Spiegel science journalist Axel Bojanowski, an educated geologist, presents an article today at the online Spiegel explaining how the once highly ballyhooed “97% consensus” claim is in fact deceptive and “a half-truth”: Failed Scientists’ Call To Action at UN Climate Conference: The 97 Percent Trap.
Bojanowski begins by describing how last year even President Obama tweeted the claim, but then adds that the “claimed consensus among scientists is actually something other than what Obama suggests“.
97 scientists “deceiving the public”
And on the latest pre-New York Climate Conference campaign by 97 scientists promoting the idea of consensus, the Spiegel journalist writes that “they are deceiving the public“.
Last year scientists led by John Cook of the University of Queensland published in the journal Environmental Research Letters a study showing that more than 97% of scientists claim global warming is man-made. Bojanowski writes: “They [the scientists] had asked environmental activists at the Internet site ‘Skeptical Science’ to evaluate thousands of climate studies.”
On the results Bojanowski writes that “less than 1% of the studies expressly disputed the impact by man. A good two thirds took no position on the topic – and so were not included.”
No consensus to speak of
Bojanowski blasts the results of the survey, explaining that “the study confirms only a banality: Scientists are for the most part in agreement than man contributes to climate warming. Even hard-nosed critics of climate science do not doubt the physical principle that exhaust from automobiles, factories and power plants warm the air.” He then reminds readers that man’s impact is a side issue, and that the real issue is the extent man has an impact and whether or not the climate warming is a dangerous thing. Here on the real central issues Bojanowski writes there is absolutely no consensus to speak of.
So why are the 97 scientists trying to produce a different impression? Bojanowski provides an answer:
The public, so the authors justify the idea behind the study, are hesitating to support climate protection because of uncertainty over the consensus among scientists. […] The 97 percent campaign is to ‘strengthen’ the study, the initiators at ‘Skeptical Science’ write.”
Massive criticism from experts worldwide
Critical reaction from other experts came rapidly, Bjoanowski cites Dan Kahan of Yale Law School, who believes the message “promotes the polarization of society“. Also cited is meteorologist Victor Venema of the University of Bonn, who wrote that “‘consensus’ is in itself uncomfortable to many scientists.”
Bojanowski also puts Georgia Tech professor Judith Curry down as a harsh critic of the Cook study asl well. Curry calls the nature of such a survey “senseless”.
Also Richard Tol is cited in the Spiegel article. Bojanowski writes:
Richard Tol of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin aims methodical criticism at Cook’s study: The evaluated climate studies were haphazardly selected. And whether or not the people evaluating the studies worked reliably was not tested. ‘People who want to argue that climate researchers are secretive and incompetent,’ says Tol polemically, ‘only have to point to the 97% consensus paper’.”
Bojanowski ends the piece with a shot of sarcasm, telling readers that “the Environmental Research Letters, which published the paper, was impressed by the Cook study. They selected it “best article of 2013“.