Thanks to John Mashey, I hear that the Oreskes/Schulte playground fight is still getting coverage. As we all know, though, once the kids are in the Principal’s office, the truth normally comes out, and the real perpetrators come to light.

As usual, the spat is a result of some silly name-calling and  a misunderstanding about what ‘he said’ and what ‘she said’. And how did this misunderstanding arise?

Before going further I will say that I have read a draft of Mr. Schulte’s paper for E&E. I have also undertaken not to publish it, so my quotations will be confined to the parts of the paper which are already in the public domain. I will comment, however, on the reasoning of the paper, because this is necessary.

There has been enough written about Oreskes’ article in Science (no, it isn’t a paper…) for me not to have to repeat it here, so I will concentrate on the current ‘row’.

Schulte’s paper appears to be testing three hypotheses: 1] There is a unanimous scientific consensus about anthropogenic climate change. 2]  There is a scientific consensus about ‘catastrophic’ climate change, and 3] recent or current climate change may be having an impact on the health of individuals.

To test the first two hypotheses, Schulte adopts Oreskes’ informal methodology of reviewing the peer-reviewed literature, but instead of replicating Oreskes’ work, attempts to ‘follow through’.  Without breaching confidence, it is hardly going to be a surprise that he successfully manages to disprove both of the hypotheses. The first is disproven because there is at least one peer-reviewed paper which challenges the ‘consensus position’. The jury is out on whether there were actually three, seven, or thirty-two in total, but in this case it doesn’t matter, so long as there is at least one. How significant is this? The answer should be evident; not at all.

The second hypothesis is disproven because only one paper was found which explicitly mentioned ‘catastrophic’ climate change, hence there can be no  general consensus that this is a consequence of GW or AGW. Once again, though, this is not revealing anything which is especially surprising or important.

If I have fairly represented the essence of Schulte’s paper (and I have tried to), it should be clear that there is no attempt to ‘refute’ or ‘disprove’ any claim made by Oreskes. There is, though, a response to the apparent unanimity that  Oreskes’ paper seems to imply (though, of course, she doesn’t actually claim unanimity). Oreskes’ response has been that the paper misrepresents her article. Schulte claims that it doesn’t and she should apologise.

Inasmuch as Schulte does not explicitly make the claim that Oreskes’ work was wrong, she has no case to answer; but we know why she had to respond (the EPW gang again).

Is Schulte justified in claiming that Oreskes reply was ‘unprofessional’? I fear there may be some problem here. This is from Schulte’s letter; he says it is in all of the drafts of his paper:

“The question whether there is a unanimous scientific consensus about climate change was investigated by means of a review of the recent peer-reviewed literature, carrying forward the research by Oreskes (2004), whose short essay had stated that none of 928 abstracts of papers published between 1993 and 2003 and found on the ISI Web of Science database using the search term “global climate change” had rejected the scientific consensus to the effect that –

There’s that word, ‘unanimous’ again. Schulte does not say that this is what Oreskes was doing; but does the wording he has chosen imply that this was the object of Oreskes’ work? If so, she can claim that she has been misrepresented, if not, he can claim that she has made a false allegation.

This all seems so trivial, though. It really does look like a typical playground fracas. So what started these two off? Guess. You can pick between the following; Young Monckton, the mischievous rascal and pot-stirrer, or the EPW Gang, a well-known bunch of scallywags with a track record in stirring up trouble. These are the real perpetrators of the trouble. They have gone around the playground telling everyone that ‘X’ has called ‘Y’ a liar. Of course, he didn’t. ‘Y’ has got upset with ‘X’ because of the rumours, ‘X’ has got upset with ‘Y’ for accusing him of something he didn’t do…

I am afraid that some of my co-bloggers are going to have to understand that this is another tactical victory for the playground bullies; once again, they have managed to use their sneaky and underhand methods to create a fuss over nothing, and  now the whole school is abuzz with the story.

But, one little piece of reassuring thought comes out of the whole mess. Thanks to these two show-and-tell projects, we now know that, out of 1467 abstracts on the subject of ‘global climate change’, there are 4 (there may be a few more) which appear to challenge the ‘consensus’ position. That’ll be 0.27%. This means, surely, that 99.73% do not challenge this position. (We won’t go into the details now). Does this look like a scientific consensus?

Now get out of my sight. be assured I will be calling your parents, and this whole sorry mess will go on your records. Mr Jones, will you send for Monckton, please?

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