Sceptical letters in SMH? Whatever next!

The Sydney Morning Herald scored a bit of an own goal by publishing a letter from an alarmist citing a survey of climate change scientists, not foreseeing the inevitable:

In January Eos, arguably the most widely circulated earth science newsletter in the world, published a summary of a survey on global climate change.

Two questions were: ”When compared with pre-1980 levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen or remained relatively constant?” And: ”Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”

Those surveyed were 10,257 earth scientists listed in the directory of geoscience departments of the American Geological Institute, plus researchers at US federal facilities such as the US Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The response rate was 30.7 per cent. More than 90 per cent of respondents had doctorates, in such fields as geochemistry (15.5 per cent), geophysics (12 per cent) and oceanography (10.5 per cent). About 5 per cent were climate scientists and 8.5 per cent indicated that more than half their peer-reviewed publications in the past five years had been on climate change. The survey included participants with well-known dissenting opinions on global warming theory.

Overall, 90 per cent of participants answered “risen” to question one, and 82 per cent answered ”yes” to question two. The proportion giving those answers rose with climate science expertise.

Brian Williams (source)

The next day, the SMH postbag was stuffed to the gills with responses:

He then outlines the results of a survey of  “10,257 earth scientists” who he believes are the undisputed experts in the field of climate change. A great sample – but then he states that of those only 30.7 per cent responded. He hastens to add that ”the survey included participants with well-known dissenting opinions on global warming theory”.

Paul Borg East Burwood (Vic)

If 18 per cent voted no despite all the media, peer and political pressure to say yes, those 1800 brave souls indicate that I have no need to feel the smear of being identified with Holocaust denial.

Anyway, science is not decided by a show of hands, otherwise we would remain convinced most ulcers were caused by stress rather than Helicobacter pylori.

Paul Roberts Lake Cathie

Using his figures, of 10,257 scientists polled, only 27.2 per cent indicated they believed temperatures had risen, and 25.2 per cent believed in anthropogenic warming. It looks to me as though nearly 75 per cent of scientists are sceptics.

Barry Wells Cairns (Qld)

The most telling statistic in Williams’s letter was the reply rate – only 30.7 per cent of those scientists could be bothered to get involved. We don’t know if 69.3 per cent felt incapable of answering the questions, or don’t believe climate change is controllable.

Allan Rodd Gladesville (source)


  1. Hey Simon,
    Mine didn’t make the cut but here t’is:

    Was Brian Williams (Letters 11/11) also involved in framing questions for the republic referendum? Ask the right question and you can get the answer you want. Yes Brian, global temperature changes, always has, always will. Yes Brian, humans have affected the climate – that’s one outcome of altering the landscape so that the planet can support so many of us in such comfort. With another 3 billion of us to come by 2050 there’s plenty of additional terra-forming to be done. However the question left un-asked is: Will rising anthropogenic CO2 emissions lead to a climate catastrophe that will see the end of civilisation as we know it? Quite simply – No.


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