A new study published in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences has compared the qualifications and publication histories of climate change skeptics to those of Anthropogenic global warming proponents. 

Unsurprisingly, those espousing skepticism are in the minority, comprising only 2-3% of the 1,372 researchers the study looked at, and are typically less qualified than scientists who believe that human carbon emissions are the main cause of climate change. 

According to the authors: "The [skeptics] group comprises only 2% of the top 50 climate researchers as ranked by expertise (number of climate publications), 3% of researchers of the top 100, and 2.5% of the top 200, excluding researchers present in both groups (Materials and Methods). This result closely agrees with expert surveys, indicating that ≈97% of self-identified actively publishing climate scientists agree with the tenets of [Anthropogenic Climate Change]."

A few thoughts came to mind as I read through this article. All of them stem from one question: why is consensus so important? 

Regardless of your views on climate change, why was this study necessary? Is anybody surprised by the conclusion that more experts accept anthropogenic global warming than reject it? Unless the result is to be used in a political context, one of President Obama's speeches in support of cap and trade, for example, I see no use for it. Am I wrong?

Isn't the quality of the research equally as important as the number of people on either side of the issue and how many papers they publish? Roy Spencer has pointed out that few of the studies that comprise the majority of the literature have analyzed alternative explanations for observed climate change--because they don't have the data to do so. That leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Furthermore, what if one of the skeptical papers has introduced an idea that turns the mainstream view on its head? If either of the above suggestions are true, how important can the consensus be? 

Lastly, isn't it possible that there are fewer skeptical papers published because, well, they are skeptical papers? No, I'm not wearing a tinfoil hat and alleging that there is a vast conspiracy to silence dissent, there's no evidence to support such an outrageous charge. But by challenging the mainstream view of climate change aren't skeptical scientists inviting an increased level of scrutiny from reviewers that often keeps their work from being published?