#3 – Why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

Reason #3: The “97% of scientists” baloney


I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.

In a prior posts, I covered:

Reason #1Unsettling Science … I’ve gotten  cognitive whiplash from “Ice Age” u-turning to  “Global Warming”  …  which was slowed by an “18-year Pause” … and then wrapped in a catch-all “Climate Change”.

Reason #2Al Gore and his doomsday prediction …  in 2016 we passed his point of no return towards a true planetary emergency  … without the planet melting or exploding … and with Manhattan still above water (I think).

Let’s move on…


My 3rd reason: The “97% of scientists” baloney.

This claim really gained traction when former President Obama tweeted:

“97% percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.”

Case closed, right?

Hot so fast …



Let’s start with a simple smell test:

Can you think of any issue that garners 97% agreement?

My bet is that 97%% of “scientists” don’t even agree that smoking causes cancer.

Pick your issue … 97% … really?

Doesn’t smell right to me, but maybe climate change the exception to the rule.

So, let’s deep dive the claim…


Where did the claim originate?

As near as I can tell, ground zero for the 97% claim was authored by John Cook.

Cook runs the website SkepticalScience.com, which defends climate change from all challenges.

In 2013, Cook found that over 97% of “climate papers that he surveyed which stated a position on human-caused global warming endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”

Let’s unpack Cook’s specific finding ….


For openers, there’s obvious sample bias.

Cook doesn’t say “97% of all scientists”.


It’s “97% of “climate papers” not scientists.


Let’s pretend that papers are a good proxy for people.

Who writes “climate papers”?

Or, more to the point: what kind of climate papers get published?

Fair and balanced?

I doubt it.

My bet is that deniers have a harder time getting their papers published than zealots.

Case-in-point: “Tom Wigley, a scientist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, authored a leaked email asserting  that his fellow  scientists “must get rid of” the editor for a peer-reviewed science journal because he published some papers contradicting assertions of a global warming crisis.” Source

Obviously, there’s an extreme sample bias cooked in to the conclusion.


Let’s assume that some deniers’ papers slip through the cracks and get published …

More narrowly, Cook says “97% of “climate papers that he surveyed


What about the climate papers that he didn’t survey?

Since Cook’s web site is clear global arming zealotry, might some confirmation bias be slipping into his methodology?

That is, might he be more inclined to survey papers that support his position?

I’m betting yes on that one.


Let’s go even deeper …

Again, Cook concluded: 97% of “climate papers that he surveyed which stated a position on human-caused global warming endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”

According to a detailed Forbe’s article: ‘97% Of Climate Scientists Agree’ Is 100% Wrong

1. Some of the “positions” that the authors were explicitly stated but the vast majority were simply inferred by Cook.  In the latter cases, it’s Cook’s best guess of what the author would have said if asked. Huh?

2. Among the papers stating an explicit position, relatively few quantified the impact of human actions.  Is it minimal? Is it substantial? Is it provably the “main cause”?  Some merely made passing references to greenhouse gasses.

3. Several of the authors who Cook put in the win column have disputed how Cook classified their papers.

For example, one author claims “Cook survey included 10 of my 122 eligible papers. 5/10 were rated incorrectly. 4/5 were rated as endorse rather than neutral.”


Bottom line:

The 97% claim was made by a biased “researcher” … who drew from a very narrow, biased sample of papers not people … and classified some answers based on his interpretation of what he thought the author would have said if asked … which the authors later disputed.

That might have been good enough for the former President Obama, but doesn’t pass my smell test.

Rather, it gives me another reason to be a lukewarmer.


I haven’t been able to find a survey projectable to “all scientists” … that asked 2 simple questions: (1) Do you agree that the earth is warming up?, and (2) If yes, are human emissions the main cause?

Wonder why?



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