Climate Change Skeptics in Science

How mainstream or fringe are climate change skeptics in climate science? Are the climate change skeptics skeptical about other controversies as well?

Classified under Case Studies (Climate change skeptics), Mapping Approaches (Document analysis / media analysis, Scientometrics), Tools Applied (Digital methods), Users (Academics, Issue professionals, Journalists), Visualizations (Tag cloud), Controversy Types (Polarized)

Introduction - Climate Change Skeptics Hold a Conference

In March 2008, the Heartland Institute organized the first Climate Change skeptics conference, "the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change." It was organized in a traditional scientific format with keynote speakers and 3 days of parallel tracks with panels. There are also proceedings in the form of audio and video clips. In his opening remarks, the organizer, Joseph L. Bast, states: "These scientists and economists have been published thousands of times in the world’s leading scientific journals and have written hundreds of books. If you call this the fringe, where’s the center?" (http://www.heartland.org/NewYork08/newyork08.cfm)

This project is an inquiry into the place and status of climate change skepticism. First, we would like to gain a sense of the composition of climate change skepticism by comparing the skeptics' disciplines with those of climate science. Do the skeptics have a similar distribution of disciplines as the non-skeptics?

Secondly, we are interested in how 'mainstream' or 'fringe' the skeptics are. Are they published in journals that are significant in climate science more broadly? What is the status of the publications and journals within climate science?

Finally, we ask would like to inquire into the specificity of the expertise of the skeptics. Are they working exclusively or mainly in the area of climate change? Or, do they also work in other areas? In particular, we are interested in whether the skeptics have other issues they are skeptical about, and whether of those issues, they are most skeptical about climate change.

Lists of Climate Change Skeptics

There are a series of lists available with climate change skeptics, including wikipedia entries, compiliations by watchdogs as well as outcomes from more academic analysis. For the purposes of analysis we have compiled a short list as well as a long list of climate change skeptics. The short list is derived from a triangulation of sources (below) as well as the keynote speakers at the skeptics' conference, "the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change," organized by the Heartland Institute in March 2008. (Frederick Seitz passed away prior to the conference, yet has been kept on the list.) The long list is the short list with the addition of those who participated in a panel at the skeptics' conference. (See the program of the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change at http://www.heartland.org/NewYork08/ConferenceProgram.pdf)

Skeptics shortlist:

  • Sallie Baliunas
  • Joseph Bast
  • Paul Driessen
  • William Gray
  • Sherwood Idso
  • Vaclav Klaus
  • Richard Lindzen
  • Patrick Michaels
  • Steven Milloy
  • Frederick Seitz
  • Fred Singer
  • Willie Soon
  • Roy Spencer
  • John Stossel
  • James M. Taylor
Skeptics' shortlist with URL of the homepages and other data: skeptics_list.rtf

Skeptics long list: heartland_conference_panel_participants_march2008.xls

Question 1: Does climate change science look like climate change skepticism? Does climate science have a similar distribution of fields as the skeptics'?

Does the composition of climate science mirror that of skeptic climate science? In other words, is skeptic climate science in its own field, in the sense of the particular distribution of disciplines?

Here we compare the disciplines of the journals in which significant climate change articles appear with those of the skeptics. (The visualization below is a Dorling map. To use the Dorling map-making software, request an Issuecrawler account. The Issuecrawler login is the same for the Dorling map-making software.)

climate change skeptics' disciplinesclimate change disciplines
Picture_18.png

Articles per disciplineDiscipline (skeptics list)Discipline (climate sciences)Articles per discipline
2788ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCESECOLOGY4262
2636METEOROLOGY & ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCESMETEOROLOGY & ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES4088
1333AGRONOMYMULTIDISCIPLINARY SCIENCES3178
1126GEOSCIENCES, INTERDISCIPLINARYENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES2761
1073MULTIDISCIPLINARY SCIENCESGEOSCIENCES, INTERDISCIPLINARY2179
1024PLANT SCIENCESPLANT SCIENCES941
649ASTRONOMY & ASTROPHYSICSAGRONOMY653
178ECOLOGYBIOLOGY, MISCELLANEOUS543
140BIOCHEMISTRY & MOLECULAR BIOLOGYFORESTRY504
121CHEMISTRY, MEDICINALENGINEERING, ENVIRONMENTAL396
The top 5 disciplines in the climate sciences are among the top 10 disciplines in the skeptics' sciences.

Question 2: How 'mainstream' or 'fringe' are climate change skeptics within the fields of climate science?

Do the skeptics publish significant articles (heavily cited by others in the fields of climate science)? Do they publish in significant journals, according to those journals receiving the most citations for climate change related articles?

Are the journals that publish no skeptics more significant than those that publish only skeptics?

Here we query ISI's Web of Science for all articles on "climate change." On 9 July 2008 there are approximately 27,000 articles, 15,877 of which receive at least three citations. That set of almost 16,000 articles is retained for the analysis.

Nr. of citationsName Journal Climate SciencesName Journal SkepticsNr. of citations
32558
NATURESCIENCE751
26361
SCIENCENATURE651
13586
J CLIMATEJ CLIMATE556
10572
GEOPHYS RES LETTGEOPHYS RES LETT409
9424
J GEOPHYS RES-ATMOSJ ATMOS SC374
8984
CLIMATIC CHANGEJ APPL METEOROL339
8868
ECOLOGYMON WEATHER REV335
6497
CLIM DYNAMB AM METEOROL SOC294
6183
QUATERNARY RESAGRON J287
5733
OECOLOGIAMON WEA REV267
5048
J GEOPHYS RESJ GEOPHYS RES241
4807
PALEOCEANOGRAPHYCLIMATIC CHANGE23

The skeptics and the non-skeptics publish in the same top four climate change-related journals.

Question 3: Do climate change skeptics have other issues they are skeptical about?

Do skeptics have other issues they are sceptical about? Of the issues they are skeptical about, are most skeptical about climate change?

Method:

  • Read the sources (below) for other issues they are skeptical about. (Also consult their list of publications, e.g., in ISI or Google Scholar).
SkepticsRelatedIssuesDorling11-07-08.png

Source list skeptics' related issues:

The climate change skeptics are skeptical about a series of other issues, too, and all together are most skeptical about climate change.