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SCIENCE of
CLIMATE CHANGE

International Journal of Science and Philosophy

Climate change consensus only achieved with filtering and selection bias

A review of secondary consensus claim papers

Abstract

Based on the premises that there is a high rate of agreement among the scientific community concerning the key factors driving climate change, there have been growing calls from the public to ‘unite behind science’. However, a careful assessment of the so-called climate research ‘consensus’, raises serious questions about the validity of this claim.

This work analyses key peer reviewed publications supposedly documenting a climate ‘consensus’, focusing on ‘consensus’ publications that are not based on the analysis of data, but rather of the subjective positioning and beliefs of scientists, obtained mainly from surveys.

We have used a 90 % agreement rate as a reasonable threshold for indicating consensus, and found that, in fact, an above 90 % consensus agreement rate is only achieved by filtering and selection bias. The same pattern was observed in the different studies analyzed, and we show that no ‘consensus’ has actually been documented.

The work further substantiates that the central anthropogenic global warming hypothesis of scientific consensus has not only not been documented, but in fact does not exist in the analyzed material.

Despite the obvious weaknesses observed in these climate consensus publications, the climate science community is yet to refute these claims which might lead to misinformation on the public scene. Hence, the objective of this study is to change this, as well as to shed light on potential data analysis issues in economic style surveys on climate change.

$10

Climate change consensus only achieved with filtering and selection bias

Description

A Review of Secondary Consensus Claim Papers

  • Margarita Grabert, Philipp Lengsfeld1, Adedamola Adedokun
  • Andreas Glassl and Fritz Vahrenholt
  • re:look climate gGmbH, Berlin, Germany
  • Department of Chemistry, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • Correspondence to: Philipp Lengsfeld, lengsfeld@relook-climate.de

Abstract

Based on the premises that there is a high rate of agreement among the scientific community concerning the key factors driving climate change, there have been growing calls from the public to ‘unite behind science’. However, a careful assessment of the so-called climate research ‘consensus’, raises serious questions about the validity of this claim.

This work analyses key peer reviewed publications supposedly documenting a climate ‘consensus’, focusing on ‘consensus’ publications that are not based on the analysis of data, but rather of the subjective positioning and beliefs of scientists, obtained mainly from surveys.

We have used a 90 % agreement rate as a reasonable threshold for indicating consensus, and found that, in fact, an above 90 % consensus agreement rate is only achieved by filtering and selection bias. The same pattern was observed in the different studies analyzed, and we show that no ‘consensus’ has actually been documented.

The work further substantiates that the central anthropogenic global warming hypothesis of scientific consensus has not only not been documented, but in fact does not exist in the analyzed material.

Despite the obvious weaknesses observed in these climate consensus publications, the climate science community is yet to refute these claims which might lead to misinformation on the public scene. Hence, the objective of this study is to change this, as well as to shed light on potential data analysis issues in economic style surveys on climate change.

Introduction

Current climate science is at the forefront of a large portion of political discussions and debates. Hence, a phalanx of public voices from within as well as from outside the scientific community are demanding to ‘unite behind the science’. One of the key implicit and often explicit assumptions for this political demand, is that ‘science is settled’ or ‘science is united’ on the questions of the main factors driving climate change, i. e. uniting behind an IPCC endorsed anthropogenic global warming (AGW)–view on climate science, specifically pinpointing to a dominant key factor, i. e. anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, especially CO2. This GHG-AGW-hypothesis is also at the fore and center of most political mitigation measures, as laid down in the Paris climate accord.

There is a seemingly credible scientific justification for the notion that ‘science is united’ on the GHG-AGW-hypothesis. This is the so-called climate consensus, which is postulated in a number of widely cited manuscripts (Cook et al. (2016), Cook et al. (2013), Doran & Zimmerman (2009), Oreskes (2004), Verheggen et al. (2014)), of which the most prominent one is the 97 % agreement notion created by Cook et al (2013). However, careful scientific scrutiny reveals that the so-called climate research consensus claim might actually be unfounded.
This work details a systematic review and debunking of peer-review published climate-consensus assertions, concentrating on those papers which claim to support a climate consensus based on a methodology which goes beyond the one employed by Cook et al. (2013). These papers are based on measuring the level of agreement in climate science, by analyzing the convictions of scientists with surveys. The pioneering work following this type of methodology is Doran and Zimmerman (2009), following in their footsteps, some of the key papers include works from Verheggen et al. (2014), Stenhouse et al. (2014), and Carlton et al. (2015). Lastly, in a similar fashion Anderegg et al. (2010) studied the publicly stated opinions of scientists in a database.

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