An Interesting Consensus Resource

I was doing a little research today, and I happened to stumble upon an interesting post on the Skeptical Science website. The post, titled "An Interactive History of Climate Science," directs users to a page it claims gives a visualization of "the number of climate papers published in each year from 1824 to 2011" with this screenshot:

history_screenshot

Showing some results. This gives a rather different impression than simply saying there is a "97% consensus." Excluding neutral papers, the "consensus" here would only be 90%. The post does explain:

We consider this visualisation a first step, not a final destination. While we have over 4000 papers in the database, that is just the tip of the iceberg with many more papers yet to be added. As well as build the number of papers, we'd like to experiment with different ways of displaying the papers. In addition to the visualisation, you can also view all the papers grouped by skeptic/neutral/proAGW

So one can imagine the distribution might change. Even so, it is interesting to look at the numbers as the Skeptical Science consensus paper shows the breakdown on its consensus to be:

consensus_table

The list of papers for their visualization (currently) shows 257 papers listed as "Skeptic" for the 1991-2011 period. It shows 2358 papers listed as "Pro-AGW" in the same period. Those numbers are quite different from the ones given in the paper, again resulting in a consensus of 90%.

I don't claim the numbers in this resource are accurate or meaningful, but it is interesting to see Skeptical Science providing them even as it pushes its 97% consensus meme. If there can be 257 "Skeptic" papers yet only 78 papers which "Reject AGW," it is clear how one defines the "consensus" is incredibly important.

You only get a 97% "consensus" if you define it a certain way. Indeed, I've previously shown Skeptical Science has even gotten a different value for its consensus paper, saying:

The IPCC position (humans causing most global warming) was represented in our categories 1 and 7, which include papers that explicitly endorse or reject/minimize human-caused global warming, and also quantify the human contribution. Among the relatively few abstracts (75 in total) falling in these two categories, 65 (87%) endorsed the consensus view.

Even though they repeatedly tell the public this consensus is actually 97% by lying their faces off.

9 comments

  1. The skeptikidz are counting this one as Pro-AGW: #2454. Variations in the Earth’s Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages (Hays et al. 1976). The paper unambiguously attributes the glacial/interglacial fluctuations to Milankovich cycles. In fact, it's the seminal paper proving the theory. Nothing about anthropo-causes anywhere in sight. Same thing with #2436. Maybe they lie their faces off elsewhere, but this is just plain stupid.

  2. Gary, I'm not sure exactly who determines which category the papers land in. I know anyone can add a paper, so it may be individuals added papers in the wrong category. I wouldn't be too quick to blame Skeptical Science.

    Then again, if they do allow just anybody to select the category for a paper, that'd be pretty stupid.

  3. Brandon, if they can't do simple quality control or have a process that checks for accuracy of the information they use to promote their agenda, then the criticism stands. Maybe "incompetent" is a better word, though. Or, if assuming devious intent, "Gruberizing".

  4. You're actually not being precise in your criticisms. You're looking at an early version of the visualization tool, and then jumping to conclusions before having fully researched the issue.

    Try this: http://www.skepticalscience.com/tcp.php?t=viz

    There are still some very minor differences in the numbers but not enough to change the results.

    You know, Brandon, when you come upon an issue like this you might try just making an inquiry. ...Just a thought.

  5. Rob, since you claim I am not being precise in my criticisms, could you perhaps point out what I said that is imprecise? You say this was an early version of the visualization tool as though that somehow addresses anything I said, but that is completely irrelevant as far as I can see. The tool itself is not what matters. What matters is the underlying data.

    In regard to the different underlying data sets, I believe I was quite clear in explaining why they are different. If you think otherwise, could you quote what you think was unclear?

  6. You're comparing the older visualization, as applied to a different set of data, to the Cook et al data. Read the article attached to the visualization you link. It's inclusive of "...the evolution of climate science research from Joseph Fourier in 1824 to the flood of research in 2011."

    The later visualization that I linked to above uses Cook et al data.

    If you remember from the Cook paper, they found that the scientific consensus (as expected) increased over the time frame analyzed. "For both self-ratings and our abstract ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time, consistent with Bray (2010) in finding a strengthening consensus."

    One would expect that an analysis of papers from 1824 to 2011 would have a generally lower level of consensus.

    It would be interesting, though, to have that percentage displayed so that one could watch the change in consensus over time as you dragged the slider across the page.

  7. Shorter:

    Older visualization is: 1824 to 2011 and shows a 90% consensus over that period.
    Newer visualization is: 1991-2011 and shows a 97% consensus over that period.

  8. Rob, the argument you've just advanced is directly rebutted by this very post. You say:

    One would expect that an analysis of papers from 1824 to 2011 would have a generally lower level of consensus.

    But this post clearly explains:

    The list of papers for their visualization (currently) shows 257 papers listed as “Skeptic” for the 1991-2011 period. It shows 2358 papers listed as “Pro-AGW” in the same period. Those numbers are quite different from the ones given in the paper, again resulting in a consensus of 90%.

    The numbers given for the 1991-2011 period at the time I wrote this post were Skeptic: 257 and Pro-AGW: 2358. That is a 90% consensus.
    The numbers currently given for the entire data set are Skeptic: 290 and Pro-AGW: 2503. Again, that is a 90% consensus. That shows the idea of an strong consensus is completely irrelevant to what I've said in this post.

    So while you say:

    Read the article attached to the visualization you link.

    Perhaps rather than telling people to read things, you should try reading what you're discussing. Had you read what this post says or even just looked at the data set this post discusses, you'd have realized the argument you are currently making is without merit.

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