The latest edition of the American Geophysical Union’s EOS Transactions (subscription required) has a report on the results of a poll that was conducted late in 2008 by Associate Professor, Peter T . Doran, and then-graduate student Maggie Kendall Zimmerman of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The report focuses on the 2 principal questions of the survey:
1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?
2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?
The investigators had a professional polling firm send out invitations to
10,257 Earth scientists. The database was built from Keane and Martinez , which lists all geosciences faculty at reporting academic institutions, along with researchers at stategeologic surveys associated with local universities, and researchers at U.S. federal research facilities (e.g., U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, and NOAA (U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) facilities; U.S. Department Of Energy national laboratories; and so forth).
Over 90% of respondents had Ph.D.s and 7% had masters degrees.
The survey was designed to be answered in less than two minutes so as to encourage participation. The participant response rate was 30.7%, which is apparently a typical response rate for web-based surveys. For question 1, 90% of respondents answered “risen”. For question 2, 82% of respondents answered “yes”. These overall numbers would be much higher were it not for the heavy contrarian responses of the petroleum geologists and meteorologists.
In analyzing responses by sub-groups, Doran found that climatologists who are active in research showed the strongest consensus on the causes of global warming, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role. Petroleum geologists and meteorologists were among the biggest doubters, with only 47 and 64 percent respectively believing in human involvement. Doran compared their responses to a recent poll showing only 58 percent of the public thinks human activity contributes to global warming.
“The petroleum geologist response is not too surprising, [Come on, Professor Doran. Tell us why it’s “not too surprising”. –JR] but the meteorologists’ is very interesting,” he said. “Most members of the public think meteorologists know climate, but most of them actually study very short-term phenomenon.”
He was not surprised, however, by the near-unanimous agreement by climatologists.
“They’re the ones who study and publish on climate science. So I guess the take-home message is, the more you know about the field of climate science, the more you’re likely to believe in global warming and humankind’s contribution to it.” [emphases–JR]
You can see a graphical depiction of the results for question 2 below.
Fig. 1. Response distribution to our survey question 2. The general public data come from a 2008 Gallup poll (see http://www.gallup.com/poll/1615/Environment.aspx).
The authors concludes that:
It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes. The challenge, rather, appears to be how to effectively communicate this fact to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate among scientists
Hat tip to Keith Pickering at Daily Kos