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Scientific Inquiry concludes: Inhofe List “Not credible …”

July 17th, 2009 · 10 Comments

Senator James Inhofe (R-Exxon) has misused the power of his chairmanship and, now, Ranking Minority status on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee to expend taxpayer resources on distorting, misleading, and outright deceiving when it comes to scientific issues, most notably in relation to questions of Global Warming. One of the most infamous examples of this are the various incarnations of a “report” cobbling together statements from scientists that supposedly dissent from the scientific consensus on humanity’s role in driving accelerating global warming. This is a quite favorite ‘denier’ citation, the supposed 400 or 600 or 700 (depending on which version) number of scientists who have, supposedly, gone on record against the Theory of Global Warming. And, they like to cite this as from the “Senate Environment and Public Works Committee”, without mentioning that this is a Minority Report from global-warming denier, fossil fool James Inhofe’s staff.

Well, today the Center for Inquiry (CFI), “an organization committed to defending scientific integrity,

has today dealt a body blow to global warming skeptics by releasing findings exposing the lack of credibility of dissenting scientists challenging man-made global warming

CFI’s Office of Public Policy undertook an assessment of the 687 people listed as “dissenting scientists” in the January 2009 version of the ‘Inhofe list’. Their conclusions:

  • Slightly fewer than 10 percent could be identified as climate scientists.
  • Approximately 15 percent published in the recognizable refereed literature on subjects related to climate science.
  • Approximately 80 percent clearly had no refereed publication record on climate science at all.
  • Approximately 4 percent appeared to favor the current IPCC-2007 consensus and should not have been on the list.

Here (pdf) is a spreadsheet providing a first-order analysis of the 687 alledged “dissenting scientists” in the 2009 version.

Per Dr. Stuart Jordan, science policy advisor to the CFI Office of Public Policy and retired emeritus senior staff scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

“As a result of our assessment, Inhofe and other lawmakers using this report to block proposed legislation to address the harmful effects of climate change must face an inconvenient truth: while there are indeed some well respected scientists on the list, the vast majority are neither climate scientists, nor have they published in fields that bear directly on climate science.”

Clearly, the involved researchers and CFI are angered by what they, rightly, see as deliberate efforts to distort public discussion of science:

“Sen. Inhofe and others have had some success in conveying to the media the impression that the number of scientists skeptical about man-made global warming is swelling, yet this is demonstrably not true.” Dr. Ronald Lindsay, CFI’s CEO, points out that Inhofe’s office had misleadingly claimed in a press release that the number of dissenting scientists outnumbered by more than 13 times the number of U.N. scientists (52) who authored the 2007 IPCC. “But those 52 U.N. scientists were in fact summarizing for policymakers the work of over 2,000 active research scientists, all with substantially similar views on global warming and its causes. This is the kind of broadside against sound science and scientific integrity that we at CFI deplore.”

And, of course, the number of people cited by Inhofe who merit being on the table as relevant scientists is perhaps in the range of 100, not 700. Thus, if one were to, inaccurately, assume that all 100 were dissenting scientists, then the ration of dissenters to scientists involved in the 2007 IPCC report is not 13-1 but 1 to 20.

Released, at the press conference, was The Credibility Project trifold brochure (pdf).  I have now read this multiple times and am more impressed, with each read, with how well done it is, powerful in how it is thoughtfully understated.

They provide a six paragraph “Highlights in Contemporary Climate Science” which lays out, quite directly, a quite strong statement about the strength of our understanding of how humanity is driving climate change. They conclude this section,

For the reasons stated above, many scientists are skeptical when politicians claim that a large body of scientists doubts that human activity causes global warming.  That claim runs contrary to the evidence and the work of a large climate-science community.

This leads to the six paragraphs on the actual “Results of the Credibility Project” (key numbers above) which concludes:

“In light of these results, it is difficult to think this is a list composed primarily of publishing climate scientists. These results cast serious doubt on the Senate Minority Report’s credibility.”

Their conclusion has both thoughts on “nature of science” and about counting scientists. One of the key points,

Unfortunately, many Americans fail to understand that science does not give us absolutely certain answers to questions about nature.  Instead it gives us possibilities. This does not mean, however, that policymakers should feel free to ignore scientific findings. In many cases these probabilities approach certainty.  Thus, when scientists say it is “highly likely” that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are the cdominant cause of the recent global warming, they are asserting that the observational evdience and scientific theory together make a highly compelling case for this conclusion, such that it cannot be dismissed.  Although it is always possible that some as yet undiscovered mechanism might also play a role, no one has shown convincing evidence for one. As such, unproven claims that other mechanisms explain global warming should be viewed skeptically.  When we consider the amount of research that has been accomplished since the seriousness of climate change became apparent two decades ago, the case for the scientific community’s consensus view on global warming becomes even stronger.

Every educated American should read and absorb The Credibility Project trifold brochure (pdf). It is that thoughtful and that important.

We can look forward to seeing its authors testifying before Congressional Committees.  I hope that there will be a seat reserved for me when Senator Boxer hits the gavel to start the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) hearing when The Credibility Project team appears, with an outraged Senator Inhofe turning red as they call his deceptions out for what they are.

Now, while CFI has laid clear that Inhofe’s list is far from what climate deniers like to claim, this truly is just a first-order look by senior scientists at the list and a more comprehensive look would lead, almost certainly, to even more damning conclusions. (This look did not, for example, account for those scientists who directly requested that their names be removed from the “report” but who remain, to this date, in Inhofe’s list.)  As the team reported,

“The conclusions we draw from our examination of the Senate Minority Report are preliminary … Nonetheless, … we have double-checked our results and are prepared to offer the following three conclusions.

  1. We think it highly unlikely that a growing fraction of top climate scientists are becoming increasingly skeptical of human causation of global warming.
  2. We think that the title “Senate Minority Reprot” is technically appropriate, but grossly understated.  That report’s list does contain the names of some outstanding scientists, … However, when weighted against the much larger number of equally outstanding climate scientists, there is no doubt where the great majority of experts in this field stand.
  3. Absent hard evidence that another likely candidate drives global warming, it is highly unlikely that man-made greenhouse gases do not play a significant and probably a major role in causing global warming.  The authors of this Credibility Project assessment are not qualified to assess the engineering and economic questions associated with proposed legislation addressing climate change. However, we are disturbed by any document that may misrepresent the state of the global scientific effort to address the problem.

Rest assured, they are not the only ones “disturbed” by Senator Inhofe’s and associates’ serial deceptions.

NOTE:  For an abundance of links to high-quality exposures of Inhofe’s disinformation, see Greenfyre’s “NOT Sparta – Inhofe and the 400: A collection of links to articles exposing James “Ko-Ko” Inhofe and his phony “lists”.”

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Tags: analysis · climate change · climate delayers · Global Warming · global warming deniers · skeptic

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Scientific Consensus Reaffirmed « The Dernogalizer // Jul 17, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    […] exposed to have almost no actual climate scientists on them.  The hilarity has struck again, as Get Energy Smart Now has posted about,.  Fortunately, the new list has been exposed by the Center for Inquiry, whose […]

  • 2 Nullius in Verba // Jul 18, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Any organisation that would resort to Argument from Authority is ipso facto not a scientific organisation, and has no credibility as such.

    Cute way to strive to turn this around.

    This effort is, in part, judging Senator Inhofe’s lists and the claims made about in the terms and perspective with which Inhofe and ilk discuss it.

    Wondering, to judge your “Fair and Balanced”, I would like to know where I can find your criticism of how the Inhofe list is trumpeted about.

    Inhofe’s list is not an argument against AGW, and the IPCC’s list (which has been similarly criticised for containing many who are not climate scientists, and a few who don’t even agree with its conclusions) isn’t an argument for it. This type of argument relying on the reputation or perceived authority of the arguer rather than the content of the technical argument is a well-known fallacy called Argument from Authority, is rejected in the strongest possible terms by the scientific method, and is a reliable sign of bad science.

    There are, if you wish to check, links at the CFI press release to “technical argument” material by the three study members that lay out their specialty arenas and how that knowledge supports the scientific Theory of Global Warming.

    Again, your desire to twist this around, to see this in isolation is an amusing distraction.

  • 3 TheFamilyMan // Jul 18, 2009 at 11:15 am

    they’ll need a tranquillizer gun to shoot that scammer
    off the puter and two curlers to roll his tongue back in.

  • 4 Nullius in Verba // Jul 19, 2009 at 7:41 am

    “This effort is, in part, judging Senator Inhofe’s lists and the claims made about in the terms and perspective with which Inhofe and ilk discuss it.”

    If you had simply said that any instance of Argument from Authority was invalid, that would have adequately answered Inhofe’s list of PhDs and peer-reviewings without all the effort. You don’t need to spend a great deal of time on it, because this form of argument is scientifically invalid; a well-known and well-documented fallacy.

    Why not simply say so?

    That there are technical arguments for AGW presented there as well is a positive point, but is itself a distraction from this glaringly negative point of having used a fallacious argument. If you tell me 2+2=5 and by the way, 1+1=2; you can’t evade having got the first part wrong by saying you got the other bit right. (Even assuming you did.) If you’re prepared to concede that you used Argument from Authority and it was invalid to do so, then it might be worth moving on to consider your other arguments. But if you won’t even do that, I have no need to move on from a point on which I can trivially win the debate, do I?

    By the way, here’s a link to the Q&A session of a public debate between the sceptic Prof. John Christy and the IPCC-supporting scientist Prof. William Schlesinger. The latter is asked at about 3:40 what proportion of the IPCC committee are actual climate scientists. Do you know what he said? And as a matter of principle, would you check it as thoroughly, and give such a statement an equal prominence to your one about Inhofe’s list?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08hd141-Hac

    It doesn’t much matter if you don’t, as I don’t consider the point to be very significant anyway. I’m just curious as to what you would do if faced with the exact same argument seen from the other perspective.

    You might want to keep your own reaction in mind for the next time you argue with those intransigent sceptics. 🙂

  • 5 Steve Bloom // Jul 19, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    The IPCC report is in three sections, only one of which is about the climate science as such. The other two focus on impacts and mitigation, experts on which are not climate scientists as such (although there is a degree of overlap of expertise), and take the first volume as the starting point for their work.

    Of course Christy knows this, as does “Nullius in Verba,” so both raise the climate scientist authorship issue as a red herring. Not too respectable.

  • 6 Nullius in Verba // Jul 20, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Steve! Thanks for your contribution!

    Yes, you’re quite right. But I’m not trying to make the point you seem to think I’m making.

    As a matter of fact, I’d go further, and point out that only one chapter of the first report actually discusses attribution – whether the global warming is man-made – and therefore the number of author-scientists that the IPCC Argument from Authority relies upon is even smaller.

    The point of course is to compare like with like. On the one hand we have the IPCC, who are so often cited as “more than 2000 scientists” who we are told support the position that global warming is mostly man made, and on the other, a list of 687 scientists who we are told disagree. We are told you can’t trust Inhofe’s list, because many of them are not climate scientists. That’s the argument that was used. But when we are told that many of the 2000 IPCC scientists are also not climate scientists, someone conveniently pops up to say that’s perfectly fine, and doesn’t discredit their claim at all. I put it to you; you can’t have it both ways.

    It was precisely in the hopes of getting such a reaction that I raised Schlesinger’s comment. (Note, Christy had nothing to do with it.)

    I personally think the whole business of counting heads (or papers, or qualifications) is unscientific and irrelevant. I make no claims for its significance whatsoever. On the other hand, I would say that while you may need to be a specialist to contribute, it should be perfectly possible for scientists outside the area to evaluate the scientific evidence, and to be basing their views on a summary of the work of a much greater number of specialists, and that just as the IPCC consensus includes matters apart from climate, so it is perfectly legitimate for Inhofe’s list to contain such people to criticise it.

    I therefore agree that raising climate scientist authorship as an impediment to credibility is “not too respectable” – which of course was part of my original point. And you helpfully make my other point for me – that partisans to the debate will naturally be far more critical when evaluating claims they disagree with, which is why we need the participation of both sides. Science requires that we make our best efforts to falsify a theory.

    Steve, perhaps you could do me one final favour, and respond on my main point? Do you agree that Argument from Authority is unscientific, and its use by an organisation weighs against its scientific credibility? Thanks ever so much.

  • 7 Climate change Bytes and Blogs V « Greenfyre’s // Jul 27, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    […] Scientific Inquiry concludes: Inhofe List “Not credible …” (and at Daily Kos) […]

  • 8 Steve Harrison // Aug 13, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I m NOT a scientist, therefore I am probably more able to comment on this “global Warming” debate…

    This is an inane and ignorant comment, showing a wide range of ignorance.

    I will be using instead…something that is last in translation of all of those who are tugging at the invisible rope of conjecture…which it all is at this point.
    I will be using COMMON SENSE!!!!

    Actually, you show a lack of it.

    1st..no one is debating that there is a slight uptick in the overall global temperature.

    That is not the case, there have been many who argue that there is not global warming — and when faced with evidence then go to arguments like yours.

    The problem is…is it MAN-MADE, and what will be the consequences if it continues…

    Here is where common sense makes MORE sense then all the “studies” “computer models ” (which change from decade to decade)

    Oh no … the models … the models … the models … Do you have any clue the role that models play in our daily lives?

    Secondly, it is a given that the Earth has been cooling and warming throughout its existence, well before man walked upon it, and well before the industrial revolution.

    HEY, WE ARE STILL HERE!!! The birds still sing, eons of warfare and peace-time has come and gone..yet Mr. Gore wants us to believe that in a matter of a few decades, or a century at most..all will be gone, all will be lost…

    1. The timing of climate change, in terms of speed, etc … is far different today than past natural cycles, without a manmade forcing function.

    2. Why is this about Vice President Gore? You are not able to discuss how every single major scientific organization states that the science provides very strong evidence that humanity is forcing climate change.

    3. Do you have any clue about past extinctions and how they inform the current discussion.

    Logical…I think NOT!

    (3) …and what if EVERYTHING the doom and gloomer’s say IS true..SO WHAT?
    Not only is man, the only truly adaptable life-form, but the worst will be a change in geographic boundaries, and the extinction of some poor polar bears… (actually the 4 remaining according to Gory..)

    You simply demonstrate ignorance here. Are you aware of acidification of the oceans? Are you aware of drought and weather impacts? Are you aware … clearly not.

    Sad as that might be…before we hold our American heads in shame, and spend our last buck on “carbon credits”, lets think of who the main polluters in the world are…China, Russia, India….

    Okay, example of simple error. China has a higher national CO2 emissions, than US, and far lower per capita. Russia and India are below US emission rates.

    even if not one drop of gasoline or coal was permitted to be used in the USA…that is a drop in the bucket compared to the real polluting industrial powers…

    Simply factually wrong.

    Why don’t all of you chicken littles go over to THOSE countires and spew your garbage?
    now..pollution itself is NOT a good thing, and we must do ALL we can for a saner, cleaner environment…but that doesn’t mean that my old Volvo, and summer air conditioner is going to cause the mass extinction of mankind…….

  • 9 John O'Sullivan // Oct 4, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Steve:” 1st..no one is debating that there is a slight uptick in the overall global temperature.”

    Sorry, but there are a lot of people saying there is ‘uptick’ in global temps for over ten years!Globally, mean surface temperatures have been falling since late in 2001. In the cold winter of 2007/8, record sea-ice extents were observed at both Poles. The January-to-January fall in temperature from 2007-2008 was the greatest since global records began in 1880.

    The IPCC and alarmists focus their claims largely on unreliable ground measuring stations which are tainted by the urban heat island effect. Errors of +/- 5 degrees are common. While the discrepancy between ground measurements and ocean measurements has increased in recent years, adding weight to the theory that there are too few ocean-based measures and the land-based figures are not representative.
    http://www.surfacestations.org/

    How about satellites?

    By the way, isn’t this a “we need more data … collect more data … don’t do anything until we know more …” delay and obfuscation?

    We know that the North-West Passage was open in 1903, when Amundsen sailed through it; that the Arctic was warmer than the present as recently as the 1940s; and, finally, that the reason for the extensive polar ice-melt in the summer of 2007 was southerly winds driving currents moving warm water from the tropics towards the North Pole – a feature of the current temperature-positive phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (NASA, 2007). In short, the “record” North Polar ice-melt, which arose from natural causes and not because of manmade “global warming”, has been replaced by record ice-formation at the North Pole this winter; and sea ice in the cooling Antarctic is already at record levels.

    Do you go to sleep smiling at sharing and spreading disinformation and confusion?

    Readers, take a look at the graphic.

    Notice something here?

    Yes, there was a major, “record ice-formation” (using John’s words) in last winter which was followed in 2009 with a melting nearly approaching 2008. Both 2009 and 2008 fall far below the 30-year average.

    All this, at minimum, debunks the alarmist claim that the science ‘is settled.’ Wait another 50 years and we will find something else to argue over as we contemplate the arrival of the next ice age.

    You are so sure of yourself that you would recommend that we can sit still and continue to emit ever more GHGs with each passing day?

    And, by the way, care about ocean acidification?

    Care about truth and truthfulness as opposed to deceit, debating points, and truthiness?

  • 10 ALEC lets Inhofe have it … // Mar 19, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    […] Scientific Inquiry concludes: Inhofe List “Not credible …” […]