A new study looking at more than 900 climate researchers have found that the majority of scientists with prominence and credentials in climate research believe humans are behind global warming.
The small number of scientist’s who have come out against anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change have far less expertise in the area and much less prominence. The study is the first of its kind to analyse the number of research papers published by a climate researcher and the number of times their work has then gone on to be cited by other scientists.
“It is sad that we even have to do this,” said Stephen Schneider, professor of biology and a coauthor of the paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “I never object to quoting opinions that are ‘way out.’ I think there is nothing wrong with that. But if the media doesn’t report that something is a ‘way out’ opinion relative to the mainstream, then how is the average person going to know the relative credibility of what is being said?”
The researchers studied over 900 climate researchers from a list of all those who were involved in producing the 2997 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as any climate researcher who has signed a major public statement disagreeing with the findings of the panel’s report. In selecting which of the researchers who had signed such petitions though, the researchers omitted any who had no published papers in the climate literature.
Expertise was analysed by the number of papers on climate research written by any individual, with a minimum of 20 required to be included in the analysis. Prominence was similarly assessed by taking the four most frequently cited papers published in any field by each scientist and tallying the number of times those papers were then cited by other researchers.
Climate researchers who are convinced of anthropogenic climate change had on average twice as many publications as the unconvinced, and papers by climate researchers convinced of human effects were cited approximately 64% more often than papers by the unconvinced.
“We really wanted to bring the expertise dimension into this whole discussion,” said William Anderegg, lead author of the paper. “We hope to put to rest the notion that keeps being repeated in the media and by some members of the public that ‘the scientists disagree’ about whether human activity is contributing to climate change.”
The Stanford researchers also determined the top 100 climate researchers based on the number of climate related publications each had, which according to Anderegg produced an even more telling result.
“When you look at the leading scientists who have made any sort of statement about anthropogenic climate change, you find 97 percent of those top 100 surveyed scientists explicitly agreeing with or endorsing the IPCC’s assessment,” he said. That result has been borne out by several other published studies that used different methodology, as well as some that are due out later this summer, he said.
And not surprisingly the researchers are preparing for the doubters to take objection to their data.
“I think the most typical criticism of a paper like this – not necessarily in academic discourse, but in the broader context – is going to be that we haven’t addressed if these sorts of differences could be due to some sort of clique or, at the extreme, a conspiracy of the researchers who are convinced of climate change,” Anderegg said.
“When you stop to consider whether some sort of ‘group think’ really drives these patterns and could it really exist in science in general, the idea is really pretty laughable,” he said. “All of the incentives in science are exactly the opposite.
“If you were a young researcher and had the data to overturn any of the mainstream paradigms, or what the IPCC has done, you would become absolutely famous,” he said. “Everyone wants to be the next Darwin, everyone wants to be the next Einstein.”
Source: Stanford University