Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Peiser cuts off communication over his honesty

(See the long May 16, 2005 post below for background. I disputed the honesty of part of Benny Peiser's work, which questions whether a consensus exists on global warming.)

Below is the email I sent to Peiser after he responded to my original post:

Thank you for replying, Dr. Peiser. I will add this
section of your response to my post:

(excerpt removed from here - you can see it at the end of the May 16th post)

Unless I hear otherwise from you, I assume you have no
objection to my posting your entire email, and will do
so in several days.

Your saying:

"Did I use a wider search than Oreskes? I don't know."

differs substantially from your public statement
published on the MSNBC website:

"I have analysed the same set of abstracts."

Saying "I don't know" leaves much to be desired in my
opinion, as I believe it has been shown you did use a
wider search. Still it represents an improvement over
what you said previously, and I obviously think you
should stop saying you analyzed the same set.

Brian Schmidt

Following my reply, Peiser sent this response:

Dear Mr Schmidt

I am sorry to notice that you decided to
selectively post parts of my letter on your

On this basis, I think we should end our

With best regards
Benny Peiser

I immediately reiterated my previous email, that I was waiting a few days to give him a chance to object to my posting his entire email. I said I was disappointed in his response, but now assumed that I should go ahead and post his full response. (I forgot to save this email, so you're just getting the summary.)

Peiser doesn't seem eager to discuss this issue, or any other where his arguments run into trouble. Besides raising questions of honesty, it also raises questions of his ability to wrestle with science.

Anyway, here's his complete reply to my original post:

Dear Mr Schmidt

I'm afraid you are missing the point. I have tried to show that the
'study' is flawed in a number of ways:

1. Oreskes claims that "none of the papers disagreed with the consensus
position." This is simply incorrect, or at least grossly misleading, as
a few abstracts actually reject the "consensus" as defined by Oreskes

2. Oreskes claims that "all major scientific bodies in the United
whose members' expertise bears directly on the matter" have endorsed
consensus. This is incorrect, or at least grossly misleading, as most
open-minded observers of the debates know that both the American
of State Climatologists (AASC) and the American Association of
Geologists (AAPG) remain decidely sceptical of the "consensus".

3. Oreskes claims that "75% either explicitly or implicitly accept the
view." My analysis, however, shows that the vast majority of abstracts
does not
deal with anthropogenic global warming. In fact, I could only find 13
that *explicitly* endorsed the "consensus". This falsification of her
is true even if Oreskes may have used slightly fewer abstracts (928)
than I did
(1117) from the same ISI databank.

4. Did I use a wider search than Oreskes? I don't know. From what
little she says about
her methodology, I understood that she used an ISI databank search of
abstracts on "global
climate change". I did exactly the same. But whatever search strategy
Oreskes may have
employed - and she hasn't clarified this problem as yet - her figures
simply don't add
up. She claims she analysed 928 abstracts. But she also claims that
"some abstracts were
deleted from our analysis because, although the authors had put
'climate change' (sic) in
their key words, the paper was not about climate change."

I also found that some 10% of documents in the ISI databank on "global
climate change" did
not include any abstracts. Whatever the case, the fact of the matter is
that Oreskes 'study'
lacks any coherent methodology, which is rather strange given her
emphasis on peer-review.
I cannot recall any other study published in Science that lacked *any*
clear method. All
she says in her essay is that she "analyzing 928 abstracts, published
in refereed scientific
journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the
keywords "climate
change" (sic). Why 928 and not 929? What happened to all those
abstracts that were "deleted
from the analysis"? Why don't any of these figures add up?

To conclude, the scientific community is far from any global warming
consensus. Not only
are there many open questions about the balance between human and
natural drivers of
terrestrial climate; even less agreement exists about whether or not
the anthropogenic
contribution to climate change poses any long-term threat to the
stability and health
of our global village.

The reality of disagreement was confirmed by a recent survey among some
500 international
climate researchers. The survey, conducted by Professors Dennis Bray
and Hans von Storch of
the German Institute for Coastal Research, found that "a quarter of
respondents still question
whether human activity is responsible for the most recent climatic
changes." It simply
confirmed what a previous survey, conducted in 1996 and published in
the peer-reviewed
literature showed: that there is a sizeable body of scepticism within
the scientific community.
To deny its very existence seems rather futile to me given that
'sceptical' research papers
continue to being published all the time.

BTW: I'm not a climatologist and would not want to voice any strong
opinion on the complexities
involved in trying to attribute climate change to any of the countless
factors. The *real* problem, as I see it, is how we, as individuals and
as a society, deal with scientific doubts and uncertainty on such and
other controversies. All I am arguing is that science requires freedom
of thought, freedom of debate and freedom to doubt. If we lose these
liberties because
climate alarmists think it is crucial to silence any doubt, or deny its
very existence, you
can forget science.

I hope this clarification is helpful.

With best regards
Benny Peiser

To quickly respond to his arguments:

1. Lack of disagreement with the consensus shown here.

2. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists has an obvious industry association that makes their statements biased, and I further question their climatological expertise.

The American Association of State Climatologists is a little trickier. I've read their 2001 policy document (available here), and it's very mushy on climate change. I'd place that document as either non-committal or rasing doubts on whether current current warming is primarily human caused, while definitely acknowledging the human role in climate. At most it gives Peiser marginal support, and whether 150 climatologists with obvious political affiliations (many presumably appointed by conservative Republican governors) constitute a "major scientific body" is questionable.

3 and 4. Partly dealt with in the comments here, but to truly handle it, one would have to repeat Oreske's original study, and maybe Peiser's too, which I'm not prepared to do, especially given Peiser's lack of credibility at this point. I dealt with Peiser's reference to a survey of "climatologists" in my May 16th post.

In any event, it is Peiser that's missing the point - the issue isn't whether the original Oreskes study that Peiser attacks is flawed, but whether one can trust anything Peiser says about climate. I think I showed dishonesty in how he portrayed his work, his response to me was unsatisfactory, and then he cut off communication.

As to what, if anything, happens next, I have no idea.

UPDATE: Dr. Peiser has not completely cut me off, apparently. He responded to my email:
>I assume you have no objection to my posting your *entire* email,

But I do have objections to *selective* posting. I did not give you
permission to cut and paste.

I responded:
My apology for the confusion - if your original email
had said, "please publish this as my response," I
would have done so immediately. I have now published
your email in full as an update to the original post,
just as I did yesterday in a follow-up post.

He then thanked me. The only good thing about all this is that it's been conducted civilly.

keywords:  science, global warming, Peiser

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.