Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The State of AGW Skepticism

I read a few blogs that are skeptical of anthropogenic global warming (AGW = manmade global warming). One of my favorites is Climate Skeptic. But I generally believed that the skeptics were in significant minority. I concluded this because, despite what seems like quite sound criticism, very little of it gets reported in the MSM.

However, the commentary on this article lets me start to think that skepticism is being more widely consumed than what is reported by the MSM. My reason for this is three-fold:
  1. Slashdot (where this commentary is hosted) allows a subset it's users to rank the responses - called moderation. Not all users get the ability to moderate, but generally speaking the moderation system seems reflect the general opinion of the average slashdotter. Anyone that diverges from that average opinion, gets repudiated by others who override the moderation. The viewer of slashdot can set a threshold to view comments that have reached a sufficiently high moderation point. This means that the cruft (of which there is a lot) is easily filtered out. In short, I think slashdot does a decent job of tapping into the wisdom of crowds.
  2. The average slashdotter seems to consume scientific data more than the average person. Any mistakes made in the commentary are quickly refuted, leaving only those who have useful commentary left to survive the moderation filter.
  3. I had anticipated that the commentary on this issue would be highly in support of the AGW position. But the commentary that's survived the moderation seems divided amongst critics and supporters. This suggests to me that the average slashdotter is consuming the AGW criticism and finding it convincing.
Of course, I have no way of knowing whether or not the average slashdotter is closer to reality than than anyone else. I also have not tested whether the average slashdotter's opinion is closer to the average scientific opinion of AGW or if it's closer to the average layperson's opinion. These are (I think) empirical questions.

Still without that testing, I suspect that the average slashdotter is closer to average scientist's opinion than the average layperson's opinion. And this gives me hope that the average scientist is consuming the AGW criticism and the average scientific opinion may be swaying as a result.

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