Laurence I. Gould asks:
“What is a scientific consensus on dangerous global warming”?

14th January 2008

Welcome Visitor;

For years there is a debate on what is the role of “consensus” in scientific methodology and discovery? Is the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientifically reliable? In a recently published Editorial, Laurence I. Gould from the
Physics Department, University of Hartford, asked[1]:

 “What is meant by the claim that a “consensus” of scientists agree/disagree that humans are responsible for dangerous global warming? How do we know that there is a “consensus”? Are the “scientists” climatologists who have studied the issue? How can you tell whether there are any biases in their beliefs about whether there is/is not such warming?” 

The immediate problem is not the word “consensus”, but the absence of a definition on “dangerous global warming”. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1992) has none: Instead Article 1 (1) defines: 

"Adverse effects of climate change" means changes in the physical environment or biota resulting from climate change, which have significant deleterious effects on the composition, resilience or productivity of natural and managed ecosystems or on the operation of socio-economic systems or on human health and welfare. 
While one may define global warming as:  “Gradual increase in the earth's surface temperature”[2]; any ‘deleterious effects’ is not per se ‘dangerous’, nor is a warming necessarily effecting the ecosystems deleteriously, at least not all. 

In addition to the absence of a term on ‘global warming’ the text of Article 1 (1) is based on the term ‘climate change’. On the question what is climate, the UNFCCC is silent, and defines ‘climate change’ in this way:

“Climate change” means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”.

 It is obvious that the definition is a complete flop, without having a definition of the term CLIMATE in the first place. As long as the matter of ‘consensus’ is not clearly stated any claim having reached consensus is flawed. This aspect is missing in Laurence I. Gould’s recent essay. Recommended for further reading:

 With Regards


[1] Editorial: American Physical Society’s New England Section Newsletter 13, Number 2, (Fall 2007), “GLOBALWARMING from a CRITICAL PERSPECTIVE”