Do you have a piece of paper handy? If so, grab a beer and something to write with.
1. Write down all the names of climate scientists that you can remember -- anyone you've read about or seen. If you're a super cool person, you'll do this before you scroll down to the next step.
2. Now, circle the names of the climate scientists who you like to read.
In many cases, I think skeptics will have written down more names of prominent skeptical or lukewarmer scientists -- perhaps Judith Curry*, Roy Spencer, Richard Lindzen, Roger Pielke Jr., or Lennart Bengtsson -- compared to the number of mainstream "consensus" scientists.
If that's what you did, why is that? Why do you only know the scientists who agree with your view? Why do you only read them?
This is what I've seen a lot of climate skeptics do: They come into the climate debate with preconceived notions, and they latch on to those handful of dissenting scientists who agree with them. They don't know the names of a lot of non-skeptic scientists, except perhaps for a couple of people they view as arch-villains. This is pure confirmation bias. You're less likely to get to the truth if you only read people who agree with you. Do you read champions of the "mainstream" view like Gavin Schmidt, Kevin Trenberth, and Drew Shindell? Why not?
A critical reason why this approach is faulty is that skeptical climate scientists are significantly outnumbered by scientists who are more confident in human-caused warming and in future warming scenarios. I think some of the research on the climate science consensus is garbage, but even if the numbers are inflated, it looks like a large consensus will still be there if you fix the studies and revise them downward (there's a lot of room to go down from 97% and still have a very high number). That said, those of you who are gung-ho pro-consensus might want to at least deploy some attention to the minority scientists. Minorities can be right.
If you're looking in on the field from the outside, and you don't have the background to evaluate the scientific research in depth, then you ought to pay at least as much attention to the majority as to the minority. I want to be clear -- I agree that a scientific consensus won't always be correct. History is replete with examples, and most recently I think some of the consensuses put forward on diet and nutrition were flawed. Moreover, I really don't like the centralization of science into formal authorities and pompous organizations, especially when they push partisan politics. A scientific monoculture abrades against the epistemic and sociological requirements of good science. But climate scientists are not morons. They know about the sun. They are aware of volcanoes. They've heard of cloud feedbacks. They have answers to most of your arguments, and you might want to check them out.
* I don't have a problem with skeptical climate scientists. I don't know enough to have a problem with them, and I have a lot of respect for Judith Curry, Richard Lindzen, and Roger Pielke, Jr. I'm aware that just saying that will infuriate some AGW activists... sigh. All I'll say for now is that evil is somewhat rare, in climate science as much as anywhere else, and I get nervous when a field has no dissenters, or when dissent is demonized. I like contrarians, and I think they're quite valuable even if they're wrong. More on that another time.
José L. Duarte
Social Psychology, Scientific Validity, and Research Methods.