Weak points in the case for climate alarmism. 97.4% consensus

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.

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33 Responses to Weak points in the case for climate alarmism. 97.4% consensus

  1. Neilo says:

    This Spectator piece gives a good explanation of the “97% consensus” .. it’s fake news


  2. bemused says:

    Unfortunately, reality will only intrude after we have become a wasteland, another Venezuela.

  3. Dr Fred Lenin says:

    Sorry Rafe ,your 97.4 figure of rentseekers in favour of taxing the life out power prices is in fact 132,0976 per cent in favour ,they used the obama accounting method ,which is nased on the old soviet “election ” “results of stalins day it is a very popular method of bullshitting people into believing whites are blacks ,islam is the religion of pieces etc .

  4. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Ninety-seven percent of scientists say global warming is mainly man-made

    Amazing how journalists can get away with a bald-faced lie like this.
    Just goes to show that the climateers invented fake news along with fake temperatures.

    Still no global warming this century apart from the recent el Nino spike, which has nearly dissipated.

  5. Peter O'Brien says:

    Not that important but Dana Nucitelli is a man

  6. Rafe Champion says:

    Neilo, thanks the Spectator piece is great, I saw the 97% study they cited when it first appeared and could not believe the way they trimmed down the original sample to end up with a tiny handful who just happened to be 97% alarmed:)

  7. Dr Faustus says:

    Cook’s 2013 abstract summarises the results:

    We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.

    So, 97.1% of the 32.6% of abstracts that “endorsed AGW” also endorsed “the consensus position that humans are causing global warming“. That is ~31.6% of scientists who publish on climate change.

    Peer review should have stamped all over the study methodology. However the people who really need stamping on are the fools, tools, or partisan hacks who translate this rubbery ‘finding’ into:

    Ninety-seven percent of scientists say global warming is mainly man-made…

    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.

    These are deliberate untruths – now circulating as fact.

  8. egg_ says:

    Dang – missed the fvckw1tfest.

  9. Leo G says:

    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.

    An interesting statement.
    The use of fossil fuels leads human activity. The human activity, in turn, was the main cause of rising temperatures.
    So, is it really human activity that ninety-seven percent of scientists want to eliminate, and do they believe that eliminating fossil fuel use will lead to that outcome?

  10. Norman Church says:

    IIRC, Cook’s paper represents the third attempt to justify the magical 97% figure. There was the original dodgy 2008 survey and something a bit later, the details of which I cannot remember precisely. Funny how the methodology changes but somehow the conclusion always remains the same.

    Cook’s paper has been demolished by Monckton and others. Any persons continuing to cite it would blush to the roots of their hair if they have any shame. However, the reality is that the 97% figure has been a powerful rhetorical device and that is why it has proved remarkably durable.

    If anybody cites the figure to me, I simply say that it is wrong and based on extremely shoddy work by activists working backwards from a result. However, even if the number were true, so what?

    The 97% figure simply relates to a belief that human activity makes some unquantifiable contribution to global temperatures and a majority of sceptics also believe this to be the case or at least a sensible possibility. The figure says nothing about the extent of consensus on the critical issue of climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide emissions. As such, it is essentially meaningless. I also point out that science is not based on consensus.

    However, I have found that it pays not to be too hopeful when most people reduce the myriad of complicated questions in this space to a single question, “Is climate change real?”

  11. Louis Hissink says:

    The journalists get away with it because they actually believe it. When the belief is based on an abstraction, countering it has also to be done in the same mind space, and since there are no objective facts in the abstract world people’s minds dwell in, it boils down to messenger shooting and who thus has the greater number of messengers.

    It has to run its course as every millennial meme has had to do historically. Just step aside when the spooked herd passes you. Nothing we can do about it because we do not have the numbers, and objective facts don’t count in la la land that they live in.

  12. iampeter says:

    Good post, but I always thought the biggest issue for climate alarmism was the very suggestion that industrial civilization which is improving mans standard of living is somehow, at the same time destroying our environment. That’s a pretty glaring contradiction that throws the whole idea into doubt, without even needing to get into the science.

    As for the science and writing about consensus is pretty hilariously evasive. All I’d like to hear these “scientists” explain is how our atmosphere in any way resembles a greenhouse? What on earth is a “greehouse gas”? And how does our atmosphere manage to heat the hotter surface in violation of first year physics?

    What a mess.

  13. egg_ says:

    Presumably, biomass such as bacteria-enriched sh1te would produce more energy-per-acre 24/7 than either wind or solar ‘farms’?

  14. herodotus says:

    It has been fashionable at times for the supporters of this AGW rubbish to decree that sceptics or deniers should be physically punished, or imprisoned, or banished, branded, made to drown in rising oceans, etc. Climate change itself is hard to identify and has not killed anyone or done the predicted things like increase the number of hurricanes/cyclones or stop the rains! Islands are not sinking. Seas are not rising at any disturbing rate now compared to past eras.

    On the other hand, considerable damage has been done to our economy, our industries, our standard of living, job prospects, even our freedom of speech on this topic. In view of the damage that the climateers, the media, and numerous politicians have done to date, we should be proposing punishment now for all these things, which are real and present. They advocated punishment for theoretical (heretical?) unrealised harm. Where is the punishment for harm achieved to date?

  15. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    They advocated punishment for theoretical (heretical?) unrealised harm. Where is the punishment for harm achieved to date?

    The biofuel industry is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths of poor people.
    If you divide the deaths by the number of climate scammers I think there’d be enough for at least one life sentence per warmie climate scientist, windmill purveyor, solar panel advocate and Green politician on Earth.

    Killing people with “concern”? Biofuels led to nearly 200,000 deaths (est) in 2010.

  16. Leo G says:

    Good post, but I always thought the biggest issue for climate alarmism was the very suggestion that industrial civilization which is improving mans standard of living is somehow, at the same time destroying our environment.

    The “elephant in the room” is population growth in those parts of the world that don’t share the widespread use of powered machines that we expect in an industrial civilisation.
    Alarmism exaggerates a notional risk, without genuine justification, and demands actions that are likely to aggravate real environment damage.

  17. egg_ says:

    Killing people with “concern”? Biofuels led to nearly 200,000 deaths (est) in 2010.

    The Gangrenes strike again.

  18. struth says:

    “97 %”
    Is Tim “the dams will never fill again “Flannery part of the 97%?

    WHO financed this wrongologist?
    Why do socialist governments love Climate change?
    How much does our Australian socialist governments spend of our taxes on funding only those that report the narrative that suits the agenda?
    How many scientists are actually climate related scientists?
    How many of this apparent 97% are privately funded?
    If there are any, what is the percentage of privately funded scientists who believe in man made global warming?
    The UN is a global socialist organization that barely denies this is a wealth redistribution exercise and is enthusiastic and forceful in promoting this nonsense.
    Why can China continue to build more coal powered plants than we have cows that fart?
    Does this one fact embarrass you.
    Are you not embarrassed that the UN states that China and others can go hell for leather using coal, yet we are expected to believe you are credible scientists when it seems that only air over western countries effects GLOWBAL warming?
    As you are such experts and I am just a common man, just give me the answers to these questions.
    If I am supposed to thing more critically and scientifically in this modern world, and you ridicule for my belief in Christian values , am I not doing so by asking you to answer these questions before I am forced to believe in your green, socialist religion?

  19. struth says:

    Bloody phones are terrible to type on!

  20. Leo G says:

    Bloody phones are terrible to type on!

    The lament of a keyboard warrior.

  21. memoryvault says:

    On the other hand, considerable damage has been done to our economy, our industries, our standard of living, job prospects, even our freedom of speech on this topic.

    Trouble is, Herodotus, most people, including amongst skeptics, consider this an “unintended consequence”. It is not. It is precisely what was meant to happen when Maurice Strong and others laid out the groundwork of the plan in the 1970’s.

    The overall, publicly stated intent is to kill off a third or more of the world’s population. As BoN inadvertently confirms above, everything is proceeding very nicely, for those responsible.

  22. Grandma says:

    Thank you for the analysis Rafe, I appreciate not having to wade through this propaganda very much.

  23. Andrew says:

    The Cook papers are complete fraud, but even Cook NEVER stretched to claim that the 97% believe global warming is real, manmade AND DANGEROUS – the Kenyan completely fabricated that last bit because shut up, racist!, dreamy, but Tea Party!, and Nobel. Cook shouldn’t be held responsible for that lie.

  24. Dr Fred Lenin says:

    Anyone notice the massive support for the clinate change scam in China Japan Indonesia,India ,Africa S America Mexico etc , never heard of any except for the Indian railway porter groper at ,n,communust climate scam gang .

  25. Boambee John says:

    #2411482, posted on June 13, 2017 at 6:06 pm
    Bloody phones are terrible to type on!

    Plus infinity.

    And they do strange things when you try to fix errors.

  26. RobK says:

    It’s the CO2 conjecture that is to be questioned. Calling it climate change means you’ve already acknowledged the first part of the jig and it’s hard to get around it.

  27. RobK says:

    The IPCC has climate change in it’s name but it’s charter is specifically to investigate detrimental effects of anthropogenic CO2.

  28. RobK says:

    Talk about control the language, calling it climate change is a fait accompli, just like Dr Finkel’s report.

  29. Stan says:

    Also missing is za, which is the evidence that the warming that we have had since the Little Ice Age and may (or may not) continue (at the rate defined by your x) will be catastrophic and not beneficial or neutral. It is certainly clear that the natural warming since LIA to date has been beneficial.

  30. cohenite says:

    The consensus is rubbish as is Cook’s paper. Cook defines the consensus position as being:

    “That humans are causing global warming.”

    That consensus position is defined in Cook’s categories by category 1 of Table 2:

    1) Explicit endorsement with quantification. Explicitly states that humans are the primary cause of recent global warming. The global warming during the 20th century is caused mainly by increasing greenhouse gas concentration especially since the late 1980s’.

    The rest of Cook’s categories reflect varying degrees of lessor support for AGW [categories 2 and 3], or indifference to AGW [categories 4a and 4b] or active opposition to AGW [categories 5 to 7]. Only the first 3 categories could be defined as giving support for AGW.

    However, on the basis of the categories 1-3, of the original 11944 Abstracts from papers on climate Cook selected Cook discarded 8048 papers or 67.4% because they had no position.

    Of the remaining 4014 papers or 32.6% of papers 3973 or 99% of the remaining abstracts fell into categories 2 and 3. Only 41 or 1% expressed support for Cook’s definition of the consensus that:

    “Humans are causing global warming.”

    That’s 1% not 97%.

    Cook says he had the authors of the papers rate their papers according to your criteria; about this Cook says:

    “1200 scientists rated their own papers, resulting in over 2000 papers being categorised by the papers’ own authors. Among papers that were self-rated as stating a position on human-caused global warming, 97.2% endorsed the consensus.”

    The author’s self-rating is shown by Table 4 from Cook’s paper. In fact 2142 papers received self-ratings from 1189 authors. Cook’s paper says of those 2142 self-ratings 1342 are described as Endorsing AGW. That is confirming the consensus position or category 1 of Cook’s 7 categories. The caption to Table 4 says:

    “Self-rated papers that endorse AGW have an average endorsement rating less than 4.”

    But that would include categories 2 and 3 which are LESS than the consensus position. So the question remains exactly how many self-rated Abstracts actually conform to Cook’s own definition of the consensus as defined only in category 1.

    In addition, the self-referencing shows that 761 scientists have no position on AGW which as the caption to Table 4 says conforms to categories 4a and 4b of Cook’s categories which is 761/2142 X 100 = 35.52%. That is much less than Cook’s paper’s initial selection and the discarding of 67.4% of the 11,944 papers because the Abstract had no position on AGW.

    Maybe the only scientists who responded to Cook’s invitation to self-rate were those who initially had a position on AGW. If so 35.52% of them changed their minds from being in categories 1-3 to being in
    categories 4a and 4b!

    Any way you look at this the % actually supporting the consensus, as defined in Cook’s paper, is less than the claimed 97%.

  31. Louis says:

    Yeah from memory they have been pushing the 97% thing since the turn of the century. Originally it was just a completely made up figure put out by someone and it was only after people started demanding to know where that figure came from that there were ‘studies’ done that magically found the same % of support.

    I find that most of the people who quote that figure have no idea how it was actually determined and they seem to believe that of the hundreds of thousands of professional scientists around the world 97% of them believe.

  32. Fulcrum says:

    Another winter and another expedition on global warming cancelled due to pack ice. And yet the concensus of global warming scientists sticks at 97%. Even the resolve of Blind Freddie would have been put to the test.

  33. Andrew says:

    Only stat you need to know:

    Cook et al’s 97% was comprised of 75 (climate-gouging tax eating ultra-conflicted parasitic) “scientists” – the 31000 scientists who signed the petition against al-Gore’s abuses and pseudo-science numbered…31000. So for every ONE scientist DEFINED by Cook as the “consensus” there are OVER 400 scientists opposed to them.

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