There is an old saying that statistics don’t lie but liars use statistics.
While I am not going to call anyone a liar, I will point out that the belief of the individual analyzing raw data can affect the outcome of the data. This is one of the reasons why one should always be skeptical.
This posting will not be about any given article but rather will cover several articles that have recently been getting a lot of discussion among skeptics and non-skeptics on the theory of global warming and its causes. I admit that I am somewhat of a “junkie” when it comes to climate news so you may not have been affected by all of the news so here is the high-level:
- In 2004 Ms. Naomi Oreskes, a scientific historian, wrote a non-peer reviewed essay in Science that said that a consensus exists in scientific literature that global warming was caused by mankind. She did this by looking for papers on “global climate change” and analyzing their conclusions. The papers in question were from 1993 to 2003 (see this article that she wrote also).
- For years since Ms. Oreskes study, some politicians and others have used this statement to declare that the scientists have spoken and the case for human-induced global warming has been made and the case is CLOSED.
- Recently, Mr. Klaus-Martin Schulte, a medical surgeon, has been in the news regarding a new paper that takes off from the Oreskes study. This new study purports to continue the study by analyzing the same search terms since 2004. This new study (which evidently is not published yet) points out that in this time period, there is no consensus.
- Ms. Oreskes then called out Mr. Schulte and said that he was working for the oil companies and that he was a bad boy.
- Mr. Schulte then said that Ms. Oreskes didn’t have all of her facts straight, his paper wasn’t published yet so she couldn’t have read it, and perhaps her original analysis wasn’t correct since he found some older papers that didn’t agree with the consensus.
So who is lying? Probably neither of them but that doesn’t mean that either is necessarily correct either. Neither paper is peer reviewed and we really don’t know how the individual interpreted the text of each article. Were they looking for these specific words: “This proves that humans caused global warming”? Probably not but maybe not far from the truth.
The reason I question what they were looking for is because I question how they selected their articles. Ms. Oreskes search was for “global climate change” and this supposedly resulted in 928 articles on the subject. However, it has been reported that the term “climate change” would have resulted in 12,000 articles – a significant increase from the 928 the Oreskes used and therefore one that should cause anyone to question the validity of her research or at least her conclusions. Shouldn’t she also use “global warming” or “Anthropogenic Warming” (human induced warming)?
What both individuals should do is publish a listing of the journal articles reviewed and how each of them were ranked. Then inquisitive minds could do their own analysis. Then when we are done with that, we could do a real search for more terms that cover the full suite of topics and then analyze that resulting list to find out if there is truly a consensus or not.
Sounds like fun.
I think that Mr. Schulte said it correctly: “If unanimity existed in the peer-reviewed literature between 1993 and 2003 – which I have reason to doubt – it certainly no longer exists today.”
We can’t even have consensus on how to reach a consensus!
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