Is it Really True, as Climate Change Activists Claim, That 97% of Scientists Agree With Them?

We’re publishing a guest post today by David Craig, author of There Is No Climate Crisis. This is the first of a number of guest posts we’ll be running about global warming and net zero in the run up to and during COP26.

Our Government is imposing draconian limitations on our lifestyles, our economy and our finances in order to achieve net zero carbon emissions to supposedly save the planet from catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW), now renamed as climate change. Probably one of the most repeated arguments you’ll hear, over and over again, in support of the need to achieve net zero is that “97% of scientists agree CAGW is happening”.

Former President Barack Obama is just one of many who have made this claim: “97% percent of scientists agree: climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.”

So did President Joe Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, when he warned of the “crippling consequences” of climate change and that: “97% percent of the world’s scientists tell us this is urgent.”

This claim is widely accepted. Yet, in spite of the damaging effects reaching net zero will have on Western economies, not a single politician or journalist seems to have made the effort to find out where this ‘97%’ figure came from and how accurate it actually is.

Statistical smoke and mirrors?

The main author of the paper which came up with the famous 97% figure was an Australian former web programmer and blogger who later gained a PhD in Philosophy at the School of Psychology, University of Western Australia and then founded what could be seen as a climate alarmist website.

He assembled a group of volunteers as part of a ‘citizen science’ project and tasked them with”‘examining 11,944 climate abstracts from 1991-2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming'”. Note that the volunteers didn’t read the actual scientific papers, they just looked at the abstracts – a summary paragraph or two describing what was in the papers. The volunteers then classed the abstracts into one of seven categories according to their opinions of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW):

1.           Explicit endorsement of AGW with quantification

2.           Explicit endorsement of AGW without quantification

3.           Implicit endorsement of AGW

4.           No position or Uncertain

5.           Implicit rejection of AGW

6.           Explicit rejection of AGW without quantification

7.           Explicit rejection of AGW with quantification

The reviewers then ‘simplified’ results into four main categories as follows:

Endorse AGW                    3,896                  32.6% of abstracts

No AGW position             7,930                  66.4% of abstracts

Reject AGW                       78                        0.7% of abstracts

Uncertain on AGW          40                        0.3% of abstracts

So, this gave only 32.6% who, the reviewers concluded, endorsed AGW. This was clearly not quite the stunning super-majority of 97% which the study claimed to have identified. Now comes the clever bit. Instead of admitting that just 32.6% of papers (actually just abstracts of papers) endorsed AGW, the group decided to remove all the 7,930 abstracts which didn’t take a position on AGW.  Then, hey presto, magic happened. That left just 4,014 abstracts of which 3,896 (97%) supposedly ‘endorsed’ AGW.

This was a bit like doing a survey of the voting intentions of 1,000 people. You find that 90 say they’ll vote Democrat (U.S.) or Labour (U.K.) and 10 say they’ll vote Republican (U.S.) or Conservative (U.K.) and the remaining 900 say they’re “undecided”. You then choose to eliminate the 900 “undecided” and you claim that 90% of voters support Democrats (U.S.) or Labour (U.K.) and just 10% of voters will vote Republican (U.S.) or Conservative (U.K.). This is, of course, complete statistical buffoonery as the real percentage of the sampled 1,000 voters who have said they will vote Democrat/Labour is actually just 9% and not 90%.

But that’s not the end of the magic employed to reach that wondrous 97%. The reviewers decided to lump together three categories of abstracts – Explicit endorsement with quantification; Explicit endorsement without quantification and Implicit Endorsement. But in the paper claiming 97% support for AGW, the reviewers don’t tell us how many papers fitted into each of these three categories. An independent researcher managed to get hold of the original data file and claimed to have found that in 3,896 abstracts which supposedly ‘endorsed’ AGW, just 64 were in the Explicit endorsement with quantification category; 922 were in the Explicit endorsement without quantification; and the vast majority – 2,910 (out of 3,896) – were in the Implicit endorsement of AGW category. Deciding from an abstract of a scientific article that the article ‘implicitly’ supports AGW is a bit like walking down a high street and deciding you know how people will vote based purely on looking at the kind of clothes they wear. To propose this as a serious survey is beyond ludicrous.

Thus, if this independent researcher’s figures are accurate, when you dig down into how the ‘97% of scientists’ figure was actually conjured up, you find that only 986 of 11,944 – that’s just 8.2% – of abstracts actually explicitly said they agreed with the theory of man-made global warming. And that’s clearly not the kind of figure the apocalypse-threatening climate catastrophists would really want to publicise too widely.

So, this ‘97% of scientists’ claim is based on about 11 to 12 volunteers, whose scientific credentials have not (as far as I know) been released and all of whom were probably firm AGW believers, each having to look at around 1,000, often quite obtuse, scientific abstracts. During this review, they decided whether they thought the scientific papers (which they hadn’t read as they had only looked at the abstracts) explicitly or implicitly supported the AGW theory. To claim such an approach is statistically valid is beyond farcical. Given the damage reaching net zero will do to our economies and our lives, it is beyond incredible that not a single politician, mainstream-media journalist or editor seems to have had either the ability or the inclination to expose the more than dubious origins of the almost ubiquitous ‘97% of scientists endorse AGW’ claim.

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