Comment On A University Of Oregon Report Titled “Setting The Record Straight – Responses To Common Challenges To Climate Science”

There is a publication dated January 2009 by The University of Oregon Climate Leadership Initiative titled

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT Responses To Common Challenges To Climate Science

The text starts with

“A good deal of misinformation has appeared in recent months challenging the reality, causes and trajectory of human-induced climate change. This document provides scientifically credible responses to some of the most commonly heard challenges.”

The information used to write this report (as they list) are

• The 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( The IPCC was established by the World Meterological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme to assess information regarding climate change. The 2007 Report is a consensus document produced by over 600 authors from 40 countries, and reviewed by over 620 experts and governments. It is considered the most extensively peer reviewed science document in history.
• RealClimate, a blog on climate science written by some the nation’s top climate scientists that provides timely responses to misinformation about climate science ( In 2005, Scientific American recognized RealClimate with a Science and Technology Web Award.
• The Scientific Consensus Statement on the Likely Impacts of Climate Change on the Pacific Northwest, signed by 50 Northwest scientists in 2004. (
• The book Global Warming by Sir John Houghton, considered one of the most authoritative texts on climate change available today (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

The authors are listed as

This document was prepared by The UO Climate Leadership Initiative (CLI) a global climate change research program in the Institute for a Sustainable Environment at the University of Oregon, with assistance from Christopher Bretherton, PhD, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Applied Mathematics and Director, Program on Climate Change; Nathan Mantua, PhD, Research Associate Professor, Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and Associate Director, Climate Impacts Group; and Philip Mote, PhD, Research Scientist, Climate Impacts Group, and State Climatologist, at the University of Washington.

I only want to comment in this post on just one aspect of their report; the section titled “The Scientific Method”. In this section they write

“Progress in science is achieved through the “scientific method”. After observing phenomena such as climate change, scientists develop a hypothesis to explain what has been seen. The hypothesis is then proved or disproved through careful, disciplined laboratory and field observation and experimentation to determine if the explanation matches reality. Other scientists must be able to assess the validity of a finding through the peer review process. If further examination and peer-review challenges do not support a hypothesis, new ones are formed and the process begins anew. When the evidence in support of a hypothesis is sufficiently large, scientific findings are formed. The conclusions drawn by the IPCC are the result of the application of this process.

Challenges and debates are a core element of the scientific method because they are fundamental to correcting and strengthening scientific understanding. While the method thrives on continual challenges, such challenges must be based on new data or interpretations that better explain the observed phenomena to the satisfaction of qualified peer reviewers. Arguments, petitions and belief statements that do not stand up to peer review, or are unwilling to submit to this disciplined process, however large the numbers of signers, are not scientifically credible.”

I agree with the need to follow the scientific method. However, this scientific method clearly documents that one of their “setting the record straight” fails. This is their claim that

“The Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was produced by over 600 authors from 47 countries, and reviewed by over 600 experts and governments. In addition, every major international scientific institution dealing with climate, ocean, and/or atmosphere agrees that the climate is warming rapidly beyond natural variability and the primary cause is human-induced CO2 emissions”.

In our paper

Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union

we presented three hypotheses, only one of which can be true.

The three hypotheses are

  • Hypothesis 1: Human influence on climate variability and change is of minimal importance, and natural causes dominate climate variations and changes on all time scales. In coming decades, the human influence will continue to be minimal.
  • Hypothesis 2a: Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and involve a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades.
  • Hypothesis 2b: Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and are dominated by the emissions into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, the most important of which is CO2. The adverse impact of these gases on regional and global climate constitutes the primary climate issue for the coming decades.

Hypothesis 2b, which is the view of climate science promoted by The University of Oregon Climate Leadership Initiative , has been shown to be rejected. The statement that the  “primary cause [of global warming, and climate change more generally] is human-induced CO2 emissions” is incorrect.

Only hypothesis 2a is not rejected by the scientific method.  If the The University of Oregon Climate Leadership Initiative wants to be current in their report on “Setting The Record Straight”, they need to update the information that is being disseminated on climate science.

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