QandA last night reached a new low with unanimous agreement around the table that we have to destroy growth, jobs and family budgets for nothing. Some ideas just keep coming up and they have to be refuted again and again. This is a beefed up re-run of a piece from last year with an example of the careless and unprofessional journalism that perpetuates the climate myths.
Journalists have been heavily committed to beating up alarm about global warming on the back of articles such as Cook at al 2013 which at one stage was the top ranking paper in terms of press citations and has been named as the precipitating factor in Barak Obamas move to be a world leader in the war on CO2 emissions. It would be interesting to find how many newspaper reports were as inaccurate as this one circulated by Reuters.
The Cook paper has been heavily criticized for its methods but another line of criticism is to focus on the misinterpretation of their results by the authors and others, regardless of the defective methods. To illustrate, consider the report below. Observe how much is taken from Cook’s press release.
The Reuters item leads off with a summary paragraph which is the take-home message. Note the phrase “global warming is mainly man-made”. And in the first para of the story “human activity…was the main cause of rising temperatures”.
Ninety-seven percent of scientists say global warming is mainly man-made but a wide public belief that experts are divided is making it harder to gain support for policies to curb climate change, an international study showed on Thursday.
[my comment. When you read the paper you find no sign of a consensus about warming being mainly man-made, or even an estimate of the human contribution. Similarly, the next para of the report refers to the use of fossil fuels. But there is nothing in the paper itself about fossil fuels or CO2. The claim that the published paper reports this is a complete fabrication. Read on!].
The report found an overwhelming view among scientists that human activity, led by the use of fossil fuels, was the main cause of rising temperatures in recent decades.
“There is a strong scientific agreement about the cause of climate change, despite public perceptions to the contrary,”
“There is a gaping chasm between the actual consensus and the public perception… When people understand that scientists agree on global warming, they’re more likely to support policies that take action on it.”
Global average surface temperatures have risen by 0.8 degree Celsius (1.4F) since the Industrial Revolution.
Experts in Australia, the United States, Britain and Canada studied 4,000 summaries of peer-reviewed papers in journals giving a view about climate change since the early 1990s and found that 97 percent said it was mainly caused by humans.
They also asked authors for their views and found a 97 p percent conviction from replies covering 2,000 papers. The data will be released at (www.skepticalscience.com).
The report said it was the biggest review so far of scientific opinion on climate change.
“If people disagree with what we’ve found we want to know,” said Mark Richardson of the University of Reading in England, one of the authors of the study that looked at English-language studies by authors in more than 90 nations.
Another co-author, Dana Nuccitelli of Skeptical Science, said she was encouraging scientists to stress the consensus “at every opportunity, particularly in media interviews”.
Opinion polls in some countries show widespread belief that scientists disagree about whether climate change is caused by human activities or is part of natural swings such as in the sun’s output.
Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, hit 400 parts per million in the atmosphere last week, the highest in perhaps 3 million years.
Governments have agreed to work out, by the end of 2015, a deal to slow climate change that a U.N. panel of experts says will cause more floods, droughts and rising sea levels.
(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
It is interesting to see how much of the story came from the press release rather than the paper itself. Cook might as well have written the whole story!
Turning to the paper itself I will not dwell on the way the study was conducted because I want to focus on the published results and what they say and do not say about the AMOUNT of warming, the need to be ALARMED about warming, the HUMAN CONTRIBUTION and the role of CO2.
For people who are in a hurry, taking those points in turn:
The bottom line is that the consensus in the paper does not refer to any particular amount of warming.
There is nothing about a need to be alarmed about the unspecified amount of warming.
There is agreement that humans have contributed but there is nothing about how much humans have contributed.
There is no mention of the contribution of CO2.
It is clear from the way the paper is organized that they wanted to say that x% of scientists believe in warming , y% think humans contribute and z% consider that human activity is the major driver. They got what they wanted for x and y but z is missing.
A man who found his way into the Uni of Qld website and sighted the project webpage suggested that z was missing in the published paper because unpublished data showed that only 1.6% thought humans accounted for 50% or more of the observed warming. Interesting and unverifiable because when the university found that there was public access to the site they shut the gate and threatened legal action.
The research was clearly designed to provide a number for “explicit endorsement (of warming) with quantification” in addition to a category for “explicit endorsement without quantification” and a category “implicit endorsement” (Table 2). In the methods section explicit endorsements were divided into two but in the results the two categories are collapsed into one. It seems the reason is that the respondents did not provide the large z% that they wanted to assign more than half of the warming to human activity.
No doubt if a significant number had turned up in that category it would have been reported in neon lights (assuming these are environmentally acceptable these days) but the figure of 1.6% for people blaming humans for half our more of warming would have destroyed the whole point of their project, their “education” unit and their careers as professional alarmists not to mention the trillions invested around the world in CO2 mitigation.
In the results the three levels of endorsement are collapsed into a figure of 97.1 for those who endorsed the “scientific consensus”. It is clear from the way they talk about their results that for them the consensus is not just warming but alarming warming with humans as the major cause, but that is not the consensus revealed in their own figures.
Cook produced a video press release on the paper. Bear in mind that there is a world of difference between a human contribution to warming which could be small or negligible and humans causing warming to a degree that matters.
This all means that the consensus paper is a great big nothingburger in terms of adding to the discussion of climate change. It has been misread and misreported probably more than any other paper and has demonstrated the limited capacity to understand the meaning of figures in a scientific paper on the part of our journalists, science reporters and everyone from Barack Obama down who has used the mystic figure of 97.4% to demand increased power prices and instability of the network.