You hear it all the time. Why, 97 percent of all climate scientists agree that global warming is dangerous and man is causing it. The debate is over and it’s time to act! (With the very kinds of tax and regulatory policies liberals would advocate anyway.)
Did you ever think to question, though, what the basis of this 97 percent figure might be? Joseph Bast and Roy W. Spencer did. Mr. Bast is president of the Heartland Institute, while Dr. Spencer is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Writing today in the Wall Street Journal, the two men examine the most frequently cited sources for this claim and find them wanting. No matter how many times you hear politicians repeat the claim, there is no 97 percent consensus:
Where did Mr. Kerry get the 97% figure? Perhaps from his boss, President Obama, who tweeted on May 16 that “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Or maybe from NASA, which posted (in more measured language) on its website, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.”
Yet the assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction. The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and abstract-counting exercises that have been contradicted by more reliable research.
One frequently cited source for the consensus is a 2004 opinion essay published in Science magazine by Naomi Oreskes, a science historian now at Harvard. She claimed to have examined abstracts of 928 articles published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and found that 75% supported the view that human activities are responsible for most of the observed warming over the previous 50 years while none directly dissented.
Ms. Oreskes’s definition of consensus covered “man-made” but left out “dangerous”—and scores of articles by prominent scientists such as Richard Lindzen, John Christy, Sherwood Idso and Patrick Michaels, who question the consensus, were excluded. The methodology is also flawed. A study published earlier this year in Nature noted that abstracts of academic papers often contain claims that aren’t substantiated in the papers.
That’s just the beginning. Bast and Spencer examine source after supposed source of this claim and methodically destroy the credibility of every single one. You’re left with the realization that this statistic, constantly cited by left-wing politicians, is completely bogus. And the very people who beat skeptics over the head with these bogus numbers are the ones who say we are “anti-science” for refusing to agree with them.
This explains a lot. It certainly explains the East Anglia e-mails, which sound like they were written by people who are trying to sustain a scam and are nervous about being exposed. It explains the insistence of the so-called “climate science community” to try to silence the work of skeptics and prevent their papers from being published. Science is not the practice of enforcing orthodoxies and silencing apostates who question things, and yet that’s what these folks do with regularity and their backers in the political realm cheer them on.
And it exposes yet again the pliability of the mainstream media, which continually cites this “97 percent” number without ever questioning where it came from or whether there is any basis for it. It reminds me of activists used to claim back in the 1980s that there were 4 million homeless, and the media would repeat the number as a matter of course without ever questioning its validity or its origin. They just figured that since they heard it all the time from people who ought to know, that was authoritative enough for them. (Besides, it seemed to be an indictment of Reagan policies, so hey, why not?)
There’s all kinds of statistical nonsense floating around out there, and a lot of it that should be questioned never is because the people who ought to be doing the questioning want to believe. It’s like the X-Files.
Once you recognize this, it really shows how insidious is the effort of the political class to marginalize so-called “deniers.” These people are citing completely bogus data themselves – certainly to make the “consensus” claim and almost as certainly to make the claim of man-made global warming as well, not to mention their claims about what it will cause to happen in the future if we don’t “act” (i.e. raise taxes, put government in charge of industry, etc.). Their entire proposition is a lie, and they’re going to shut you up if you say anything about it, because the debate over, damn it!
And why should anyone be surprised about this? The same people who told you “if you like your plan you can keep your plan” now tell us there is no room for questioning them on man-made global warming or its future effects.
Usually people who are dealing in facts and truth don’t have a conniption fit when someone questions them. They are confident about their assertions and they figure they can withstand a healthy challenge. If it’s ever occurred to you that global warmists seem awfully insecure in the way they denounce their critics, now you know a little more about why.