[Coral-List] global warming / an inconvenient truth

Simon D Donner sddonner at Princeton.EDU
Tue Nov 21 13:40:28 EST 2006

The point in "An Inconvenient Truth" about the extent of agreement among
scientists about climate change came from a 2004 study in Science
(http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686) by Naomi Oreskes
at UC-San Diego.  That study examined all the peer-reviewed scientific
journal articles between 1993 and 2003 in which the abstract contained the
phrase "global climate change". The search was conducted using the Web of
Science, a popular search engine used by scientists for surveying the
popular literature. Of the 928 papers found, none were skeptical of the
notion that "most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to
have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations" (the quote
is from the summary of the 2001 IPCC report). 

The non-scientists skeptical of the climate change have criticized the study
arguing the results are biased by the search terms. If you change the search
terms, for example use just "climate change", and you will find some papers
examining previous climate changes in the geological past that may be
skeptical about the extent of the human role in today's changing climate.
But the general thesis of the Science paper - that there is strong agreement
in the peer-reviewed scientific literature on the evidence for the role of
greenhouse gas emissions in recent and projected climate change - is still
valid. This back-and-forth on the Coral-List reflects the disagreement that
has arisen in the public sphere, not in the scientific literature. 


Simon Donner, PhD
Woodrow Wilson School 
Princeton University 

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