On May 26, the Online version of the Wall Street Journal posted an opinion piece titled ‘The Myth of the Climate Change '97%' What is the origin of the false belief—constantly repeated—that almost all scientists agree about global warming?’ It was written by Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer. The brief bio informs the reader “Mr. Bast is president of the Heartland Institute. Dr. Spencer is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer on NASA's Aqua satellite.” The posting contains the statement “Rigorous international surveys conducted by German scientists Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch —most recently published in Environmental Science & Policy in 2010—have found that most climate scientists disagree with the consensus on key issues such as the reliability of climate data and computer models. They do not believe that climate processes such as cloud formation and precipitation are sufficiently understood to predict future climate change.”
Since the time of publication, the opinion piece, or parts thereof, has been widely distributed, more often than not verbatim, in the blogosphere.
We, (Bray and von Storch) the authors of the ‘Rigorous international surveys’, find this disconcerting. Bast and Spencer make claims about our work, which are inaccurate if not outright false. This is not the first time that statements of us have been misrepresented – the case of Ameling in August 2013 was another blatant one; thus it may make sense opposing publicly such claims.
In the WSJ opinion piece, Best and Spencer inform the readers that based on the results of our survey; there is disagreement ‘with the consensus on key issues such as the reliability of climate data and computer models’. What IS the consensus on the reliability of climate data and computer models? What are our results compared to so that such a claim can be made?
A second conclusion reached by Blast and Spence reads 'They [climate scientists] do not believe that climate processes such as cloud formation and precipitation are sufficiently understood to predict future climate change'. On this account, first, Blast and Spencer do not seem to have taken the time to read our discussion of the use of the term prediction versus the use of the term projection, a paper which itself raised a lot of comments, i.e. prediction and projection, in climate science, are synonymous.
But the point here is the claim of correlation between the understanding of clouds and the ability to assess the future of climate. What the survey asks is how well the respondent thinks that climate models can deal with clouds. Admittedly the confidence is fairly low. However when asked ‘Concerning TEMPERATURE VALUES, how would you rate the ability of GLOBAL models to simulate mean values for the next 10 years’, (and the next 50 years)’ the response was considerably more positive than that assigned the assessment of clouds. The correlation of the two variables was a minimal .09.
The point being, our results are modified in a way so as to support the opinions of many blog authors, not just Bast and Co. This amounts to manipulations, and to damaging our academic reputation. We, Hans von Storch and myself would like to clarify that, in undertaking the surveys, we attempt to produce results that are as objective as possible. It is not our intention to provide fodder for this camp or that camp, we are not acting as partisans of any particular persuasion and we do not particularly appreciate being stuck with a label assigned by some third party imagination.