The origin of the 97% consensus, a Limerick.

Canard: Ninety-seven percent,

on Climate Change give their assent

that it is getting warm,

and they want to conform

and blame CO2, they’re hell-bent.

pies-public-scienceHow did the 97% consensus come about, and is this claim valid, or do 55% of the public have a point?  The number 97%  stems from a 2008 master’s thesis by student Maggie Kendall Zimmerman at the University of Illinois, under the guidance of Peter Doran, an associate professor of Earth and environmental sciences. The two researchers obtained their results by conducting a survey of 10,257 Earth scientists, excluding scientists most likely to think that the Sun,  planetary movements or cosmic radiation might have something to do with climate on Earth — such as solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, astronomers and meteorologists.

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 3,146, or 30.7%, answered the two key questions on the survey:

1. When compared with pre-1800 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 10,257 scientists in such disciplines as geology, geography, oceanography, engineering, paleontology and geochemistry were somehow deemed more worthy of being included in the consensus. The two researchers also decided that only scientists employed by an academic or a governmental institution  would qualify. 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 questions posed to the Earth scientists were actually non-questions. Nearly all scientists know the planet has warmed since the 1700s, and almost all think humans have contributed in some way to the recent warming — quite apart from carbon dioxide emissions, few would doubt that urbanization,  clearing of forests for agricultural purposes,  or misguided irrigation efforts such as the Aral Sea disaster have affected the climate. When pressed for a figure, global warming skeptics might say humans are responsible for 10% or 15% of the warming; some skeptics place the upper bound of man’s contribution at 35%. The skeptics only deny that humans played a dominant role in Earth’s warming.

Surprisingly, just 90% of the Earth scientists who responded to the first question believed that temperatures had risen — I would have expected a figure closer to 100%, since Earth was in the Little Ice Age in the centuries immediately preceding 1800. But perhaps some of the responders interpreted the question to include the past 2,000 years, when Earth was in the Medieval  or Roman Warm Period, when the climate was warmer than today.

As for the second question, 82% of the Earth scientists replied that human activity had significantly contributed to the warming. For openers, the question is a catch-all, is it CO2, pollution, urban development, cutting down of forests, failed irrigation projects or what? Secondly, how much is significantly?

To get up the percentage of positive responses above the 82% they excluded all the Earth scientists whose recently published peer-reviewed research wasn’t mostly in the field of climate change. This subset reduced the number of remaining scientists from over 3,000 to under 300. But the percentage that now resulted still fell short of the researchers’ ideal, so they chose a subset of 77 scientists that in the last 5 years had published multiple, peer reviewed papers, paid for by their respective academic institutions.

Once all these cuts were made, 75 out of 77 scientists of unknown qualifications were left endorsing the global warming orthodoxy. The two researchers, the master’s student and her prof, were then satisfied.

This claim was picked up by politicians and became truth that could not be disputed or you  were called the scum of the earth, worse than terrorists. Many more surveys, all intended to confirm the original claim

ritchie-2_121416The newer surveys also intended to confirm that it is CO2 that is the cause of Anthropogenic Climate Change. Because the U.N. agency IPCC insists that CO2 is the dominant, if not sole factor affecting Climate Change most scientists, eager to maintain funding tended to comply.

Lately there has been exposed one scandal after another has exposed massive data manipulation, from Climate Gate to changing old temperature tables eliminating the heat waves of the 30’s, just to name a few.

So, is there Anthropogenic Global Warming, and if so, is the cause mainly increasing CO2?

The jury is still out.


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Engineer, graduated from Chalmers Technical University a long time ago with a degree in Technical Physics. Career in Aerospace, Analytical Chemistry, and chip manufacturing. Presently adjunct faculty at PSU, teaching one course in Computer Engineering, the Capstone Course.

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