What is there a 97% consensus about?

At the Senate Hearing on “Dogma and Data”, dogma about the 97% consensus went unchallenged. Democratic Senators constantly recited the phrase “97% consensus”, but it is not clear whether they – or their Republican opponents – had the slightest idea what the phrase meant: 97% of what group support a consensus about exactly what?

The objective of this post is to provide some useful information about this dogma – data on the dogma, so to speak.

The most recent study claiming a 97% consensus is Cook et al, Environ. Res. Lett. It was voted the most influential ERL paper of 2013 and was downloaded far more than any other ERL paper. The authors examined the abstracts of 11,944 peer-reviewed journal articles published between 1991 and 2012 to determine the level of scientific consensus for the position “humans are causing global warming”. Unfortunately, the key issue is not whether anthropogenic GHGs have caused any increase in global temperature – the issue is how much global warming have they caused.

Quantitative estimates attribution are much more meaningful – such as the IPCC AR4 statement that anthropogenic GHGs are “very likely responsible for most global warming”. To understand why, consider the possibility that exactly 50% of global warming has been caused by the rise in anthropogenic GHGs (This is the usual threshold for statements asserting that ‘most’ or ‘more than half’ of the warming is caused by anthropogenic GHGs. ) The remaining 50% of global warming would have been caused by naturally forced variability (solar or volcanic) or unforced (internal) variability. If 50% of warming had been forced by GHGs, climate would be far less sensitive to GHGs than if 100% had been forced.

Otto et al. (2013) studied the relationship between forcing and warming during 1971-2010, a period when this relationship was not significantly perturbed by a change in anthropogenic aerosols, and solar and volcanic forcing was being monitored. (This paper was co-authored by more than a dozen authors of the IPCC chapter dealing with attribution and climate sensitivity.) Assuming that all of the observed warming were attributed to rising GHGs, these authors concluded that the best estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity was 2.0 degC (with a 95% confidence interval of 1.2-3.9 degC).

If only half of the observed warming were due to rising GHGs (and the rest to unforced variability/chaos), the best estimate for ECS would be 1.0 C. Even under the IPCC’s worst-case scenario – a tripling of the pre-industrial CO2 concentration by 2100 the best estimate for total global warming would be only 1.5 C. For all but the most extreme advocates of the precautionary principle, the rational for immediate and massive cuts in CO2 emissions would be fatally weakened. (Extreme concerns could be eliminated by postulating that 40% or 30% of observed warming could be attributed to anthropogenic GHGs.) Consequently, a dramatic difference exists between attributing an unspecified fraction of global warming and attributing most global warming to anthropogenic GHGs.

Recognizing the importance of attributing at least 50% of global warming to humans, Cook et al evaluated abstracts on a scale from 1 to 7 based on how clearly they endorsed or rejected this conclusion. Abstracts in category 1 were supposed to “explicitly state that humans are the primary cause of recent global warming”. Endorsement levels 2 and 3 covered explicit and implicit endorsement of the position that anthropogenic GHGs caused an unspecified amount of warming. Categories 5, 6 and 7 endorsed the opposite position. However, Cook (2013) disclosed only the combined results for categories 1-3 and 5-7.

The ratings by Cook et al can be accessed from the Consensus Project website. Entering “a” as the search term and then choosing a “level of endorsement” provides access to 12,280 rated abstracts in the project database, with the categories 4a (no position) and 4b (uncertain) combined. (I first encountered this strategy for obtaining raw data at Paul Homewood’s blog.) Cook (2013) discusses only 11,944 abstracts, 3% fewer than the project database currently contains. The results in Table 1 therefore represent near the same set of data as used by Cook (2013).

Table 1. Level of endorsement.

Slide1After discarding the abstracts that were judged to have taken no position, Cook (2013) reported a 97% consensus that anthropogenic GHGs were causing global warming. However, three-fourths of that consensus was judged to be implied and more than 98% of the agreement was expressed non-quantitatively. Consequently, no widespread consensus exists in these abstracts that humans are responsible for most of the global warming; only that humans are responsible for an unspecified amount of global warming. This consensus on non-quantitative attribution is too vague to be useful in developing policy – though it is relentlessly cited by nearly every Democratic policymaker including the President.

The Consensus Project found 65 abstracts endorsing and 10 rejecting quantitative attribution, an “87% consensus” – assuming their ratings were accurate. The small number of abstracts involved should not be surprising. Only a few experts are doing the difficult studies needed to quantitatively distinguish between unforced variability and at least four types of forced change: anthropogenic GHGs and aerosols, solar, and volcanic. Quantitative statements about attribution don’t belong in the abstract of papers on other subjects. Abstracts exist to report key findings in context. They are not public opinion surveys.

A tremendous amount of research on climate change has been published during the two decades reviewed by the “Consensus Project”. As can be seen in Table 2, the IPCC’s statements about the role of anthropogenic GHGs in global warming became increasingly quantitative and confident over this period.

Table 2. IPCC statements attributing global warming to anthropogenic GHGs.

FAR (1990) “The size of this warming [0 3°C to 0 6°C over the last 100 years] is broadly consistent with predictions of climate models, but it is also of the same magnitude as natural climate variability.”
SAR (1995) “The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate.”
TAR (2001) “Most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.”
4AR (2007) “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”
5AR (2013) It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together. The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.”

The Consensus Project’s database was analyzed to see if the ratings produced by Cook’s volunteers reflected a similar trend in quantitation and confidence over the two decades considered. The results in Tables 2a and 2b show a constant level of confidence and quantitation. Three hypothesis can be advanced to explain this result: a) The raters may have exhibited a constant bias when categorizing abstracts. b) The authors of the abstracts may disagree with the IPCC’s stronger attribution statements. c) The views of the authors can not be reliably discerned from abstracts.  As discussed above, human attribution was usually discussed or implied in the vast majority of these abstracts only to provide context, not to endorse a position. The ratings given to abstracts published by skeptical scientists (discussed below) support this hypothesis.

Table 2a. Change in Endorsement with Time.

Level of Endorsement 1991-1995 1996-2001 2002-2007 2008-2011 1991-2011
(1) Explicit endorsement with quantification 1.2% 1.2% 1.9% 1.7% 1.6%
(2) Explicit endorsement without quantification 21% 22% 23% 24% 23%
(3) Implicit endorsement 74% 75% 72% 73% 73%
(5) Implicit rejection 2.3% 0.9% 3.1% 2.1% 1.3%
(6) Explicit rejection without quantification 1.2% 0.6% 0.2% 0.2% 0.4%
(7) Explicit rejection with quantification 0.2% 0.0% 0.3% 0.3% 0.2%
Total abstracts endorsing a position 431 667 1174 1839 4011

Table 2b. Change in Percentage of Papers Endorsing a Position.

Level of Endorsement 1991-1995 1996-2001 2002-2007 2008-2011 1991-2001
(4) No Position or Uncertain 56% 64% 70% 68% 67%
Endorsing or Rejecting (1)+(2)+(3)+(5)+(6)+(7) 44% 36% 30% 32% 33%

Any abstract written before AR3 (2001) quantitatively attributing most global warming to humans would have gone far beyond the IPCC’s existing position that the human influence on climate was “consistent with natural variability” or barely “discernable”. (Section 8.6 of the SAR addresses the question: “When Will an Anthropogenic Effect on Climate be Detected? The phrase “a discernible influence” was a late addition.) Before 2007, use of the phrase “very likely” would have indicated more confidence in human attribution than the IPCC believed was warranted. At least two raters in Cook (2013) independently reached the conclusion that five abstracts published between 1991 and 1995 explicitly endorsed the position that anthropogenic GHGs were the primary cause of global warming. These abstracts illustrate ratings misjudgments that might be present elsewhere in the study.

1) Schlesinger, Michael E. and Ramankutty, Navin, “Implications for global warming of intercycle solar irradiance variations”, Nature (1992) 350 (6402), 330-333, [link]

Abstract. Following earlier studies, attention has recently been directed again to the possibility that long-term solar irradiance variations, rather than increased greenhouse gas concentrations, have been the dominant cause of the observed rise in global-mean surface temperature from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Friis-Christensen and Lassen report a high correlation (0.95) between the variable period of the ’11-year’ sunspot cycle and the mean Northern Hemisphere land surface temperature from 1865 to 1985. The Marshall Institute report concludes that ‘…the sun has been the controlling influence on climate in the last 100 years, with the greenhouse effect playing a smaller role.” Here we explore the implication that such putative solar irradiance variations would have for global warming. Our results provide strong circumstantial evidence that there have been intercycle variations in solar irradiance which have contributed to the observed temperature changes since 1856. However, we find that since the nineteenth century, greenhouse gases, not solar irradiance variations, have been the dominant contributor to the observed temperature changes.

The warming influence of GHGs was found to dominate changes in solar irradiance, but this conclusion certainly doesn’t demonstrate that GHGs were responsible for more than half of global warming. The possibility of unforced variability (and volcanoes) needs to be considered.

2) Roeckner, E., “Past, Present and Future Levels of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere and Model Projections of Related Climatic Changes.” Exp. Bot. (1992) 43 (8): 1097-1109 doi:10.1093/jxb/43.8.1097

Abstract. Ice core analyses of polar ice reveal a high correlation between climatic change and variations in the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane) over the last 160 000 years. Although the resolution of the data is not sufficient to determine the phase relationship between the respective variations, it is generally believed that climate change occurred first as a result of the quasi-periodic variations of the Earth’s orbital parameters. However, data and model results are consistent with the hypothesis that climate and atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases interact via a positive feedback loop.

The more recent increase in greenhouse gases since pre-industrial times can be related to human activities. Climate models predict a significant global warming of several degrees within the next century if the industrial emissions increase unabated. On the other hand, accelerated policies on emission control will significantly reduce the warming after a response time of a few decades.

This abstract endorses concerns about global warming, but says nothing about quantitative attribution of recent warming.

3) Hansen, J., A. Lacis, R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and H. Wilson, 1993: How sensitive is the world’s climate? Natl. Geog. Soc. Res. Exploration, 9, 142-158.

Abstract. We estimate climate sensitivity from observed climate change on time scales ranging from the 100000-year periods of major ice ages to brief periods of cooling after major volcanic eruptions. The real-world data indicate that climate is very sensitive, equivalent to a warming of 3±1°C for doubled atmospheric CO2. Observed global warming of ~0.5°C in the past 140 years is consistent with anthropogenic greenhouse gases being the dominant climate-forcing in that period. But interpretation of current climate change is extraordinarily complex, because of lack of observations of several climate forcings as well as an unpredictable chaotic aspect of climate change. Climate change during the next decade may help confirm knowledge of climate sensitivity, if global climate forcings are accurately observed.

This abstract says that observed global warming is consistent anthropogenic GHGs being the cause, but that attribution was impossible at that time due to lack of information about several climate forcings (presumably aerosols) and the possibility of unforced variability.

4) Tol, R. S. J, ” Greenhouse statistics — time series analysis: Part II”, Theoretical and Applied Climatology (1994), 49 (2), 91-102.

Abstract. The analysis of part I is supplemented, updated and refined, and the resolution bound of simple statistical analysis is tentatively explored. The main conclusion of part I, the hypothesis that the anthropogenically enhanced greenhouse effect is not responsible for the observed global warming during the last century is rejected with a 99% confidence, is reconfirmed for the updated sample period 1870–1991. The slight decrease in the global mean temperature between 1940 and 1975 is attributed to the influence of El Niño and the volcanic activity. The influence of sunspots, or the length of the solar cycle, is found to be small and unlikely to have caused the observed global temperature rise. The analysis of a number of alternative records lowers the significance of the influence of the enhanced greenhouse effect to 95%. The temperatures on the northern hemisphere rise a little faster than the southern hemisphere temperatures; this distinction is not significant but in line with the larger amount of land at the northern hemisphere. Some indications are found of an unexplained four year cycle in the temperatures of the northern hemisphere. Winter temperatures rise fastest, summer temperatures slowest; this is more profound on the northern than at the southern hemisphere. The difference is not significant; it could be due to the influence of anthropogenic aerosols. The analysis of monthly temperatures confirms the conclusions above, and shows that the models used here are close to being too simple to be used at this resolution.

This abstract does explicitly endorse the position that anthropogenic GHGs are responsible for most global warming. In response to a recent Parliamentary Question, the Chief Scientist of the British Meteorology Office issued several statements explaining why time series analyses (like this one) should not be used alone for attribution, or even detection, of warming: There is no valid way to select a statistical model for the noise that is present in chaotic systems.

5) Mitchell, J. F. B., Johns, T. C., Gregory, M. J., Tett, S. F. B., “Climate response to increasing levels of greenhouse gases and sulphate aerosols”, Nature (1995) 376 (6540), 501-504; doi:10.1038/376501a0

Abstract. Climate models suggest that increases in greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere should have produced a larger global mean warming than has been observed in recent decades, unless the climate is less sensitive than is predicted by the present generation of coupled general circulation models1,2. After greenhouse gases, sulphate aerosols probably exert the next largest anthropogenic radiative forcing of the atmosphere3, but their influence on global mean warming has not been assessed using such models. Here we use a coupled oceaná-atmosphere general circulation model to simulate past and future climate since the beginning of the near-global instrumental surface-temperature record4, and include the effects of the scattering of radiation by sulphate aerosols. The inclusion of sulphate aerosols significantly improves the agreement with observed global mean and large-scale patterns of temperature in recent decades, although the improvement in simulations of specific regions is equivocal. We predict a future global mean warming of 0.3 K per decade for greenhouse gases alone, or 0.2 K per decade with sulphate aerosol forcing included. By 2050, all land areas have warmed in our simulations, despite strong negative radiative forcing in some regions. These model results suggest that global warming could accelerate as greenhouse-gas forcing begins to dominate over sulphate aerosol forcing.

This abstract indicates concern about GHGs and future global warming, but doesn’t make any quantifiable or explicit statements about past global warming.

Finally, the Consensus Project Database was queried to determine whether the views of prominent skeptics were reflected in the ratings given to their abstracts. The scientists in Table 4 came from a list of “climate misinformers” posted at John Cook’s website and all have some publications relevant climate change. The results in Table 4 show that opposition to the “consensus” on climate change cannot be clearly detected by rating abstracts. Several explanations for this result are possible: a) Some skepticism arises from an appreciation of uncertainty – especially with regard to unforced variability. Abstracts reflecting this position don’t belong in not category 7. b)

The search terms used by Cook (2013) missed many articles by skeptics. Professor Lindzen has written about 20 articles on climate change in the last two decades: The database does not contain his work on the Iris hypotheses nor his two recent articles on low climate sensitivity: Lindzen, R.S. and Y.-S. Choi, “On the determination of climate feedbacks from ERBE data” GRL (2009), 36, L16705 and Lindzen, R.S. and Y.-S. Choi, “On the observational determination of climate sensitivity and its implications” Asian Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Science (2011) 47, 377-390. c) The fact that the latter paper, which rebutted criticisms of the former, appeared in a minor journal is a sign that gate-keeping may be preventing articles from skeptics from appearing in the journals used by Cook. Lindzen’s articles published in Energy and Environment were not in the database either.

Table 4. Abstract ratings for prominent “skeptics” and James Hansen.

Slide4Finally, Cook (2013) is often misinterpreted by policymakers and the press as a 97% consensus among climate scientists – rather than abstracts. Combining abstracts from Hansen and Lindzen produces an 86% “consensus” (19 to 3 abstracts) from this “community” of two influential climate scientists. In categories 1 and 7 – the only ones relevant to policymakers – there is a 100% consensus – because at least two of Lindzen’s papers weren’t included.

In summary, Cook (2013) contains flaws in conception, implementation and interpretation that invalidate its claim that a meaningful “97% consensus” exists.

JC note:  As with all guest posts, please keep your comments civil and relevant.


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97 Articles Refuting The “97% Consensus”


The 97% “consensus” study, Cook et al. (2013) has been thoroughly refuted in scholarly peer-reviewed journals, by major news media, public policy organizations and think tanks, highly credentialed scientists and extensively in the climate blogosphere. The shoddy methodology of Cook’s study has been shown to be so fatally flawed that well known climate scientists have publicly spoken out against it,

The ‘97% consensus’ article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed. It obscures the complexities of the climate issue and it is a sign of the desperately poor level of public and policy debate in this country [UK] that the energy minister should cite it.”

Mike Hulme, Ph.D. Professor of Climate Change, University of East Anglia (UEA)

The following is a list of 97 articles that refute Cook’s (poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed) 97% “consensus” study. The fact that anyone continues to bring up such soundly debunked nonsense like Cook’s study is an embarrassment to science.

Summary: Cook et al. (2013) attempted to categorize 11,944 abstracts of papers (not entire papers) to their level of endorsement of AGW and found 7930 (66%) held no position on AGW. While only 65 papers (0.5%) explicitly endorsed and quantified AGW as +50% (Humans are the primary cause). Their methodology was so fatally flawed that they falsely classified skeptic papers as endorsing AGW, apparently believing to know more about the papers than their authors. Cook et al.’s author self-ratings simply confirmed the worthlessness of their methodology, as they were not representative of the sample since only 4% of the authors (1189 of 29,083) rated their own papers and of these 63% disagreed with their abstract ratings.

[ Journal Coverage ]

Energy PolicyQuantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the literature: A re-analysis (PDF) (October 2014)
Energy PolicyQuantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the literature: Rejoinder (PDF) (October 2014)
Science & EducationClimate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’: A Rejoinder to Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change (PDF) (August 2013)

[ Media Coverage ]

American ThinkerClimate Consensus Con Game (February 17, 2014)
BreitbartObama’s ’97 Percent’ Climate Consensus: Debunked, Demolished, Staked through the heart (September 8, 2014)
Canada Free PressSorry, global warmists: The ’97 percent consensus’ is complete fiction (May 27, 2014)
Financial PostMeaningless consensus on climate change (September 19, 2013)
Financial PostThe 97%: No you don’t have a climate consensus (September 25, 2013)
ForbesGlobal Warming Alarmists Caught Doctoring ’97-Percent Consensus’ Claims (May 30, 2013)
Fox NewsBalance is not bias — Fox News critics mislead public on climate change (October 16, 2013)
Herald SunThat 97 per cent claim: four problems with Cook and Obama (May 22, 2013)
Power LineBreaking: The “97 Percent Climate Consensus” Canard (May 18, 2014)
SpikedGlobal warming: the 97% fallacy (May 28, 2014)
The Daily CallerWhere Did ’97 Percent’ Global Warming Consensus Figure Come From? (May 16, 2014)
The Daily Telegraph97 per cent of climate activists in the pay of Big Oil shock! (July 23, 2013)
The GuardianThe claim of a 97% consensus on global warming does not stand up (June 6, 2014)
The New AmericanGlobal Warming “Consensus”: Cooking the Books (May 21, 2013)
The New AmericanCooking Climate Consensus Data: “97% of Scientists Affirm AGW” Debunked (June 5, 2013)
The New AmericanClimategate 3.0: Blogger Threatened for Exposing 97% “Consensus” Fraud (May 20, 2014)
The Patriot PostThe 97% Consensus — A Lie of Epic Proportions (May 17, 2013)
The Patriot PostDebunking the ‘97% Consensus’ & Why Global Cooling May Loom (August 7, 2014)
The Press-EnterpriseDon’t be swayed by climate change ‘consensus’ (September 10, 2013)
The Tampa TribuneAbout that ’97 percent’: It ain’t necessarily so (May 19, 2014)
The Wall Street JournalThe Myth of the Climate Change ‘97%’ (May 26, 2014)
Troy MediaBandwagon psychology root of 97 per cent climate change “consensus” (February 18, 2014)
WNDBlack Jesus’ Climate Consensus Fantasy (June 25, 2013)

[ Organization Coverage ]

Competitive Enterprise InstituteConsensus Shmensus (September 5, 2013)
Cornwall AllianceClimate Consensus? Nonsense! (June 16, 2014)
Friends of ScienceFriends of Science Challenge the Cook Study for Bandwagon Fear Mongering on Climate Change and Global Warming (May 21, 2013)
Friends of ScienceOnly 65 Scientists of 12,000 Make up Alleged 97% on Climate Change and Global Warming Consensus (May 28, 2013)
Friends of Science97% Consensus? No! Global Warming Math Myths & Social Proofs (PDF) (February 3, 2014)
Friends of ScienceClimate Change Is a Fact of Life, the Science Is Not Settled and 97% Consensus on Global Warming Is a Math Myth (February 4, 2014)
George C. Marshall InstituteThe Corruption of Science (October 5, 2014)
John Locke FoundationThe 97% consensus on global warming exposed (July 3, 2014)
Liberty FundDavid Friedman on the 97% Consensus on Global Warming (February 27, 2014)
Global Warming Policy FoundationConsensus? What Consensus? (PDF) (September 2, 2013)
Global Warming Policy FoundationFraud, Bias And Public Relations: The 97% ‘Consensus’ And Its Critics (PDF) (September 8, 2014)
National Center for Policy AnalysisThe Big Lie of the “Consensus View” on Global Warming (July 30, 2014)
National Center for Public Policy ResearchDo 97% of All Climate Scientists Really Believe Mankind is Causing Catastrophic Global Warming? (February 10, 2014)
Principia Scientific InternationalExposed: Academic Fraud in New Climate Science Consensus Claim (May 23, 2013)
The Heartland InstituteWhat 97 Percent of Climate Scientists Do (May 12, 2014)

[ Weblog Coverage ]

Australian Climate Madness‘Get at the truth, and not fool yourself’ (May 29, 2014)
Bishop Hill‘Landmark consensus study’ is incomplete (May 27, 2013)
Climate AuditUnderCooked Statistics (May 24, 2013)
Climate Etc. (Judith Curry Ph.D.) – The 97% ‘consensus’ (July 26, 2013)
Climate Etc. (Judith Curry Ph.D.) – The 97% ‘consensus’: Part II (July 27, 2013)
Climate Etc. (Judith Curry Ph.D.) – The 97% feud (July 27, 2014)
Climate ResistanceTom Curtis Doesn’t Understand the 97% Paper (July 27, 2013)
JoNovaCook’s fallacy “97% consensus” study is a marketing ploy some journalists will fall for (May 17, 2013)
JoNovaThat’s a 0.3% consensus, not 97% (July 1, 2013)
JoNova“Honey, I shrunk the consensus” – Monckton takes action on Cooks paper (September 24, 2013)
JoNovaJohn Cook’s consensus data is so good his Uni will sue you if you discuss it (May 18, 2014)
JoNovaUni Queensland defends legal threats over “climate” data they want to keep secret (May 21, 2014)
JoNovaCook scores 97% for incompetence on a meaningless consensus (June 6, 2014)
José Duarte (Ph.D.) – Cooking stove use, housing associations, white males, and the 97% (August 28, 2014)
José Duarte (Ph.D.) – The art of evasion (September 9, 2014)
Making Science PublicWhat’s behind the battle of received wisdoms? (July 23, 2013)
Popular Technology.net97% Study Falsely Classifies Scientists’ Papers, according to the scientists that published them (May 21, 2013)
Popular Technology.netThe Statistical Destruction of the 97% Consensus (June 1, 2013)
Popular Technology.netCook’s 97% Consensus Study Game Plan Revealed (June 4, 2013)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – The Consensus Project: An update (August 16, 2013)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – Biases in consensus data (August 24, 2013)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – More irregularities in the consensus data (August 24, 2013)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – Open letter to the Vice-chancellor of the University of Queensland (August 27, 2013)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – Bootstrap results for initial ratings by the Consensus Project (August 28, 2013)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – The 97% consensus (May 10, 2014)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – My First Audioslide (May 20, 2014)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – A new contribution to the consensus debate (June 4, 2014)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – 24 errors? (June 8, 2014)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – More Cook data released (July 21, 2014)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – Days of rater bias (July 23, 2014)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – Days of rater bias (ctd) July 28, 2014)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – Another chapter on the 97% nonsensus (August 1, 2014)
Richard Tol (Ph.D.) – ERL does not want you to read this (October 14, 2014)
The Blackboard (Lucia Lundgren Ph.D.) – I Do Not Think it Means What You Think it Means (May 15, 2013)
The Blackboard (Lucia Lundgren Ph.D.) – On the Consensus (May 17, 2013)
The Blackboard (Lucia Lundgren Ph.D.) – Nir Shaviv: One of the 97% (May 17, 2013)
The Blackboard (Lucia Lundgren Ph.D.) – Why Symmetry is Bad (May 19, 2013)
The Blackboard (Lucia Lundgren Ph.D.) – Possible Self-Selection Bias in Cook: Author responses. (May 20, 2013)
The Blackboard (Lucia Lundgren Ph.D.) – Bias Author Survey: Pro AGW (May 21, 2013)
The LidClaim 97% of Climate Scientists Believe In Global Warming is TOTALLY BOGUS! (May 21, 2014)
The State of the ClimateCook’s survey not only meaningless but also misleading (May 17, 2013)
WUWTThe Collapsing ‘Consensus’ (May 22, 2013)
WUWTSelf admitted cyber thief Peter Gleick is still on the IOP board that approved the Cook 97% consensus paper (June 4, 2013)
WUWT‘Quantifying the consensus on global warming in the literature’: a comment (June 24, 2013)
WUWTOn the 97 percenters: ‘You Must Admit, They Were Careful’ (July 28, 2013)
WUWTWhat Is Cook’s Consensus? (July 29, 2013)
WUWTCooks ‘97% consensus’ disproven by a new peer reviewed paper showing major math errors (September 3, 2013)
WUWT97% Climate consensus ‘denial’: the debunkers debunked (September 9, 2013)
WUWTJoin my crowd-sourced complaint about the ‘97% consensus’ (September 20, 2013)
WUWTThe 97% consensus myth – busted by a real survey (November 20, 2013)
WUWT97% of pictures are worth 1000 climate words (February 26, 2014)
WUWTJohn Cook’s 97% consensus claim is about to go ‘pear-shaped’ (May 10, 2014)
WUWTAn Open Letter puts the University of Queensland in a dilemma over John Cook’s ‘97% consensus’ paper (May 22, 2014)
WUWTThe climate consensus is not 97% – it’s 100% (June 11, 2014)
WUWTThe disagreement over what defines ‘endorsment of AGW’ by Cook et al. is revealed in raters remarks, and it sure isn’t a 97% consensus (June 24, 2014)
WUWTIf 97% of Scientists Say Global Warming is Real, 100% Say It Has Nearly Stopped (November 18, 2014)

Rebuttals to Criticisms:

Critism: Tol (2014) was rejected by other journals for being flawed.

Rebuttal: Dr. Tol’s paper was censored by Environmental Research Letters (ERL), which conveniently has multiple alarmists scientists on its editorial board (e.g. Peter Gleick and Stefan Rahmstorf) and rejected by two other journals for being “out of scope” (off topic) not flawed.

Critism: Tol (2014) has 24 errors in it.

Rebuttal: Dr. Tol refuted all of these claims in a post online and in his published rejoinder.


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The Myth of the Climate Change ‘97%’

kerryLast week Secretary of State John Kerry warned graduating students at Boston College of the “crippling consequences” of climate change. “Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists,” he added, “tell us this is urgent.”

Where did Mr. Kerry get the 97% figure? Perhaps from his boss, President Obama, who tweeted on May 16 that “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Or maybe from NASA, which posted (in more measured language) on its website, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.”

Yet the assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction. The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and abstract-counting exercises that have been contradicted by more reliable research.

One frequently cited source for the consensus is a 2004 opinion essay published in Science magazine by Naomi Oreskes, a science historian now at Harvard. She claimed to have examined abstracts of 928 articles published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and found that 75% supported the view that human activities are responsible for most of the observed warming over the previous 50 years while none directly dissented.

Ms. Oreskes’s definition of consensus covered “man-made” but left out “dangerous”—and scores of articles by prominent scientists such as Richard Lindzen, John Christy, Sherwood Idso and Patrick Michaels, who question the consensus, were excluded. The methodology is also flawed. A study published earlier this year in Nature noted that abstracts of academic papers often contain claims that aren’t substantiated in the papers.

Another widely cited source for the consensus view is a 2009 article in “Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union” by Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, a student at the University of Illinois, and her master’s thesis adviser Peter Doran. It reported the results of a two-question online survey of selected scientists. Mr. Doran and Ms. Zimmerman claimed “97 percent of climate scientists agree” that global temperatures have risen and that humans are a significant contributing factor.

The survey’s questions don’t reveal much of interest. Most scientists who are skeptical of catastrophic global warming nevertheless would answer “yes” to both questions. The survey was silent on whether the human impact is large enough to constitute a problem. Nor did it include solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists or astronomers, who are the scientists most likely to be aware of natural causes of climate change.

The “97 percent” figure in the Zimmerman/Doran survey represents the views of only 79 respondents who listed climate science as an area of expertise and said they published more than half of their recent peer-reviewed papers on climate change. Seventy-nine scientists—of the 3,146 who responded to the survey—does not a consensus make.

In 2010, William R. Love Anderegg, then a student at Stanford University, used Google Scholar to identify the views of the most prolific writers on climate change. His findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. Mr. Love Anderegg found that 97% to 98% of the 200 most prolific writers on climate change believe “anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for ‘most’ of the ‘unequivocal’ warming.” There was no mention of how dangerous this climate change might be; and, of course, 200 researchers out of the thousands who have contributed to the climate science debate is not evidence of consensus.

In 2013, John Cook, an Australia-based blogger, and some of his friends reviewed abstracts of peer-reviewed papers published from 1991 to 2011. Mr. Cook reported that 97% of those who stated a position explicitly or implicitly suggest that human activity is responsible for some warming. His findings were published in Environmental Research Letters.

Mr. Cook’s work was quickly debunked. In Science and Education in August 2013, for example, David R. Legates (a professor of geography at the University of Delaware and former director of its Center for Climatic Research) and three coauthors reviewed the same papers as did Mr. Cook and found “only 41 papers—0.3 percent of all 11,944 abstracts or 1.0 percent of the 4,014 expressing an opinion, and not 97.1 percent—had been found to endorse” the claim that human activity is causing most of the current warming. Elsewhere, climate scientists including Craig Idso, Nicola Scafetta, Nir J. Shaviv and Nils- Axel Morner, whose research questions the alleged consensus, protested that Mr. Cook ignored or misrepresented their work.

Rigorous international surveys conducted by German scientists Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch—most recently published in Environmental Science & Policy in 2010—have found that most climate scientists disagree with the consensus on key issues such as the reliability of climate data and computer models. They do not believe that climate processes such as cloud formation and precipitation are sufficiently understood to predict future climate change.

Surveys of meteorologists repeatedly find a majority oppose the alleged consensus. Only 39.5% of 1,854 American Meteorological Society members who responded to a survey in 2012 said man-made global warming is dangerous.

Finally, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—which claims to speak for more than 2,500 scientists—is probably the most frequently cited source for the consensus. Its latest report claims that “human interference with the climate system is occurring, and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems.” Yet relatively few have either written on or reviewed research having to do with the key question: How much of the temperature increase and other climate changes observed in the 20th century was caused by man-made greenhouse-gas emissions? The IPCC lists only 41 authors and editors of the relevant chapter of the Fifth Assessment Report addressing “anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing.”

Of the various petitions on global warming circulated for signatures by scientists, the one by the Petition Project, a group of physicists and physical chemists based in La Jolla, Calif., has by far the most signatures—more than 31,000 (more than 9,000 with a Ph.D.). It was most recently published in 2009, and most signers were added or reaffirmed since 2007. The petition states that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of . . . carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

We could go on, but the larger point is plain. There is no basis for the claim that 97% of scientists believe that man-made climate change is a dangerous problem.

Mr. Bast is president of the Heartland Institute. Dr. Spencer is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer on NASA’s Aqua satellite.


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The 97 Percent ‘Statistic’ — Is There Nothing It Can’t Do?

The 97 Percent ‘Statistic’ — Is There Nothing It Can’t Do?

This video clip of Ted Cruz disemboweling Aaron Mair, the head of the Sierra Club, is making the rounds. It shows Cruz at his very best, cross-examining a witness to a pulp. The most striking thing, however, is how unbelievably hackish and ill-prepared Mair is. Here’s the video:


Over and over again, Mair simply says that he’s going to rely on the 97 percent of scientists who say that global warming is happening, it’s caused by man and it’s a huge problem. People of good faith can take Mair’s position on one or all of those particulars. But the 97 percent stat is pure public relations b.s. 

Here’s a good explainer by Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer on where that number — which Barack Obama, John Kerry and countless other politicians and journalists retail uncritically:

One frequently cited source for the consensus is a 2004 opinion essay published in Science magazine by Naomi Oreskes, a science historian now at Harvard. She claimed to have examined abstracts of 928 articles published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and found that 75% supported the view that human activities are responsible for most of the observed warming over the previous 50 years while none directly dissented.

Ms. Oreskes’s definition of consensus covered “man-made” but left out “dangerous”—and scores of articles by prominent scientists such as Richard Lindzen, John Christy,Sherwood Idso and Patrick Michaels, who question the consensus, were excluded. The methodology is also flawed. A study published earlier this year in Nature noted that abstracts of academic papers often contain claims that aren’t substantiated in the papers.

Another widely cited source for the consensus view is a 2009 article in “Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union” by Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, a student at the University of Illinois, and her master’s thesis adviser Peter Doran. It reported the results of a two-question online survey of selected scientists. Mr. Doran and Ms. Zimmerman claimed “97 percent of climate scientists agree” that global temperatures have risen and that humans are a significant contributing factor.

The survey’s questions don’t reveal much of interest. Most scientists who are skeptical of catastrophic global warming nevertheless would answer “yes” to both questions. The survey was silent on whether the human impact is large enough to constitute a problem. Nor did it include solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists or astronomers, who are the scientists most likely to be aware of natural causes of climate change.

The “97 percent” figure in the Zimmerman/Doran survey represents the views of only 79 respondents who listed climate science as an area of expertise and said they published more than half of their recent peer-reviewed papers on climate change. Seventy-nine scientists—of the 3,146 who responded to the survey—does not a consensus make.

They go on, but I don’t want to reprint the whole article here. Besides the more important point is that consensus — manufactured or otherwise — is not how science is done. “Settled science” — another concept Mair invokes — is an oxymoron. The whole point of science is to unsettle what we know at any given moment. Personally, I am more open to the claim that global warming is happening and is a potential problem than some of my friends on the right (my views line up pretty well with Matt Ridley’s for what that’s worth). But when I listen to people like Mair invoke the Union of Concerned Scientists and deny objective facts by hiding behind the skirts of a bogus statistic, it gives me no confidence that these are the kinds of people who should have anything to do with formulating public policy.


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The Great Climate Lie

A closer look at the 97 percent climate-change consensus.

After being harangued by conservatives and mathematicians, liberal news outlets — the Washington Post Time, Slate , The Daily Beast, a few others — began admitting that the claim that women earn 77 cents on the dollar is a lie. Let the haranguing resume: There is no basis in fact for saying that 97 percent of scientists believe that climate change is real, man-made, and dangerous.

Those were the words tweeted by President Obama: “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: Climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” “Read more,” he added, with a link to a Reuters piece that announced the 97 percent finding by the University of Queensland’s John Cook, et al. But Cook’s result is deeply flawed.

For starters, though, Reuters and the president are wrong about what Cook’s study claims. It does not claim that 97 percent of scientists believe that climate change is real, man-made, and dangerous. What it claims is that 97.1 percent of the relevant scientific literature agrees with the much more conservative claim that humans are contributing to global warming in an unspecified amount.

But even in making that considerably more anodyne assertion, the “consensus” is on shaky footing. According to the abstract for Cook’s paper, 66.4 percent of the abstracts Cook and his team looked at neither supported nor opposed the position that man causes global warming. Which gives you not a 97.1 percent consensus, but 97.1 percent of the remainder, which is 32.6 percent. That is, 32.6 percent of peer-reviewed global-warming literature agrees that global warming is man-made. That’s not overwhelming.

And even that number is highly suspect; many scientists have objected to their papers having been categorized as supporting Cook’s position. A number of avowed man-made-warming skeptics were evidently surprised to find their papers included in Cook’s 97 percent monolith. According to a paper written by University of Delaware professor David Legates, et al., for the journal Science & Education, just 0.3 percent — not 97 — of the papers Cook examined explicitly endorsed his position.

Professor Richard Tol of the University of Sussex published a rebuttal of Cook’s paper in the journal Energy Policy. According to Tol, the 97 percent claim, “frequently repeated in debates about climate policy, does not stand. . . . [Cook’s] sample is not representative and contains many irrelevant papers. Overall, data quality is low. Cook’s validation test shows that the data are invalid. Data disclosure is incomplete so the key results cannot be reproduced or tested.”

So: The sample selected for study was flawed. The analysis of that sample was flawed. The conclusion drawn from that analysis was flawed. And the reporting of that conclusion was flawed. To quote Professor Mike Hulme of the University of East Anglia, as quoted by Popular Technology, “the ‘97 percent consensus’ article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed.”

Normally, when faced with the “scientific consensus” on global warming, conservatives dig in and say that science is not a democracy — which, of course, is true. Before Copernicus and Galileo, roughly 97 percent of scientists believed the sun orbited the earth. But what conservatives ought to do is to stop accepting the Left’s nonsense premise: There is simply no evidence of a 97 percent consensus on global warming.

First, the 77 cent lie. Then the 97 percent lie. Next we can work on Bernie Sanders’s insane claim that Americans “don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants.”

— Josh Gelernter writes weekly for NRO and is a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard. He is a founder of the tech startup Dittach.


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Should We Celebrate Carbon Dioxide?

patrick mooreMy Lords and Ladies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for the opportunity to set out my views on climate change. As I have stated publicly on many occasions, there is no definitive scientific proof, through real-world observation, that carbon dioxide is responsible for any of the slight warming of the global climate that has occurred during the past 300 years, since the peak of the Little Ice Age. If there were such a proof through testing and replication it would have been written down for all to see.

The contention that human emissions are now the dominant influence on climate is simply a hypothesis, rather than a universally accepted scientific theory. It is therefore correct, indeed verging on compulsory in the scientific tradition, to be skeptical of those who express certainty that “the science is settled” and “the debate is over”.

But there is certainty beyond any doubt that CO2 is the building block for all life on Earth and that without its presence in the global atmosphere at a sufficient concentration this would be a dead planet. Yet today our children and our publics are taught that CO2 is a toxic pollutant that will destroy life and bring civilization to its knees. Tonight I hope to turn this dangerous human-caused propaganda on its head. Tonight I will demonstrate that human emissions of CO2 have already saved life on our planet from a very untimely end. That in the absence of our emitting some of the carbon back into the atmosphere from whence it came in the first place, most or perhaps all life on Earth would begin to die less than two million years from today.

But first a bit of background.

I was born and raised in the tiny floating village of Winter Harbour on the northwest tip of Vancouver Island, in the rainforest by the Pacific. There was no road to my village so for eight years myself and a few other children were taken by boat each day to a one-room schoolhouse in the nearby fishing village. I didn’t realize how lucky I was playing on the tide flats by the salmon-spawning streams in the rainforest, until I was sent off to boarding school in Vancouver where I excelled in science. I did my undergraduate studies at the University of British Columbia, gravitating to the life sciences – biology, biochemistry, genetics, and forestry – the environment and the industry my family has been in for more than 100 years. Then, before the word was known to the general public, I discovered the science of ecology, the science of how all living things are inter-related, and how we are related to them. At the height of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the threat of all-out nuclear war and the newly emerging consciousness of the environment I was transformed into a radical environmental activist. While doing my PhD in ecology in 1971 I joined a group of activists who had begun to meet in the basement of the Unitarian Church, to plan a protest voyage against US hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska.

We proved that a somewhat rag-tag looking group of activists could sail an old fishing boat across the north Pacific ocean and help change the course of history. We created a focal point for the media to report on public opposition to the tests.

When that H-bomb exploded in November 1971, it was the last hydrogen bomb the United States ever detonated. Even though there were four more tests planned in the series, President Nixon canceled them due to the public opposition we had helped to create. That was the birth of Greenpeace.

Flushed with victory, on our way home from Alaska we were made brothers of the Namgis Nation in their Big House at Alert Bay near my northern Vancouver Island home. For Greenpeace this began the tradition of the Warriors of the Rainbow, after a Cree Indian legend that predicted the coming together of all races and creeds to save the Earth from destruction. We named our ship the Rainbow Warrior and I spent the next fifteen years in the top committee of Greenpeace, on the front lines of the environmental movement as we evolved from that church basement into the world’s largest environmental activist organization.

Next we took on French atmospheric nuclear testing in the South Pacific. They proved a bit more difficult than the US nuclear tests. It took years to eventually drive these tests underground at Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia. In 1985, under direct orders from President Mitterrand, French commandos bombed and sank the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour, killing our photographer. Those protests continued until long after I left Greenpeace. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that nuclear testing finally ended in the South Pacific, and it most other parts of the world as well.

Going back to 1975, Greenpeace set out to save the whales from extinction at the hands of huge factory whaling fleets.  We confronted the Soviet factory whaling fleet in the North Pacific, putting ourselves in front of their harpoons in our little rubber boats to protect the fleeing whales. This was broadcast on television news around the world, bringing the Save the Whales movement into everyone’s living rooms for the first time. After four years of voyages, in 1979 factory whaling was finally banned in the North Pacific, and by 1981 in all the world’s oceans.

In 1978 I sat on a baby seal off the East Coast of Canada to protect it from the hunter’s club. I was arrested and hauled off to jail, the seal was clubbed and skinned, but a photo of me being arrested while sitting on the baby seal appeared in more than 3000 newspapers around the world the next morning. We won the hearts and minds of millions of people who saw the baby seal slaughter as outdated, cruel, and unnecessary.

Why then did I leave Greenpeace after 15 years in the leadership? When Greenpeace began we had a strong humanitarian orientation, to save civilization from destruction by all-out nuclear war. Over the years the “peace” in Greenpeace was gradually lost and my organization, along with much of the environmental movement, drifted into a belief that humans are the enemies of the earth. I believe in a humanitarian environmentalism because we are part of nature, not separate from it. The first principle of ecology is that we are all part of the same ecosystem, as Barbara Ward put it, “One human family on spaceship Earth”, and to preach otherwise teaches that the world would be better off without us. As we shall see later in the presentation there is very good reason to see humans as essential to the survival of life on this planet.

In the mid 1980s I found myself the only director of Greenpeace International with a formal education in science. My fellow directors proposed a campaign to “ban chlorine worldwide”, naming it “The Devil’s Element”. I pointed out that chlorine is one of the elements in the Periodic Table, one of the building blocks of the Universe and the 11th most common element in the Earth’s crust. I argued the fact that chlorine is the most important element for public health and medicine. Adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health and the majority of our synthetic medicines are based on chlorine chemistry. This fell on deaf ears, and for me this was the final straw. I had to leave.

When I left Greenpeace I vowed to develop an environmental policy that was based on science and logic rather than sensationalism, misinformation, anti-humanism and fear. In a classic example, a recent protest led by Greenpeace in the Philippines used the skull and crossbones to associate Golden Rice with death, when in fact Golden Rice has the potential to help save 2 million children from death due to vitamin A deficiency every year.

The Keeling curve of CO2 concentration in the Earth’s atmosphere since 1959 is the supposed smoking gun of catastrophic climate change. We presume CO2 was at 280 ppm at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, before human activity could have caused a significant impact. I accept that most of the rise from 280 to 400 ppm is caused by human CO2 emissions with the possibility that some of it is due to outgassing from warming of the oceans.

NASA tells us that “Carbon Dioxide Controls Earth’s Temperature” in child-like denial of the many other factors involved in climate change. This is reminiscent of NASA’s contention that there might be life on Mars. Decades after it was demonstrated that there was no life on Mars, NASA continues to use it as a hook to raise public funding for more expeditions to the Red Planet. The promulgation of fear of Climate Change now serves the same purpose. As Bob Dylan prophetically pointed out, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears”, even in one of the most admired science organizations in the world.

On the political front the leaders of the G7 plan to “end extreme poverty and hunger” by phasing out 85% of the world’s energy supply including 98% of the energy used to transport people and goods, including food. The Emperors of the world appear clothed in the photo taken at the close of the meeting but it was obviously Photo-shopped. They should be required to stand naked for making such a foolish statement.

The world’s top climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change, is hopelessly conflicted by its makeup and it mandate. The Panel is composed solely of the World Meteorological Organization, weather forecasters, and the United Nations Environment Program, environmentalists. Both these organizations are focused primarily on short-term timescales, days to maybe a century or two. But the most significant conflict is with the Panel’s mandate from the United Nations. They are required only to focus on “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the atmosphere, and which is in addition to natural climate variability.”
So if the IPCC found that climate change was not being affected by human alteration of the atmosphere or that it is not “dangerous” there would be no need for them to exist. They are virtually mandated to find on the side of apocalypse.

Scientific certainty, political pandering, a hopelessly conflicted IPCC, and now the Pope, spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, in a bold move to reinforce the concept of original sin, says the Earth looks like “an immense pile of filth” and we must go back to pre-industrial bliss, or is that squalor?

And then there is the actual immense pile of filth fed to us more than three times daily by the green-media nexus, a seething cauldron of imminent doom, like we are already condemned to Damnation in Hell and there is little chance of Redemption. I fear for the end of the Enlightenment. I fear an intellectual Gulag with Greenpeace as my prison guards.

Let’s begin with our knowledge of the long-term history of the Earth’s temperature and of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. Our best inference from various proxies back indicate that CO2 was higher for the first 4 billion years of Earth’s history than it has been since the Cambrian Period until today. I will focus on the past 540 million years since modern life forms evolved. It is glaringly obvious that temperature and CO2 are in an inverse correlation at least as often as they are in any semblance of correlation. Two clear examples of reverse correlation occurred 150 million years and 50 million years ago. At the end of the Jurassic temperature fell dramatically while CO2 spiked. During the Eocene Thermal Maximum, temperature was likely higher than any time in the past 550 million years while CO2 had been on a downward track for 100 million years. This evidence alone sufficient to warrant deep speculation of any claimed lock-step causal relationship between CO2 and temperature.

The Devonian Period beginning 400 million years ago marked the culmination of the invasion of life onto the land. Plants evolved to produce lignin, which in combination with cellulose, created wood which in turn for the first time allowed plants to grow tall, in competition with each other for sunlight. As vast forests spread across the land living biomass increased by orders of magnitude, pulling down carbon as CO2 from the atmosphere to make wood. Lignin is very difficult to break down and no decomposer species possessed the enzymes to digest it. Trees died atop one another until they were 100 metres or more in depth. This was the making of the great coal beds around the world as this huge store of sequestered carbon continued to build for 90 million years. Then, fortunately for the future of life, white rot fungi evolved to produce the enzymes that can digest lignin and coincident with that the coal-making era came to an end.

There was no guarantee that fungi or any other decomposer species would develop the complex of enzymes required to digest lignin. If they had not, CO2, which had already been drawn down for the first time in Earth’s history to levels similar to todays, would have continued to decline as trees continued to grow and die. That is until CO2 approached the threshold of 150 ppm below which plants begin first to starve, then stop growing altogether, and then die. Not just woody plants but all plants. This would bring about the extinction of most, if not all, terrestrial species, as animals, insects, and other invertebrates starved for lack of food. And that would be that. The human species would never have existed. This was only the first time that there was a distinct possibility that life would come close to extinguishing itself, due to a shortage of CO2, which is essential for life on Earth.

A well-documented record of global temperature over the past 65 million years shows that we have been in a major cooling period since the Eocene Thermal Maximum 50 million years ago. The Earth was an average 16C warmer then, with most of the increased warmth at the higher latitudes. The entire planet, including the Arctic and Antarctica were ice-free and the land there was covered in forest. The ancestors of every species on Earth today survived through what may have been the warmest time in the history of life. It makes one wonder about dire predictions that even a 2C rise in temperature from pre-industrial times would cause mass extinctions and the destruction of civilization. Glaciers began to form in Antarctica 30 million years ago and in the northern hemisphere 3 million years ago. Today, even in this interglacial period of the Pleistocene Ice Age, we are experiencing one of the coldest climates in the Earth’s history.

Coming closer to the present we have learned from Antarctic ice cores that for the past 800,000 years there have been regular periods of major glaciation followed by interglacial periods in 100,000 year-cycles. These cycles coincide with the Milankovitch cycles that are tied to the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit and its axial tilt. It is highly plausible that these cycles are related to solar intensity and the seasonal distribution of solar heat on the Earth’s surface. There is a strong correlation between temperature and the level of atmospheric CO2 during these successive glaciations, indicating a possible cause-effect relationship between the two. CO2 lags temperature by an average of 800 years during the most recent 400,000-year period, indicating that temperature is the cause, as the cause never comes after the effect.

Looking at the past 50,000 years of temperature and CO2 we can see that changes in CO2 follow changes in temperature. This is as one could expect, as the Milankovitch cycles are far more likely to cause a change in temperature than a change in CO2. And a change in the temperature is far more likely to cause a change in CO2 due to outgassing of CO2 from the oceans during warmer times and an ingassing (absorption) of CO2 during colder periods. Yet climate alarmists persist in insisting that CO2 is causing the change in temperature, despite the illogical nature of that assertion.

It is sobering to consider the magnitude of climate change during the past 20,000 years, since the peak of the last major glaciation. At that time there were 3.3 kilometres of ice on top of what is today the city of Montreal, a city of more than 3 million people. 95% of Canada was covered in a sheet of ice. Even as far south as Chicago there was nearly a kilometre of ice. If the Milankovitch cycle continues to prevail, and there is little reason aside from our CO2 emissions to think otherwise, this will happen gradually again during the next 80,000 years. Will our CO2 emissions stave off another glaciation as James Lovelock has suggested? There doesn’t seem to be much hope of that so far, as despite 1/3 of all our CO2 emissions being released during the past 18 years the UK Met Office contends there has been no statistically significant warming during this century.

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Multidecadal Tendencies in Enso and Global Temperatures Related to Multidecadal Oscillations

coverFor the Full Report in PDF Form, please click here.Abstract: Perlwitz etal (2009) used computer model suites to contend that the 2008 North American cooling was naturally induced as a result of the continent’s sensitivity to widespread cooling of the tropical (La Nina) and northeastern Pacific sea surface temperatures. But they concluded from their models that warming is likely to resume in coming years and that climate is unlikely to embark upon a prolonged period of cooling. We here show how their models fail to recognize the multidecadal behavior of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Basin, which determines the frequency of El Ninos and La Ninas and suggests that the cooling will likely continue for several decades. We show how this will be reinforced with multidecadal shift in the Atlantic.


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Why I Am A Global Warming Skeptic

imageThe debate over anthropogenic global warming—a theory propounded by the UN IPCC—is often portrayed as an argument between deniers and true believers. The deniers supposedly claim that there is no global warming, man made or otherwise, and that the whole theory is a plot by left-wing agitators and closet socialists bent on world domination. The true believers, conversely, accept every claim of pending future disaster uttered by scientists and activists alike. As with most controversies both extreme positions are wrong and the truth lies somewhere in-between. As a scientist, I have studied the evidence and find the case for imminent, dangerous, human caused global warming unconvincing—here is why I am an AGW skeptic.

According to www.dict.org, a skeptic is “one who is yet undecided as to what is true; one who is looking or inquiring for what is true; an inquirer after facts or reasons”.* This is a much more accurate description of the stand taken by Al and myself in our book, The Resilient Earth. Specifically, I am skeptical of the claim that human produced carbon dioxide will have the dramatic effect on Earth’s temperature projected by the IPCC and other global warming doomsayers. To understand why I have reached this conclusion requires starting with some basic science.

*[That site also notes that this word and its derivatives are often written with c instead of k in the first syllable: sceptic, sceptical, scepticism, etc. Dr. Johnson, struck with the extraordinary irregularity of giving c its hard sound before e, altered the spelling, and his example has been followed by most lexicographers]


There is no doubt that the “greenhouse effect” warms Earth, this has been known for two centuries. Because of the mix of gases in the atmosphere, the air surrounding our planet is transparent to visible light coming from the sun, but opaque at many wavelengths in the infrared band. When sunlight strikes Earth’s surface, it re-radiates solar energy back toward space in the form of infrared light. Greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere absorb much of that radiation, trapping thermal energy and warming the planet. This has a significant impact on surface temperatures.

The result can be calculated using simple physics. The Stefan-Boltzmann law shows that if there were no greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Earth’s average surface temperature would be –18˚C (–1˚F). This is well below the freezing point of water and would make life as we know it impossible. Earth’s actual observed average surface temperature is 15˚C (59˚F). By empirical measurement, the greenhouse effect raises our planet’s surface temperature by 33˚C (60˚F). To this extent, global warming has already taken place—and a darn good thing for us it has.

The primary greenhouse gases are H2O (water vapor), CO2, and CH4 (methane). I have often stated that water vapor is the most important GHG, but a comparison of water vapor and carbon dioxide highlights some interesting facts. The data in Table 1 were computed by assuming that one gas is removed from the atmosphere, leaving the others unchanged. If you remove all water vapor from the atmosphere, the infrared absorption will decrease by 36 percent. If you remove all greenhouse gases (and clouds) and leave only water vapor, the infrared absorption will decrease by 34 percent.

Greenhouse gas removed % Decrease in IR absorption
H2O vapor 36
All except H2O vapor 34
CO2 9
All except CO2 74
H2O vapor + CO2 53
Other GHG 5
Clouds 16

Table 1: Contributions to the greenhouse effect by different greenhouse gases. Source realclimate.org.

Since GHG have overlapping bands of infrared absorption, the absorption from one gas affects the absorption from another gas. Some wavelengths of infrared light are absorbed by both water vapor and CO2. If water vapor alone is removed, leaving the CO2, the CO2 will absorb the infrared light in the overlap region. Conversely, if the CO2 is removed from the atmosphere, water vapor will absorb that infrared light. Thus the absorption by one gas depends on the other gases present in the atmosphere.

Note that removing all GHGs with the exception of water vapor would result in absorption of 66% of the IR radiation absorbed by the current atmosphere (100 – 34). If all GHGs except CO2 are removed the absorption rate is reduced to only 26%. Clearly H2O is more important than carbon dioxide, but CO2 does make a significant contribution. So far this has been a matter of basic physics, but things are about to get more complicated.

Most of the claims about the impact of AGW are predicated on specific amounts of temperature increase. The temperature increase is attributed to increasing atmospheric CO2 levels, another fact that very few scientists deny. For reasons soon to be discussed, future temperature increases are calibrated on an assumed increase for doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere over “preindustrial” levels. Long-term atmospheric data show that CO2 levels remained stable around 280 ppm (parts per million) during the most of the past 10,000 years. When climate scientists talk about CO2 levels doubling this is the base level from which the increase is measured.

The simplest, and incorrect, way to estimate of the impact of doubling atmospheric CO2 levels would be to double its greenhouse temperature contribution. Such a linear estimate for doubling all GHG would would result in an additional increase of 33˚C (60˚F), giving an average surface temperature of the earth of 48˚C (119˚F). Fortunately that is not the way things work in the real world. Doubling CO2 levels will only result in a small rise in temperature due to two factors, both having to do the absorption spectra of greenhouse gases as shown in the graph below.

Greenhouse gas absorption spectra. Source The Resilient Earth.

The two complicating factors are band saturation and spectral overlap. The first has to do with how much radiation is already being absorbed at specific frequencies. If the absorption at a certain wavelength is close to 100 percent, doubling the CO2 level will have little effect—absorption can not exceed 100% no matter how much more gas is added. Think of if this way: if a totally opaque curtain is placed over a window, blocking all of the light, adding more layers of curtain cannot make the room any darker.

The second limiting factor, spectral overlap, comes from the relationships between the frequencies of light GHG absorption. As already stated, water vapor has areas of infrared light absorption that overlap the absorption by CO2. As with saturation, in regions where infrared light is already strongly absorbed by water vapor, the addition of more CO2 will make little or no difference. Given these complications, doubling atmospheric CO2 levels will result in a much lower temperature rise than a linear estimation.

The impact of such a doubling can still be calculated using formulas from a standard textbook. If nothing else in the system changes, a doubling of CO2 from the preindustrial levels is estimated to produce a temperature rise of 1.2 to 1.3˚C (2.2 to 2.3˚F). Again, the calculation is straightforward and there is little controversy about the figure among scientists. Now recall that over the last century and a half CO2 levels have risen from a preindustrial 280 ppm to around 380 ppm. At the same time global average mean temperature has risen (depending on who you believe) 0.8 to 1.0˚C. This implies that, once the CO2 level reaches 560 ppm, the dreaded doubling, temperatures should rise by another 0.2 to 0.5˚C. So where do the IPCC estimates of 2.0 to 6.0˚C come from?

Where things start to get murky

The IPCC temperature estimates for doubling atmospheric CO2 come from amplifying the amount of warming from the actual greenhouse increase due to assumed positive feedback. The concept of feedback has its roots in electrical engineering and the study of electronic circuits. The term “feedback” first appeared in the 1920s and supposedly came from the broadcasting industry. When the volume of a microphone is set too high sound from a nearby monitor speaker can be picked up and amplified even more. The resulting sound is usually a loud, unpleasant screech. Since the sounds that enter a microphone are referred to as feeds, the unpleasant sounds were called “feed-back.”

As it turns out, the concept of feedback can be applied to a wide range of dynamical systems, both natural and man made. Here is a description of dynamical systems and feedback by Karl Johan Åström and Richard M. Murray in their book, Feedback Systems: An Introduction for Scientists and Engineers:

A dynamical system is a system whose behavior changes over time, often in response to external stimulation or forcing. The term feedback refers to a situation in which two (or more) dynamical systems are connected together such that each system influences the other and their dynamics are thus strongly coupled. Simple causal reasoning about a feedback system is difficult because the first system influences the second and the second system influences the first, leading to a circular argument. This makes reasoning based on cause and effect tricky, and it is necessary to analyze the system as a whole.

Feedback in natural systems is well accepted, this is not the problem. The problem lies in calculating the impact that all the various natural feedback loops have on global temperature. Some feedback mechanisms are positive, amplifying any input signal changes, while others are negative, applying an opposing influence and limiting signal change. An example of positive climatic feedback is water vapor. An increase in temperature causes more evaporation from the ocean that releases more water vapor into the atmosphere causing further temperature rise.

To further complicate things, some factors can participate in both positive and negative feedback loops. Water vapor, cited above as a positive feedback, can provide a negative feedback in this way: rising temperature increases atmospheric water vapor levels, which in turn causes more precipitation; if the precipitation falls as snow this can raise Earth’s albedo, reflecting more sunlight and lowering the planet’s overall temperature. This chain of influences is why some scientists claim that Earth must first warm up in order to get colder. More water vapor can also cause more clouds that, depending on their type, can either cool or warm the planet—as I said, it’s complicated. Some of the known climate feedback factors are shown in the figure below.

Climate feedback loops. After Robock.

It is the nature, magnitude and characteristics of the natural feedback loops that are at the heart of the AGW controversy. Without feedback loops amplifying the impact of increasing carbon dioxide levels on Earth’s temperature the global warming proponents have no case—and skeptics like myself are unconvinced that the IPCC has got them right.

Mainstream climate scientists have decided that the net impact of all the feedback relationships within the Earth system is positive. In effect, they multiply the marginal temperature increase from the enhanced greenhouse warming by an “amplification factor.” This assumption is both unwarranted and a dangerous oversimplification of Earth’s climate system. You cannot analyze a system as a whole if you do not know and understand all the pieces that comprise the system.

For instance, there must be limiting factors or opposing negative feedback to counter the proposed positive ones or Earth’s temperature, once warming began, would spiral ever upward—a runaway greenhouse like that of Venus. We know such limiting factors exist because Earth’s climate has remained within a range conducive to life for a half a billion years. Still, this has not prevented climate change proponents from positing a number of simple positive feedback relationships which they say will cause a dangerous rise in planetary temperature. Usually, the primary positive feedback claimed to amplify the warming effect of CO2 is a supposed link to water vapor.

A recent report in Science suggests that stratospheric water vapor between 1980 and 2000 probably increased the rate of surface warming during the 1990s by about 30%. The research, led by respected NOAA climate scientist and IPCC climate change assessment report co-chair Susan Solomon, states that from 2000 to 2009 diminished water vapor levels in the upper atmosphere depressed global warming by about 25% compared to that which would have occurred due only to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The research, based on data from the state-of-the-art AIRS instrument on the NASA Aqua satellite, suggests that water vapor is responsible for twice the global warming effect of carbon dioxide, whether man-made or naturally occurring. As I have said, “it’s the water vapor, stupid!” As for the feedback connection, this was during a period when CO2 levels were constantly rising, yet water vapor levels in the stratosphere fell.

Data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument. NASA

In fact, given these new results, human CO2 would actually be responsible for a negative feedback that cancels at least some of the warming it causes by pushing water vapor back to the surface of the earth and out of the stratosphere, where it acts as a potent greenhouse gas. Climate change alarmist claims of a CO2 amplifier may not only be exaggerated, they may have it backwards. Dr Solomon has not abandoned her belief in global warming but admitted that the research does imply that human emissions having a much smaller role in climate change than previously thought.

Another new estimate of the overall feedback between temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration has been derived from a comprehensive comparison of temperature and CO2 proxy records spanning the past 1000 years. The study in Nature, by David Frank et al., was based on more than 200,000 individual comparisons over the period from 1050 to 1800. Their results imply that the amplification of current global warming by carbon-cycle feedback will be significantly less than commonly suggested. This report goes so far as to suggest ~80% less potential amplification for ongoing global warming.

These are just two of the most recent published studies that cast doubt on our understanding of Earth’s climate and how climate might react to increasing levels of atmospheric CO2. A survey of published papers over the past few years makes it abundantly clear, this is not “settled science” as AGW adherents and eco-alarmists have claimed. As I said, the climate change alarmists’ assertions regarding CO2 feedback are unconvincing.

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Our Company Operational Support Network (who to call):

If you have a general R&M issue call Mike @ 203.520.4628 or Jason @ 401.369.3767. If it is an emergency call the people listed below who can help and get it fixed and call us when you can. We always want to be sure that issues that can’t wait, don’t wait, make good decisions and be pro-active. Managers should ALWAYS contact their GM if there is an issue or a problem, they will give you immediate and primary direction and guidance.

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A Skeptic’s Guide to An Inconvenient Truth

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An Inconvenient Truth (AIT), Vice President Al Gore’s book on “The planetary emergency of global warming and what can be done about it,” purports to be a non-partisan, non-ideological exposition of climate science and moral common-sense. In reality, AIT is a colorfully illustrated lawyer’s brief for global warming alarmism and energy rationing. It is a j’accuse hurled at fossil-energy-based civilization, especially the USA, and above all the Bush Administration and its allies in the U.S. oil and auto industries.

We do not expect lawyers to argue both for and against their clients, nor do we expect balance from party men. However, although Gore reminds us (in the film version of AIT) that he “used to be the next President of the United States,” and concludes the book and film with a call for “political action,” he presents AIT as the work of a long-time student of climate science—and a product of meditation on “what matters.” He thus asks us to expect more from him than the mere cleverness that can sway juries or win elections.

This reasonable expectation is unmet. In AIT, the only facts and studies considered are those convenient to Gore’s scare-them-green agenda. And in many instances, Gore distorts the evidence he cites.

The present paper, a running commentary on AIT, finds that most of Gore’s claims regarding climate science and climate policy are either one sided, misleading, exaggerated, speculative, or wrong. An extensive summary of AIT’s distortions is provided in Appendix A. Below is a list of 25 of egregious examples.

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