Culture

The Great Climate Lie

(Andrey Pavlov/Dreamstime)
A closer look at the climate-change consensus.

After being harangued by conservatives and mathematicians, liberal news outlets — the Washington Post, Time, Slate, The Daily Beast, a few others — began admitting that the claim that women earn 77 cents on the dollar is a lie. Let the haranguing resume: There is no basis in fact for saying that 97 percent of scientists believe that climate change is real, man-made, and dangerous.

Those were the words tweeted by President Obama: “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: Climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” “Read more,” he added, with a link to a Reuters piece that announced the 97 percent finding by the University of Queensland’s John Cook, et al. But Cook’s result is deeply flawed.

For starters, though, Reuters and the president are wrong about what Cook’s study claims. It does not claim that 97 percent of scientists believe that climate change is real, man-made, and dangerous. What it claims is that 97.1 percent of the relevant scientific literature agrees with the much more conservative claim that humans are contributing to global warming in an unspecified amount.

But even in making that considerably more anodyne assertion, the “consensus” is on shaky footing. According to the abstract for Cook’s paper, 66.4 percent of the abstracts Cook and his team looked at neither supported nor opposed the position that man causes global warming. Which gives you not a 97.1 percent consensus, but 97.1 percent of the remainder, which is 32.6 percent. That is, 32.6 percent of peer-reviewed global-warming literature agrees that global warming is man-made. That’s not overwhelming.

And even that number is highly suspect; many scientists have objected to their papers having been categorized as supporting Cook’s position. A number of avowed man-made-warming skeptics were evidently surprised to find their papers included in Cook’s 97 percent monolith. According to a paper written by University of Delaware professor David Legates, et al., for the journal Science & Education, just 0.3 percent — not 97 — of the papers Cook examined explicitly endorsed his position.

Professor Richard Tol of the University of Sussex published a rebuttal of Cook’s paper in the journal Energy Policy. According to Tol, the 97 percent claim, “frequently repeated in debates about climate policy, does not stand. . . . [Cook’s] sample is not representative and contains many irrelevant papers. Overall, data quality is low. Cook’s validation test shows that the data are invalid. Data disclosure is incomplete so the key results cannot be reproduced or tested.”

Before Copernicus and Galileo, roughly 97 percent of scientists believed the sun orbited the earth.

So: The sample selected for study was flawed. The analysis of that sample was flawed. The conclusion drawn from that analysis was flawed. And the reporting of that conclusion was flawed. To quote Professor Mike Hulme of the University of East Anglia, as quoted by Popular Technology, “the ‘97 percent consensus’ article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed.”

Normally, when faced with the “scientific consensus” on global warming, conservatives dig in and say that science is not a democracy — which, of course, is true. Before Copernicus and Galileo, roughly 97 percent of scientists believed the sun orbited the earth. But what conservatives ought to do is to stop accepting the Left’s nonsense premise: There is simply no evidence of a 97 percent consensus on global warming.

First, the 77 cent lie. Then the 97 percent lie. Next we can work on Bernie Sanders’s insane claim that Americans “don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants.”

Josh Gelernter — Josh Gelernter is a weekly columnist for NRO, and a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

Most Popular

U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More