Survey Shows Climatologists Are Split on Global Warming

Survey Shows Climatologists Are Split on Global Warming
June 1, 2005

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)

A survey of climatologists from more than 20 nations has revealed scientists are evenly split on whether humans are responsible for changes in global climate. The findings refute a widely reported study by a California “Gender and Science” professor who claimed that, based on her personal examination of 928 scientific papers on the issue, every single one reached the conclusion that global warming is real and primarily caused by humans.

Professor Claims Scientific Unanimity

In December 2004, Dr. Naomi Oreskes of the University of California at San Diego received widespread media attention for claiming her review of scientific literature showed scientists were in unanimous agreement that global warming is occurring and is being caused primarily by humans.

In an article titled “Undeniable Global Warming,” Oreskes wrote in the December 26 Washington Post, “There is a scientific consensus on the fact that Earth’s climate is heating up and human activities are part of the reason. We need to stop repeating nonsense about the uncertainty of global warming and start talking seriously about the right approach to address it.”

Climatologists Dispute Oreskes

The May 1 London Telegraph, however, noted Oreskes’ “unequivocal conclusions immediately raised suspicions among other academics, who knew of many papers that dissented from the pro-global warming line.”

The newspaper reported that Dr. Benny Peiser, a senior lecturer in the science faculty at Liverpool John Moores University, “decided to conduct his own analysis of the same set of 1,000 documents [cited by Oreskes]--and concluded that only one-third backed the consensus view, while only 1 percent did so explicitly.”

The London Times then reported on Professor Dennis Bray, of Germany’s GKSS National Research Centre. Bray surveyed hundreds of international climate scientists, asking the question, “To what extent do you agree or disagree that climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic causes?” Bray received 530 responses from climatologists in 27 different countries.

With a value of 1 indicating “strongly agree” and a value of 7 indicating “strongly disagree,” Bray reported the average of the 530 responses was 3.62, almost right down the middle. More climatologists “strongly disagreed” than “strongly agreed” that climate change is mostly attributable to humans.

“The results, i.e. the mean of 3.62, seem to suggest that consensus is not all that strong,” Bray reported in his findings. “Results of surveys of climate scientists themselves indicate the possibility that Oreskes’ conclusion is not as obvious as stated.”

Journals Swayed by Politics

Lorne Gunter, a columnist for the Canadian journal National Post, was more blunt in his assessment of the survey.

“It’s a long way from a consensus backing the most extreme global warming scenarios, as environmentalists and UN officials would have us believe,” observed Gunter.

“Interestingly but hardly surprisingly, Dr. Bray has had trouble getting his findings published. Science magazine turned down even a letter-to-the-editor from him,” Gunter added. “That’s doubly galling because back in December Science didn’t hesitate for a second to print a discreditable paper by Dr. Naomi Oreskes of UC San Diego in which she claimed that in her analysis of 928 abstracts from peer-reviewed climate research papers, ‘Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.’”

Concluded Gunter, “Actually, were Dr. Oreskes’ assertion of unanimity true, it might only prove how totally co-opted the peer journals have become by enviro group-think and how willing they are to censor dissenting views in an effort to preserve and polish the notion of worldwide scientific consensus.”


James M. Taylor (taylor@heartland.org) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)