Attacking the Consensus

The paper by Naomi Oreskes in Science (see also RealClimate commentary) has stirred up a bit of a backlash by people who would like to disbelieve it. A quick refresher: the paper argues that, contrary to various septic claims, when you actually look at the literature the number of dissenters form the consensus is small.

Lets look at some of the attempts to "disprove" Oreskes.

From CNS news we find:

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the free market environmental group Competitive Enterprise Institute, also criticized the idea that there is a "scientific consensus" on "global warming."

"Publishing such an easily debunked falsehood in an erstwhile reputable, peer-review publication (Science Magazine) demonstrates either a new low in desperation or a new generation believing there are no checks and therefore no limits," Horner told CNSNews.com.

After all, past nonsense brought increasing taxpayer funding for decades. What would make them think they can't just make things up?" Horner added.

Errr... and thats it. The strategy appears to be, assert that its easily debunked, and hope that no-one notices you haven't even attempted to debunk it.

Elsewhere (its the same thing picked up by another organisation, but variety is the spice of life), we get stuff like:

"Whatever happened to the countless research papers published in the last ten years in peer-reviewed journals that show that temperatures were generally higher during the Medieval Warm Period than today, that solar variability is most likely to be the key driver of any significant climate change and that the methods used in climate modeling are highly questionable?"

Well, fair question, where indeed are these papers? Why isn't a single one referenced? This seems to be stragetgy number 2: assert the existence of some papers but... ah... time is to short to actually find one.

Roy Spencer (an actual scientist, but on the skeptical side) wrote:

In her Science editorial, Ms. Oreskes also makes a curious claim about past research on "climate change": that of 928 climate research paper abstracts published from 1993-2003, none rejected the consensus view on climate change. While I doubt that I've read this many climate change papers, I do have several in my office that specifically state that quantitative estimates of global warming are not possible without further knowledge of certain elements of the climate system (e.g. Renno, Emanuel, and Stone, 1994; Grabowski, 2000) or that current climate models are overly sensitive (e.g. Hu, Oglesby, and Saltzman, 2000).

This is better. He has actually referenced some real papers. But... he is being careless. None of these include "global climate change" (or even climate change) as keywords, so none would have been part of the sample that Oreskes used. Spencer ought to know this; possibly he was too rushed to do his work properly. And worse than this, when you read them (I had a quick browse) they still don't support S's point of view: none of them are consensus busting (see sci.env for some futher commentary on this and other mistakes Spencer makes in his TCS piece).

So far, the sepics have done a poor job: not a single paper to disprove Oreskes claim.

See-also: Quark Soup

Stoat: Consensus science

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