“Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree:#climate change is real, man-made and dangerous,” President Barack Obama tweeted last Thursday, May 16.
The president was cheering on the media-drawn bandwagon for the latest round of global warming “consensus” puffery. John Cook, an Australian blogger/global warming activist, has President Obama and all the usual climate alarmists in academia, the media, and the Big Green NGOs twitterpated over his latest “research,” which purports to prove that the scientific world is virtually unanimous in declaring that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) — that is, human-caused global warming — is a dire and imminent existential threat.
Certainly “97% of scientists” is an impressive-sounding claim. But is it accurate? As we shall see, this supposed near unanimity of science evaporates like H2O over a Bunsen burner as soon as it is subjected to scrutiny.
“Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature” by John Cook and his team at the Global Change Institute, was published in Environmental Research Letters. Many of the headlines pointing to this study in newspapers, television news broadcasts, and Internet websites led with the same 97 percent claim, same as President Obama. Some of them were a bit more careful than others to qualify that figure based on what the study said, but it would still take a careful reader to recognize that they weren’t saying the same thing as the occupant of the White House.
The story by Rik Myslewski of the British newspaper The Register is a typical example. The Register’s main headline read: “Climate scientists agree: Humans cause global warming.” But sub-headline immediately beneath says: “Of those who have an opinion, over 97% say we're to blame.”
The crucial point here is the qualifying clause, “of those who have an opinion.” In other words, even the highly questionable Cook study doesn’t actually claim, as President Obama does, that “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree.” In fact, when examined closely, one finds that the study says only one-third of the authors of the published research papers they examined expressed an opinion that the Cook team interpreted as either an implicit or explicit endorsement of AGW. So now its 97 percent of one-third of selected scientists in a sampling of research papers. That’s a far cry from the 97 percent of all scientists claimed by President Obama and many of the media stories. And, as we will show below, even this admitted dramatically lower consensus claimed by the study is fraught with problems and falls apart further under examination.
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