Patterico's Pontifications

3/28/2014

L.A. Times Once Again Misstates Evidence on Global Warming

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:49 pm

Scott Martelle, writing in the L.A. Times:

Here’s a statistic for you. Out of 10,855 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals last year that dealt with some aspect of global warming, all but two accepted human behavior as the primary cause.

Wow. Over 10,000 articles, all of which “accept” human behavior as the “primary cause” of global warming. Pretty impressive, huh?

Except . . .

Except that Martelle has written a check that his links can’t cash. The links offered by Martelle all relate to some dubious research by a fellow named James Powell, which does not even purport to establish what Martelle claims it does. Powell does not claim that over 10,000 articles “accept” human behavior as the “primary cause” of global warming. Rather, Powell claims — based on a rather odd (as we will see) analysis of 10,000+ articles — that the articles “do not reject” human behavior as the “primary cause” of global warming.

But what if the articles don’t even address the issue? In fact, as we will see, many (perhaps most) of these articles don’t analyze — or even address — whether humans are primarily responsible for global warming. So, although they may not “reject” this premise, they don’t necessarily “accept” it either. They just don’t say a thing about it, one way or the other.

Now, it could be that some of these papers “accept” that global warming exists. It could even be the case that some of them “accept” that humans contribute to it. Powell does not claim this, but it could be the case. Even then, that would not mean they “accept” that humans are a primary cause of global warming. And, again, Powell doesn’t claim they do — merely that they don’t “reject” that claim.

Indeed, this is my own personal position. I do not “accept” the thesis human behavior is the primary cause of global warming. But at the same time, I do not feel qualified to “reject” that thesis either. Like many, a) I accept that global warming exists, b) I accept that humans probably contribute to it, but (and this is important) c) I do not profess to opine as to what is the “primary cause” of global warming.

So the difference between “fail to reject” and “accept” is quite significant indeed. Just because I do not necessarily “reject” your questionable hypothesis does not mean I “accept” it. And if that is true for me, it may be true for thousands of authors of scientific studies.

This becomes painfully evident when you look at Powell’s list of studies, because it quickly becomes clear that many of them have nothing to do with analyzing the “primary cause” of global warming.

Let’s examine Martelle’s proof in more detail.

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