Environment/Nature

Federal employment data also shows OISM’s climate change-denying Petition Project is a tiny minority

The 31,487 names collected by the Global Warming Petition Project represent less than one half of one percent (0.44%) of people employed in 2013 in the GWPP’s selected science and engineering fields.

For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.

Correction: Figures 5 and 6 had incorrect data for chemical engineers. Both figures and the accompanying text have been corrected accordingly.
In May, 2008, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM), a group that denies the reality of industrial climate disruption, published the Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP). This petition falsely claimed to disprove the real expert consensus that climate change is happening, that it’s largely the result of industrial emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and that it will be disruptive to the global climate and human society. As S&R showed in the first part of this series, the GWPP’s false narrative is based on misrepresentations of both authentic expertise and the total population of experts. When compared against the U.S. Department of Education graduation data between 1970 and 2013, the GWPP signatures represented only one quarter of one percent – 0.25% – of the total number people who the GWPP said were qualified to comment on climate disruption.

While having a degree in a particular field usually grants an informed opinion on that field, there are other ways to determine how informed someone’s opinion is likely to be. An alternative method is to look at whether someone is actively employed in the field in which they’re claiming expertise. Using this method, we can compare the GWPP’s signature numbers to the latest available employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for the fields that the GWPP nonsensically identified as having sufficient knowledge to “evaluate the research data” on climate disruption. When we make this comparison, however, we find yet again that the GWPP’s signers represent a tiny minority of the total population.

The Petition Project’s signers represent less than one half of one percent of people employed in the selected fields in 2013

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were a total of 7.2 million people employed in the GWPP-selected science and engineering fields1 (see the Appendix for the detailed mapping of BLS job code to GWPP degree category). Figure 1 below shows the proportion of people employed in each of the GWPP’s categories.

The number of signatures gathered by the GWPP compared to the total number of people employed in the selected fields is shown in Figure 2.

Comparison between total Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 employment and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

Figure 2. Comparison between total Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 employment and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

As we saw with the Department of Education data, even when we use the GWPP’s own nonsensical criteria as the basis for estimating the number of employed “scientists,” we find that the GWPP signatures again represent a tiny minority of the population – less than one half of one percent (0.44%) of the total.

In reality, however, the percentage is even smaller. S&R’s investigation found that many of the verifiable scientists listed on the petition had retired. As such, they would not show up in the Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Similarly, individuals with science degrees who switched careers would not be counted in the BLS employment data for the GWPP-specified fields.

In addition, the BLS identifies college professors as working in education, rather than working as scientists or engineers. Including engineering, life sciences, physical sciences, computer science and mathematics, and health professors in the BLS data would increase the population of so-called “scientists” by about a half-million people, reducing the GWPP’s percentage from 0.44% to 0.41%.

Comparison by generic field of study

We can also group the BLS data into the same groups that the GWPP did – atmosphere, earth, and environment degrees, computers and math degrees, et al. This will let us see if individuals with certain types of degrees are more or less likely to have signed the GWPP and thus reject the overwhelming consensus regarding industrial climate disruption. Figure 3 shows the results of this comparison for each of the degree groups defined by the BLS.

Comparison of each degree group defined by the U.S. Department of Education to the associated degrees identified by the Global Warming Petition Project.

Figure 3. Comparison of each degree group defined by the U.S. Department of Education to the associated degrees identified by the Global Warming Petition Project. Please see the Appendix data table and associated notes for references.

In this case, we see that the chemistry group composed of chemists and chemical engineers has the highest percentage of GWPP signers, at 4.04%, while the computers and math group has the lowest percentage, only 0.02%.

Comparison by selected physical sciences and engineering fields

The BLS provides employment data for most major fields within engineering and the physical sciences. Figure 4 shows the results for the same selected physical sciences that were analyzed against the Department of Education graduation data.

Comparison of selected U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics physical science jobs to the number of Global Warming Petition Project signatures with a degree in that field.

Figure 4. Comparison of selected U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics physical science jobs to the number of Global Warming Petition Project signatures with a degree in that field.

In this case, we see that chemists are the least likely of the three selected sciences to have signed the GWPP (3.64%), but that physicists are the most likely at over 14%. This goes somewhat against our expectation given the results of the Department of Education comparison in the first part of this series, so what’s really going on?.

The most likely explanation is that a large number of people with physics degrees do not go on to become professional physicists. Instead they go into engineering, computer science, finance, medicine, education, and other fields. This is because physics is a broad subject and its skills can be applied to many other specific fields of interest.

The BLS data for post-secondary physics teachers (BLS job code 25-1054), the majority of whom will have physics degrees, provides some evidence of this. Adding the 14,160 physics professors to the ranks of professional physicists nearly doubles the total number of physicists, to 30,950. As a result, the percentage representation of the GWPP drops from 14.09% to 7.64%, which is more in line with expectations3.

Figure 5 shows the results for the same selected engineering fields that were analyzed in the Department of Education comparison.

Comparison of selected U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics engineering jobs to the number of Global Warming Petition Project signatures with a degree in that field.

Figure 5. Comparison of selected U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics engineering jobs to the number of Global Warming Petition Project signatures with a degree in that field [Corrected].

In this case, the results are more in line with what we expect from part one of this series – in every case, the GWPP represents a small minority of the number of people employed in the field in question. But a closer examination shows that chemical engineers are more than twice five times as likely to have signed the GWPP as mechanical engineers, and nearly four ten times as likely to have signed the GWPP as electrical engineers.

Looking at the BLS profile page for chemical engineers provides some hints of why this might be the case. The five top industries with the highest percentage of chemical engineers are:

  1. basic chemical manufacturing
  2. Resin, synthetic rubber, and artificial synthetic fibers and filaments manufacturing
  3. Petroleum and coal products manufacturing
  4. Pesticide, fertilizer, and other agricultural chemical manufacturing
  5. Other chemical product and preparation manufacturing

The top paying industries for chemical engineers are, in order, oil and gas extraction, management of companies and enterprises, employment services, petroleum and coal products manufacturing, and management, scientific, and technical consulting services.

Essentially, the industries with the highest percentage of employed chemical engineers are predominantly focused on converting fossil fuels into other chemical products like plastics, lubricants, and fertilizer. This suggests that chemical engineers may have a bias against accepting the reality of industrial climate disruption since accepting nearly 200 years of established science could result in long-term damage to their employers and their own careers.

Comparison between Department of Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and GWPP data

We can also compare the GWPP numbers to both the Department of Education and the Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Figure 6 shows this comparison.

Comparison of Department of Education graduation data for 1970-2013 and Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data for 2013 to the number of Global Warming Petition Project signatures

Figure 6. Comparison of Department of Education graduation data for 1970-2013 and Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data for 2013 to the number of Global Warming Petition Project signatures [Corrected]

There are three interesting comparisons to draw here. First, in most cases there have been more degrees issued between 1970 and 2013 than there are individuals working in the associated fields. But not in computer science, where there were about three times more people working in the field in 2013 than have earned computer science degrees since 1970. Clearly a majority of computer scientists actually have degrees in some other field (or no degree at all).

Second, people who earn their degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering tend to work in the same field, but there are some fields where this does not appear to be the case. Physics, chemistry, and mathematics/statistics degrees appear to not largely lead graduates into those fields as professionals. Alternatively, people who earn basic science and mathematics degrees may prefer to enter academia, where they might still be working in their field yet be counted as educators by the BLS.

Finally, in every case the numbers claimed by the GWPP are a tiny minority in comparison to both the Department of Education and the Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The individuals who signed the Global Warming Petition Project are a tiny minority of the number of people who could have signed. This is true regardless of whether we’re comparing against the number of degrees granted or against the number of people employed in the GWPP’s selected fields. And it’s true even using the GWPP’s own nonsensical criteria to choose who is and is not qualified to have an informed opinion about climate disruption.

In the next part of our series, S&R compares the GWPP’s numbers to the membership of various scientific professional organizations.

Notes

  1. In order to initially simplify our analysis, S&R assumed that everyone who signed the GWPP is actively working in the field that they earned their BS, MS, or PhD. Furthermore, we also assumed that everyone in these fields is qualified to have an informed opinion, as per the stated position of the GWPP itself. Finally, we ignore the number of foreign employees in the employment data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics2
  2. A quick error estimate found that correcting the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for immigration and legal permanent residents could result in a total employment error of about 0.8%. Applying this error equally to the scientific and technical fields results in an error to the GWPP comparison of approximately 0.01%.
  3. A similar accounting of post-secondary chemistry (BLS job code 25-1052) and atmospheric, earth, marine, and space teachers (BLS job code 25-1051) reduces the percentage representation for chemists from 3.64% to 2.91% and for earth and related sciences from 5.52% to 4.35%.

Appendix:

Complete data comparison for Global Warming Petition Project signatures vs. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics national employment data for 2013, with sources.

Table 1. Complete data comparison for Global Warming Petition Project signatures vs. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics national employment data for 2013, with sources.

  1. Global Warming Petition Project data from Qualifications of Signers.
  2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2014 National Occupational employment and Wage Estimates
  3. From US BLS, occupation codes 17-2080, 19-1032, 19-2011, 19-2021, 19-2041, 19-2042, and 19-2043 (environmental engineers, foresters, astronomers, atmospheric and space scientists, environmental scientists, geoscientists, and hydrologists)
  4. From US BLS, occupation codes 15-1100, 15-2010, 15-2020, 15-2030, and 15-2040 (computer occupations, actuaries, mathematicians, operations research analysts, and statisticians)
  5. From US BLS, occupation codes 17-2010, 17-2140, 17-2160, and 19-2012 (aerospace engineers, mechanical engineers, nuclear eningeers, and physicists)
  6. From US BLS, occupation codes 17-2040 and 19-2031 (chemical engineers and chemists)
  7. From US BLS, occupation codes 17-2020, 19-1011, 19-1012, 19-1013, 19-1020, 19-1021, 19-1023, 19-1029, and 19-1031 (agricultural engineers, animal scientists, food scientists and technologists, soil and plant scientists, biological scientists, biochemists and biophysicists, zoologists and wildlife biologists, conservation scientists, and other life scientists)
  8. From US BLS, occupation codes 19-1042, 29-1010, 29-1020, 29-1040, 29-1050, 29-1060, and 29-1130 (medical scientists, chiropractors, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists, physicians and surgeons, and veterinarians)
  9. From US BLS, occupation codes all other science, engineering, and metallurgy occupation codes

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