On The “Oregon” Trail
by Andy Joppa
A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually.
The word “scientist” may somewhat be related to the word “athlete.” Both words represent a set of generic attributes that may not have any relevance in the specific. That is, a great athletic soccer player may have no knowledge of, or ability to play, baseball. In a like manner, a great scientific mind in biology may have no knowledge or understanding of the meteorological sciences. This is an important distinction to take forward as we deal with “scientific consensus” pertaining to climate change.
Larry Solomon in his groundbreaking book, “The Deniers” discusses the issue of scientific consensus and how it often comes about. Among many issues, he talks about four scientists, all of whom support the global warming hypothesis, but he elaborates, “In effect, all four scientists were saying, “I’m sure global warming exists. All the science from all the different scientific disciplines says so. But there is one exception—my particular area of expertise has found no compelling evidence of manmade global warming.” That is, these scientists accept the conventional wisdom in areas they know little about, even if their limited area of scientific applicability suggests something that is entirely different. Put another way, people (and scientists) are predisposed to accept what they believe to be a consensus.
Regardless of the uselessness of scientific consensus, what makes for an interesting analysis is the way the political world reacts to a consensus that rejects the prevailing wisdom of climate change as compared to a consensus that supports it.
For example, let’s look at The Oregon Petition which stood in opposition to the prevailing view on global warming. Because its intent wasn’t to claim consensus, but rather, was trying to create a challenge to the existing orthodoxy, it must be given substantial latitudes. It was signed by 31,487 American scientists and experts, including 9,029 with a PhD. Among them are individuals from the following disciplines: Atmospheric, Environmental and Earth sciences, 3,805; Computer and Mathematical sciences, 935; Physics & Aerospace sciences, 5,812; Biochemistry, Biology, and Agriculture, 2,965, and engineering and General Science, 10,102. All, or substantially all, Oregon Petition signatures were verified. With many coming from Nobel Laureates and other top scientists who opposed climate alarmism.
Their Petition stating:
We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.
There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.
The political forces supporting the climate change hypothesis were outraged. They launched a series of scathing attacks on the Oregon Petition as if their very integrity depended on its being rejected; for it surely did. Their rebuttals fell into three main categories; none of which challenged Oregon’s essential premise. All dealing only with the concept of consensus:
• The validity of science is determined by the veracity of the evidence, not the number of people who think a scientific proposition is true. Thus, the petition is little more than an example of argument from popularity. (I agree)
• Even if scientific truth could be derived from the people who accept it, the number of signatures is only a small fraction of all scientists. (I again agree)
• Even by the admission and records of the petition itself, only a tiny fraction of the people who signed the petition hold a degree in any field relevant or related to climatology, with the plurality of signatures coming from engineers, who are not scientists. The petition might as well be from the general public. (here my agreement is lukewarm because of the proven background specifics of the Oregon Petition)
As someone who rejects the concept of anthropogenic climate change, I will concede, to the largest extent, that these three points have varying degrees of merit and are valid concerns in almost any circumstance claiming consensus. Although none of these rebuttals should cause the rejection of the major thesis of the Oregon Petition, all should be considered as part of a valid and comprehensive analysis of anything being offered as a scientific consensus.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2019 and consider how these same dedicated critical political “players” take on the issue of climate change when a “consensus” supports their preferred point of view.
This past week, Bioscience, an academic, peer-reviewed journal from Oxford University Press, found 11,224 scientists, from 153 countries, who signed off on the latest climate change drivel. Citing a “moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to “tell it like it is,” they’ve published the paper “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency.”
Who are these “11,000 Scientists,” and do they even have credibility to weigh in on this matter? As I had previously indicated, scientists, with few exceptions, are subject matter experts in specific fields — their expertise isn’t inherently relevant and extensible across varying fields of science. For example, a physicist won’t teach a graduate-level course in biology, a podiatrist won’t perform open heart surgery, and a botanist has minimal insight on quantum computing. How many of these 11,000 scientists possess germane degrees in meteorology, climatology, or atmospheric science?
240 (2%) individuals had professions that can be construed as bona fide meteorologists, climatologists, or atmospheric scientists. As a frame of reference, the Department of Labor reports that there are 10,000 atmospheric scientists in the U.S. alone.
Conversely, this list contains plenty of “experts” who have zero credibility on the topic of climate change, coming from fields such as infectious diseases, paleontology, ecology, zoology, epidemiology and nutrition, insect ecology, anthropology, computer science, OB-GYN, and linguistics. I could not care less what a French professor or a zookeeper thinks about climate change
This raises the question: “Why did so few meteorologists, climatologists, and atmospheric scientists sign off on this latest paper?” Perhaps they know that this is faux science? The climate is a complex dynamic that science doesn’t fully understand, let alone be able to predict.
Where are that group of “honest commentators” that found it so necessary to challenge the acceptance of the Oregon Petition? It seems obvious that their attack on Oregon had little to do with its lack of scientific rigor and everything to do with its essential thesis.
If we are to accept “consensus” as a purposeful scientific concept, then, by any measurement, the Oregon Petition is a far more meaningful document than the “Warning of a Climate Emergency.” The answer is…anthropogenic climate change is a politically generated hoax where any countervailing information must be attacked, rejected and, finally ignored and anything supporting it must be reinforced.
Indeed, scientific truth by consensus has had a uniformly bad history.