This quote from an upcoming paper by Mike Hulme has been making the blog rounds of late:
Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous. That particular consensus judgement, as are many others in the IPCC reports, is reached by only a few dozen experts in the specific field of detection and attribution studies; other IPCC authors are experts in other fields.
I have not really written on this statement because its such old news. This has been known for years, just not broadly reported. So its good that this is getting more attention, but this is one reason I have not been blogging much on this site lately — while I am happy that things skeptics have known for years are finally reaching more popular media, I am not that interested in reporting on every such “revelation.” “World is round, story at 11” does not really get me that excited.
However, I did want to answer one question I get a lot from audiences when I speak about the whole consensus thing. Because many climate scientists and scientists in other fields and other academics do pile on and sign letters and petitions in support of the catastrophic global warming hypothesis. People ask me how I can be right when there are so many showing support for the opposite position.
What I tell them is that these folks are not really showing support for the catastrophic global warming position in the sense that they have studied and reviewed the science in depth and found it compelling. What they are really doing when they make these statements or sign letters is showing support for science itself. The irony is they are doing just the opposite, but let me explain.
I was not a big fan of George W. Bush. But universities absolutely, almost to a person, hated him with a crazy-deep passion. They became convinced (right or wrong) that he was the leader of a Christian fundamental effort to subvert all science in favor of religious orthodoxy. The leaders of the catastrophic global warming movement have been very successful in feeding off this passion, and portraying opposition to catastrophic anthropogenic global warming theory as part and parcel of this religious fundamentalist attack on all science. They have successfully linked, in the minds of academics and many of the public, that disagreeing with James Hansen or critiquing the Hockey stick is the equivalent of being anti-science.
So when some biology professor at Berkely signs a statement in support of catastrophic global warming theory, it does not mean that she has looked at the strong positive feedback assumptions in climate models and found them reasonable. It means she believes herself to be supporting science against the medieval barbarians at the gate.
The irony is that in fact they are doing the opposite. In trying to oppose religious orthodoxy they have in fact supported scientists who treat their pet theory like a religious orthodoxy, and all opposition to it as heresy. And in trying to support science, they have supported folks who have broken many of the most fundamental rules of modern science, including the avoidance of replication, the hiding of results and data, and corruption of the peer review process.
This may be why I underestimated the impact of the CRU email release. In retrospect, I can imagine all those scientists that used to sign these petitions looking at what the CRU emails and thinking, “this is what I have defended as true science?”