The myth of the 97% climate change consensus

What is the origin of the false belief – constantly repeated by President Obama, the media and others – that almost all scientists agree about global warming?

By Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer

Secretary of State John Kerry, President Obama and others frequently claim that climate change will have “crippling kerryconsequences,” and that “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree that climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” In reality, the assertion is science fiction. The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and exercises in counting abstracts from scientific papers – all of which have been contradicted by more reliable research.

One frequently cited source is Naomi Oreskes (lead photo). She claimed to have examined abstracts of 928 articles and to have found that 75% supported the view that human activities are responsible for most of the observed warming over the previous 50 years, while none directly dissented. Ms. Oreskes’s definition of consensus covered “man-made” influences but left out “dangerous” – and excluded scores of articles by prominent scientists who question the consensus. She also failed to acknowledge that a study published in the journal Nature noted that abstracts of academic papers often contain claims that aren’t substantiated in the papers.

Another widely cited source for the consensus view is an article in Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union. It reported the results of a two-question online survey of selected scientists, and claimed “97% of climate scientists agree.” Most scientists who are skeptical of man-made catastrophic global warming would nevertheless answer “yes” to both questions. However, the survey was silent on whether the human impact – or the rise in temperature – is large enough to constitute a problem. It also failed to include scientists most likely to be aware of natural causes of climate change.

There is no basis for the claim that 97% of scientists believe that man-made climate change is a dangerous problem.

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