Environmental Research Letters

Fri, 2014-05-30 09:51Graham Readfearn
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Richard Tol's Attack On 97 Percent Climate Change Consensus Study Has 'Critical Errors'

Professor Richard Tol

One of the most consistent of all the attacks from climate science sceptics and deniers is the one which tries to convince the public that expert scientists are divided on the causes of climate change.

Those attacks have come from ideologically motivated think tanks and the fossil fuel industry, often working together. Only last week, the Wall Street Journal published a polemic to try and mislead the public that a consensus does not exist.

In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute was developing a campaign with the explicit aim of convincing the public that “uncertainties” existed in the science of climate change and its causes.

In 2002, Republican pollster Frank Luntz wrote that: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly.”

Several studies have surveyed the views of climate science experts or the scientific literature and have come to the same conclusions — the number of studies and the number of scientists who reject the fact that humans are causing climate change remains vanishingly small.

The latest and most high profile study to survey the scientific literature was led by John Cook, of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute and founder of the Skeptical Science website, and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters in May 2013.

Cook et al analysed close to 12,000 global warming studies from 1991 to 2011 to see how many accepted or rejected the fact that human activities are causing climate change. The researchers also asked scientists themselves to look at their own papers and confirm whether they endorsed the scientific consensus.

The central finding, reported widely and even Tweeted by Barack Obama’s campaign team, was that 97 percent of the scientific papers on climate change found that humans were causing it.

Since that study was published, Professor Richard Tol, an economist from the University of Sussex, has been planning to attack Cook’s paper. 

Sun, 2014-05-18 23:08Graham Readfearn
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Environment Journal Editor Responds To Conservative Media Storm Over Rejected Climate Manuscript

Lennart Bengtsson

THERE’S an old proverb that suggests it’s always the lie that gets half way around the world while the truth is still pulling its boots on.

But if evidence from the latest conservative media beat-up on climate science is anything to go by, even if the truth is only a couple of blocks behind, the myth can just keep on running.

We’re talking about a story that sprinted out of the blocks from the offices of The Times newspaper in Britain.

The newspaper’s environment editor Ben Webster was writing about the University of Reading’s Professor Lennart Bengtsson (pictured), who had a research manuscript rejected by the prominent Environmental Research Letters journal earlier this year. 

Webster’s front page story claimed Bengtsson’s research had been “deliberately suppressed” because it didn’t sit well with the views of the vast majority of climate scientists.

Bengtsson’s manuscript had reportedly concluded that the sensitivity of the climate to added carbon dioxide was on the lower end of projections, a conclusion one reviewer of the paper said “substantially underestimated the committed [global] warming”.

As DeSmogBlog and several others have written, as mainstream media outlets were following-up on The Times the story’s two main actors – Bengtsson and the journal’s publisher IOP – were making it clear that the story was highly questionable. After publishing one of the reports from the reviewer of Bengtsson's paper, now IOP has released the second reviewer's report which described the manuscript as showing “troubling shallowness in the arguments”.

The UK’s Science Media Centre (UK SMC), a service for journalists, issued a bulletin of statements from experts responding to the story.  One of those was from Bengtsson, who amongst other things said:

I do not believe there is any systematic “cover up” of scientific evidence on climate change or that academics’ work is being “deliberately suppressed”, as The Times front page suggests. I am worried by a wider trend that science is gradually being influenced by political views. Policy decisions need to be based on solid fact.

The Times followed-up their story and included a quote from Bengtsson, but left out the bit where he said he didn’t believe the main thrust of The Times’ story. Funny that.

The statement from IOP Publishing included the full report from the reviewer of Bengtsson’s manuscript.  The statement made it clear that Bengtsson’s work had been rejected on scientific grounds.

In the Mail on Sunday, climate skeptic reporter David Rose wrote as a statement of fact that “Environmental Research Letters had rejected his paper because it would be seized on by climate ‘sceptics’ in the media” even after this had been demonstrated to be false.

I asked Environmental Research Letters’ Editor-in-Chief Professor Daniel Kammen, of the University of California, about the saga.

Fri, 2014-05-16 23:38Graham Readfearn
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Environmental Research Letters Journal Debunks Conservative Media Claims It Suppressed Climate Research

Some are calling it the new Climategate,” said Fox News' Washington reporter Doug McElway.

McElway was reporting on a story published in the UK’s The Times newspaper that claimed climate change research had been “deliberately suppressed” by a leading journal because it “wasn’t helpful”. 

While the central claim in the story now lies in shreds, the way it was treated by the conservative media shows that McElway has a point; just not in the way he meant it. 

A key feature of the Climategate saga was how conservative media around the world cherry-picked quotes out of context to spin a conspiracy story that simply wasn’t there.

But this time, instead of it taking several months for inquiries to find no scientific or academic misconduct, the latest non-climate scandal should be killed dead in its tracks by the gnashing teeth of reality.

Thu, 2013-06-06 05:00Graham Readfearn
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The Campaigns That Tried To Break The Climate Science Consensus

So just in case anyone wasn’t sure, a major study of almost 12,000 scientific papers on global warming between 1991 and 2011 finds less than one per cent disagree that humans are the main cause.

Published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the study led by John Cook, the Australia-based founder of Skeptical Science, confirms the debate about the causes of global warming had all but vanished in the scientific literature by the early 1990s. Almost all the research says it’s mostly caused by humans.

For any followers of climate science in journals (the place where it actually matters) the finding wasn’t really news at all.

Yet survey after survey finds the public still thinks scientists are arguing over the causes of global warming and the media continues to attempt to resuscitate long-dead ideas.

Does it matter that people have a clear understanding of the main thrust of the science? A 2012 study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that people were more likely to accept human-caused global warming if they were informed that scientists were in broad agreement (which we know they are).

For decades, fossil fuel-funded groups, free market think tanks (some of which also qualify as fossil fuel funded groups) and the fossil fuel industry itself have known the importance of the public’s understanding of the state of climate science. A public that understands the state of the science is more likely to want something done about climate change. Doing something, means using a lot less fossil fuel.

But who wanted to tell the public that a consensus didn’t exist? Here are just some of the campaigns run over the years showing how breaking the consensus in the eyes of the public was a key strategy.

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