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

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Mon Dec 15 2008 - 11:09:28 EST

Could we please not start with the dumping of third party political
material on this list again?

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

On Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 11:02 AM, Lynn Walker <> wrote:
> 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".
> (snip)
> 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
> economist.
> 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
> avoid.
> 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 contributors]. 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
> scientists.
> 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
> tourism.?
> 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
> are.
> 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
> problem.
> Anything which can be thrown at the sceptics can be thrown at IPCC
> contributors.
> 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
> desirable?
> 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
> committee.
> <>
> Lynn

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Received on Mon Dec 15 11:09:56 2008

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