Sep 13, 2007

Consensus and Sea Ice Record Tandem

What Consensus?

What kind of consensus is there at present about global warming and its causes? What sources are reliable on this subject?

It makes a big difference whether scientists just agree beyond reasonable doubt that the globe has warmed by about 0.5 C throughout the last 100 years - which would not be alarming per se - or if they see in the accumulating greenhouse gases enough evidence for catastrophic warming of 7 C of global mean surface temperature by the end of the century with such apocalyptic consequences as seen in Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth". That movie casted reasonable doubts on the existence of a scientific consensus behind it. The answer came pronto with the other famous documentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle" early this year. So a consensus must be somewhere in between the two movies.

During my search for a source giving evidence to scientific consensus from outside the UN, I stumbled upon a debate around Naomi Oreskes (Ph.D., Stanford, 1990), Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California. She is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in Science and Engineering. According to the latest findings in the bloggosphere, Lord Christopher Monckton is said to be behind a recent research "update" on the renown Oreskes paper. Monckton is a former managing editor of The Sunday Telegraph Magazine and is known for his contrarian views on climate change, most particularly for his provoking article "What consensus?" against Science Magazine where Oreskes (Oreskes 2004) proved the authenticity of the UN consensus on climate change (IPCC 2001). Interestingly, the "update" was performed by Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte, a medical researcher and consultant in endocrine surgery. What's he got to do with climate science? Apparently, Schulte's concern was the well-being of patients who got sick for fear of catastrophic global warming. Thus he wanted to find out by himself if there were a valid scientific reason for this fear(Schultes 2007).

Using the same database (ISI Knowledge of Science) and the same search terms as Oreskes, he examined 528 papers published from 2004 to February 2007. The results have been submitted to the journal Energy and Environment, of which one of the DailyTech bloggers has obtained a 'pre-publication copy'.

It then appeared in the Dailytech blog as a new study that attempted to reveil that
a growing number of scientists
(6%) now explicitly doubt the consensus position as portraited by the UN panel on climate change.

This was a slap in the face of Naomi Oreskes who continues to be a strong advocate of the consensus position as originally published in Science.
This is the gist of it:
None of Oreskes' sample of 928 abstracts as published in refereed scientific journals disagreed with the consensus position that humans were likely the cause of the warming of the atmosphere as observed throughout the past decades.

Oreskes reinforced her stand on the subject by her recent presentation at the American Meteorological Society where she claimed to be in line with the new UN consensus (IPCC AR4 2007).

Enraged by the Dailytech revelation, Oreskes answered Schultes in what appeared to be an open letter.

Now this is where Tim Lambert, a computer scientist at the University of New South Wales (Australia), comes in. I stumbled upon his blog using the keywords schulte_replies_to_oreskes. Yes, the open-letter-exchange goes on! Lambert is very adebt at scientific analysis and reviews. He made a critical review of two drafts by Schulte and Monckton, which were said to originate from the same source and resulting in the claim that "a growing number of scientists now doubt the consensus position...". Lambert focused on those papers which according to Dailytech explicitly contradicted the consensus position in both Oreskes' and Schultes' update sample from the ISI database. He ended up finding just two out of the 528 newer papers and disqualified the other five findings of Schulte (among those papers published from 2004 to February 2007) as "misclassified". As to Oreskes' original dataset which came out as a "misinterpretation" of Oreskes' 2004, Lambert found hardly any that even attempted to refute the consensus position and NONE (like Oreskes 2004) from the peer-reviewed ones that actually managed to refute that position. Lambert's analysis was then "peer-reviewed" by the blogger community (see comments there below. In my humble opinion, after an imput originating from a commenter from the in-group, the "consensus" of the commenters ended up in the following result:

Out of 1467 abstracts on the subject "climate change" (taking into account both datasets) 1463 endorsed or appeared not to challenge the hypothesis that human attribution to the rise in temperature of the second half of the last century was > 0.2 C.

In fairness to Dr. Schulte, I want to give him the benefit of a doubt regarding his motives and post his original explanation here.

Now, for a layman like me, a consensus regarding an increase in global mean temperature by 0.2 C within 50 years is not alarming per se. It does not seem to require global governance to mitigate its effects. Which effects? This is where the consensus stops and the debate continues. We often hear that the science is settled. Yes, with regard to human activites throughout the past 50 years and "most" of the increase in temperature since. The mainstream scientist community now takes it for granted as much as they do take for granted that in life, evolution by natural selection of the fittest is a non disputable fact (Oreskes 2007). There is just no other scientific explanation available which passed the peer test. That's probably one of the reasons why the discussions about climate change have shifted from the question of the main cause of the warming (antropogenic greenhouse gases) towards how to fix the observed impacts and how to keep our planet a livable place.

Right-wing politicians all over the world now recognized that. Even ExxonMobile admits the evidence of human attribution to the warming of our planet on their website since December last year. About at the same time, they stopped the funding of media effective think tanks which (among many other things) attempted to refute the science behind human induced global warming. These think tanks and their publications, together with their contrarian peers, continue to cast doubts about any consensus among scientists while ExxonMobile has jumped on the global warming bandwagon. Ironically, ExxonMobile now takes advantage of higher oil prices as a result of global warming fears. Is this the reason why we have now a strong advocate of catastrophic global warming among President Bush's political advisers? (See update link: Update of September 14)

What does all this have to do with 'sea ice record tandem' in the title above? Well, there is always two sides of a coin. For instance, it just happened that on our side of the 'ball', Arctic sea ice has just shrunk to a record minimum extent ever since satelite measurements are available. At the same time, at the other side, at the end of the Antarctic winter, we are observing just the opposite. The Antarctic continent is entirely wrapped around by sea ice in early September 2007. Guess what - it has just reached a new maximum!

End of scientific part.

How great are the wonders of this world! Who can understand them?

The heavens keep telling the wonders of God, and the skies declare what he has done. (King David BC in the book of Psalms 19 - CEV

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Global warming controversy take new picture when a writer say that temperature increase is actually a good thing as in the past sudden cool periods have killed twice as many people as warm spells. He accepted global warming issues is big but he said not our fault.