Book Excerpt – Chapter 3: “Pulled from Thin Air”: The 97 Percent “Consensus” (Page 27)
A Harvard Consensus
In 2017 Princeton Professor Emeritus of Physics William Happer drew parallels to today’s man-made climate change claims. “I don’t see a whole lot of difference between the consensus on climate change and the consensus on witches. At the witch trials in Salem, the judges were educated at Harvard. This was supposedly 100% science. The one or two people who said there were no witches were immediately hung. Not much has changed,” Happer quipped.
Economists versus Climatologists
“You take 400 economists and put them in the room and give them exactly the same data and you will get 400 different answers as to what is going to happen in the economic future. I find that refreshing because it tells me that these guys don’t have an agenda. But if you take 400 climatologists and put them in the same room and give them some data about a system which they understand very imperfectly, you are going to get a lot of agreement and that disturbs me. I think that’s arguing with an agenda.” —geologist Robert Giegengack of the University of Pennsylvania.
Dubious Evidence for a Ubiquitous Number
The alleged “consensus” in climate science does not hold up to scrutiny. But what about the specific claim that 97 percent of scientists agree? MIT’s Richard Lindzen has explained the “psychological need” for the 97 percent claims. “The claim is meant to satisfy the non-expert that he or she has no need to understand the science. Mere agreement with the 97 percent will indicate that one is a supporter of science and superior to anyone denying disaster. This actually satisfies a psychological need for many people,” Lindzen said in 2017.
But what is the basis for this specific number, and what exactly is this overwhelming majority of scientists supposed to be agreeing on? In 2014, UN lead author Richard Tol explained his devastating research into the 97 percent claim. One of the most cited sources for the claim was a study by Australian researcher John Cook, who analyzed the abstracts of 11,944 peer-reviewed papers on climate change published between 1991 and 2011.35 Cook and his team evaluated what positions the papers took on mankind’s influence on the climate and claimed “among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.” The 97 percent number took off. This 97
percent claim was despite the fact that 66.4 percent of the studies’ abstracts “expressed no position on AGW” at all.
“The 97% estimate is bandied about by basically everybody. I had a close look at what this study really did. As far as I can see, this estimate just crumbles when you touch it. None of the statements in the papers are supported by the data that is actually in the paper,” Tol said. “But this 97% is essentially pulled from thin air, it is not based on any credible research whatsoever.” Tol’s research found that only sixty-four papers out of nearly twelve thousand actually supported the alleged “consensus.” Tol published his research debunking the 97 percent claim in the journal Energy Policy.
Meteorologist Anthony Watts summed up Tol’s research debunking Cook’s claims. The “97% consensus among scientists is not just impossible to reproduce (since Cook is withholding data) but a veritable statistical train wreck rife with bias, classification errors, poor data quality, and inconsistency in the ratings process,” Watts wrote.
Andrew Montford of the Global Warming Policy Foundation had authored a critique of Cook’s claim the previous year. “The consensus as described by the survey is virtually meaningless and tells us nothing about the current state of scientific opinion beyond the trivial observation that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and that human activities have warmed the planet to some unspecified extent,” Montford found. “The survey methodology therefore fails to address the key points that are in dispute in the global warming debate.”
Climatologist Roy Spencer and Heartland Institute’s Joe Bast noted that even if a certain study accepts the premise of man-made global warming, that paper may not even study how CO2 impacts temperatures: The methodology is “flawed,” noted Spencer, adding, “a study published earlier this year in Nature noted that abstracts of academic papers often contain claims that aren’t substantiated in the papers.”
In 2015, former Margaret Thatcher advisor Christopher Monckton also examined the 97 percent claim. Monckton’s analysis found that “only 41 papers—0.3% of all 11,944 abstracts or 1.0% of the 4014 expressing an opinion, and not 97.1%” had actually endorsed the claim that “more than half of recent global warming was anthropogenic.”
As Monckton explained, “They had themselves only marked 64 out of 11,944 of the papers as representing that view of the consensus, and that is not 97.1% that’s 0.5%…. There is no consensus.” The 97 percent claim is “fiction. ‘97 percent’ was a figure that was arrived at many years ago by the people who’ve pushed this ‘agenda,’” Monckton noted. “They then realized that they needed some sort of support for it, so they did a couple of very dopey papers.”
In 2013, climatologist David Legates from the University of Delaware and his team of researchers had also challenged Cook’s 97 percent claims. “The entire exercise was a clever sleight-of-hand trick,” Legates explained. “What is the real figure? We may never know. Scientists who disagree with the supposed consensus—that climate change is man-made and dangerous— find themselves under constant attack.”
Another survey that claimed 97 percent of scientists agreed was based not on thousands of scientists or even hundreds of scientists …or even ninety-seven scientists, but only seventy-seven. And of those seventy-seven scientists, seventy-five formed the mythical 97 percent consensus. In other words, in this instance the 97 percent of scientists wasn’t even ninety-seven scientists. This was a 2009 study published in Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union by Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, a student at the University of Illinois, and her master’s thesis advisor Peter Doran.
As Lawrence Solomon revealed in the National Post, The number stems from a 2009 online survey of 10,257 earth scientists, conducted by two researchers at the University of Illinois. The survey results must have deeply disappointed the researchers—in the end, they chose to highlight the views of a subgroup of just 77 scientists, 75 of whom thought humans contributed to climate change. The ratio 75/77 produces the 97% figure that pundits now tout.
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, meteorologists and astronomers. That left the 10,257 scientists in disciplines like geology, oceanography, paleontology, and geochemistry that were somehow deemed more worthy of being included in the consensus.
This was “a quickie survey that would take less than two minutes to complete, and would be done online.” And still less than a third of those surveyed even sent in an answer! The questions, as Solomon noted, “were actually non-questions”:
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?
As Solomon explained, those two points do not give a complete picture of what’s at issue. They don’t even mention carbon dioxide—which, as we’ll explore at length in the next chapter, is the heart of the climate change debate. “From my discussions with literally hundreds of skeptical scientists over the past few years, I know of none who claims that the planet hasn’t warmed since the 1700s, and almost none who think that humans haven’t contributed in some way to the recent warming—quite apart from carbon dioxide emissions, few would doubt that the creation of cities and the clearing of forests for agricultural lands have affected the climate,” Solomon pointed out.
End The Politically Incorrect Guide To Climate Change book excerpt.
‘83% Consensus’?! 285 Papers From 1960s-’80s Reveal Robust Global Cooling Scientific ‘Consensus’ – “If we were to employ the hopelessly flawed methodology of divining the relative degree of scientific “consensus” by counting the number of papers that agree with one position or another (just as blogger John Cook and colleagues did with their 2013 paper “Quantifying the Consensus…” that yielded a predetermined result of 97% via categorical manipulation), the 220 “cooling” papers published between 1965-’79 could represent an 83.3% global cooling consensus for the era (220/264 papers), versus only a 16.7% consensus for anthropogenic global warming (44/264 papers).”