Peter Doran, Ph.D. is Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Doran specializes in polar regions, especially Antarctic climate and ecosystems. Doran was the lead author of a research paper about Antarctic temperatures that was published in the journal Nature in January 2002. Because he and his colleagues found that some parts of Antarctica had cooled between 1964 and 2000, his paper has been frequently cited by opponents of the global warming theory, such as Ann Coulter and Michael Crichton. In an opinion piece in the July 27, 2006 New York Times, Doran characterized this as a "misinterpretation" and stated, "I have never thought such a thing ... I would like to remove my name from the list of scientists who dispute global warming." (The temporary phenomenon is related to the "hole" in the ozone. As the "hole heals" the Antarctic will dramatically warm quickly. )
Doran and his grad student Maggie Kendall Zimmerman also published a paper in the Jan 27, 2009 issue of EOS showing that active climate researchers almost unanimously agree that humans have had a significant impact on the Earth's climate. However, the methodology used in this paper was based on statistical manipulation. The two researchers started by altogether excluding from their survey the thousands of scientists most likely to think that the Sun, or planetary movements, might have something to do with climate on Earth — out were the solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, astronomers and meteorologists. That left the 10,257 scientists in such disciplines as geology, geography, oceanography, engineering, paleontology and geochemistry who were somehow deemed more worthy of being included in the consensus. The two researchers also decided scientific accomplishment should not be a factor in who could answer — those surveyed were determined by their place of employment (an academic or a governmental institution). Neither was academic qualification a factor — about 1,000 of those surveyed did not have a PhD, some didn’t even have a master’s diploma. To encourage a high participation among these remaining disciplines, the two researchers decided on a quickie survey that would take less than two minutes to complete, and would be done online, saving the respondents the hassle of mailing a reply. Nevertheless, most didn’t consider the quickie survey worthy of response — just 3,146, or 30.7%, answered the two key questions on 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? 90% of the Earth scientists who responded to the first question believed that temperatures had risen. As for the second question, 82% of the Earth scientists replied that that human activity had significantly contributed to the warming. Here the vagueness of the question comes into play. Since skeptics believe human activity has been a contributing factor, their answer would have turned on whether they consider a increase of 10% or 15% or 35% to be a significant contributing factor. Some would, some wouldn’t. In any case, the two researchers must have feared that an 82% figure would fall short of a convincing consensus — almost one in five wasn’t blaming humans for global warming — so they looked for a subset that would yield a higher percentage. They found it by excluding all the Earth scientists whose recently published peer-reviewed research wasn’t mostly in the field of climate change. This subset reduced the number of remaining scientists from over 3,000 to under 300. But the percentage that now resulted still fell short of the researchers’ ideal, because the subset included such disciplines as meteorology, which Doran considers ill-informed on the subject. “Most members of the public think meteorologists know climate, but most of them actually study very short-term phenomenon,” he explained, in justifying why he decided to exclude them, among others. The researchers thus decided to tout responses by those Earth scientists who not only published mainly on climate but also identified themselves as "climate scientists." “They’re the ones who study and publish on climate science,” Doran explained. “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.” Once all these cuts were made, 75 out of 77 scientists of unknown qualifications were left endorsing the global warming orthodoxy. This equates to 97%.
Both an Antarctic stream and glacier were named for Doran by the U.S. Geological Survey to commemorate his many significant research contributions conducted on the continent.
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“No philosopher understands his predecessors until he has re-thought their thought in his own contemporary terms.”
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