PNAS Climate Change Expert Credibility Farce
A new, purportedly scientific report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) is claiming that more “top” environmental scientists believe in global warming. Moreover, the report also claims that the scientists who do believe in global warming—now re-labeled anthropogenic climate change (ACC)—have higher credibility than those who do not. All of this is based on an “extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data.” Citing such data is like saying “most of the people who write for conservative magazines are conservatives.” In other words, the study is devoid of factual significance and possibly purposely misleading. More propaganda from the sinking global warming ship.
In an open access article, rather innocuously titled “Expert credibility in climate change,” William R. L. Anderegg, James W. Prall, Jacob Harold, and Stephen H. Schneider have attempted to denigrate those who dare to disagree with the IPCC party line. In order to provide a false sense of balance, the “researchers” refer to climate change believers as “convinced by the evidence” (CE) and skeptics as “unconvinced by the evidence” (UE). That is the only unbiased thing about the report. Here is the paper's abstract:
Although preliminary estimates from published literature and expert surveys suggest striking agreement among climate scientists on the tenets of anthropogenic climate change (ACC), the American public expresses substantial doubt about both the anthropogenic cause and the level of scientific agreement underpinning ACC. A broad analysis of the climate scientist community itself, the distribution of credibility of dissenting researchers relative to agreeing researchers, and the level of agreement among top climate experts has not been conducted and would inform future ACC discussions. Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.
The first suspicious thing is that the “extensive dataset” contains only 1,372 climate researchers on both sides of the issue. I seem to recall that the IPCC alone claimed more than that many “experts” had worked on its reports. The second suspicious thing is the 97-98% pro-AGW result, a figure more in line with the election results from a tin-pot dictatorship or Stalinist people's republic. This result alone is an indication that the dataset is biased. Here is how the authors described their methodology:
We ranked researchers based on the total number of climate publications authored. Though our compiled researcher list is not comprehensive nor designed to be representative of the entire climate science community, we have drawn researchers from the most high-proﬁle reports and public statements about ACC. Therefore, we have likely compiled the strongest and most credentialed researchers in CE and UE groups. Citation and publication analyses must be treated with caution in inferring scientific credibility, but we suggest that our methods and our expertise and prominence criteria provide conservative, robust, and relevant indicators of relative credibility of CE and UE groups of climate researchers.
They clearly state that they selected researchers from the “most high-profile reports and public statements,” obviously a judgment call on the author's part—and there is no doubt which side of the debate the authors are on. The statement that they have compiled the “strongest and most credentialed researchers in CE and UE groups” is shear supposition on the author's part. They rightly hint that counting citations and publications is not a reliable indication of scientific credibility. Since the whole point of the article is to make the claim that climate change believers are more credible than non-believers, this amounts to an admission that the whole report is based on a faulty assumption. Then, after warning that their list is not comprehensive, nor designed to be representative, and that publication analyses must be treated with caution, they blithely state that their methods are sound. What hogwash.
After this claim that their biased, subjective data and laughable methodology should nonetheless be accepted as credible, the author's present a number of dubious assertions. The plot below, figure 2 from the article, is typical of these “analyses” of the data. It show the distribution of the number of the top 50 most-published researchers from CE and UE categories with a given number of total climate publications. Tick marks indicate the center of righ-inclusive categories (e.g.,20–50, 51–100, 101–150, etc.).
The assertion that the quality of a scientist's work, and by extension the scientific credibility of that scientist, can be discerned by the shear volume of his publications is ludicrous. Having an academic background myself, I can tell you that there are some scientists who turn out a staggering number of papers—they seem to thrive on writing and publishing. This is fine, and since many academic institutions place exaggerated value on the number of publications a scholar has, there is a trend toward this type of activity. Everyone in academia has heard the old saw, “publish or perish.”
If you habitually read climate related literature, as I do, you will find the same authors, in various combinations, publishing papers that are slightly different versions of each other. Another factor to consider is that scientists who are also university professors often publish papers done by students under their charge. This also contributes to publication bloat. Simply put, having a large number of publications does not mean that a scholar has anything noteworthy to say. Indeed, many great scientists published only a few seminal papers.
Further evidence that this study draws on sources that guaranty a uniformity of opinion is given in the paper's supplementary information. As you can see by looking at the data sources, it is unsurprising that they would find their sample researchers to be in agreement with the IPCC—that is were they started!
We compiled these CE researchers comprehensively (i.e., all names listed) from the following lists: IPCC AR4 Working Group I Contributors (coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and contributing authors; 619 names listed), 2007 Bali Declaration (212 signers listed), Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) 2006 statement (120 names listed), CMOS 2008 statement (130 names listed), and 37 signers of open letter protesting The Great Global Warming Swindle film errors. After removing duplicate names across these lists, we had a total of 903 names.
For UE researchers they relied on 12 lists, ranging from the Science and Environmental 1995 Leipzig Declaration (80 names), to the 2009 newspaper ad by the Cato Institute challenging President Obama’s stance on climate change (115 signers), for a total of 472 names. The fair-minded reader might wish to consider the difference in sources between the two groups and whether the skeptics would be likely to submit their work to the same journals as the CE researchers. After all, openly skeptical articles on climate change would have a hard time passing peer review when the reviewers are all AGW believers.
Another complication is that many of the skeptics are from related fields and do not consider themselves as climate scientists first. My doctorate is in computer science and I have published a number of papers on computer modeling of complex systems, work that directly applies to analyzing the complex GCM used to predict climate change. I doubt that this paper's authors would count my publications in computer science or my earlier publications in protein science, just those in acceptable climate science journals.
What's more, the sources used for this paper—the most cited authorities pro and con—were supplied by one of the paper's authors, Jim Prall (picture on left). Prall, a self-described non-academic, runs a climate change website of his own. As it turns out, Prall has been collecting a list of people he disagrees with for some time now. Roger Pielke Jr., has described it as a “black list” for climate skeptics. Prall's list of the most cited skeptical authors on climate science can be found here.
I see little need to expound on the type of people who keep enemies lists but, by his own admission, Prall is fed up with “the tiny minority of 'climate skeptics' or 'deniers' who try to minimize the problem, absolve humans of any major impact, or suggest there is no need to take any action.” Oh yes, Jim is certainly a disinterested, open-minded observer who's data should be used to evaluate the expertise of climate change skeptics. This is the equivalent of stuffing a ballot box—the whole selection process used in this paper is wrong on so many levels it beggars the imagination.
If I seem more than a bit incensed by the publication of this piece of twaddle, it is because I am personally involved. I am proud to tell my readers that I am listed as #387 on the skeptics black list. That is only four places behind my friend Joe D'Aleo and three places ahead of Lord Monckton (sorry Sir Christopher). I am sad to say that my colleague and co-author, Allen Simmons, is farther down the list at 457, but that is far from last and just being on the list is a badge of honor for a skeptic. Climate Depot's Marc Morano is not on the list, probably because Marc does not claim to be a scientist, but is mentioned as a source of names. The list amounts to a veritable who's who of climate change skeptics, an honnor roll of those who have worked so hard to debunk the AGW hoax. Sorry Jim, your half-assed attempt at character assassination seems to have backfired.
The PNAS paper is a meaningless propaganda piece, pure and simple. The “research” presented was designed to produce a biased answer. If students of mine submitted similar work they would receive a failing grade. It is so biased in its data collection and analyses that it is incapable of proving anything. As Wolfgang Pauli said, “This isn't right, it isn't even wrong.”
The fact that this pile of intellectual excrement is being published in PNAS shows how pervasive the climate change clique's influence is and the depth of hypocrisy in the climate science community. This paper's publication is an indication of how frightened the climate change alarmists have become. They obviously now feel that they must discredit any scientist who dares to speak against the IPCC dogma.
Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.
Hell no! I'm proud to be #387 on the black list.