I believe humans cause global warming. I am not part of a consensus that states, “Humans cause global warming.” If this sounds crazy, it’s because it is. It’s also seems to be what Dana Nuccitelli of Skeptical Science fame claimed in a comment at Collin Maessen’s blog.
To those who don’t know, Skeptical Science announced the Cook et al paper with a post which described their results (Cook et al are from Skeptical Science):
The 97% Consensus Results
Based on our abstract ratings, we found that just over 4,000 papers expressed a position on the cause of global warming, 97.1% of which endorsed human-caused global warming. In the self-ratings, nearly 1,400 papers were rated as taking a position, 97.2% of which endorsed human-caused global warming.
This has caused some controversy as to what the “consensus” measures. In reference to that, Nuccitelli explained:
We used multiple definitions of ‘consensus’, one being simply ‘humans are causing global warming’ and another being ‘humans are the main cause of global warming’.
We should take a moment to admire the audacity of this. Skeptical Science has claimed they found “a consensus.” They’ve talked about “the consensus.” Not once did they say they found “some consensuses.” Not once did they discuss “the consensuses.” The existence of multiple consensuses is not present in their paper. It is not present in their discussion of their paper’s results. As far as I know, it isn’t present in any of the media coverage either.
It seems Skeptical Science has gone to great lengths to hide the fact they used multiple definitions. As an example, here is me discussing the lack of definition for the “consensus” in the paper at their site:
2) There is no clear, much less explicit, definition of “consensus” in the Cook et al paper. None was provided on Skeptical Science either. Obama’s tweet about this paper, which Skeptical Science has used for publicity, describes the consensus found by this paper as something it could not possibly be. It’s cheeky to criticize people for using a different criterion for the “consensus” when you never bothered to provide one of your own.
Multiple authors of the paper responded, but not a one answered this simple question. Not a one corrected me by pointing out more than one definition was used. However, one of the participants in the project said this:
Ergo though John Cook may have lacked an explicit definition of endorsement [of the consensus], he and the raters had an implicit definition which is in the paper. What is more, that implicit definition is, or is very close to the tacit definition actually used by raters in rating abstracts.
None of the authors of the paper contradicted him, and before I could try, the moderators falsely claimed I was breaking their site’s rules, and I got banned. This shows Skeptical Science was determined not to give an answer to the simple question, “What is the consensus?”
Now we know why. Think about how different things would have been if Nuccitlli had said this six months ago. What would newspapers have said if people knew the paper used more than one definition for what the “consenus” is? They’d never have accepted claims about “the consensus.” They would have asked about the other consensuses. It was only by intentionally hiding the use of multiple definitions, apparently even from participants in the project, that Skeptical Science’s PR campaign could work.
But still, that doesn’t address the key issue here. How can I say I believe humans cause global warming yet not be part of the consensus measured by agreement with the statement, “Humans are causing global warming”? How can Roy Spencer? Spencer may not believe “humans are the main cause of global warming,” but he does believe they cause some global warming.
So how can Nuccitelli dispute this? I don’t know. There may be a clue in the last paragraph of his comment:
The point you (and he, and others) continue to miss is that the < 3% includes papers that minimize the human influence (implicitly or explicitly). That's why Spencer is in that category. I don't care where he believes he should go based on a misunderstanding of our paper and categories. He is in the < 3%.
Nuccitelli claims Spencer is in the 3% that rejects the consensus. Spencer agrees humans are causing warming, so this “consensus” cannot be the first Nuccitelli listed. We know the 97% is not based on agreeing humans cause most global warming, so this “consensus” cannot be the second Nuccitelli listed.
Maybe it’s not that Dana Nuccitelli is claiming that despite the fact I believe humans cause global warming, I am not part of a consensus that states, “Humans cause global warming.” Maybe the truth is their paper used a third, unknown definition for the “consensus” along with the two Nuccitelli has already said were used.
But wait. Even if Roy Spencer didn’t fit some third definition, he’d still fit the first. Since the authors of the paper, Skeptical Science and everyone else refer to “the consensus” when there’s really three (or more?), it’d be fair for Spencer to do the same. He’d just be referring to a different consensus when he says “the consensus.” He’d have his consensus, they’d have their consensus, Barack Obama would have his own consensus, and everybody would insist their consensus is “the consensus.”
Because consensus is God, and Cook et al have created a new holy text!