So I noticed that some of my posts are getting to be on teh extremely rambly long side. Imma provide a shortcut for all y'all by opening with TLDR versions when teh post starts looking a bit long.
TLDR version: Even fraud demonstrates that there is growing scientific consensus on global warming.
So over at teh Mothership, there's a discussion of conservatives and their anti-science positions. Notably, the OISM petition got brought up. Anyways, now that that petition has a bit of history - there's some interesting observations that can be made about it.
The original petition circulated in '97 and by '99 had garnered over 17,000 signatures with an interesting scam cover letter/"article" attached. Scientific American took a look at a random sampled of climate-science related Ph.D. signatories in 2001. Some they couldn't identify, some had died, some had no recollection of the petition at all.
Eleven of thirty would sign again, six would not. Those six still count in OISM's numbers. SciAm's rough guess was that the petition had about 200 climate researchers signed on.
The population of denialists is not monolithic, although that is the way they are evolving. My point about the original petition is that about 20% of denialists with doctorates in some climate science related field had changed their minds in two years. Science requires that theories match the data. As moar data is collected and moar certainty is provided, even teh reality-challenged start being won over. And the past decade, decade and a half has seen a lot of new data being added to the body of knowledge.
This is reflected in the overall attitudes of the scientific community towards climate change. Certainly the design of surveys is important and flawed surveys will give you flawed results - but you can still glean information so long as the flawed surveys are consistently fraudulent.
Example: Bray and Von Storch conducted dubious surveys in '96 and '03. Comparing the two shows a slight increase in the certainty that antropogenic global warming (AGW) is occuring. A third survey conducted in '08 shows an large increase in certainty on the point. Newer surveys of scientists tend towards a range of 90% to 98% agreement - older surveys vary much moar with much greater levels of both uncertainty and disagreement.
Back to OISM. They ran a new petition campaign in 2007 in response to algore is fat. It's hard to tell how many new signatories they got, because they've been collecting non-stop since '97. BUT the total number now, 31K, is less than double what it was after their first petition campaign. Thus, despite having this established presence, despite the increased ease teh Intarspoor has given to spreading crackpot ideas, despite the supposed "widespread skepticism about climate change in the scientific community" they garnered fewer new signatures in 2007 than they did ten years earlier. Because there is scientific consensus regarding AGW and their fraud is harder to perpetrate.
The field of study has gotten more attention, more work, more research and more data since 1997 and as a result the attitudes of climate researchers is increasing certainty of man-made global warming. Even the rare dissenting groups (such as economic geologists who's entire field of study is dedicated to finding oil deposits) have moderated their dissent.
At this point, global warming is an observed fact. The "theory" that human activity is the cause of the majority of the warming is generally accepted by the scientific community. Meaning that a scientific consensus about anthropogenic global warming is an observed fact.
There is still, as has always been the case, an avenue by which denialists can challenge AGW. By using the mountains of established data and proposing their own theory as to what's happening. But denying the data or denying that there is widespread agreement amongst scientists that man-made global warming is occurring is just make-believe fantasy. And while make-believe fantasy has its place (i.e. your mom's bedroom) that place sure as heck ain't where teh denialists are trying to raise it.
edit: grammar fixes.