SkepticblogSkepticblog logo banner

top navigation:

the pot calling the kettle black

by Donald Prothero, Aug 27 2014

In our modern world, we have a strange phenomenon. When polls are conducted about which professions the public considers most trustworthy and useful to society, scientists nearly always come out at or near the top. This poll  by the Pew Research Center of 4006 American adults placed them just below the military, doctors, and teachers in terms of trust and their contribution to society. (To no one’s surprise, lawyers were considered the least trustworthy and contributed least to society). This poll by Ipsos of 1018 adults in the UK placed scientists just below doctors and teachers. (Lawyers were not included, so bankers and politicians came out at the bottom in the UK).

Historically, this has long been true. Most people appreciate the huge benefit that science brings to society in terms of the technological advances that make our lives longer and better. And despite the stereotypes, apparently most people still regard scientists as objectively seeking the truth, working hard in their labs, and trying to unravel the secrets of the universe. Unfortunately, the most common stereotypical myth, Hollywood’s “mad scientist out to destroy/ dominate the world” is still pervasive as well.

Thus, as a scientist who has published in the peer-reviewed climate science literature, I find it really upsetting and disturbing to hear the smear campaign by right-wing climate deniers that scientists are “in a big conspiracy”, that we are creating a “hoax”  to make big money from government grants. Not only is this bizarrely untrue, but it angers me that people call me and my colleagues liars and frauds, yet they don’t know the first thing about how science works, or what scientists really do and what motivates them.

Yet the right-wing effort to demonize scientists has apparently been working. This 2013 poll suggests that 78% of Americans think scientists twist their results to fit their ideology. This 2014 poll says that 71% of Americans think that scientists are often dishonest. And this 2014 poll showed 31% of Americans are skeptical of climate scientists in particular, and think that they base their results heavily on the previous year’s weather. I’m sure there are some issues with how these polls were conducted, who they asked, how the questions were phrased, and how big the sample sizes were, but if they are even close to representative, this represents an alarming erosion of trust in scientists—and is completely contradicted by the polls I cited at the beginning of this article. As Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway fully documented in their 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, this mess can be laid squarely at the feet of the huge PR campaign by the climate deniers and energy companies such as Exxon Mobil and the Koch brothers who have funded them. Already there are not enough scientists being trained for these oil giants to find qualified employees, so they are soon going to regret their short-sighted attack on the profession that nourishes and sustains them.

As astrophysicist Adam Frank describes it:

This is not a world the scientists I trained with would recognize. Many of them served on the Manhattan Project. Afterward, they helped create the technologies that drove America’s postwar prosperity. In that era of the mid-20th century, politicians were expected to support science financially but otherwise leave it alone. The disaster of Lysenkoism, in which Communist ideology distorted scientific truth and all but destroyed Russian biological science, was still a fresh memory. The triumph of Western science led most of my professors to believe that progress was inevitable. While the bargain between science and political culture was at times challenged — the nuclear power debate of the 1970s, for example — the battles were fought using scientific evidence. Manufacturing doubt remained firmly off-limits.

Today, however, it is politically effective, and socially acceptable, to deny scientific fact. Narrowly defined, “creationism” was a minor current in American thinking for much of the 20th century. But in the years since I was a student, a well-funded effort has skillfully rebranded that ideology as “creation science” and pushed it into classrooms across the country. Though transparently unscientific, denying evolution has become a litmus test for some conservative politicians, even at the highest levels. Meanwhile, climate deniers, taking pages from the creationists’ PR playbook, have manufactured doubt about fundamental issues in climate science that were decided scientifically decades ago. And anti-vaccine campaigners brandish a few long-discredited studies to make unproven claims about links between autism and vaccination.

Climate deniers point to the “Climategate” emails stolen from the server at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit as “proof” that it’s all a conspiracy. As many people have shown, those quotes are falsely taken out of context to mean something the authors never intended, a despicable tactic that creationists always use. If you doubt me, there have now been six thorough independent investigations of the whole affair (three in the US, three in the UK), and no wrongdoing or conspiracy was found—just careless use of scientific language. This attempt to smear the hard-working scientists is one of the slimiest and most dishonest tactics of all, because the quote-mining climate deniers are either deliberately trying to mislead their audience by distorting the evidence, or they are not intelligent enough to understand the quote and its context in the first place. Even if there had been some conspiracy on the part of these few scientists, there is no evidence that the entire climate science community is secretly working together to generate false information and mislead the public. If there’s one thing that is clear about science, it’s about competition and criticism, not conspiracy and collusion. Most labs are competing with each other, not conspiring together. If one lab publishes a result that is not clearly defensible, other labs will quickly correct it. Only when the evidence is so overwhelming that it can no longer be denied, and every scientist in a community comes to the same conclusion independently would you arrive at the type of consensus shown by the IPCC 2007 report, or every report since then.

In other cases, the climate deniers have claimed that the “conspiracy” is motivated by money. This is so bizarre and contrary to reality that it is laughable. Most scientists are just hard-working people who are willing to survive a measly researcher’s or professor’s salary because they love the thrill of discovery of the truth about the world, not because they have some economic or political agenda. If they had really wanted to become rich, they would have gone into law or business or oil jobs, where the big bucks are (as many of the climate deniers have done). Most scientists work in relatively  low-paid academic jobs, where they make much less than they would in the private sector of oil or business (especially considering they must undergo another 4-6 years of grad school to earn their Ph.D., much more than a lawyer or MBA or oil geologist is required to do). After 35 years of full-time teaching, mostly as a tenured professor, I never earned six figures once, and only a small percentage of professors ever do (counting all the faculty in community colleges and adjuncts; the handful in elite institutions are the exception). By contrast, in the oil industry the salaries rise to six and even seven figures very quickly. You can see this difference in the professional meetings I attend. At the Geological Society of America convention each fall, which is the main meeting for purely academic geologic research, you don’t see many fancy suits and the vendors tend to focus on books and lab equipment. But at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists convention, not only is the cost of the meeting much higher, but the exhibit hall is full of high-priced equipment and services, and there are far more vendors for expensive gems and jewelry and pretty rocks than  you will ever see in the exhibit halls of GSA, full of threadbare academics. At one time, the 35 mm slides at the GSA meeting were crummy home-made and crudely drafted images, while those at AAPG were slickly drawn by professional artists. (Now Powerpoint has leveled that playing field, thankfully).

Yes, scientists try to win grants to support their research, but that money is miniscule compared to the huge amounts made in the oil industry, for example. This lie about grant money shows a complete misunderstanding of how science works. In all my years of National Science Foundation grants, I never made more than a few thousand in salary from them. Even in large grants of $100,000 or more (and none of mine were larger than $60,000 for three years), most of that money (50% to 70% or more) goes to “overhead” or the institution’s and NSF’s euphemism, “indirect costs”: the cut that the university takes off the top just so you can use the lab facilities and office and equipment in your department that you already had when you were hired. Of the pathetic remnant that is left, most of that money goes to the salaries of any employees or grad students necessary to keep the research going (plus their benefits), plus all the expenses of the research: lab equipment, field equipment and travel, services and supplies, money to travel to professional meetings and present the research, and money to pay publication costs of the research (journals charge a fortune these days). Most scientists only make a few thousand dollars from each grant for personal income to do all that extra work above and beyond their paid job. To top it off, the grant funding landscape is now so bleak, with an 80% rejection rate in most branches of the NSF, that it’s barely worth all the work just to write the proposal in the first place. Believe me, if scientists wanted to get rich without all this discouraging extra work and high chance of rejection, most of us would have quit academia and become oil geologists long ago.

In short, you couldn’t find a better example of psychologists call “projection”, or accusing someone else of the motivations and deeds that you are guilty of. It is commonly known by the phrase “the pot calling the kettle black.” As Oreskes and Conway abundantly documented in their 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, it is not the scientists but the climate deniers who are part of a conspiracy. This has been revealed by numerous leaked memos documenting when and how the right-wing think tanks met with the energy companies, and revelations of how much the energy companies pay them to spread their propaganda. And unlike the scientists, the climate denier are clearly motivated by money, given that they have lots more of it (and make more of it) than anyone in the climate science community.

Even more bizarre is that false notion that the alarms over global climate change is some sort of “left-wing conspiracy” to foist Big Government on us. In fact, scientists come in every political color and stripe, but most try to rigorously exclude politics from their science. For example, Dr. Kerry Emanuel of MIT, who showed the connection between climate change and more intense hurricanes, is a Republican, as are many less famous climate scientists. Yet he does not let his political views contaminate his science. In fact, it is considered taboo in most scientific journals or meetings to be too political and speak openly about politics, because scientists try to maintain their distance and objectivity about scientific issues, and not make them overtly political. As scientists, our job is to let the data speak for themselves, and not put a political spin on it.

As geologist (and former President of Oberlin College and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) James Lawrence Powell wrote:

Scientists….show no evidence of being more interested in politics or ideology than the average American. Does it make sense to believe that tens of thousands of scientists would be so deeply and secretly committed to bringing down capitalism and the American way of life that they would spend years beyond their undergraduate degrees working to receive master’s and PhD degrees, then go to work in a government laboratory or university, plying the deep oceans, forbidding deserts, icy poles, and torrid jungles, all for far less money than they could have made in industry, all the while biding their time like a Russian sleeper agent in an old spy novel? Scientists tend to be independent and resist authority. That is why you are apt to find them in the laboratory or in the field, as far as possible from the prying eyes of a supervisor. Anyone who believes he could organize thousands of scientists into a conspiracy has never attended a single faculty meeting.

“But” someone might say, “what about individual scientists who biased their data”? Sure, scientists are humans, and some of them may want their ideas to be true and may not see the weaknesses in their ideas or data clearly. But this is where the checks and balances of peer review are important. Peer review ensures that your harshest critics have plenty of chances to shoot your idea down, both before publication and afterwards. No idea that does not survive this harsh gantlet of scrutiny and criticism survives very long, let alone convince 97% or more of the relevant experts in the field.
“But what about cases where scientists follow trendy bandwagon ideas that turn out to be wrong?” Again, this completely misunderstands the nature of the data about climate change. The fact that climate is changing has been documented for almost 60 years now, and every year, hundreds of new scientific papers document further evidence of climate change from many different parts of the planet: global atmospheric temperature, ice volume on the poles, retreat of the glaciers, global ocean temperatures and acidity, seasonal extremes and variability of climate, and so on. It’s not one trendy idea (like the “impact killed off the Ice Age megammmals” fad) supported by thin thread of a few data points, which was shot down within a few years (and a final debunking just appeared). It’s the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence that convinces 97% of scientists who actually work with these data, and are personally familiar with its strengths and pitfalls, that their conclusion is inescapable. For a group that is as prickly and independent as scientists, a 97% consensus almost never happens except in cases where the evidence is overwhelming: the heliocentric solar system, the fact of evolution, the laws of gravity, and the evidence that humans are causing our current climate change. When it comes to big ideas, scientists are not sheep, but are always trying to score points and become famous by criticizing and shooting down popular ideas. Getting scientific consensus is more like herding cats, and doesn’t come unless even the biggest doubters in the community cannot ignore evidence any longer. (By contrast, the climate deniers continue to deny the facts right in front of them, no matter how overwhelming they are). Furthermore, I know of no instances in the history of science where the entire community of independent scientists (not those in the pay of some employer or government with an agenda, like Lysenko) committed fraud or conspiracy. It just doesn’t happen.
“But scientists are telling alarmist fables to get grant money”. Bullshit!  First of all, I’ve already mentioned how ridiculously small the amount of money we get from grants is, and how hard it is to get it, against an 80% failure rate. It’s simply not worth it to make stuff up just to get funding against such odds. More to the point, funding agencies and other scientists are not killjoys or spoilsports by nature. We don’t like being Cassandras and telling our fellow humans bad news—unless we have no choice in the matter, and the data force us to. The NSF would just as readily fund research (and does fund it when it can) that shows good news on climate change. But when scientists tell you bad news, it’s because the data are overwhelmingly telling us there is no alternative. Scientists have no vested interest in tell you “inconvenient truths,” so if they do tell you bad news, it’s more likely to be true. It reminds me of the cartoon showing scientists telling us the earth was not the center of the universe, that humans evolved from other animals, and other information that shattered notions that humans wanted to believe. The final panel reads, “Science: if you ain’t pissin’ people off, you ain’t doing it right”.

Science tells us what we don’t want to hear, and doesn’t necessarily confirm our biases. The first panel portrays the Greek scientist and mathematician Archimedes, killed by a Roman soldier who didn’t realize he was beheading the smartest man in the ancient world. The LHC is in the penultimate panel refers to the “Large Hadron Collider” and the silly idea that somehow it would cause an atomic catastrophe—which it didn’t. (Cartoon courtesy

Science tells us what we don’t want to hear, and doesn’t necessarily confirm our biases. The first panel portrays the Greek scientist and mathematician Archimedes, killed by a Roman soldier who didn’t realize he was beheading the smartest man in the ancient world. The LHC is in the penultimate panel refers to the “Large Hadron Collider” and the silly idea that somehow it would cause an atomic catastrophe—which it didn’t. (Cartoon courtesy

A sterling example of this process happened a few years ago when UC Berkeley Prof. Richard Muller conducted his own review of the climate data from the three leading organizations, NOAA, Goddard Institute of Space Studies, and the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. Muller started as a doubter, and the research was funded heavily by ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers, and other energy sources. In a hearing in 2011, the GOP House Science Committee called him as their star witness, thinking he would give them ammunition. But Muller could not be bought, and showed his integrity as a scientist. To the shock and surprise of the GOP committee members, he told them flat out that the data from the other climate institutes was right, and that the planet is really warming as they had documented. He did what a scientist is supposed to do when the evidence comes in—change his mind, and be honest with what the evidence shows.

If only those who spend time and money savaging and undermining the science community in this country were so honest…

Recommended Reading

43 Responses to “the pot calling the kettle black”

  1. Stephen Mills says:

    Scientists are in part to blame for some of this though. For example a scientist publishes a book where they state the fact of human caused climate change and they then insist that this means we must take some specific action – and those that disagree with such and such a policy must be science deniers. The later does not follow from the former. This is where scientists confuse science and politics and they mix them together in the same book. Then those same scientists claim they are not motivated by politics.

    The fact that human activity is causing climate change is one thing. What if anything should be done about it is another thing. When people disagree about the latter and scientists are certainly allowed to participate in that we are often moving away from science and into personal opinion because nobody can at this point understand all the cost benefit implications. Scientist themselves create the confusion and they are partly responsible for failing to separate facts from politics.

    • BillG says:

      “What if anything should be done about it…” Within the ranks of the sane, that’s the real debate and ambivalence. Simply dumping research dollars in alternatives to fossil fuels have some in a fantasy of certitude. Nuclear fusion as a power source has been “five years away” since the 50’s, yielding only little progress and good chunk of squandered funds.

      It’s not about denial – it’s money, hence politics.

  2. Canman says:

    Sorry if I sound rude, but are you going to allow anyone to challenge your views on climategate?

  3. Robert says:

    No. 1 loves the sound of his own keypad.
    No. 2 must read headlines only.

    Reasoning and logic are behind the Science Community.

  4. Denis says:

    “This is where scientists confuse science and politics and they mix them together in the same book. Then those same scientists claim they are not motivated by politics.” [Stephen Mills]

    The attack on the motive of the scientists is overt.

    It supposes that, in the first instance, books are the primary source of scientific evidence, which they are not.

    Secondly, the conflation of the two channels [science papers and books] is misleading. The logical fallacy is that because another, parallel and secondary form of communication is judged ‘political’ the first premise is incorrect.

    Thirdly, the usefulness and importance of books as a communication tool are not diminished providing they cite and adequately reference the evidence. Scientific papers are often notoriously difficult to decipher, the meaning and impact lost to a wider audience. I have never read a book written by a reputable scientist that fails to cite and reference the evidence. Science education books provide ‘bland’ [non-political] information to students yet they are heavily politicized by the ‘anti-evolutionist’ type lobbies.

    Fourthly, The scientific community has never been a particularly vocal group (understatement). It takes a lot to make scientists move into the public domain. They do so sparingly and reluctantly when for instance the their work is distorted. I wish they were more visible.

    • Stephen Mills says:

      “The attack on the motive of the scientists is overt.
      It supposes that, in the first instance, books are the primary source of scientific evidence, which they are not.
      Secondly, the conflation of the two channels [science papers and books] is misleading. The logical fallacy is that because another, parallel and secondary form of communication is judged ‘political’ the first premise is incorrect.”

      You need to read the comment again. I repeatedly state the “fact” of human caused climate change. Further there is no assumption that books are the source of scientific evidence on my part. I realize this is a complete fallacy, *but that was not the point of the comment*

      The point is that when scientist write books and argue about scientific evidence and then in the same chapter of the same book promote some specific political viewpoint they are partly responsible for the damage to science BECAUSE THEY are mixing the two things in popular books.

      Now obviously any relatively sophisticated reader can separate the two issues, as I have done by giving Prothero’s book a five star rating while at the same time bemoaning this very mixture of science and politics. However many people do not and the fact of the matter is that many people who are in the science denial faction of global warming, do not in fact really have a stake in whether warming is occurring or not. My parents are a perfect example. They are incentivized to claim the scientists are wrong and simply subverting science in the interests of their political views BECAUSE scientist themselves mix up the two issues.

      I’m sure many people who are denying the science of climate change realize that it truly is happening but their motive in attacking the science is that they feel that is the best way to avoid what many of these same scientists are promoting as solutions. The political solutions the scientist promotes is NOT science.

      My whole point is that scientists who right popular books and mix science and politics into the same are playing right into the hands of and are partly responsible for the subsequent damage to science. Whether everyone should be able to separate the two is not the point. They don’t and the scientists who do this have to accept the consequences of their actions whether they like it or not.

      • Benjamin Funar says:

        I find your claim that scientists are to blame for the level of confusion and resentment very disingenuous and completely at odds with the facts. The reason we have a controversy on the topic of AGW is not because scientists said adding 40 billion tons of CO2 per year to the atmosphere is trapping more heat, but because the tobacco, oil, gas and energy companies paid PR shops to fund a campaign of doubt to try to discredit the science. Just like they tried to do with second hand smoke, with lead poisoning, with arsenic, with DDT and other fake controversies.

        When the science says smoking causes cancer or lead is poisoning children or DDT is killing birds, or CO2 is causing global warming it is NOT the fault of the scientist to say stopping that would be better than continuing with business as usual.

        We have a controversy because CO2 polluting companies paid to create one. All the blame for this is at therr feet.

  5. Tom says:

    Question: Is there a 97% consensus that the earth is warming, or a 97% consensus that humans are the primary cause of it? It is not clear from this article.

    • Most of the recent polls show 95-97% consensus among climate scientists that humans are the cause of climate change. The consensus would be 99.99% that the earth is warming, since that is an objective fact.

      • Tom says:

        Ok. Thanks for the clarification.

        I am typically skeptical of everything I see presented as “fact”. I’ve seen many times the discussion of anthropogenic global warming being muddled with discussion of global warming – and the consensus statistics never consistently applied to one or the other.

        Followup question: what is the consensus statistic as it relates to humans being the primary cause, a major contributor, or a minor contributor to global warming? I would expect there is less consensus around that.

        I have no doubt about climate change / global warming. I have no doubt that humans are a factor in that change. My questions more stem around the uncertainty of how much of an impact we have – and how much climate-change mitigation would actually effect the eventual outcome.

      • I’m pretty sure the wording of those polls of climate scientists clearly stated that humans are a “major cause” of climate change, but you can go back to the original polls and check. They are cited in my book “Reality Check”.

      • Tom says:

        BTW, the description under your book on Amazon has a misspelled word – “scientifi88c” – thought you’d like to know.

    • markx says:

      The 97% figure comes from 3 publications:

      Doran and Zimmerman 2009
      Anderegg et al 2010
      Cook et al 2013

      The Doran and Zimmerman survey relevant two questions are below. (By the way, I too would answer “most likely yes” to both of these questions).

      1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?
      2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

      With 3146 individuals completing the survey, the participant response rate for the survey was 30.7%.
      Of survey participants, 90% were from U.S. institutions and 6% were from Canadian institutions..

      Results show that overall, 90% of participants answered “risen” to question 1 and 82% answered yes to question 2.
      Approximately 5% of the respondents were climate scientists, and 8.5% of the respondents indicated that more than 50% of their peer-reviewed publications in the past 5 years have been on the subject of climate change.

      …those who listed climate science as their area of expertise and who also have published more than 50% of their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change (79 individuals in total). Of these specialists, 96.2% (76 of 79) answered “risen” to question 1 and 97.4% (75 of 77) answered yes to question 2. (If they did not answer “Risen” to question 1, they did not receive question 2. Therefore “Yes” answers to the two questions are actually 94%).
      Doran, Peter T.; Maggie Kendall Zimmerman (January 20, 2009). “Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change”. EOS 90 (3): 22–23.

      • markx says:

        So in summary Doran Zimmerman shows that 75 of 79 ‘expert climate scientists’ (94%) believe both that the temperature has risen since the 1800s and that man has significantly contributed to that increase. Note that does not necessarily mean that man is regarded as the major cause of the warming.

    • markx says:

      Anderegg et al:

      Anderegg et al is perhaps the most legitimate of these papers but receives some criticism for assuming all IPCC authors actually agree with the primary conclusions of the IPCC.

      Authors are not asked their viewpoint, nor are their papers examined for their viewpoint. It is derived from whether scientists have signed documents or contributed to scientific assessment reports for or against the IPCC conclusions. The paper focuses on the levels of expertise of convinced and unconvinced researchers more so than the actual numbers in each category.

      Anderegg et al states the vast majority of scientists are in agreement with the primary conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): Anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for “most” of the “unequivocal” warming of the Earth’s average global temperature over the second half of the 20th century. Assuming that all of the contributors to the IPCC AR4 Working Group I report (coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and contributing authors for a total of 619 names), agree with the statement in question is not substantiated. Anderegg does not claim the scientists agree that global warming poses significant risks.

      Anderegg used an arbitrary criteria to establish level of expertise. (papers published+citations) with the word “climate” in the paper. The base group for comparison (convinced CE vs unconvinced UE) resulted in a ratio of 903:472. That is to say, 903 alarmists and 472 skeptical scientists. By applying the criteria of needing at least 20 papers published using the word “climate”, they came to the ratio of 817:93. ie 91%.

      The 98% agreement figure resulted from narrowing down to the top 200 scientists.

      (i) 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 (ii) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.

      We compiled a database of 1,372 climate researchers based on authorship of scientific assessment reports and membership on multisignatory statements about ACC. We tallied the number of climate-relevant publications authored or coauthored by each researcher (defined here as expertise) and counted the number of citations for each of the researcher’s four highest-cited papers (defined here as prominence) using Google Scholar. We then imposed an a priori criterion that a researcher must have authored a minimum of 20 climate publications to be considered a climate researcher, thus reducing the database to 908 researchers…. The UE (unconvinced by the evidence) group comprises only 2% of the top 50 climate researchers as ranked by expertise (number of climate publications), 3% of researchers of the top 100, and 2.5% of the top 200,

      William R. L. Anderegg, James W. Prall, Jacob Harold, and Stephen H. Schneider (April 9, 2010). “Expert credibility in climate change”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Retrieved June 23, 2010.

    • markx says:

      Cook et al 2013

      Cook et al has been most strongly criticised. Method We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’.

      Cook’s consensus adds the numbers in his categories 1- 3, giving 3932 abstracts supposedly “endorsing” the predominant effect of the A in AGW.
      Of these 3932 abstracts 2933 (75%) fall into category 3. (Implicit endorsement: eg; “. . . carbon sequestration in soil is important for mitigating global climate change”)
      Only 1% fell into his category 1 (Explicit endorsement with quantification: eg; “The global warming during the 20th century is caused mainly by increasing greenhouse gas concentration especially since the late 1980s”)
      24% fall into category 2 (Explicit endorsement without quantification: eg; “Emissions of a broad range of greenhouse gases of varying lifetimes contribute to global climate change”)
      Other categories (4 to 7) were ‘no position’ or ‘uncertain’ and implicit or explicit rejection with or without quantification.
      I have listed below the first 25 titles of the search of titles classified as Category 2, and italicized those 6 which may have specific knowledge on the topic … but, the rest are questionable.
      Titles only. All are Category 2, endorse but not quantify – search term ‘climate’ on SKS )
      1. Biological Diversity And Neptune Realm
      2. Biological Diversity, Ecology, And Global Climate Change
      3. Climate Change Negotiations Polarize
      4. Climatology And Society
      5. Global Warming – Evidence For Asymmetric Diurnal Temperature-change
      6. Model Estimates Of Co2 Emissions From Soil In Response To Global Warming
      7. Photovoltaics And Materials Science – Helping To Meet The Environmental Imperatives Of Clean-air And Climate Change
      8. Potential Impacts Of Global Climate Change On Pacific-northwest Spring Chinook Salmon (oncorhynchus-tshawytscha) – An Exploratory Case-study
      9. Response To Skeptics Of Global Warming
      10. Alternative Energy-resources – A Kenyan Perspective
      11. Carbon Tax As A Dynamic Optimization Problem
      12. Climate Forcing By Anthropogenic Aerosols
      13. Deriving Global Climate Sensitivity From Paleoclimate Reconstructions
      14. Ethical Issues Concerning Potential Global Climate Change On Food-production
      15. Global Climate Change
      16. Global Climate Change – Ecosystems Effects
      17. Interactions Between Hydrodynamics And Pelagic Ecosystems – Relevance To Resource Exploitation And Climate Change
      18. The Social And Public-health Implications Of Global Warming
      19. The Onslaught Of Alien Species
      20. The Use Of Iron And Other Trace-element Fertilizers In 23. Mitigating Global Warming
      21. Time-dependent Greenhouse Warming Computations With A Coupled Ocean-atmosphere Model
      22. Agriculture In A Greenhouse World
      23. An Empirical-analysis Of The Strength Of The Phytoplankton-dimethylsulfide-cloud-climate Feedback Cycle
      24. CO2 And Climatic-change – An Overview Of The Science
      25. Global Vegetation Change Predicted By The Modified Budyko Model

      • markx says:

        Cook et al’s grouping together of categories 1, 2 and 3 implies all are solidly endorsing a CAGW position, whereas this is plainly not the case.

        There are other strident criticisms of Cook et al’s methods, including of the possible bias and lack of independence of their classifiers.

        A very recent criticism comes from José Duarte: (Psychologist, Ph D candidate, and very much a believer that man is playing a major role in GW). However, he does not like the methods of this paper and says so in no uncertain terms:

        … a quote:

        I think some of you who’ve defended this “study” got on the wrong train. I don’t think you meant to end up here. I think it was an accident. You thought you were getting on the Science Train. You thought these people — Cook, Nuccitelli, Lewandowsky — were the science crowd, and that the opposition was anti-science, “deniers” and so forth. I hope it’s clear at this point that this was not the Science Train. This is a different train.

        These people care much less about science than they do about politics. They’re willing to do absolutely stunning, unbelievable things to score political points. What they did still stuns me, that they did this on purpose, that it was published, that we live in a world where people can publish these sorts of obvious scams in normally scientific journals.

  6. Steve Newton says:

    Very interesting example with Richard Muller. The idea of changing one’s mind–and hence losing social status by admitting you were wrong–is anathema to so many people. For them, the idea that scientists might actually change their views 180 degrees with new evidence is inconceivable… and, yes, i use that word knowing what I think it means.

    • Pooka says:

      What social status does one lose? Most folks I’ve ever met appreciate when someone is able to admit they were barking up the wrong tree. It shows maturity, if anything.

  7. Vlijmen Fileer says:

    About the comic with the human being labelled “climate denier”:

    Can I offer as alternative explanation for the balance being like that, that his arguments perhaps just carry more weight?

    B.t.w. can anybody please once explain to me if “climate denier” actually means something, or is just a term coined by people with weak arguments to silence their opponents and so prevent meaningful discussion?

    • tmac57 says:

      “Climate denier” is a term that should properly be applied to someone who presents fallacious or discredited arguments against the idea of AGW,and when confronted with evidence against their position will dismiss it out of hand rather than provide valid arguments or valid counter evidence. They also rely heavily on ad hominem attacks and contrarian bloggers or journalists rather than actual climate scientists. Their tactics might also include moving the goalposts,or conceding to their opponent’s main points but falling back on tone trolling,only to come back a week later using the same discredited arguments that they had previously already conceded were wrong or weak.
      I could go on,but you get the point…right?

      By the way,I personally would never use the term of climate denier for someone who just isn’t familiar with all of the clear evidence supporting AGW,after all,you only know what you know. That term really applies to either, people with highly motivated reasoning against AGW that blinds them,or to the ones that I really detest,which are the sociopathic, intellectually dishonest professional misinformers.

      • tmac57 says:

        Oh,I forgot two of the most common tactics of climate deniers,which are cherry picking data,and strawman characterizations of their opponents.

  8. Karen says:

    The problem is not with scientists expressing opinions — we’re allowed them as much as the next person — but with public understanding of the purpose of scientific vs. science-informed documents. Because this confusion exists, a good writer like Don will do his best to make it clear when he’s writing a a scientist and when he’s writing as a science writer… but that can actually be a hard thing to do. The problem, at its root, is one of education. We as a nation don’t do a very good job of teaching our young people how to differentiate opinion from fact. Very few people outside of science know the difference between a professional, peer-reviewed paper and a textbook, let alone a science book or article written for the general public. Such education seems beyond our school system.

    • John Barltrop says:

      I know what you are saying and agree with you, however a big problem in getting the “general populace” to understand is difficult, I think mainly because of the amount of false propaganda that has been put out by “oil and gas” and all the minions they pay to write this crap denial.
      There is the old saying that “the truth always hurts” and I guess people in general do not like to hear what the results of uncontrolled CO2 , methane, etc., is going to result in for the earth. It is easier and more palatable to believe the lie. I guess that is an “Inconvenient Truth”
      Any person with a modicum of common sense can see the problems that are besetting many countries with natural weather related disasters, ranging from drought, bush (or wild) fires, drought, rising sea levels, hurricanes, typhoons or cyclones (depending on where you come from)melting ice in the polar regions and the West Antarctic ice sheet, the Greenland ice sheet, the melting of land based glaciers throughout the earth, etc., etc.
      All I can say to these deniers is wake up and open your eyes and see what is going on.

      • John Barltrop says:

        Just a little addition to my previous, an interesting snippet of information:
        “A European satellite has shown ice sheets shrinking at 120 cubic miles a year in Antarctica and Greenland
        The planet’s two largest ice sheets – in Greenland and Antarctica – are now being depleted at an astonishing rate of 120 cubic miles each year. That is the discovery made by scientists using data from CryoSat-2, the European probe that has been measuring the thickness of Earth’s ice sheets and glaciers since it was launched by the European Space Agency in 2010.”

      • markx says:

        Hi John,
        If you could kindly provide some links to scientific literature which puts forward convincing evidence of climate change connection to recent increased storms, typhoons, floods, droughts, and fires (other than papers on theoretical modelling) I would be interested to read them.
        Regards and thanks, Mark.

      • markx says:

        Sorry, that was perhaps not so clearly worded: “Evidence of any increases in recent storms, typhoons, floods, droughts, and fires and any evidence of links to recent climate change…..”

  9. cjones1 says:

    Climate deniers and their stable of scientists have been seeding clouds, building dams, and watching the heavens for danger. Surreal scientists fudge data and wonder why their models do not reflect actual conditions. They ruin their image and look like shaman throwing the bones of scientific objectivity on the ground.

  10. Morton Leslie says:

    The thing about science is that it is a mistake to say that a matter is settled and denigrate someone who is skeptical. For example, this author seems to think that the theory that an “impact killed off the Ice Age megammmals” (sic) is a fad and has been debunked. The fact is that there is a new study by an international group of scientists from 21 universities in six countries was just published this week in the Journal of Geology. It focused on the character and distribution of nanodiamonds, one type of material produced during such an extraterrestrial collision. The researchers found an abundance of these tiny diamonds distributed over 50 million square kilometers across the Northern Hemisphere at the Younger Dryas boundary. They can be explained only by cosmic impact.

    In a similar way, you dismiss anyone who is skeptical about the degree of mans influence on climate. You do this by conflating general climate change (about which there is 100% consensus) and anthropogenic influence on climate change about which there are more divergent views. We only have to look at the “pause” which was not predicted by a single climate model (a pause in warming that extends back to 1998) to recognize that there is more to know. While we may assume that man is influencing climate, we need to keep an open mind on the degree of this influence, as it is the key to important policy decisions and actions we may take.

    • The “pause” in the cooing curve is a myth, caused by cherry-picking the extraordinary 1998 El Nino year (a scientific no-no) and ignoring all the data since then. I discussed this in great detail in a recent post:

      • Stephen Mills says:

        I used to think the pause was a myth but apparently some scientists are referring to the pause and coming up with explanations for it. I recently read they expected it to last to 2025. And the natural warming cycle would This article says it may be over now.

        The most likely explanation is supposedly it is being buried by a cyclical pattern in the oceans. The idea that we would have cooled during this period had it not been for the warming. I first read this several weeks ago (I think).

        Regardless apparently there is now “confusion” among the scientists about whether there is a pause or not.

      • Stephen Mills says:

        I used to think the pause was a myth but apparently some scientists are referring to the pause and coming up with explanations for it. I recently read they expected it to last to 2025. And the natural warming cycle would be enhanced by AGW. This article says it may be over now.

        The most likely explanation is supposedly it is being buried by a cyclical pattern in the oceans. The idea being that we would have cooled during this period had it not been for the warming. I first read this several weeks ago (I think).

        Regardless apparently there is now “confusion” among the scientists about whether there is a pause or not.

      • markx says:

        It is relevant to note that a number of researchers have commented on “the pause”.

        Dr. Phil Jones – CRU emails – 5th July, 2005
        “The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has but it is only 7 years of data and it isn’t statistically significant….” ‘Bottom line: the ‘no upward trend’ has to continue for a total of 15 years before we get worried.’ Dr. Phil Jones – CRU emails – 7th May, 2009

        Dr. Judith L. Lean – Geophysical Research Letters – 15 Aug 2009
        “…This lack of overall warming is analogous to the period from 2002 to 2008 when decreasing solar irradiance also countered much of the anthropogenic warming…”

        Dr. Kevin Trenberth – CRU emails – 12 Oct. 2009
        “Well, I have my own article on where the heck is global warming…..The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”

        Dr. Mojib Latif – Spiegel – 19th November 2009
        “At present, however, the warming is taking a break,”…….”There can be no argument about that,”

        Dr. Jochem Marotzke – Spiegel – 19th November 2009
        “It cannot be denied that this is one of the hottest issues in the scientific community,”….”We don’t really know why this stagnation is taking place at this point.”

        Dr. Phil Jones – BBC – 13th February 2010
        “I’m a scientist trying to measure temperature. If I registered that the climate has been cooling I’d say so. But it hasn’t until recently – and then barely at all. The trend is a warming trend.”

        Dr. Phil Jones – BBC – 13th February 2010
        [Q] B – “Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming”
        [A] “Yes, but only just”.

        Prof. Shaowu Wang et al – Advances in Climate Change Research – 2010
        “…The decade of 1999-2008 is still the warmest of the last 30 years, though the global temperature increment is near zero;…”

        Dr. Robert K. Kaufmann – PNAS – 2nd June 2011
        “… has been unclear why global surface temperatures did not rise between 1998 and 2008…..”

        Dr. Gerald A. Meehl – Nature Climate Change – 18th September 2011
        “There have been decades, such as 2000–2009, when the observed globally averaged surface-temperature time series shows little increase or even a slightly negative trend1 (a hiatus period)….”

        Met Office Blog – Dave Britton (10:48:21) – 14 October 2012
        “We agree with Mr Rose that there has been only a very small amount of warming in the 21st Century. As stated in our response, this is 0.05 degrees Celsius since 1997 equivalent to 0.03 degrees Celsius per decade.”

        Dr. James Hansen – NASA GISS – 15 January 2013
        “The 5-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slowdown in the growth rate of the net climate forcing.”

        Dr. Virginie Guemas – Nature Climate Change – 7 April 2013
        “…Despite a sustained production of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, the Earth’s mean near-surface temperature paused its rise during the 2000–2010 period…”

        Dr. Hans von Storch – Spiegel – 20 June 2013
        “…the increase over the last 15 years was just 0.06 degrees Celsius (0.11 degrees Fahrenheit) — a value very close to zero….If things continue as they have been, in five years, at the latest, we will need to acknowledge that something is fundamentally wrong with our climate models….”

        Professor Masahiro Watanabe – Geophysical Research Letters – 28 June 2013
        “The weakening of k commonly found in GCMs seems to be an inevitable response of the climate system to global warming, suggesting the recovery from hiatus in coming decades.”

        Professor Rowan Sutton – Independent – 22 July 2013
        “Some people call it a slow-down, some call it a hiatus, some people call it a pause. The global average surface temperature has not increased substantially over the last 10 to 15 years,”

  11. J W says:

    Okay, I’ve gotta ask: are there actual people behind the bevy of denier-ish comments since August 30th, or is someone resorting to bots?

    The 97%+ scientific consensus is not based on one survey, but on multiple sources.

    To claim that it is based on just one survey (of which you seem to have chosen to misrepresent: is an outright lie. That at least three different people would repeat roughly the same lie within such a limited time-frame seems especially suspicious. Did something malfunction?

    • Dean s says:

      The majority of people disagree and that’s reflected in the number of posts. Many disagreeing posts were approved then later eliminated by the author.

      • J W says:

        …or someone wrote a script to automate posting variations on the same argument multiple times, and then either failed to detect the existence of the earlier posts, or simply didn’t realize how fake that made them look.

        I apologize if I’m throwing false accusations around, but something felt really, really off about those posts. It was kind of like reading the same essay plagiarized multiple times, drawing from one source but with key points re-arranged in the hopes that no one would notice. It’s almost a shame that they were deleted–it’d serve as an abject lesson on how to do such things poorly.

        Then again, that’s just guesswork. Pattern-recognition is nice and all, but it can lead to false positives. Regardless, posting the argument once would have been more than enough. Doing it three to five times, on the other hand, is incredibly suspicious, and if you think you can somehow create the illusion of popular opinion (which is often a fallacy on its own), then I’m afraid you’re very mistaken.

    • Canman says:

      I have a possible explanation for these comments. I posted this comment at Judith curry’s blog:

      Maybe these commenters read my comment and checked out Skepticblog and decided to comment. Posts at Curry’s blog normally get hundreds of comments. Maybe one astroturfer read it and decided to hit here or some combination of both.

      There were 16 comments that appeared overnight and then were deleted. I quoted them all there in case anyone wants to investigate.

  12. Sorry–I was in the field for 3 days (and had no power for 24 hours before that), so I could not log in to my site until just now. I cleaned out all the trolls and bots.

  13. Daniel Gautreau says:

    Forbes magazine and other widely read mags continue to claim that climate change (A)isnt real .(B) isnt our fault ,(C) doesnt matter , and (D)you too can be a climate scientist with no effort. In August , Forbes presented the position of an Oklahoman climatologist (name ?) who,on his own site, raves about liberals in government and their fake science. The UN panel of course is never invited to write in Forbes, or the Wall Street J., etc.