There’s been a minor controversy recently over Naomi Oreskes’ literature study in Science. Oreske found that of 928 paper abstracts on climate change, taken from the ISI database, precisely none disagreed with the consensus view that anthropogenic climate change is real. Now Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University says that after searching the same database, he’s found 34 article abstracts that “reject or doubt the view that human activities are the main drivers of the “the observed warming over the last 50 years.”” Peiser wrote a letter to Science, putting forward his alternate findings, which Science declined to publish; in Peiser’s view using “a contrived technicality as an excuse.” This has gotten some attention from the Telegraph, which hints at skulduggery and low standards in high scientific places.
Now, however, Tim Lambert has gotten Peiser to cough up the goods – the 34 (now, for some mysterious reason, 33) scientific abstracts that cast doubt on anthropogenic global warming. Tim is inviting readers to go through the abstracts, and record their own conclusions. My take after reading them: the claim that Peiser’s 33 abstracts “reject or doubt the view …” is completely unsustainable. There’s one undoubted rejection of the anthropogenic case (no. 27) – but it comes from that well-known arbiter of peer-reviewed scientific neutrality, the ‘Ad Hoc Committee on Global Climate Issues’ of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. There are a few others that could be construed as scepticism (the explicit ones appear to be either outdated or else personal views), but the vast majority of the papers that Peiser cites don’t even begin to make any general arguments about global warming, let alone claims that the anthropogenic argument is bogus. Abstracts no. 12, 13 and 25 aren’t even scientific research; they appear to be postmodern inquiries into the construction of scientific authority. If I’d been asked (while wearing my hat as a member of GWU’s Center for International Science and Technology Policy) to review Peiser’s letter and evidence for possible publication in a peer-reviewed journal, I’d have rejected them summarily, and made some fairly warm comments in my rejection letter. I’d have done exactly the same if it had been making the opposite argument (that is if Peiser had used similar evidence to argue that there was support for global warming). Simply put, I don’t think Peiser’s evidence even begins to provide proper support for his claims. But, in fairness to Peiser, he’s made the evidence that he’s using publicly available, so you can go over to Tim’s place and take the taste-test for yourself.