The "Nature" of Modern Scientific Consensus

I am often told, in emails that vary from friendly to downright threatening, that global warming science is not scientific consensus and my skepticism puts me on par with tobacco company lobbyists.  An upcoming paper in Theoretical and Applied Climatology looks back at a recent peer-reviewed Nature article that purported to provide more evidence for man-made global warming and found the much quoted article by Isabel Chiune in Nature to be complete crap:

What is important here is not the truth or falsity of
the assertion of Chuine et al. about Burgundy temperatures. Rather,
what is important is that a paper on what is arguably the world's most
important scientific topic (global warming) was published in the
world's most prestigious scientific journal with essentially no
checking of the work prior to publication.

Moreover "” and crucially "” this lack of checking is not the result
of some fluke failures in the publication process. Rather, it is common
for researchers to submit papers without supporting data, and it is
frequent that peer reviewers do not have the requisite mathematical or
statistical skills needed to check the work (medical sciences
excepted). In other words, the publication of the work of Chuine et al.
was due to systemic problems in the scientific publication process.

The systemic nature of the problems indicates that there might be
many other scientific papers that, like the paper of Chuine et al.,
were inappropriately published. Indeed, that is true and I could list
numerous examples. The only thing really unusual about the paper of
Chuine et al. is that the main problem with it is understandable for
people without specialist scientific training. Actually, that is why I
decided to publish about it. In many cases of incorrect research the
authors will try to hide behind an obfuscating smokescreen of
complexity and sophistry. That is not very feasible for Chuine et al.
(though the authors did try).

Finally, it is worth noting that Chuine et al. had the data; so they
must have known that their conclusions were unfounded. In other words,
there is prima facie evidence of scientific fraud. What will happen to
the researchers as a result of this? Probably nothing. That is another
systemic problem with the scientific publication process.

Oops.  By the way, accepting the hypothesis that man made CO2 is causing some warming does not require that one also accept Al-Gore-type estimates of catastrophic 6-8 degrees C warming or more in the next 50 years.  In fact, the evidence still is that man-made warming effects will be small, and predictions of massive warming are way out on a scientific limb with little proof.  I discuss these issues in my article on the skeptical middle ground on climate, as well as my earlier primer on an Inconvenient Truth.


  1. Craig:

    Should your first sentence say that you are often told global warming IS scientific consensus?

  2. S. Malet:

    I notice that in Keenan's original piece, some of the text is hyperlinked to more info.