Authors of a new study of meteorologists' views of global warming set the record straight when Forbes op-ed writer James Taylor, consistent with his long history of denial and obfuscation on climate change, selectively reports the results of a poll of members of the American Meteorological Society. Taylor claims the study shows weak support for the human contribution to global warming. In fact, as authors of the study point out below, the survey found that more than 90 percent of those respondents who are more engaged in research and publishing on climate science acknowledge the human contribution to warming.
Neil Stenhouse, et al., "Meteorologists’ views about global warming: A survey of American Meteorological Society professional members" (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, preliminary accepted version) (article Abstract)
Statement by Neil Stenhouse, Edward Maibach, Sara Cobb, Ray Ban, Paul Croft, Keith Seitter, and Anthony Leiserowitz:
James Taylor’s interpretation of our study is wrong. We found high levels of expert consensus on human-caused climate change.
We appreciate the reader engagement with our recently published paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (doi: 10.1175/BAMS-D-13-00091.1) which explores the perspectives of AMS members on issues related to climate change. Some readers may wish to flatten the complexity of our data into a narrative line that tells the story they want it to tell, harnessing facts to make a particular case; others may build a case on the nature of the facts. The first is a political process, and the second an empirical, scientific process. Our paper was written as a scientific paper, with the aim of inquiry and discovery. Should some readers wish to ignore or distort our findings for ideological ends, we can’t stop them. Readers who consider our findings more objectively, however, are likely to reach conclusions that differ starkly from those of Mr. Taylor.
In our paper, we assessed whether or not AMS members are convinced that global warming is occurring, and if so, what they feel is the cause. Among all the respondents, about 7 out of 10 (73%) said human activities have contributed to global warming. To then assess how this perception varied among respondents with different levels of expertise, we sub-divided respondents based on their self-assessed area of expertise – climate science vs. meteorology and atmospheric science – and whether or not they have published peer-reviewed research in the previous five years, and if so, on what topic. Our premise was that AMS members who are actively conducting and publishing climate science research have greater expertise on climate science than AMS members who have other areas of expertise.
We found that more than 9 out of 10 climate science experts (93%) who publish mostly on climate change, and the same proportion (93%) of climate experts who publish mostly on other topics, were convinced that humans have contributed to global warming. We also found that about 8 out of 10 meteorologists and atmospheric scientists who publish on climate (79%) or other topics (78%) were convinced that humans have contributed to global warming. Lastly, we found that the group least likely to be convinced that humans have contributed to global warming was AMS members who do not publish research in the peer-reviewed scientific literature; only six out of 10 AMS members in this group (62%) were convinced.
Contrasting with Mr. Taylor's caricature of the results, in the paper we concluded that: "These results, together with those of other similar studies, suggest high levels of expert consensus about human-caused climate change." We continue to stand by this conclusion, and would urge readers not to be misled by selective reporting of our results.
Moreover, in the paper we explained that our findings are likely a conservative estimate of AMS member agreement that human-caused climate change is occurring. Some of our survey respondents told us that had we asked about the warming in the past 50 years – rather than the warming in the past 150 years – more respondents would have answered affirmatively (i.e., indicating that human-caused climate change is occurring). Their point was that the science more clearly indicates human causation of climate change over past 50 years than over the past 150 years.
* * *
Also see this good discussion by Brian Angliss at Scholars and Rogues: James Taylor of Heartland Institute twists new AMS study to cast doubt upon industrial climate disruption consensus
Earlier CSW post: Interview with Stephen Schneider on climate science expert credibility study (July 12, 2010)