The slippery claim that 97% of some unspecified group of scientists thinks some unspecified thing about man-made climate change is apparently not enough anymore. So now it’s more than 99%. More than 99.9% in fact. Oh, and shut up; in the press release the lead author, Mark Lynas, said “This pretty much should be the last word” and “it’s pretty much case closed for any meaningful public conversation about the reality of human-caused climate change”. Not that the author ever supported meaningful public conversation. This is the same Mark Lynas who was caught on video years ago throwing a pie at Bjørn Lomborg to protest him releasing a book critiquing climate orthodoxy. Just the sort of person we trust to assess the state of opinion on an important scientific question.
In our “97% Myth” video we examined the actual basis for the older 97% claim and found it to be statistically risible, such as ignoring most of the answers in a survey sample and focusing only on the ones that told the authors what they wanted to hear. And it is also both funny and frustrating that people who repeat it are very hard-pressed, if challenged, to explain where they got it from. (Just as people who laugh at medieval fools for thinking the Earth was flat are flummoxed if asked to give evidence either that people did believe it back then or why they should not have; in fact John of Holywood’s popular medieval text De Sphaera mundi gave three proofs that the Earth is round and we doubt smug moderns could come up with ones as good.)
Nevertheless the alarmists, trying to silence debate with a mallet not evidence, have seized upon the Lynas study. Or at least its headline “Greater than 99% consensus on human caused climate change in the peer-reviewed scientific literature”. Na na boo boo.
The authors of this paper claim that “From a dataset of 88125 climate-related papers published since 2012, when this question was last addressed comprehensively, we examine a randomized subset of 3000 such publications.” Which already raises our eyebrows, since the 2012 study cannot properly be described as comprehensive. As Anthony Watts observed, even the Guardian with its appeal to “Support urgent climate journalism” found space for a savage critique of its methodology by someone who believes in man-made climate change.
Lynas and coauthors also say “We also use a second sample-weighted approach that was specifically biased with keywords to help identify any sceptical peer-reviewed papers in the whole dataset. We identify four sceptical papers out of the sub-set of 3000, as evidenced by abstracts that were rated as implicitly or explicitly sceptical of human-caused global warming. In our sample utilizing pre-identified sceptical keywords we found 28 papers that were implicitly or explicitly sceptical. We conclude with high statistical confidence that the scientific consensus on human-caused contemporary climate change – expressed as a proportion of the total publications – exceeds 99% in the peer reviewed scientific literature.”
If these authors really only found four papers that question whatever exactly “Anthropogenic Climate Change” is meant to mean, then either they weren’t looking very hard or the Inquisition has clamped down ferociously on free inquiry. For instance, in the last two weeks our Newsletter and blog have described two studies that show peculiar behaviour by clouds, not greenhouse gases, accounting for much of the increased absorption of short-wave solar radiation over the past two decades. No curiosity about it? What about the question of why the planet isn’t warming as fast as the models say it should be? Or how much of the warming since 1850 has been natural?
When we ask what “ACC” is meant to mean we are referring to whether all these scientists think there’s some human impact on climate, or that we’re the dominant influence, and furthermore whether it’s a dangerous thing either way. These are vastly different positions: If someone says look, I think it’s warmed a degree since the Crimean War and humans caused some of it but it isn’t a problem, it’s time to hit the snooze button, whereas if they say humans caused all of it and it’s a crisis, it’s time to hit the panic button. So which is it?
In fact if you drill down far enough you find that in their 3,000-paper randomly whatever sample, exactly 19 think humans are the predominant cause, 413 say we have some impact, 460 don’t say it but seem to assume it, and 2,104 take… no position. But for good measure, they count them as endorsing the consensus. Their justification is “given that most 4a (‘no position’) ratings do not either explicitly or implicitly differ from the consensus view of GHG emissions as the principal driver of climate change it does not follow in our view that these analyses should be a priori excluded from the consensus.” Stalin would approve of this method of vote-counting. Especially as they then summon the secret police to hunt out enemies of the people: “Of course, the prevalence of mis/disinformation about the role of GHG emissions in modern climate change is unlikely to be driven purely by genuine scientific illiteracy or lack of understanding”.
We say let’s try this math again. Of those 3,000 papers, 19 say humans are mainly responsible and 4 say they’re not. The rest is eye of newt. Including their “Discussion” claim that “Our analysis demonstrates >99% agreement in the peer-reviewed scientific literature on the principal role of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities in driving modern climate change (i.e. since the Industrial Revolution).” No it does not. Especially the “principal” role.
Even if it did, it would only show that climate science has turned into a giant echo chamber in which the guardians of orthodoxy only allow confirmatory evidence into peer-reviewed journals. Which again is neither sound science nor sound methodology. Anyone interested in the truth of a hypothesis wants to weigh arguments pro and con and is certainly not afraid to do so. To quote John Stuart Mill again, “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”
As Martin Landvoigt suggested, the fact that this paper survived peer review is sufficient to call that practice into serious question. We beg to agree.