Pielke Senior: Erroneous Claim in an AP News Article

From Roger Pielke Senior’s Climate Science Blog. There is an Associated Press [AP] news article today by Dina Cappiello, Seth Borenstein and Kevin Freking titled “Poll: US belief in global warming is cooling”.


In this article the reporters perpetuate the myth that

“Though there are exceptions, the vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is occurring and that the primary cause is a buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal.”

This is not true and is a case of the media seeking to make up news.

We have already documented that a significant minority of climate scientists do not consider greenhouse gases as the primary cause for global warming, and, more generally, cause climate change; e.g.  see

Brown, F., J. Annan, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2008: Is there agreement amongst climate scientists on the IPCC AR4 WG1?


National Research Council, 2005: Radiative forcing of climate change: Expanding the concept and addressing uncertainties. Committee on Radiative Forcing Effects on Climate Change, Climate Research Committee, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 208 pp.

In the coming month, we will be presenting another article that documents that the AP authors are erroneous in their claim “that the vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is occurring and that the primary cause is a buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal.”

If the reporters want to be balanced in their presentations, rather than lobbyists and advocates, they would persue the validity of their claim. So far, however, they have failed in this journalistic role.


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I don’t know I think there is room for a vast majority and a significant minority to both exist at the same time. Don’t get me wrong it is definitely slanted towards the AGW POV but I don’t think you can say it is an erroneous claim.

Barry Foster

OT. Lower troposphere in freefall at the moment http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/execute.csh?amsutemps+002

It’s very unclear to me what could be the basis of such a claim. Even if scientists the world over were to vote, on what proposition would they vote?
That climate changes?
Is changing?
That CO2 might, plausibly, be having an effect?
A BIG effect? A minor effect?
Now? In 100 years?
It’s safe to say that biologists concerned with evolution, and many who are not directly investigating it, assent to Darwin’s theory because that is their working intellectual framework. Other than people investigating the mechanics of climate change who already accept AGW, what scientists claim that?
Biologists who write about the “probable impacts on X,y,z species of climate change” would not change the way they do their work if AGW suddenly were abandoned – they would simply investigate different things.
Just as you can do decent solid-state physics and be a fundamentalist creationist but you can’t be paleontologist doing good workwith that mind-set, the notions of AGW are simply irrelevant to most science.
My basic point is that this notion that AGW people are in the majority is mostly based on the news media and certain highly visible editorial positions of some science and quasi scientific (IPCC) institutions.
I dealt with this at length in my dissection of Oreske’s famous claim based on her “research” into the literature of climate change.

Mike Bryant

The term “vast majority” is very vague. A simple majority means more than 50%. A super majority means more than two thirds, or about 66%. So what IS a vast majority? Is it more than a super majority? I think that most people would think it is between 80% and 95%. Of course that is only a guess since it has not been defined and is misleading.
The term “significant minority” is also vague. The terms small minoritytiny/substantial/significant minority

Mike Bryant

The term “significant minority” is also vague. The terms small minority tinyminority, substantial minority and significant minority all need to be defined.
Still, I think Pielke has a point.

Why don’t people check this for themselves?
Most people nowadays have access to the Internet.
Satellite data of global temperature, ice cover and sea level rise are just a few clicks away on the Internet. These data are from unbiased sources.
They show no temperature rise for the last decade, an ice cover increase around Antarctica, an Arctic ice rebound from a minimum 2 years ago and no increase in the sea level rise.
When argue about this encourage people to check out for themselves!
We should start a check out for yourself campaign!


It is interesting that Colombia Univ. is no longer accepting applicants for its environmental journal program. There apparently are no job opportunties after graduation. But one other thing caught my eye about this degree. It is a double major in environmental studies and journalism. So it would seem that the their could be a conflict. Are the environmental journalists really environmentalists who are interested in journalism or journalists with an interest in the environment. It just seems that the way this is structured, you will automatically get people who are pre-disposed to a point of view.


You miss the point. The whole reason that the press uses such terms is that they are misleading but can still be claimed to be technically true. What they are printing is true even if it doesn’t accurately represent the truth.

Adam from Kansas

I wonder how the belief will be swayed once they see continued warming of the waters above and below the surface of the middle of the ENSO region (the TAO site showing a bit of warming in a certain spot as El Modoki gets stronger)?
Then again that could be like Solar/SST relation expert Tallbloke said, the oceans in heat release mode due to solar inactivity as the SST data on the UAH site isn’t really climbing in response to this as with previous El Ninos (particulary the one in 97/98)


I see this almost word for word in every single climate reporting article, regardless of what they are reporting. I’ll also go as far as to say that every single AP article is like that: there’s an agenda, with the facts prompting the article as a secondary part of the ‘news’ (‘opinion’?) story.
As the article states, people are mixing up climate and weather. But at what point does weather become climate?


There is often times a “vast” difference between what is true and the truth.

April E. Coggins

“But at what point does weather become climate?”
At the point when it’s politically useful.


It seems that Pielke seinor has called this correctly. There are probably more scientists that do not believe in global warming than do, but there are few government grants available that would allow that viewpoint to be made known. The IPCC, Gore and the US government continue to pour money into AGW. There is power to be gained in support of AGW. Soon enough government control will be used for the opposite viewpoint when reality strikes. I was at a presentation at USC by Dr. W Soon where he spoke of the current solar minimum and its cooling effect. In the audience were many professors. I asked one of them why he did not speak out about how global warming was incorrect and he replied that he was ‘afraid to do so’. There is always the threat of government not supporting the research in which they are directly involved. AGW has been well paid for and continues as a source of income for many on the bandwagon.

R. Craigen

I consider myself to be part of the vast minority.


The other common one is “with a warming planet and rising sea levels”.


It’s time for that significant minority to educate the AP. Only the respected and accomplished scientists and professional people can do this. We the consumers of the “news” are not considered authoritative enough to sway the AP which is locked into getting information only from sources they trust. Anthony, perhaps it’s time to start a press release campaign from your circle of knowledgeable authorities?

Eric Anderson

Have they actually done a poll of all scientists (notice, it didn’t say “climate scientists” or some similar poorly-defined subset), or even a large sampling, to know that the “vast majority” believe the following:
“that global warming is occurring and that the primary cause is a buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal.”
As I understand it, there is some significant percentage that believes (i) global warming is occurring. There is a smaller subset that believes (ii) it is caused by a buildup of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. There is yet a smaller subset that believes (iii) the buildup is the result of burning oil and coal.
Although not mentioned in the quote, there would be further (and smaller) subsets who think that (iv) the warming will be catastrophic or even net-negative, (v) we have the ability to control the amount of warming, and (vi) we should expend efforts to control the warming (as opposed to putting our limited resources to other uses).
The statement about legions of scientists is nothing that but an unsupported appeal to authority. Repeat it often enough and it will become part of the background “knowledge” of the reporter.


I agree with Per Stranberg – all the info is out there, in fact you can find it all at one site
I have a friend who is a full on greenie, checks the Greenpeace site every day – when I pointed him to climate4you his whole belief system was shattered.

Poor grumpy journalists. They had to report the poll — no way to avoid it since it came from their very own Pew news factory. But it was not happy news for the PC hounds.
So they spin the myth that the majority of common American peasants are deluded and ignorant of the “science”, whereas the scribblers with journalism degrees are somehow more advanced and tuned in.
But as we all know, journalists in general are science-handicapped. That’s why those individuals went into journalism rather than some technical field. As a result, journalism has become advocacy rhetoric, light on the technical facts.
Journalism is a dying profession. The new wave is citizen journalism, ala WUWT, and the old forms are withering away. Society has already made the leap. The pathetic buggy whip journalists are flailing away as best they can, but the handwriting is on the wall.


It’s funny .We have no cure for the common cold but the global warming crowd ,and most of the news media,knows for sure that we are causing global warming or climate change as its now been changed to.I saw on Fox News where congress is wanting to put carbon charges for having pets becaues it is bad for the enviroment. I believe that all of the global warming crowd is bad for America and the enviroment as well.

Sean (11:55:41) : It just seems that the way this is structured, you will automatically get people who are pre-disposed to a point of view.
The “vast majority” of the curriculum at U. California Santa Cruz is of that ilk. On a visit there with my son, we both decided to look elsewhere exactly because of that “eco cram down” in every topic. He is now getting a Biz degree at a different UC campus with more “normal” social mix…

What a patience! Trying to convince global warmers of how wrong they are. It is an impossible endeavour. It is not a matter of reasoning but believing.
Only our now feeble but faithful sun will freeze their beliefs.

John Galt

Dr Pielke: Almost all media polls are an attempt to create news. As always, the devil is in the details.
How many articles have we seen stating a majority support for government run health care? How many tell you the specifics of the questions and the breakdown of the people they sampled?
If you choose who you poll, you’ll get the answers you want to receive. Sure, somebody will do an analysis that shows the results are skewed and not properly weighted, but if the media doesn’t report that story, most people will never know.
BTW: What about the poll that shows concern about AGW or climate change has the lowest priority of any major issue among Americans?

Let me get this straight .. the contention is that there isn’t a “vast majority” but it’s something like a “half-vast majority”

Henry chance

“the science is in”
any other questions?
I suspect this news hits newspapers and print media. These are papers that give time for the sunrise and sunset. I am glad to know they tell me the sun will come UP tomorrow. Some people believe the sun isn’t actually going UP.


Well at least I am comfortable knowing that I am part of a vast global warming denial conspiracy!

Ron de Haan

Has anybody told AP yet?

Ron de Haan
Shurley Knot

So what IS a vast majority?
better than 95% of the peer reviewed literature.
“An online poll of scientists’ opinions … “

Shurley Knot

Who cares about opinions? Or polls for that matter.

Ron de Haan

New cold shot underway: It can’t come at a better moment.

James Allison

Soon the Team will be bleating that scientific consensus doesn’t mean that the science is right and quoting Galileo all over the place.


The problem with ‘checking for themselves’ is that once you have found what you are looking for, you stop looking (You will always find your keys in the very last place you look).
Entertaining ideas that go against what you believe or understand, especially if you have invested time and effort in that belief, is not a pleasant or desirable experience for most people. In other words this (AP) article states: “There are more stupid and ignorant Americans now than there was X months ago: these are the ‘facts’ and these people are ignoring the facts.”

Doug in Seattle

Lazy minds follow the herd and do not look into the facts before they make decisions. Some use the excuse that the subject is too complex, this too is an excuse for laziness.

Bruce Richardson

I wonder just how many of that “vast majority” are just keeping their own counsel. Maybe they let their fellows assume that they are on-board when they are really skeptical of the “crisis” claims. It might be interesting to seek their opinion of the “emperor’s new clothes” [Hans Christian Andersen] on a confidential basis.
There is something else. Expressing skepticism about AGW is a good way to get your “tires slashed.” I’m speaking metaphorically. Sheep by their very nature seek the safety of the herd regardless of where the herd is headed.


My problem is in that they only consider “climate scientists”. As we all know, many different fields of science are involved in “climate science”, and more. I mean, even certain politicians consider themselves experts in climate…
True Science (and scientists) does not listen to politically driven polls. Once we are all gone, the Universe will still do its things, as it always did.

Phillip Bratby

For anyone with access to the BBC iplayer, the Clive James 10min talk about scepticism and concensus is very well worth listening to at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00n9lm3
I don’t think he will be heard much longer at the beeb.

Shurley Knot

Sorry good people but a scientific consenses is not like a a shared system of political beliefs or the vote. A majority of conservative voters against AWG is a herd. A majority of scientists for AGW is simply the truth as we currently know it. Sorry!


I don’t understand the science but what I *do* understand is that this site tells me all I need to know about what I don’t understand. And that for me is what it is all about. I love you guys, even if I don’t understand you… at the very least, I’m persuaded that somebody is looking after my interests! Keep up the good work!!

Steven Hill

It’s a shame that NASA has a paid liar on staff….1st it was the ice age of 77 and now it’s AGW of 09. Fire Hansen now! What a joke. Do they think we are totally stupid?

Steven Hill

The people in Wasington and the media of New York remind me of Germany in the 1930’s. Can you say propagana? Mind Control? Brown Shirts, are they next?
[Reply – Let’s not go there, please. ~ Evan]

Bruce Richardson

It is significant that when asked “Is there solid evidence the earth is warming because of human activity?” Only 36% respond “Yes.” I think that it is fair to say that, at least according to Pew Research Center, only 36% of those polled believe in the AGW crisis.
If the “progressives” are going to forge ahead with their Cap & Trade scheme [what are they calling it this week?] with only 36% supporting it, they may have some big problems in the November 2010 elections.
When a record of enmity towards the private ownership of firearms became a problem for some of our “public servants” during the last election, we saw many of them photographed “duck hunting.” How are they going to handle 2010? Perhaps we will see the usual suspects photographed driving huge SUV’s. 🙂

Fred from Canuckistan . . .

So what is “a vast majority” ?
I don’t know either but I’m guessing that if you graphed it, you’d end up with a Hockey Stick.


Yeah! Get rid of liars… and idiots!
So long as we have sites like this that uphold truth over pseudo-scientific nonsense, we’ll be safe. But don’t get complacent!
I read somwhere today that the Universe is only 11 billion years old, and expanding (whatever that is supposed to mean): (a) its a helluva lot younger than that (and I can give references, Mr Scientist-probably-working-for-Nature/Science) and (b) if it is expanding, than how come it takes me no longer to get home now than 10 years ago??? Pah!

George E. Smith

Well the AP is not alone in continuing to spout the party line; despite ongoing observations that go against both the computer models, and the VASDT concensus majority of AGW adherents.
The November 2009 issue of Scientific American contains an editorial Opinion piece promoting the Copenhagen lovefest; and declaring that the USA has to apologise for messing up the world that was enjoyed by all those stone age civil;isations that want to continue their hunter gatherer existence, and don’t want any modern inconveniences; then we have to give up our sovereignty and foot the bills for a one world government that will tell us how we are allowed to live.
Then they added a NEWS SCAN piece by somebody named David Appell; of unknown scientific credentials; who nevertheless writes frequently about climate issues. In this Article “Still Hotter Than Ever” he goes on promoting the discredited Mann Hockey Stick and promotes a new study by one Martin Tingley of Harvard University; a theseis that was submitted ot the Journal of Climate.
Not only does Appell trot out Mann’s greaph; which is clearly labelled “NORTHERN HEMISPHERE”; ie a local anomaly; not a global phenomenon; we lear that Tingley’s new study fully corroborates Mann’s Northern Hemisphere result; by presenting a new more universal study that now replaces Mann’s NORTHERN HEMISPHERE with data from +45 to + 85 degrees north latitude.
Now as any geometer knows, the northern hemisphere from the equator to +45 deg north latitude, comprises 70 .70% of the northern hemisphere surface, so the cap north of +45 deg Latitude is only 29.29% of the northern hemisphere surface. A similar calculation shows that the cap north of +85 deg is only 0.3% of the northern hemisphere surface, so the area from +45 to +85 is 29% of the nothern hemisphere, or 14.5% of the earth’s surface; and encompasses vey little of the earth’s ocean surface.
So not satisfied with Mann’s NORTHERN HEMISPHERE local anomaly; Tingley’s response is to present a study of 14.5% of the surface which is very atypical of the globae as a whole.
Not to be outdone; SA presents a paper by Mark Z Jacobson; prof of Civil and environmental Engineering at Stanford U, and Mark A Delucchi; a research scientist at the Institute of Transpotation Studies at UC Davis.
These two authors declare that by the year 2030; that is 20 years and two months from now; the world can supply ALL 100% of ALL of its energy needs FOR ALL APPLICATIONS from renewable sources; wind, water, and solar; all of which are actually solar energy. And with NO consumption of fossil fuels at all for any energy purpose; And they describe how they are going to do it.
They are going to build 3.8 million wind turbines each being 5 megaWatts peak capacity; and so on.
Well here is my challenge to Jacobson/Delucci.
Since you two are so convinced that you can do this; why not start now by eschewing ALL fossil fuels energy sources RIGHT NOW; and start building your fossil fuel free infrastructure right now usin ONLY RENEWABLE WIND/WATER/SOLAR energy FOR ANY AND ALL WORK TO BE DONE and including the full life support of all of the people who will work on your project.
Since you are so convinced that renewable energy can supply 100% of the world’s total energy needs with CURRENT TECHNOLOGY; start using it to bootstrap the system to a fossil fuel free world.
If you can run the entire project using zero based budgeting including for energy input; and no fossil fuel energy being used anywhere in the process, including any mining activities for the raw materials you need for your scheme; then I’m all for your scheme.
Oh by the way; you didn’t mention in your article how you will maintain the system free of any terrorist threats.
Abd as you both know; the Desert Southwest is already locked up by conservation laws; just like most of the recently found fossil fuel reserves in the USA; so don’t even think of covering the four corners deserts with solar cells.
The authors do a lot of hand waving to solve the present technological hurdles to success by simply saying they will be solved.
They are all in favor of all electric kitchens to eliminate natural gas cooking and heating and such; and will use electricity to hydolyse water to get hydrogen for cars to charge all the lithium batteries etc. Internal combustion engines are so inefficient. Notwithstanding that gasoline running a very inefficient IC engine has ten times the range of any all electric battery powered vehicle; electricity is so efficient compared to IC engines.
Have you ever considered how innefficient it is to take thermal energy, and convert it to electricity, and then use that electricity to make heat for cooking and hot water.
It ought to be a felony to use electricity to make heat.
Well; you need to read the article for yourselves. They even claim that wind turbines have a 98% on line factor on land and 95% for sea turbines; whereas coal fired plants only run 87.5% of the time.
That will be news to the Europeans whoi find their wind turbines working about 15-20% of the time; not 98%.
But I like my simple challenge; start doing your project in a 100% carbon free; no fossil fuels closed cycle; recirculating the output of your renewable energy sources; for every last item of endeavor required to build and sustain and maintain you renewable Utopia; and all the persons that it takes to do and their families.


There is only one thing 100% of all climate scientists in the world agree on and that is the fact that the proposed cap and trade program being proposed in the US cannot possibly make any measurable difference in the earth’s temperature.


Why not call it what it is…a lie!?

P Walker

The Senate is taking up Cap & Trade next week . Get ready .


So 80-85% of scientists at least concur or believe the the human effects are understated. I guess it depends on you definition of “vast majority”, but 80-85% qualifies it in my book. I wouldn’t call that erroneous.


Glen Beck announced this evening on his segment jon Foxnews that Lord Monckton would be a guest on his segment next week. No link, sorry. should be something to watch for.