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Carbon Brief Staff

15.04.2011 | 2:24pm
ScienceAnalysing the ‘900 papers supporting climate scepticism’: 9 out of top 10 authors linked to ExxonMobil
SCIENCE | April 15. 2011. 14:24
Analysing the ‘900 papers supporting climate scepticism’: 9 out of top 10 authors linked to ExxonMobil

Post 1 of 3

‘900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism Of “Man-Made” Global Warming (AGW) Alarm’ announces the headline on the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s website.

The article references a blog linking to more than 900 papers which, according to the GWPF, refute “concern relating to a negative environmental or socio-economic effect of AGW, usually exaggerated as catastrophic.”

However, a preliminary data analysis by the Carbon Brief has revealed that nine of the ten most prolific authors cited have links to organisations funded by ExxonMobil, and the tenth has co-authored several papers with Exxon-linked contributors.

The top ten contributors are alone responsible for 186 of the papers cited by the Global Warming Policy Foundation. The data also shows that there are many other familiar climate sceptic names among the major contributors to the list.

Dr Sherwood B Idso is the most cited academic on the list, having authored or co-authored 67 of the 938 papers we analysed, which is seven percent of the total.

Idso is president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, a thinktank which has been funded by ExxonMobil. Idso has also been linked to Information Council on the Environment ( ICE ), an energy industry PR campaign accused of “astroturfing”.

The second most cited is Dr Patrick J Michaels – with 28 papers to his name. Michaels is a well known climate sceptic who has revealed that he receives around 40% of his funding from the oil industry.

Third most cited is Agricultural scientist Dr Bruce Kimball – the list shows that all of his cited papers were co-authored with Dr Sherwood B Idso.

Why is this important, and what does it indicate?

The “900+ papers” list is supposed to be proof that a large number of different scientists reject the scientific consensus on climate change. Climate sceptics do like big numbers: ‘ More than 500 scientists dispute global warming’ was the story a few years ago. In December it was ‘ more Than 1000 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims’.

Once you crunch the numbers, however, you find a good proportion of this new list is made up of a small network of individuals who co-author papers and share funding ties to the oil industry. There are numerous other names on the list with links to oil-industry funded climate sceptic think-tanks, including more from the International Policy Network (IPN) and the Marshall Institute.

Compiling these lists is dramatically different to the process of producing IPCC reports, which reference thousands of scientific papers. The reports are thoroughly reviewed to make sure that the scientific work included is relevant and diverse.

Sceptic organisations have been successful in dumping large lists into the public domain to suggest that there is significant scientific divergence from the consensus. This is partly due to the fact it is time consuming analysing such lists.

Luckily, there are now free tools online which help you interrogate this kind of data. The screen-scraping website NeedleBase can turn the long list of papers into a single database, while the free data-processing tool Google Refine allows for a rapid analysis.

This is the process used here. Because the screen-scraping process is a little rough around the edges the citation numbers may vary slightly. But they give a clear picture of the structure of the list, which in this instance has been very revealing. Should you wish to examine it, you can download the raw data here.

Using this method we could quickly see the ten most referenced authors. We found that nine of the ten have direct links to ExxonMobil. Eight are affiliated to Exxon-funded organisations, while every paper written by Dr Bruce Kimball was co-authored with Sherwood Idso.

The top ten include Willie Soon, a senior scientist at the Exxon funded George C Marshall institute, and John R Christy, also a Marshall Institute expert.

Ross McKitrick is a senior fellow at the Exxon funded Fraser institute and on the academic advisory board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation – funders unknown.

Dr Indur M Goklany is affiliated with the Exxon Funded thinktank the International Policy Network (US). Sallie L Baliunas is listed by the Union of Concerned Scientists as being affiliated with nine different organisations who have all received funding from ExxonMobil, including the George C Marshall Institute.

Richard Lindzen, a climate scientist and prominent sceptic who notably has a degree of credibility in the scientific community, is a member of the ‘Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy’, which has also received Exxon funding.

The final name in the top 10 contributors – David H Douglass – has written several papers with Singer, Christie and Michaels – six of the fifteen papers he authored on the list were written with Michaels, Singer or Christie.

Nevertheless, these authors do not make up the whole list. There are plenty of other papers on the list which were not written by this small group.

We’ll examine some of those in more detail in Part 2…

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Read part 2: “Using our paper to support skepticism of anthropogenic global warming is misleading.”

Read part 3: Energy and Environment – “journal of choice for climate skeptics”

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