(Note: almost all the charts were plotted by me, based on information in the paper or the appendix. And this is my take on the research.)
Researchers in and out of climate science agree that temperatures have risen and we've caused it
Almost all researchers in the biophysical sciences that is. 93.6% of respondents agreed that temperatures have risen when compared with pre-1800's levels. Of these, 98.2% agreed that 'human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures'.
The chart below gives an indication of how many respondents had at least some knowledge about their world's climate:
Surprisingly to me, more than 6% of respondents didn't know that global surface temperatures have risen. (Unsurprisingly, those people were less certain about climate change than the people who are more familiar with their home planet.) This is what that 6.4% of respondents don't know:
|Data source: GISS NASA|
If you restrict results to the 93.6% of respondents who have the most basic familiarity with the planet they live on, you'll find that "98.2% indicated they believe that 'human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures'." That's practically all scientists who responded who have some awareness of the world. Here's the chart:
Anthony Watts is still waiting for someone to disprove 200 years of science
So what does Anthony Watts think of all this? Well, he is wishfully wistfully waiting for someone to prove all physics, chemistry and thermometers wrong. He wrote, very strangely:
AW: Comment:Why would Anthony find this curious. After all, he and his followers don't believe scientific facts. And a lot of Americans and Australians don't believe scientific facts. So why shouldn't the people who understand and accept the facts want to let more people know that humans are causing climate change. It's damn dangerous. Responsible people want to protect their fellow human beings. Yes, including deniers and those of little brain.
It seems curious to me that if man-made climate change is so certain, why do some people feel the need to prove that a majority of their peers believe in it and that anyone who doesn’t is simply wrong?
Remember too, this is from Anthony Watts, who knows next to nowt about science of any kind. Certainly not climate science. He's not too hot on geography either. I'd say he no longer "believes" in the greenhouse effect. The evidence is the number of articles he posts that deny it. And he does his utmost to get people to "believe" in the various weird and wacky and downright nasty conspiracy theories he posts on a daily basis.
Anthony doesn't seem to read scientific papers. He doesn't even read a lot of the articles he posts on his own blog. And he doesn't read (and probably doesn't understand) the reference pages he has on his own blog. If he had bothered to read the paper, he would have found some answers to his question. For example, the authors wrote how only about half the American public accept that humans are causing climate change. They note that there are a number of factors causing people's disconnect with reality (my words, not theirs), including:
- cognitive and affective factors
- media coverage that gives undue weight to the climate change controversy or is influenced by political ideology and
- scientists who are publicly skeptical, most of whom are not climate scientists.
The question they wanted to answer was whether or not research scientists across a broad range of biophysical sciences accepted climate science. Are non-climate scientist skeptics representative of the broader scientific community? The answer is a resounding no. They are not. They wanted to find out more than this, too. They wrote:
In this study, we examine scientists' beliefs about climate change and climate science to determine (1) whether or not scientists agree with the climate science consensus about climate change and (2) whether cognitive factors and trust in climate science influence scientists' beliefs.
The authors surveyed scientists from a range of biophysical science disciplines in the Big 10 Conference. That is, from 12 large, research-oriented universities in the United States: Indiana University, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, and University of Wisconsin.
Taken altogether, 91.9% of respondents agreed that humans are causing global warming. Not quite as big a proportion as experts in climate science but it's an overwhelming majority. What would be interesting would be to compare the broad scientific thinking on climate science with that of other scientific issues, like Higgs Boson, or evolution, or the efficacy of vaccinations.
There's more. Most respondents agreed that climate science is mature, and that it's as reliable as their own discipline.
What about continental drift - er, plate tectonics?
Now as you know, Anthony Watts knows next to nothing about science, and most of what he thinks he knows is wrong. For example, deniers often call on Alfred Wegener, who realised that the continents once fitted together. He didn't quite get how it all worked, but he did come up with the germ of an idea. His ideas weren't accepted immediately, mainly because he couldn't figure out how the continents moved apart. He thought the continents might have move through the Earth's crust. Perhaps the hostile scientists should have been more open to Wegener's ideas. However scientists are sceptical by nature and it takes a lot of evidence to persuade them of new ideas. Wegener also made some mistakes along the way, which didn't help. Some scientists were supportive, but quite a few were not. It wasn't until the ocean floor was explored in the 1950s that the real mechanism (tectonic plates) was identified. So it turns out that Alfred Wegener got some things wrong and some things right.
There are big differences between climate science today and "continental drift" hypothesis of the early twentieth century. For example,
- Climate science is strongly supported by multiple lines of strong evidence. "Continental drift" was just a speculative hypothesis which turned out to be mostly wrong.
- Virtually all scientific experts agree with the main findings of climate science. That's because their findings all support the same basic theories. Very few geologists agreed with the notion of "continental drift". That's because there was a lot of evidence that conflicted with the notion - such as the fact that if continents moved through the Earth's crust, it would become grossly distorted. And there was no evidence of the massive distortion that would occur.
In the end, when evidence of tectonic plates emerged, then scientists were able to accept Wegener's view that continents once fitted together. Two things happened. There was a plausible mechanism plus ample evidence to support it. Only then was a theory able to be accepted.
Now Anthony Watts doesn't know about any of that. He wrote, hopefully:
I would wonder what a similar survey of scientists might have shown around 1912 when Alfred Wegener proposed the theory of continental drift. Would 90 to 97% of them say that the Earth’s crust was static? Probably so. It took another 40-50 years and new discovery in science before Wegener’s ideas became accepted as the facts as we know them today, that the Earth’s crust does in fact move in plates. But back then, scientists were so certain of their consensus, that they dismissed Wegener’s ideas:Anthony talked about continental drift. I wonder if he knows that continents don't "drift" through the Earth's crust. Or perhaps he doesn't know that Alfred Wegener's hypothesis wasn't the same as plate tectonics.
Don't get me wrong. Unlike Anthony Watts, Alfred Wegener was a brilliant man. He came up with a brilliant idea. His main problem was that there wasn't the technology around when he was alive that would have allowed him to figure out how the continents did move.
What "new information" would that be?
Anthony finished his small addition to his copy and pasted press release by writing:
Sound familiar? The point here is that a perceived consensus doesn’t necessarily indicate factual certainty for any idea, and consensus in science can be overturned easily with new information.He's wrong about it being easy to overturn consensus. You need strong evidence to overturn a scientific theory. As they say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In any case, there's no new information to overturn the greenhouse effect. And the evidence of it is there, everywhere in space and time. Going way back - millions and millions and millions of years. What "new information" does Anthony think will change the course of physics, chemistry, biology, geology and all the other disciplines that contribute to the understanding of what causes climate?
Knowledge creators add value, doubt-mongers are worth less than worthless
The point is, that disinformers like Anthony Watts don't need evidence. They have it easy. There are plenty of people who don't want to accept facts. All they want is doubt. That's enough. When there's no doubt, they are happy to pretend there might be some doubt in the future. Hence Anthony's comment.
Informed people on the other hand, investigate. That's what this new research shows. And the more they investigate the more they accept the science. These are scientists themselves. This isn't a bunch of motivated disinformers who, for ideological reasons, want the world to get hotter. These are professionals in other scientific disciplines. Educated, clever people quite unlike the dismal dismissives who flock to conspiracy blogs like WUWT. Below is Figure 4 from the paper, showing how respondents view climate science.
Climate science is credible: There was almost unanimous agreement across all disciplines surveyed that climate science is credible, with a score of 6.67 out of 7.
Climate science is a relatively mature science: Overall there was agreement that climate science is a mature science compared with their own field. That is, on par with most fields. Even those in the oldest, arguably most mature fields, physics and chemistry, did not on balance think that climate science was immature compared to physics and chemistry.
Climate science is almost as trustworthy as their own field: Overall, scientists viewed climate science as almost as trustworthy as their own field, with an aggregate result of 2.69 on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1= Much less trustworthy, 3 = About equally trustworthy and 5 = Much more trustworthy. Allowing for allegiances, I'd regard this as a ringing endorsement of climate science.
If you look at Figure 4 above you can see that Anthony Watts loses out when he compares climate science to geology. Geologists themselves regard climate science as highly credible, mature relative to geology and as trustworthy as geology.
Even a small number of scientists suffer cognitive impairment from their cultural values
Another interesting finding came out of the crosstabs with political orientation and cultural values. The researchers reported cultural values of respondents as 35.1% hierarchical individualist, 31.3% egalitarian communitarians, and 33.6% being either egalitarian-individualist or hierarchical-communitarian. I've plotted this in the chart below:
You might notice that there are more hierarchical individualists than there are egalitarian communitarians. (What a mouthful.) That puts paid to deniers' claims that all research scientists are socialist/communist bleeding heart liberals. The researchers reported that:
A significantly smaller proportion of hierarchical individualists (e.g., those who scored above the median on both the hierarchical and individualism scales, Kahan et al 2011) believed in climate change than non-hierarchical individualists (94.3% versus 98.8%; t = 2.11, p = 0.02).It's interesting that cultural values can affect scientists. However what is perhaps more interesting is that it only impairs fewer than 10% of them. You'll have noticed that more than 90% of hierarchical individualists "believed in" climate change. Here is a chart just of the hierarchical individualists among all those scientists who responded:
Almost all WUWT readers suffer cognitive impairment
Contrast that with the readers of WUWT, which is most probably dominated by hierarchical individualists, based on a survey Anthony Watts conducted a couple of years ago:
If that doesn't convince you of how far from reality is WUWT, then I don't know what will.
Scientists are much more resistant to cognitive impairment than WUWT-ers
For completeness, compare the 33.6% of hierarchical individualists among scientists with all the rest. Fewer than 10% of the hierarchical individualists let their cultural values over-ride their scientific judgement:
That's a complete contrast to readers at WUWT, where more than 98% of them let their cultural values or other cognitive obstructions over-ride their intellect.
From the WUWT comments
This survey got the attention of WUWT readers. It woke them from the slumber they've been under and generated a minor flood of thoughts - 223 of them at the time I last archived the web page, and several more since then. Here is a sample.
Mike Campbell was first to comment. He couldn't be bothered reading the open access paper and went straight for the logical fallacy of personal incredulity. This is Telltale Technique No. 2 of climate science denial.
September 24, 2015 at 8:30 am
I just wonder how they select the respondents for the survey. I simply can’t believe that there actually is this much consensus out there.
Ben Of Houston was upset that the survey didn't include engineers. He wanted a different survey. One of non-scientists. Why he picked engineers and not historians, or economists, or plumbers and electricians I don't know. In any case, the survey caught a small number of engineers who work in science departments.
September 24, 2015 at 10:19 am
Please note the discipline that is missing from the survey, engineering. Even as far back as my college days, my engineering professors were outright dismissive of the global warming scare. A lot of the consensus appears to be due to professional courtesy, but most importantly is the deliberate obfuscation of the question. Please note the statements: “temperature has risen and man is responsible”. This is a very broad strokes question that most respondents here would agree to. Of course, many would argue that it is due primarily to deforestation and land use changes, or simply state that the dangers of the expected warming have been greatly exagerrated.
The most important part of the survey is the question.
Jeff Mitchell also wanted a different survey. He should know that the people who are experts in the field have been the subject of numerous surveys - and at least 97% of these experts agree that humans are causing global warming. Jeff's a political denier.
September 24, 2015 at 12:26 pm
My first thought was “why are they asking the opinions of people who are not experts in the field?” These people got their information from other sources. They did not work it out for themselves. Such a survey tells us nothing of use. The respondents are merely parroting what they see in the press, which is overwhelmingly left on the political spectrum. The agenda isn’t science, it is control, which is a political beast. A beast we should be very concerned about.
If Jeff had taken the time to read the survey results, he'd have discovered he was wrong about where respondents got their information. The majority didn't just "parrot what they see in the press":
You won't be surprised to find out that the researchers found that people who got more of their information from mass media than from scientific literature were slightly less certain of the existence of and human contribution to climate change.
Don G said he would have asked just two questions. His questions were almost identical to two of the questions that the researchers did ask. I'd say Don G didn't bother reading the paper either before this comment, though in a follow up comment he showed that he did get around to it eventually.
September 24, 2015 at 12:49 pm
I’d use a two question survey:
1) have average global temperatures risen/remained/fallen since the peak of the last ice age?
2) is the change (if any) primarily caused by human emissions of GHGs?
dbstealey goes for conspiracy. "Something must be wrong" and "nefarious intent" being two hallmarks of conspiracy ideation.
September 24, 2015 at 1:29 pm
That says it all.
That means ≈half of the respondents have a vested interest in promoting climate alarmism. They are being paid to sound a false alarm. And surely they must know it, too; they’re not stupid. So from the get-go they’re not very honest. Pushing a poll in the direction that helps secure their income stream is a no-brainer for the ethics challenged.
And who is going to pay someone who correctly points out that nothing currently happening is either unusual or unprecedented, and that prior to the industrial revolution global T changed much more than it has over the past century? Anyone who tells the unvarnished truth will just have to forget about those easy money grants.
So the situation is this: taxpayers’ money is being given to those who sound the false alarm. The goal is passage of a carbon tax, therefore taxpayers are being forced to fund a hoax that will result in much more of their money growing an already out of control bureaucracy. It will be heaven for EPA bureaucrats; but hell for the rest of us.
What he was referring to was the proportion of respondents who have engaged in research relating to climate. Since more than half the respondents didn't do any work relating to climate, and only 5.5% worked mostly on climate-related research, how does dbstealey account for the fact that more than 90% of all respondents, including the 52% who don't do any climate-related research, agree that humans have made a significant contribution to mean global temperatures?
MarkW is one of a number of WUWT-ers who are concerned that the survey is biased by knowledgeable people! How appalling. P'raps the researchers should have asked the illiterati at WUWT what they think.
September 24, 2015 at 3:32 pm
Beyond that, this survey is being sold as the “opinions” of non-climate scientists.
Yet half of those who responded work on climate science.
The very basis on which this survey is based has been invalidated.
(And that’s without going into the problems of self-selection bias and surveys in which 2/3rds of the people asked don’t respond.)
JimS doesn't care what scientists think. He has a point, to a point. However scientists themselves rely on consensus. Knowledge is built on increasingly strong foundations. Scientists don't go back to first principles with every experiment. They assume, for example, that molecules are made of atoms. That water turns to ice at certain temperature and pressure. That most plants need light, water and nutrients to survive and grow. They don't go back and retest basic scientific ideas every time they do a bit of research. They rely on consensus until and unless new evidence causes them to rethink or adjust a theory.
September 24, 2015 at 8:33 am
Consensus is a political measuring device, not a scientific one. So why are people so obsessed with applying it to science?
willhaas reckons that counting poles (or fence posts) won't tell you much about climate :) Who cares what scientists think? Willhaas doesn't "believe" in science, and that's all that matters - to her or him anyway.
September 24, 2015 at 4:35 pm
Scientists never registered and voted on the matter. Science is not a democracy. Scientific theories are not validated through opinion poles. The laws of science are not some sort of legislation. The whole thing is rather foolish . It is politics and not science. The AGW conjecture is full of errors and no opinion pole is going to make up for them. The reality is that there is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate.
Peter Ward is confused. He's heard that the opinion of non-experts who don't accept science is worthless, and he can't figure out why it's interesting to see that tiny minority in perspective. To find out that they are only a very small minority. Clear thinking is not an attribute one associates with science deniers.
September 24, 2015 at 3:38 pm
Previously we’ve been told to ignore the opinions of non-“climate scientists” because they aren’t “climate scientists”. What’s suddenly changed?
Paul Westhaver frames it according to his particular brand of denial - his political inclination prevents him from thinking rationally and causes him to become all conspiratorial. If he'd read the paper he'd have seen how more than 90% of hierarchical individualists accept science. I'd say most of them would support "free market" ideology like Paul seems to:
September 24, 2015 at 3:44 pm
Previously we’ve been told to ignore the opinions of non-“climate scientists” because they aren’t “climate scientists”. What’s suddenly changed?
actually was: ignore the opinions of non-“climate scientists” [when they disagree with AGW] because they aren’t “climate scientists” [who agree with wealth redistribution].
So, What’s suddenly changed? Nothing has changed. They are largely citing those who believe in the AGW religion.
herkimer claims that most people agree that global temperatures have risen. I reckon he'd be suprised if he asked WUWT-ers whether they agreed with that or not. Anyway, what he or she doesn't comment on is the 98.2% of respondents who also agree, who know that humans have significantly contributed to the global mean temperature. You'd think that odd if you weren't familiar with that species of denier who congregates at WUWT.
September 24, 2015 at 4:44 pm
“Of 698 respondents, about 94 percent said they believe average global temperatures have “generally risen” compared with pre-1800 levels,”
This statement has never been contested by most if not all skeptics . The disagreement is over the claim that man is primarily responsible for this back ground warming of about 0.75 C per century.
There are a lot more comments where those came from. One thing is clear. WUWT conspiracy theorists and deniers are a tad upset that almost all the scientists who responded accept climate science. Some might realise deniers are fringe-dwellers, but most probably still don't accept that. Hanging about with other like-minded conspiracy theorists on the fringes of cyberspace helps them hang onto their delusions.
References and further reading
J S Carlton, Rebecca Perry-Hill, Matthew Huber, Linda S Prokopy. The climate change consensus extends beyond climate scientists.Environmental Research Letters, 2015; 10 (9): 094025 DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/10/9/094025 (open access)
- Climate change consensus extends beyond climate scientists - press release at ScienceDaily.com
From the HotWhopper archives
- Cook et al Paper Confirms 97% Scientific Consensus - Prompting Silly Conspiracy Theories from Anthony Watts and WUWT - May 2013
- About that 97% - Not a "Great Moment" for WUWT - May 2013
- Curses! It's a conspiracy! The Fury is Back Thrice Over - July 2015
- Downside of the Conservative Brain - February 2013
- Every day is denial day at WUWT, with models - September 2015
- It's official: It's not Anthony's job... - July 2014