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Scientific Inquiry Concludes: Inhofe List "Not credible"

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Senator James Inhofe (R-Exxon) misused the power of his chairmanship and is now misusing his Ranking Minority status on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee to expend taxpayer resources on distorting, misleading, and outright deceiving when it comes to scientific issues, most notably in relation to questions of Global Warming. One of the most infamous examples of this are the various incarnations of a "report" cobbling together statements from scientists that supposedly dissent from the scientific consensus on humanity's role in driving accelerating global warming.

Well, the Center for Inquiry "an organization committed to defending scientific integrity,
has dealt a body blow to global warming skeptics by releasing findings exposing the lack of credibility of dissenting scientists challenging man-made global warming."
Re the Inhofe List

Inhofe's list is a quite favorite "denier" citation, the supposed 400 or 600 or 700 (depending on which version) number of scientists who have, supposedly, gone on record against the Theory of Global Warming. And, they like to cite this as from the "Senate Environment and Public Works Committee" without mentioning that this is a Minority Report from global-warming denier, fossil fool James Inhofe's staff.

CFI

The Center for Inquiry (CFI released their report
last Friday.

CFI's Office of Public Policy undertook an assessment of the 687 people listed as "dissenting scientists" in the January 2009 version of the 'Inhofe list'. Their conclusions:
  • Slightly fewer than 10 percent could be identified as climate scientists.
  • Approximately 15 percent published in the recognizable refereed literature on subjects related to climate science.
  • Approximately 80 percent clearly had no refereed publication record on climate science at all.
  • Approximately 4 percent appeared to favor the current IPCC-2007 consensus and should not have been on the list.
Here (pdf) is a spreadsheet providing a first-order analysis of the 687 alledged "dissenting scientists" in the 2009 version.

Per Dr. Stuart Jordan, science policy advisor to the CFI Office of Public Policy and retired emeritus senior staff scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center:

As a result of our assessment, Inhofe and other lawmakers using this report to block proposed legislation to address the harmful effects of climate change must face an inconvenient truth: while there are indeed some well respected scientists on the list, the vast majority are neither climate scientists, nor have they published in fields that bear directly on climate science.

Clearly, the involved researchers and CFI are angered by what they, rightly, see as deliberate efforts to distort public discussion of science:

"Sen. Inhofe and others have had some success in conveying to the media the impression that the number of scientists skeptical about man-made global warming is swelling, yet this is demonstrably not true." Dr. Ronald Lindsay, CFI's CEO, points out that Inhofe's office had misleadingly claimed in a press release that the number of dissenting scientists outnumbered by more than 13 times the number of U.N. scientists (52) who authored the 2007 IPCC. "But those 52 U.N. scientists were in fact summarizing for policymakers the work of over 2,000 active research scientists, all with substantially similar views on global warming and its causes. This is the kind of broadside against sound science and scientific integrity that we at CFI deplore."

And, of course, the number of people cited by Inhofe who merit being on the table as relevant scientists is perhaps in the range of 100, not 700. Thus, if one were to, inaccurately, assume that all 100 were dissenting scientists, then the ration of dissenters to scientists involved in the 2007 IPCC report is not 13-1 but 1 to 20.

Released, at the press conference, was The Credibility Project trifold brochure (pdf). I have now read this multiple times and am more impressed, with each read, with how well done it is, powerful in how it is thoughtfully understated.

They provide a six paragraph "Highlights in Contemporary Climate Science" which lays out, quite directly, a quite strong statement about the strength of our understanding of how humanity is driving climate change. They conclude this section,

For the reasons stated above, many scientists are skeptical when politicians claim that a large body of scientists doubts that human activity causes global warming. That claim runs contrary to the evidence and the work of a large climate-science community.

This leads to the six paragraphs on the actual "Results of the Credibility Project" (key numbers above) which concludes:

In light of these results, it is difficult to think this is a list composed primarily of publishing climate scientists. These results cast serious doubt on the Senate Minority Report's credibility.

Their conclusion has both thoughts on "nature of science" and about counting scientists. One of the key points,

Unfortunately, many Americans fail to understand that science does not give us absolutely certain answers to questions about nature. Instead it gives us possibilities. This does not mean, however, that policymakers should feel free to ignore scientific findings. In many cases these probabilities approach certainty. Thus, when scientists say it is "highly likely" that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are the cdominant cause of the recent global warming, they are asserting that the observational evdience and scientific theory together make a highly compelling case for this conclusion, such that it cannot be dismissed. Although it is always possible that some as yet undiscovered mechanism might also play a role, no one has shown convincing evidence for one. As such, unproven claims that other mechanisms explain global warming should be viewed skeptically. When we consider the amount of research that has been accomplished since the seriousness of climate change became apparent two decades ago, the case for the scientific community's consensus view on global warming becomes even stronger.

Every educated American should read and absorb The Credibility Project trifold brochure (pdf). It is that thoughtful and that important.

We can look forward to seeing its authors testifying before Congressional Committees. I hope that there will be a seat reserved for me when Senator Boxer hits the gavel to start the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) hearing when The Credibility Project team appears, with an outraged Senator Inhofe turning red as they call his deceptions out for what they are.

Now, while CFI has laid clear that Inhofe's list is far from what climate deniers like to claim, this truly is just a first-order look by senior scientists at the list and a more comprehensive look would lead, almost certainly, to even more damning conclusions. (This look did not, for example, account for those scientists who directly requested that their names be removed from the "report" but who remain, to this date, in Inhofe's list.) As the team reported,

The conclusions we draw from our examination of the Senate Minority Report are preliminary...Nonetheless...we have double-checked our results and are prepared to offer the following three conclusions.
  1. We think it highly unlikely that a growing fraction of top climate scientists are becoming increasingly skeptical of human causation of global warming.
  2. We think that the title "Senate Minority Reprot" is technically appropriate, but grossly understated. That report's list does contain the names of some outstanding scientists... However, when weighted against the much larger number of equally outstanding climate scientists, there is no doubt where the great majority of experts in this field stand.
  3. Absent hard evidence that another likely candidate drives global warming, it is highly unlikely that man-made greenhouse gases do not play a significant and probably a major role in causing global warming. The authors of this Credibility Project assessment are not qualified to assess the engineering and economic questions associated with proposed legislation addressing climate change. However, we are disturbed by any document that may misrepresent the state of the global scientific effort to address the problem.

Rest assured, they are not the only ones "disturbed" by Senator Inhofe's and associates' serial deceptions.

NOTEs:

1. For an abundance of links to high-quality exposures of Inhofe's disinformation, see Greenfyre's "NOT Sparta - Inhofe and the 400: A collection of links to articles exposing James "Ko-Ko" Inhofe and his phony "lists"."

2. Another 'list' is of 30,000 scientists, which Jon Stewart raised in his interview with Secretary of Energy Chu the other night. For a dissection of that, see: DeSmogBlog, The 30,000 Global Warming Petition is Easily-Debunked Propaganda

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