Deep-sixing Another Useful Climate Myth

In Climate Change, Colleges and Universities, Development, Economics, Election 2016, Energy, Environment, Movies, Politics by David Legates3 Comments

By now, virtually everyone has heard that “97% of scientists agree: Climate change is real, manmade and dangerous.” Even if you weren’t one of his 31 million followers who received this tweet from President Obama, you most assuredly have seen it repeated everywhere as scientific fact.

The correct representation is “yes,” “some,” and “no.” Yes, climate change is real. There has never been a period in Earth’s history when the climate has not changed somewhere, in one way or another.

People can and do have some influence on our climate. For example, downtown areas are warmer than the surrounding countryside, and large-scale human development can affect air and moisture flow. But humans are by no means the only source of climate change. The Pleistocene ice ages, Little Ice Age and monster hurricanes throughout history underscore our trivial influence compared to natural forces.

As for climate change being dangerous, this is pure hype based on little fact. Mile-high rivers of ice burying half of North America and Europe were disastrous for everything in their path, as they would be today. Likewise for the plummeting global temperatures that accompanied them. An era of more frequent and intense hurricanes would also be calamitous; but actual weather records do not show this.

It would be far more deadly to implement restrictive energy policies that condemn billions to continued life without affordable electricity – or to lower living standards in developed countries – in a vain attempt to control the world’s climate. In much of Europe, electricity prices have risen 50% or more over the past decade, leaving many unable to afford proper wintertime heat, and causing thousands to die.

Moreover, consensus and votes have no place in science. History is littered with theories that were long denied by “consensus” science and politics: plate tectonics, germ theory of disease, a geocentric universe. They all underscore how wrong consensus can be.

Science is driven by facts, evidence and observations – not by consensus, especially when it is asserted by deceitful or tyrannical advocates. As Einstein said, “A single experiment can prove me wrong.”

During this election season, Americans are buffeted by polls suggesting which candidate might become each party’s nominee or win the general election. Obviously, only the November “poll” counts.

Similarly, several “polls” have attempted to quantify the supposed climate change consensus, often by using simplistic bait-and-switch tactics. “Do you believe in climate change?” they may ask.

Answering yes, as I would, places you in the President’s 97% consensus and, by illogical extension, implies you agree it is caused by humans and will be dangerous. Of course, that serves their political goal of gaining more control over energy use.

The 97% statistic has specific origins. Naomi Oreskes is a Harvard professor and author of Merchants of Doubt, which claims those who disagree with the supposed consensus are paid by Big Oil to obscure the truth. In 2004, she claimed to have examined the abstracts of 928 scientific papers and found a 100% consensus with the claim that the “Earth’s climate is being affected by human activities.”

Of course, this is probably true, as it is unlikely that any competent scientist would say humans have no impact on climate. However, she then played the bait-and-switch game to perfection – asserting that this meant “most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.”

However, one dissenter is enough to discredit the entire study, and what journalist would believe any claim of 100% agreement? In addition, anecdotal evidence suggested that 97% was a better figure. So 97% it was.

Then in 2010, William Anderegg and colleagues concluded that “97-98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support … [the view that] … anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for most of the unequivocal warming of the Earth’s average global temperature” over a recent but unspecified time period. (Emphasis in original.)

To make this extreme assertion, Anderegg et al. compiled a database of 908 climate researchers who published frequently on climate topics, and identified those who had “signed statements strongly dissenting from the views” of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The 97-98% figure is achieved by counting those who had not signed such statements.

Silence, in Anderegg’s view, meant those scientists agreed with the extreme view that most warming was due to humans. However, nothing in their papers suggests that all those researchers believed humans had caused most of the planetary warming, or that it was dangerous.

The most recent 97% claim was posited by John Cook and colleagues in 2013. They evaluated abstracts from nearly 12,000 articles published over a 21-year period and sorted them into seven categories, ranging from “explicit, quantified endorsement” to “explicit, quantified rejection” of their alleged consensus: that recent warming was caused by human activity, not by natural variability. They concluded that “97.1% endorsed the consensus position.”

However, two-thirds of all those abstracts took no position on anthropogenic climate change. Of the remaining abstracts (not the papers or scientists), Cook and colleagues asserted that 97.1% endorsed their hypothesis that humans are the sole cause of recent global warming.

Again, the bait-and-switch was on full display. Any assertion that humans play a role was interpreted as meaning humans are the sole cause. But many of those scientists subsequently said publicly that Cook and colleagues had misclassified their papers – and Cook never tried to assess whether any of the scientists who wrote the papers actually thought the observed climate changes were dangerous.

My own colleagues and I did investigate their analysis more closely. We found that only 41 abstracts of the 11,944 papers Cook and colleagues reviewed – a whopping 0.3% – actually endorsed their supposed consensus. It turns out they had decided that any paper which did not provide an explicit, quantified rejection of their supposed consensus was in agreement with the consensus. Moreover, this decision was based solely on Cook and colleagues’ interpretation of just the abstracts, and not the articles themselves.  In other words, the entire exercise was a clever sleight-of-hand trick.

What is the real figure? We may never know. Scientists who disagree with the supposed consensus – that climate change is manmade and dangerous – find themselves under constant attack.

Harassment by Greenpeace and other environmental pressure groups, the media, federal and state government officials, and even universities toward their employees (myself included) makes it difficult for many scientists to express honest opinions. Recent reports about Senator Whitehouse and Attorney-General Lynch using RICO laws to intimidate climate “deniers” further obscure meaningful discussion.

Numerous government employees have told me privately that they do not agree with the supposed consensus position – but cannot speak out for fear of losing their jobs. And just last week, a George Mason University survey found that nearly one-third of American Meteorological Society members were willing to admit that at least half of the climate change we have seen can be attributed to natural variability.

Climate change alarmism has become a $1.5-trillion-a-year industry – which guarantees it is far safer and more fashionable to pretend a 97% consensus exists, than to embrace honesty and have one’s global warming or renewable energy funding go dry.

The real danger is not climate change – it is energy policies imposed in the name of climate change. It’s time to consider something else Einstein said: “The important thing is not to stop questioning.” And then go see the important new documentary film, The Climate Hustle, coming soon to a theater near you.

This article was originally published on

Featured image courtesy of Robin Hutton/Flickr CC. 



    Please do some actual field work and visit the places that are affected by global warming. In today’s news, corral reef throughout the tropical seas are bleaching due to heat. That’s right, there are no problems, it is all a lie made up to take away our freedoms. Tell that to the peoples in the far north as they see great changes in ice and earlier starting of thawing.

    1. Louis since you crave for ‘Actual field work’ and ‘Actual data’, lets dig some facts here

      1. Actual temperature readings over the past 18 years indicate no increasing in global warming rates. It also revealed to us that the current projections by IPCC (which informs global leadership on climate) is flawed by its own admission, which it tried to suppress last year.

      2. When you said ‘places affected by the non-existent global warming’, did you mean places like northern Europe which benefited from the global warming during the Medieval Warm Period (AD 800 to about AD 1250) and had lengthy growing season and it became possible to farm successfully as far north as Greenland. Hope that satiates your tagline ‘Tell that to the peoples in the far north as they see great changes in ice and earlier starting of thawing.’. If you are referring to current warming period, there isn’t one that is drastic or catastrophic !

      3. ‘There are no problems’ – No one claimed that. The focal point of debate about is whether Human generated CO2 has been influencing global temperature levels to increase to dangerous levels or not. Satellites, Air balloons, Ice cores and Tree rings disagree. It is only the urban thermometer readings that indicate abnormal and drastic increase in temperature, which by any means is not a proper /accurate indicator of the temperature in Troposphere ( the lowest layer of Atmosphere if you are weak with Geography). And it is these thermometer readings that are used by UEA, CRU, IPCC, UNFCCC, Obama, Al Gore, you name it….. More on differences between satellite and thermometer readings over here

      4. ‘take away our freedom’ – sure they do. 70% of my fellow men in rural parts of India are in Poverty and we can’t afford to beg the developed nations for money to buy more expensive and insufficient renewable technology. a) They will not deliver the amount of basic energy we need for ventilation, basic lighting and industrial growth. b) We already depend on Coal for 70% of our energy needs and even the International Energy Agency has said that India cannot afford to decrease or pause the growth of its coal industry. The Ministry of Coal In India has more than doubled the coal production target from about 600 million tonnes a year towards 1.5 billion by 2020.

      With due considerations, even if you disagree with my response, you should give it some time to understand the facts and logic presented in this article by David Legates. He is talking about the science of climate change and the consensus of scientific fraternity on CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming). Hope you support Science !

    2. Keep in mind, Louis, that essentially none of the critics of belief in CAGW (catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming) denies that global average atmospheric temperature is higher today (by probably about 0.8-0.9 degree C) than it was in ~1860 or (by probably about 0.4-0.6 degree C) than it was in ~1960. Earth’s recovery from the naturally caused Little Ice Age (~1350-1850) undoubtedly was initially (~1850-~1950) non-anthropogenic, since too little increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration had occurred before ~1950 to contribute much. The continuation of that recovery since ~1950 could be entirely non-anthropogenic, or it could be a mix of anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic. Whatever is the case, however, WARMING and ANTHROPOGENIC WARMING are distinct, and the reality of the former does not logically entail the reality of the latter.

      All that’s a slightly technical way of saying, “the places that are affected by global warming” would be affected absolutely identically whether that warming was 100% non-anthropogenic, 50/50 anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic, or 100% anthropogenic. So a rise in temperature is not by itself evidence of anthropogenic cause.

      Well, actualy, “absolutely identically” is not quite accurate. To the extent that the warming is anthropogenic, i.e., driven by rising atmospheric CO2 concentration itself driven by rising use of fossil fuels to provide energy, there would in fact be some differences between how they’re affected by that anthropogenic warming and how they would have been affected by non-anthropogenic warming: (1) So far as the humans in those places are concerned, the wealth made possible by the fossil fuel use will have equipped them to adapt to the changed temperature better than if they lacked that wealth. (This is equally true whether the temperature would have risen or fallen.) (2) So far as the plants in those places are concerned, the rising atmospheric CO2 will have equipped them to adapt to the changed temperature better than if they lacked that added CO2, because in higher concentrations of CO2 plants grow better in both warmer and cooler temperatures and in both wetter and drier soils (making more efficient use of water because with higher CO2 concentration their stomata, through which evapotranspiration occurs, don’t open so far, so they don’t lose so much water to evaporation), and so their ranges increase (in both latitude and altitude), while they also resist disease and pests better and increase their fruitage. (3) So far as all the animals (including humans) who eat plants or eat things that eat plants, the enhanced plant growth due to the higher CO2 concentration means more food (and other things made from plants). (4) If the warming is anthropogenic, it might be subject to moderation by human decision–decision that, if wise, must be based on careful cost/benefit analysis.

      Finally, as for coral reef bleaching, there’s definitely not a strong case to be made that it is heavily dependent on rising atmospheric CO2. You might begin by reading, then go to

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