Richard Tol’s consensus paper has finally been published. Richard’s paper can probably be described as taking all possible sets of numbers from all the various other consensus studies, and plotting graphs showing various possible levels of consensus, but without paying any attention to the details of the other studies, or who/what was included in the different surveys. For example, a survey of those who largely dispute the mainstream view, unsurprisingly returns a low level of consensus.
Richard’s paper also asks a number of questions that he seems to feel need to be answered, such as
Cook et al (2013) state that 12 465 abstracts were downloaded from the Web of Science, yet their supporting data show that there were 12 876 abstracts. A later query returned 13 458, only 27 of which were added after Cook ran his query (Tol 2014a).
Not only is this simply not true (their data show that there were 12876 abstract identifiers, not 12876 abstracts) but it has been explained to Richard many, many times that this was because of duplicates in the database that were then removed, without the identifiers then being re-ordered so as to be sequential (which – if done – would seem to rather defeat the object of using a database).I don’t actually really need to go through the details, because there is also a response that includes almost all who’ve published consensus studies, and – at the very end – yours truly. Not only does this paper respond to Richard’s various questions (I’m sure that will be the end of it……) it also makes the key point that if you drill down into the details of the various consensus studies, then – as the figure on the right shows – the level of consensus increases as the relevant expertise increases. In other words
low estimates of consensus arise from samples that include non-experts such as scientists (or non-scientists) who are not actively publishing climate research, while samples of experts are consistent in showing overwhelming consensus.
I don’t think I need to say much more. I think it’s quite fascinating to see almost everyone who has published on a particular topic responding to a criticism in this way. Richard Tol, of course, is apparently still not happy, saying:
Unfortunately, Environmental Research Letters does not believe in open discussion and forced me to hide the rather severe methodological critique on Cook’s 2013 paper behind a superficial literature review.
……This is normally sufficient for a retraction: the data behind Cook 2013 are not what Cook 2013 claim they are.
Ahh, shame, they actually insisted on reviewing his paper, and exerted some editorial control. What a terrible thing to do. Maybe next time Richard should stamp his little feet a bit harder and maybe he’ll get his own way. It also seems that after 3 years of work, Richard still does not realise that Cook et al. (2013) was a survey of abstracts, not a survey of abstract raters. It might also be worth considering the irony of Richard apparently communicating his issues to a site that is best known for denying the mainstream scientific position with respect to climate science. It’s almost as if Richard doesn’t get the point of consensus studies; they’re mainly to refute claims made on, for example, sites like WUWT that there isn’t a consensus.
Anyway, I’ll stop there. There are links below to various other articles. I’ll try to add more as they appear. Posts about the consensus tend to have somewhat active comment threads, so can I ask everyone to – if necessary – show some restraint. The comment threads here have become much calmer in recent times, so maybe it won’t be necessary.
Consensus on consensus: 97% of experts agree people are changing the climate: University of Queensland press release.
Yes, there really is scientific consensus on climate change by John Cook in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming by Bart Verheggen.
Consensus on consensus by Stephan Lewandowsky.
Devastating reply to Richard Tol’s nonsensus in peer-reviewed journal by Collin Maessen.
It’s settled: 90–100% of climate experts agree on human-caused global warming by Dana Nuccitelli in the Guardian.
Settled science: there is a scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change by Sou.