Re: [asa] Latest Inhofe List Has Much in Common with Discovery Institute's List

From: Lynn Walker <>
Date: Mon Dec 15 2008 - 11:02:20 EST

On Sat, Dec 13, 2008 at 11:17 PM, Rich Blinne <> wrote:

> I was asked offline what I thought of Senator Inhofe's latest list of
> "respected scientists".

 <> Has anyone asked
you what you thought of the list of "respected IPPC scientists" who
represent the so-called, "consensus" ? That could get to be embarrassing.

*Science and Public Policy

*Back at Gristmill, Andrew Dessler stands by his cancer/doctor analogy in
the in-whom-do-we-trust war, after some comments on his blog:
*The complexity of climate change does not suddenly make a sociologist,
economist, computer programmer, etc. a credible skeptic. In fact, the
weakness of Inhofe's list is readily apparent by the very fact that he had
to include such people on his list.
The crown jewels of skeptics are Lindzen, Christy, Singer, etc., but as I've
said before, there are only a small number of them. In order to bulk up the
list, Inhofe lowered his criteria to basically include anyone who doesn't
believe in climate change --- regardless of their technical background in
the subject. As far as my analogy being unsuitable, I stand by it. If your
child is sick, you take him/her to the experts. Ditto if your planet is
sick. You don't take either your child or a planet to a sociologist or

For the uninitiated, here is the lowdown: Andrew Dessler is a professor at
the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University. He is
complaining about a US senate report which listed hundreds of individuals
who have been reported in the media during 2007 as speaking against the
"scientific consensus" on climate change, claiming that they are scientists.
The report naturally challenges the very principle of the consensus, which
has given climate policies the authority they have needed to be carried
forward. The global warming camp have sought to undermine the value of this
new list, by claiming that the scientists lack scientific qualifications,
expertise, or moral integrity.

But Dessler has made a significant concession here. He is visibly shifting
from the idea that the power of the consensus comes from the weight of
scientific opinion - *numbers*. An "overwhelming number" of scientist's
opinions might indicate that the "science" had been tested.

Now, you have to be qualified to have an opinion on climate change.

But Dessler doesn't tell us exactly how we are to measure the
qualifications, we just have to take his word for it that the 400 sceptics
aren't qualified, but the IPCC scientists are. So it's not simply a
consensus, it's a qualified consensus, and he gets to call the
qualification. So much for science.

So, apparently, the IPCC scientists who represent the consensus are more
qualified than their counterparts. They are akin to the experts you would
trust your desperately ill child to, not the ragbag of mavericks you would

Worse still, many of the sceptics are in fact *mere computer programmers* or
- gasp - sociologists!

We decided to test Dessler's claim. So we downloaded IPCC WGII's latest
report on "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability". There were 380
contributors to the report [PDF of
A thorough and exhaustive analysis of the backgrounds of these experts (or
were they?) was too ambitious (it's Christmas, and we have wine to drink,
and mince pies to eat, too). So, we focused on the contributors who operate
in the UK. Of the 51 UK contributors to the report, there were 5 economists,
3 epidemiologists, 5 who were either zoologists, entomologists, or
biologists. 5 worked in civil engineering or risk management / insurance. 7
had specialisms in physical geography (we gave the benefit of the doubt to
some academics whose profiles weren't clear about whether they are physical
or human geographers).* And just 10 have specialisms in geophysics, climate
science or modelling, or hydrology*.

But there were 15 who could only be described as social scientists. If we
take the view that economics is a social science, that makes 20 social

This gives the lie to Dessler's claim that IPCC contributors are analogous
to medical doctors. There are economists working on saving that dying
child!!! That's got to be wrong, by Dessler's own standards.

Nonetheless, were these contributors the "experts" that Dessler claims they
are? There were a few professors, but few of them had the profile Dessler
gives them. Many of them were in fact, hard to locate to establish just how
much better than their counterparts they were.

One professor (Abigail Bristow) wasn't what you'd call a climate scientist,
but a professor of Transport Studies at Newcastle University. How is she
going to cure the sick child? Will she be driving the ambulance?

Another Professor - Diana Liverman at Oxford University - specialises in
"human dimensions of global environmental change" - Geography is a social
science too. Another - John Morton of the University of Greenwich,
specialises in "development Anthropology".

Professor of Geography, and *Co-Chair of IPCC WGII*, Martin Parry's profile
merely tells us that he is "a specialist on the effects of climate change".
But *what does that actually mean?

*Among the remainder - most of whom are not professors, but research
associates at best, are an assorted bunch, many of whom are better known for
their alarmist statements in the mainstream press than they are for their
contributions to scientific knowledge - activists in other words, with their
own political motivation.

And in spite of being reported as "climate scientists", involved in
scientific research, also seem to be working within the social sciences,
albeit for "climate research" institutions, such as Tyndall.

Johanna Wolf, for example, is an IPCC contributor from the University of
East Anglia, who works in the department for "development studies". Does
that make her a climate scientist?

Anna Taylor, of the Stockholm Environment Institute in Oxford has no PhD at
all, her research focuses on "stakeholder engagement in adapting to multiple
stresses, including climate variability and change, water scarcity, food
insecurity and health concerns" - not climate science, and has simply not
been alive long enough to join the ranks of the specialists of specialisms
that Dessler demands of sceptics.

Similarly, Susanne Rupp-Armstrong, listed as a member of Southampton
University only appears to have ever contributed to one academic paper.

Research Associate at the University of East Anglia, Maureen Agnew does not
focus her research on climate science, but on such things as ?Public
perceptions of unusually warm weather in the UK: impacts, responses and
adaptations?, and ?Potential impacts of climate change on international

Katherine Vincent specialising in "Social Capital and Climate change" at the
UEA, only began her PhD thesis in October 2003.

How can she be cited as a specialist in climate science?

Then there are the contributors whose involvement we cannot explain. Farhana
Yamin is an international lawyer, based at the University of Sussex.

Rachel Warren and Paul Watkiss are merely listed as "environmental
consultants" at the latter's consultancy firm, and clearly have a commercial
interest in climate change policies being developed.

Kate Studd is listed as a contributor, but she works for the Catholic Agency
for Overseas Development, and doesn't appear to be an academic at all.

What are these people doing on this list of the most expert climate
specialists in the world?

We were surprised by the results. Was the prevalence of social scientists
from the UK representative of the whole group?

We decided to repeat the test for the contributors based in the USA.

Of the 70 US contributors, there were 7 economists, 13 social scientists, 3
epidemiologists, 10 biologists/ecologists, 5 engineers, 2
modellers/statisticians, 1 full-time activist (and 1 part time), 5 were in
public health and policy, and 4 were unknowns. 17 worked in
earth/atmospheric sciences.

Again, we gave the benefit of the doubt to geographers where it wasn't clear
whether their specialism was physical, or human geography.

Included as contributors to WGII are Patricia Craig, Judith Cranage, Susan
Mann, and Christopher Pfeiffer, all from Pennsylvania State University.

It's not that these people aren't experts in their field - they probably

Our problem with their inclusion on the list of Contributors to the IPCC
WGII Fourth Assessment report is that their jobs are (in order)
website-designer, administrative assistant (x2), and network administrator.

Also on the list is Peter Neofotis who appears to be a 2003 graduate of
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology from Columbia. Are there many
experts in anything who graduated in 2003? Would Dessler take his sick child
to a doctor, who, according to our understanding of medical training, would
have not yet qualified? Also at Columbia is Marta Vicarelli, who is a PhD
candidate in 'sustainable development'. Can she be the amongst the world's
leading experts on sustainability? It seems hard to take the claim
seriously. Or what about Gianna Palmer at Wesleyan University, who, as far
as we can tell, will not graduate from university until 2010?

And yet Dessler insists that Inhofe's list is chock full of people without
any recent, relevant research on the problem. In fact, I'm pretty sure
that's why they're skeptics: people with the relevant experience are
immediately persuaded by the evidence. This should be compared to the IPCC,
which includes exclusively people with recent, relevant expertise on the

*Anything which can be thrown at the sceptics can be thrown at IPCC

*That is not to say that social scientists and computer programmers have
nothing to offer the world, or the IPCC process. They are crucial in fact.
What it is to say, however, is that, when social scientists, computer
programmers and administrative assistants comprise a significant proportion
of IPCC contributors, the global warmer mantra that the IPCC represents the
world's top 2500 climate scientists is just plain old-fashioned not true.

Dessler's wish to maintain that the IPCC comprises unimpeachable experts in
their field mirrors the common desire to create an unassailable scientific
consensus that political changes in the world are a necessity. This is
driven less from the data generated by these experts - they aren't as expert
as is claimed, and the consensus is not unassailable - and more to do with
the desire to drive politics by creating scientific orthodoxy. This would be
scientism, if there was any matter of science about it. The only claim to
authority that the IPCC has is not tested, scientific expertise, but just
the fact of being established as an authority. There is obviously no
substantial attempt to select the best in the field to contribute, as there
is no objective measure of such expertise. If we do not take the view that
IPCC's authority rests on its contributors' expertise, then the consensus it
generates is meaningless. It is merely a 'ministry of truth ' - the
existence of which is only designed to reduce inconvenient challenges to
political, not scientific, orthodoxy.

Dessler says:
 The problem is not the several dozen credible skeptics on Inhofe's list,
some of whom you've named, it's the 350 others. Overall, there are nowhere
near 400 credible skeptics on his list, or on the planet.

Even if it were possible to draw together the best scientific minds (and
perhaps even the best sociologists and programmers too), would it even be

Science has never 'worked' by measuring opinion, but by testing hypotheses.
It doesn't work by generating orthodoxy, but by challenging it.

The IPCC doesn't represent the best available understanding, but the paucity
of understanding of the factors governing climate.

If the 'truth' really is 'out there' then it doesn't need to be decided by




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Received on Mon Dec 15 11:02:56 2008

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