In the Global Warming Debate, Crying Consensus! is Untrue, Unchristian and Unscientific

By Calvin Beisner Published on January 23, 2016

This just in from a university professor:

This issue (global warming) is so emotionally charged. For instance, I approached a professor from (a well-known evangelical Christian) University who teaches ES (Environmental Science) and started dialogue about my concerns and reservations with AGW (anthropogenic global warming) as well as asked for some advice on teaching ES. (His school) being a conservative Bible university I figured I could be open with my thoughts and even if this individual disagreed, we would be able to carry on a respectful dialogue. He is one in the creation care movement who is totally convinced of AGW. I wanted to carry on a conversation and consider objectively what evidence he could present.

Things went on for a while until I mentioned that I had been contributing to the Cornwall Alliance. As soon as he heard that, he REFUSED to continue any dialogue and said he felt like I had duped him. My jaw dropped and (I) could not believe that a professor who should be devoted to the pursuit of ideas and truth would act in such a way. As a result, any opportunity he had to help me understand his perspective was terminated.

The venom that can be used against those who are skeptical says a lot about underlying motivation. I know I am not telling you anything you don’t know very well!

The timing of this was poignant. A couple of days ago someone Tweeted to (at?) us at Cornwall Alliance a link to a post on evangelical climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe’s public figure Facebook page in which she wrote:

When people are arguing against the reality of human-induced climate change — at a Senate Committee, on a talk show, or right here on Facebook — they’ll often cite a scientific study that backs them up, something that “proves” climate isn’t changing, or that it’s just a natural cycle, or it’s the sun.

Most of these “studies” usually end up being opinion pieces published in a newspaper, or a report by a think tank. There are a few, though, that ARE published in real honest-to-goodness scientific journals, where you have to describe your methods clearly enough for someone else to be able to reproduce them.

So my colleagues and I got curious … what happens if you DO try to reproduce some of these studies? Would they really give results that counter nearly 200 years of climate science?

We picked 38 studies — the ones that had gotten the most press for “proving” climate change wasn’t real — and started from scratch. We got the data, crunched the numbers, and examined the assumptions underlying each. Here’s what we found:

Every single one of the 38 studies we examined had at least one error; an error that, if it was fixed, would bring the results of the study straight into line with the thousands of other studies that DO find that climate is changing and humans are responsible.

She linked to the paper she and her colleagues wrote.

I posted the following comment to the page:

Then maybe not. See Georgia Tech Professor and former Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology and President (co-owner) of Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN) Judith Curry’s discussion of this paper at http://lm.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fjudithcurry.com%2F2015%2F08%2F27%2Fthe-conceits-of-consensus%2F&h=tAQHtk7Rg&s=1, where she says, in part: “The gist of their analysis is that the authors were ‘outsiders’, not fully steeped in consensus lore and not referencing their preferred papers.

RealClimate has an entertaining post on the paper, Let’s learn from mistakes, where we learn that this paper was rejected by five journals before being published by Theoretical and Applied Climatology. I guess the real lesson from this paper is that you can get any kind of twaddle published, if you keep trying and submit it to different journals. A consensus on what, exactly? The consensus inferred from the Cook et al. analysis is a vague one indeed; exactly what are these scientists agreeing on? The ‘97% of the world’s climate scientists agree that humans are causing climate change’ is a fairly meaningless statement unless the relative amount (%) of human caused climate change is specified.

Roy Spencer’s 2013 Senate testimony included the following statement: ‘It should also be noted that the fact that I believe at least some of recent warming is human-caused places me in the 97% of researchers recently claimed to support the global warming consensus (actually, it’s 97% of the published papers, Cook et al., 2013). The 97% statement is therefore rather innocuous, since it probably includes all of the global warming “skeptics” I know of who are actively working in the field. Skeptics generally are skeptical of the view that recent warming is all human-caused, and/or that it is of a sufficient magnitude to warrant immediate action given the cost of energy policies to the poor. They do not claim humans have no impact on climate whatsoever.’”

Dr. Hayhoe could have responded to the comment, explaining why she didn’t find Curry’s comments persuasive. Instead, she, or whoever manages her page, removed the comment within minutes and then blocked me.

The paper at RealClimate to which Curry linked revealed that Hayhoe and colleagues’ paper had been rejected by five other journals before finally being accepted at Theoretical and Applied Climatology. I later learned that Dr. Ross McKitrick had been among the peer reviewers for two of the publications that rejected it and had pointed out factual errors in it that persisted into the published version — some of which, McKitrick wrote in a formal letter to the journal requesting that it retract the paper, amounted to “a deliberate misrepresentation of a published exchange in the literature, the nature of the misrepresentation was known to the authors when they submitted it to Theoretical and Applied Climatology, and its effect is derogatory and harmful to my professional reputation as well as that of my coauthors.”

Careful reading of both Curry’s and McKitrick’s critiques of the paper Hayhoe promoted on her Facebook page persuades me that it fails to establish its claims. Other readers might conclude otherwise. But what ought to happen in civil discourse is at least for all sides to hear each out respectfully — something Hayhoe and the professor at the Christian university unidentified above seem unwilling to do.

Indeed, it’s sad to see how many people, on whatever side of any controversy, simply refuse to dialogue respectfully and reasonably. But it’s particularly sad when those who refuse are Christians, who are instructed to be ready at all times to give an answer, a reason for what we believe, with meekness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15-16) and to test all things and hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21) — the latter being the key to science.

Here’s our invitation to our fellow Christians at Christian universities and colleges all over the world: Please, if you think we’re wrong about climate change, take the time to read our major papers on the subject, and then point out what you consider our factual or logical errors and provide the evidence and reasoning you believe justify your judgment. (No, we’re really not interested in appeals to consensus, which we see every day, not only because every attempt to prove consensus among real climate scientists that manmade climate change is dangerous enough to warrant spending trillions of dollars trying to mitigate it fails miserably, but also because consensus simply isn’t a scientific value, however much it might be a political one.) We promise to respond courteously and only ask that you do likewise.

 

Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, is former Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Social Ethics, where he taught, among other things, a graduate course in logic.

 

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  • Wayne Cook

    Well said, Dr. Thank you!

    • E. Calvin Beisner

      You’re welcome!

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