'Every year climate science seems to get less sure until I want to shout 'Just vanish back into obscurity until you've got a handle on this mess! Go on, go to your room and don't come out till your predictions last longer than it takes the ink to dry on them." '

Jun 29, 2013 'TinyCO2' commenting at Bishop Hill


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Climate Chumps and Climate Cheats – '97%' is the tell-tale to find them

The sails on some boats have short lengths of wool attached to them to show the manner in which the air is flowing past. They are called tell-tales, and let the sailor know if the sail needs trimming.

The '97%' statistic can act as a tell-tale to let you know the manner of person you are dealing with when it is deployed to promote alarm over our impact on climate. I make the crude division of those who deploy it that way into climate chumps or climate cheats. The former have merely been deceived themselves, the latter want to deceive others.  

The basic deceit being that something like 97% of climate scientists or 97% of climate science papers support an alarmist view of climate change and our contribution to it.  Who could argue with such numbers?  Well, many people can and have.  When the sources of such claims have been checked out, they are found to be so unimpressive that it is grossly irresponsible for anyone to rely on them. At best, they indicate support for banalities such as 'climate changes', 'there was global warming in the 20th Century', 'CO2 is a greenhouse gas', 'humans contribute a warming effect by releasing CO2 into the atmosphere'.  None of these is intrinsically alarming.  For example, they are all perfectly consistent with the assertion that there is no problem.

The climate chumps relay the '97%' in conversation, in blog comments, and so on, but they do so in complete ignorance of the shoddy nature of the various derivations of this stinky statistic. Lots of ordinary members of the public might fall into this category. They may know next to nothing about the climate system, but they have heard the relentless propaganda in school, on tv, or in their newspapers for years and maybe the 97% number just struck them as impressive. They need your gentle help to get a clearer view.

The climate cheats know, or ought to know, that the '97%' is a stinker of a statistic, but nevertheless, they make a big deal out of it, even seeing it as a clincher in PR-work and other carefully produced materials. They include specialist journalists, bloggers, politicians, and civil servants. They ought to check the origins of prominent statistics used in their arguments. They deserve your sharp criticism for deploying something so shoddy and deceptive.

So, when you see the 97% being deployed in ways that are meant to impress and convince you that you should believe in climate catastrophe, or 'dangerous global warming' as President Obama put it, regard it as a tell-tale that you are reading/listening/watching either a chump or a cheat. A couple of questions, or maybe just a little more of your attention, should help you decide which label is the right one. If it is being used in this way in school materials which you or your children are exposed to, then make a formal complaint about them.

Andrew Montford has recently written a GWPF report (link is to the pdf file) on one of the most prominent and recent sources of '97%' - the notorious Cook et al. paper of 2013 - and he summarises some of the criticisms made about it by academics: 

e.g. Mike Hulme:

The [Cook et al.] article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed.
It obscures the complexities of the climate issue and it is a sign of the desperately
poor level of public and policy debate in this country that the energy minister
should cite it. It offers a similar depiction of the world into categories of ‘right’ and
‘wrong’ to that adopted in [an earlier study]: dividing publishing climate scientists
into ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’. It seems to me that these people are still living
(or wishing to live) in the pre-2009 world of climate change discourse. Haven’t
they noticed that public understanding of the climate issue has moved on?

e.g. Richard Tol

Reported results are inconsistent and biased. The sample is not representative and
contains many irrelevant papers. Overall, data quality is low. Cook’s validation test
shows that the data are invalid. Data disclosure is incomplete so that key results
cannot be reproduced or tested.

e.g. Jose Duarte

. . .completely invalid and untrustworthy (and by customary scientific standards,
completely unpublishable.) I had no idea this was happening. This is garbage,
and a crisis. It needs to stop, and [such] papers need to be retracted immediately,
especially Cook, et al (2013).

Montford quietly concludes 'The figure of 97% is entirely discredited, whatever the nature of the

For an introduction to criticisms of Cook et al. and other sources of '97%', see my earlier post:

Update 27 March 2015:  A useful summary of the Cook et al.  nonsense is given by Richard Tol here: http://richardtol.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/now-almost-two-years-old-john-cooks-97.html

Update 18 May 2015. Ross McKitrick undermines the '97%' nonsense even further by pointing to ignorance on the part of many of those classed in surveys as 'climate scientists':  http://business.financialpost.com/fp-comment/climate-change-consensus-among-the-misinformed-is-not-worth-much

Update 19 February 2019
The tell-tale is still needed, still working, but this post has a neat rejoinder :  http://www.cfact.org/2019/02/17/32717/

No comments: