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Heartland's Chinese Academy of Sciences Fantasy

Posted on 14 June 2013 by dana1981

Update: the Chinese Academy of Sciences has released a statement about Heartland's "misleading statement".  See below for details.

As Cook et al. 2013 (also known as The Consensus Project) showed, the consensus in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that humans are causing global warming has been growing over the past two decades.  In 2011, 98% of papers taking a position on the cause of global warming agreed that humans are causing it.

consensus growth

Percentage of "global warming" or "global climate change" papers endorsing the consensus among only papers that express a position endorsing or rejecting the consensus.  From Cook et al. (2013).

However, as Graham Readfearn recently documented, over those same two decades, fossil fuel interests have engaged in a number of campaigns to cast doubt on the existence of the consensus on human-caused global warming.  Convincing the public that this settled science is still in dispute has long been a top priority for industry groups.

consensus vs. denial

The results of Cook et al. 2013 juxtaposed with some fossil fuel-funded campaigns to deny the scientific consensus.  Image by jg.

The latest such effort comes from the Heartland Institute.  The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) report is primarily a Heartland product.  Recently, a branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences translated the NIPCC report.  The Heartland Institute has trumpeted this fact far and wide, claiming for example,

"The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) will present the two books at a June 15 event in Beijing, a landmark event that puts enormous scientific heft behind the questionable notion that man is responsible for catastrophically warming the planet."

"The trend toward skepticism and away from alarmism is now unmistakable,"

"Publication of a Chinese translation of Climate Change Reconsidered by the Chinese Academy of Sciences indicates the country’s leaders believe their [failure to sign a global climate treaty] is justified by science and not just economics."

These comments sure make it sound like the Chinese Academy of Sciences has been convinced by the contrarian content of the NIPCC report!  So what did the Chinese Academy actually say?

Here are relevant comments from the translator's preface on page 8 of the PDF:

"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued four assessment reports synthesizing scientific findings on climate change.  The most recent report, released in 2007, was IPCC AR4, which found that most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely (>90%) due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations, represents the consensus scientific opinions on international climate change studies.  Yet, as with any academic topic, there are still differing viewpoints and debates on the causes, facts, impacts and trends in climate change."

"In order to help Chinese researchers to understand different opinions and positions in debates on climate change, at the end of 2011, we contact The Heartland Institute, the publisher of these two reports."

"The work of these translators, organizations and funders has been in the translation and the promotion of scientific dialogue, does not reflect that they agree with the views of NIPCC"

So basically they acknowledge the existence of the consensus, and the fact that a few contrarians have "differing viewpoints", and want to give the contrarians a chance to make their case.  Thus they translated the NIPCC report simply as a representation of "differing viewpoints", and specifically note the translation does not indicate that they agree in anyway with the views of the NIPCC.

Similarly, when asked about the NIPCC report translation and Heartland claims, the Chinese Academy of Science responded,

"...this is only a book cooperation between the Lanzhou Branch of the National Science Library and Heartland Institute, and is limited only to copy right trading, with no academic research work involved.

A few CAS experts participated in the translation of the book, aiming to demonstrate different voices in the global scientific field to the Chinese science community, however, that does not mean that we CAS joined the research or agree with their view point; neither does it mean that CAS will decide "promote" the climate "skeptic" view or group."

In fact, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has signed onto this joint statement, in which they endorse the IPCC consensus position on human-caused global warming and note,

"Responding to climate change requires both mitigation and adaptation to achieve a transition to a low carbon society and our global sustainability objectives."

Clearly the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the country's government have not bought into the Heartland NIPCC contrarianism.  In fact, China has recently been taking a leading role in addressing climate change.  They're testing out a carbon cap and trade system, are trying to ensure that their coal consumption has peaked, and have reached an agreement with the USA to reduce hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions, which are potent greenhouse gases.  CO2 emissions per unit of electricity generation in China have been falling steadily as they diversify towards more low-carbon energy sources.  Does this sound like a country that denies that human greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change, as Heartland's Joe Bast suggests?

As if Heartland's misrepresentation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the nation's government weren't bad enough, they also distorted the positions of the Russian and Polish Academy of Sciences, claiming the translation "follows strong statements by the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Polish Academy of Sciences dissenting from claims that global warming is either man-made or a crisis."

If you follow those links, they lead to stories that are very different from Heartland's (mis)representations.  The Russian Academy of Sciences claim is based on a statement from a single scientist from the Institute for Fundamental Problems of Biology of the Russian Academy Of Science.  What does the Russian Academy of Science actually say about global warming?  They signed the same joint statement as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, endorsing the IPCC consensus view that humans are causing global warming, and that we must "transition to a low-carbon society".

The Polish Academy of Sciences claim is based on a statement from the Academy's geologic science committee.  The statement does express some skepticism about the causes of global warming, but the committee acknowledges,

"There is no doubt that a certain part of the rise of the level of greenhouse gases, specifically CO2, is associated with human activity therefore, steps should be taken to reduce the amount on the basis of the principles of sustainable development, a cease of extensive deforestation, particularly in tropical regions"

Like its Chinese and Russian counterparts, the full Polish Academy of Sciences has signed statements endorsing the human-caused global warming consensus.  For example in 2007 (Google English translation) and in 2010:

"It is widely agreed that human activities are changing Earth’s climate beyond natural climatic fluctuations.  The emission and accumulation of greenhouse gases associated with the burning of fossil fuels, along with other activities, such as land use change, are the principal causes of climate change."

So Heartland's claim about "the trend toward skepticism" (where "skepticism" actually means contrarianism) is pure fantasy.  The reality is that the Chinese, Russian, and Polish Academies of Science all endorse the consensus position that humans are causing global warming, and that consensus position is growing in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

As for the NIPCC report itself, it's BS (Bad Science).  Just as one example, the 2009 NIPCC report has an entire sub-section devoted to global warming "fingerprints," and yet it only discusses one - the tropical troposphere "hot spot" (a part of the atmosphere expected to warm particularly fast as a result of global warming).  The NIPCC report has no mention of the many actual fingerprints of human-caused global warming which have been observed (Skeptical Science discusses 10 here).  Instead, the NIPCC focuses on the one fingerprint which may (or may not) be missing, even though it's a fingerprint of any global warming, and is not specific to human-caused warming

If that BS represents the "differing viewpoints" the Chinese will be exposed to, I wouldn't expect them to back off their endorsement of the human-caused global warming consensus anytime soon.


 

Update: the Chinese Academy of Sciences has released a statement about Heartland's "misleading statement", which reads in part:

"the Heartland Institute published the news titled “Chinese Academy of Sciences publishes Heartland Institute research skeptical of Global Warming” in a strongly misleading way on its website, implying that the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) supports their views, in contrary to what is clearly stated in the Translators’ Note in the Chinese translation. The claim of the Heartland Institute about CAS’ endorsement of its report is completely false..."

"If the Heartland Institute does not withdraw its false news or refuse to apologize, all the consequences and liabilities should be borne by the Heartland Institute. We reserve the right for further actions to protect the rights of CAS and the translators group."

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Comments

Comments 1 to 38:

  1. I'll assume the Chinese Academy meant it in a good way, but actually what they ended up doing was feeding the trolls.

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  2. I've worked in advertising and marketing my whole professional career, and I've NEVER flatout lied and misrepresented information the way the Heartland Institute and their ilk does. I guess that's why I work at an "agency" and not a "think tank."

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  3. That the Heartland Institute seems endlessly capable of emitting this kind of effluvia is one of the more strange aberations of the age. Is it not a form of collective insanity?

    There is evidence that the delusion is wearing thin. Oddly enough, the first part of the quote from the Heartland article, authored by Jim Lakely, contains what strikes me as an egregious Freudian slip. I was so struck by it that I went to the original article to see if it might be a mistake in dana's post. It is not. Here once again is the quote from Lakely's article:

    "The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) will present the two books at a June 15 event in Beijing, a landmark event that puts enormous scientific heft behind the questionable notion that man is responsible for catastrophically warming the planet."

    Breaking this sentence down, I'd paraphrase the guts of it like this:

    The CAS event will give enormous scientific credit to the idea that humans are causing global warming.

    There is simply no rational way read Lakely's original sentence and come to the opposite conclusion. Lakely and his colleagues at Heartland may view our role in global warming as a "questionable notion," but that doesn't change the actual sense of what Lakely has written. One could, I suppose, somewhat inaccurately paraphrase the sentence this way:

    The presentation of these two books at the CAS event will give enormous scientific credit to the idea that humans are causing global warming.

    But that reading is even more embarrassing for the folks at Heartland.

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  4. Don, the writers at Heartland would probably defend themselves by claiming that they are simply selling their labor to the highest bidder, in the classic capitalist formulation.  There is no ethical connection between them as ethical agents and the way that their labor is used by those who have bought that labor.  If their funders want to shape public opinion in such and such a way, who are they to interject their own ethical concerns into the production process?  If there were an ethical connection, they would be forced to admit that workers everywhere have a right to control the means of production, and do so in a way that is ethically suitable.  That would be antithetical to their convictions about capitalism (which they developed independently, of course, of course).

    No, no . . . they are just providing for their families, just doing their 9-5 . . . go on up the chain of command if you want to find a villain (and then back down to the shareholders and the great conundrum of democracy: how do you split responsibility 500 ways?  Find absolution by firing the CEO.).  

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  5. The sampling used for that 97% consensus number is based on a ludicrous sampling technique.

    They used the terms "global climate change" and "global warming"... anyone involved in SEO or PPC will tell you that is way too restrictive, and Dr. Richard Tol investigated the data, and found that the number of papers cited would have QUADRUPLED had the search terms included simply "climate change."

    Tol lists other details about the flaw in the sampling. The "Endorsement" graph is statistical refuse. I find the entire argument that consensus=science to be absurd, but that for another day I suppose.

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  6. danieltreed at 06:36 AM on 15 June, 2013

    I suggest Dr. Richard Tol (or yourself) make a similar survey using your sampling method and category criteria and see how (or if) the results differ. Then you can even come back to discuss the ups and downs of each approach. I suspect after doing real research you would be less prone to dismissing others.

    Nobody said consensus = science. This survey just shows that the 'skeptic' argument that "there is no consensus" is bogus. Of course, once you show that, goalposts move.

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  7. Danieltreed @5, I have examined that claim by Tol.  To begin with, it is irrelevant that the search terms used in Cook et al return a smaller sample unless that sample is also skewed.  Tol does indeed also claim that it is skewed, but it is possible to use the data he provides to determine the potential effect of that skew.  As it turns out, because of the near identity of the number of papers in disciplines which are under represented, and those which are over represented, that potential effect is very small.  In fact, as a percentage of endorsements and rejections, the maximum range in the result possible if the skew was corrected is between 97.4 and 98.6%, compared to the 98.04% from the abstract survey.  I discuss this issue in more detail here (see the third example of "Tol's consistent bias").

    I am not sure what you mean by saying "the endorsement graph is refuse".  Indeed, such vague negative criticisms indicate only that you reject the study because it is ideologically inconvenient.  People with genuine criticisms are able to state them coherently, and in such a way that people can examine them for flaws.

    My best guess as to what you mean is that you are referring to Tol's claim that the pattern of increasing endorsements is purely a result of change of composition over time.  If so, you should recognize that Tol's analysis fails because the trend towards increased endorsement is strongest in the period 1991-2000, during which time there is no trend in composition.  In constrast, from 2001-2011 the trend in composition is strongest, while the trend in endorsement is much weaker.  This pattern is part of the reason for the very low correlation between composition and endorsements (r2=0.065).  Tol's claim that the trend in endorsements is based on a trend in composition, then, is based on a simple eyeball assessment of a graph and fails the simplest statistical test.  I explain this in more detail here.

    As it happens, what is actually happening is a trend towards increased endorsement with no change in compostion in the first period, while the trend in endorsement in the second period is largely explained by the trend in composition.  This pattern fits the hypothesis that "...the fundamental science of AGW is no longer controversial among the publishing science community and the remaining debate in the field has moved to other topics."  In particular, it fits the idea of increasing confirmation of AGW up to the IPCC TAR after which scientists increasingly accepted AGW as a working hypothesis except for a few hold outs who found that ideologically unacceptable.

    Finally, no knowledgable person argues that AGW is true because a consensus of scientists accepts it.  Nevertheless, scientists - especially climate scientists- are the experts in this field.  "An expert is somebody who knows all the basic mistakes in a field, and how to avoid them."   Therefore if you think those climate scientists have missed something basic, ie, something that can be identified in a blog without any background knowledge in climate science, you are almost certainly a crank on a par with people who claim to have invented perpetual motion, or proved that the world is flat.  The climate scientists may be missing something which makes them wrong about AGW, but it will be something very subtle, or something very complex.  And it won't turn up on WUWT.

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  8. DSL--

    I'd say you were on to something, save that the author of the article is Heartland's "Director of Communications," which indicates he's drawing a salary and is not merely being paid piecemeal. Of course, his brief biography at the bottom of the article shows he's also a former Washington Times reporter, and the rest of it suggests he's part of the conservative go-to group on such issues, so the error he's made is not really excusable for the reasons you suggest.

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  9. "... puts enormous scientific heft behind the questionable notion that man is responsible for catastrophically warming the planet."

    I don't think he wrote what he thinks he wrote.

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  10. It really is fascinating how poorly crafted that sentence is ("...enormous heft behind the questionable notion...").  You could read tons into such a glaring grammatical error.  Perhaps it's an indication of stresses within their inner sactum.  Or maybe just a late work night.

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  11. The Statements on the Chinese Translation of the“Climate Change Reconsidered—NIPCC Report”
    2013-06-14
    The Chinese translation of the “Climate Change Reconsidered—NIPCC report” was organized by the Information Center for Global Change Studies, published in May 2013 through Science Press, with an accompanying workshop on climate change issues in Beijing on June 15, 2013. However, the Heartland Institute published the news titled “Chinese Academy of Sciences publishes Heartland Institute research skeptical of Global Warming” in a strongly misleading way on its website, implying that the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) supports their views, in contrary to what is clearly stated in the Translators’ Note in the Chinese translation.
    The claim of the Heartland Institute about CAS’ endorsement of its report is completely false. To clarify the fact, we formally issue the following statements:
    (1) The translation and publication of the Chinese version of the NIPCC report, and the related workshop, are purely non-official academic activities the group of translators. They do not represent, nor they have ever claimed to represent, CAS or any of CAS institutes. They translated the report and organized the workshop just for the purpose of academic discussion of different views.
    (2) The above fact was made very clear in the Translators’ Note in the book, and was known to the NIPCC report authors and the Heartland Institute before the translation started. The false claim by the Heartland Institute was made public without any knowledge of the translator group.
    (3) Since there is absolutely no ground for the so called CAS endorsement of the report, and the actions by the Heartland Institute went way beyond acceptable academic integrity, we have requested by email to the president of the Heartland Institute that the false news on its website to be removed. We also requested that the Institute issue a public apology to CAS for the misleading statement on the CAS endorsement.
    (4) If the Heartland Institute does not withdraw its false news or refuse to apologize, all the consequences and liabilities should be borne by the Heartland Institute. We reserve the right for further actions to protect the rights of CAS and the translators group.
    Information Center for Global Change Studies,
    Scientific Information Center for Resources and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences,
    June 14, 2013.

    http://www.llas.cas.cn/tzgg/201306/t20130614_3866222.html
    http://english.cas.cn/Ne/CASE/201306/t20130615_104625.shtml

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  12. It's great that the CAS is taking this so seriously.  In fact, it sounds like they're taking it very seriously, with legal threats attached (i.e., "consequences and liabilities").

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  13. Yeah, it sounds like CAS is super ticked off by Heartland's misrepresentation of their positions on global warming.  Whoops!  There's probably some Heartland folks in China right now - I would not want to be in their shoes.

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  14. Rob Honeycutt@10,

    I second your opinion. I looked at the meaning of the exotic word "heft" on google (the weight of someone or something), and having found the meaning, I still don't understand what that concocted Heartland's sentence means. But looks like I must give up and conclude this concoction is impossible to understand by logic. Because, like most contrarian's statements, its purpose is to confuse rather than clarify things.

    Well, Heartland got away relatively lightly, with comparing climate scientists to unibomber, maybe they don't get awaqy lighly with distorting CAS position, I hold by breath on it...

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  15. Tom Curtis@7,

    Your link to #comment-1103 @ WUWT points to nowhere, certainly not to something that you allegedly "explain in more detail". Either you mistyped your link, or (far more likely) the admin over there decided to delete your comment.

    I, unlike folks on WUWT, am interested in reading the logical arguments you make, so if you have the deleted text hanging around, please post it here. Thanks!

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  16. At the HI site from the link above:

    "Error 404. Oops!

    Something went wrong.

    The page you are looking for could not be found."

     

    Now I wonder why?

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  17. I just love that update from the Chinese Academy of Sciences!

    It characterises organisations like The Heartland Institute and GWPF to a 'T'.

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  18. You have to hand it to the CAS.  They're handling this quite well.  

    And for the HI folks, it sounds like their "landmark event" has turned into a new "low water mark."  The sense I get is they're just short of an escort to the airport by the authorities.

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  19. chriskoz @15, the link was intended to be to my  comment of June 13th, at 3:19am on the wottsupwiththatblog article on Tol's fourth draft.  The blog is a new blog focussed on critiquing WUWT.  

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  20. Glenn @ 16: Don't worry, the internet never forgets. Just like we'll never forget this billboard.

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  21. Nice informative post Dana, thanks for getting this out there.

    FWIW since it makes a good bookend for this saga I've reposted it at.

    "Heartland Institute caught in a lie - Chinese Academy of Science objects"

    http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2013/06/heartland-institute-caught-in-lie.html

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  22. Denialist propaganda is a dangerous weapon - when weilded by psychopaths it destroys the future  -- an unintentional mis-fire at the misinformed - mostly children.

    It is a loose cannon firing wildly in every direction. 

     

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  23. Dumb Scientist - thanks, I've updated the Heartland links to the WebCited version.  Heartland is now backtracking fast:

    "To be clear, the release of this new publication does not imply CAS and any of its affiliates involved with its production 'endorse' the skeptical views contained in the report."

    Damage control mode!

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  24. What are the deniers actually saying?

    If 80% of people tell you you are driving towards a precipice, sane people at least slow down. At 97% most would probably stop. When the deniers knit themselves up in arguments about percentages here, and what kinds of scientific papers you include in your analysis, at what level are they actually happy for us all to hurtle onwards, carrying their children with us?

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  25. Either they can't remove the Press Release, or they simply forgot to take it down when they took the PR off their own website: 

    http://rbutr.com/rbutr/WebsiteServlet?requestType=showLink&linkId=96631

    (Link to rbutr so avoid linking to the PRWeb page itself)

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  26. I find it quite funny that the arrogant types at Heartland have upset the Chinese so much. Diplomatic incident anyone? They've got so used to slagging off climate science, they just got too cocksure and went too far

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  27. Remmber: Heartland is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity, and its funders wer able to reduce their taxes via their gifts.  Hence, American taxpayers in effect subsized this China fiasco.  For some history, including some of the funding follies, see Fakery 2

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  28. Have you seen Bill Maher's take on think tanks.  Too funny.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcJohfS4vTQ

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  29. "...man is responsible for catastrophically warming..." S.B. "...man might become responsible...". Guy quoted seems to be a useless pessimist.

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  30. You can tell Cook's work hurt the denialists movement as they have responded rapidly to muddy the waters. Their 'science is not settled' meme is shattered and they must work hard to salvage something. 

    Personally I have used the retort to denialists 'so you know better than 97% scientists do you?' to be very effective. There is no need to be logical as they are impervious to reason, but a sharp put down works wonders.

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  31. What is wonderfully ironic is that the authoritarian communists translated the Heartland's report in the interests of open debate, while the democratic free-marketeers (as the Heartland like to think they are) were using it to spread propaganda and lies.

    Karl Popper (author of The Open Society)and its Enemies) must be turning in his grave.

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  32. I'll be honest. I was genuinely surprised to find that two widely read and respected (well, by some people!) blogs, Watts and Breitbart, rapidly reposted Heartland's now retracted release without vetting it. And, as of this writing, I don't see either of those blogs has posted an update or correction.

    I always suspected that's standard-substandard practice for such sites, but apparently I don't really believe it yet. Anyone know of a good sociological study on the propagation and persistence of hoaxes, urban legends, or other false information online? Maybe that'll help me understand.

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  33. Thou shalt not covet thine own hypothesis,  lest you end up like Singer in Beijing

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  34. The link  should be  http://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2013/06/heartland-in-beijing-week-that-wasnt.html

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  35. @Tom Curtis

    You said "no knowledgable person argues that AGW is true because a consensus of scientists accepts it."

    Then why does John Cook bother mentioning it?

    "I am not sure what you mean by saying "the endorsement graph is refuse". Indeed, such vague negative criticisms indicate only that you reject the study because it is ideologically inconvenient."

    Let my criticism be more specific... I will quote YOU:

    "No knowledgable person argues that AGW is true because a consensus of scientists accepts it."

    John Cook started "The Consensus Project"... if science is on his side, why would he do this? Why not start "The Science Proves It Project", as any "knowledgable" person would to prove "AGW is true."

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  36. Furthermore, the argument that including one more term mentioned by Tol is then sufficient is also absurd. You have to include a long tail of terms, which could DRASTICALLY change the distribution. And that's just usage of terms.

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  37. Why mention it? Because there are large numbers of deliberately ignorant deniers out there claiming that there isnt. That doesnt make the science right but it is the only rationale basis for making policy. The only way to be sure what the published science is saying, is to survey it.

    Why not say "Science proves the project"? Well because a knowledgable person knows that you dont have proof in science, only in mathematics.

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  38. Daniel, how many people are included in the category "knowledgeable about climate science"?  If you're here at SkS, then you're probably knowledgeable enough about the war of rhetoric surrounding the subject.  If so, it's puzzling you'd make such claims.  The non-knowledgeable public relies on interpreters and experts to understand the science.  They have no other route to the approximation of truth that science provides.  Consensus is a powerful rhetorical tool.  It's evidence that experts believe a proposition or set of propositions.  That's good enough for many members of the non-knowledgeable general public. If it's not good enough for you, why complain about Cook?  Why not complain about the social structure that forces most people away from engaging the science?   

    I find it extraordinary that people like Anthony Watts complain about a study like Cook's when Watts himself relies on a variety of evidence-free rhetorical tools to shape public opinion.  The difference between Cook and Watts, of course, is that Cook's position is supported by both the consensus of scientists and the consensus of evidence.  Watts is supported by the likes of Willis Eschenbach

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