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The Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming

In 2013–2014, only four of 69,604 publishing climate scientists rejected anthropogenic global warming. The consensus on anthropogenic global warming is not 97 percent, as is widely claimed; it is above 99.9 percent.

On May 16, 2013, President Obama tweeted that “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” The President is one of countless people who have come to believe that there is a “97% consensus” on anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

Since it is inconceivable that any climate scientist today could have no opinion on the subject, if 97 percent accept AGW it follows that 3 percent reject it. To those outside of science, 3 percent may seem an insignificant percentage. However, we scientists know that a small minority has often turned out to be right, otherwise there would have been no scientific revolutions. In the 1950s, for example, the percentage of American geologists who accepted continental drift was likely less than 3 percent. Yet they were right.

If there were a 3 percent minority on AGW it would matter, but there is not. The “97% consensus” is false. The percentage of publishing climate scientists who accept AGW is at least 99.9 percent and may verge on unanimity.

How, then, has nearly everyone from President Obama on down come to buy the claim of a 97 percent consensus? The figure comes from a 2013 ar ticle in Environmental Research Letters by Cook et al. titled “Quantifying the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature.” They reported that “Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming” (emphasis added). The 97 percent figure went viral and, not surprisingly, the qualifying phrase “expressing a position”—the fine print, if you will—got dropped. But those three words expose the false assumption inherent in the Cook et al. methodology.

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About Skeptical Inquirer

The Man Who Solved the BERMUDA TRIANGLE ‘MYSTERY’ LARRY KUSCHE Looks Back on His Classic Investigation BIOCENTRISM: A Curious ‘Me’ Universe The Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming and much more....
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