It Is Not True that “97% of Scientists Agree that Climate Change is Real, Man-Made and Dangerous,” but Environmentalist Leaders Dogmatically Repeat It

In May of 2013, Barack Obama put out a tweet that said:

Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.

This claim is often repeated by environmentalists and the Left, and is most definitely false. Alex Epstein, writing for Forbes, destroyed this claim in his article, “‘97% Of Climate Scientists Agree’ Is 100% Wrong”.

From Epstein’s article:

One of the main papers behind the 97 percent claim is authored by John Cook, who runs the popular website, a virtual encyclopedia of arguments trying to defend predictions of catastrophic climate change from all challenges.

Here is Cook’s summary of his paper: “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97 percent [of papers he surveyed] endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”

This is a fairly clear statement—97 percent of the papers surveyed endorsed the view that man-made greenhouse gases were the main cause—main in common usage meaning more than 50 percent.

But even a quick scan of the paper reveals that this is not the case. Cook is able to demonstrate only that a relative handful endorse “the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.” Cook calls this “explicit endorsement with quantification” (quantification meaning 50 percent or more). The problem is, only a small percentage of the papers fall into this category; Cook does not say what percentage, but when the study was publicly challenged by economist David Friedman, one observer calculated that only 1.6 percent explicitly stated that man-made greenhouse gases caused at least 50 percent of global warming.

Where did most of the 97 percent come from, then? Cook had created a category called “explicit endorsement without quantification”—that is, papers in which the author, by Cook’s admission, did not say whether 1 percent or 50 percent or 100 percent of the warming was caused by man. He had also created a category called “implicit endorsement,” for papers that imply (but don’t say) that there is some man-made global warming and don’t quantify it. In other words, he created two categories that he labeled as endorsing a view that they most certainly didn’t.

As Alex Epstein details, some of the scientists whose papers were mischaracterized by this paper objected to the misrepresentation. There is more to Epstein’s article that is worth reading, so I definitely recommend reading the whole thing when you have time.

When Senator Ted Cruz questioned Sierra Club President Aaron Mair on global warming, Mair basically ended up repeated the false 97% claim dogmatically, over and over:

It sounds like Mr. Mair is reciting some point of religious dogma that is not to be questioned. And as we have seen, his assertion is not at all backed up by the evidence of a sound study.

Some environmentalists would even like to see people’s freedom of speech violated, so that their dogma can be enforced by law. Twenty university professors signed and sent a letter to President Obama, appealing to him to use RICO laws to investigate and potentially prosecute people in organizations that “have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change.”

Grist Magazine writer David Roberts wrote, “When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.”

You can read more about these cases in Walter Williams’s article for Capitalism Magazine, Suppressing Free Speech To Promote The Environmental Cult’s Agenda, and in this Climate Depot article.

The data we have show a slight warming trend over the past century and a half. But contrary to environmentalists’ assertions, the science of climate change is not “settled” and the debate is not over, with regard to the size of humans’ impact on climate, the future course of climate change, nor with regard to how any further warming will impact human life in the future. Computer models have constantly failed to predict future climate, and the lack of warming over the past 18 years was not foreseen by climate scientists.

Leading global warming

Leading global warming “expert,” James Hansen, makes a very wrong prediction in 1986.
Still-frame from the talk by Alex Epstein that is embedded later in this post.

Environmentalist leaders like Paul Ehrlich and James Hansen have a long string of failed predictions over the past 40+ years, such as that there would be mass starvation and a stalling world population by the year 2000, that we would run out of oil and natural gas by 1993, that man-made global cooling would bring about a new ice age, and that global average temperatures would rise between 2.5 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit between 1986 and 2006. (See Seven Big Failed Environmentalist Predictions and The 1970’s Global Cooling Compilation.)

Actual satellite data show that the warming for the 1986 to 2006 period is about 0.25 degrees C: 10 to 20 times lower than Hansen's 1986 prediction.

Actual satellite data show that the warming for the 1986 to 2006 period is about 0.25 degrees C: 5 to 10 times lower than Hansen’s 1986 prediction.

The leaders of today’s environmentalist movement are as dogmatic in their thinking–and as hungry for the governmental killing of our civilized, clean and comfortable way of life–as they were when Ayn Rand analyzed them in her book, The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. (For a currently in-print version of the book, see: The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution.)

I recommend reading Alex Epstein’s recent book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels and watching his recent talk at Wellesley:

[Note: Hat-tip to the site, Louder with Crowder, for pointing to the Ted Cruz video.]


Related Posts:

Earth Day Video: Why You Should Love Fossil Fuels

Fossil Fuels and Environment: McKibben vs. Epstein, Full Debate

Laissez-Faire Capitalism Solves “The Tragedy of the Commons” and Deals With Negative Externalities: A Dialogue

Why the Philosophy of Objectivism is Still Relevant and Needed in the Age of Modern Science

QuickPoint 5: Any Claim to a Probability is Also a Claim to a Certainty

1 thought on “It Is Not True that “97% of Scientists Agree that Climate Change is Real, Man-Made and Dangerous,” but Environmentalist Leaders Dogmatically Repeat It

  1. Scientific truth is not defined by majority vote. Even if 97 % agree about global warming, it doesn’t prove it. Just 500 years ago 99 % of scientists agreed that sun is revolving around earth.

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