Short version–some people who were (mostly) not scientists and certainly don’t know how to do research properly conducted a series of studies that had foregone conclusions supporting their position on climate policy. For Prall, Cook and Lewandowsky the foregone nature of the conclusions was explicit–they wrote on various websites that they were conducting the studies with a predetermined end. For Oreskes it was implicit, but easy to see, as she structured her research carefully, not to show the breadth of opinion on climate change, but rather to conceal it.
I guess I should address Stephan’s potential concerns first–no, I don’t see a conspiracy in the work I’ve reviewed, even though there is a web of mutual citations in the work involved and collaboration between some of the principals.
Oreskes, the ‘purest’ scientist in the bunch, wrote the original paper (Beyond the Ivory Tower) and it served as a template (and was cited as such) for those who came after.
Her ‘original sin’ was one that has destroyed a lot of research studies unintentionally–sample bias. The literature search on which her work was based omitted relevant studies from skeptics. I say that was intentional, but that’s just my opinion. It was a trivial exercise to find numerous studies by skeptics that would have drastically changed her results. My opinion is she knew those studies were there and carefully crafted a keyword search string that would exclude them.
Anderegg, Prall et al were much sloppier and in addition to sample bias made numerous errors in data collection, analysis and other methodological choices. Their study is garbage. The same is true for Cook et al–their 97% consensus claim is utter nonsense. And when Lewandowsky tried to do in primary research what the others did with secondary research, he only introduced a new class of childish mistakes. I have worked in market research for more than 20 years and I’ve made my share of mistakes. I recognize their mistakes. The difference between these amateurs and professionals is that when professionals make mistakes they admit them and work to correct them. This crew just doubled down on their claims and hoped that nobody would dig very deeply. But when I use words like garbage and nonsense, I am not exaggerating. The quality of work that went into these studies is so bad that if anything I’m understating things.
After Climategate, the actions of those supporting the consensus have been increasingly frantic and in most cases, inept. When the marketing departments of NGOs create flawed iconography of polar bears under threat, videos of people blowing up skeptics and trash treasured archeological sites, it’s easy to dismiss these as the mistaken work of people who have adopted a religion, rather than scientific findings.
But when trash is put before the scientific community as the alleged results of research conducted within the norms of science, it is something else, something much worse. It not only damages the effort to understand how our climate is changing and what we should do about it. It damages science.
Numerous studies have shown a very real tendency for studies to be irreplicable and unreproducible. Fraud has been found as well as mistakes.
Climate change is important and will affect the lives of our children. But science is more important and trashing science to win a policy fight over climate change has the potential to do more damage to the human race than any changes we cause to the climate.