A Fascinating Survey on Climate Change of Scientists (and Engineers) in Alberta, Canada

I may have some future posts on this but I wanted to link to it here and give the topline numbers. The paper is titled, ‘Science or Science Fiction? Professionals’ Discursive Discussion of Climate Change.’ The paper’s intent is to understand how professionals confer legitimacy upon themselves, something I’d like to investigate further. But the broad findings by themselves are very interesting.

This survey of scientists and professionals gives far different answers to climate questions than surveys of scientists drawn primarily from academic fields. So the catch is obvious–most of these scientists and professionals work in the petroleum industry in Alberta, Canada. The view that would normally be labeled ‘consensus’ in academia received only 34% backing from this group, with a further 5% backing action despite being brutally unsure about the extent or attribution of climate change.

This means that in private industry the consensus of scientists and professionals is almost the exact opposite of academic opinion, where 66% support the consensus. Here, 61% oppose the consensus.

Those preaching the consensus today will dismiss the findings for two reasons: First, because so many of the respondents to this survey work in the petroleum extraction sector. Second, because 70% of the respondents are engineers (rhymes with ‘sneers’, for the climate activists of today).

Fortunately, I don’t share the prejudices of climate activists so I can look at the survey results and enjoy and perhaps appreciate what is there to be learned. It’s a pity the climate concerned aren’t a bit more open-minded. They could learn a lot from this paper.

learning from your opponent

From the abstract: “This paper examines the framings and identity work associated with professionals’ discursive construction of climate change science, their legitimation of themselves as experts on ‘the truth’, and their attitudes towards regulatory measures. Drawing from survey responses of 1077 professional engineers and geoscientists, we reconstruct their framings of the issue and knowledge claims to position themselves within their organizational and their professional institutions.”

From the paper: “A survey of scientists in Alberta Canada produced 5 broad groupings of opinion.

The largest group of APEGA respondents (36%) draws on a frame that the researchers label ‘comply with Kyoto’. In their diagnostic framing, they express the strong belief that climate change is happening, that it is not a normal cycle of nature, and humans are the main or central cause. They are the only group to see the scientific debate as mostly settled and the IPCC modeling to be accurate, e.g., ‘I believe that the consensus that climate change is occurring is settled.

The second largest group (24%) express a ‘nature is overwhelming’ frame. In their diagnostic framing, they believe that changes to the climate are natural, normal cycles of the Earth. Their focus is on the past: ‘If you think about it, global warming is what brought us out of the Ice Age.’ Humans are too insignificant to have an impact on nature.’

Ten percent of respondents draw on an ‘economic responsibility’ frame. They diagnose climate change as being natural or human caused. More than any other group, they underscore that the ‘real’ cause of climate change is unknown as nature is forever changing and uncontrollable. Similar to the ‘nature is overwhelming’ adherents, they disagree that climate change poses any significant public risk and see no impact on their personal life. They are also less likely to believe that the scientific debate is settled and that the IPCC modeling is accurate.

Fatalists’, a surprisingly large group (17%), diagnose climate change as both human- and naturally caused. ‘Fatalists’ consider climate change to be a smaller public risk with little impact on their personal life. They are sceptical that the scientific debate is settled regarding the IPCC modeling: ‘The number of variables and their interrelationships are almost unlimited – if anyone thinks they have all the answers, they have failed to ask all of the questions.’

The last group (5%) expresses a frame the researchers call ‘regulation activists’. This frame has the smallest number of adherents, expresses the most paradoxical framing, and yet is more agentic than ‘comply with Kyoto’. Advocates of this frame diagnose climate change as being both human- and naturally caused, posing a moderate public risk, with only slight impact on their personal life. They are also sceptical with regard to the scientific debate being settled and are the most indecisive whether IPCC modeling is accurate: ‘the largest challenge is to find out what the real truth is… I don’t know what the impact really is. I suspect it is not good.’

They believe that the Kyoto Protocol is doomed to failure (‘can’t do it, even though we should’), yet they motivate others most of all to create regulation: ‘Canada should implement aggressive policies to reduce GHG emissions in the spirit of the Kyoto Accord.’ They also recommend that we define and enact sustainability/stewardship, reduce GHGs, and create incentives.”


40 responses to “A Fascinating Survey on Climate Change of Scientists (and Engineers) in Alberta, Canada

  1. Engineers in industry have a lot to teach climate scientists. They have experience with something dangerous, unpopular but essential. They know how governments try to tie everything up with red tape but that that’s a route to innaction. They know that even with the best intentions, things can still go wrong and how to recover from it. They know that documentation, testing and regulation are boring and hard but they have to be done to satisfy the doubters and ensure that human mistakes don’t creep in.

    In manufacturing terms the scientists have a the big idea, built the prototype and had a massive press launch. Unfortunately the demo was a flop, help together with stickytape and fast talking. People have started to drift away muttering ‘snake oil salesman’. They can’t get back on track with more dodgy models and press events. They have to stop acting like crazy boffins and more like the industries they despise. nb How those industries actually behave and not how they think they work with bribery and cheating. Sure, every industry has it’s crooks and liars but the majority are good people. Climate science might have a higher percentage of intelligent people but my experience is that very smart people are often poor at dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Actually engineers aren’t that good at it either but a) they know it has to be done and b) they delegate to people who are good at it.

    That was something that struck me about Phil Jones having to recreate the global temperature records. His cry was that his depertment was very small. Less money should be spent on senior scientists and more on lowly assistants.

    Time to solidify, not expand the science.

    • Could you please clarify what gave you the idea that scientists don’t know that documentation and testing are necessary? Ever heard of the concept “scientific paper”? “Peer review”?

      And then you’re saying that the majority of people within the business world are excellent people, while scientists are usually cheaters or incompetent? Is that it?

      What do you mean by dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s? What isn’t being done?

      Your view of the business world and engineers is touching. But not quite in line with reality. Just like your views on the climate and climate research, perhaps?

      • The fact that you think ““scientific paper”? “Peer review”?” are documentation and testing says it all.

      • “And then you’re saying that the majority of people within the business world are excellent people.”

        The issue is not whether people are good or bad it’s how the mistakes are handled. Despite business being full of largely good people, they need controls – EXTERNAL CONTROLS. It keeps them returning to the issues of safety and quality control. Peer review is not external control. It’s not even much of a review.

        Any field is tarred by it’s dirtiest brush, especially if there is no system to try and eradicate them. Climate science doesn’t even accept it has dirty brushes, let alone thinks it needs to deal with them.

      • I’m not sure you understand what a scientific paper is, TinyCO2. What do you think such a paper consists of?

        Interesting that you should mention how mistakes are handled. Skeptical Science has a couple of nice case studies on that:



        You see, when mistakes are discovered in science they are retracted or corrected. Not so for those who oppose the science.

        As for external controls, you don’t seem to know much about science, and you seem to be keen on whitewashing businesses.

      • I don’t believe we should afford engineers blind trust. But the same is true for scientists. How much fraud did Ioannides find? How many research studies failed replication?

      • “You see, when mistakes are discovered in science they are retracted or corrected.” Jay.

        ‘When’ mistakes are discovered – but nobody is seriously looking for them unless it’s a mistake made by an enemy. What percentage of (any) science papers are retracted? What percentage are wrong? Papers are usually only retracted for glaring mistakes and or breaking arbitrary rules, not for being ultimately wrong. Your examples would have been so much better had they been about consensus science eg that Marcott paper with the ‘non robust’ up tick at the end… oh no hang on, that wasn’t retracted was it? Even though the flaw was a rather significant part of the press release.

        Business doesn’t get such a nice fluffy punishment as retraction or correction. They get fined and or sued. At the very least they have to hand back the money they earned for whatever mistake they made. And no, it’s not perfect but the pressures are there.

        Let me give you an example of how business is corrected – A company I worked for had cooling towers. It had chemical dosing to prevent legionella but it decided to put in better, more automated equipment. Just after it was installed, the Health and Safety Inspector called. He was impressed with the equipment, was sure it was the best available and being operated perfectly… but the paperwork hadn’t been updated from the old system. He gave the company 2 weeks to rectify the shortfall or he’d shut us down. Three days later he had the files on his desk and the Improvement Notice was lifted. The paperwork wasn’t vital to the operation of the plant, it didn’t make the system any safer but several years down the line, it might have. It was important for safety that the company remembered to keep accurate records and so they got a kick up the bum. What was the worst that could happen?

        What is the worst that could happen if climate science fails to persuade people?

      • I’m not familiar with the Marcott paper you are referring to. Why should it have been retracted?

        Are you also suggesting that a scientific paper should be retracted because of a press release? Really?!

      • Marcott was a new, longer proxy series which was touted at proof that the Hockey Stick was right. I think Climate Progress had something like it was no longer a Hockey Stick but a Scythe.


        Sure, only a bit of the paper was wrong (as far as we know) but in terms of AGW it was such a significant part that it devalued the rest of the work. The press release had gone out, the public perception formed. It’s like building a car and forgetting to add brakes. But they’re only a small part of the whole…

        Very few people will ever see Climate Audit’s take down or Marcott’s correction but many more will have seen the original, scary story.

    • Tiny, speaking of crossing the Ts, apologies if you’ve already mentioned this, but remember what Phil Jones et al. said when asked why they couldn’t even find the data to replicate their own studies? Words to the effect of:

      Yeah sure, we were a bit slapdash in the early years, but how were WE supposed to know our research would one day be politically relevant? As far as we knew we were just investigating how nature works. Had we known we were doing something that mattered, I’m sure we would’ve followed the scientific method more often. Besides, nobody paid any attention to us. Relax, everyone. Now that we know the world is WATCHING *of course* we’re going to be competent.

      Obviously a graduate of the Homer Simpson School of Excuses. “I swear, Marge, I never thought you’d find out!”

      • In some ways I have some sympathy for that view, at the time they were in a back water science. But once CAGW became an issue, they should have sat down and asked themselves what needed to change. The moment McIntyre asked for the data Jones should have looked for it, realised it was missing and started gathering it back together. In fact, just like key people at that factory dropped a lot of jobs and got the paperwork to the inspector, he and his colleagues should have worked together to get the data back in order. Nothing was more important than their credibility. He shouldn’t have told porkies about confidentiality agreements. He should, heck, any one of them should have realised that the public, the media and even stinky business would want and have a right to observe what they were doing and check it for mistakes. Instead they did the Colonel Jessup thing ‘you can’t handle the truth’.

        In some ways they are very clever people but in others they’d give Homer a run for the job of village idiot.

  2. I’m not sure I understand how any of this means we should listen to engineers over scientists actively publishing research within the climate field.

    For example: Does it really matter what carpenters think about cancer diagnosis and treatment? Not really. If you want to know what works, talk to a medical doctor, preferably one specialized in the field. So why would you ask engineers about climate science?

    Also, the second largest group seems to rely on misunderstandings in order to come to a conclusion. Kind of underscores my point.

    So why would one not dismiss engineers’ opinions out of hand when they are clearly not in line with what actual experts within the field are saying?

    • But you see, Jay, engineers are not carpenters and climate scientists are not oncologists.

      • No way! The comparison still needs the following question to be answered, though: How is the opinion of engineers relevant to climate science? Especially if said engineers claim that the scientists doing actual climate research are wrong,

    • When scientists embraced eugenics, rejected plate tectonics, helio bacter, and piltdown man was peer reviewed, was the treatment of those on the other side of the consensus also so wicked?

  3. Could you remind me what are the main industries in Alberta? I don’t remember.

    • Energy is the main industry. A form of energy that can’t, unlike peer reviewed papers, simply be withdrawn if it doesn’t work. By the way, Mann’s exoneration when Penn State whitewashed him, was significantly about his ability to win lucrative grants.

  4. First, because so many of the respondents to this survey work in the petroleum extraction sector.

    An even larger portion of them actually use fossil fuels!

  5. Scientific credibility, to the extent that it’s an attribute of persons, may take a while to achieve or establish. The good news is that, for scientists wishing to achieve the opposite, there are countless quick and easy methods available.

    One compelling, unequivocal way in which a scientist can confer illegitimacy on himself is by talking about ‘consensus.’

    Another is by using a definite article in front of the word ‘science.’

    Or by accusing his scrutineers, rivals, opponents and doubters of ‘attacking’ science. (The correct gerund is ‘doing.’)

    Shibboleths: what a time-saver!

    • Strangely enough, there is talk about a consensus within most fields of science. There is a clear consensus that the Theory of Evolution is correct. There is a clear consensus on the Big Bang. There is a clear consensus on atoms and molecules.

      You are basically saying that most fields of science are illegitimate. Nice one.

      • Actually, Jay, that’s not true. Nobody talks about a consensus for any of those. Nobody talks about a ‘consensus’ for them because there is no need to.

        Confident science welcomes examination to further its findings and doesn’t need to claim a consensus. Scared button-pushers who never venture into the field but rely on shaky models call their opponents deniers and rely on the claim of consensus to confer legitimacy on what they’re doing.

      • Your claim that no one talks about a consensus for other areas of science is demonstrably false. A Google search for “evolution consensus” proves you wrong a thousand times over. Just a few examples:




        Even the religious refer to the scientific consensus on Evolution: http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=4518

        Notice how the argument used by anti-Evolutionists is basically the same as that used by the anti-climate science crowd?

      • Climate science isn’t just in the field of science any more, it’s now attempting to influence public policy. Very, very expensive, intrusive policy. The rules are different, almost unique given the implications of both acting and not acting on CO2.

      • So, thomaswfuller2 and Brad Keyes – is Evolution illegitimate because there’s a clear consensus on it, and people are pointing out that there is one?

      • I see, TinyCO2. Because science affects policy, science must be wrong? Christ…

      • Yes, Jay, Eugenie Scott and others do use the word consensus when talking about Evolution. However, I’ve never seen people referring to a consensus on gravity, the speed of light, relativity, etc.

        No, actually I don’t see creationists using the same arguments as climate skeptics or lukewarmers. At all.

        What I see is tribal behaviour by alarmists who started by calling skeptics deniers. They then graduated to calling non-complaisant scientists deniers. More recently they have resorted to calling Barack Obama, Andrew Revkin and James Hansen deniers.

        Which tribe is acting more like creationists? Which side uses the language of religion? Your tribe, Jay. Sorry

      • No, thomaswfuller2, not just Eugenie Scott. A huge number of people, and I posted several links to illustrate this. Why did you ignore my comment? Did you notice the creationists who specifically used the word “consensus” in order to claim there isn’t one?

        Did you even try that Google search yourself? Now try it for other scientific fields, such as the speed of light, etc. Notice how the word “consensus” is used about all of them? That’s right, a simple Google search debunks your demonstrably false claims that “consensus” isn’t referred to in other areas.

        Good job on going on about tribal behavior and calling people things, and then calling people alarmists. Double standards are common among creationists as well, you know.

        You ask which tribe is acting more like creationists. Well, which side denies that there is a scientific consensus? Which side claims that the consensus position is wrong? Which side first viciously attacks the actual scientists, and then crawls into a fetal position, assumes the victim role, and complains about the other side being mean to them?

        By the way, you are the one using the word “denier” right now, not me.

        I don’t have a tribe. You, on the other hand, clearly do. You are willing to accept anything as long as it can be used to attack the science.

      • Ah, yes. You say I’m attacking science and that you’re not part of a tribe. Maybe not. More like a religious cult.

      • So, are you going to admit that you were wrong when you claimed that “nobody talks about a consensus for any of those”? Are you going to admit that people do talk about a consensus in other fields of science as well?

        Or are you just going to keep attacking me instead of addressing the points I brought up?

      • Jay, your first link to the ACLU has one mention of ‘consensus.’ It is by the American Association of University Professors. Not scientists.

        Your second link is to Pew, a non-profit research center that is best known for its excellent public opinion surveys. Not scientists. The survey report you link to regards public opinion of scientific consensus on evolution. There is not a single statement by a scientist at your link. Not about consensus, not about anything. No scientists are quoted.

        Your third link is to the website of Peter Enns, with the subhead of Hosting The Conversation On Faith. The only person who is referred to as accepting the ‘consensus on evolution’ is… Peter Enns. Not a scientist. He is listed on Wikipedia as a ‘biblical scholar, theologian and writer.’

        Funnily enough, your final link, which you introduce by saying ‘Even the religious refer to the scientific consensus on Evolution’ actually goes to a post by Jeff Miller, who claims to have a PhD in physical science and in biomechanical engineering. Did you read what he wrote before saying ‘even the religious?’ He’s the only one in all of your links who has a scientific background. He also cites peer-reviewed journals where he says he has published.

        Funnily enough, Dr. Miller refers 28 times to the consensus, starting with Bill Nye the Science Guy’s use of the term. Perhaps even funnier, Dr. Miller refers to Bill Nye as the ‘Pseudo-Science Guy.’

        Here’s what Dr. Miller actually says about consensus: “In truth, accepting the consensus view on a theory is a dangerous practice.” but, …”The consensus in this country that has existed since its inception—that Creation is true and Darwinian evolution is false—has no doubt played a role in the scientific breakthroughs that individual scientists have made that have led to our nation’s success. Such breakthroughs are to be expected according to the biblical model. In this area, it is clear that following the “consensus” has been a good thing.”

        I’m not sure you’re paying very close attention to what you are citing, Jay.

      • Jay “Because science affects policy, science must be wrong? Christ…”

        No, if science affects policy it must be held to higher standards than the school room measures it currently enjoys. Or more accurately if it NEEDS to affect policy. If it just wants to be the current fad of celebrities and wealthy politicians then sure, it can stay exactly as it is. It’s at the stage where they will agree that they should do something about it but don’t actually do anything substantial. Or did I misread Paris?

        And even if you convince those who won’t be significantly discomforted by CO2 reduction, you still have to convince those who will. People like engineers and carpenters.

        Are these difficult concepts for you?

      • Jay? Jay? Where’d you go? Jay?

      • That would be ‘strange enough.’

        Jay, do you know what consensus means? Look it up. For an English word, it’s surprisingly well-defined and unambiguous.

        A consensus is a majority opinion, i.e. an opinion held by the majority (of people in a certain set, e.g. scientists).

        ‘There is a clear consensus on…’ Yawn.

        I didn’t say there ARE no consensuses in science.

        I’d have to guess that the consensuses you name probably do, indeed, exist, and are almost 100% in some cases. However, I’d love to know how YOU know these consensuses exist. Care to produce an opinion poll in support of your certainty? What percentage agreement is there?

        What I said was that nobody in science CARES. (Oreskes and her epigones care, but then they’re not ‘in science.’)

        Why not? Because Rule 1 of Science Club is that opinion is not evidence.

        Scientists only care about evidence, because it’s the only thing that will ever affect the rightness or wrongness of their conclusions.

        Which is why opinion—which is not evidence—is beneath their notice.

        ‘There is a clear consensus on the Big…’ YAWN.

        ‘There is a clear consensus on atoms and’ YAWN.

        ‘You are basically saying that most fields of science are illegitimate.’

        No I’m not. If I were, you wouldn’t need the word ‘basically.’

        ‘Basically’ basically means hey, I am about to say you said something not because you did, but because I wish you did so that I could finally win a point.

        Stop it, Jay. You are fabricating a strawman and using ‘basically’ as a weasel word to escape opprobrium when you’re called out on your falsehood.

        It didn’t work.

        If you can coherently respond to anything I’ve actually SAID, do so. Otherwise spare yourself the embarrassment.

      • Jay,

        who were you, before your brief and entertaining flame guttered out?

        ‘Even the religious refer to the scientific consensus…’

        You mean, like Al Gore (Bible School dropout and emphysema profiteer), John Cook (who remarked that in the Old Testament the testimony of two males is necessary and sufficient to establish truth, and ‘science operates via the same principle’), Rajendra “my dharma and my karma and my Greg” Pachauri, Katherine Hayhoe, Pope [I’m drawing a blank on his surname], John Houghton, ….?

        I think you mean ONLY the religious refer to scientific consensus.

        Well, that’s not fair of me. A cohort and a half of well-meaning nonscientists has been systematically miseducated by Oreskes and the minor imps who do her bidding into believing, contrary to the last 300 years of scientific epistemology, that consensus matters.

        I suspect you’re just another brick in that wall of duped and dyseducated human Duplo.

        To quote Cromwell, why are you so gullible?
        You’re a victim of Oreskes’ transgenerational fraud, not an accomplice, are you? I’m right, amn’t I? When do you graduate?

  6. Hey, Jay–maybe you can adopt Dr. Miller’s closing lines for your own personal use: “May we encourage you always in your pursuit to boldly speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), doing your part to make the American consensus one that believes in and seeks to obey the one true God of the Universe.”

  7. APEGA is the licencing body for “Professional Engineers and Geoscientists” in Alberta. Membership is mandatory for practitioners who offer their services to the public. Most members would consider themselves to be scientists, having, at minimum, a 4-year Science or Applied Science degree from an accredited university plus 4 years post graduate experience. Engineers or Scientists who work for large companies in the petroleum industry or for the goverment, or who teach, or who do research in Unversities, do not require membership in APEGA.

  8. It would appear that “Jay” is unfamiliar with the authoritative voice of climate scientist (and self-proclaimed Excel dummy) Phil Jones who had declared (circa Jan. 2004) his views regarding “peer review” – and the examination to which he would subject a paper prior to granting it his seal of approval (or not) [my bold added -hro]:

    The whole system would grind to a halt. I’ve never requested data/codes to do a review and I don’t think others should either. I do many of my reviews on travel. I have a feel for whether something is wrong – call it intuition. If analyses don’t seem right, look right or feel right, I say so. Some of my reviews for CC [edited by the late great Saint Stephen of Stanford -hro] could be called into question!

    For details, pls. see: Phil Jones keeps peer-review process humming … by using “intuition”

  9. So, a reality check:
    Kyoto utterly failed in its stated goals of significant CO2 reduction. And despite heroic defense of the climate science consensus, the similarities between climate science and eugenics are still blatant.

  10. The best analogy about how engineers are different to scientists to try to help Jay understand is the modelling of crack and stresses in Finite Element Analysis.
    If one finds a defect in a component, then a decision has to be made of leave it, repair or scrap. FEA is critical in this process. This is done by complex computer models. They have to follow a defined standard process, using specific rules and specified programs. All assumptions need to be clearly stated as well as the base data and where it comes from. No special processes or analysis methods can be used.
    If a decision is made to continue use, then the regulatory authority often wants the analysis redone by a third party. Then if differences occur, these need to be resolved before moving forward. Does this sound like what is done for climate models?
    Another important point as a professional engineer is if I sign off something, then I am liable for that signoff. The professional body quite zealously enforces admission and the ongoing competency assessments. There are unfortunately far too many cases of engineers being disciplined or losing their ticket for working outside their competencies, or signing falsehoods. Is there a similar process for scientists?

    • One thing to note is that not every regulatory tool that has been developed for engineering is applicable every time. They are scaled up depending upon the risk and hazards involved. But climate change is supposed to be the gratest risk we’ve ever faced so just as the issue has gone from interesting science to global emergency, the safeguards must be appropriate to the issue.

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