Not really: there was never a real consensus to begin with.

Matthew Dempsey at The Inhofe EPW Press Blog brings to our attention a report by Michael Asher at DailyTech on an updated survey of peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate change.

The goal was to check the findings of an earlier study by history professor Naomi Oreskes that claimed a majority of climate-change papers supported the assertion that “humans were having at least some effect on global climate change.” The findings by Oreskes covered papers published 1993 to 2003.

The new survey by Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte covered papers from 2004 to February 2007, used the same database and search terms as the earlier study but showed a striking difference in results:

Of 528 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers “implicit” endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no “consensus.”

The figures are even more shocking when one remembers the watered-down definition of consensus here. Not only does it not require supporting that man is the “primary” cause of warming, but it doesn’t require any belief or support for “catastrophic” global warming. In fact of all papers published in this period (2004 to February 2007), only a single one makes any reference to climate change leading to catastrophic results.

These changing viewpoints represent the advances in climate science over the past decade. While today we are even more certain the earth is warming, we are less certain about the root causes. More importantly, research has shown us that — whatever the cause may be — the amount of warming is unlikely to cause any great calamity for mankind or the planet itself.

(Emphasis in original.)

A couple of things to remember whenever reading popular accounts of scientific findings:

  • Always take into account the bias of the person interpreting the scientific findings.

  • If possible, track back to the original research and read it for yourself. Look especially for any simplying assumptions — the real world is way too complicated to study without simplifying in order to control variables. But those assumptions can heavily influence not only the results themselves, but the interpretation of the results.

  • Be wary of the built-in bias caused by government funding. Scientists write grant proposals aimed at currently acceptable topics or they don’t get funding.

All that said, nobody should swap their Escalade for a Prius to save the planet — to save their pocketbook would make a sounder motive.

[cehwiedel also writes at cehwiedel.com]

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