How valid is this shrunken “consensus judgement”, anyway?

In my previous post I had noted that no less a luminary than Mike Hulme had (perhaps inadvertently) exposed the falsity of the oft-repeated claim of what IPCC Chair, Rajendra Pachauri calls “the scientific consensus on man-made climate change”.

Hulme’s clarification and further clarification strongly suggest that his “example” (as poorly worded as he now claims it was):

“Without a careful explanation about what [consensus] means, this drive for consensus can leave the IPCC vulnerable to outside criticism. Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous. That particular consensus judgement, as are many others in the IPCC reports, is reached by only a few dozen experts in the specific field of detection and attribution studies […] [emphasis added -hro]

pertains to Chapter 9 (“Understanding and Attributing Climate Change“) of Working Group I’s contribution to the 4th Assessment Report.

During the explication of his clarification, Hulme averred:

This specific statement from the IPCC AR4 was initially crafted by a small team of detection and attribution experts, then evolved under review from other experts and then was further reviewed, amended and finally approved by governments.

So I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the numbers of the “Scientific Expert Reviewers”, their Comments and Responses to the Comments by the “chapter team” on what is called the Second Order Draft (Hulme’s “further review”) of this chapter.

Chapter team responses to Reviewer Comments - Second Order Draft of Chapter 9

* Please see my earlier discussion on the challenges of quantifying the responses.

There were 1158 Comments from 62 “Scientific Expert Reviewers” (including 8 Government representatives). Of the 1158 Comments, a mere 258 (from 42 Reviewers) could be unambiguously characterized as having been “Accepted” or “Agreed”.

The chapter team seemed to have an almost knee-jerk response of “Rejected” to most of the (572) comments of one reviewer. I’m not sure what one might call this particular bias on the part of the “chapter team”. My inclination would be to call it an “auto-reject response”. But, just for the fun of it, let’s remove all 572 of this Reviewer’s comments.

Yes, I know, I know … sounds like I’m talking like a “climate scientist”. But, just for the sake of argument, let’s call this the ‘bowling team balancing act’ … In a very short phase of my younger days, I actually won a 5-pin bowling trophy (My father can attest to this … it was a clock, and he “stole” it from me!) The way things worked in that game’s tournaments, the lowest score was always dropped. I contributed greatly to the team effort by consistently having the lowest score. But I digress … let’s see what the “adjusted” picture looks like:

The big picture - adjusted

The big picture - adjusted to remove chapter team negative bias

Hmmm … well, there’s no significant drop in the Accepted/Agreed responses, but at 248 out of 586 this strikes me as being considerably less than an overwhelming “scientific consensus”. However, I cannot comment on its validity as one of Hulme’s “consensus judgements”.

Perhaps Prof. Hulme would care to offer an even further clarification. In fairness to Hulme, I am obliged to remind you that (in his own words during the course of his further clarification):

Some commentators have called my point pedantic, but I think it is important to explain how knowledge is assessed by experts and how headline statements come into being. By the way, I think this is an entirely credible process of knowledge assessment, but people should not claim that it is more than it is. [emphasis added -hro]

An “entirely credible process of knowledge assessment”? … hmmm… YMMV … mine most certainly does, as I had noted in my earlier post.

On a somewhat related note, many actions have been taken by many governments on the strength of this (as we now know, decidedly shrunken “scientific consensus”). Not the least of which has been an exhorbitant and unwarranted (taxpayer funded) investment in “wind turbine farms” which have been nothing less than a blight upon the many landscapes on which they’ve been hoisted – notwithstanding the overwhelming objections of the many landowners on whose properties/views such turbines have been foisted. Not to mention the abject failure of such blighting devices to even approximate a cost-effective measure of fossil-fuel replacement.

The government of Ontario – under the dubious “leadership” of Premier Dalton McGuinty – has been a primal force in the foisting of the aforementioned hoistings. But, as reader David Robinson advised me via E-mail today, McGuinty has taken a giant – and very worrying – step beyond the pale of conformity to “environmental correctness“.

I’m not sure what might have given McGuinty the idea that the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) should be diverted from their “Mission, Vision and Promise” – which includes “striving to build a culture of trust, and open and honest dialogue, with the communities it serves” – to engage in activities so obviously contrary to such “Mission, Vision and Promise”.

Perhaps Prof. Hulme, whose very conspicuous silence about this shrunken “consensus” (or “consensus judgement” … whichever is his preferred term of the moment) until very recently would care to give us some words of enlightenment regarding the unconscionable actions of the OPP – which have undoubtedly derived from the political adoption of a considerably less than warranted “scientific consensus on man-made climate change”.

As noted in my previous post, I’m not holding my breath.

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