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Climate Hustle

Climate Denial Video #3: Polluters Use Same Tactics As Tobacco Industry

Posted on 7 August 2011 by John Cook

Many thanks to Dana who posted the first two of the Climate Denial video series while I was on holiday (although he was getting a bit silly towards the end - James Earl Jones!?!). In this third video collaboration with Treehugger, who I must say have created some fantastic animation, we examine a common tactic of all movements that seek to deny a scientific consensus - the raising up of fake experts. The tobacco industry did it with the Whitecoat Project - climate deniers do it with the Petition Project.

Funnily enough, just last week, I created a new infographic that vividly showed the misleading nature of the Petition Project by showing just how many of their "experts" are actual climate scientists.

Pity I hadn't thought of the graphic earlier - would've been interesting to see how Treehugger might have animated it.

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Comments 1 to 41:

  1. Well, am I a skeptic or a denier? Actually, both. I am skeptical about some things, a denier of others. Also an acceptor. I do accept irrefutable science.
    One thing I would deny is that it is all simple.
    I observe that climate is a local phenomenon, and that the concept of some 'global climate' (spoken about in political fora) is ludicrous.
    I am skeptical about any precise forecasts of global temperature rises due in 2020. Time will tell.
    Now, a few points:
    1. how many climates exist on the surface of the planet?
    2. how do you know when a climate has changed?
    To ask those two questions is to uncover the fuzzy edges of climatology.
    Why is climatology so complex? One answer is that it deals with fluid flow and its consequences. Another is that there are numerous variables in it, defying algebraic models. The most incisive answer, though not so satisfying, is that it is dealing with essentially non-linear phenomena, and humans are not good at thinking in unfamiliar non-linear terms.
    Further points: global warming and climate change, though potentially linked, do not mean the same thing. Global warming refers to average surface temperatures, but the emphasis is on *average*. Global warming continues to confuse.
    Science tells us that the coolest and driest continental air masses should exhibit warming to the most pronounced degree, and that seems to be so. Moreover, much of the warming would occur in winter rather than in summer. So where do you look for the warming, then? Try Central Asia, Siberia, the Sahara to begin with. Do not be surprised to see temperatures rising by 2 or 3 degrees in those regions, as a result of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. So a heat-wave in Siberia drives up the minimum from minus fifty to minus 47. Bet that makes the yaks faint!
    More subtle is the effect of warming on glaciation. The earth's albedo increases with increasing ice, reflecting more solar radiation away, helping to keep the planet cool, and the ice forming. Conversely, melting ice reduces the albedo, increasing the warming that melts the ice. So positive feed-back can occur, either way. Prolonged glaciation is self-reinforcing, while prolonged melting keeps itself going. How long these trends can persist has never been fully established, but a few PhDs are yet to be earned on that account.
    One other matter I am a denier of " CO2 is a pollutant". CO2 is essential for life on earth (tobacco smoke ain't) and it is not denial to point out that every human emits CO2. I'd estimate that each adult exhales a kilogramme of CO2 daily. Collectively we exhale some 7 million tonnes a day! That amount exceeds the industrial emissions of most countries; comparable, in fact, to aggregated industrial emissions from South America. And it occurs just from breathing . (BTW, there is no chemical distinction between human CO2 and CO2 resulting form the combustion of coal. If you find some, please publish it!) Add to that what animals exhale,
    It is also science to mention that the thermal energy in the world's oceans is three orders of magnitude higher than the thermal energy of the atmosphere. For this reason, the oceans exert a profound influence on the climates.
    If the subject were simple, there would be no debate, but the complexity was noted decades ago by the Sierra Club. Some members believed there would be a cooling effect as a result of increased cloud formation. They also thought cloudier weather was causing glaciers to grow. Old TV documentaries spoke of the Big Freeze. This notion, prominent in the seventies, held that Canada and Siberia would remain permanently snow-bound, and even New York might be devoured by advancing ice-sheets.
    Phew! that was close!
    [disclaimer; this summary cannot be encyclopedic or comprehensive.
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    Response: [JC] Note: some of your points are addressed elsewhere on SkS:
  2. OutsideO#1: "One thing I would deny is that it is all simple."

    That puts you one step ahead of many deniers, who try to reduce complex ideas to over-simplified sound bites. We hear those especially during the winter: 'it's cold out, where's your global warming now?'

    Most of the other points you've mentioned are amply addressed on SkS. Look through the topical threads under the Most Used Skeptic Arguments or use the Search function; you may find a few things to think about or use to modify your opinions. Checking the evidence; that's what skeptics do, isn't it?

    For example, "So where do you look for the warming, then? Try Central Asia, Siberia, the Sahara to begin with." No, look to the Arctic. Multiple threads deal with 'Arctic Amplification'; it's real, its happening now.

    Rather than a scattergun, comment on individual topics on the appropriate threads.
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  3. Outsider@1 "Old TV documentaries spoke of the Big Freeze."

    I think you'll find the media in general jumped on the idea in the 1970s. Put yourself in the position of a typical journalist or TV reporter. If a number of scientists stated something that was different to what the majority of scientists were saying and you could publish some graphs and photos, would you ignore it?

    Maybe a future project for Skeptical Science is to produce a datavisualisation showing the research that predicted cooling and warming.

    The current visualisation doesn't doesn't show this:
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  4. Actually Skeptical Science has a rebuttal for that:
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  5. Outsider@1 "how many climates exist on the surface of the planet?"

    You seem to deny that there is a global climate. That really isn't true. The definition is based on the desire or capabilities of understanding complexity. The Earth as a whole does have a climate, even the universe has a 'climate', the issue is how small or big a system we are willing or are capable of analysing.

    You are attempting to definine human capabilities, not whether something exists or not.
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  6. Hi, great site. New here. Have a question, sorry if it's answered in another post:

    If the CO2 emissions by burning fuels are the causes of its disharmonic level in the atmosphere, couldn't this be leveled again growing more plants? all this in the context fuels burning cannot be low down, at least those we have today.

    Thank you.
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    [DB] Hey, thanks for taking the time to post a comment!

    To add to Dales's comment below, Climatologist Ken Caldeira and others have extensively researched that question.  Dr. Caldeira posts this Op-Ed on the subject:

    "While preserving and restoring forests is unquestionably good for the natural environment, new scientific studies are concluding that preservation and restoration of forests outside the tropics will do little or nothing to help slow climate change. And some projects intended to slow the heating of the planet may be accelerating it instead.

    Trees don't just absorb carbon dioxide, they soak up the sun's heating rays, too. Forests tend to be darker than farms and pastures and therefore tend to absorb more sunlight. This has a warming influence that appears to cancel, on average, the cooling influence of the forest's carbon storage. This effect is most pronounced in snowy areas: snow on bare ground reflects far more sunlight back to space than does a snowed-in forest, so forests in areas with seasonal snow cover can be strongly warming."

    Emphasis added.  Essentially, planting trees outside the tropics either does not reduce global warming or adds to the problem.  There's just not enough tropics to plant by an order of magnitude...

  7. Dw, technically yes, planting a LOT of trees could do it. But you'd be talking in the order of many billions of trees (and have to continuously keep planting trees to cover China and India's expansion of emissions). It possible, but impractical. Another thing to consider with planting trees is that whilst trees absorb CO2 for photosynthesis, they also create CO2 in smaller amounts (dropped leaves and branches rot which expel CO2 and methane [from memory]). So it's like two steps forwards, one step back. Also, bushfires through the new forests will only release CO2 back into the system.

    There's other more efficient ways to absorb CO2, such as sprinkling a form of iron on the oceans (South Pacific has been labeled as the best spot for this) to promote protoplankton growth, which goes nuts for that compound. They'll absorb CO2 and end up on the bottom of the sea. Unfortunately there's side effects for all the methods proposed, such as protoplankton feeding off other marine organics and stripping the area bare.

    The best way to stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere via combustion, is to stop it at the source.
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  8. Dw - a few studies have specifically addressed that issue (and no I don't have them at hand) and eventually, if the planet keeps warming, even more trees won't solve the issue because of a large die-back of the tropical forest and loss of carbon from soil microbes. Yes, forest expands into areas now covered by ice, but the net effect is a loss of carbon to the atmosphere and further warming.

    On the other hand, if we dramatically cut back human CO2 emissions (on a rapid global scale) and re-afforest, maybe, just maybe we can prevent catastrophic scenarios playing out. That'd be nice.
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  9. DB #6, I didn't even think of those effects. Thanks for the added info!

    Also found a BBC article from 4th August where there's talk that an increase in temps stunts tree growth. So a rising temp would result in smaller trees, thus less effective carbon sink.
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  10. Just to had on the trees issues. In boreal forest, half of the carbon is stored in the soil. Cutting trees tend to release the carbon is soil. Hence one must be careful when exploiting the forest.
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  11. Outsider#1:

    "One thing I would deny is that it is all simple."

    By an amazing coincidence, that's also something mainstream scientists deny, despite the words routinely put in their mouths by "skeptics."

    it is not denial to point out that every human emits CO2.

    If you point this out once, and then apologize after better-informed people explain that you've misunderstood the issues, it's ignorance. If you persist in saying it even after being corrected, it's denial. It'll be interesting to see which approach you favor.

    Also, every human being produces sewage, which we rightly treat as a pollutant. Although human respiration isn't the issue here, it's not inherently draconian or irrational to regulate substances produced by human beings, whether they result from metabolism or industry.

    To question AGW effectively, you actually have to do some hard work, beginning with understanding the consensus viewpoint. Attacking imaginary viewpoints is not helpful, unless your goal is to confuse people.
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  12. Thanks you all concerning my question. Sure, the fact that extra emissions of CO2 must be stopped is unquestionable.

    "to promote protoplankton growth"
    Yes sorry, when I said "plants" I meant plants in general and any other organic or not CO2 processing system. Which I'm pretty sure it's there in our pockets but we can't still find the correct one. Talking friendly, Nature did once this job, we are nature, and O3 is not a luck for us but our micro-grannies job. So we students or scientists must not give up this research as well as trying hard to stop incoherent C02 emissions.

    I'm student of Molecular Biology & Biotechnology at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Now getting into plants treatments specially for any possible way to create Earth-like atmospheres on planets. And you know, it's so funny (sad too) to hear and read scientists denying these problems we got here when they know Earth it's such a little planet talking about physics or chemistry, a little house by the river of blasting radiations and darkness. It's so obvious it can be damaged easily. Keep pushing the finger SkS.

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  13. If even just 0.1% are qualified climate scientists, then 0.001 x 31,487 = 31.487 climate scientists who have signed the petition. We can then compare that to the 75 out of 77 who were deemed worthy of contributing to the oft reported 97% figure of climate scientists who support the AGW theory. 32 vs 77. Maybe, just maybe, things aren't as cut and dry as some would like them to be.
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    [DB] You should seriously rethink your maths here. 

    The phrase not even wrong comes to mind.

  14. DB @ 13
    Please explain.

    If 99.9% are not climate scientists, then 0.1% are. From there it is simple math.
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  15. are you seriously comparing 32 vs 77 in your "math" experiment?
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  16. flandestiny @15, no. He is trying to suggest that 32/31,487ths is approximately half of 75/77ths by carefully excluding the denominator.
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  17. flan at 15 and TC at 16
    I am not sure where the confusion is. The oft quoted 97% of climate scientists... represents 75 of 77 scientists who answered the poll. That was winnowed down from the total number of scientists who answered the poll to only include climate scientists to achieve that 77 number.

    According to the article we are commenting on, 99.9% of the signatories are not climate scientists. The opposite of that statement means 0.1% are. I've already done the math so no need to do again. They actually identify 39 as climate scientists compared to my 32 derived by mathematic calculations.

    Comparing 32, or 37, to the constantly championed 75/77, the gap is closer than most are led to believe.
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    [DB] Perhaps you have forgotten the Denominator: It is indeed what is best in life...

  18. TC at 16 and DB at 17
    The Denominator is a silly attempt to trivialize the fact that "climate scientists" actually signed the petition. It in no way invalidates their position. It is an exercise in futility.

    By the way, what is the definition of a climate scientist? How many climate scientists are there in the US?
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  19. pirate#18: "a silly attempt"

    Nope. This continued fascination with a meaningless petition is silly. It was silly two years ago:

    Robinson claims the Petition includes 31,000 scientists, 9,000 with PhDs (and the other 22,000 have what credential that makes them “scientists”?). Let’s pretend they’re all real scientists.

    So what?

    If the premise is that this is a HUGE number (as many in the Denialosphere have tried to claim, and still do), then what is our basis for comparison?

    In the US alone there are an estimated 2,685,000 scientists. The OISM sent out their call to a subset of the mailing list of American Men and Women of Science and it got broadly passed around the Denialosphere … and they managed to get a mere 1.2% of the American scientific community.

    So if you are bothered by the observation that not everyone who received the survey that resulted in '97% agree' actually responded, be very bothered by the appallingly low response rate of the petition -- a rate so low that it virtually invalidates the results.

    And in what way does the existence of this minority opinion alter the basic science? pirate, you're grasping at straws. Give this one up.
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  20. I'm wondering what it would mean if, using the same methodology (well, a guess at the original methodology anyway), I managed to get 32,000 signers who accepted the theory of AGW.

    Exactly squat, I suspect. Yet I also suspect that the doubters and denialists would raise the same questions raised here about method and interpretation.
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  21. apirate @17 & 18, the denominator is absolutely essential to critical thinking about poll results. Probability theory is just the science of ratios, and statistics is a special branch of probability theory that applies the theorems of probability to sampling. The upshot is, if you do not keep the denominator firmly in mind, your thinking about survey results will be simply nonsense.

    Now, if you want to break down the figures from Doran, you get the following figures:

    10,257 research geo-scientists in the US;

    3,146 respondents;

    approx 5% (155) climate scientists;

    79 actively publishing climate scientists.

    From this you can determine that there are approx 500 research Climate Scientists in the US, or which 255/500 are actively publishing in climate science; of which 244/255 accept the consensus on global warming.

    That leave about 11/255 actively publishing climate scientists who do not accept that consensus, in the US.

    Approximately 88% of all research climate scientists accept the consensus, meaning there are about 60/500 research climate scientists in the US who do not (a number which inlcudes the active publishers).

    But what of your 39 climate scientists who do not accept the consensus? The simple fact is that most science graduates do not go on to research. They still get counted as scientists for the purposes of the petition, even if their day job is slinging burgers at MacDonalds. All you can deduce from that figure is that 0.12% of global warming skeptics with technical training of any sort actually have relevant qualifications to assess the climate science.

    Not a very reassuring statistic for those in denial about AGW.

    It's no wonder that you don't want to have anything to do with the denominator.
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  22. Perhaps its time for a SkS Project Michael to match the NCSE's Project Steve? How long do you think it would take us to get 31,000 Michaels who accept AGW?
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  23. DSL#20: "using the same methodology"

    According to these results, there is room for significant doubt of a number of theories:

    Only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.
    Only 59% of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.
    Only 47% of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth's surface that is covered with water.

    Only 21% of adults answered all three questions correctly.

    On that basis:
    - Kepler's Laws (and Newton's for that matter) are subject to 'skepticism';
    - evolution (and all the technology used for radiometric dating; indeed the fundamentals of radioactive decay itself!) are in doubt;
    - physical geography (and any form of satellite image analysis) are riddled with question marks.

    Is this how the science should be evaluated? By opinion polls? pirate, is that what you are teaching?
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  24. TC at 21
    "But what of your 39 climate scientists who do not accept the consensus? The simple fact is that most science graduates do not go on to research. They still get counted as scientists for the purposes of the petition, even if their day job is slinging burgers at MacDonalds."

    And, you know all this how?

    At the end of the day, you still have 30+ climate scientists who went through the trouble of submitting the paperwork to have their names added to the petition, vs. 75 climate scientists who answered a vaguely worded, online, 2 question survey designed to ensure participation.
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  25. apiratelooksat50 wrote "And, you know all this how?" reading the documentation for the petition project would tell you that they organisers make no distinction between climate graduates and those actively pursuing careers in climatology. But surely you knew that already?

    The survey however does verify this distinction.
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  26. pirate#24: "went through the trouble of submitting the paperwork"

    Will the misconceptions never cease?

    Here's the 'paperwork' (from the petition project website):

    Please print the petition, fill out the credential section, and sign as indicated. In order to obtain a pdf copy of the petition, click here.

    Please mail your signed petition to ...

    So all of 30 seconds to print, sign, check a box and write in one word (the credential section). Add in $0.38 for a stamp (a few years ago). That's it.

    Here's a takedown of the 'credentials,' with links to several others.

    Science as critiqued by petition; what a waste of time.

    But let's put it back on pirate: prove that there are as many active, published climate scientists among these distinguished signers as you claim. Be sure to cross off the ones who passed away prior to signing.
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Spot-on, sir.  Well-done.

  27. A quick count of the PhD's amonsgst signatories of the OISM petition whose name starts with A shows that 246/900 signatories, or 27.33 per cent of signatories have that qualification. Assuming that people whose name starts with A do not have an unusual disposition to gain (or not gain) PhDs, the proportion is projectable.

    On that basis, approximately 8,500 people with PhD's have signed the petition. To put that in perspective we need a denominator. Between 1998 and 2008 (inclusive) 426,538 PhD's were awarded in Science or Engineering. In other words, signatories of the petition with PhD's represent less than 2% of Science and Technology PhD graduates while the petition has been active, and probably significantly less than 1% of PhD graduates in Science and Technology in the US overall. (See also Muoncounter @19)

    Statistically, it also means that only 10.66 of the climate scientists signing the petition held a PhD.

    Don't you just hate the denominator - it has this horrible habit of putting things in perspective.
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  28. apirate @24, Dikran @25, and Muon @26 have more than adequately responded to you. I will point out that the actual survey included eight questions, and so would have taken more time to complete than signing the petition.
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  29. While on the topic, I cannot be the only person here to have noted the linguistic similarity between "ratio" and "rational". In fact, as confirmed in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, they stem from the same root, and where originally the same word. In other words, to be rational literally meant to keep the ratio in mind (or more colloquially, to keep things in proportion). Thus, in the strict use of the language, somebody who insists that we ignore the denominator, and hence the ratio, as apirate is doing, is strictly speaking not rational. Make of that what you will.
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  30. Tom at 29
    I'm pretty sure that what you are saying is off-topic and thinly veiled ad hominem.

    Regardless, it appears that you do not deem the signers of the petition meaningful for whatever reasons you come up with. However, the signers of the Doran/Zimmerman survey do matter. Of course, if you look at all of the respondees to Doran, you will find that the vaunted 97% number is actually lower. A lot lower. But, since a presumption was made that only climate scientists had the insight and training to understand the nuances of climate change, we can disregard the rest and thereby inflate the end result.

    That is an awful condemnation of other trained, rational, logically thinking minds that arrive at a different conclusion.

    If only pedigreed climate scientists are capable of generating acceptable responses to questions regarding climate change, then there are not many people (if any) on this site, or any other site, that should be making any conclusions.
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  31. "But, since a presumption was made that only climate scientists had the insight and training to understand the nuances of climate change, we can disregard the rest and thereby inflate the end result."

    Nobody's "disregarding" the rest, they're ranking them.

    If we're interested in tennis "champions" we would probably count, firstly the winners of Grand Slam events, then those people who've achieved No 1 ranking in the world. Then someone cries, what about Ermintrude Kafloops! She was ranked Number 12 in the world for 8 years straight! What about her?!

    Obviously, EK was a serious contender, but we're not looking for people who could have been champions. We want the real thing.

    Same thing for scientists who don't publish in the climate area. They may be contenders, but they don't rank for this purpose no matter how good their work may be in reptile genetics or particle physics.
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  32. apirate @30:

    1) I notice you have shifted the topic of discussion. Previously you where defending the claim that the 39 climate scientists (of whatever sort) from the OISM petition and the 72 actively publishing climate scientists from Doran should be directly compared without reference to the relevant denominators. The implicit argument is that 35% of climate scientists disagree with AGW - a conclusion that is straightforwardly false.

    Having now recognized that ignoring denominators is irrational, you now appear to be arguing that actively publishing climate scientists are in fact not uniquely expert on climate science - a different argument entirely.

    2) Turning to that argument, I need only point out that it is in no way a condemnation of dentists to say that actively publishing climate scientists are more expert on climate science than they. After all, expertise is not just a matter of possessing critical reasoning skills. It is a matter of having the relevant background knowledge; of being familiar with unusual but common (in the field) techniques; and of being current with the relevant scientific literature.

    To drive this point home, let us reverse the claim. Suppose I where to say of a dentist that they where no more expert at dentistry than the average climate scientists. That would be a resounding condemnation of the dentist. If it were true, they should be barred from practicing on the grounds of incompetence.

    Yet here you are insisting that actively publishing climate scientists should be considered no more expert than a random list of dentists, doctors, engineers, and other technically qualified people, only one third of whom have PhD's, and whose only known familiarity with the literature is an egregiously false propaganda piece that was deliberately dressed up to appear peer reviewed, complete with fake journal volume and page numbers.

    And while running this argument, you have the gall to be offended by my comments at 29.

    The simple fact is, if we want to know whether there is a consensus of the experts on climate science, then the only relevant opinions are those of the experts. And the experts are the actively publishing climate scientists.

    It is no insult to any other scientist to say they are not as expert in that field as are the actively publishing climate scientists. But it is an outrageous insult to the genuine experts say they are no more expert than any other scientists as you are doing.
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  33. Tom at 32
    1. I was not making an implicit argument about the percentage of scientists disagreeing with AGW. I plainly said that there are 30+ who signed the petition. However, for you to include comments in parantheses (i.e., whatever sort) is an implicit condemnation of scientists for which you have no basis other than your own arrogant sense of superiority.

    2. I was not offended in the least by your comments in 29. Instead I found them amusing and off-topic.

    I am not insisting that actively publishing climate scientist not be considered the experts that they are. You insist on putting words in my mouth. I am no more insisting that a dentist be considered an expert than you are. But, then again I was not referring to the Oregon Project. I referring to the fact that there were plenty of scientists in the Doran Survey who were sent the survey who were not "climate scientists". Those respondees in other disciplines were placed to the side to achieve the higher percentage that is often quoted.

    From the article "With survey participants asked to select a single category, the most common areas of expertise reported were geochemistry (15.5%), geophysics (12%), and oceanography (10.5%). General geology, geology/hydrogeology, and paleontology each accounted for 5–7% of the total respondents. Approximately 5% of the respondents were climate scientists, and 8.5% of the respondents indicated that more than 50% of their peer-reviewed publications in the past 5 years have been on the
    subject of climate change."
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  34. pirate#33: "there are 30+ who signed the petition"

    Let's stop throwing that 30+ number around without knowing what it means.

    Find out who the 30 are and what kind of work they have done. Are they are mostly fringers and cranks (of the caliber of Salby, Bastardi, etc) whose signature means nothing credible? Where do these 30 work? What papers have they published? How have those papers been received, commented, rebutted etc?

    You know, questions that skeptics might want answered before believing that this petition constituted some form of 'evidence'. Go over the petition with the same sort of microscope that you apply to Doran.
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  35. apirate @33

    1) To quote from your 13:

    " We can then compare that to the 75 out of 77 who were deemed worthy of contributing to the oft reported 97% figure of climate scientists who support the AGW theory. 32 vs 77. Maybe, just maybe, things aren't as cut and dry as some would like them to be."

    So, we have a denominator less comparison of 32 "climate scientists" for the Oregon Petition to the 77 "actively publishing climate scientists" from Doran; and we have an assertion that things aren't "cut and dry" in an explicit discussion of the proportion of climate experts who accept AGW. That represents a very clear implicit argument that that the 97% is significantly wrong, and that a comparison of the 32 with the 97 gives a better idea of the correct value.

    No explicit argument was msde.

    Consequently you implicit argument was exactly as I stated it. If that was not you intended argument you need to withdraw that claim and apologize for stating what ever your actual argument was in a way which invited misunderstanding.

    2) My point stands whether you include members of the Oregon Petition, or just those surveyed by Doran. A petrologist is no more likely to be expert in climate science than is a dentist or proctologist. You do insist that the opinion of geochemists and geophysics is as relevant to assessing expert opinion on climate change as the opinion of actively publishing climatologists. But their opinion can only be as relevant to the expert opinion on climatology if they, by virtue of being geochemists and geophysicists, are as expert on climate change as are the actively publishing climatologists.
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  36. muoncounter @34, good luck with that - signatories do not have their specialization attached to their name, so even identifying the 39 climatologists would be a challenge.
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  37. Tom,
    That is pirate's homework assignment. He's the one pushing '30+ climate scientists,' so let him tell us who they are. Hint: Spencer - not. Lindzen - yes.
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  38. Tom @ 35
    I no more think that a doctor specializing in either end of the alimentary canal is an expert on climate science than you do.

    However, there are scientists in disciplines directly relating to climate that their opinions should matter. Case in point from Doran-Zimmerman: "An invitation to participate in the survey was sent to 10,257 Earth scientists. The database was built from Keane and Martinez [2007], which lists all geosciences faculty at reporting academic institutions, along with researchers at state
    geologic surveys associated with local universities, and researchers at U.S. federal research facilities (e.g., U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, and NOAA (U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) facilities; U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories; and so forth). To maximize the response rate, the survey was designed to take less than 2 minutes to complete..."

    To get the 97% figure, only the "expert" climate scientists who published 50% of their papers on climate change were counted.

    That figure may or may not be important, but what about the other professionals who were asked to be part of the survey. Why were they asked if their opinion is not considered? Is there a complete version of the study and questions available for public consumption.

    I am not sure there is a way of vetting either the signers of the Oregon Petition, or the respondees to the Doran survey. Shoving to the side the signers of the Oregon Petition because one disagrees with their position is inherently wrong.
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  39. apirate @39, Neither I nor anybody else here at SkS has been trying to discount the opinions of the other scientists. I think it is very significant that while only 58% of the public think there is any anthro in the global warming, 76% of non-climatologists who are not actively engaged in research think there is; and that while 82% of scientists do, 88% of climatologists think there is anthro in the global warming, 89% of active publishing scientists and 91% of active publishers in climatology (regardless of discipline) agree.

    Clearly there is a gradation in this, with increasing expertise correlating with increasing agreement with the claim that "... human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures". But that does not in anyway excuse a pretense that the opinion of the least expert scientists (with regard to climatology) is as important as the opinion of the most expert. Nor does it have any relevance to the question of whether there is a consensus of the experts on climate change.

    Nor do I an anyway discount the Oregon Petition or its significance. But what I refuse to do is to inflate its significance (as you are attempting to do) by ignoring the denominator. So 0.3% of technically qualified Americans will sign a petition against action on global warming if presented with a deceitful article deceptively packaged. Well, certainly that is significant, not because it suggests significant informed disagreement with the IPCC conclusions. It does not because the signatories are neither particularly well informed on the topic as a group, nor a significant number of technically educated people in the US. It does, however, show a significant failure by many technically trained people to use critical thinking when it comes to climate change.
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  40. This video of Neil Degrasse Tyson discussing Scientific Literacy could be posted on just about any thread on this site and be on topic, but this one seemed the most relevant.

    "If you’re scientifically literate, the world looks very different to you. It’s not just a lot of mysterious things happening, there’s a lot of things we understand out there! And that understanding empowers you to, first not be taken advantage of by others who do understand it"
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  41. Kinda mangled that. Here is the 2nd half of that quote:

    "And second there are issues that confront society that have science as their foundation. If you are scientifically illiterate, in a way, you are disenfranchising yourself from the democratic process, and you don’t even know it."
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