RE: “The scientific consensus on climate change”

 

The letter Science Magazine refused to publish

 

 

From: Benny Peiser

To: Science

Web Submission ID: 56001

Submitted: 4 January 2005

 

 

First Author Name: Benny J Peiser

Address: Faculty of Science

Henry Cotton Campus

Liverpool John Moores University

15-21 Webster Street

Liverpool L3 2ET UNITED KINGDOM

 

E-mail:  b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk

Phone: 0151 231 4338

Fax: 0151 231 4353

Click here to edit this author.

 

Other Authors:  (none)

Information Entered Title :

 

Type: Letter

Letter Details:1. N. Oreskes (2004). The scientific consensus on climate change. Science, Vol 306, Issue 5702, 1686 , 3 December 2004

Abstract:

Letter Text:

 

On December 3rd, only days before the start of the 10th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-10), Science Magazine published the results of a study by Naomi Oreskes (1): For the first time, empirical evidence was presented that appeared to show an unanimous, scientific consensus on the anthropogenic causes of recent global warming.

 

Oreskes claims to have analysed 928 abstracts she found listed on the ISI database using the keywords "climate change". However, a search on the ISI database using the keywords "climate change" for the years 1993 - 2003 reveals that almost 12,000 papers were published during the decade in question (2). What happened to the countless research papers that show that global temperatures were similar or even higher during the Holocene Climate Optimum and the Medieval Warm Period when atmospheric CO2 levels were much lower than today; that solar variability is a key driver of recent climate change, and that climate modeling is highly uncertain?

 

These objections were put to Oreskes by science writer David Appell. On 15 December 2004, she admitted that there was indeed a serious mistake in her Science essay. According to Oreskes, her study was not based on the keywords "climate change," but on "global climate change" (3).

 

Her use of three keywords instead of two reduced the list of peer reviewed publications by one order of magnitude (on the UK's ISI databank the keyword search "global climate change" comes up with 1247 documents). Since the results looked questionable, I decided to replicate the Oreskes study.

 

METHOD

 

I analysed all abstracts listed on the ISI databank for 1993 to 2003 using the same keywords ("global climate change") as the Oreskes study. Of the 1247 documents listed, only 1117 included abstracts (130 listed only titles, author(s)' details and keywords). The 1117 abstracts analysed were divided into the same six categories used by Oreskes (#1-6), plus two categories which I added (# 7, 8):

 

1. explicit endorsement of the consensus position

2. evaluation of impacts

3. mitigation proposals

4. methods

5. paleoclimate analysis

6. rejection of the consensus position.

7. natural factors of global climate change

8. unrelated to the question of recent global climate change

 

RESULTS

 

The results of my analysis contradict Oreskes' findings and essentially falsify her study:

 

Of all 1117 abstracts, only 13 (or 1%) explicitly endorse the 'consensus view'.

 

322 abstracts (or 29%) implicitly accept the 'consensus view' but mainly focus on impact assessments of envisaged global climate change.

 

Less than 10% of the abstracts (89) focus on "mitigation".

 

67 abstracts mainly focus on methodological questions.

 

87 abstracts deal exclusively with paleo-climatological research unrelated to recent climate change.

 

34 abstracts reject or doubt the view that human activities are the main drivers of the "the observed warming over the last 50 years".

 

44 abstracts focus on natural factors of global climate change.

 

470 (or 42%) abstracts include the keywords "global climate change" but do not include any direct or indirect link or reference to human activities, CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions, let alone anthropogenic forcing of recent climate change.

 

DISCUSSION:

 

According to Oreskes, 75% of the 928 abstracts she analysed (i.e. 695) fell into these first three categories, "either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view". This claim is incorrect on two counts: My analysis shows that only 424 abstracts (or less than a third of the full data set) fall into these three categories.

 

It also shows that many abstracts on "evaluation of impact" and "mitigation" do not discuss which drivers are key to global climate change, instead often focusing exclusively on the possible effects of elevated CO2 levels on plant growth and vegetation. Many do not include any implicit endorsement of the 'consensus view' but simply use certain assumptions as a basis for often hypothetical impact assessments or mitigation strategies.

 

Quite a number of papers emphasise that natural factors play a major if not the key role in recent climate change (4). My analysis also shows that there are almost three times as many abstracts that are sceptical of the notion of anthropogenic climate change than those that explicitly endorse it (5, 6, 7).

 

In fact, the explicit and implicit rejection of the 'consensus view' is not restricted to individual scientists. It also includes distinguished scientific organisations such as the American Association of Petroleum Geologists:

 

"The earth's climate is constantly changing owing to natural variability in earth processes. Natural climate variability over recent geological time is greater than reasonable estimates of potential human-induced greenhouse gas changes. Because no tool is available to test the supposition of human-induced climate change and the range of natural variability is so great, there is no discernible human influence on global climate at this time" (8)

 

This is not to deny that there is a majority of publications that, although they do not empirically test or confirm the view of anthropogenic climate change, go along with it by applying models based on its basic assumptions. Yet, it is beyond doubt that a sound and unbiased analysis of the full ISI databank will find hundreds of papers (many of which written by the world's leading experts in the field) that have raised serious reservations and outright rejection of the concept of a "scientific consensus on climate change". The truth is, that there is no such thing!

 

In light of the data presented above (evidence that can be easily verified), Science should withdraw Oresekes' study and its results in order to prevent any further damage to the integrity of science.

 

References

 

1. N. Oreskes (2004). The scientific consensus on climate change. Science, Vol 306, Issue 5702, 1686, 3 December 2004 (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/con

 

2. ISI Web of Science (http://www.webofscience.com/)

 

3. http://davidappell.com/archives/00000497.htm

 

4.) C. M. Ammann et al., for instance, claim to have detected evidence for "close ties between solar variations and surface climate", Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 65:2 (2003): 191-201. While G.C. Reid stresses: "The importance of solar variability as a factor in climate change over the last few decades may have been underestimated in recent studies." Solar forcing of global climate change since the mid-17th century. Climate Change. 37 (2): 391-405

 

5) H.R. Linden (1996) The evolution of an energy contrarian. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 21:31-67.

 

6) Russian scientists K. Kondratyev and C Varotsos criticise "the undoubtfully overemphasised contribution of the greenhouse effect to the global climate change". K. Kondratyev and C Varotsos (1996). Annual Review of Energy and the Environment. 21: 31-67

 

7) M.E. Fernau, W.J. Makofske, D.W. South (1993) Review and Impacts of climate change uncertainties. Futures 25 (8): 850-863.

 

8) L.C. Gerhard and B.M. Hanson (2000) AAPG Bulletin 84 (4): 466-471

 

 

From: science_editors@aaas.org [mailto:science_editors@aaas.org]

Sent: 04 January 2005 11:07

To: Peiser, Benny

Subject: Thank you for your WebSubmission.

 

Dear author:

 

Thank you for using Science's Web submission site.

 

It will take approximately one business day to process the receipt of your

submission. If you are notified that one or more of your uploaded files

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unreadable files. In order to return to the site, you will need to have

the following information:

 

First Author's Last Name: Peiser

Corresponding Author's Email Address: b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk

Web Submission ID: 56001

 

Should you need to return to the site, please use the following link:

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Questions about your submission may be addressed to us at

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Sincerely,

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----------

From: Etta Kavanagh [mailto:ekavanag@aaas.org]

Sent: 18 February 2005 18:17

To: Peiser, Benny

Subject: Your Letter to the Editor of SCIENCE

 

 

Dear Dr. Peiser,

 

A couple of weeks ago, you submitted a Letter to the Editor on Naomi

Oreskes' Essay "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change. In its

current form, it is too long for a Letter, but we would consider a

shorter version if you are willing to edit it. It should be 500 words or

less, not counting the references. A correction dealing with the mistake

in the search terms ("global climate change" vs. "climate change") was

published in our Jan. 14 issue.

 

Best regards,

 

Etta Kavanagh

Associate Letters Editor

SCIENCE

ekavanag@aaas.org

 

Department e-mail: science_letters@aaas.org

 

-----------

From: Peiser, Benny

Sent: 23 February 2005 14:13

To: Etta Kavanagh [ekavanag@aaas.org]

Subject: Letter to the Editor of SCIENCE

 

 

Dear Etta Kavanagh

 

Please find attached my revised letter which I have shortened

below the 500 words limit. I will submit the letter also in

electronic form via your website.

 

 

With best regards

Benny Peiser

Liverpool John Moores University

 

----------

 

e-letter to Science Magazine

sent: 23 February 2005

 

---------

Your Websubmission ID is 58332.          

 

Below is a summary of the information you have entered.

 

First Author  Name:  Benny   Peiser 

Address:  Faculty of Science

Liverpool John Moores University

15-21 Webster Street

Liverpool L3 2ET UNITED KINGDOM

 

E-mail:   b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk 

Phone:  0151 231 4338 

 

Other Authors:   (none)

Information Entered  Title :

 

Type:  Letter 

Letter Details: N. Oreskes (2004). The scientific consensus on climate change. Science, Vol 306, Issue 5702, 1686, 3 December 2004 

 

Abstract: As requested by Associate Letters Editor Etta Kavanagh,

I have revised and shortened my letter below. 

 

Letter Text:

 

Oreskes (1,2) presents empirical evidence that appears to show a unanimous, scientific consensus on the anthropogenic causes of recent global warming. Oreskes also claims that this universal agreement had not been questioned even once in the peer-reviewed literature since 1993. Her assertion has been extensively reported ever since.

 

I replicated her study in order to assess the accuracy of its results. All abstracts listed on the ISI databank for 1993 to 2003 using the same keywords ("global climate change") were assessed (3). The results of my analysis contradict Oreskes' findings and essentially falsify her study: Of all 1117 abstracts, only 13 (1%) explicitly endorse the 'consensus view'. However, 34 abstracts reject or question the view that human activities are the main driving force of "the observed warming over the last 50 years" (4).

 

Oreskes claims that "none of these papers argued [that current climate change is natural]". However, 44 papers emphasise that natural factors play a major if not the key role in recent climate change (5).

 

The most significant discrepancy with Oreskes' results concern abstracts that are undecided whether human activities are the dominant driving force of recent warming. My analysis shows that a significant number of abstracts reject what Oreskes calls the 'consensus view'. In fact, there are almost three times as many abstracts that are unconvinced of the notion of anthropogenic climate change than those that explicitly endorse it (6).

 

Even if there is disagreement about any of these papers, it is highly improbable that all 34 are ambiguous. After all, the explicit and implicit rejection is not restricted to individual scientists (7). It also includes distinguished scientific organisations such as the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which formally rejects the view that anthropogenic factors are the main trigger of global warming:

 

"The earth's climate is constantly changing owing to natural variability in earth processes. Natural climate variability over recent geological time is greater than reasonable estimates of potential human-induced greenhouse gas changes. Because no tool is available to test the supposition of human-induced climate change and the range of natural variability is so great, there is no discernible human influence on global climate at this time" (8).

 

Despite this manifest scepticism, I do not wish to deny that a majority of publications goes along with the notion of anthropogenic global warming by applying models based on its basic assumptions. It is beyond doubt, however, that an unbiased analysis of the full ISI databank, which comprises almost 12,000 abstracts, will find hundreds of papers (many of which written by the world's leading experts in the field) that have raised serious reservations and outright rejection of the concept of a "scientific consensus on climate change". The truth is, there is no such thing!

 

In light of the data presented above, Science Magazine should withdraw Oreskes' study and its results in order to prevent any further damage to the integrity of science.

 

References

 

1. N. Oreskes (2004). The scientific consensus on climate change. Science, Vol 306, Issue 5702, 1686, 3 December 2004 (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686)

 

2. N. Oreskes (2005) Correction. Science, Vol 307, Issue 5708, 355

 

3. ISI Web of Science, (http://www.webofscience.com/)

 

4.) Of the 1247 documents listed, only 1117 include abstracts. The 1117 abstracts analysed were divided into the same six categories used by Oreskes, plus two categories (#7,8) which I added: 1. explicit endorsement of the consensus position; 2. evaluation of impacts; 3. mitigation proposals; 4. methods; 5. paleoclimate analysis; 6. rejection of the consensus position; 7. natural factors of global climate change; 8. unrelated to the question of recent global climate change. While 29% of the documents implicitly accept the 'consensus view', these papers mainly focus on impact assessments of envisaged global climate change. 470 (or 42%) abstracts include the keywords "global climate change" but do not include any direct or indirect link or reference to human activities, CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions, let alone anthropogenic forcing of recent climate change.

 

5.) C. M. Ammann et al., for instance, claim to have detected evidence for "close ties between solar variations and surface climate", Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 65:2 (2003): 191-201. While G.C. Reid stresses: "The importance of solar variability as a factor in climate change over the last few decades may have been underestimated in recent studies." Solar forcing of global climate change since the mid-17th century. Climate Change. 37 (2): 391-405.

 

6.) Russian scientists K. Kondratyev and C Varotsos criticise "the undoubtfully overemphasised contribution of the greenhouse effect to the global climate change"; K. Kondratyev and C Varotsos (1996). Annual Review of Energy and the Environment. 21: 31-67. M.E. Fernau at al. stress: "More and better measurements and statistical techniques are needed to detect and confirm the existence of greenhouse-gas-induced climate change, which currently cannot be distinguished from natural climate variability in the historical record. Uncertainties about the amount and rate of change of greenhouse gas emissions also make prediction of the magnitude and timing of climate change difficult", M.E. Fernau, W.J. Makofske, D.W. South (1993) Review and Impacts of climate change uncertainties. Futures 25 (8): 850-863.

 

7.) "Today, proponents of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change, again claiming scientific consensus, threaten to create even greater energy market distortions at large social and economic costs." H.R. Linden (1996) The evolution of an energy contrarian. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 21:31-67.

 

8) L.C. Gerhard and B.M. Hanson (2000) AAPG Bulletin 84 (4): 466-471. 

 

--------

 

From: Etta Kavanagh [mailto:ekavanag@aaas.org]

Sent: 13 April 2005 22:39

To: Peiser, Benny

Subject: Your letter to SCIENCE

 

Dear Dr. Peiser,

 

After realizing that the basic points of your letter have already been

widely dispersed over the internet, we have reluctantly decided that we

cannot publish your letter. We appreciate your taking the time to revise

it.

 

Best regards,

 

Etta Kavanagh

Associate Letters Editor

SCIENCE

ekavanag@aaas.org

 

Department e-mail: science_letters@aaas.org

 

---------

 

From: Peiser, Benny

Sent: 14 April 2005 15:37

To: 'Etta Kavanagh'

Cc: 'dkennedy@aaas.org'

Subject: RE: Your letter to SCIENCE

 

 

Dear Etta Kavanagh

 

I am extremely disenchanted to hear that you have decided against publication of my letter.

 

I would be grateful if you could send me evidence for your claim hat "the basic points of

[my] letter have already been widely dispersed over the Internet." As far as I am aware,

neither the details nor the results of my analysis have been cited anywhere. In any case,

don't you feel that SCIENCE has an obligation to your readers to correct manifest errors?

After all, these errors continue to be employed by activists, journalists and science organisations (as I have informed you on a number of occasions since January).

 

A statement by the Royal Society from March 2005, for instance, uses Oreskes' flawed

study as a key argument in the climate change debate:

 

"In the journal Science in 2004, Oreskes published the results of a survey of 928 papers

on climate change published in peer-reviewed journals between 1993 and 2003. She found

that three-quarters of the papers either explicitly or implicitly accepted the view

expressed in the IPCC 2001 report that human activities have had a major impact on climate

change in the last 50 years, and none rejected it" http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/page.asp?id=2986

 

Aside from the purely technical matter of Oreskes' factual errors, does SCIENCE really want

to stand behind her bizarre claim of a complete scientific consensus on global warming?

Are you not aware that most observers know only too well that there is absolutely *no*

consensus within the scientific community about global warming science? If not, let me

remind you:

 

A recent international survey among some 500 climatologists found that "a quarter of

respondents still question whether human activity is responsible for the most recent

climatic changes."

 

As Professors Hans von Storch and Nico Stehr have stressed:

 

"The public statements made by well-known German climate researchers create the impression

that the scientific fundamentals of the climate problems have essentially been solved.

They claim that the scientific community has already established the conditions for taking

concerted action. This is a view that in fact does not correspond to the situation in

the scientific community. That's because a significant number of climatologists are by

no means convinced that the underlying issues have been adequately addressed. Last year,

for example, a survey of climate researchers from all over the world revealed that a quarter

of respondents still question whether human activity is responsible for the most recent

climatic changes" (Der Spiegel, 24 January 2005; http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/spiegel/0,1518,342376,00.html).

 

Even Tony Blair has emphasised the remaining uncertainties and ongoing scientific

debates among climate scientists:

 

"So it would be true to say the evidence [on anthropogenic global warming] is still

disputed. It would be wrong to say that the evidence of danger is not clearly and

persuasively advocated by a very large number of entirely independent and compelling

voices. They are the majority. The majority is not always right; but they deserve to

be listened to" (Tony Blair, Davos Speech, 26 January 2005;

http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page7006.asp)

 

I very much regret your decision to reject my letter using a contrived technicality as

an excuse. Obviously, your refusal leaves me no option than to publicise the results of

my analysis somewhere else (results which anyone can of course verify) - but also to

deplore the sad reality of your refusal to publish corrections of a fatally flawed paper.

 

With best regards

 

Benny Peiser

Liverpool John Moores University

Faculty of Science

 

 

 

Update: The Oreskes abstracts

http://www.staff.livjm.ac.uk/spsbpeis/Oreskes-abstracts.htm

 

 

Naomi Oreskes:Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.”

 

 

Below is a list of abstracts (found in the same ISI data set) that reject the “consensus position”.

 

 

Ad Hoc Committee on Global Climate Issues: Annual report
Gerhard LC, Hanson BM
AAPG Bulletin 84 (4): 466-471 Apr 2000
Abstract: The AAPG Ad Hoc Committee on Global Climate Issues has studied the supposition of human-induced climate change since the committee’s inception in January 1998. This paper details the progress and findings of the committee through June 1999, At that time there had been essentially no geologic input into the global climate change debate. The following statements reflect the current state of climate knowledge from the geologic perspective as interpreted by the majority of the committee membership. The committee recognizes that new data could change its conclusions, The earth’s climate is constantly changing owing to natural variability in earth processes. Natural climate variability over recent geological time is greater than reasonable estimates of potential human-induced greenhouse gas changes. Because no tool is available to test the supposition of human-induced climate change and the range of natural variability is so great, there is no discernible human influence on global climate at this time.

 

 

Review and Impacts of Climate-change Uncertainties
Fernau ME, Makofske WJ, South DW
Futures 25 (8): 850-863 Oct 1993
Abstract: This article examines the status of the scientific uncertainties in predicting and verifying global climate change that hinder aggressive policy making. More and better measurements and statistical techniques are needed to detect and confirm the existence of greenhouse-gas-induced climate change, which currently cannot be distinguished from natural climate variability in the historical record. Uncertainties about the amount and rate of change of greenhouse gas emissions also make prediction of the magnitude and timing of climate change difficult. Because of inadequacies in the knowledge and depiction of physical processes and limited computer technology, predictions from existing computer models vary widely, particularly on a regional basis, and are not accurate enough yet for use in policy decisions. The extent of all these uncertainties is such that moving beyond no-regrets measures such as conservation will take political courage and may be delayed until scientific uncertainties are reduced.

 

 

 

 

 

ANOTHER LETTER SCIENCE REFUSED TO PUBLISH

 

“THE NOT SO CLEAR CONSENSUS ON CLIMATE CHANGE”

 

Letter by Dennis Bray submitted to Science on 22 December 2004

http://w3g.gkss.de/G/Mitarbeiter/bray.html/BrayGKSSsite/BrayGKSS/WedPDFs/Science2.pdf

 

Title: The Not So Clear Consensus on Climate Change

Author: Dennis Bray

Affiliation: GKSS Forschungszentrum, Geesthacht, Germany

 

Abstract

 

One of the most heavily and most publicly contested scientific consensus in the last decade has been in

the debate concerning climate change, namely if it is the result of natural causes or of anthropogenic activity.  Using evidence from survey questionnaires distributed among climate scientists, the following suggests that consensus among climate scientists might not be as clear as sometimes depicted.

 

Scientific consensus seems to be a key word in science to policy transitions, particularly in those cases where uncertainty and risk are high, those issues labeled as post-normal science. [1] One of the most heavily and most publicly contested scientific consensus in the last decade has been in the debate concerning climate change, namely if it is the result of natural causes or of anthropogenic activity. Oreskes [2] claims that evidence suggests that there is indeed a scientific consensus of anthropogenic induced climate change as stated by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Using evidence from survey questionnaires distributed among climate scientists, the following suggests that consensus among climate scientists might not be as clear as depicted by Oreskes. The inset to Oreskes essay suggests that “Without substantial disagreement, scientists find human activities are heating the earth’s surface”. By reviewing 928 abstracts Oreskes concludes that “Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position”. Oreskes goes on to argue that “This analysis shows that scientists publishing in peer-reviewed literature agree with IPCC, the national Academy of Sciences and the public statements of their professional societies. [While on the other hand] Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is not correct [emphasis added].

 

Oreskes’ main conclusion seems to be that “...there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change”. Results of surveys of climate scientists themselves indicate the possibility that Oreskes’ conclusion is not as obvious as stated.

 

In the results of a survey of climate scientists conducted in 2003 [3] one question on the survey asked “To what extent do you agree or disagree that climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic causes? A value of 1 indicates “strongly agree” and a value of 7 indicates “strongly disagree”. Countries, and number of responses from each country are as follows:

 

USA n = 372;

Canada n = 14;

Germany n = 56;

Italy n = 14;

Denmark n = 5;

Netherlands n = 4;

Sweden n = 5;

France n = 5;

U.K. n = 18;

Australia n = 21;

Norway n = 3;

Finland n = 3;

New Zealand n = 6;

Austria n = 3;

Ethiopia n = 1;

South Africa n = 3;

Poland n = 1

Switzerland n = 7;

Mexico n = 3;

Russia n = 1;

Argentina n = 1;

India n = 3;

Spain n = 2

Japan n = 3;

Brazil n = 1;

Taiwan n = 1;

Bulgaria n = 1

 

To the question posed above there were 530 valid responses. Descriptive statistics are as follows:

 

Mean = 3.62; Std. Error of mean = .080; Median = 3.00; Std. deviation = 1.84; Variance = 3.386

 

Frequencies:

1 strongly agree 50 (9.4% of valid responses)

2 134 (25.3% of valid responses)

3 112 (21.1% of valid responses)

4 75 (14.2% of valid responses)

5 45 (8.5% of valid responses)

6 60 (10.8% valid responses)

7 strongly disagree 54 (9.7% of valid responses)

 

These results, i.e. the mean of 3.62, seem to suggest that consensus is not all that strong and only 9.4% of the respondents “strongly agree” that climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic causes. This is however, a slight rise in consensus of the same survey conducted in 1996 [4] that resulted in a mean of 4.1683 to the same question (Five countries – USA, Canada, Germany, Italy, and Denmark only in 1996 survey, N = 511).

 

In the 1996 survey only 5.7% of the valid responses “strongly agreed” that climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic causes.

 

In fact, the results of the two surveys even question the Oreskes’ claim that the majority of climate scientists agree with the IPCC, although this has improved somewhat between 1996 and 2003. In the 1996 survey only 8.2% of the valid responses ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement that the IPCC reports accurately reflect the consensus of thought within the scientific community while in 2003 the number rose to 22.8%. While there is

a shift to a greater level of consensus the results however, do not substantiate Oreskes’ claim. Lacking in Oreskes’ approach to analysis is any notion of the dynamics of ‘scientific consensus’.

 

References

1. Funtowicz, S. and J. Ravetz. 1992 “Three types of risk assessment and the emergence of post-normal science.” in Krimsky, S. and D. Golding (eds.) Social Theories of Risk London. Praeger 1992.

 

2. Oreskes, Naomi. “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” Science Vol.306, 3 December 2004 Vol. 1686

 

3. Bray, D. and Hans von Storch “The Perspectives of Climate Scientists on Global Climate Change, 2003”

 

4. Bray, D. and Hans von Storch “The Perspectives of Climate Scientists on Global Climate Change, 1996”

 

---------

NOTE: Professor Dennis Bray's letter was submitted to Science in response to the Oreskes essay. It was rejected. In fact, the editors of Science refused to publish any of the numerous letters critical of the Oreskes study. No wonder many readers of Science believe that there is a universal consensus among climate researchers Neither Bray nor von Storch are climate "sceptics" themselves. Indeed, they are vocal critics of global warming "scepticism" in most of its forms and shapes. Nevertheless, both researchers are only too aware that the reality of scepticism is evidently present within the climate science community, and to a degree that is more significant than commonly thought.

 

 

 

BENNY PEISER RESPONDS TO SIR DAVID KING

 

OpenDemocracy, 10 May 2005

http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article-6-129-2490.jsp

 

Benny Peiser

 

As long as science is uncertain about the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere, the public are justified in keeping an open mind, says Benny Peiser.

 

We often hear the claim that the science of climate change is settled, that there is general agreement that humans have been causing most of the recent warming trend, and that it will all end in global disaster unless we “do something about it”. Let me state at the outset that I am not sure any of these blanket claims are accurate.

 

Yes, there has been great progress in our understanding of climate dynamics in recent years. Yes, most climatologists are convinced that global warming is mainly due to humans. And yes, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions undoubtedly have an effect on the global mean temperature. What we don’t know, however, is how much of an effect. More importantly, most researchers who support the theory of anthropogenic global warming are by no means agreed that it will result in large-scale calamity even if CO2 emissions were to double.

 

Significant gaps in our understanding of terrestrial climate remain. Only last week, new research revealed that we don’t know very much about the amount of the sun’s energy that is absorbed by the Earth and the amount reflected back into space (see here). We know even less about how this process effects temperatures.

 

Neither do we genuinely understand the causes and effects of solar variability and how it alters the climate. Nevertheless, the idea that the sun, more so perhaps than humans, is the principal driver of terrestrial climate has been gaining ground in recent years. In March 2005, Jan Veizer, one of Canada’s top Earth scientists, published a comprehensive review of recent findings and concluded that “empirical observations on all time scales point to celestial phenomena as the principal driver of climate, with greenhouse gases acting only as potential amplifiers.” (see Celestial Climate Driver: A Perspective From Four Billion Years Of The Carbon Cycle). I don’t know whether Veizer is right, but I believe his findings should be carefully assessed instead of being ignored or disparaged because they go against the grain.

 

As David King points out in his contribution to the openDemocracy debate, the majority of scientists and science organisations endorse the view that humans are to blame for recent climate change. Nevertheless, this support is not universal. A number of distinguished scientific organisations – such as the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) or the American Association of State Climatologists (AASC) – remain sceptical.

 

Indeed, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), an international organisation of more than 30,000 Earth scientists, has formally rejected the view that anthropogenic factors are the main drivers of global warming, stressing: “The earth’s climate is constantly changing owing to natural variability in earth processes. Natural climate variability over recent geological time is greater than reasonable estimates of potential human-induced greenhouse gas changes. Because no tool is available to test the supposition of human-induced climate change and the range of natural variability is so great, there is no discernible human influence on global climate at this time”.

 

A recent survey among some 500 international climate researchers found that “a quarter of respondents still question whether human activity is responsible for the most recent climatic changes”. How decision-makers and the interested public deal with these scientific doubts and uncertainties is another matter. But it is vital for the health and integrity of science that critical evaluation and scepticism are not scorned or curbed for political reasons.

 

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Benny Peiser is a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University and the editor of the Cambridge Conference Network (CCNet). His research focuses on the effects of environmental change and catastrophic events on contemporary thought and societal evolution.

 

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