Skeptical Science Survey By John Cook On “Climate Related Research”

This past week I received the e-mail below inviting me to participate in a survey by John Cook of the University of Queensland.  I participated and provide my comment on it (which was submitted with the survey) at the end of this post. I appreciate being invited to participlate but, as I write later in this post, have major issues with the framework of the survey.

Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2012 07:57:24 +1000 (EST) From: John Cook <xxxxxx> To: pielkesr@cires.colorado.eduSubject: Invitation to participate in survey re your climate related research

You are invited to participate in a survey by the University of Queensland measuring the level of consensus in the peer-reviewed literature for the proposition that humans are causing global warming. Our search of the ISI Web of Science database has found 4 of your papers published between 1991 and 2011 matching the search phrases ‘global warming’ or ‘global climate change’ (noting that due to the specific search parameters, it’s possible that some of your papers may not be included). You are invited to categorise the topic of research and level of endorsement in each paper. You will not be asked to supply your private views but merely to categorise your published research. To participate, please follow the link below to the University of Queensland website [I disabled the link].

The survey should take around 6 minutes. You may elect to discontinue the survey at any point; your ratings will only be recorded if the survey is completed. The rating must be done in one uninterrupted session, and cannot be revised after closing the session. Your ratings are confidential and all data will be de-individuated in the final results so no individual ratings will be published. You may sign up to receive the final results of the de-individuated survey.

The research, titled The Consensus Project, is being conducted by the University of Queensland in collaboration with contributing authors of the website (winner of the Australian Museum 2011 Eureka Prize for Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge). The research project is headed by John Cook, Research Fellow in Climate Change Communication for the Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland.

This study adheres to the Guidelines of the ethical review process of The University of Queensland. Whilst you are free to discuss your participation in this study with project staff (contactable on +61 7 3365 3553 or, if you would like to speak to an officer of the University not involved in the study, you may contact the Ethics Officer on +61 7 3365 3924 or

Regards, John Cook Global Change Institute/University of Queensland Skeptical Science

I have cut and pasted the information from the survey below.

Survey on Climate Change Consensus in the Peer-Reviewed Literature

Please select from both drop downs below to rate your paper, specifying category and level of endorsement. You may also add any comments (e.g. – indicate if the paper was erroneously attributed to you). All papers must be rated in one sitting.

Category: The first drop down indicates what category of research your paper covers. If your paper addresses more than one category, select the category that is the major focus:

  1. Impacts:effects and impacts of climate change on the environment, ecosystems or humanity
  2. Methods:focus on measurements and modelling methods, or basic climate science not included in the other categories.
  3. Mitigation:research into lowering CO2 emissions or atmospheric CO2 levels
  4. Not Climate Related:This includes social science research about people’s views on climate
  5. Opinion:Not peer-reviewed
  6. Paleoclimate: examining climate during pre-industrial times

Endorsement: The second drop down indicates the level of endorsement for the proposition that human activity (i.e., anthropogenic greenhouse gases) is causing global warming (e.g., the increase in temperature). Note: we are not asking about your personal opinion but whether each specific paper endorses or rejects (whether explicitly or implicitly) that humans cause global warming:

  1. Explicit Endorsement with Quantification:paper explicitly states that humans are causing most of global warming.
  2. Explicit Endorsement without Quantification:paper explicitly states humans are causing global warming or refers to anthropogenic global warming/climate change as a given fact.
  3. Implicit Endorsement:paper implies humans are causing global warming. E.g., research assumes greenhouse gases cause warming without explicitly stating humans are the cause.
  4. Neutral:paper doesn’t address or mention issue of what’s causing global warming.
  5. Implicit Rejection:paper implies humans have had a minimal impact on global warming without saying so explicitly. E.g., proposing a natural mechanism is the main cause of global warming.
  6. Explicit Rejection without Quantification:paper explicitly minimizes or rejects that humans are causing global warming.
  7. Explicit Rejection with Quantification: paper explicitly states that humans are causing less than half of global warming

Survey Form (mouseover the paper title to display the abstract)

Listed below are peer-reviewed articles you have co-authored listed in the ISI Web of Science database matching the exact phrases ‘global warming’ or ‘global climate change’. Due to the specificity of the search, some of your climate related papers may not have appeared in the search.

The papers that were listed as being attributed to me are

Importance Of Land Use Versus Atmospheric Information Verified From Cloud Simulations From A Frontier Region In Costa Rica (2009)

Evidence For Carbon Dioxide And Moisture Interactions From The Leaf Cell Up To Global Scales: Perspective On Human-caused Climate Change (2006)

Hurricanes And Global Warming (2005)

The Influence Of Land-use Change And Landscape Dynamics On The Climate System: Relevance To Climate-change Policy Beyond The Radiative Effect Of Greenhouse Gases (2002)

The third paper is my son’s.

In the comment request box in the survey, I provided the following:

A survey needs to have a broader set of questions asked with respect to the peer reviewed papers, if the goal is to clearly determine the findings in the peer reviewed literature. For example, we proposed this set of questions in

Brown, F., J. Annan, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2008: Is there agreement amongst climate scientists on the IPCC AR4 WG1? [].

1. There is no warming; it is a fabrication based on inaccurate/inappropriate measurement. Human activity is not having any significant effect on Climate. The data on which such assumptions are made is so compromised as to be worthless. The physical science basis of AGW theory is founded on a false hypothesis.

2. Any recent warming is most likely natural. Human input of CO2 has very little to do with it. Solar, naturally varying water vapour and similar variables can explain most or all of the climate changes. Projections based on Global Climate Models are unreliable because these are based on too many assumptions and unreliable datasets.

3. There are changes in the atmosphere, including added CO2 from human activities, but significant climate effects are likely to be all within natural limits. The ‘scares’ are exaggerations with a political motive. The undue emphasis on CO2 diverts attention away from other, important research on climate variability and change.

4. There is warming and the human addition of CO2 causes some of it, but the science is too uncertain to be confident about current attributions of the precise role of CO2 with respect to other climate forcings. The IPCC WG1 overestimates the role of CO2 relative to other forcings, including a diverse variety of human climate forcings.

5. The scientific basis for human impacts on climate is well represented by the IPCC WG1 report. The lead scientists know what they are doing. We are warming the planet, with CO2 as the main culprit. At least some of the forecast consequences of this change are based on robust evidence.

6. The IPCC WG1 is compromised by political intervention; I agree with those scientists who say that the IPCC WG1 is underestimating the problem. Action to reduce human emissions of CO2 in order to mitigate against serious consequences is more urgent than the report suggests. This should be done irrespective of other climate and environmental considerations.

7. The IPCC WG1 seriously understates the human influence on climate. I agree with those scientists who say that major mitigation responses are needed immediately to prevent catastrophic serious warming and other impacts projected to result from human emissions of CO2. We are seriously damaging the Earth’s climate, and will continue to face devastating consequences for many years.

A survey that identifies which of the above statements a peer reviewed paper provides support for would be quite informative.

Your survey also only presented a very limited number of papers that I was involved with as an author. For example, see 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.

where we presented these three hypotheses:

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.

I also recommend that you survey the literature, in terms of impacts assessments, if they use the top-down (outcome) vulnerability approach or the bottom-up (contextual) vulnerability) approach to assess risk. As we presented in our paper

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2012: Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press

we wrote

We discuss the adoption of a bottom-up, resource–based vulnerability approach in evaluating the effect of climate and other environmental and societal threats to societally critical resources. This vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to local and regional water, food, energy, human health, and ecosystem function resources from extreme events including climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risks can be compared with other risks in order to adopt optimal preferred mitigation/adaptation strategies.

This is a more inclusive way of assessing risks, including from climate variability and climate change than using the outcome vulnerability approach adopted by the IPCC. A contextual vulnerability assessment, using the bottom-up, resource-based framework is a more inclusive approach for policymakers to adopt effective mitigation and adaptation methodologies to deal with the complexity of the spectrum of social and environmental extreme events that will occur in the coming decades, as the range of threats are assessed, beyond just the focus on CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases as emphasized in the IPCC assessments.

A survey as you are doing would be much more informative if you broadened out the survey to ask these questions.

My view of this survey is that it is much too limiting in the questions they are asking regarding the findings in the peer reviewed literature. It appears they are writing their questions to reinforce a preconceived perspective, rather than complete an actual survey of the diversity of viewpoints in climate system science and the role of humans in its alteration.   Rather than asking the broader question of the role of humans in the climate system, the survey highlights the “endoresement” that

the level of endorsement for the proposition that human activity (i.e., anthropogenic greenhouse gases) is causing global warming (e.g., the increase in temperature).

This is hardly a survey that is going to broaden out the assessment of the current perspective of the peer review literature on climate science. I hope they take my recommendations and expand their survey questions.

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