James Taylor misinterprets study by 180 degrees

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In a Forbes op-ed, James Taylor takes a study that prominently reveals the anti-science influence of oil and gas companies, and spins it to suggest that serious, substantive disagreement exists among relevant scientists on climate change. This could not be further from the truth, as evidenced by the very study he cites, as well as numerous other studies that have surveyed climate scientists.

The following is a guest post by Climate Nexus (in PDF format here):

JAMES TAYLOR MISINTERPRETS STUDY BY 180 DEGREES

In a Forbes op-ed, James Taylor takes a study that prominently reveals the anti-science influence of oil and gas companies, and spins it to suggest that serious, substantive disagreement exists among relevant scientists on climate change. This could not be further from the truth, as evidenced by the very study he cites, as well as numerous other studies that have surveyed climate scientists.

The claim:

Taylor references a new study that surveyed Canadian engineers and geoscientists in the province of Alberta. He attaches the headline, “Peer-Reviewed Survey Finds Majority of Scientists Skeptical of Global Warming Crisis.” The study divides respondents into 5 groups, and Taylor highlights the fact that only 36% of scientists fell into the category most supportive of climate action. He concludes, “…it is becoming clear that not only do many scientists dispute the asserted global warming crisis, but these skeptical scientists may indeed form a scientific consensus.”

The context:

- The study Taylor references polled members of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA). Membership in APEGA is a prerequisite to a job with an oil, gas, or mining company, and these jobs dominate its online job board. Alberta, home to the tar sands boom, is Canada’s most oil-rich province, and the petroleum industry is Alberta’s largest employer of engineers and geoscientists.

- The study authors used the APEGA survey as a way to see how extractive industry positions influence scientific views and justifications. They found that people employed by oil and gas companies were much more likely to oppose mainstream climate science. Additionally, the more highly placed in the company, the more vehement the opposition.

- 84% of the respondents to the survey were engineers. This designation includes many subspecialties that have nothing to do with climate, for example electrical engineers and pipeline corrosion specialists.

- Taylor’s focus on the most concerned category of scientists and engineers is misleading. Another 5% of respondents supported moderate action, and an additional 17% believed that humans were influencing the climate, although they were not sure if action was needed. This means that even among a group made up primarily of oil and gas industry engineers, 58% believed that humans are influencing the climate.

Additional studies:

-   A recent literature review found that out of 13,950 peer-reviewed climate science studies since 1991, only 24 reject human-caused global warming.

-   A peer-reviewed survey of 1,372 actively publishing climate researchers found that 97% of them uphold the existence of human-caused global warming.

-   Another peer-reviewed survey of 10,257 earth scientists from a variety of disciplines also found 97% agreement among actively publishing climate scientists, and almost 90% agreement among all actively publishing earth scientists that humans are causing global warming.

Climate Nexus Lesfrund-Meyer graph

Conclusion:

The APEGA survey is noteworthy for its exposure of the disparity between the views of engineers and geoscientists employed by petroleum companies, vs. the rest of the community of actively publishing climate and earth scientists. Denialism increased still further among the top-level oil and gas engineers. Although the cause behind this trend is unclear, it shows at the very least a correlation between ties to oil and gas and climate denial views. In no way does it undermine the strong agreement among publishing scientists that human-caused global warming is real and a problem.

*    *    *

Also see Heartland Institute’s James Taylor falsely claims a new study rejects climate consensus [Updated], by Bryan Angliss at Scholars and Rogues, which leads with:

James Taylor, managing editor of The Heartland Institute’s Environment & Climate News, recently wrote a Forbes blog post about a new study of professional engineers and geoscientists involved in Alberta, Canada’s petroleum industry. According to the authors of the study, however, Taylor got most of the details in his post wrong, and Taylor has not corrected or retracted the blog post even though his errors have been pointed out to him. Furthermore, Taylor republished his deceptive and dishonest post at The Heartland Institute this morning, three days after the study’s authors corrected Taylor. Taylor has a made a habit of distorting scientific studies in the past – his new blog post is no different. ...

Earlier CSW post: James Taylor's deceptive attempt to discredit National Climate Assessment experts

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3 Responses to James Taylor misinterprets study by 180 degrees

  1. Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

    Lianne Lefsrud and Renate Taylor, the authors of the study referred to by Taylor, have posted a comment at Forbes below Taylor’s post. The direct link is here:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2013/02/13/peer-reviewed-survey-finds-majority-of-scientists-skeptical-of-global-warming-crisis/?commentId=comment_blogAndPostId/blog/comment/1363-1219-5279

    While the authors are perhaps overly restrained, they clearly reject Taylor’s use of their work. In particular, they say:

    "…even within the confines of our non-representative data set, the interpretation that a majority of the respondents believe that nature is the primary cause of global warming is simply not correct. To the contrary: the majority believes that humans do have their hands in climate change, even if many of them believe that humans are not the only cause."

  2. Pingback: Taylor attacks his critics instead of correcting his distortions of a peer-reviewed study | Scholars and Rogues

  3. John Carter says:

    I'm still not clear on how articles by this person get published in main stream media sources (such as yahoo news, a piece I link to in here http://theworldofairaboveus.blogspot.com/2014/07/roy-spencer-exhibit-that-climate-change_26.html ) when the bias isn't just hidden, but overt, and the pattern of one directional slant (and errors) is constant, and pretty severe. The piece I linked to, http://news.yahoo.com/nasa-data-blow-gaping-hold-global-warming-alarmism-192334971.html apparently printed as a real article for Forbes and Yahoo news (and maybe some other sources) actually refers to climate scientists not as scientists,but as "alarmists." And does so several times. Did sources at Yahoo and Forbes even read the piece?

    So this above by Taylor is not surprising.

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