Climate change: the science – public disconnect

Naomi Oreskes

This is another video from the Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark are conference.

I like it because it gives a good overview of the scientific consensus on climate change. It’s a counter to the popular concept that the claim of human contribution to global warming is controversial or not scientifically supported. The presenter Naomi Oreskes points out that in 1979 scientific consensus supported a prediction of human contribution but in the last decade the consensus supports actual detection of human contribution.

This presentation doesn’t go into the detailed evidence but seeks to contrast the overall findings with the often distorted coverage of the subject in the media – the disconnect between the scientific knowledge and the public perception of this.

Naomi Oreskes is Professor of History and Science Studies and Adjunct Professor of Geosciences at UC San Diego and one of the nation’s leading experts on the history of the earth and environmental science. Her work came to public attention in 2004 with the publication of “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” in Science and was featured in Vice President Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth. Her forthcoming book is FIGHTING FACTS: How a Handful of Scientists Have Muddied the Waters on Environmental Issues From Tobacco to Global Warming.

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36 responses to “Climate change: the science – public disconnect

  1. http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=f80a6386-802a-23ad-40c8-3c63dc2d02cb

    INTRODUCTION:

    Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called “consensus” on man-made global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore.

    http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=84e9e44a-802a-23ad-493a-b35d0842fed8

    Washington DC – An abundance of new peer-reviewed studies, analyses, and data error discoveries in the last several months has prompted scientists to declare that fear of catastrophic man-made global warming “bites the dust” and the scientific underpinnings for alarm may be “falling apart.” The latest study to cast doubt on climate fears finds that even a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide would not have the previously predicted dire impacts on global temperatures. This new study is not unique, as a host of recent peer-reviewed studies have cast a chill on global warming fears.

    Like

  2. Why am I not surprised, James.

    This is just another example of selecting a web site, copying and pasting to support a preconceived viewpoint or belief.

    I have been into this before: Spreading doubt on climate change; Climate change controversy; The real climate change swindle?.

    This tactic seems to be common to creationists and climate change deniers (Intelligent design/creationism and climate change).

    Have a look at the video.

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  3. Given that there are at least tens of thousands of scientists in the US alone (& in fact probably more), then >400 is very small bikkies.

    What’s more, I know several people on that list personally – & in all cases they’ve asked the organisers of the list to remove them from it, because their science does not support the claims being made for it. (So far the list organisers have not complied with their request.)

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  4. “>400 is very small bikkies.” Yes, they haven’t even caught up with the discredited Darwin Dissenters petition of approx 700!

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  5. Many of these lists prove essentially fraudulent, putting down people’s naming without invitation or even checking what their actual views are, by “interpreting” them (as suits the reader, naturally).

    As a practical matter, given its a political site, it’d be exceptionally naïve to not consider the politics behind “presenting a view” like this. To me, you’d have to at least consider if they were instructed (or “suggested”!) to “create a position” to defend the stance taken by the USA on not signing the international agreements on global warming measures, etc.

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  6. Hehe, I knew you guys would like those links! ; ) But seriously, should we not praise these brave scientists who are willing to buck the trend, willing to look at things differently? Or is dissent not allowed?

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  7. No problems with dissent – but if they want the scientific world to listen & perhaps change its perceptions, they need evidence. But to claim that because >400 scientists have signed up to a particular viewpoint, the science of climate change is somehow invalidated, is drawing too long a bow. Particularly given that at least some of those claimed 400+ have asked to be removed from the list – they weren’t asked to be on it & as far as they’re concerned their science doesn’t support the claims made by the list’s compilers. For said compilers to claim support from these individuals – who have made clear that the opposite is true – is misrepresentation, to say the least.

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  8. @ James:

    “should we not praise these brave scientists who are willing to buck the trend,”

    Yes – and when are you going to stop beating your wife, James?

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  9. Well evidence is what the second link is about. The fact is Alsion there are very serious scientists in the climate field that do question how significant man’s part in global warming is. Hey, as a layman, I have no idea, but I do believe these other voices need to be heard. I would like to see/hear some audio debates on the issue. Do you know of any?

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  10. Yes – and when are you going to stop beating your wife, James?

    My wife died of lung cancer two years ago. At 49… Thanks for bringing her up…

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  11. So, James, you can appreciate how it feels when people make unwarranted charges.

    On climate change there is a consensus – but not unanimity. I have seen the comment that while about 70% of climate scientists support the IPCC assessment of the possible extent of human contribution to climate change, 15% think it is an overestimate and 15% think it is an underestimate. That is what consensus means.

    So of course people who disagree with the IPCC assessment are publishing – their voices are being heard and their contributions will no doubt be considered in future assessments. (The fact is that the IPCC assessments have been changing with time as new data are published).

    To charge that their voices are not being heard, their published findings not being considered, is the same as the wife-beating charge. It ignores and misrepresents the facts.

    Like

  12. The two main theories to explain temperature variations of the earth’s atmosphere are: solar influence as measured by counting sunspots and greenhouse effects as measured by carbon dioxide meters.

    Graphs show that temperatures correlate with sunspot count much, much better than with carbon dioxide levels. It’s not even close.

    Why is this obvious observation ignored? This month’s Scientific American has a clue. It tells us that 100% of the scientists representing the Soviet Union at an international conference in 1958 were Lysenkoists. And we know that in 2008, conferences are packed with proponents of the carbon dioxide theory. What do these events have in common?

    In a conflict between lobster dinners and observation, scientfic consensus always says that lobsters are better.

    Like

  13. The most recent data I’ve seen suggest that at present the sunspot-temperature correlation is not that good: sunspot activity is currently declining, temperatures aren’t…

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  14. @ TC Moga:

    I can’t see where the lobsters (or even conferences) come in. Surely the current consensus on climate change is based on the overall review of all the relevant published data – the key feature being the normal peer review of the scientific process (that is opinion pieces don’t count) which doesn’t prejudice the data one way or the other.

    Like

  15. I have no idea what TC Moga is going on about.
    Where does he get his information from?

    Any guesses?

    Like

  16. TC Moga is setting up a straw man – implying that scientists reach their decisions via bribery. He ignore the facts that the IPCC assessment is based on published scientific evidence.

    It’s the old trick of attacking the messenger rather than considering the evidence.

    Like

  17. Sorry, I thought everybody was familiar with the correlation between sunspots and temperature. A graph is at this site:

    http://www.tmgnow.com/repository/solar/lassen1.html

    Like

  18. 17:

    See also:

    http://www.skepdic.com/refuge/millenniumgroup.html

    e.g. “According to Earl L. Crockett and Gary D. Goodwin, founders of The Millennium Group, science is in the pocket of the government which is conspiring to keep from the public the real truth about what is going on in the heavens above and on the earth below.”

    and

    http://www.skepdic.com/refuge/millenniumgroup.html

    e.g. “An internet group calling themselves “The Millennium Group” was the biggest of the conspiracy sites. “

    Sorry, I thought everyone was familiar with google and checking the credibility of what you read 😉

    Like

  19. Whoops, the second link should be: http://cometography.com/hysteria.html

    Like

  20. What is it with kooky web-sites?

    James has the genesispark people.
    TC Morga has the Millenium Group.

    One promotes creationism, the other promotes global warming denialism.

    Yet the people that get sucked into them display the same total lack of intellectual curiosity.
    Why do they never check anything out? Why are they so clueless about how science works?

    They come across a no-name website that confirms their beliefs and…that’s it.
    They’re happy.
    Case closed.

    Getting them to use critical thinking skills is almost always a waste of time.

    Case in point : https://openparachute.wordpress.com/2008/10/23/lets-celebrate/

    Like

  21. TC Moga link was a study done by the Danish Meteorological Institute. Are you taking exception with their findings?

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  22. James said…”TC Moga link was a study done by the Danish Meteorological Institute. Are you taking exception with their findings?”

    (Insert melodramatic “Da-Da-Da-Dom” music here)

    What? The Danish Meteorological Institute?
    WOW!!!!

    Why didn’t somebody mention that before!
    That changes everything.

    Heavens to Betsy.
    It’s on the Internet and EVERYTHING.
    Absolutely anybody can read it and see the TRUTH ™ for themselves.

    (chuckle)

    But seriously, folks…

    James?
    Have a seat. Let’s have a little chat.

    You’re a global warming denier.
    Strangely enough, this does not come as a big surprise to me.
    (Creationists and GW deniers have a very strong overlap.)

    Remember the “Let’s celebrate” thread that you abandoned?
    Well, what I said there in relation to genesispark goes the same for The Millenium Group.

    (…Ahem…)
    What fact checking have you actually done?
    Or have you just blindly accepted it all in one fell swoop because they’ve give you the sucker line ” Trust us. We don’t believe in this global warming stuff either. It’s all a conspiracy”.

    What background checking have you done?
    Are you aware of how the climatologists, chemists, glaciologists, oceanographers etc, do their job?
    Can you explain how they draw their conclusions?
    Have you read anything by them where they explain their process of analysis and formation of their conclusions to a lay audience?

    Do at least a modest amount of research.

    Please.

    Start off with the paper in question.
    Run a check on it.
    Let us know what you find and tell us your thoughts.

    (NB: This is NOT an invitation for you to just give a host of links and cut and pastes.)

    P.S.

    ****No really.****
    This is most definitely NOT an invitation for you to just give a host of links and cut and pastes!!

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  23. So Cedric, if one set of scientists say one thing about man’s role in climate change and another group come to a different conclusion – who is the layman to believe? Do we go by numbers? Is the larger group always right?

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  24. James said…”So Cedric, if one set of scientists say one thing about man’s role in climate change and another group come to a different conclusion – who is the layman to believe?”

    Great question.
    How do you, a layman, go about it?
    Share.

    What background checking have you done?
    Are you aware of how the climatologists, chemists, glaciologists, oceanographers etc, do their job?
    Can you explain how they draw their conclusions?
    Have you read anything by them where they explain their process of analysis and formation of their conclusions to a lay audience?

    Do at least a modest amount of research.

    Please.

    Start off with the paper in question.
    Run a check on it.
    Let us know what you find and tell us your thoughts.

    (NB: This is NOT an invitation for you to just give a host of links and cut and pastes.)

    Like

  25. Well no Cedric, a layman would not have the ability or knowledge to decide between the two points of view. So one side says A and another side says B – both sound reasonable. Study C refutes study B, but study B has refuted study A. There is literally no way for the layman to know… We have to take it on authority…

    Like

  26. James said…”Well no Cedric, a layman would not have the ability or knowledge to decide between the two points of view.”

    So you’re saying that you personally do not have the ability or knowledge to decide between two points of view?

    (This is not a snide remark. Honest)

    There’s NOTHING wrong with being a layman. Most people are.
    It’s impossible to know everything.

    Doctors are laymen at engineering.
    Geologists are laymen at oceanography.
    Heptologists are laymen at meteorology.

    Smart? Yes. Educated? Sure.
    Yet get them talking about a field outside of their specialization and they’re as much a layman as the next person.
    The smart person does not get tied up in his/her own ego and say “Well, I went to college, can’t fool me”.

    Admitting that you are NOT an expert in something is vitally important.
    The next step is to come up with a logical process of assessing information (as a layman!) that will allow you to avoid being duped by charlatans and frauds.

    I’m just trying to figure out how you make your decisions when it comes to throwing in your lot with sites like genesispark and the millenium mob.

    James said…”There is literally no way for the layman to know… We have to take it on authority…”

    James, this is dangerous. Really dangerous.
    I am really concerned about this.
    Nobody here wants you to just take things “on authority”.

    I’m not telling you that genesispark and the millenium group are kooks and that you should just take my word for it.

    I’m not asking you to blindly believe me.
    I’m not asking you to blindly believe the scientific community.

    I’m asking you to genuinely look into it.

    Step back and ask yourself “How do I (James, a layman) make rational and reasonable decisions about where to get my science information?”

    Ask yourself…”How can James be confident that he is not supporting pseudoscience”?

    It’s the same thing with medical quackery.
    How can James be sure that the nice man in the white coat selling me these homeopathic treatments for $57.99 is’t ripping me off?

    Please.
    Do at least a modest amount of research.

    Start off with the paper in question.
    Run a check on it.
    (as a layman)
    Let us know what you find and tell us your thoughts.
    Go for it.
    Give us your process.

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  27. A good layman’s overview presentation of the issue is at:

    Click to access McKitrick.Calgary.pdf

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  28. Thanks TC…

    Like

  29. “A good layman’s overview presentation of the issue is at…”

    And why is it a good layman’s overview?

    Why that particular one?

    Think about it.
    Is there any real difference between the millenium group site and the mckitrick site?
    Or is it just more of the same?

    We’re back to square one.
    No critical thinking at all.

    “Do at least a modest amount of research.

    Start off with the paper in question.
    Run a check on it.
    (as a layman)
    Let us know what you find and tell us your thoughts.
    Go for it.
    Give us your process.”

    (insert sound of crickets chirping here)

    Like

  30. Cedric,

    You must lead a very interesting life. When you get up in the morning do you see a pair of shoes and ask “Are those really my shoes? Why couldn’t they be somebody else’s shoes? I think I’m going to demand definitive proof that those are indeed my shoes.”

    Sorry. It’s not possible for me to prove those are your shoes if you state that they are not. You have to learn to recognize your shoes by yourself.

    It’s the same with science. I believe a sufficient argument can be made by providing accurate data. But when you imply that the Danish Meteorological Institute is probably fudging data (for what purpose?), it reveals an agenda and refusal to address the implications of obvious evidence. It provides good support for my first comment.

    However, if you are interested in the best in current articles on the subject, science beyond politics, try http://icecap.us/. It may change your point of view.

    Like

  31. TC Moga said…”You must lead a very interesting life.”

    I like to think so.

    “When you get up in the morning do you see a pair of shoes and ask “Are those really my shoes? Why couldn’t they be somebody else’s shoes? I think I’m going to demand definitive proof that those are indeed my shoes.”

    Hmm. No.
    Doesn’t sound very interesting to me. If that’s the best you can come up with from your imagination for what passes for an “interesting life”, then…you have issues.

    “But when you imply that the Danish Meteorological Institute is probably fudging data…”

    No I didn’t.
    I’m sure that the Danish Meteorolgical Institute is a fine community of scientists.

    I’m saying that you have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to global warming.

    I’m saying that you lack the critical thinking skills neccessary to sort out real science from pseudoscience.

    Your links are silly.
    The millenium group is just a daft no-name web-site that wouldn’t know real science if it slapped them on the back of the head.
    You have not understood them for what they are.

    Did you do the research?
    Did our resident troll James do any research?
    Nope.

    Try again. Use some brain power.
    It’s really not hard.

    Start off with the paper in question.
    Run a check on it.
    (as a layman)
    Let us know what you find and tell us your thoughts.
    Go for it.
    Give us your process.

    Heres’ a little hint.
    Is the Danish Meteorological Institute part of the scientific consensus on global warming or…are they dissenters?

    Here’s another hint:
    Can you find a single Meteorological Institute anywhere in the world that disputes the global scientific consensus on global warming?
    Canada? UK? Australia? Ivory Coast? Chad?
    Go ahead. Pick a country. ANY country.

    🙂

    Like

  32. I have three main comments above:

    #12 explains why there is a “consensus” on global warming
    #17 provides a link that lets you compare data for yourself
    #27 shows that “consensus” and IPCC predictions are both false

    But for you, I will elaborate:

    In the days of Stalin, the Soviet Union supported Lysenkoism. The theory said that if an animal stretched its neck out for food, its neck would grow longer and therefore its offspring would have a longer neck. The theory was false but useful to the state. The idea was that if your actions showed you to be a good socialist, your children would be born socialist and all of the next generation would advance towards a utopian socialist state. And it was OK to weed you out if you were not a good socialist because you were a danger to the future of society. The November issue of Scientific American documents on Page 16 that 100% of the geneticists representing the USSR at the International Congress of Genetics in Montreal in 1958 were Lysenkoists. Dissent had been outlawed in 1948 so there were no dissenters.

    Today, the U.N. is the main supporter of the theory that CO2 causes global warming. It is as false as Lysenkoism, but also useful. All industry emits CO2, all food is made from it, it is in every breath we breathe. Those who can regulate and tax it will be omnipotent beyond belief. Therefore, it is vital that all major institutions close ranks and condemn any doubters as deniers, dissenters, or heretics, which they have.

    Over $40B has been spent to “prove” the theory, but the lack of results has the IPCC resorting to forgeries like Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick chart or James Hansen’s data revisions*. Efforts to fund research that contradicts the theory, like the relatively paltry $30M described in Newsweek, are highly publicized and held up as examples to be condemned. So, the opposition is led mostly by retired scientists who have the means to speak out without the risk of losing their job. With years of knowledge and experience behind them and previously heralded as pioneers in their fields, they are now labeled (ugh) “dissenters”.

    It is hard to say what’s next because earth is not cooperating. Temperatures have been holding or going down for the last 10 years, with a real plunge this year. The greatest extent of ice ever measured in the Antarctic was last year and this year the ice in the Arctic returned to 1979 levels. With virtually no sunspots for the last eight months, this fall is setting records around the world for cold weather. With CO2 continuing to rise, what is happening is a DIRECT CONTRADICTION of the “accepted” climate models.

    Can direct observation trump “consensus”? That is the question.

    * http://icecap.us/images/uploads/NASATEMPS.pdf
    ** http://www.spaceweather.com/

    Like

  33. Over $40B has been spent to “prove” the theory, but the lack of results has the IPCC resorting to forgeries like Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick chart or James Hansen’s data revisions*.

    In other words, you’re a conspiracy theorist 😉

    As for the data itself, you should be looking at trends, they are much longer-term than “the last ten years”. Regards sunspots, best as I understand (its not my field), while its long known that sunspot cycles reflect the rotation of the sun, attempts to link that with climate are only considered plausible, not accepted.

    Like

  34. @ TC Moga:

    “the opposition is led mostly by retired scientists ” – as a retired scietnist I can understand what motivates these people and the environment they operate in. In this situation you no longer have to worry about peer review, you quickly become divorced from current evidence and you are easily prone to being boguht by commercial interests.

    TC Moga you are quick to see a conspiracy and to slander honest scientists. And then you will cling on to anyone (retired scientist or just political hack) who says things that concur with your preconceived views. Perhaps you should ask them about their love of lobsters.

    It is this sort of political interference in science and the attempts to force scientific evidence into a preconceived mould that was exactly characteristic of the Lysenko phenomenon. We are seeing that now with the creationists and some of the climate change deniers.

    I say “follow the evidence” – rather than “select the evidence.”

    Like

  35. TC Moga gets off to a bad start…”But for you, I will elaborate:

    In the days of Stalin, the Soviet Union supported…”

    Spare us the history lesson.
    Nobody cares.

    ……………………………………………

    You brought up the paper.
    So let’s talk about…the paper. Don’t be shy.
    Don’t just chicken out and say nothing about it.

    Start off with the paper in question.
    Run a check on it.
    (as a layman)
    Let us know what you find and tell us your thoughts.
    Go for it.
    Give us your process.

    So far, you just sound like a clueless conspiracy guy that has no way of separating real science from pseudoscience.

    Do you have any friends that might be able to help you articulate your thoughts?

    Don’t bother with James. In fact, stay well away.
    Will supporters like him, global warming denialism doesn’t need critics.

    (Psst! For an example of how loosely-tuned he is, check out his favourite web-site. Please. It’s a hoot. He actually believes this stuff)

    http://www.genesispark.org/genpark/ancient/ancient.htm

    Seriously, let’s talk about why you think that the paper you mentioned is so very important?
    How did you come to that decision?
    Why are you prepared to just happily go along with whatever the millenium group says?
    How did they win your trust?

    P.S.
    Is the Danish Meteorological Institute part of the scientific consensus on global warming or…are they dissenters?
    Any luck with that?

    Like

  36. Hello, TC Moga?
    Still with us?
    🙂

    Like

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