What is the Meaningful 97% in the Climate Debate?
For a brief period, the New York Times added a column to their best-seller book list. It identified the percentage of people who finished reading the book. As I recall, the outright winner for lowest percentage was Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose with only 6%. It is an excellent and fascinating book if you understand the Catholic church, its theological disputes, know much about medieval mythology, understand Catholic religious orders, and are familiar with the history of Italy in the Middle Ages. As one reviewer wrote, “I won’t lie to you. It is absolutely a slog at times.” This phrase struck me because it is exactly what a lawyer told me after reading my book “The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science.”
I told him it was a slog to research because it required reading all the Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a task that few, certainly fewer than 6%, ever achieve, including most of the people involved with the production. This is the tragedy. There are so many people with such strong, definitive views, including among skeptics and the general science community who have never read the Reports at all. The challenge is made more difficult by the deliberate attempt to separate truth and reality from propaganda and the political agenda.
In media interviews or discussions with the public, the most frequent opening challenge is; “But don’t 97% of scientists agree?” It is usually said obliquely to imply that you know a lot, and I don’t understand, but I assume you are wrong because you are in the minority. I don’t attempt to refute the statistics. Instead, I explain the difference in definitions between science and society. Then I point out that the critical 97% figure is that at least 97% of scientists have never read the claims of the IPCC Reports. How many people reading this article have read all the IPCC Reports, or even just one of them? If you have, it is probably the deliberately deceptive Summary for Policymakers (SPM). Even fewer will have read the Report of Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis. Naively, people, especially other scientists, assume scientists would not falsify, mislead, misrepresent, or withhold information. It is worse, because the IPCC deliberately created the false claim of consensus.
I wrote earlier about the problem of communications between groups and the general public because of the different definition of terms. Among the most damaging, especially in the public debate, is the word consensus. Exploitation of the confusion was deliberate. On 22 December 2004, RealClimate, the website created to manipulate the global warming story, provided this insight;
We’ve used the term “consensus” here a bit recently without ever really defining what we mean by it. In normal practice, there is no great need to define it – no science depends on it. But it’s useful to record the core that most scientists agree on, for public presentation. The consensus that exists is that of the IPCC reports, in particular the working group I report (there are three WG’s. By “IPCC”, people tend to mean WG I).
In other words, it is what the creators of the Reports consider a consensus. This is classic groupthink on display. One characteristic of which says they have,
“a culture of uniformity where individuals censor themselves and others so that the facade of group unanimity is maintained.”
The source of the 97% claim in the public arena came from John Cook et al., and was published in 2013 in Environmental Research Letters. It was titled “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature.” I acknowledge to people some of the brilliant dissections of this claim, such as Lord Monckton’s comment, “0.3% consensus, not 97.1%.” If I have time, I explain how the plan to exploit the idea of consensus was developed by the same people and corrupted science exposed in the emails leaked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in November 2009.
Harvard graduate, medical doctor, and world-famous science fiction writer, Michael Crichton provides an excellent riposte.
“I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.
Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.”
The attempt to deceive and divert was built into the structure, format, and procedures of the IPCC. Few people know that a major part of the deception is to identify all the problems with the science but only identify them in the Report of Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis. They know most won’t read or understand it and can easily marginalize the few who do. In 2012 I created a list of several of these acknowledgments, but only one is sufficient here to destroy the certainty of their claims about future climates. Section 14.2.2. of the Scientific Section of Third IPCC Assessment Report, (2001) titled “Predictability in a Chaotic System” says:
“The climate system is particularly challenging since it is known that components in the system are inherently chaotic; there are feedbacks that could potentially switch sign, and there are central processes that affect the system in a complicated, non-linear manner. These complex, chaotic, non-linear dynamics are an inherent aspect of the climate system.”
“In sum, a strategy must recognise what is possible. In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible” (My emphasis).
This is not reported in the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) that is deliberately different. David Wojick, an IPCC expert reviewer, explained,
“What is systematically omitted from the SPM are precisely the uncertainties and positive counter evidence that might negate the human interference theory. Instead of assessing these objections, the Summary confidently asserts just those findings that support its case. In short, this is advocacy, not assessment.”
He should add, it is deliberate advocacy, as the RealClimate quote shows.
The SPM receives scant attention from the media and the public, except for the temperature predictions and then only the most extreme figure is selected. The Science Report receives even less attention, but that is by instruction because it is released months later. All of this is why I quoted German physicist and meteorologist Klaus Eckart Puls (English translation version) on the cover of both my books.
“Ten years ago, I simply parroted what the IPCC told us. One day I started checking the facts and data – first I started with a sense of doubt but then I became outraged when I discovered that much of what the IPCC and the media were telling us was sheer nonsense and was not even supported by any scientific facts and measurements. To this day I still feel shame that as a scientist I made presentations of their science without first checking it.” “Scientifically it is sheer absurdity to think we can get a nice climate by turning a CO2 adjustment knob.”
The real challenge of the 97% consensus claim is to get more of the 97% to do what Puls did, read the Reports and find out what the IPCC did and said. They need to do it because the misuse and loss of credibility of science aren’t restricted to the climate deception. As I read and hear from all sectors of science and society, it is endemic (fake news) and potentially devastating. I think one of the most important achievements of my successful trial with Andrew Weaver was to go beyond the defamation charge, against my lawyer’s advice, and show that the misuse of science will and must elicit passionate reactions. So, next time you are confronted with the 97% oblique charge, simply ask the person if they have read any of the IPCC Reports. Just be prepared for the invective.