I am trying to get Gallup to do a scientific poll of published climatologists to greatly strengthen the credibility of the 97% consensus.

This must start with very excellent formal definitions of these two key terms: "published" and "climatologist".

The end result of this process is intended to be an exhaustively comprehensive list of: "published climatologists".

What is the best process for deriving the definition of these two key terms to maximize the plausibility of their specification?

I am shooting to actually directly ask all of the world's published climatologists using a very high quality (comparable to Gallup polls) survey that has only true/false or multiple choice answers.

The current best guess of the definition of a published climatologist (based on all the feedback) requires three factors:

(1) They must have at least one published paper directly pertaining to climate change.

(2) This must have been in a peer reviewed academic journal directly related to climatology or meteorology.

(3) They must have a PhD degree in climatology or meteorology.

This will screen out many very well qualified individuals because we cannot afford to have any unqualified individuals in this set.

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    $\begingroup$ There have already been several academic studies on this topic (which have already addressed and confirmed the level of consensus). Have you looked at what definitions they used? $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2020 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ @jeffronicus John Cook just sent me this link: iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002 $\endgroup$
    – polcott
    Feb 13, 2020 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ @jeffronicus although the level of consensus has been verified many different ways, it has never been verified by a scientific poll. If we start with a complete list of every published climate scientist and ask them multiple choice questions then bias is utterly eradicated. $\endgroup$
    – polcott
    Feb 13, 2020 at 18:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @polcott what exactly is a "scientific poll"? Has the existence of "scientific polls" been proven? Is there a 97% consensus that ""scientific polls" can even exist? What are the scientific criteria by which we can determine if results of a "scientific poll" have had their bias utterly eradicated? Is there scientific consensus how to certify when utter eradication has been achieved? What metric is used? I think you are trying to sell a new and improved left-handed smoke shifter. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 14, 2020 at 7:06
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    $\begingroup$ From this list of noted climatologists/scientists working on climate issues, both for and against. The bottom of the article lists the many different topics in the people's degrees. $\endgroup$
    – mkennedy
    Feb 18, 2020 at 21:34

4 Answers 4


Not answering the question asked, but the underlying motivation:

The level of consensus hasn't been verified by a poll. The way the 97% figure has been arrived at, AIUI, is by going through every single peer-reviewed and published paper on the topic of anthropogenic climate change and looking at whether says that it does or does not exist, and then assigning these views to the authors of the papers. Why bother with a sampled poll when you already have studies using the entire literature?

If you want more detail on the methods used, the various studies that came up with the 97% and similar figures are themselves peer-reviewed and published. This is a review paper looking at them.

  • $\begingroup$ The purpose of this survey would be to eliminate shades of doubt that climate change deniers could otherwise possibly infer. Key additional survey questions would also address assessments of the specific degree of urgency of mitigation actions. The original consensus did not address this aspect at all. $\endgroup$
    – polcott
    Feb 14, 2020 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ I have to concur with Semidiurnal: The whole consensus-measuring effort was a response to denialists' claims that there was no consensus about the reality of climate change. If the goal is to identify a global population of climate researchers and then contact each of them, what's the question? Plus, a normal "scientific" poll done by Gallup or other organizations reaches out by phone calls or other means to a random subset of people representing the broader population that you want want to gauge the opinions of, and sampling ~1,000 Americans will get you a margin of error of ~3-6%. $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2020 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ @jeffronicus In order to actually attain a sufficient quorum of support for the required degree of climate change mitigation action it is not nearly good enough to make a case that reasonable people will definitely accept. We must make a case so strong that unreasonable people will have no basis what-so-ever to reject. In the original study some subjectivity of interpretation was possible. The proposed survey will only have true/false or multiple choice answers thus totally eliminating all subjectivity. $\endgroup$
    – polcott
    Feb 14, 2020 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ @jeffronicus With this new survey we can also get a good measure on assessments of urgency. There are two key aspects to urgency. (1) Climate feedback that impacts such things as the rate of thawing of the permafrost indicates how much time we have to act before we reach a point of no return. Climatologists probably have a reasonable basis to estimate this. (2) The long term impacts of differing levels of climate change on society. Climatologists may not have a very good basis estimating this. Increased risk to the food supply seems to be the most significant impact. $\endgroup$
    – polcott
    Feb 14, 2020 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the answer. I've added my two cents about "scientific polls" in comments under the question. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 15, 2020 at 0:49

Regarding Publications

Published in an accredited scientific journal on climatology would seem to meet the spec. Published on some blog about the weather would seem to fail to meet this spec.

I would agree with this, but respected scientific journals such as Nature (ref 2) and Scientific American (ref 2) would also meet specification.

Publishing a scientific article/paper is not always straight forward. Sometimes there is an element of "flavor of the month" with some some journals. That may have published papers about a particular aspect of science and now what to publish something else. In such situations an author may have to seek publication in a second or third journal of choice.

Regarding the Author

Two things are import here: the author's qualifications and their publishing history.

A PhD in climatology would meet the spec, A bachelor's degree in meteorology may also seem to meet the spec, how do we decide where to draw the line?

Someone with a PhD may be a specialist in an aspect of a field. A person with a bachelor degree may be a generalist. The author's experience is also import. Someone with a bachelor's degree may have many years of work experience in their field but never bothered to seek higher academic qualifications.

Someone with a history of publishing "quality" papers in respected journals will have greater respect amongst their peers than some who has published very few papers, lesser quality papers or in lesser quality publications.

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    $\begingroup$ Nature and Science, yes. Scientific American is a popular science journal, I don't think it's peer reviewed. Someone publishing there may be a science journalist rather than a scientist. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Feb 14, 2020 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ Here is my first-guess of a totally specific answer: The person must have a PhD in Climatology or Meteorology and have at least one paper directly related to climatology published in a peer reviewed academic journal of climatology or meteorology . $\endgroup$
    – polcott
    Feb 14, 2020 at 17:59

A lot of good points are already made in other answers, but here's a few more thoughts.

The person must have a PhD in Climatology or Meteorology and have at least one paper directly related to climatology...

Some of the most experienced climate scientists I know (IPCC authors, etc) have either worked in national labs all their careers without getting a PhD, or got PhDs in other subjects (e.g, mathematics, particle physics, chemistry) before moving into climate research. Your list would need to capture those people too.

It would be a lot of work to categorise PhD theses as “climatology” or “not climatology”. In my experience, universities don’t award PhDs in a particular subject like they do for bachelor degrees, you’re awarded a more general degree of Doctor of Philosophy for your individual thesis. That’s a UK perspective, the details almost certainly differ from country to country. On the other hand, it’s unusual for someone with a climatology-related PhD to have not also published at least one climatology-related journal paper, so a journal search should catch most of these people anyway.

...published in a peer reviewed academic journal of climatology or meteorology.

That’s a reasonable place to start. Originally you mentioned climatology only and I was going to comment that there would be a lot of devil in the detail of separating meteorology from climatology. You also mentioned “accredited” journals, but “ISI listed” is probably a better target. As pointed out by Fred, you’ll have to include the more generalist journals (e.g., Geophysical Research Letters) and the less immediately obvious specialist ones (e.g., Global Biogeochemical Cycles, Global Change Biology). You’ll also need to decide things like whether you’re using lead author only or all authors, and whether they need to be actively publishing on climate (in which case, what’s the cut off date for inactive?).

All these subjective decisions will affect the exact list you end up with, and you’ll always be able to add in another journal and get a few more names, but with diminishing returns. In other words, there isn’t a single definitive list of people.

I’m curious, do you have a rough idea how long you expect this list to be once compiled?

  • $\begingroup$ To reduce the effort required we might eliminate everyone that does not have a PhD in either climatology or meteorology and we will only look at journals directly pertaining to climatology or meteorology. This will eliminate many qualified and unqualified individuals. We cannot afford to have any unqualified individuals in this set. The author must have at least one published article directly realtion to climate change. $\endgroup$
    – polcott
    Feb 17, 2020 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ @polcott you're going to find each of those criteria a bit of a nightmare. Who decides whether a PhD is in one of those subjects? (In many countries you don't formally have a PhD in a subject in the same way as lesser degrees). Who decides whether a journal pertains to those subjects? $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2020 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Semidiurnal I have a published expert in the field (surveys of climatologists) that has tentatively agreed to help me. There may be whole countries that have no higher level education what-so-ever. They will be excluded. The selection criteria must be objective (no shades of gray allowed) to eliminate the possibility of subjective bias. It is better to exclude 1000 people that are fully qualified rather than take the chance of including dozens that are unqualified. $\endgroup$
    – polcott
    Feb 18, 2020 at 17:11

Just a few comments:

Our latest paper was written in response to a critique published by Richard Tol in Environmental Research Letters, commenting on the 2013 paper published in the same journal by John Cook, myself, and colleagues finding a 97% consensus on human-caused global warming in the peer-reviewed literature.

Other portions of the article also support that this number counts papers, not authors.

  • Some consensus papers consider a paper "pro" AGW if it doesn't explicitly state otherwise in the abstract. Quoting the article above:

Powell evaluated the percentage of papers that don't explicitly reject human-caused global warming in their abstracts

  • Not directly relevant, but if we accept that other scientists have some general understanding of climate, the figure drops to "82% among all Earth scientists".

  • In my moderator-deleted answer to Who are the 3% in the often cited "97% of climate scientists"? (which I realize you can't read), I point out that many of these consensus studies search for words like "global warming" instead of more neutral or opposite words like "global temperature trend", "global cooling", "global climate outlook", etc. Thus, the studies themselves are questionable

  • $\begingroup$ I am shooting to actually directly ask all of the world's published climatologists using a very high quality (comparable to Gallup polls) survey that has only true/false or multiple choice answers. My current best guess of the definition of a published climatologist requires three factors: (1) They must have at least one published paper directly pertaining to climatology. (2) This must have been in an peer reviewed academic journal directly related to climatology or meteorology. (3) They must have a degree in climatology or meteorology. $\endgroup$
    – polcott
    Feb 17, 2020 at 20:38

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