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Is There a Case Against Human-Caused Global Warming in the Peer-Reviewed Literature? Part 3

The third and final installment of James Powell’s series examining whether there is a case against human caused global warming in the peer reviewed literature. This series is cross-posted from our friends at Skeptical Science.

Part 1 in this series introduced a database of global warming skeptics and the number of peer-reviewed papers each has published. Part 2 examined the “takeaways” from these papers.

To generate these lists we identified some 120 global warming skeptics, searched the Web of Science for their peer-reviewed papers, then read the abstracts and sometimes the entire paper to flag those that denied or attempted to cast substantial doubt on human-caused global warming. (This study differs from the one by Oreskes (2004) who did not count papers that “cast substantial doubt.”)

We have now sorted the papers by argument and by year. The list sorted by argument has links to the rebuttals, allowing these conclusions:

  • The principal claim of each of these arguments has been thoroughly rebutted in the scientific literature, as summarized on Skeptical Science here.
  • Some of the arguments that rank highly by popularity are conspicuous by their absence among the skeptic papers ranked by Skeptical Science. None argues that (1) climate’s changed before, (4) there is no consensus, (8) animals and plants can adapt, (9) it hasn’t warmed since 1998, (10) ice age predicted in the 70s, (11) Antarctica is gaining ice, or (12) CO2 lags temperature. Global warming skeptics continue to make these arguments at every opportunity, but demonstrably it is not possible to back up any of them with evidence that will pass peer-review. Until there is such evidence, there is no reason anyone should pay attention to these unsupported and misleading claims.

To reiterate the principal conclusions of this series:

  • 70% of the global warming skeptics identified, including some of the most outspoken, have no scientific publications that deny or cast substantial doubt on global warming.
  • None of the papers provides the “killer argument,” the one devastating fact that would falsify human-caused global warming.
  • Each skeptic argument has been debunked in other peer-reviewed papers.
  • The skeptics have no plausible theory to explain the observed global warming.
  • Even though the evidence for human-caused global warming and the scientific consensus have grown stronger, no skeptic who wrote in the first half of the 1990s has recanted. To be a climate skeptic is to remain a skeptic.

The answer to the question of this series is resounding no: there is no case against human-caused global warming in the peer-reviewed literature.

Dr. James Powell is a scientist, author, former president of Reed College, and was appointed by two different presidents to the National Science Board.

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