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Alex Epstein on the 97% lie

Alex Epstein gives a well-deserved kicking to that 97% claim:

What you’ll find is that people don’t want to define what 97% agree on – because there is nothing remotely in the literature saying 97% agree we should ban most fossil fuel use.

It’s likely that 97% of people making the 97% claim have absolutely no idea where that number comes from.

If you look at the literature, the specific meaning of the 97% claim is: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that there is a global warming trend and that human beings are the main cause – that is, that we are over 50% responsible. …

But do the “97%” even say that? And are the actual percentage that do say that right? My opinion has long been: No; and: No.

I scroll down, and am pleased to discover that Epstein agrees with me:

But it gets even worse. Because it turns out that 97% didn’t even say that. …

Marxists used to believe that Marxist tyranny was needed to rescue the world’s economy from capitalists. But that excuse collapsed long ago. The biggest economic rescue acts that are now needed are to rescue the bits of the world’s economy that Marxist tyrants have been busy ruining. So, should Marxists abandon these methods? Yes. Are they abandoning these methods? Many presumably have, and have gone silent. But others, the ones we still hear shouting their nonsense, just fabricated a different set of excuses for those same old tyrannical methods.

21 comments to Alex Epstein on the 97% lie

  • Chad Irby

    97% is “The Plausible lie.”

    100% is flatly false, and everyone knows it.

    99% is too good to be true, no matter what. Sounds like a bad commercial.

    98% is wishy-washy, and an even number. Boring.

    But 97%? Yeah, that gets into the start of “that might be true.” It’s a perfect liar’s number.

  • Runcie Balspune

    The other forgotten aspect of the report is it concentrates on the opinion of “western” climate scientists, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. All those Chinese scientists, you know, the ones doing genetic editing, or landing on the far side of the moon, or developing a naval railgun, those ones, whose opinion on this subject was not deemed worthy.

  • CaptDMO

    And what percentage of the “papers” cited have been peer reviewed and redacted?
    Or are we only counting “scientists” of “certain” positions?

  • pete

    I am not sure that the 97% claim can be described as a lie.

    After reading many eco-alarmist articles in the press and hearing many such items on the TV and radio I have noticed that most global warming believers seem to have a very poor grasp of basic maths.

    Not that surprising in a field which attracts a lot of nice, well connected, public school educated, middle class home counties people with arts degrees.

  • djc

    ” 97 percent of climate scientists agree ” = 97% of true believers believe.

  • Nullius in Verba

    I think the earliest published paper I know of actually doing an actual survey of scientists, rather than a literature survey of papers that got past the climate journal gatekeepers, was Doran and Zimmerman 2006. It is instructive to actually read the paper – something most of the people citing it clearly haven’t done.

    This brief report addresses the two primary questions of the survey, which contained up to nine questions (the full study is given by Kendall Zimmerman [2008]):
    1. When compared with pre-1800s 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?
    With 3146 individuals completing the survey…

    Results show that overall, 90% of participants answered “risen” to question 1 and 82% answered yes to question 2.

    In our survey, the most specialized and knowledgeable respondents (with regard to climate change) are those who listed climate science as their area of expertise and who also have published more than 50% of their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change (79 individuals in total). Of these specialists, 96.2% (76 of 79) answered “risen” to question 1 and 97.4% (75 of 77) answered yes to question 2.

    The oddity of the changing denominator – 79 to 77 – is explained here.

    The only other survey worth paying any attention to is Bray and Von Storch 2008. (Click on the ‘Download full-text PDF’ link because the diagrams are screwed up in the web version.) Note, this is on climate scientists rather than scientists generally. Doran and Zimmerman did also plot an 88% figure for just the climate scientists in their diagram, but didn’t mention it in the text.

    Wikipedia summarises its conclusions thus:

    In the section on climate change impacts, questions 20 and 21 were relevant to scientific opinion on climate change. Question 20, “How convinced are you that climate change, whether natural or anthropogenic, is occurring now?” Answers: 67.1% very much convinced (7), 26.7% to some large extent (5–6), 6.2% said to some small extent (2–4), none said not at all. Question 21, “How convinced are you that most of recent or near future climate change is, or will be, a result of anthropogenic causes?” Answers: 34.6% very much convinced (7), 48.9% being convinced to a large extent (5–6), 15.1% to a small extent (2–4), and 1.35% not convinced at all (1).

    But questions 24-26 ask about the risk of catastrophic impacts, and there are many other interesting questions in there on scientific certainty. It is by far the most detailed survey of scientists’ opinions I’ve seen, and a model of how to do it.

    Funnily enough, it’s not the one anyone in the mainstream chooses to quote.

  • Greg

    Isn’t the answer to the “catastrophic impacts” question outside the purview of “climate science” (sneer quotes on the latter)? Seems more the purview of geopolitics, agronomy, or economics, at least once the “climate science” people have given us their estimates. Oh, and we need uncertainties, quantified, carefully. And reproducibility of experiments–oh, wait, this is one of those “sciences” that doesn’t do experiments, right?

    And whoever makes the impact estimates also needs to provide a range of possible impacts (i.e., uncertainty preferably at the 95% confidence level). I’m guessing those will range from nada to world-changing; in other words, they have no better idea of the impact in 50 or 100 years than I do.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Isn’t the answer to the “catastrophic impacts” question outside the purview of “climate science” (sneer quotes on the latter)?”

    The questions “What do climate scientists believe?” and “Are climate scientists’ beliefs correct?” are two separate issues. The “97%-is-a-lie” debate is only about the former question.

    Argumentum ad Verecundiam is an invalid mode of argumentation, so the 97% figure has no bearing on the latter question, but given the prominence given to the 97% number, it’s still an interesting ‘social sciences’ question as to what their opinion actually is, and whether the number measured has been reported accurately. It’s also interesting that the two numbers are so different! The sceptic claim is that this is because sceptical papers can’t get published. If 82% of scientists but 97% of scientific papers hold that position, that might be an indication of biased selection for publication. D&Z offer no evidence for their assumption that the difference is due to differing expertise. It would be worth checking.

  • Decades ago, a survey of 33 astrophysicists was published:

    1. Do you subscribe to the Big Bang or Steady State theory of the universe?
    – 12 Big Bang
    – 10 Steady State
    – 11 Don’t Know

    2. Are surveys of this kind useful to science?
    – 0 Yes
    – 33 No
    – 0 Don’t Know

    (Of course, that was when politics played no role.)

    The UN will tell you they employed 2500 scientists to confirm AGW back in the noughties. Another analysis indicated that just 57 of them (some of whom were activists) examined whether AGW was happening, while the rest looked at what the impacts would be if it were. One of them resigned over politicisation even before the process completed. Another had to threaten legal action to get his name removed from the report (which flatly ignored his minimal-impact finding in favour of “we’re all doomed”). Many who expressed concerns did so within their areas of expertise (understandably enough), and so said that hurricanes were not getting stronger and more numerous, or that warming would often reduce, not increase, insect-borne plagues, etc., rather than challenging the whole edifice – and all know that speaking out even in this minimal way is a threat to funding and employment.

    I think that 97% is a straight-up lie: there would be far less (and far less need for) the climate activists’ gatekeeping activity if it were even close to being true. The paucity of amicus curia supporters for Michael Mann’s lawsuit suggests to me that the true beliefs of western scientists are a good deal less committed than the gatekeepers make it appear. I think that insofar as there is any consensus among Russian scientists (never mind the Chinese ones mentioned by Runcie Balspune in January 4, 2019 at 11:27 pm), they predict cooling.

  • Paul Marks

    No apology for saying what I have often said before – if the global warming (now “climate change”) people took their own theory seriously they would be ardently in favour of NUCLEAR POWER.

    Some ARE (for example James Lovelock “The Gaia Man” was always strongly in favour of nuclear power as the only practical way of radically reducing C02 emissions), but most of the global warming people are NOT supporters of nuclear power, for example the degenerate Chancellor Merkel of Germany is actually SHUTTING DOWN ALL GERMAN NUCLEAR POWER STATIONS, and as “renewables” have failed economically in Germany (no surprise), the Germans are now dependent on Mr Putin for oil and gas, and are using domestic brown coal.

    Oil, gas and coal – rather than nuclear power. So much for German “Greeness” – if it was not so horribly hypocritical it would be funny. And Germany is not the exception – it is the norm.

  • Stonyground

    Even if the 97% nonsense were true, so what. Scientific truth doesn’t respect democratic principles, It would be quite possible that the other 3% were right.

    On the issue of nuclear power, you must have noticed that the climate change alarmists are only interested in “solutions” that don’t actually work. Now why would that be I wonder?

  • Deep Lurker

    Be afraid. There is at least one global-warming person who is in favor of nuclear power – in a sense.

  • Runcie Balspune

    they would be ardently in favour of NUCLEAR POWER

    It’s all sunlight.

    Fossil fuels are merely the remnants of sunlight stored biochemically, the primary disadvantage is that it takes a long time to accumulate.

    Solar power is sunlight (obviously) and it is more direct and immediate, however there’s that pesky 150 million km gap to get here and the 250 million km2 it gets spread over (mostly water) – very inefficient.

    Wind and wave are just solar (sunlight) via yet another medium, even more inefficient.

    What would be better than to take a piece of sun and collect the sunlight direct from it close up?

    Fission nuclear power is basically that, well not quite, fusion would be more exact, but its an obviously better and more efficient way than solar, wind or wave.

    We should be looking forward at more efficient fission now and fusion later, not backward to less efficient sunlight, whatever your view on AGW.

  • NickM

    I think it was Fred Hoyle who pointed out a very big problem in astrophysics. We empirically know vastly, enormously more about one star than about the other countless billions of ’em.

    Similarly we know a lot about this planet, very little about the other planets in our system and next to nothing about the few hundred exoplanets discovered.

    So basically we are working with one data point (OK, we can sort of include Venus*) which is not a good place to be doing science. It’s like a paleontologist speculating on the behaviour of a dinosaur species from a single fossil.

    We really have absolutely nothing to compare with and we certainly have no other industrial civilization to compare with and what effect if any it had on the environment there. If we lived in something like the Star Trek Universe we’d have loads of examples of very Earth like planets (Kirk, Picard, Janeway et. al. rarely wear spacesuits on “away trips”**) with a whole variety of forms of civilization (or none) but we do not live in such a Universe or at least do not have access to it.

    An earlier comment was made as to the fact that “catastrophic global warming” is pretty much by definition deeply interdisciplinary. This is an excellent point. It has a corrollary that must be pointed out. Scientists are funding whores***. So let’s say you’re an ecologist**** and want funding for a study into “Changing migratory patterns of squirrels”. Nyet! But, put in the exact same request and re-title it “The effect of global warming on squirrel migratory patterns” and kerching!!! Seriously. I don’t have the figures to hand but Dubya increased climate-related funding in the US by at least an order of magnitude pretty much overnight. Now if you are scientist in a cash-strapped field***** which can in even the vaguest way be connected to Global Warming then it’s Klondike time. You have to believe (or pretend to) to get in on the bonanza.

    The a very few citadels of “pure science” and there never really have been.

    *The atrocious conditions on Venus are generally assumed to be the result of a runaway greenhouse effect. Having said that the cause of that is unknown and I very much doubt it was down to Venusian Dark Satanic Mills etc.
    **In fact quite a lot of these alien worlds look surprisingly like Southern California for some reason 😉
    ***Difference is whether you’re funded by Government Grant or Hugh Grant.
    ****The proper kind. Not someone who wears a silly hat and tries to block the trains going int Drax power station.
    *****Every scientist is in a “cash-strapped field” – even if they aren’t.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The atrocious conditions on Venus are generally assumed to be the result of a runaway greenhouse effect. Having said that the cause of that is unknown and I very much doubt it was down to Venusian Dark Satanic Mills etc.”

    The reason for the *current* atrocious conditions on Venus is its very high-altitude IR-opaque clouds. The physics of that was developed by Schwarchild for explaining stellar atmospheres in the 1930s, was nothing at all to do with climate scientists, and is scientifically uncontroversial (although not as widely known as it should be). How Venus originally got to that state is, as you say, unknown – a runaway greenhouse due to being closer to the sun is one possibility.

    Venus is relatively simple compared to the Earth.

  • Lloyd Martin Hendaye

    After thirty years, why is this abject stupidity even worth discussing?

    For nigh 2,000 years, schoolmen taught Aristotle’s physics of motion (imputing the flight of an arrow shot overhead to “impetus” imparted by the archer) as virtual holy writ. Came Galileo, who pointed out that, according to the Stagirite, an arrow fired horizontally would either stop dead and fall to the ground or reverse course and wing flat-back to strike the bow, a brutally empirical New Physics proclaimed “Nullius in Verba” and went on from there.

    End of Aristotle… but Global Warming based on 300 years of “anthropogenic” CO2 emissions rising to 400 ppm from Western culture’s Industrial/Scientific Revolutions is an equal asininity. (Cf: Australian Robert Holmes’ “Molar Mass version of the Ideal Gas Law”, whereby any planet’s temperature T = PM/Rp, ie. any planet’s near-surface global Temperature T equates to its Atmospheric Pressure P times Mean Molar Mass M over its Gas Constant R times Atmospheric Density p).

    Applying Holmes’ equation to all planets in Earth’s solar system, zero error-margins attest that there is no empirical or mathematical basis for any “forced” carbon-accumulation factor (CO2) affecting Planet Earth. Based on readings cumulated from mid-1800s, published mid-December 2017, Holmes as Klimat Kultists’ Galileo is undergoing a conspiracy of silence analogous to Galileo’s Inquisition. “Nevertheless, it moves.”

  • Nullius in Verba

    ” (Cf: Australian Robert Holmes’ “Molar Mass version of the Ideal Gas Law”, whereby any planet’s temperature T = PM/Rp, ie. any planet’s near-surface global Temperature T equates to its Atmospheric Pressure P times Mean Molar Mass M over its Gas Constant R times Atmospheric Density p).”

    What makes you think that rising CO2 would have no effect on surface pressure or density?

  • Fraser Orr

    @NickM
    So let’s say you’re an ecologist and want funding for a study into “Changing migratory patterns of squirrels”. Nyet! But, put in the exact same request and re-title it “The effect of global warming on squirrel migratory patterns” and kerching!

    Thanks for this Nick. It really summarizes so effectively what is going on with science funding, and in particular shines a light on whether “all these scientists could be lying.” It is much more complex than “lying” and Nick beautifully elucidates it here.

    I assure you Nick I will be stealing this and claiming it for my own. Sorry, you should not be expecting royalty checks (unless you want to write a paper on “The effects of global warming on science funding”. That would be a fun paper.)

  • Flubber

    It is much more complex than “lying” and Nick beautifully elucidates it here.

    Well Turkeys dont vote for Christmas either…

  • Y. Knott

    But others, the ones we still hear shouting their nonsense, just fabricated a different set of excuses for those same old tyrannical methods.

    – You sound surprised…

  • NickM

    I came across this today…

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-6572467/Professor-faces-getting-sacked-writing-20-spoof-scientific-papers.html

    I am not surprised. But this does deserve an audience shouted from the rafters. And I shall waive my conceptual penis until it gets it.

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