Thursday, November 8, 2007
By Steven Milloy
Is there a “consensus” on global warming among the scientists participating in the UN’s
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)? To find out, I conducted the first-ever survey of scientists
participating in the most recent IPCC report.
In early October, I e-mailed a six-question survey
on climate change to 345 U.S. scientists involved in the IPCC’s
2007 report. By month’s end, I had received responses from a surprising 95 scientists (28%).
Some of the responders claimed that the survey questions were flawed and declined to participate. Some wanted
to know, ironically enough, what was meant by the term “climate change” even though the term is part of
the IPCC’s name.
One IPCC-er declined to participate because, he said, the climate science debate was over. Another who
acknowledged that current climate had probably just resulted from a “just a geological wiggle,” declined
because it was wrong to deny that humans are “adding undesirable stress to natural systems.” Another
refused to answer claiming that the IPCC report “is a much more powerful statement than any individual
scientist can make.”
One survey refuse-nik said, “Science is not a vote or survey. It is not democratic. It is not debatable.”
Another said he didn’t “see the point of frequently uninformed free-for-all style debates about topics
that require diligent study instead.” Others accused me of having a biased agenda, being “reckless and
irresponsible,” and wanting to misrepresent the IPCC’s work.
One National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist responded simply by dropping an f-bomb-laced
insult into an e-mail. This particular response and any institutional intolerance for climate skepticism, so I
am informed, is being investigated by NOAA chief, Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher.
... continues below advertisement:
In the end, 54 of the IPCC-ers completed the survey, including such alarmist big-wigs as the National
Center for Atmospheric Research’s Kevin Trenberth and Tom Wigley. Trenberth and several other survey
participants are lead authors of the IPCC report.
The survey results are quite illuminating about the much-touted “consensus.”
The responses to the survey’s first four questions were predictable -- 83% to 90% of the respondents
favored the view that manmade carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are driving global climate to
unprecedentedly warmer temperatures and that limiting manmade CO2 emissions would reduce such climate change.
The responses to the last two questions, however, raise questions about the consensus’ credibility.
Less than 50% of the respondents said that an increase in global temperature of 1-degree Celsius -- twice the
level of warming occurring during the 20th century -- is flatly undesirable. Half of the respondents said that
such a temperature increase is desirable, desirable for some but undesirable for others, or too difficult to
Only 14% said that the ideal climate was cooler than the present climate. Sixty-one percent said that there is
no such thing as an ideal climate.
But if there’s no agreement on whether a target climate even exists, what precisely is the point of taking
action on global warming?
Other notable results include the 20% who bizarrely said that human activity is the principal driver of
climate change. So was climate a static phenomenon before the arrival of man? And if there was natural climate
change before man, why not now also? And 44% percent don’t think that current global climate is
The survey indicates that when asked routine questions about the role of manmade CO2, the IPCC-ers respond in
the Pavlovian fashion seemingly demanded of them by the global warming establishment. But when asked questions
off the usual script, the supposed consensus falls apart.
Don’t forget that many scientists don’t participate in the IPCC because they perceive it as biased. The
Pasteur Institute’s Dr. Paul Reiter, for example, resigned from the IPCC because he and a colleague found
themselves “at loggerheads with persons who insisted on making authoritative pronouncements, although they
had little or no knowledge of our specialty.” There’s also the Petition
Project, where 19,000 scientists have endorsed a statement questioning the scientific basis of climate
The whole idea of a consensus in science is dubious. As economist John Kay recently wrote in an op-ed entitled
“Science is the pursuit of truth, not consensus” (Financial Times, Oct. 9), “Statements about the
world derive their value from the facts and arguments that support them, not from the status and
qualifications of the people who assert them.”
This week, Al Gore attacked IPCC-er John Christy for a Nov. 1 Wall Street Journal op-ed in which
Christy questioned the global warming orthodoxy. Appearing on NBC’s Today, Gore described Christy as
an “outlier” who no longer belonged to the IPCC and who is “way outside the scientific consensus.”
Gore also said that it was wrong for the media to pay any attention to opinions outside the consensus.
Christy told me that, as far as he knows, he remains part of the IPCC process. As to being an outlier, it just
so happens that Christy’s survey responses were within the 50% who didn’t think that a 1-degree Celsius
rise in global temperature was uniformly undesirable and the 86% who didn’t think there was any such thing
as an ideal climate.
The “climate consensus” notion functions primarily as a marketing tool for converting the public to a
political viewpoint, rather than as a valid scientific approach toward understanding global warming. But even
then, the survey indicates that the claimed IPCC consensus is not nearly as monolithic as we’ve been led to
believe. That alone is good reason for demanding that the IPCC scientists declare and defend their positions
in a public forum.
Steven Milloy publishesJunkScience.comandDemandDebate.com.
He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive
JunkScience.com is updated every weekday. Items from the main page are moved to the archives.
Links should be good for at least the date posted. After the posting date, link reliability depends on the
policy of the linked sites. Some sites require visitors to register before allowing access to articles.
Material presented on this page represents the opinion of JunkScience.com. Copyright -- 1996-2007
JunkScience.com, Inc. All rights reserved on original works. Material copyrighted by others is used either
with permission or under a claim of "fair use."