The skeptics who frequently deny the reality of climate change in the world’s media lack all scientific credibility, charge three eminent Australian researchers who have just been listed among the world’s 20 most influential scientists in the field of climate change.

Marine researchers Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Professor Terry Hughes and Professor John Pandolfi were ranked in the world’s top 20 by the international science citation analysts Thomson Reuters and ScienceWatch, for the decade 1999-2009. All three are coral reef researchers, members of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS).

However, they warn, many self-proclaimed climate skeptics have never conducted any authentic climate research nor had it peer-reviewed by the world scientific community and published in respected journals.

The three researchers are urging the Australian and international media to be far more cautious in accepting views about climate change put by people whose work has not been subject to rigorous scientific scrutiny and peer-review – and to question the motives behind it.

Professors Hoegh-Guldberg, Hughes and Pandolfi (ranked 3, 7 and 17 in the world respectively) have published extensively in the world scientific literature, in particular on the impacts of climate change on the world’s coral reefs, fish and ocean ecosystems, and on the appropriate management responses to human-related climate change.

Collectively, their research papers on climate change have been cited by over 5000 other scientific publications, giving their work a powerful influence over the thinking of other researchers globally, who then cited it in their own peer-reviewed reports.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland, is a co-author of the world’s most cited paper on climate change, the 2002 Nature report, “Ecological responses to recent climate change” (G.R. Walther et al., Nature 416: 389-95, 2002), which has now been cited about 1,100 times.

The US National Center for Atmospheric Research is ranked as the world’s most cited institution. Its most cited paper – the 2003 Science report, “Climate change, human impacts and the resilience of coral reefs“ – was co-authored by an international team including Professors Hughes, Hoegh-Guldberg and Pandolfi (T.P. Hughes et al., Science 302: 1503-1504, 2003)

“There are no climate skeptics among the coral reef science and management community, because we have seen first-hand the damage caused to reefs in response to the global warming that has already occurred. The evidence for man-made climate change is unequivocal,” says CoECRS director, Professor Hughes

“Our focus now is to move beyond the gloom, doom and denial, and look for practical solutions that will limit the damage from climate change.”

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said: “The evidence emerging from both ocean and atmospheric science makes it increasingly clear that humanity is going to have to get atmospheric CO2 levels back down to 350 parts per million or less, if we are to avoid major impacts on the planet and everything that lives on it.

“It is good that Australian science is playing a significant role in this global awakening – and Australians generally can support their science by demanding greater urgency and more action from their governments and political parties.”

CoECRS principal researcher Professor Pandolfi from The University of Queensland, said: “We are entering a new era in the history of environmental change on our planet: dramatic changes in climate coupled with massive degradation from overexploitation and pollution continue to threaten the foundations of many ecosystems.

“By showing that these linked threats are unprecedented in the Earth’s long history, we are drawing a line in the sand for immediate and substantial action to promote the rehabilitation and recovery of ecosystem goods and services.”

 

11 Responses to Climate change skeptics ‘lack scientific credibility’

  1. Matt Andrews says:

    Hear hear. The disconnect between the scientific credibility of deniers and their media profile is just staggering (thanks, largely, to the efforts of News Limited).

    I really object to the use of the word “skeptic” to describe those who deny the evidence. This is simply playing into their hands, by affording them an unjustified respect. Any and all real scientists are skeptics; the deniers, on the other hand, are (given the state of the evidence) by definition anti-skeptical – i.e. credulous. A true skeptic bases his or her conclusions on the balance of the credible evidence. A denier tries to find any evidence he or she can, no matter how inconsequential, misinterpreted, or how thoroughly outweighed by other evidence, to support their view; and conversely uncritically accepts and champions pretty much any factoid (or outright falsehood) if it supports their preconceived position.

    That’s not to say that genuine and substantial evidence which appears to contradict the consensus conclusions should not be taken seriously; any evidence should be treated on its merits.

    To me the word “skeptic” is an honourable one, describing a stance and a practice which is essential to healthy science. The Macleans, Carters, and so on, not to mention the Bolts and worse, are about as far removed from real skepticism as it is possible to be. “Denier”, “denialist” or “contrarian” are more accurate terms.

    It looks like this is the report in question: Warming Planet, Hot Research.

  2. OveHG says:

    I totally agree as you (Matt) probably realise. It is misleading but unfortunately the media thinks that anyone who disagrees with the current scientific understanding of climate change is a true skeptic.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Scientist by nature are truly sceptical. The opposite is true of classic denialists such as Bob Carter and Lord Monckton. They start with a belief that climate change or its human drivers are not happening and then seek to cherry pick the evidence to support their position. Using this technique, you can literally find support any crazy notion.

    To me, the classic scientist is Professor Steve Schneider from Stanford University. As he recently told the ABC, he originally thought as a geophysicist that the earth was cooling (way back in the 1960s) but soon tested these ideas and found that the earth was doing the exact opposite. In his words:

    “I changed my opinion in 1970 from cooling to warming, published it first, it’s one of my proudest moments in science because we found, as the evidence accumulated, that there were a number of reasons, it’s all explained in chapter one of “Science as a Contact Sport”, and I still have to hear things from those famous climate professors, the ones that publish all the papers in the referee journals, professors Limbaugh and Will, you know, about how… ‘Oh Schneider, he’s just an environmentalist for all temperatures’, it’s a great line! (Stephen Schneider)”

    Here more at: http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=5119

  3. [...] of hardworking scientist. At Climate Shifts they make a point that many of the sceptics themselves lack scientific credibility (I think I’ll probably reference to this fairly often as it’s a point I like to make). [...]

  4. Phil M says:

    To me the word “skeptic” is an honourable one, describing a stance and a practice which is essential to healthy science. The Macleans, Carters, and so on, not to mention the Bolts and worse, are about as far removed from real skepticism as it is possible to be. “Denier”, “denialist” or “contrarian” are more accurate terms

    Couldnt agree more. Before I started getting into AGW debates, I used to frequent JREF,one of the most popular blogs for skeptics in general on the net. The balance of pro AGW commenters are probably slightly higher than the against over there.

    http://forums.randi.org/

    I watched as the denial machine swung into full action & people that were normally highly skeptical, threw all logic & research into the bin & happily backed the latest denial gossip, without even the slightest obligatory 5 min google.

    Its like watching people get caught by the latest nigerian lottery scam & prevnting themselves from just spending a few minutes asking questions.

  5. Phil M says:

    The denial blogosphere is strangely silent on this latest bit of news:

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/04/12/global-cooling-hottest-march-on-record-nasa-uah-rss-satellite-data/

    Nothing on Bolta & nothing on WUWT…… wonder why?

  6. FrankS says:

    The article says that

    “many self-proclaimed climate skeptics have never conducted any authentic climate research nor had it peer-reviewed by the world scientific community and published in respected journals”

    Quite true, but that is to miss the point, their role is actually quality control.

    Virtually the whole establishment – decision makers and research organizations have been so supportive of the official IPCC view on climate change that there has been no outlet for those critical of even a minute part of the theory.

    Outside of this large but cosy world is the parallel world of bloggers, retired staticians, scientists and free thinkers with time on their hands.
    They may not have the equipment or funding to carry out original research, but some in that crowd will have the qualifications, intellect and the right skills to dissect existing reports, papers and theories. They are what I call the “Ah But” brigade, checking and highlighting inconsistencies of already published theories and reports.

    And it appears that this is where the UN/IPCC system has been sadly lacking, there has been very little real quality control and independent checking at high level, so it is no surprise that the skeptic community has been finding discrepancy after discrepancy.

    Perhaps if the IPCC had implemented INDEPENDENT quality control themselves, then the blatant politicization and bias in this subject would not have crept in and let a bunch of amateurs show that many senior climate professionals behavior is ethically compromised.

    • J.Roff says:

      Outside of this large but cosy world is the parallel world of bloggers, retired staticians, scientists and free thinkers with time on their hands.
      They may not have the equipment or funding to carry out original research, but some in that crowd will have the qualifications, intellect and the right skills to dissect existing reports, papers and theories. They are what I call the “Ah But” brigade, checking and highlighting inconsistencies of already published theories and reports..

      You mean like Anthony Watts? The issue is that the ‘fact checking’ is far from impartial, and is largely driven by not so hidden agendas.

      And it appears that this is where the UN/IPCC system has been sadly lacking, there has been very little real quality control and independent checking at high level, so it is no surprise that the skeptic community has been finding discrepancy after discrepancy.

      Honestly? I’m surprised there aren’t more discrepancies. The issue isn’t the discrepancies as much as the misinterpretation. It’s not as innocuous as saying “hey look, you made a mistake, how’s about correcting this”, but more “OH MY GOD CHECK THIS OUT THE IPCC IS FLAWED CLIMATE CHANGE IS FAKE THESE PEOPLE JUST WANT TO TAX US MORE MONEY SCREAM IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS CLIMATE CHANGE IS FALSE”

      let a bunch of amateurs show that many senior climate professionals behavior is ethically compromised.

      You can’t commend these people in one breath then call them a ‘bunch of amateurs’ in the other… and ethically compromised? Where is this happening?

  7. Phil M says:

    Quite true, but that is to miss the point, their role is actually quality control.

    So people who are unqualified, never published & have been debunked at virtually every turn are the ones responsible for quality control?

  8. Phillip Brown says:

    Global warming covers a lot of fields and I wonder how qualified are a few coral reef scientists are to make such an ‘appeal to authority’ argument and associated lambasting of sceptics.

    OveHG talks about skeptics cherry picking evidence yet seems to have forgotten that his colleagues in the coral reef management/ research community have been accused of just that regarding marine parks of the GBR (Walter Stack – Reefgate). The fact that these claims have not been adequately addressed just adds to their credence.

    OveHG in his Starck Raving Reefgate post prefered to attack the messenger and my points were ignored entirely.

  9. sebastien says:

    “Global warming covers a lot of fields and I wonder how qualified are a few coral reef scientists are to make such an ‘appeal to authority’ argument and associated lambasting of sceptics.”

    I’ve been wondering something similar. If OveHG isn’t qualified to make an ‘appeal to authority’, then who is? Should we shut down WUWT and associated blogs and use RealClimate (a blog run by… actual climate scientists) as an appeal to authority?

  10. Thomas Moore says:

    (Walter Starck – Reefgate) – sorry mate, you can’t complain about Ove not having the authority to speak on a subject and then in the same argument suggest Walter Starck has any credibility or a valid point to make. He’s not a coral reef scientist, doesn’t practice science ad hasn’t published a single paper using any data to support his guesstimates. On his website he says “He has written over 100 articles and books”, yet he doesn’t have a research paper to his name (apart from a soft piece National Geographic article from almost half a century ago and a response to someone else’s published paper back in 2000 which amounts to an opinion piece with no data). Where is your issue with Starck’s claims?

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