This is an oldie, but goodie, but worth revisiting in the context of today’s false belief that there is a 97% consensus. It would be interesting to see the exact same study done again today.
It seems that, inconveniently, a scientific consensus exists concerning global warming after all – but it isn’t the one you think.
In this 2012 peer-reviewed study published not long after Cook’s ridiculous 97% claim, only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis. Published in Organization Studies, a majority of the 1,077 scientists who responded to the survey believe that nature is the primary cause of recent global warming and/or that future global warming will not be a very serious problem.
Here’s the abstract and the introduction:
Science or Science Fiction? Professionals’ Discursive Construction of Climate Change
This paper examines the framings and identity work associated with professionals’ discursive construction of climate change science, their legitimation of themselves as experts on ‘the truth’, and their attitudes towards regulatory measures. Drawing from survey responses of 1077 professional engineers and geoscientists, we reconstruct their framings of the issue and knowledge claims to position themselves within their organizational and their professional institutions. In understanding the struggle over what constitutes and legitimizes expertise, we make apparent the heterogeneity of claims, legitimation strategies, and use of emotionality and metaphor. By linking notions of the science or science fiction of climate change to the assessment of the adequacy of global and local policies and of potential organizational responses, we contribute to the understanding of ‘defensive institutional work’ by professionals within petroleum companies, related industries, government regulators, and their professional association.
With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? (Inhofe, 2003)
Climate change profoundly challenges governmental, non-governmental and private organizations (Hoffman & Woody, 2008) by creating pressure for emission reduction goals and adaptation measures. Alongside these actions, the debate continues in some quarters as to the causes and consequences of global climate change – and, more importantly, potential directions of public policies and organizational strategies. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), representing the work of about 2,000 individuals, contends that recent global warming is a direct result of human activities for which we should mitigate the effects (IPCC, 2007a, 2007b). In contrast, ‘climate sceptics’ (as per Antonio & Brulle, 2011; Hamilton, 2010; Hoffman, 2011a, 2011b; Kahan, Jenkins-Smith & Braman, 2010; Levy & Rothenberg, 2002; McCright & Dunlap, 2000, 2011) have argued that the climate is changing due to natural causes and have countered with their own experts’ reports.
This Senate report is not a “list” of scientists [like that given by the IPCC; addition by authors], but a report that includes full biographies of … distinguished scientists … experts in..: climatology; geology; biology; glaciology; biogeography; meteorology; oceanography; economics; chemistry; mathematics; environmental sciences; astrophysics; engineering; physics and paleoclimatology. (US Senate, 2009, p. 7)
Indeed, while there is a broad consensus among climate scientists (IPCC, 2007a, 2007b), scepticism regarding anthropogenic climate change remains. The proportion of papers found in the ISI Web of Science database that explicitly endorsed anthropogenic climate change has fallen from 75% (for the period between 1993 and 2003) as of 2004 to 45% from 2004 to 2008, while outright disagreement has risen from 0% to 6% (Oreskes, 2004; Schulte, 2008). This drop in endorsement may be a manifestation of increasing taken-for-grantedness (e.g., Green, 2004) of anthropogenic climate science; the rise in disagreement may be a result of increased funding of sceptics by fossil fuel industries, conservative foundations and think tanks (McCright & Dunlap, 2010). Yet, apart from discussions among scientists, public concern over climate change is also waning in the US (Leiserowitz, Maibach & Roser-Renouf, 2008, 2010; Maibach, Leiserowitz, Roser-Renouf, & Mertz, 2011; Pew Research Center, 2009), the UK (Jowit, 2010), and Canada (Berry, Clarke, Pajot, Hutton, & Verret, 2009).
The ability to build and maintain consensus on issues such as climate change fundamentally depends upon expertise, ensconced in professional opinion. Yet, given the complexity and magnitude of this problem (Weingart, Engels, & Pansegrau, 2000), the credibility of the claims-maker becomes central, i.e., the status, reputation and prestige of the scientists and professional experts who vouch for or against the different interpretations (Snow & Benford, 1988, p. 208) and construct ‘interpretive packages’ or frames (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989) that stand in for the ‘truth’. Besides defining the issue, framing is also the means by which professionals draw from broader values (Hulme, 2009), construct their self-definitions and expert identities (Beech, 2008; Sveningsson & Alvesson, 2003; Thomas & Linstead, 2002) and legitimate their position within this social field (Dyer & Keller-Cohen, 2000; Grandqvist & Laurila, 2011; Meyer & Höllerer, 2010; Phillips & Hardy, 2002), and their ability to prescribe actions. Our aim is to examine the construction and disputation of expertise in a contested issue field and the consequences this has for the mobilization for or against regulation.
Several assumptions have stymied advancements in understanding claims of expertise in contested issue fields. A first stymying assumption within institutional work and professions literatures is that professionals are a homogenous group, sharing cultural-cognitive conceptions of what problems require solving (Knorr-Cetina, 1999), and collaborating on solutions to maintain their authoritative monopoly over a scope of practice (Abbott, 1988) against outside forces (Scott, Ruef, Mendel, & Caronna, 2000; Thornton, 2002). Even climate change research has assumed a cohesive ‘expert’ versus public or media discourse (Boykoff, 2008; Carvalho, 2007; Olausson, 2009; Weingart et al., 2000). Rather than presuming that they draw from one – professional – logic, we recognize their endogenous heterogeneity and ground our research in their internal contestations over expertise. Second, it is often assumed that those working to maintain institutions are primarily reproducing belief systems, ‘largely unaware of the original purpose, or ultimate outcome, of their actions’ (Lawrence & Suddaby, 2006, p. 234). However, defensive institutional work, i.e., the maintenance of institutions against disruptions, can be as deliberate and strategic as the efforts by proponents of change (Lawrence, Suddaby & Leca, 2009; Maguire & Hardy, 2009; Meyer & Höllerer, 2010). We contend that such defensive work can also be directed internally; professionals may simultaneously frame their own expert identities while defensively attacking fellow professionals as non-experts. In sum, the inter-institutional, discursive formation (or unraveling) of professionals’ expert consensus has not been examined within organizational theory or climate change research to determine who will defend institutions against internal challenges, why, and how.
To address this, we reconstruct the frames of one group of experts who have not received much attention in previous research and yet play a central role in understanding industry responses – professional experts in petroleum and related industries. Not only are we interested in the positions they take towards climate change and in the recommendations for policy development and organizational decision-making that they derive from their framings, but also in how they construct and attempt to safeguard their expert status against others. To gain an understanding of the competing expert claims and to link them to issues of professional resistance and defensive institutional work, we combine insights from various disciplines and approaches: framing, professions literature, and institutional theory. This addresses the call from Zald and Lounsbury (2010, p. 970) for a systematic re-engagement ‘of the critical and expanded role of experts and communities of expertise – especially the international dimension … [as] opportunities for scholarship in Organization Studies’. Using a qualitative methodology and induction, we find a variety of frames and the strategies used to promote them. Our study demonstrates that the majority of ‘command posts’ (Zald & Lounsbury, 2010, p. 963) within organizations, especially in the petroleum industry, seem to be manned with opponents to the IPCC and anthropogenic climate science who are actively engaged in defensive institutional work. We point out that in order to overcome the defense, a potent discourse coalition and a more integrative frame, for example by emphasizing climate change as a risk – a common enemy to be managed (per Kahan et al., 2010; Hoffman, 2011b; Nagel, 2011), has to be found.
The most defensive frames are ‘economic responsibility’ and ‘nature is overwhelming’ – both deny that climate change is a relevant problem and feel challenged by the IPCC positioning, which, as a counter-frame, puts these adherents in the defensive. As opponents to regulation, they have to stand against the inherently moral ‘comply with Kyoto’ frame, which they fear has become mainstream. Their opposition is reflected in their own framing activities: more affirmation of their own positioning as reflected in increased legitimation of their problem diagnosis and own expertise, more boundary work (per Gieryn, 1995; Branscombe et al., 1999; Hunt et al., 1994) and more adversarial framing (Gamson, 1999) as reflected in the de-legitimation and undermining of others’ expertise. Both frames buttress their position by normalizing climate change and rationalizing nature as uncontrollable, thus any action would be ineffective. While ‘economic responsibility’ adherents prescribe economic fixes, ‘nature is overwhelming’ adherents only support reducing pollution in general terms. Both liaise with ‘true scientists’ and de-legitimate the rationality of their opponents more than other frames: politicians (‘too dumb to realize that it will take many decades to put in place an infrastructure to improve energy efficiency’), media (‘media hype’ and ‘lack of unbiased information’), and – most of all – IPCC, and its supporters’ scientific grounding – ‘The holes left in the report by the IPCC leads me to form certain questions regarding the validity of claims made by the panel, the media and other alarmists.’
To determine the potential influence of these frames on policy responses, we compare the positions of the sponsors of these frames within their organization and the field (see Table 4). Adherents of frames that support regulation (‘comply with Kyoto’, ‘regulation activists’) are – in our study – significantly more likely to be lower in the organizational hierarchy, younger, female, and working in government. Indeed, in our study, only seven respondents using these frames are at the highest level in government. Conversely, adherents of those frames that are more defensive and oppose regulation (‘nature is overwhelming’, ‘economic responsibility’) are significantly more likely to be more senior in their organizations, male, older, geoscientists, and work in the oil and gas industry. Adherents of these two frames comprise 33.7% of our respondents overall, but 63.3% of top managers in the oil and gas industry as opposed to 19.1% supporting regulation. The majority of command posts within organizations, especially in the industry, seem to be manned with opponents to the IPCC and anthropogenic climate science. While it may not be overly surprising that industry executives support the industry’s interests, taking into consideration that we have analyzed experts’ frames that are founded on a claim of being independent and non-partisan, it is also important to note that the two frames that especially dwell on the point of ‘real science’ versus ‘hoax’ at the same time represent core economic interests.
Full study here: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0170840612463317
The survey questionnaire and resulting report to APEGA and its membership are available online at www.apegga.org/Environment/reports/ClimateChangesurveyreport.pdf.