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« Silly social science | Main | Nonconsensus »

Consensus collapse

Most people who have looked at John Cook's legendary 97% consensus paper would say it is little more than a legend, but the study's continued citation in the popular press does leave a pressing need for a thorough refutation, which has now helpfully been provided by Richard Tol. The paper is paywalled here and there is a useful presentation of the results here, which is more accessible to the layman.

Overall, Cook did not show what he claimed to show. He merely demonstrated his incompetence in survey design and statistical analysis. The secrecy around the data suggests that there are more problems.

Climate policy is for the long haul. We need a broad consensus, maintained over decades, to decarbonize the economy. We need sober, non-partisan research. We need open discussion about the pros and cons of all options for climate policy. Instead, Cook and friends tried to shut down the debate, but their incompetence and secrecy only served as fuel on the flames of an already polarized debate.

This has prompted a remarkable rapid response from an anonymous author here, which says that Tol has it all wrong. If I understand it correctly, Tol has corrected Cook's results. The critic claims to have worked back from Tol's results to what should have been Cook's original results and got a nonsense result, thus demonstrating that Tol's method is nonsense.

Tol's reply today equally quickfire and says that his critic, who he has dubbed "Junior" has not used the correct data at all.

Junior did not reconstruct the [matrix] T that I used. This is unfortunate as my T is online...

Junior thus made an error and blamed it on me.

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Reader Comments (23)

Cook or Dana ? = junior

Jun 5, 2014 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

My money would be on Nuticcelli, Stephen.

Jun 5, 2014 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Why do we need to "decarbonize the economy"?

Jun 5, 2014 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat

My money is on Josh Halpern, Marco or Tom Curtis.

@Old Goat
If we want to stabilize the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, then CO2 emissions will need to go to zero.

You may disagree with the premise of atmospheric stabilization, but the implication follows from the properties of the carbon cycle.

Jun 5, 2014 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Cook should first of all stop behaving like a fraud. Tol's critics should also try to avoid displaying their anti-scientific attitude: corrections (one of the basis of science) are now being used against Tol, and none of them understands that secret data have no place in science either.

I suspect we should thank Nutt and Cookie for having helped bring to the fore what truly can be called "science denialism"...theirs, and their "friends"'.

Jun 5, 2014 at 9:34 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I predict a big upswing in Popcorn futures :-)

Jun 5, 2014 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

I predict a big upswing in Popcorn futures :-)

Jun 5, 2014 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

"We need a broad consensus, maintained over decades, to decarbonize the economy."

Old Goat on Jun 5, 2014 at 9:01 AM
"Why do we need to "decarbonize the economy"?"

Richard Tol on Jun 5, 2014 at 9:32 AM
"If we want to stabilize the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, then CO2 emissions will need to go to zero.

You may disagree with the premise of atmospheric stabilization, but the implication follows from the properties of the carbon cycle."

If CO2 emissions are reduced to zero, from where will the flowers, trees and crops get the CO2 that they need to grow?

Jun 5, 2014 at 10:12 AM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

Old Goat on Jun 5, 2014 at 9:01 AM
"Why do we need to "decarbonize the economy"?"

Richard Tol on Jun 5, 2014 at 9:32 AM
"If we want to stabilize the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, then CO2 emissions will need to go to zero.

Richard Tol hasn't really answered Old Goat's question. Presumably Richard Tol is referring to reducing Man-made emissions to zero (man only contributes to some of the CO2 in the atmosphere).

Why do we want to stabilize CO2. Would reducing man-made emissions achieve this even if it was advisable. There is a lot of AGW assumptions in this approach. It would be nice to see the evidence to support all of these profound statements like "we need to decarbonise" (assuming they really mean reduce CO2).

Jun 5, 2014 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

I wonder if the anonymous scientist is the commentor known as 'Rust Never Sleeps' over at WUWT.

Somone there has outed him as Wild Wiki William Connelly. Given how unpleasant RNS is, it does seem plausible.

Seems a shame to use a line from a Neil Young song as a monicker.

Jun 5, 2014 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

Richard Tol
The "Carbon Cycle" obviously varies with time, as you are no doubt aware there are many reconstructions available which show levels of atmospheric CO2 at 10x or more of the current level. These remained stable long enough for there to have been a "Carbon Cycle" at those times. As we're uncertain of just what factors control the "Carbon Cycle" in all it's guises then decarbonising the entire global economy is not guaranteed to return atmospheric CO2 back to what is regarded by environmentalists as the perfect value. The "Carbon Cycle" may switch from its current La Nina (100s ppm) to an El Nino (1000s ppm) mode all on its own. Robert Christopher has it right, low 200s ppm will start causing plants some problems.

Jun 5, 2014 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Hence the Guardians latest ‘smear article ‘ form kids at Ss , and has usual they cannot point out factual areas going straight into smear mode and claiming errors which are not actually errors.
Its sad , but much sadder is that the very people who should be pulling them up on this say nothing , hear nothing and see nothing . And then wonder sometimes why all scientists gets labelled has BS , self-serving fools.

Jun 5, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered Commenterknrscg

In you haste to post you forgot to mention that Tol accepts the consensus. Here's a comment from him on AndThenTheresPhysics:

Richard Tol says:
June 14, 2013 at 11:44 am

The consensus is of course in the high nineties. No one ever said it was not. We don’t need Cook’s survey to tell us that.
Cook’s paper tries to put a precise number on something everyone knows. They failed. Their number is not very precise.

So it is the that study he dislikes and which is making a a fool of himself about.

Jun 5, 2014 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterLa Buena

When admission to - and maintaining your place in - the Pantheon of climate scientists requires you to accept the CAGW whole, the big surprise is that the number is only 97%.

After all, 97% is a derisory number compared to some of the more impressive examples of consensus. This from a 2002 BBC report:

Iraqi officials say President Saddam Hussein has won 100% backing in a referendum on whether he should rule for another seven years.

There were 11,445,638 eligible voters - and every one of them voted for the president, according to Izzat Ibrahim, Vice-Chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council.

Kim Jong Un enjoys a similar consensus backing.

Jun 5, 2014 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterHK

Here's another Tol quote:

There is no doubt in my mind that the literature on climate change over-whelmingly supports the hypothesis that climate change is caused by humans. I have very little reason to doubt that the consensus is indeed correct.

Not seen that one, eh Bishop? Where's that collapse when you need it?

Jun 5, 2014 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterLa Buena

Decarbonizing the atmosphere would, by its very need, require man to put carbon dioxide controls on every volcano on the planet and, of course, physical temperature controls for all the oceans as well. Needless to say, that is somewhat beyond our capabilities, thus it might be best if we tried to learn, instead, what the actual "carbon cycle" we are attempting to control truly is. Science is giving it your best guess and testing to see if that guess works. If it does, you try to refine or refute it to insure that you didn't just choose your test improperly.

Climate (lack of) Science does nothing in this direction. Developing a self-fulfilling prophesy is not difficult at all on a computer. Proving it in real life appears beyond their competence or inclination. In the end, if they are right and we delay, not much happens any time soon giving us plenty of time to accomodate the changes. If they are wrong and nothing in particular is happening, then they are wasting valuable resources that man may very well need in the future. If the climate is going in the opposite direction, then not only are they wasting valuable resources tilting with their windmills, but they are putting vast numbers of human lives in dire danger. They in fact remind me of the Cancer researcher that has found a cure for cancer but prefers not to publish it since it will dry up his livelihood. to hell with the lives that will suffer for his continued "research."

And no matter how hard I try to believe otherwise, I cannot believe in my mind that educated people, capable of creating their research concepts to "prove" AGW, can actually look at the actual data and not know they are risking the lives of millions, perhaps billions, of people, just for the sake of "easy money" in the form of a research grant.

Jun 5, 2014 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom O

rustneversleeps sure came with an attitude- i suspect he was enflamed by the uncritical mooing of some of the first commenters at wuwt.
tol is a shill for the warmists. he has no honest job. he is a trougher.
and he's just taken you all down the same garden path yet another time.
thus occupied, do nothing of consequence. they only need to buy a little more time to roll over you while you discuss trivial nonsense.

Jun 5, 2014 at 8:42 PM | Unregistered Commentergnomish

Professor Tol is quite correct that there is an overwhelming support in the literature that humans cause warming. Whether that means overwhelming support amongst scientists is another thing altogether, given the documented efforts of the more alarmist members of the Team to promote their pals work and prevent access to those who disagree.

Furthermore, most people even here on BH and the other skeptic sites accept that CO2 in the atmosphere causes warming and that human activity has resulted in a higher percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere. Thus, it is a spectacularly unspectacular statement to say that there is overwhelming support for this statement. The argument is about how much warming from how much CO2, how much CO2 is down to human activity and how much we should actually care about it.

Professor Tol is an economist who has published work showing that up to about 2C, warming is actually beneficial. He has also gone quite public on his resignation from the IPCC over the highly alarmist summary of the volume he was working on. Quite how that makes him a shill is beyond me.

Jun 5, 2014 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

What is the 'ideal' CO2 level? And why is this particular level ideal?

Jun 6, 2014 at 12:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda R

Richard Tol "You may disagree with the premise of atmospheric stabilization, but the implication follows from the properties of the carbon cycle."

Do we actually know the carbon cycle?
How about we find out where it all comes from, where it all goes too, how long it stays in each location, and how those locations interact; before we say that we need to reduce to our involvement to zero.

Which brings up another point; Are we humans not part of nature? Is what we do, a natural consequence of being human?

Jun 6, 2014 at 1:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

Someone made the claim that simply reducing CO2 emissions (by half say) would lead to an immediate decline in CO2 levels, because the oceans would continue to absorb CO2 at current rates.

Jun 6, 2014 at 1:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterEric Gisin

Why is this post titled "Consensus Collapse" when R. Tol admits the consensus is in the high nineties? It seems rather misleading.

Jun 7, 2014 at 4:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin O'Neill

Because the paper often cited as evidence of a climate consensus instead turns out to be very closely related to phrenology.

Also, I got a little giggle out of seeing some of nuttercelli's comments being removed by the mods over at the Guardian )



Jun 7, 2014 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

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