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Almost everything the media tells you about skeptics is wrong: they’re engineers and hard scientists. They like physics too.

Posted By Joanne Nova On February 25, 2014 @ 10:00 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

In the mainstream media, skeptics are called Flat-Earthers, Deniers, and ideologues who deny basic physics. So it’s no surprise that they are exactly the opposite. A recent survey of 5,286 readers of leading skeptical blogs (eg here, WattsUp) shows that the people driving the skeptical debate are predominantly engineers and hard scientists with backgrounds like maths, physics and chemistry. Which group in the population are least likely to deny basic physics?  Skeptics.

I asked Mike Haseler for more details:

  • around half of respondents had worked in engineering and a quarter in science
  • around 80% had degrees of which about 40% were “post graduate” qualified.
  • Respondents were asked which areas they had formal “post-school qualification”. A third said “physics/chemistry. One third said maths. Just under 40% said engineering. 40% said they had post school training in computer programming.

Furthermore, the media “debate” is nothing like the real debate. Four out of five skeptics agree our emissions cause CO2 levels to rise, that Co2 causes warming, and that global temperatures have increased. In other words, the mainstream media journalists have somehow entirely missed both the nature of the skeptics and the nature of the debate.

The so called “experts” (say like Stephan Lewandowsky, and John Cook) either don’t understand what drives skeptics, or they know but do their best “not to accidentally discover it” with irrelevant surveys, loaded questions, poor sampling and bad methodology. (I’m going with incompetence). Lewandowsky, after all, tried to figure out the motivation of skeptics by asking people who hate them if they believe Diana was murdered. Not surprisingly he didn’t find out that about half of skeptics are Engineers, but he did find 10 anonymous people on the Internet who said the moon landing was faked. This is the kind of result only government funded science could achieve.

The big question this survey doesn’t answer is why no government funded groups seem to have done this obvious research long ago. The climate is supposedly a high priority, so understanding skeptics would seem “sort of” useful. Then again, it’s only useful if you wanted to figure out whether there was a consensus, or if you wanted to reach one. I guess that’s not the aim…

Mike Haseler has done a great job here on a much needed task. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the results in future.

Full credit to all the other skeptics who didn’t need the hard science training to see the flaws. They sagely picked the correct side of the scientific debate. Congrats to those lawyers, farmers, doctors, taxi-drivers, and pool shop owners (I spoke to one yesterday) plus kids, and countless other sane brains who are not easily fooled.

Science, of course, is a philosophy, not a certificate.

Jo

PS: And the evidence that this survey is legitimate is in the comments of posts like this one where 200 readers gave their names and qualifications, and there are others who must stay anonymous. I’m continually impressed at the depth of the talent. I posted an anatomy curiosity recently, within hours my interpretation of a point was being criticized by email by a friendly Professor of Anatomy.

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A sceptical consensus: the science is right but catastrophic global warming is not going to happen

The Scottish Climate & Energy Forum has been conducting a survey on the background and attitudes of participants to online climate discussions. Thanks to the generosity of all who participated, the survey has had a massive response which will take time and resource to process. However initial analysis already shows that the actual views and backgrounds of participants are in sharp contrast with some high-profile statements being made about the participants. Therefore I felt we should make these initial results known as soon as practical to avoid further damage, both to the reputation of those involved in the online debate, as well as those making the unfounded and presumably mistaken accusations of “denial”.

As such, I am releasing the following statement regarding the survey.

A sceptical consensus: the science is right but catastrophic global warming is not going to happen

A recent survey of those participating in on-line forums showed that most of the 5,000 respondents were experienced engineers, scientists and IT professionals most degree qualified and around a third with post graduate qualifications. The survey, carried out by the Scottish Climate and Energy Forum, asked respondents for their views on CO2 and the effect it might have on global temperatures. The results were surprising. 96% of respondents said that atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing with 79% attributing the increase to man-made sources. 81% agreed that global temperatures had increased over the 20th century and 81% also agreed that CO2 is a warming gas. But only 2% believed that increases in CO2 would cause catastrophic global warming.

So what’s going on?

Above all, these highly qualified people – experts in their own spheres – look at the published data and trust their own analysis, so their views match the available data. They agree that the climate warmed over the 20th century (this has been measured), that CO2 levels are increasing (this too has been measured) and that CO2 is a warming gas (it helps trap heat in the atmosphere and the effects can be measured). Beyond this, the survey found that 98% of respondents believe that the climate varies naturally and that increasing CO2 levels won’t cause catastrophic warming.

What next?

Overwhelmingly participants in this large scale survey support the science, however this is not how they have been portrayed in the media and this has led to deep and bitter divides between those who hold different viewpoints. This debate should be based on the evidence and that not only includes the scientific evidence on the climate, but also the evidence of the real participants involved in the debate. Given the huge number of responses and detail of questions a full assessment will take up to one year to complete. This is a huge commitment from an organisation that has no outside funding and is reliant on one full-time volunteer (Mike Haseler). We will therefore be approaching The Scottish Climate & Energy Forum has been conducting a survey on the background and attitudes of participants to online climate discussions. The survey has had a massive response which will take time and resource to process. However initial analysis already shows that the actual views and backgrounds of participants are in sharp contrast with some high-profile statements being made about the participants. Therefore I felt we should make these initial results known as soon as practical to avoid further damage, both to the reputation of those involved in the online debate, as well as those making the unfounded and presumably mistaken accusations of “denial”.

Mike Haseler BSc. MBA

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