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Appeared in the Financial Post
Putting the 'con' in consensus;
Not only is there no 97 per cent consensus among climate scientists, many misunderstand core issues
In the lead-up to the Paris climate summit, massive activist pressure is on all governments, especially Canada’s, to fall in line with the global warming agenda and accept emission targets that could seriously harm our economy. One of the most powerful rhetorical weapons being deployed is the claim that 97 per cent of the world’s scientists agree what the problem is and what we have to do about it. In the face of such near-unanimity, it would be understandable if Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Canadian government were simply to capitulate and throw Canada’s economy under the climate change bandwagon. But it would be a tragedy because the 97 per cent claim is a fabrication.
Like so much else in the climate change debate, one needs to check the numbers. First of all, on what exactly are 97 per cent of experts supposed to agree? In 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama sent out a tweet claiming 97 per cent of climate experts believe global warming is “real, man-made and dangerous.” As it turns out, the survey he was referring to didn’t ask that question, so he was basically making it up. At a recent debate in New Orleans, I heard climate activist Bill McKibben claim there was a consensus that greenhouse gases are “a grave danger.” But when challenged for the source of his claim, he promptly withdrew it.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asserts the conclusion that most (more than 50 per cent) of the post-1950 global warming is due to human activity, chiefly greenhouse gas emissions and land use change. But it does not survey its own contributors, let alone anyone else, so we do not know how many experts agree with it. And the statement, even if true, does not imply that we face a crisis requiring massive restructuring of the worldwide economy. In fact, it is consistent with the view that the benefits of fossil fuel use greatly outweigh the climate-related costs.
One commonly cited survey asked if carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and human activities contribute to climate change. But these are trivial statements that even many IPCC skeptics agree with. And again, both statements are consistent with the view that climate change is harmless. So there are no policy implications of such surveys, regardless of the level of agreement.
The most highly cited paper supposedly found 97 per cent of published scientific studies support man-made global warming. But in addition to poor survey methodology, that tabulation is often misrepresented. Most papers (66 per cent) actually took no position. Of the remaining 34 per cent, 33 per cent supported at least a weak human contribution to global warming. So divide 33 by 34 and you get 97 per cent, but this is unremarkable since the 33 per cent includes many papers that critique key elements of the IPCC position.
Two recent surveys shed more light on what atmospheric scientists actually think. Bear in mind that on a topic as complex as climate change, a survey is hardly a reliable guide to scientific truth, but if you want to know how many people agree with your view, a survey is the only way to find out.
In 2012 the American Meteorological Society (AMS) surveyed its 7,000 members, receiving 1,862 responses. Of those, only 52% said they think global warming over the 20th century has happened and is mostly man-made (the IPCC position). The remaining 48% either think it happened but natural causes explain at least half of it, or it didn’t happen, or they don’t know. Furthermore, 53% agree that there is conflict among AMS members on the question.
So no sign of a 97% consensus. Not only do about half reject the IPCC conclusion, more than half acknowledge that their profession is split on the issue.
The Netherlands Environmental Agency recently published a survey of international climate experts. 6550 questionnaires were sent out, and 1868 responses were received, a similar sample and response rate to the AMS survey. In this case the questions referred only to the post-1950 period. 66% agreed with the IPCC that global warming has happened and humans are mostly responsible. The rest either don’t know or think human influence was not dominant. So again, no 97% consensus behind the IPCC.
But the Dutch survey is even more interesting because of the questions it raises about the level of knowledge of the respondents. Although all were described as “climate experts,” a large fraction only work in connected fields such as policy analysis, health and engineering, and may not follow the primary physical science literature.
Regarding the recent slowdown in warming, here is what the IPCC said: “The observed global mean surface temperature (GMST) has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years than over the past 30 to 60 years.” Yet 46 per cent of the Dutch survey respondents - nearly half - believe the warming trend has stayed the same or increased. And only 25 per cent agreed that global warming has been less than projected over the past 15 to 20 years, even though the IPCC reported that 111 out of 114 model projections overestimated warming since 1998.
Three quarters of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted.” Here is what the IPCC said in its 2003 report: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”
Looking into further detail there are other interesting ways in which the so called experts are unaware of unresolved discrepancies between models and observations regarding issues like warming in the tropical troposphere and overall climate sensitivity.
What can we take away from all this? First, lots of people get called “climate experts” and contribute to the appearance of consensus, without necessarily being knowledgeable about core issues. A consensus among the misinformed is not worth much.
Second, it is obvious that the “97%” mantra is untrue. The underlying issues are so complex it is ludicrous to expect unanimity. The near 50/50 split among AMS members on the role of greenhouse gases is a much more accurate picture of the situation. The phoney claim of 97% consensus is mere political rhetoric aimed at stifling debate and intimidating people into silence.
The Canadian government has the unenviable task of defending the interest of the energy producers and consumers of a cold, thinly-populated country, in the face of furious, deafening global warming alarmism. Some of the worst of it is now emanating from the highest places. Barack Obama’s website (barackobama.com) says “97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and man-made … Find the deniers near you - and call them out today.” How nice.
But what we really need to call out is the use of false propaganda and demagogy to derail factual debate and careful consideration of all facets of the most complex scientific and policy issue of our time.
Author: Ross McKitrick
Professor of Economics, University of Guelph
appeared - in the Heartland institute website
OCTOBER 19, 2018
HOW AL GORE BUILT THE GLOBAL WARMING FRAUD
And changed the alarmism from global cooling to global warming, and now climate change.
Although his science is often seriously wrong, no one can deny that Al Gore has a flare for the dramatic. Speaking about climate change in an October 12 PBS interview, the former vice-president proclaimed, “We have a global emergency.” Referring to the most recent UN climate report, Gore claimed it showed that current global warming “could actually extend to an existential threat to human civilization on this planet as we know it.”
Al Gore’s overblown rhetoric makes no sense, of course. Yet his hyperbolic claims beg the question: How did this all start?
Back in the 1970s, media articles warning of imminent climate change problems began to appear regularly. TIME and Newsweek ran multiple cover stories asserting that oil companies and America’s capitalist life style were causing catastrophic damage to Earth’s climate. They claimed scientists were almost unanimous in their opinion that man made climate change would reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century.
The April 28, 1975 Newsweek proposed solutions that even included outlawing internal combustion engines.
This sounds very similar to today's climate change debate – except, in the 70s, the fear was man made global cooling, not warming.
TIME magazine’s January 31, 1977 cover featured a story, “How to Survive The Coming Ice Age.” It included “facts” such as scientists predicting that Earth’s so-called average temperature could drop by 20 degrees Fahrenheit due to man made global cooling. Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned readers that “the drop in temperature between 1945 and 1968 had taken us one sixth of the way to the next Ice Age temperature.”
Global cooling gained considerable traction with the general public. But then, instead of cooling as long predicted by man made climate change advocates, the planet started warming again. Something had to be done to rescue the climate change agenda from utter disaster. Enter Al Gore.
Al Gore Sr., a powerful Senator from Tennessee, saw to it that his son was elected to the House of Representatives, serving from 1977 to 1985, then going on to the Senate from 1985 to 1993. Gore Junior’s primary issue was his conviction that the Earth would perish if we did not eliminate fossil fuels.
Gore advanced to Vice President under President Bill Clinton, where he was able to enact policies and direct funding to ensure that the climate change agenda became a top priority of the United States Government. Gore’s mission was boosted when Clinton gave him authority over the newly created President’s Council on Sustainable Development.
It will come as no surprise then that, when the Council’s Charter was revised on April 25, 1997, the “Scope of Activities” included the following direction to the Council:
Advise the President on domestic implementation of policy options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Council should not debate the science of global warming [emphasis added], but should instead focus on the implementation of national and local greenhouse gas reduction policies and activities, and adaptations in the U.S. economy and society that maximize environmental and social benefits, minimize economic impacts, and are consistent with U.S. international agreements. The Council should, at a minimum, identify and encourage potentially replicable examples of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across diverse sectors and levels of society.
Considering that the Council was tasked with advising the President “on matters involving sustainable development,” and alternative points of view on the science of climate change were effectively excluded, it was a foregone conclusion that the Clinton administration would go in the direction Gore wanted. Indeed, in their cover letter to the President accompanying their 1999 report, Advancing Prosperity, Opportunity and a Healthy Environment for the 21st Century, the Council stated: “Our report presents consensus recommendations on how America can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take other steps to protect the climate.”
A cornerstone of Gore’s strategy was to ensure that all high-ranking government officials who had any involvement with funding policies relating to climate change were in line with his vision. These agencies included the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, Department of Education, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
An example of his power was shown when physicist Dr. William Happer, then Director of Energy Research at the Department of Energy, testified before Congress in 1993 that scientific data did not support the hypothesis of man made global warming. Gore saw to it that Happer was immediately fired. Fifteen years later, Happer quipped, “I had the privilege of being fired by Al Gore, since I refused to go along with his alarmism. I did not need the job that badly.”
Al Gore was also able to leverage his high visibility, his movie awards, his Nobel Prize, and his involvement in various carbon trading and other schemes into a personal fortune. When he ended his tenure as Vice President in 2001, his net worth was $2 million. By 2013, it exceeded $300 million.
Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, provided a series of graphic images showing the apocalyptic consequences that some had predicted if fossil fuels were allowed to continue warming the planet. Images included melting glaciers, dying polar bears, spreading diseases, coastal cities inundated by massive floods, cities wiped out by hurricanes and tornadoes, and food supplies exterminated by droughts.
This compelling propaganda played a major role in frightening an entire generation about the future, causing young people and many parents to feel guilty about the role that they and their country were supposedly having in destroying our beautiful planet.
Since then, Americans have been told constantly that they should feel irresponsible if they drive cars or use fossil fuel energy to heat their homes or power their businesses. A rapid, massive conversion away from coal, oil and natural gas to renewable energy sources such and wind and solar, we are told, is the only hope for saving the planet.
Now children are increasingly depressed about their future, thanks to the constant barrage of global warming propaganda that they receive at school. Indeed, they have become so brainwashed and cowed by their peers that they no longer dare to question any statement made about catastrophic climate change.
Yet, essentially everything in Gore's climate change agenda is either wrong or highly misrepresented.
Now that he is President Donald Trump’s Senior Scientist for the National Security Council, Dr. Happer needs to show there is no “scientific consensus” on these issues, rekindle informed debate on climate and energy issues, and help bring hope, common sense and real science back into the discourse – to help end the dangerous mythology of dangerous man made global warming.
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. is the science director at The Heartland Institute.