Fact of the Day: Monday, July 24, 2006
Defense of Science Magazine Global Warming Study Fails to Address Critiques
Naomi Oreskes, History of Science professor at the University of California at San Diego, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, “Global Warming -- Signed, Sealed and Delivered,” set out to defend the validity of her study titled “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change (Science Magazine, December 3, 2004). The study purportedly shows a 100% consensus on human caused global warming. In today’s op-ed, however, Oreskes failed to acknowledge several key criticisms to her analysis of peer reviewed literature allegedly showing there is 100% scientific consensus that human activity is primarily responsible for warming the planet in the last 50 years.
FACT: Oreskes’s study contained major flaws. Oreskes did not inform readers in today’s commentary that she admitted to making a search term error that excluded about 11,000 papers –more than 90% of the papers– dealing with climate change. Oreskes also failed to inform readers that, according to one critique of her study, less than 2% of the abstracts she analyzed endorsed what she terms the “consensus view” on human activity and climate change and that some of the studies actually doubted that human activity has caused warming in the last 50 years.
Oreskes originally claimed she analyzed the peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 under the keywords “climate change” and found just 928 articles. It turns out she was not accurate, according to British social scientist Benny Peiser a professor at Liverpool John Moores University.
A search using the terms “climate change” actually turned up almost 12,000 papers that were published during the time frame Oreskes claimed to have researched. In other words, her supposedly comprehensive research excluded about 11,000 papers. Only after Peiser’s analysis pointed out this error in her study did Oreskes reportedly admit that her study was not based on the keywords “climate change,” but on the far more restrictive phrase “global climate change.”
“These objections were put to Oreskes by science writer David Appell. On 15 December 2004, she admitted that there was indeed a serious mistake in her Science essay. According to Oreskes, her study was not based on the keywords “climate change,” but on “global climate change.”
Oreskes’s 100% “consensus” would potentially be accurate only by excluding well over 90% of the available papers in the time frame she was researching, according to Peiser. Eliminating about 11,000 papers (even if a small portion would not be considered ‘peer reviewed’) in favor of just 928, hardly proves a “consensus.”
In addition, Peiser found that less than 2% of the studies Oreskes examined supported her “consensus view” and some of the studies actually disagreed with that humans were the chief cause of the past 50 years of climate change.
Peisner also found,
“…While the ISI database includes a total of 929 documents for the period in question, it lists only 905 abstracts. It is thus impossible that Oreskes analyzed 928 abstracts.” (http://www.staff.livjm.ac.uk/spsbpeis/Oreskes-abstracts.htm)
“Oreskes entire argument is flawed as the whole ISI data set includes just 13 abstracts (less than 2%) that explicitly endorse what she has called the 'consensus view.’”
“In fact, the vast majority of abstracts do not mention anthropogenic climate change. Moreover - and despite attempts to deny this fact - a few abstracts actually doubt the view that human activities are the main driving force of “the observed warming over the last 50 years.” (http://www.staff.livjm.ac.uk/spsbpeis/Oreskes-abstracts.htm)
No “Scientific Consensus”
Furthermore, sixty scientists recently wrote an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Harper calling for a complete review of the science behind climate alarmism. Additionally, recent scientific analyzes dispute the claims of those promoting human-caused catastrophic global warming. The United Nations media hyped “Hockey Stick” was broken in June by a National Academy of Sciences report reaffirming the existence of the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age. Finally, just last week, three researchers -- Edward J. Wegman of George Mason University, David W. Scott of Rice University and Yasmin H. Said of Johns Hopkins University, further debunked the “Hockey Stick.”
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