2012-03-07 21:11:20Skeptic reactions


In order to predict probable responses to TCP, it might be helpful to list all known prior consensus surveys and track down denier responses.

This Wikipedia list is a good place to start.

example survey and one denier's response:

Doran and Kendall Zimmerman 2009 - Dishonest global warming survey counts skeptics as alarmists

Past Critiques of Consensus TCP Response/s
"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."
Benny Peiser 
Our result is not unanimous, must be very careful never to say that. Instead, our result will be (presumably based on initial random sampling) a strengthening consensus and growing gap between endorsements and rejections. This is a robust result regardless of sample size and methodology.
"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)."
Benny Peiser 
Not denying natural climate change - perhaps address this as a way of addressing the "climate's changed in the past" myth, ending with a mention of future research into climate sensitivity consensus?

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! 
Benny Peiser 

We will make clear that there are other rejection papers not in our sample of 12,000 but to broaden our search also includes more endorsement papers and confirms the "strengthening consensus" result

"Mr. Gore assures us that "the debate in the scientific community is over." That statement, which Mr. Gore made in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, ought to have been followed by an asterisk. What exactly is this debate that Mr. Gore is referring to? Is there really a
scientific community that is debating all these issues and then somehow agreeing in unison?"

As this paper is about peer-review, there might be an opportunity to point out that the appropriate venue for scientific debate is in the peer-reviewed literature. Questions about what's causing GW have been asked in the literature and answered repeatedly. The debate has already happened - deniers weren't paying attention.
"Only one paper refers to “catastrophic” climate change, but without offering evidence."
Klaus-Martin Schulte

Strawman, we will clearly communicate that our paper is about AGW (but won't stop critics from straw manning us)

"a significant movement of scientific opinion away from the apparently unanimous consensus which Oreskes had found in the learned journals from 1993 to 2003."
Klaus-Martin Schulte

This is a misleading (but sneakily clever) narrative, trying to sell the "crumbling consensus" meme by comparing apples to oranges (Oreskes' methodology that overestimates the consensus to Schulte's methodology that overestimates rejections). We will be showing the opposite trend by including both Oreskes and Schulte's sample in the one sample using a consistent methodology.

"Remarkably, the proportion of papers explicitly or implicitly rejecting the consensus has risen from zero in the period 1993-2003 to almost 6% since 2004. Six papers reject the consensus outright."
Klaus-Martin Schulte

This is false, Schulte's definition of "rejects AGW" includes social science papers about public opinion and papers about uncertainty. We need to clearly define what constitutes rejection.

"Though Oreskes did not state how many of the papers she reviewed explicitly endorsed the consensus that human greenhouse-gas emissions are responsible for more than half of the past 50 years’ warming, only 7% of the more recent papers reviewed here were explicit in endorsing the consensus even in the strictly limited sense she had defined."
Klaus-Martin Schulte

Don't know what explicit % we'll get but importantly, we'll be transparent about which papers we obtain

"The proportion of papers that now explicitly or implicitly endorse the consensus has fallen from 75% to 45%."
Klaus-Martin Schulte

My guess is our result will be closer to 45% also. This means a very high proportion of neutral papers. But we need to use a term different to neutral so they're not confused with "undecided between rejection and endorsement" - instead the term needs to communicated "not concerning itself with the question of causation"

"Only 2% offer new field data or observations directly relevant to the question whether anthropogenic warming has prevailed over natural climatic variability in the past half- century."
Klaus-Martin Schulte

We don't address this issue.

"None of the 539 papers reviewed offers new field data or observations providing quantitative evidence for the amplitude of the radiative-forcing or climate-feedback effects of anthropogenic global warming."
Klaus-Martin Schulte

Perhaps we can identify these types of papers from the ">50% AGW" category?

"Both sides of the global warming debate expect human production of CO2 to have SOME effect on global temperature, and most skeptics would have little reluctance to label human effects "significant." Dangerous? No. Small compared to the natural sources of temperature variation? Yes. But that does not mean they are not significant."
Error Theory

Compare # of rejections to # of papers quantifying AGW as >50% of warming

Idea from this thread:
When someone posts this response, we can dig into the SkS database and find all instances where that blog/denier gave an argument under the category "It's not us" - the SkS database will have all that information. Then we can post a blog post "XXX reverses position on humans causing global warming", citing their worst examples of denying AGW along with their new quote "we don't deny AGW".

"It is not clear whether Oreskes’ analysis was peer-reviewed, since it was presented as an essay and not as a scientific paper."

"Though Oreskes has challenged Dr. Peiser’s analysis by pointing out that the paper by Gerhard and Hansen was not peer-reviewed, her essay appears not to have been peer- reviewed either."

We will be submitting this to a peer-reviewed journal

"Significantly, Oreskes’ essay does not state how many of the 928 papers explicitly endorsed her very limited definition of “consensus”. Dr. Peiser found that only 13 of the 1,117 documents – a mere 1% – explicitly endorse the consensus, even in her limited definition."

We will be transparent in displaying our results

"According to Dr. Peiser, fewer than one-third of the papers analyzed by Oreskes either explicitly or implicitly endorsed the “consensus”, contrary to Oreskes’ assertion that the figure was 75%."

Naomi's 75% figure is a little dubious - it was based on assumptions. We make no assumptions but rate every paper individually.

"In addition, 44 abstracts focused on the natural as opposed to anthropogenic causes of climate change, and did not include any direct or indirect link or reference to human actitivies, carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions, let alone anthropogenic forcing of recent climate change."

Our guidelines take all this into account.

"There are hundreds of learned papers, many of them written by the world's leading experts in climatology and related fields, that have raised serious reservations about the notion of a “consensus” as to the alarmist presentation of climate change."

All our papers are listed on SkS and the public are invited to look through them to find more rejection papers then what we found. Some rejection papers may not be in our sample size of 12,000 papers. If we expanded the sample with a broader search like 'climate change', it would include more rejection papers but also swell the total number of papers and number of endorsements - finding the same result of a strengthening consensus and growing gap between endorsements and rejections.

"Distinguished scientific organizations such as the Russian Academy of Science and the U.S. Association of State Climatologists have also stated that they are skeptical of the imagined “consensus”."

Continue Riccardo's work on documenting what all the world's academies of science say about AGW

"Oreskes’ essay provides no sound basis for the assertion that a unanimous scientific “consensus” exists on climate change"

We don't say "unanimous" but that the rejection papers are vanishingly small and have had a negligible impact

"even in the limited sense defined by Oreskes, there were more scientific papers explicitly doubting or even rejecting the “consensus” than explicitly supporting it"

The numbers will say otherwise emphatically with compelling visuals

"By how much will global temperature increase in response to any foreseeable increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide? On that question, which the bureaucrats call the “climate sensitivity question”, there is no consensus whatsoever among the scientific community."

Climate sensitivity will be examined in a follow-up study, perhaps mention that in the paper

"Although Oreskes found unanimity in the 928 articles with key words “global climate change,” we should not be surprised if a broader review were to find conclusions at odds with the IPCC consensus, as “consensus” does not mean uniformity of perspective."
Roger A. Pielke Jr.

Naomi's Response:
Pielke suggests that I claimed that thereare no papers in the climate literature that disagree with the consensus. Not so. I simply presented the research result that a sample based on the keywords “global climate change” did not reveal any, suggesting that the existing scientific dissent has been greatly exaggerated and confirming that the statements and reports of leading scientific organizations—including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences—accurately reflect the evidence presented in the scientific literature.

"In the discussion motivated by Oreskes' Essay, I have seen one claim made that there are more than 11,000 articles on “climate change” in the ISI database and suggestions that about 10% somehow contradict the IPCC consensus position."
Roger A. Pielke Jr.

Seriously, Roger?!

Lord Monckton expressed that “there is no consensus” or certainty on whether or not humans cause or contribute to global warming and climate change. He supported this argument with the claim that scientific research, data and models from organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been inadequate and, in some cases, fabricated.
We will be quoting not from the IPCC but directly from the source - the peer-reviewed research. We'll emphasise that X papers by Y authors scattered across Z countries all endorse the consensus.
2012-03-07 21:29:54Good idea
John Cook


I've been monitoring past reactions on an ad hoc basis but I think a succinct place to keep them all is a good idea. If you don't mind, I'm going to use your post starting this thread as the central repository of how deniers might respond to TCP and what we are doing to head that criticism off at the pass.

So if anyone encounters a new denier critique of Oreskes or other consensus papers, post them in this thread and I'll build the table in logicman's post above.

Update: also, I've posted possible ways that TCP can either respond or pre-emptively cut off the objection but better suggestions are welcome.

2012-03-07 21:31:45


If you don't mind, I'm going to use your post

Mind?  I'm tickled pink !  :-)

2012-03-07 23:04:40
Mark Richardson

I think the huge number of 'neutral' papers will be picked up on.

Let's say out of 100 papers you get 3:9:18:68:0:1:1, they would report it as '70% of climate science doesn't support human caused global warming!'

I'm not sure of the best way to communicate how utterly stupid that criticism is.

2012-03-08 03:48:42
Rob Painting

"I think the huge number of 'neutral' papers will be picked up on"

For sure. I think the way to handle that is to be up front and draw attention to it ourselves first. Any subsequent criticism from the idjits is then greatly diminished.

2012-03-08 03:56:47
Dana Nuccitelli

Yeah we talked about that in another thread.  In the paper maybe change 'neutral' to 'not applicable or netural' or 'no clear position', for starters.

2012-03-08 08:58:13
Mark Richardson

I saved the names of a few papers. Would be good examples to give... but not exactly 'elevator chat'.

2012-03-08 09:03:26Peiser's initial criticism of Oreskes
John Cook

This is surpassingly hard to get hold of as Peiser's original version is no longer available on his website:


Peiser retracted someof his criticisms but it didn't stop Monckton from reposting them loud and proud.

2012-03-09 23:58:50

Joesph Bast – September 05, 2007
"When other researchers tried and failed to replicate Oreskes’ findings, she was forced to admit she had mis-identified the search terms used in her study."
"There is no consensus on basic questions such as how much warming is occurring, how much of it is caused by human activity, or what future climate conditions will be. Those who claim the contrary are either misinformed or dishonest."
The "most egregious" problem with the IPCC's forthcoming report, said Lindzen, "is that it is presented as a consensus that involves hundreds, perhaps thousands, of scientists . . . and none of them was asked if they agreed with anything in the report except for the one or two pages they worked on."
"A 1992 Gallup poll of climatologists found that 82 percent either believed that no warming had taken place or that insufficient information existed to predict global warming."
Eco-Sanity: A Common-Sense Guide to Environmentalism
By Joseph L. Bast, Peter J. Hill, and Richard C. Rue
useful background info:
CATO 1992 Lindzen lunacy
What the gallup poll actually said:
I think it would be useful to get hold of a copy of that gallop poll to use as an early example of a consensus survey and how it was distorted in some reports.
The Gallup Organization, A Gallup Study of Scientists' Opinions and Understanding of Global Climate Change, November 1991. Available from the Center for Science, Technology & Media, 6900 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD.
2012-03-10 10:48:18
Brian Purdue


John – you wrote this article on Carter’s book “The Counter-consensus” and there is also this Carter site on book – has “no consensus” PDF link at top with lots of videos etc.

Carter needs to go on list but I’m running out of Gigabytes this month. Has happened since joining SkS and will have to look at upgrading my internet plan – can I send the bill to SkS?>:

2012-03-10 12:02:30We had to upgrade our Internet plan this month too
John Cook

But it wasnt SkS causing data problems for us. It was our 12 year old daughter incessantly skipping, you tubing and chatting with her million online friends.

Re Carter & Plimer's conceit that geology holds the key to understanding climate (hence those two know more than the entire climate science community), there is a nice spin-off from TCP - filtering the papers to show only paleoclimate papers that endorse AGW. That will be an impressive resource.

2012-03-10 17:56:22Some comments from Lindzen's PPT slides
John Cook


Lindzen echoes the "oh we already agree with that":

The claims that the earth has been warming, that there is a greenhouse effect, and that man’s activities have contributed to warming, are trivially true and essentially meaningless in terms of alarm.

2012-03-10 20:13:59More Monckton on consensus
John Cook


“There’s a CONSENSUS!” she shrieked. Had she not heard of Aristotle’s codification of the commonest logical fallacies in human discourse, including that which the medieval schoolmen would later describe as the argumentum ad populum, the headcount fallacy?  From her reddening face and baffled expression, it was possible to deduce that she had not. Nor had she heard of the argumentum ad verecundiam, the fallacy of appealing to the reputation of those in authority.

2012-03-10 21:01:55
Brian Purdue


Strange how this account of the meeting differs from WUWT version by the local CFACT rep.

Organiser - President of College Republicans Nick D’Angelo

D’Angelo describes that, in speaking out of turn or “giving a lecture” instead of simply posing a question, members of the audience were not actively contributing to an open discussion but instead “hijacking the discussion for political grounds.”

Well I be, you mean he didn’t organise the whole Monckton shebang on political grounds.

2012-03-12 10:45:12
Brian Purdue


Quote from C3 Headlines on consensus. They put the bold type in.

Note: Only 52 scientists agreed to IPCC 2007 summary report linking human CO2 to global warming. In contrast, 650 scientists have publicly announced their disagreement with the theory of man-made global warming. In addition, 31,000 American scientists/researchers have signed the Oregon Petition stating their direct opposition to the Kyoto global warming agreement. Approximately 17,000 signers have a PhD or a M.S. (additional details of signers listed here).

2012-03-18 19:52:01Random thought about authors providing their own ratings


I've been wondering about the process to get authors to provide their own ratings and if this might not introduce some kind of bias as well which the "skeptics"/"deniers" will be able to exploit.

The email which gets send out to the authors asking for their own rating on their papers will need to have some explanation of what we are going to use the rating for. Without an explanation, I don't think that we'll get many responses. If, however, this explanation contains something about "showing the growing consensus" than this might just provoke the authors to lean that way in their rating. Also, there are authors who have old (from the 90') and new papers. Will they be able to make a judgement call for each paper sepearately (remembering what their thinking in eg. 1995 was) or will they see everything from today's knowledge and perspective?

One other thing: I guess that the plan is to keep TCP under wraps for as long as possible. But, as soon as the emails are being send out to the authors, the cat will be out of the bag. Especially if some of the emails get send to the known "skeptics" like Lindzen for whom we do have some papers.....

2012-03-18 20:57:52Emailing scientists
John Cook

The wording will have to be very carefully constructed because as you say, this will be going out to deniers too. Considering every denier scientist seem to have a direct line to a red phone on Anthony Watts' desk, the existence of TCP will probably known to Watts before we've even looked at the results from the scientists. A scary thought really. For that reason, I think we should wait till as late as possible before emailing the scientists. Eg - wait till after quality control, once our results are done and analysed and the scientists' ratings are the final piece in the puzzle.

Keeping in mind our email will likely get broadcast on the denialosphere, we have to be very careful to have neutral wording that isn't leading in any way. The word consensus will likely not even be mentioned. But this isn't the thread to discuss that. I've started a thread just tonight on pinning down the quality control process and once that's dealt with, then I'll start working on the scientists self-rating stage. But if people want to post thoughts about that process, start a new thread and we can collect ideas in there.