Kerry’s 97 Percent of What?

This year’s graduating class at Boston College was treated to empty rhetoric about “climate change” by its commencement speaker, Secretary of State John Kerry. During his discourse, he derided any questioning of the failed computer models of global cooling, global warming, climate change or now climate interruption, labeling such questioners as “skeptics.” To assuage all remaining doubts, he finished by affirming, “And supposing I’m wrong or scientists are wrong, 97 percent of them all wrong – supposing they are, what’s the worst that can happen?”1 Is Kerry honestly implying that 97 percent of all scientists support global warming?

Such an attitude frustrates the very purpose of science. The very role of scientific study is to question; it is to be skeptical of outcome allowing for solid evidence, not politics, to form opinions. It comes as no surprise that Kerry is presenting as fact, the idea that there is a real consensus on global warming, but this is not the case. The 97 percent consensus figure he quotes actually represents the opinion of only a small fraction of one sector of the scientific community.

The very notion of a scientific consensus around this issue was created for ideological and political purposes in order to advance the environmental agenda. On the scientific front, no scientist has ever been able to measure the human contribution to climate change. Even though scientists can prove that temperatures on parts of the earth have changed, there is no conclusive evidence that it has been caused by human activity.

With complex algorithms and scarce data, some scientists have generated computer models attempting to demonstrate future global temperatures, all of which have failed miserably. The majority of these models are based on the assumption that any change has been caused by humans. With many well-documented studies showing climate fluctuation occurring during an era of certain human activity, any serious scientist recognizes that correlation does not establish causation. When one rises in the morning, the sun comes up, ergo; the sun comes up because of one’s rising?

So how is it possible to cite a 97 percent consensus? What is the origin of this figure and whom does it represent? The American Geophysical Union (AGU) conducted a very simple non-scientific two-question survey in 2009 created by two researchers from the University of Illinois. It was sent to 10,257 scientists resulting in 3,146 responses of which only 8.5 percent responders were climate scientists.2

The first question asked: “When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?” The response to this question showed 90 percent were of the opinion that temperatures have risen.

The second question inquired: “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?” Some 82 percent answered yes. Bear in mind there was no defining criteria given to understand what the words significant or changes meant, nor were they placed in context. While it is interesting to know what a scientist thinks, most people are more concerned with what he knows.

From this 82 percent group consisting of 2,580, a small subset of 79 responses were selected using the criterion of whether these scientists had been successful in getting more than half of their papers accepted in peer-reviewed climate science journals. From these 79 responses, a total of 76 answered yes their papers had been accepted, thus producing the infamous “97 percent consensus” garnered from a whopping 76 scientists. Translated, the 97 percent consensus equals an embarrassing 76 scientists! 3

When one looks at the facts culled from this ambiguous survey, it would have been more honest for Kerry to say that 76 out of 267 earth scientists have an incomplete opinion that human activity might have some influence on climate change. Until facts are presented in this debate, the mere repetition of a supposed consensus appears much more like political propaganda than scientific fact. Any student schooled in critical thinking should have grilled Mr. Kerry demanding to know: Ninety-seven percent of what?

 

Footnotes

  1. http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/kerry-if-were-wrong-climate-change-whats-worst-can-happen_793392.html
  2. http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf
  3. http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf

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