25, Not 2500

I am going to violate my own rule for one post.  I council everyone I know not to get pulled into the absolutely pointless activity of engaging in dueling headcounts of scientists in the climate debate.  This has zero utility, and means virtually nothing.  Science is not settled like a football game, or an election.

But since I keep getting the “2500” scientists number thrown at me by alarmists, I am starting to believe the number is closer to 25, not 2500.  Sure there are many folks who have participated in work that has become a part of the IPCC, but it is old news that though those folks are counted as believers, many reject key aspects of the IPCC findings.  It is becoming increasingly clear than when people talk about the consensus, it is a position being espoused and communicated and driven by a handful of folks over and over in different outlets.  The same folks were advisors on Gore’s movie and run Realclimate and are advisors of the President and  were leaders of the IPCC process and were featured in many of the CRU emails.

Myron Ebell has an interesting article on this:

But when asked about some of his own extreme statements and predictions, Holdren replied that scientific research had moved on from the latest UN assessment report in 2007. The most up-to-date scientific research was contained in a report written by some of the world’s leading climate scientists and released last summer. Holdren mentioned and referred to this report, Copenhagen Diagnosis, several times during the course of the hearing….

I’m sure it will come as a shock that the two groups largely overlap. The “small group of scientists” up to their necks in Climategate include 12 of the 26 esteemed scientists who wrote the Copenhagen Diagnosis. Who would have ever guessed that forty-six percent of the authors of Copenhagen Diagnosis belong to the Climategate gang?  Small world, isn’t it?

The existence of this small core does nothing to prove or disprove catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.  The same statement about, say, string theory could be made about thousands of scientists working around the margin of the problem but a handful driving the train.  But it does mean that the CRU email scandal is not an irrelevant sideshow involving less than 1% of the climate community — it is a window on poor scientific profess engaged in by a group that makes up perhaps a third or half of the core driving the “consensus”.  Which makes it a big deal.

  • Another point: how many of those in “the climate community” are actually familiar with enough of the field to have an informed opinion? It is unlikely they have read the critical papers, and even more unlikely they are familiar with the work of serious skeptics.

    After all, if your specialty is the effect of cold on the growth of grasses, your work might make it into the IPCC report, and you would be counted as one of the 2500. Does that mean you have a clue about whether the earth is warming, and more importantly, the sensitivity of climate to anthropogenic CO2 emissions?

    Not likely.

  • Michael

    The book “The Deniers” cover a similar point. The first 4 chapters covers scientists that find no evidence of AGW in their field, but yet believe in AGW and that the evidence lies elsewhere.

  • Nickle

    You have to distiguish climate research from bandwagon research.

    Bandwagon research is where you use climate change cash to fund a particular bit of research you are interested in.

    Invariably these papers contain the word, ‘could’ or ‘might’ be due to climate change. Give us some more cash and we will investigate.


  • holdren. where have I heard that name before? oh yeah, that’s the guy who supports genocide!

  • NormD

    The number of scientists who are experts on any given subject is usually relatively small and these small groups rarely spent much time and effort analyzing and/or replicating each others work. What is truly strange is that the scientific community has some kind of gentleman’s agreement where each group supports the work of other groups even though they lack the basis for such support. For example, a virologist will support AGW theory.

  • Steve D

    “The same statement about, say, string theory could be made about thousands of scientists working around the margin of the problem but a handful driving the train.”

    You’re not one of those sting theory skeptics are you?

    “Invariably these papers contain the word, ‘‘could’’ or ‘‘might’’ be due to climate change.”

    Actually, most scientific papers use these words. I find the term “might suggest” a little bit overly cautious though!

    “What is truly strange is that the scientific community has some kind of gentleman’’s agreement where each group supports the work of other groups even though they lack the basis for such support.”

    Not so strange. You often see the same type of support from other professions as well (e.g. doctors, police officers). In fact I would wager that support amongst scientists is usually weaker than for other groups. Climate change research is a good example. Most of the climatologists are proponents while most physicists are very skeptical. However, in general most scientists can’t be expert at everything and probably assume that other scientists will have good reason for their claims.

    Still it is important to realize that different sciences have different levels of confidence in their findings. I’m a biochemist, and this is one of the most rigorous fields. In one previous paper we presented nine different and separate lines of evidence for a very simple basic conclusion, but if you stopped to think about it, after the first experiment it would have been difficult to imagine the conclusion not being correct. Compare that to an astrophysicist who uses one line of evidence (red shift) to conclude the universe is expanding or a historians who can make 100’s of hypotheses for why the Roman Empire fell. This is not intended to down play the importance of any of these fields; the importance and the level of confidence are two separate factors.

    Climate is incredibly complex. We can barely prove the earth is warming (and only over certain specific periods). Determining the cause is another thing altogether. The best that can be said is that GW is probably occurring to some extent but not in a very steady manner and that AGW is an attractive hypothesis to explain this, theoretically but evidence is pretty scattered and the interpretation is uncertain.

  • Holly

    CO2 concentrations are above 385 ppm volumetric atm. the maximum value in the last 650k years was about 300 ppm. boundary between ice ages and interglacials is at about 230 ppm. 85 > 70, right? considering that the greenhouse effect is experimentally proved – i ask myself how can it be that the globe isn’t warming up a bit? CH4 values are even worse – btw. u should be a bit more skeptic with the things u write here. global warming is a fact.

  • Bryan

    I think you need to go back and read a few of our host’s older posts. Or possibly watch the video from his presentation in Pheonix. The link should be floating around the site somewhere.

    Warren never attempts to deny that Earth has been warming over the past century. What he does talk about is the difference between “Global Warming” and “Catastophic Man Made Global Warming”. His conclusion about CO2 is that it has contributed to the warming but that we do not have good scientific proof for how much. He also talks alot about the issue of feeback/amplification factors in climate and how you have to assume high positive feedback numbers to get “Catastrophic Global Warming”.

    Really I encourage you to read some of his other articles. He does a good job of explaining science to the layman if you’re willing to make the effort to learn.