The Fraudulent 97% Consensus

The claim is repeated ad nauseam that 97% of climate scientists agree climate change is caused by increasing amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG), and that mankind is the cause. Atmospheric CO2 being the most recognized such gas.

There are two things wrong with the claim.

First, science isn’t decided by a consensus, or a committee. There are numerous instances where the consensus has agreed on a supposed scientific fact, only to have it overturned. Galileo is the most well known instance where one person overturned an existing consensus. More recently in 1983, Australian doctors Warren and Marshall determined that peptic ulcer disease was caused by bacteria, which overturned the prevailing consensus at that time.

The Oregon petition has over 31,000 signatures of engineers and scientists, over 9,000 of whom have Ph.Ds, stating that greenhouse gases, specifically CO2, are not the cause of global warming.

While this is impressive, and turns the 97% claim on its head, it is still not proof that CO2 isn’t causing global warming.

Only the scientific method can make that determination.

Second, the 97% claim itself is bogus.

The claim has at least two points of origin.

One of the papers behind the 97% claim is authored by John Cook, who runs the website Skeptical Science .com.

Here is Cook’s explanation of his paper, “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97 percent [of papers he surveyed] endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”

The initial problem with his statement is that virtually everyone agrees that the Earth has warmed over the past 150 years, so the statement has no particular importance.

Also, most people involved in the debate agree that greenhouse gases play some role in the warming, but not the main role. Most scientists who disagree with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believe the role of greenhouse gases is small.

Cook’s methodology is why the paper is bogus.

He took 12,000 scientific papers and had people categorize them according to how surely the paper’s abstract endorsed the global warming hypothesis.

For starters, this process was based on opinions, with no set formula for assessing how surely the papers conformed with the GHG hypothesis. An abstract is also not necessarily what a paper includes, or concludes.

The process also excluded papers by the same scientist, essentially cherry picking papers included in the sample. This means the sample was not random, an important aspect of any study.

For example, Dr. Richard Tol said, “Cook survey included 10 of my 122 eligible papers. 5/10 were rated incorrectly. 4/5 were rated as endorse rather than neutral.”

Dr. Tol’s papers were rated incorrectly, which, by itself would make the Cook claim invalid.

And Dr. Tol was not alone. Others made the same allegation. For example, Dr.

Nir Shaviv, said, “Nope . . . it is not an accurate representation.”

Friends of Science did an analysis of the 12,000 papers, and determined the following:

“The Cook et al study data base has seven categories of rated abstracts. “

  1. 65     explicit endorse, >50% warming caused by man
  2. 934 explicit endorse
  3. 2933 implicit endorse
  4. 8261 no position
  5. 53     implicit reject
  6. 15     explicit reject
  7. 10     explicit reject, <50% warming caused by man

“Papers in the third category which Cook alleges, “implicit endorse,” in reality make no comment on whether humans have caused warming. “

With 8,261 of over 12,000 papers taking no position on the issue, it’s impossible for there to be a 97% consensus.

The Cook 97% claim is invalid, and is largely meaningless anyway since the main area of dispute is the extent that GHG are causing climate change.

Another earlier claim was made by Naomi Oreske’s in Science Magazine: “For the first time, empirical evidence was presented that appeared to show an unanimous, scientific consensus on the anthropogenic causes of recent global warming.”

Scores of scientists reported that their papers were not included or misinterpreted in Oreske’s 97% conclusion.

Her claim was also debunked, when science writer David Appell put the question to her: “On 15 December 2004, she admitted that there was indeed a serious mistake in her Science essay.”

The constant repetition of the claim that 97% of climate scientists agree climate change is caused by increasing amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG) is misleading at best, and, in point of fact, is fraudulent.

Even President Obama has repeated the claim, adding that it’s “manmade and dangerous” … an embellishment on an already fraudulent statement.

The 97% claim is pure propaganda.

Pinocchio. Photo by D. Dears
Pinocchio. Photo by D. Dears

Using the invalid 97% claim to silence opposing views, is morally, and scientifically wrong. Perhaps, Pinocchio can attest to that.

When confronted by the claim, explain that it is fraudulent and has been disproven. Tell the person making the claim that there are over 31,000 engineers and scientists who have signed a petition stating that GHG are not the source of global warming, and while not absolute proof that GHG are not the cause, the petition dispels the idea that there is any consensus supporting the claim that 97% of climate scientists agree that GHG cause climate change.

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