“Renowned engineer and aviation/space pioneer Burt Rutan, was named “100 most influential people in the world, 2004″ by Time Magazine and Newsweek called him “the man responsible for more innovations in modern aviation than any living engineer.” Rutan has received “hundreds of awards including: Presidential Citizen’s Medal, Two Collier Trophies, Academy of Achievement Golden Plate and the Charles Lindbergh Award. He has developed 44 new aircraft types since 1972 including; Voyager, SpaceShipOne, and the first commercial spaceship – SpaceShipTwo. Rutan, declared himself skeptical of man-made global warming.”
Burt Rutan has a very impressive CV. He clearly knows a lot about aviation engineering. His expertise in that area is almost unrivaled. He is the real deal…. but his OPINION on man-made global warming is worthless on a professional basis.
This paragraph comes from a “report” put out by Climatedepot.org titled, “More Than 1000 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims. Scientists Continue to Debunk Fading “Consensus” in 2008 & 2009 & 2010″ and is linked on the Climate Sceptics Party (CSP) website. Now, I’ve covered the issue of long lists in a previous entry called “Does size matter?” so I won’t get too much into that again other than to say that when it comes to science, quality is more important than quantity. The climate sceptics also link to two other lists. One is the seriously debunked and much ridiculed Oregon petition with its more than 30000 “scientists” who disagree with AGW. In case you are unfamiliar, less than 0.1% of the signatories on the petition actually identify themselves as climatologists and the vast majority identify as having a Bachelor degree “or equivalent”. The rest are medical doctors, dentists, vets, lawyers, economists, chemists………… you get the picture. The other is a link to a Wikipedia entry with a list of the usual suspects from the climate denial industry, most of whom are associated with the oil-funded thinktanks in the US like Heartland, Georce C Marshall and the like. I especially like the inclusion of Fred Singer on that list, the same Fred Singer who took money from tobacco lobbyists and spouted the health benefits of smoking.
Anyway, back to the list of 1000. I’ll admit I hadn’t actually heard of this list until I found it on the CSP website so I thought I’d take a good look at it. Now, first things first. 1000 scientists sounds like a very impressive number of scientists…but is it really? According to AAAS, in 2006 there were approximately 5.8 million scientists in the world in all OECD countries plus Argentina, China, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa and Taiwan. This number does not include scientists in India. That means Climatedepot managed to rustle up 0.00017% of all the scientists in the world to put forward their dissenting position. The next thing to do is to look at the disciplines of science these scientists specialise in. Rather than going through the full list, I will assume that the scientists they have gone to the trouble of highlighting are the cream of their crop. Here are their listed professions… Director of Technical Services & Development for U.S. Magnesium, Senior Research Fellow at the National Institute of Aerospace, Physicist, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Head of geomagnetic variations laboratory at the Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism, Ionosphere and Radiowave Propagation of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Geologist, Chemistry Professor, Research Chemist, Climatologist, Engineer and aviation/space pioneer, Atmospheric Physicist, Earth scientists, Biologist, Hebrew University Professor, Astrophysicist. Look everyone, a real climatologist…..or is he? His name is Dr Hans Jelbring and he works at the Paleogeophysics & Geodynamics Unit at Stockholm University. As far as I can tell, this Swedish climatologist has never published a single paper in the field of climatology. Oh well, that’s a shame.
Anyway, my point is this, scientifically illiterate people like those within the Climate Sceptics Party don’t seem to understand that just as oils ain’t oils, scientists ain’t scientists and that there many different disciplines within “science”. Not only that, but there are disciplines within disciplines. I recall in my first year of university writing a research assignment about a particular animal. I was extremely interested in how this animal concentrated urine to extremely toxic levels whilst it was in stasis. I went to a leading ecologist at the university who had written several papers about this particular animal and asked him about the mechanisms it used to concentrate urine. He replied, “How would I know? That’s physiology.” This was a real eye opener for me into how specialised scientists are. The way I like to try and explain this to laypeople is to suggest that when their house needs rewiring, they will call a tradesman, but not just any tradesman. They will call an electrician because plumbers don’t rewire houses. It is the same with scientists. If you want information about climate science, you go to a climatologist, not a geologist or a chemistry professor or a space pioneer.
So what the CSP are doing is relying on non-specialists, more often than not with vested interests, to give them information. I can only wonder, if they will apply the same logic if their house needs rewiring or if they need to know how to treat brain cancer? Rather then take the advice of specialist oncologists will they instead seek advice from the retired veterinarian up the road? After all, he’s a doctor too.
So why do they do it? I think deep down, the CSP know they can’t possibly cater to mainstream voters so they deliberately target and play to the fringe elements, the far rightwing, gun obsessed, loony Christian ultraconservatives who for whatever reason failed science in school. Maybe that’s their tactic or maybe they are just anti-establishment for the sake of being anti-establishment with very little understanding of anything they are talking about. Whatever it is, they are a neverending source of giggles for me.