Guest Post by Thomas Fuller
Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch have just published the findings of a survey conducted with practicing climate scientists. The survey was conducted in 2008 with 379 climate scientists who had published papers or were employed in climate research institutes and dealt with their confidence in models, the IPCC and a variety of other topics. The survey findings are here: http://coast.gkss.de/staff/storch/pdf/GKSS_2010_9.CLISCI.pdf
Most of the questions were asked using a Likert Scale, which most of you have probably used in filling out one of the numerous online surveys that are on almost any website. “A set of statements was presented to which the respondent was asked to indicate his or her level of agreement or disagreement, for example, 1 = strongly agree, 7 = strongly disagree.
The value of 4 can be considered as an expression of ambivalence or impartiality or, depending on the nature of the question posed, for example, in a question posed as a subjective rating such as “How much do you think climate scientists are aware of the information that policy makers incorporate into their decision making process?”, a value of 4 is no longer a measure of ambivalence, but rather a metric.”
The total number of respondents is large enough to make statistically significant statements about the population of similarly qualified climate scientists, and the response rate to the invitations is in line with surveys conducted among academics and professionals. What that means is that we can be fairly confident that if we conducted a census of all such scientists the answers would not be very different to what is found in the survey’s findings.
Typically in a commercial survey, analysts would group the top two responses and report on the percentages of respondents that ticked box 6 or 7 on this scale. Using that procedure here makes it clear that there are areas where scientists are not completely confident in what is being preached–and that they don’t like some of the preachers. In fact, let’s start with the opinion of climate scientists about those scientists, journalists and environmental activists who present extreme accounts of catastrophic impacts.
The survey’s question read, “Some scientists present extreme accounts of catastrophic impacts related to climate change in a popular format with the claim that it is their task to alert the public. How much do you agree with this practice?”
Less than 5% agreed strongly or very strongly with this practice. Actually 56% disagreed strongly or very strongly. Joe Romm, Tim Lambert, Michael Tobis–are you listening? The scientists don’t like what you are doing.
And not because they are skeptics–these scientists are very mainstream in their opinions about climate science and are strong supporters of the IPCC. Fifty-nine percent (59%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “The IPCC reports are of great use to the advancement of climate science.” Only 6% disagreed. And 86.5% agreed or strongly agreed that “climate change is occurring now” and 66.5% agreed or strongly agreed that future climate “will be a result of anthropogenic causes.”
Even so, there are areas of climate science that some people want to claim is settled, but where scientists don’t agree.
Only 12% agree or strongly agree that data availability for climate change analysis is adequate. More than 21% disagree or strongly disagree.
Only 25% agree or strongly agree that “Data collection efforts are currently adequate,” while 16% disagree or strongly disagree.
Perhaps most importantly, only 17.75% agree or strongly agree with the statement, “The state of theoretical understanding of climate change phenomena is adequate.” And equal percentage disagreed or strongly disagreed.
Only 22% think atmospheric models deal with hydrodynamics in a manner that is adequate or very adequate. Thirty percent (30%) feel that way about atmospheric models’ treatment of radiation, and only 9% feel that atmospheric models are adequate in their treatment of water vapor–and not one respondent felt that they were ‘very adequate.’
And only 1% felt that atmospheric models dealt well with clouds, while 46% felt they were inadequate or very inadequate. Only 2% felt the models dealt adequately with precipitation, and 3.5% felt that way about modeled treatment of atmospheric convection.
For ocean models, the lack of consensus continued. Only 20% felt ocean models dealt well with hydrodynamics, 11% felt that way about modeled treatment of heat transport in the ocean, 6.5% felt that way about oceanic convection, and only 12% felt that there exists an adequate ability to couple atmospheric and ocean models.
Only 7% agree or strongly agree that “The current state of scientific knowledge is developed well enough to allow for a reasonable assessment of the effects of turbulence,” and only 26% felt that way about surface albedo. Only 8% felt that way about land surface processes, and only 11% about sea ice.
And another shocker–only 32% agreed or strongly agreed that the current state of scientific knowledge is developed well enough to allow for a reasonable assessment of the effects of greenhouse gases emitted from anthropogenic sources.
As Judith Curry has been noting over at her weblog, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the building blocks of climate science. The scientists know this. The politicians, propagandists and the converted acolytes haven’t gotten the message. If this survey does not educate them, nothing will.
Thomas Fuller http://www.redbubble.com/people/hfuller