Is There Really a 97 Percent Consensus on Global Warming?

August 1, 2014

Climate change proponents routinely cite the "scientific consensus" that surrounds anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. But NCPA Senior Fellow Michael Stroup explains where that "scientific consensus" comes from and why the numbers are unreliable.

In 2013, a group of scientists published a study in Environmental Research Letters entitled, "Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature." The study reviewed the abstracts of 11,944 scientific papers dealing with global warming and climate change. According to climate change activists, the study is proof that 97 percent of scientists in the climate research community agree that global warming is human-caused.

Except, explains Stroup, that the study did not make that conclusion. In fact:

  • The study examined more than 11,944 peer-reviewed articles published from 1991 to 2011.
  • The researchers tracked which studies stated an opinion on human-caused global warming and which did not. Of those that did state an opinion, the researchers determined whether the reports supported, rejected or were uncertain about the cause of global warming.
  • Of the studies examined, 66.4 percent of the abstracts expressed no position whatsoever on human-caused global warming.
  • Of the abstracts that did express an opinion on human-caused warming, 97.1 percent endorsed the notion that it was human-caused.

Stroup likens the 97 percent claim to a survey of 10,000 ice cream lovers. Imagine a survey that asked respondents what their preferred ice cream brand was, but more than half of those surveyed do not respond to the question. If 97 percent of those who did respond to the question report that their favorite ice cream is Haagen Dazs, asks Stroup, is that proof that all ice cream lovers support the consensus view that Haagen Dazs is the best ice cream?

Stroup cautions policymakers to engage in logical analysis when crafting environmental policies, not spin misleading statistics.

Source: Michael Stroup, "The Big Lie of the "Consensus View" on Global Warming," Energy and Environment: Clearing the Air Blog, National Center for Policy Analysis, July 30, 2014. 

 

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