Ted Cruz, the Sierra club, cooking and burning, the pause, and the 97% consensus.

During a hearing of a Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday Oct. 6 regarding regulation and minorities, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is running for the Republican nomination on a platform that includes rejection of mainstream climate change political science, seized an opportunity to show off his debating skills and knowledge of facts.

In the video below Cruz is questioning Aaron Mair, president of the Sierra Club, and an epidemiological-spatial analyst with the New York State Department of Health.

Senator Cruz asked if the Sierra club President was familiar with the term “the pause”. After conferring with his technical expert Mr. Mair said it referred to the pause in global warming during the 4o’s.

Sen. Cruz tried to educate Mr Mair it referred to the 18 year pause in global warming as presented by the satellite data. To which Mr. Mair answered “we concur with what 97% of scientists say” and that “the earth is cooking and heating up and warming.”

Senator Cruz wanted to know if the Sierra Club would change their beliefs about man-made global warming if they were shown facts that disproved it. Cruz didn’t get an answer. Just the usual, “we concur with what 97% of scientists say.”

So, Where did that 97% of scientists consensus come from?

The number stems from a 2009 online survey of 10,257 earth scientists, conducted by two researchers at the University of Illinois. The survey results must have disappointed the researchers – in the end, they chose to highlight the views of a subgroup of just 77 scientists, 75 of whom thought humans contributed to climate change.  The ratio 75/77 produces the 97% figure that pundits now tout.

The two researchers started by altogether excluding from their survey the thousands of scientists most likely to think that the Sun, or planetary movements, might have something to do with climate on Earth – out were the solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists, astronomers and scientist engineers with specialty control theory and thermodynamics. That left the 10,257 scientists in disciplines like geology, oceanography, paleontology, and geochemistry that were somehow deemed more worthy of being included in the consensus. The two researchers also decided that scientific accomplishment should not be a factor in who could answer – those surveyed were determined by their place of employment (an academic or a governmental institution). Neither was academic qualification a factor – about 1,000 of those surveyed did not have a PhD, some didn’t even have a master’s diploma. The responses were still not satisfactory, so the subgroup was further cull down to those who in the past years had written multiple peer-reviewed papers on climate science. This yielded the 77.

To encourage a high participation among these remaining disciplines, the two researchers decided on a quickie survey that would take less than two minutes to complete, and would be done online, saving the respondents the hassle of mailing a reply. Nevertheless, most didn’t consider the quickie survey worthy of response –just 3146, or 30.7%, answered the two questions on the survey:

1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

The survey was taken in 1999, after a rapid temperature rise due to an unusually strong el nino, and nearly everybody had switched side from believing in global cooling in the 60’s to global warming, but even with that only 90% thought global temperatures had risen since the little ice age.

The second question is a little misleading for the average person. To a scientist significant means it is measurable outside the margin of error, not that it is major or even large, just that it should not be ignored. We can all agree that human activity such as clear cutting forests and turning the area into asphalt jungles will change the local climate. This is called urban heat islands. Likewise changing forests into agricultural lands tends to heat up the land by up to one degree. Air pollution tends to lower temperatures and is considered bad, adding CO2 tends to increase average global temperatures, the question is by how much and if that is good or bad.

Notice the second question did not deal at all with CO2, nor did it say anything about dominant contributing factor. Yet it is often cited in conjunction with “the 97%”

The other interesting question was: What is “the pause”

As presented by satellite data there has been no significant warming in the last 18 years and 8 months, as is seen in the following picture:18yr8monthspause

And the satellite data keep showing us this even though we are having a rather strong el nino. Without it the temperatures would be in decline.

For a discussion on “the pause” vs. “Warmest year on record” see: https://lenbilen.com/2015/10/12/obama-on-leadership-cop21-the-pause-warmest-year-on-record-the-facts/

See also: https://lenbilen.com/2014/07/01/eleven-signs-of-cooling-a-new-little-ice-age-coming/

Source for “the 97%” : http://sppiblog.org/news/that-97-solution-again

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Retired engineer, graduated from Chalmers Technical University a long time ago with a degree in Technical Physics. Career in Aerospace, Analytical Chemistry, computer chip manufacturing and finally adjunct faculty at Pennsylvania State University, taught just one course in Computer Engineering, the Capstone Course.

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