A Willfully Blind Look at the Peer-Reviewed Journals

31 August 2007

Energy and Environment is a poorly regarded social science journal. It is not carried in the ISI listing of peer-reviewed journals, and it has been roundly criticized for publishing substandard papers in the past. Additionally, it's run by global warming contrarians for the sole purpose of giving other contrarians something resembling a scientific platform.

A new paper in E&E purports to update a survey done by Naomi Oreskes that found overwhelming support for the concept of anthropogenic warming in the peer-reviewed scientific journals. According to the Oreskes paper (which was published in perhaps the most prestigious scientific journal in the country):

"The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position."

Dailytech (a contrarian-friendly website) recently reported on the forthcoming E&E survey, and stated that:
"Of 528 total papers on climate change [since 2003], only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers "implicit" endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no "consensus."

Sen. James Inhofe's (R-OK) most recent breathless blog entry simplified the findings even further:
"Less Than Half Of All Published Scientists Endorse Global Warming Theory."

It's really funny how they see that some papers don't deal with attribution at all, and immediately rush to the idea that "less than half of all published scientists endorse global warming theory." That would be like saying that, since most published papers about the sun don't mention heliocentrism, most of the scientists don't actually endorse it. The conclusion just doesn't logically follow.

Anyway, let's take a look at the proposed findings of the paper itself. It does, after all, purport to find 32 papers that "reject the consensus outright." However, we should even take this with a grain of salt, considering the source. Some of you may remember that Benny Peiser (another E&E contributor) once claimed to have found 34 papers that "rejected the consensus outright." He ended up having to whittle that number down to just 1 after somebody actually observed his findings (which were, incidentally, rejected for publication at a real peer-reviewed journal).

According to Monckton (another loud contrarian with no scientific training), only seven of these papers "explicitly" reject the consensus (we won't know exactly what definition of "consensus" was used until publication; perhaps they will make the same mistakes here as Peiser). That means that the other twenty-five only "implicitly" reject it somehow.

Looking at the seven that supposedly "reject" the consensus, Tim Lambert found that:
"Cao just says that there are uncertainties in our understanding of the carbon cycle. Leiserowitz just studied public opnion of the risks of climate change. Moser was not one of the 576 papers. Lai et al ends up implicitly endorsing the consensus by suggesting that reducing CO2 emissions will reduce global warming. The three that do reject the consensus are Gerhard, which was published in the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin; Shaviv arguing for cosmic rays, which doesn't explain how they could make a difference over the past 50 years when the cosmic rayflux hasn't changed over that period; and Zhen-Shan and Xian, which is just a rubbish paper that should not have been published."

Nonetheless, you can probably expect to hear a lot of people trumpeting this E&E survey in the next few weeks. It'll be just like the statistically insignificant NASA data adjustment. That's just how these memes work.


UPDATE I: The perpetually wrong Davescot over at UncommonDescent has this to say about the study: "A recent survey of climate change articles in science journals finds fewer than half of the authors endorse anthropogenic global warming theories. The so-called consensus has now collapsed to a minority position. I love being right."

Looks like this meme is going to catch on, and those who lack critical thinking skills are going to start thinking that they're in the majority position.

UPDATE II: Brent Bozell's Media Research Center has this to say about the study: "A new survey about to be published by the journal Energy and Environment finds that less than 50 percent of the scientific papers written about climate change since 2004 have endorsed the view that man's activities are causing global warming... If we had an honest media, this would be a huge part of today's reports. Unfortunately, it is quite likely that only conservative blogs, Fox News, and the Drudge Report will view this survey as being in any way newsworthy."

I hope he's right about that last part.

UPDATE III: Sure enough, if there's ever a rumor that supports his pre-conceived notions, Drudge will report it: "Survey: Fewer than half of scientists endorse man-made global warming"

It really seems like these people read just the headline, then mangle it into something else without even reading the article itself.

UPDATE IV: FOX News Alert: How Many Scientists Say That Mankind Is Affecting Global Warming?
"Earlier this year the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said it was "90 percent likely" that man was having an impact on global temperatures. And dailytech.com reports an analysis of scientific papers in 2004 concluded that a majority of researchers supported what it called the "consensus view" that humans were effecting climate change.

But now a study of all research papers between 2004 and 2007 indicates only seven percent give an explicit endorsement of that so-called consensus. Forty-five percent give an implicit endorsement. But 48 percent of the papers are classified as neutral — neither accepting nor rejecting the hypothesis. And only one of the 528 papers reviewed makes any reference to climate change leading to catastrophic results."

UPDATE V: The Free Republic wins, when it comes to getting things completely wrong. Here is their headline: "New Global Warming Consensus - NOT MANMADE"

UPDATE VI: Michael Savage predictably joins the chorus: "DEBUNKING GLOBAL WARMING: Less than 1/2 of Published Scientists Endorse Global Warming Theory"

UPDATE VII: Rush Limbaugh weighs in: "Fewer Than Half of Scientists Endorse Man-Made Warming"

UPDATE VIII: Well, after all that it turns out that not even Energy & Environment will publish this paper. That's right. After all this noise, the paper isn't even going to be published.

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