Climate Alarmists Caught Doctoring ’97-Percent Consensus’ Claims

Climate Alarmists Caught Doctoring ’97-Percent Consensus’ Claims
May 29, 2013

James M. Taylor, J.D.

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly... (read full bio)

Global warming alarmists and their allies in the liberal media have been caught doctoring the results of a widely cited paper asserting there is a 97-percent scientific consensus regarding human-caused global warming. After taking a closer look at the paper, investigative journalists report the authors’ claims of a 97-pecent consensus relied on the authors misclassifying the papers of some of the world’s most prominent global warming skeptics. At the same time, the authors deliberately presented a meaningless survey question so they could twist the responses to fit their own preconceived global warming alarmism.

Global warming alarmist John Cook, founder of the misleadingly named blog site Skeptical Science, published a paper with several other global warming alarmists claiming they reviewed nearly 12,000 abstracts of studies published in the peer-reviewed climate literature. Cook reported that he and his colleagues found that 97 percent of the papers that expressed a position on human-caused global warming “endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.”

As is the case with other ‘surveys’ alleging an overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming, the question surveyed had absolutely nothing to do with the issues of contentious between global warming alarmists and global warming skeptics. The question Cook and his alarmist colleagues surveyed was simply whether humans have caused some global warming. The question is meaningless regarding the global warming debate because most skeptics as well as most alarmists believe humans have caused some global warming. The issue of contention dividing alarmists and skeptics is whether humans are causing global warming of such negative severity as to constitute a crisis demanding concerted action.

Either through idiocy, ignorance, or both, global warming alarmists and the liberal media have been reporting that the Cook study shows a 97 percent consensus that humans are causing a global warming crisis. However, that was clearly not the question surveyed.

Investigative journalists at Popular Technology looked into precisely which papers were classified within Cook’s asserted 97 percent. The investigative journalists found Cook and his colleagues strikingly classified papers by such prominent, vigorous skeptics as Willie Soon, Craig Idso, Nicola Scafetta, Nir Shaviv, Nils-Axel Morner and Alan Carlin as supporting the 97-percent consensus.

Cook and his colleagues, for example, classified a peer-reviewed paper by scientist Craig Idso as explicitly supporting the ‘consensus’ position on global warming “without minimizing” the asserted severity of global warming. When Popular Technology asked Idso whether this was an accurate characterization of his paper, Idso responded, “That is not an accurate representation of my paper. The papers examined how the rise in atmospheric CO2 could be inducing a phase advance in the spring portion of the atmosphere's seasonal CO2 cycle. Other literature had previously claimed a measured advance was due to rising temperatures, but we showed that it was quite likely the rise in atmospheric CO2 itself was responsible for the lion's share of the change. It would be incorrect to claim that our paper was an endorsement of CO2-induced global warming."

When Popular Technology asked physicist Nicola Scafetta whether Cook and his colleagues accurately classified one of his peer-reviewed papers as supporting the ‘consensus’ position, Scafetta similarly criticized the Skeptical Science classification.

“Cook et al. (2013) is based on a strawman argument because it does not correctly define the IPCC AGW theory, which is NOT that human emissions have contributed 50%+ of the global warming since 1900 but that almost 90-100% of the observed global warming was induced by human emission,” Scafetta responded. “What my papers say is that the IPCC [United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] view is erroneous because about 40-70% of the global warming observed from 1900 to 2000 was induced by the sun.”

“What it is observed right now is utter dishonesty by the IPCC advocates. … They are gradually engaging into a metamorphosis process to save face. … And in this way they will get the credit that they do not merit, and continue in defaming critics like me that actually demonstrated such a fact since 2005/2006,” Scafetta added.

Astrophysicist Nir Shaviv similarly objected to Cook and colleagues claiming he explicitly supported the ‘consensus’ position about human-induced global warming. Asked if Cook and colleagues accurately represented his paper, Shaviv responded, “Nope... it is not an accurate representation. The paper shows that if cosmic rays are included in empirical climate sensitivity analyses, then one finds that different time scales consistently give a low climate sensitivity. i.e., it supports the idea that cosmic rays affect the climate and that climate sensitivity is low. This means that part of the 20th century [warming] should be attributed to the increased solar activity and that 21st century warming under a business as usual scenario should be low (about 1°C).”

“I couldn't write these things more explicitly in the paper because of the refereeing, however, you don't have to be a genius to reach these conclusions from the paper," Shaviv added.

To manufacture their misleading asserted consensus, Cook and his colleagues also misclassified various papers as taking “no position” on human-caused global warming. When Cook and his colleagues determined a paper took no position on the issue, they simply pretended, for the purpose of their 97-percent claim, that the paper did not exist.

Morner, a sea level scientist, told Poplular Technology that Cook classifying one of his papers as “no position” was "Certainly not correct and certainly misleading. The paper is strongly against AGW [anthropogenic global warming], and documents its absence in the sea level observational facts. Also, it invalidates the mode of sea level handling by the IPCC."

Soon, an astrophysicist, similarly objected to Cook classifying his paper as “no position.”

"I am sure that this rating of no position on AGW by CO2 is nowhere accurate nor correct,” said Soon.

“I hope my scientific views and conclusions are clear to anyone that will spend time reading our papers. Cook et al. (2013) is not the study to read if you want to find out about what we say and conclude in our own scientific works,” Soon emphasized.

Viewing the Cook paper in the best possible light, Cook and colleagues can perhaps claim a small amount of wiggle room in their classifications because the explicit wording of the question they analyzed is simply whether humans have caused some global warming. By restricting the question to such a minimalist, largely irrelevant question in the global warming debate and then demanding an explicit, unsolicited refutation of the assertion in order to classify a paper as a ‘consensus’ contrarian, Cook and colleagues misleadingly induce people to believe 97 percent of publishing scientists believe in a global warming crisis when that is simply not the case.

Misleading the public about consensus opinion regarding global warming, of course, is precisely what the Cook paper sought to accomplish. This is a tried and true ruse perfected by global warming alarmists. Global warming alarmists use their own biased, subjective judgment to misclassify published papers according to criteria that is largely irrelevant to the central issues in the global warming debate. Then, by carefully parsing the language of their survey questions and their published results, the alarmists encourage the media and fellow global warming alarmists to cite these biased, subjective, totally irrelevant surveys as conclusive evidence for the lie that nearly all scientists believe humans are creating a global warming crisis.

James M. Taylor, J.D.

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly... (read full bio)