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December 21, 2007

Man-made Global Warming--a groundswell of scientific skepticism

To those who have been claiming, for some time now, that "the science is in" on man-made global warming, a fresh-off-the-press Senate report has this:

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.

As to why scientists have been, thus far, slow to come forward,

Many of the scientists featured in this report consistently stated that numerous colleagues shared their views, but they will not speak out publicly for fear of retribution. Atmospheric scientist Dr. Nathan Paldor, Professor of Dynamical Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, author of almost 70 peer-reviewed studies, explains how many of his fellow scientists have been intimidated.

As to how the myth of scientific consensus is sustained, there's this:

The over 400 skeptical scientists featured in this new report outnumber by nearly eight times the number of scientists who participated in the 2007 UN IPCC Summary for Policymakers. The notion of “hundreds” or “thousands” of UN scientists agreeing to a scientific statement does not hold up to scrutiny. (See report debunking “consensus” LINK ) Recent research by Australian climate data analyst Dr. John McLean revealed that the IPCC’s peer-review process for the Summary for Policymakers leaves much to be desired. (LINK)

Proponents of man-made global warming like to note how the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) have issued statements endorsing the so-called "consensus" view that man is driving global warming. But both the NAS and AMS never allowed member scientists to directly vote on these climate statements. Essentially, only two dozen or so members on the governing boards of these institutions produced the "consensus" statements. This report gives a voice to the rank-and-file scientists who were shut out of the process. (LINK )

The most recent attempt to imply there was an overwhelming scientific “consensus” in favor of man-made global warming fears came in December 2007 during the UN climate conference in Bali. A letter signed by only 215 scientists urged the UN to mandate deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. But absent from the letter were the signatures of these alleged “thousands” of scientists. (See AP article: - LINK )

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This appears to be a good example of what social psychologists call the "false consensus effect". It occurs because people tend to project their beliefs onto others and assume there is a consensus when none actually exists. It survives when, as in the above case, there is no actual voting, polling, or statistical analysis to refute the belief. In the case of global warming, the false consensus has been reinforced by a crusading divinity school dropout/has-been politician and obliging media.

James Willis

I especially enjoyed the piece on Bovine Flatulation and it's contribution to global warming that was featured here a while back.


One of the big problems I have with talk about "the consensus" view is that no one really defines what the consensus is. If the consensus is merely that there has been some warming over the past 100-200 years and that some of the warming has been caused by humans, then there is no doubt that such a consensus exists. I think this weak view is pretty much beyond disupte.
Al Gore and other like him, however, want people to believe that the "consenus" supports a much stronger position: i.e. that there has been significant warming over the past two hundred years, that it is being driven primarily by CO2 emissions and associated positive feedbacks, and unless something is done to severely limit CO2 emissions, catastrophic global warming is highly likely.
I do not believe that the science is sufficiently developed to support this stronger view with a reasonable degree of degree of scientific certainty. I doubt that a true consensus exists in support of this stronger view.

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