Tuesday, 17 December 2013

US Meterology global warming survey results are in

A stack of American Meteorological Society (AMS) members decided to survey the AMS members on what their views were for the cause of climate change.

The team of ten surveyors came from a number of institutions, including George Mason University, the American Meteorological Society, the AMS Committee to Improve Climate Change Communication, and Yale University. They asked a simple question: "Is global warming happening? If so, what is the cause?"

They emailed all professional members of AMS, and had 26% respond (1854). Of the respondents who fully completed the survey (33 did not), 88% said that global warming is happening; but 26% didn't think - or had insufficient evidence - it was due to human causes. The 88% was made up of answers to:
  • Yes, mostly human: 52% 
  • Yes, equally human & natural: 10%
  • Yes, mostly natural: 5%
  • Yes, insufficient evidence: 20%
  • Yes, don't know cause: 1%

Of the remainder, 7% didn't know either way, and 4% thought that global warming wasn't happening at all (the missing 1% is due to rounding on all categories). The survey organisers have analysed their respondents' demographics and feel it is roughly representative, however, they realise that their 26% response rate increases their margin of error, and have built that into their discussion.

Overall then, 88% yes to global warming; 7% dunno; 4% no. Lower than the European survey, but still pretty significant numbers ("97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming", Cook et al, 2013, p.1).

But what really interested me was an article by James Taylor writing about the survey in Forbes Magazine, and which has been repeated elsewhere (eg Heartland Magazine). Taylor reported "Just 52 percent of survey respondents answered Yes: Mostly human. The other 48 percent either questioned whether global warming is happening or would not ascribe human activity as the primary cause" (20 November 2013), which is a pretty skewed take on what the survey really said.

Taylor's article leaves you with the impression only just over half of professional AMS members think that global warming is happening (20 November 2013). But looking at the overall numbers from the survey, consensus is that global warming is happening, but that scientists don't have clear evidence on the causal factors yet (Stenhouse et al, 2013).

An finding that I thought was quite telling was that scientists probably use the views of their relevant peer group as a social cue for forming their own view... so may be no better informed than Mr/Ms Average. We can all be sheep if we don't inform ourselves.

Download the AMS article here to read about it for yourself.

  • Cook, John; Nuccitelli, Dana; Green, Sarah A.; Richardson, Mark; Winkler, Barbel; Painting, Rob; Way, Robert; Jacobs, Peter and Skuce, Andrew (2013). Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature. Environmental Research Letters, 2013, Volume 8, issue 2 (pp. 1-7).
  • Stenhouse, Neil; Maibach, Edward; Cobb, Sara; Ban, Ray; Bleistein, Andrea; Croft; Paul; Bierly, Eugene; Seitter, Keith; Rasmussen, Gary and Leiserowitz, Anthony (2013). Meteorologists' views about global warming: A survey of American Meteorological Society professional members. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, December 2013, early accepted version, on-line release. Retrieved 17 December 2013 from http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-D-13-00091.1
  • Taylor, James PhD (20 November 2013). The Latest Meteorologist Survey Destroys The Global Warming Climate 'Consensus'. USA: Forbes. Retrieved 17 December 2013 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2013/11/20/the-latest-meteorologist-survey-destroys-the-global-warming-climate-consensus/ 
  • Survey of Meteorologists Destroys Climate ‘Consensus’ Claims


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