small government are in fact those most benefiting from taxation, wealth redistribution, and government in the first place. They are led (by their own ideologies) into acting contrary to their best interests. 

    I can think of few better examples of the disconnect between rationality and behavior. 

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  50. "they should be financially compensated for these costs by the government with increased taxation providing the funds for this."

    While I am in NZ, I think this is a gross misrepresentation. The Left is definitely more inclined to look for collective solutions to problems (eg government) but a completely effective government-based solution is simply ban any new thermal generation (eg the Clarke government in NZ) and let market figure out the best replacement. Direct action like this is not acceptable to liberty-loving Right apparently. When you say people should be "compensated for costs", I can only assume you are referring to a Pigovian carbon tax? - a solution proposed purely to pander to the Right. In this set up, those who decarbonize, do effectively get a handout from those who do not. However, given the Right-wing aversion to tax, I would expect the Right to be the ones frantically avoiding the tax. As far as I can see, Right-wing supporters in Australia are just as happy as those in US accept government handouts (eg subsidies) so I would be surprised if they turned down the tax refund.

    I do agree that it is hard to think of way to solve the problem of CO2 emission by individualistic action. Faced with a problem they cant solve within their ideology, Right-wingers seem instead to prefer denial. If you have a better solution, then I have written about it here. Please add comments. Depressingly, it seems that for many, if you cant find an energy solution that is cheaper than even unsubsidized coal, then Right-wingers would rather go to hell in a handbasket than accept any other solution. Better ideas are more than welcome.

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