Study: Scientists Who Dispute Climate Change Are Less Qualified

Posted on June 23, 2010


Stephen Schneider of Stanford said, “We wanted to ask by objective measures, ‘Who publishes the bulk of the new science in the refereed literature and gets cited the most: those who accept anthropogenic global warming or those who deny it?'”

They started with a list of 1,372 climate researchers.

The list of 1,372 was compiled by looking through public documents, petitions, etc., which expressed an opinion on the conclusions of the IPCC on climate change, statements, that is, which either yea-ed or nay-ed those conclusions.  Naturally, they added in climate scientists whose names are attached to the IPCC studies and studies like the one issued this year by the US National Academy of Sciences.

Then they sorted through that 1,372 and tossed out all of the scientists who had published fewer than 20 papers on climate.

908 climate researchers made it through this winnowing process.

815 of the researchers were in the convinced category.  Members of the convinced category published an average of 408 peer-reviewed papers apiece on the subject of climate.

93 of the researchers were in the unconvinced category.  Members of the unconvinced category published an average of 89 peer-reviewed papers apiece on the subject of climate apiece.

That is, researchers in the convinced category published an average of 319 more papers apiece that the researchers in the unconvinced category.

80% of the unconvinced scientists out of the original 1,372 didn’t make the short list at all because they hadn’t published enough.  Less than twenty apiece.

Now, twenty publications apiece is not too much to expect if you are looking for expertise.  For instance, if the scientists in the study in the convinced category had REDUCED their publications by 90%—that is, if they held back 9 out of 10 of their peer-reviewed and published scientific papers—most of them would have STILL MADE THE SHORTLIST.

Scientists who didn’t make the shortlist truly didn’t deserve to be on it.

To continue, of the top 200 researchers who made the 908—that is of the researchers in the study who were the most active and had published the most peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate—only five researchers fit into the unconvinced category.  That is 2.5%.

Only three unconvinced researchers reached the top 100 on the list.  That is 3%.

Only one unconvinced researcher was among the top 50.  That is 2%.

Thus, overwhelmingly, the best and most active researchers in climate change are in the convinced category and back the views of climate change put forward by the IPCC.

The study adds a couple more details.

Among the convinced group, their most cited scientific paper was cited an average of 172 times in other scientific papers.

Among the unconvinced group, their most cited scientific paper was cited an average of 105 times in other scientific papers.

In other words, scientists in the field of climate science—who would be the ones doing the citing, naturally—tend to respect the work of convinced scientists measurably more than the work of unconvinced scientists.

So the unconvinced scientists produce considerably less work—hundreds of papers less—than convinced scientists, and the work they do produce is less highly regarded.

Finally, denier scientists received their PhDs on average in 1977.

Scientists who accept the consensus received their PhDs on average in 1987.

Let’s summarize.

  • Denier scientists are fewer in number, in fact, a tiny minority in relation to those who accept the consensus on climate change as set out in the IPCC reports.
  • Denier scientists are less qualified than scientists who accept the consensus, and most of them are considerably less qualified.
  • Denier scientists are less scientifically respected by their peers than those who accept the consensus.
  • Denier scientists publish considerably less work than scientists who accept the consensus.
  • Denier scientists are older than scientists who accept the consensus.

One final point for the benefit of Simple Sam.

Sam says that scientists who go against the flow in climate science just don’t get their manuscripts published.  It’s a conspiracy, he says.

Sam, I said, the scientists who support the consensus have published on the average 319 more peer reviewed papers than the ones who don’t support the consensus.  And that’s even leaving out the 80% of denier scientists who have published fewer than 20 papers apiece.

If those 93 denier scientists who made the cut each have 319 unpublished papers sitting in the discard drawer, let’s see them.

That’s 29,667 unpublished scientific papers.  An impressive sight, if there is such a thing, Sam.  But it’s probably nonsense.  It’s probably just another lame excuse without substance or proof to back it up.  There are no 29,667 unpublished papers, and if there were we would have heard something about them before now.

But you if you know different, Sam, all you or any denier has to do is produce them.  Put up or shut up, I said.

I’ll expect all 29,667 of these mythical unpublished papers in my in-box by tomorrow.


The following is the abstract of the study which I cite above.  It was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 21, 2010.

Expert credibility in climate change by William R. L. Anderegg, James W. Prall, Jacob Harold, and Stephen H. Schneider.


Although preliminary estimates from published literature and expert surveys suggest striking agreement among climate scientists on the tenets of anthropogenic climate change (ACC), the American public expresses substantial doubt about both the anthropogenic cause and the level of scientific agreement underpinning ACC.  A broad analysis of the climate scientist community itself, the distribution of credibility of dissenting researchers relative to agreeing researchers, and the level of agreement among top climate experts has not been conducted and would inform future ACC discussions. Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that (i) 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and (ii) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.