Don Aitkin on the 97% consensus

VIP Very important piece.

The ’97 per cent’ figure is supported by three different published articles, with a forerunner by Naomi Oreskes…In 2004 she looked at 928 abstracts of articles in the climate science field. According to her, 75 per cent supported the view that human activities were responsible for most of the warming in the last fifty years…She had not interviewed them. Instead, she had looked at the abstracts of their articles, and come to a view about what their authors must have thought. Why those 928? Well, they were the papers in the ISI database from 1993 to 2003 that had the words ‘climate change’ as a tag. Ms Oreskes seemed somehow to have excluded articles by scientists such as Christy, Lindzen, Michaels and Idso, all of them sceptics, and somewhat to their surprise. What was the method of evaluation? She divided the papers into six groups and found that 75 per cent of them either explicitly or implicitly accepted the ‘consensus view’. What was that? In her words: the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling. Is that a bad thing? That seems not to have been part of her survey.

In 2009 Zimmerman and Doran asked scientists two questions: did they think that temperatures had risen and whether humans were significantly responsible. Again, no mention of dangerous consequences, but at least the authors did actually ask some scientists what they thought. But then the methodology gets very sloppy, and I’ll summarise it like this. They used an online survey of 10,257 members of the American Geophysical Union, whose membership is around 60,000. The respondents seemed to be the right ones to interview, given their fields of interest, but only 3,146 actually replied. Now they excluded nearly all of those who had replied, for one reason and another, to produce 79 scientists who said they were climate scientists and had published more than half of their work on ‘climate change’. Of them 77 both thought that temperatures had risen and that humans were significantly responsible. The fraction 77/79 gives you 97 per cent.

I read that paper when it first appeared and could not understand how it was published. I was young and naïve in those days.

The crème de la crème comes with the work (if that is right term for it) of John Cook, occasionally aided by Stefan Lewandowsky…In 2013 Cook et al and a team of volunteers looked at more than 12,000 abstracts, rated them according to whether or not they implicitly or explicitly endorsed the view that human activity had caused (wait for it) some of the warming, and again found the magic 97 per cent. See — it’s true! Surely those three separate ratings of 97 per cent have something going for them.

On the face of it, no. Unfortunately for Cook, Legates and others later in the same year published a rebuttal. They found that only 41 papers – 0.3% of all 11,944 abstracts or 1.0% of the 4,014 expressing an opinion, and not 97.1% – had been found to endorse the claim that human activity is causing most of the current warming. Elsewhere, Craig Idso, Nicola Scafetta, Nir J. Shaviv and Nils-Axel Morner and other climate scientists protested that Mr. Cook ignored or misrepresented their work. Cook has been trying to defend his results ever since, but more and more scorn has, in my view quite rightly, been poured on the work. You can read some of the objections here, here and here, for starters. As I have said before, this is terrible stuff methodologically, the worst I’ve ever seen in a peer-reviewed journal.

I read that paper as well, very closely, looking at the primary data. It was interesting that two thirds of the abstracts, at the first reading, yielded no opinion on the consensus they were looking for.

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17 Responses to Don Aitkin on the 97% consensus

  1. stackja

    ” Such people seem to me intellectually lost souls.” Typical Leftist. Probably taxpayer funded as well>

  2. eb

    I think I first read about that 77 of 79 study at WUWT.

    Clearly the subsequent “findings” have been set-up to confirm the previous bodgey figure.

  3. cynical1

    Stefan Lewandowsky

    This guy is just an out and out weirdo.

    A dangerous creep who became a laughing stock (albeit well compensated) in Australia, before
    turning up in Bristol in the UK.

    If you ever want to be disgusted at the state of “science” glance upon his “Deniers of AGW believe the moon landings were a hoax” paper.

  4. Baldrick

    The crème de la crème comes with the work (if that is right term for it) of John Cook…

    A cartoonist, with no particular talent.

  5. Oreskes still writes, lectures and since publishing her fraud has been elevated from UCSD to teach at Harvard. The paper has not been withdrawn, no disciplinary action has been taken.
    Doran and Zimmerman (a grad student) still hold their positions. The paper has not been withdrawn, no disciplinary action has been taken.
    Lewandowsky (a psychologist) is still employed as a Professor. MR. John Cook (he has no PhD, just a BSc) is still employed by UQ and now lectures (having no postgrad degree). He holds the rather dubious post of “Fellowship in Communicating Climate”. Their paper has not been withdrawn (but it was quoted by the Obumbaclot!), no disciplinary action has been taken, although Lewandowsky’s joke of a paper on deniers also being moon landing conspiracists was withdrawn.

    Phil Jones (of Climategate fame) is still employed by UEA. No disciplinary action has been taken.

    If we (da ebil deniers) think we are winning, we are not. That absolutely nothing has happened to these frauds and charlatans is a disgrace to science, a disgrace to their institutions and a clear indication that they can get away with anything.
    Regardless, even if the 97% consensus were real it would mean absolutely nothing. Science is not done by consensus.

  6. Mayan

    If there is a bright side to this saga, it is that we are now seeing the problems of science, and academia in general. The peer review process is highly flawed. I don’t know what would be better, but it is flawed, as are all human endeavours.

    Let’s not forget the astounding things that researchers will do and say to get their hands on grant money, nor the biases of government agencies when they hand out that money.

    A way back, I read that one of the bigger maths journals floated the idea of anonymous submission. This was very unpopular. Big names in a field like being big names in their field, and all the perks that come with that, including an easier path to publication.

    Then we have the problem with cancer research, with around 10% of results being reproducible, and entire fields of study created on the basis of bad results. That is probably a consolation to psychologists with their notorious lack of reproducible results and p-hacking, and the rest of the humanities.

    All of this is happening at a time when characters in movies “science the sh-t out of” things, and scientists are imagined as a new priesthood for a secular faith. Like the last priests, they are human. The real question is what takes the place of ‘science’, as commonly understood through modern myth-making. Once a term is sullied, repair takes time. Maybe it’s time for natural philosophy to make a comback.

  7. Bruce of Newcastle

    How about a 99%?

    A Hundred Authors Against Einstein

    His response:

    Why 100 authors? If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!

    Same went for the hypotheses of continental drift and heliobacter as the cause of ulcers. Both were overwhelmingly rejected by the then consensus. And the real support for CAGW is probably only 50%, especially if you adjust the data for money bias.

    Oh, sorry, only catastropharians are allowed to make adjustments to their data.

  8. Roger

    Listening to ABC radio yesterday interviewing several scientists on the Great Barrier Reef bleaching event who each said, more than once with a knowing laugh, that they knew what caused it: anthropogenic global warming (“We are nor denialists”, one volunteered). There were no alternative views canvassed on AGW, although the journalists did elicit from the scientists after close questioning that, yes, the reef would recover, much of it within months and even the parts regarded as “dead” would likely recover given several years. Be that as it may, the scientists were also unanimous in the remedy required: they called on the QLD and Australian governments to end coal mining. No evidence based on research into the impact the burning of coking or thermal coal mined in QLD on global temperatures was offered to substantiate this radical proposal. By the time the story got to ABC TV news the message had become apocalyptic: “‘Shut down coal mines or the reef will die’, scientists say”.

  9. H B Bear

    Stefan Lewandowsky
    This guy is just an out and out weirdo

    Whole fruitcake or just a nut?

    I see Steve Keen has joined Lewandowsky in the UK. I wonder what they put on their visa application – academic credibility refugee?

  10. If we (da ebil deniers) think we are winning, we are not.

    I’m sure there’s weather today and it was here yesterday, and it will probably be there tomorrow. Might even find some of it during the night. We and it haven’t lost anything.

  11. Danoz

    Gary, the point is our standard of life is greatly reduced by the CAGW lobby. This is a serious issue that those responsible should be held accountable for and no one has been or will be.

    Hence we are losing.

  12. We and it haven’t lost anything.

    Aside from the 4 billion spent EVERY DAY on this fraud (plus related unquantifiable costs).
    And the reputational damage to science, scientists and research.
    And the lost opportunity squandered.
    And the body count which is barely even acknowledged.

  13. Most “scientists” who have been working the grant application scam would make a good living selling used cars.

    If the reef is rooted can we drill it for oil now? Had a mate, now sadly deceased, in the oil bidness who reckoned it had great potential.

  14. Mark Sokacic

    For those interested in a damning take-down of the methodological and scientific errors in the Cook paper by a social scientist with principles and an acute appreciation of the scientific method please refer to http://www.joseduarte.com/blog/the-art-of-evasion
    He is a self declared warmist but does confess that he is unqualified to make a judgement on the accuracy of the CAGW meme. He calls the Cook paper and others of its ilk fraudulent and a scam and provides a detailed analysis of the failings of that paper

  15. Old Codger

    in my never humble opinion, the world of ‘Science’ has squandered its credibility to zero in the past few decades. I NEVER accept the word of an “expert” anymore.

    My BS detector is worn out, and i have to buy a new one.

  16. handjive

    97% acknowledges failure to achieve perfection. 100.

    It is a stupid number/moniker and is why I always use it to describe believers in Doomsday Global Warming. Make ’em ‘wear’ it.

    I am proud to be of the 3%, as we know there is far more than 3% of folk who are sceptical, and thus the deceit is implied in 97%.

  17. Cebazat

    This looks like the methodology used by the ACT (Greens/Labor) government to justify spending $1 billion on a tram in that at best will return 0.50 cents for every dollar spent.

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