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What would an accurate survey of climate scientists look like?

13 Feb

I recently criticized the study Doran and Zimmerman 2009 because of poor phrasing in their survey questions. I’ve looked at some other attempts at surveying the climate field, which I may write about later, but I haven’t found a satisfactory survey yet. The problem is that while the surveys ask if human activity has influenced climate, they don’t ask how significant it has been. For example, if a climate scientist believed that human impacts have increased the global mean temperature by one tenth of one degree, then they would answer yes and be considered ‘part of the consensus’. I verified this by asking several famous ‘skeptical’ climate scientists to answer the questions used in the Doran 09 survey, and they answered in the positive.

This led me to consider what kind of question would be sufficient to determine just how significant climate scientists believe human activities have warmed our planet. I put forth this as a question:

Do you believe that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions were the primary factor (50% or more) in the observed mean global temperature increase since the mid-20’th century?

While I consider this better than the other survey’s questions, I still think it is flawed. I’m curious to know exactly how much climate scientists believe we have warmed the earth. So here’s my new question:

By how much do you believe anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased mean global temperatures since the middle of the 20’th century?


A. None
B. Less than 0.1c
C. Between 0.1 and 0.3c
D. Between 0.3 and 0.6c
E. Between 0.6 and 1.0c
F. More than 1.0c
G. Unknown

I would also like to see a question on climate sensitivity, with different ranges as answers.

These surveys have always been crafted by believers in the consensus. What would this type of survey look like if created by those skeptical of the consensus? Let’s find out. Feel free to comment on what you would like included in a survey, and how you would phrase the questions. If we do well enough, we can look at doing this informally, or if someone knows a social scientist who would be willing, we could actually do the survey up right.

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9 Comments

Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

9 responses to “What would an accurate survey of climate scientists look like?

  1. Gordon Cheyne

    February 13, 2011 at 6:38 am

    The idea is good, but the problem of selection bias remains if you allow respondants to select themselves.
    Who would be eligible to participate in the survey, and how do you define “climate scientists”?

     
  2. Sam

    February 13, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Gordon, I don’t know. Got any ideas?

    If I end up doing an informal survey my idea was to set up a password protected survey online, then e-mail climate scientists an invitation along with the password. I’m not sure how to define climate scientists. Other studies have relied upon existing databases, such as at the AGU. I don’t know if I’m able to access those or not.

     
  3. artwest

    February 13, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Sam, the password idea would have to be somehow made foolproof if you weren’t to get one of more of the recipients spreading the word to sympathizers. It might be difficult to ensure one (qualified) person, one vote.
    I hate to sound cynical but nothing should surprise us any more.

     
  4. Sam

    February 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I’ve thought of that, artwest. I might have to contact someone with more knowledge of online surveys, because there needs to be a way for only climate scientists to gain access, and only answer questions once. We could get around that issue by simply having them attach their name to the answer, but then you risk getting many fewer replies because I suspect that some people would like to remain anonymous.

     
  5. hro001

    February 14, 2011 at 2:07 am

    Sam, your proposed survey is certainly a vast improvement on Doran & Zimmerman. But …

    I may be totally off-base here; however, do I wonder if by perpetuating the “belief” aspect along with continuing to focus on “mean global temperature” (which in and of itself is somewhat meaningless, don’t you think?!) such a survey would be missing a golden opportunity to take a shot (so to speak!) at the elephant in the room: i.e. the purported role of human generated C02 as the primary cause of AGW.

    Considering that we are constantly told that “thousands of scientists” etc. etc. and considering Hume’s recent acknowledgement that there are no more than a few dozen “experts” in detection and attribution, I would like to see a survey (open to any scientist, not just climate scientists) with questions more along the lines of …

    Some climate scientists have hypothesized that human generated C02 is the primary cause of anthropogenic global warming.

    1. Are you aware of any empirical evidence that supports this hypothesis? Yes or No.

    If Yes:

    2. Which specific studies contain such empirical evidence?

    If papers are cited:

    3. a) When did you personally examine the data and methodology in order to verify the results of these studies?

    3. b) Do you agree or disagree with the findings?

    3. c) There has been much discussion of late regarding the communication of climate science to the general public. How would you summarize your agreement/disagreement when communicating with the general public?

    4. Are you aware of any empirical evidence which would suggest that this hypothesis may not be correct? Yes or No

    If Yes:

    5. Which specific studies contain such empirical evidence?

    If papers are cited:

    6. a) When did you personally examine the data and methodology in order to verify the results of these studies?

    6. b) Do you agree or disagree with the findings?

    6. c) There has been much discussion of late regarding the communication of climate science to the general public. How would you summarize your agreement/disagreement when communicating with the general public?

     
  6. Sam

    February 14, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Hilary,

    I love the survey, but we would never get anyone to answer it. From what I’ve heard, the response rate among scientists is fairly low, but it would be practically zero if they were asked such direct questions and so many, especially since it would require significant work on their part (finding studies, remembering when they’d read them, etc.)

    I agree with you that mean global temperature is a meaningless number, but unfortunately it is the focus.

    I know that ‘belief’ seems an unattractive way to determine consensus, but I don’t think that it misses the mark of determining how much climate scientists consider CO2 a primary driver of climate change. By looking back instead of forward, we can exactly determine just how important they believe CO2 is. If they answer less than say, 0.3c, then we can assume they consider human impacts to be minor.

    I appreciate your observations, and your questions are well phrased to capture the exact state of the science. If this were a funded study that could ensure we got all our questions answered, they would be perfect.

     
  7. hro001

    February 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Yeah, well I can dream, can’t I, Sam?! Hey, maybe we could compromise … and append to yours:

    Some climate scientists have hypothesized that human generated C02 is the primary cause of anthropogenic global warming.

    1. Are you aware of any empirical evidence that supports this hypothesis? Yes or No.

    Regardless of answer:

    2. On a scale of 1-5 (where 1 = Would not endorse and 5 = Would endorse):

    3. How strongly would you endorse this hypothesis?

    4. Have you personally had the opportunity to examine the data and methodology underlying any climate change research?

    5. There has been much discussion of late regarding the communication of climate science to the general public. How would you summarize your views on athropogenic global warming when communicating with the general public?

    I know, I’m still dreaming … but maybe *some* of the above could be incorporated πŸ˜‰

     
  8. hro001

    February 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Sam, FYI … you’ve inspired me and I decided to test the survey waters (with variants of my questions!)

    http://hro001.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/calling-all-scientists-an-invitation-to-speak-for-yourself/

    Who knows … if I do get a significant response, maybe “big oil” will fund me to run a scientific version πŸ˜‰

     

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