The publication this week of a paper titled ‘Expert Credibility in Climate Change’ in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences will certainly do nothing to raise the credibility of the authors, those attempting to defend the paper in the media, or climate science itself.
The paper itself is junk science. It attempts to define climate scientists by their belief in global warming as a potential disaster and then attempts to see just how expert they are by looking at how many papers they’ve published and how many times other scientists cite those papers.
The project failed miserably, getting incorrect names, scientific specializations and numbers of citations. Scientists all over the internet are having an ‘I’m Spartacus’ moment, saying that if they are going to get lumped into the skeptic camp, at least the study could have accurately got their names and number of publications correct.
Spencer Weart, author of The History of Global Warming, rejected the paper decisively, saying a first reading showed so many defects that the paper should never have been published. He was not alone.
The second worst thing about this paper is the evil it has the potential to unleash. In the course of preparing this paper, the authors collected the names of signatories to various petitions regarding global warming. Some of them were of a skeptical nature. Some were pretty innocent–saying that the signatories agreed that there was no consensus on global warming’s ultimate effects and scope. But now, this list exists in one place and has a title on it–and no matter how they pretty the title up, it’s essentially ‘Damned Global Warming Denialists Who Should Never Get a Job or Get Published Ever Again.’ And that is how it will be used, despite the pious protestations of some who don’t want to be around to see the dirty work get done.
But by far the worst thing about this paper is what it will do to Professor Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, listed as co-author of the paper, and the man who eased this garbage into print by virtue of being a member of the NAS (which meant he could publish without peer review).
Stephen Schneider has authored or co-authored more than 450 papers (although the data used for the study says 683), mostly about climate change, and he is an expert on the subject.
Schneider started his career boldly. Back when scientists were actively trying to prevent the threat of nuclear war, a group of them (including my personal favorite communicator of science, Carl Sagan) advanced the concept of Nuclear Winter, saying that a nuclear war would result in a prolonged period of blocked sunlight, destroying agriculture and meaning that the survivors would envy the dead. Very dramatic picture and their campaign was effective politics.
But Schneider found the data (and my hero) was wrong, and showed that what had been called nuclear winter would in fact be more like nuclear autumn. Going against the mainstream and many respected scientists, Schneider made his bones.
He did it again. In 1971, he co-authored a paper that suggested that aerosols could cool the atmosphere enough to usher in the next ice age, although he was clear that it would take a lot of time. But by 1976 he had come to the conclusion that CO2 would not only counteract the aerosols, but that it was warming the atmosphere.