About that overwhelming 97-98% number of scientists that say there is a climate consensus…

Larry Bell writes in his weekly Forbes column about that oft repeated but less than truthy “98% of all scientists” statistic. Supposedly, this was such an easy and quick to do survey, it was a no-brainer according to the two University of Illinois researchers who conducted it:

To maximize the response rate, the survey was designed to take less than 2 minutes to complete, and it was administered by a professional online survey site ( www.questionpro.com  ) that allowed one-time participation by those who received the invitation.

I think it is hilarious that so few people who cite this survey as “proof” of consensus actually look into the survey and the puny response numbers involved. So, I decided to graph the data to give some much needed perspective. Apparently, the majority of AGU members polled didn’t think this poll on climate change consensus was worth returning. – Anthony

That Scientific Global Warming Consensus…Not! – Forbes

By Larry Bell

So where did that famous “consensus” claim that “98% of all scientists believe in global warming” come from? It originated from an endlessly reported 2009 American Geophysical Union (AGU) survey consisting of an intentionally brief two-minute, two question online survey sent to 10,257 earth scientists by two researchers at the University of Illinois. Of the about 3.000 who responded, 82% answered “yes” to the second question, which like the first, most people I know would also have agreed with.

Then of those, only a small subset, just 77 who had been successful in getting more than half of their papers recently accepted by peer-reviewed climate science journals, were considered in their survey statistic. That “98% all scientists” referred to a laughably puny number of 75 of those 77 who answered “yes”.

That anything-but-scientific survey asked two questions. The first: “When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?”  Few would be expected to dispute this…the planet began thawing out of the “Little Ice Age” in the middle 19th century, predating the Industrial Revolution. (That was the coldest period since the last real Ice Age ended roughly 10,000 years ago.)

The second question asked: “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?” So what constitutes “significant”? Does “changing” include both cooling and warming… and for both “better” and “worse”? And which contributions…does this include land use changes, such as agriculture and deforestation?

Read the whole article: That Scientific Global Warming Consensus…Not! – Forbes

Here’s the survey as it appeared in EOS:

EOS, TRANSACTIONS AMERICAN GEOPHYSICAL UNION, VOL. 90, NO. 3, PAGE 22, 2009 doi:10.1029/2009EO030002

BRIEF REPORT

Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

Peter T. Doran, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Chicago

Maggie Kendall Zimmerman,  Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Chicago

Fifty-two percent of Americans think most climate scientists agree that the Earth has been warming in recent years, and 47% think climate scientists agree (i.e., that there is a scientific consensus) that human activities are a major cause of that warming, according to recent polling (see http://www.pollingreport.com/enviro.htm). However, attempts to quantify the scientific consensus on anthropogenic warming have met with criticism. For instance, Oreskes [2004] reviewed 928 abstracts from peer-reviewed research papers and found that more than 75% either explicitly or implicitly accepted the consensus view that Earth’s climate is being affected by human activities. Yet Oreskes’s approach has been criticized for overstating the level of consensus acceptance within the examined abstracts [Peiser, 2005] and for not capturing the full diversity of scientific opinion [Pielke, 2005]. A review of previous attempts at quantifying the consensus and criticisms is provided by Kendall Zimmerman [2008]. The objective of our study presented here is to assess the scientific consensus on climate change through an unbiased survey of a large and broad group of Earth scientists.

…and the paper with the data:  http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf

UPDATE: The original Larry Bell article referenced 98%, but the actual calculated number is 97.4%. On the web, 97 and 98% values are both referred to individually in articles, as well as a range of 97-98% I’ve amended the title to use the range – Anthony

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Lies, damn lies, and statistics…

Reblogged this on TaJnB | TheAverageJoeNewsBlogg.

Edohiguma

I can’t facepalm as much as I would like to.

Realist2

I hope somebody administers a more probing survey of scientists, soon. This time, include some physicists and chemical engineers, who have the backgrounds in thermodynamics, radiative heat transfer, mathematically modeling (and testing!) of real systems. This time, ask if the scientists believe the increase in CO2 over the past 100 years has had a significant, measurable effect on temperature, precipitation, extreme events, etc. Ask about confidence and error in our temperature records and adjustments. Ask about biases in the academic community. Ask if the participant has received funding for climate work, and by whom.

Edohiguma

Addendum, that first question is… what kind of nonsense is that? The only answer to it can be yes.
“When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?”
That’s like asking “Is a soccer ball round, is the Pope Catholic, is the United States of America in North America?”
It does explain why only roughly one third even sent it back. The other almost 6,000 probably saw the first question and went “What the heck?!”

polistra

In other words, people whose paycheck depends on answering “Yes” answered “Yes”.

Jim G

Very poor sampling method, very poor question construction, cannot evaluate administration of the survey based upon this info but overall a very poor study to be sure. High probability of sample bias and questions structured to obtain a directed response. My opinion is based upon designing and managing survey research for over 20 years either directly or as a function of departments I managed. Quoting this study is, indeed, meaningless.

David C. Greene

Selection of those “in the business” of global warming is what led to the result. It is not surprising that those getting their support from biased sponsors would answer in accord with self-interest.

Tom in Florida

Whenever I see a % being used in a discussion my BS alarm goes off. Much like the long lost R Gates who was so fond of quoting “a 40% increase in CO2” and the much ado about nothing 15% tax rate of Mitt Romney. (BTW, Romney paid over $3 million in taxes while almost half the people in the U.S. paid nothing yet those people used most of the government services. Who isn’t paying their fair share?)
The old saying “figures lie and liars figure” is correct, 97% of the time.

Steve Divine

Umm, I’m not trained in statistics, but 75 of 77 is not 98%. It’s 97% (97.40%). If my math is wrong, I’m sure someone will correct me.

Hu McCulloch

The second question asked: “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”

Being statistically inclined, I would have interpreted “significant” as “statistically significant”. Although I’m not aware of any study that actually does this, I would be surprised if human CO2 emissions haven’t had some statistically significant contribution to warming since 1800, however small, so I would have to answer yes.
But this wouldn’t mean I thought it was an important contributing factor, or that warming was a great concern or threat. And, as Larry Bell points out, “human activity” is not necessarily CO2 — it could be deforestation, urbanization, or non-CO2 smokestack and auto emissions.
So I’d say the second question does not make the desired point.

gator69

“42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.”
–The Hon. W. Richard Walton, Sr.

Steve Divine

And while I’m not trained in statistics, I think it is a meaningful that 75 of 3,146 respondents is only 2.38%. Yes, I read that the survey administrators apparently filtered respondents to those supposedly qualified to answer the question.

Lies, damn lies and the EPA…
Science authoritarians make a mockery of truth, science and morality. Because of Government-funding a consensus of academics who are lost to reason have been created. They do not want to hear about anything that is contrary to a host of beliefs that they are no longer able to defend. It is now impossible for any of them to face the fact that nothing they have done has made a worthwhile contribution to society.
And, that is what the EPA is doing in putting its support behind global warming alarmism–empowering overreaching Leftists to take full advantage of credulous and thoughtless dimwits. The EPA is hiding the truth, hiding the decline, hiding the immorality and the harm to the public and to the culture and to all the kids in the dropout factories whose futures are being wiped out.

John F. Hultquist

Nice post. We have needed a concise report on this survey.
Recently Tim Blair (July 16, 2012) linked to a statement by Matt Neal wherein the survey (97% in Neal’s article) was used under the heading “The climate change debate is over” in the Warrnambool Standard [on AU’s south coast 230 km west of Melbourne]. One of the statements is:
As someone working in the media, I would love to see my fellow journalists and reporters put a ban on covering the views of climate change deniers.” [by Matt Neal]
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
An analogy to the original survey might be to ask the College of Cardinals if they thought the Pope was Catholic. Other questions of a similarly silly nature are often repeated.

David Larsen

Scientists use real math, not statistics. Only the pseudoprofessionals of Illinois can use statistics think it makes something real.

Jimmy Haigh.

Steve Divine says:
July 18, 2012 at 9:13 am
“Umm, I’m not trained in statistics, but 75 of 77 is not 98%. It’s 97% (97.40%). If my math is wrong, I’m sure someone will correct me.”
They homogenised it…

Maus

It’s still a consensus of 98% of the elite 2% of the 33% that responded out of a quantity equal to 50% of the earth scientists in Canada in 2009. You must be a Big Oil shill to disagree with such a broad consensus of scientific individuals employed mainly by Big Oil and Government.

more soylent green!

I call unfair! Just like with Mann’s work, we’re just supposed to accept the conclusions without asking for the data.
The debate is over. Four out of 5 dentists climatologists surveyed would recommend sugarless gum to their patients who chew gum not showing their work to people who would ask too many questions.

They would have needed 366 responses to be able to make that claim with a 95% level of confidence. Their math is bogus.

Allen

Nothing to see here, really. CO_2 emissions continue to rise so that is all we need to know about how the ordinary consumer views this CAGW meme. If they think about it, they still don’t care. And that’s fine by me!

tadchem

There is an old concept of “preaching to the choir”, and then there is the flip side of that disk: “polling the choir.”
Imagine asking everybody in a large restaurant at a Sunday luncheon if they attend church. That includes the church choir that meets there after services each week.
The conclusion might read “98+% of all vocalists polled attend church regularly.”
I am sure the ‘climate scientists’ who responded also contacted their fellow scientists and urged them to complete the poll as well, so their opinions would be well-represented. After all, that is something activists do!

kramer

Another point that I think is worth mentioning. Most of the scientists who say there is global warming are basing this on the data from GISS and CRU (and I think NOAA?).
Aren’t these the organizations that comprise “the team” members who might have tampered with the temperature data?

Tom Barney

If 18%( 3146*.18=566) of the total that responded did not agree, then they outnumber the cherry picked 75 by almost 8 to 1.

Tom Barney

I’ll bet at least 98% of the Federal funding for GW research went to the 75.

Mark Trey

A high percentage of “Earth scientists” are likely to be self-selected warmists. I should like to see a study of the history of the establishment and curricular content of “climate studies” departments at universities. These are the “scientific” wings of sociology and political science departments, funded and staffed because they have a political axe to grind. Faculty and students – after seven years of watching Inconvenient Truth – are recruited because they have a political agenda. These intellectually unsound departments are accorded a spurious expertise by their more rigorously scientific colleagues who are too busy to call the bluff or rock the boat. Anecdotally, I know this to be the case: a world-famous biologist says he agrees with AGW because he defers to the expertise of his telegenic, catastrophist AGW colleagues and is not prepared to look for himself into what he thinks is a boring and, er, a scientifically trivial pursuit. Being tenured, elderly, and comfortably ensconced in an ivory tower, he is happy to allow his AGW colleagues work with politicians to tell the world to shut down industry. He and thousands of other academic apathetic deferrers inflate the “consensus of scientists.” Apathetic deferring also explains why activist catastrophists can hijack professional scientific organizations to give their imprimatur to AGW as a political position.

MarkW

Lies, damn lies, and warmistas

They don’t need to have anywhere close to the total number of invitees to make the claim. But they didn’t get anywhere close to the number they would have needed. They got 75–they needed 366. They are way out of line to be making any statements regarding what earth scientists believe.

Michael Moon

I lived in Chicago when this came out, and talked to Doran. The written responses to the questions were hilarious, along the lines of “Pre-1800’S? Temperatures have been far higher and far lower, just how far Pre are we talking about here?”

Mason P Wilson, Jr, Ph.D retired professor of Thermodynamics and a weatherman in service

I have come to the conclusion that climatologists that believe in man-made global warming,are not truly scientists. True scientists always question….when we have something as believeable as Newtons laws, if we didn’t continue to seek we would not have the theory of relativity. We have just begun to understand cyclic events in the ocean and climatic variations that take decades to be revealed all of which affect climate..how can we be so certian that the earth s undergoing man-made global warming? Perhaps many of them feel guilty and need to blame mankind to satisfy their appetite for everything. How gullible can we be? Furthermoore consensus is not science, remember it was’t too long ago that man believed the world was flat.

Bravo, Realist 2 – – for your note today (7-18-12 @ 8:51 am).
Many very sensible suggestions.

This has to be one of the most successful surveys of all time. Not because of its accuracy, or profundity, or keen scientific approach. It’s succinct. It’s easy to remember. It’s shocking. And it can be easily shaped to fit nearly any discussion on AGW. Everyone interested in GW seems to have heard it — AND THEY REMEMBER IT! As a tool of propaganda for the Team it was perfect. That was the goal and they achieved it admirably.

more soylent green!

Mason P Wilson, Jr, Ph.D retired professor of Thermodynamics and a weatherman in service says:
July 18, 2012 at 10:34 am
I have come to the conclusion that climatologists that believe in man-made global warming,are not truly scientists. True scientists always question….when we have something as believeable as Newtons laws, if we didn’t continue to seek we would not have the theory of relativity. We have just begun to understand cyclic events in the ocean and climatic variations that take decades to be revealed all of which affect climate..how can we be so certian that the earth s undergoing man-made global warming? Perhaps many of them feel guilty and need to blame mankind to satisfy their appetite for everything. How gullible can we be? Furthermoore consensus is not science, remember it was’t too long ago that man believed the world was flat.

I think whomever coined the phrase “green” to describe the environmentalist movement was colorblind. They’re all reds when you look at them closely.

This must be where they get the term “con census”.

dcfl51

Realist2, can I also suggest the inclusion of solar physicists and cosmologists in any new survey. There are quite a few scientists who think that the big yellow thing in the sky might have something to do with the climate. Not just TSI, but the effect of magnetic field fluctuations.

George E. Smith;

“””””…..That anything-but-scientific survey asked two questions. The first: “When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?” …..”””””
Ignoring the esoterica of the quantum mechanical world, where the answer may be uncertain, until it is certain; I would say the correct answer to this question as worded is :- “Yes.”

Mike H

Lawrence Solomon of the Fin’l Post reported this long ago. Just giving credit. Great it is now getting more coverage.

daveburton

Do 97% of experts agree with the IPCC that human CO2
emissions are causing dangerous global warming?

Climate Movement activists frequently claim that “97%” of qualified experts agree with the basic premise of climate alarmism: that human CO2 emissions are causing a dangerous warming of the earth’s climate, which will have catastrophic consequences for mankind and the Earth’s ecosystems, unless CO2 emissions are quickly and drastically curtailed.
That “97%” claim is significant, not for what it what it reveals about the science of climate change, but for what it reveals about the Climate Movement spin machine. It turns out to be a classic example of the Big Lie. Here are some articles about it:
http://opinion.financialpost.com/2011/01/03/lawrence-solomon-97-cooked-stats/
http://climatequotes.com/2011/02/10/study-claiming-97-of-climate-scientists-agree-is-flawed/
http://www.wendymcelroy.com/news.php?extend.3684
http://sppiblog.org/news/the-97-consensus-is-only-75-self-selected-climatologists
The 97% claim comes from an article by Peter T. Doran about a survey by Margaret R. K. Zimmerman of 10,257 Earth Scientists, of whom 3146 responded.
The 97% claim is based on the answers to just two questions, both of which were so uncontroversial that even I, and most other climate change skeptics, would answer “yes” to them.
Worse yet, 97.5% of those who responded were excluded after their responses were received. Of 3146 responses received, only 79 responses were considered for one question, and only 77 for the other.
Nor is it clear that 97% of the 79 scientists even answered yes to both questions. For one of the two questions, 77 of 79 answered “yes,” and for the other question 75 of 77 answered “yes,” which seems to indicate that at least two of those who answered the first question didn’t answer the second question.
76 of 79 (96.2%) answered “risen” to this question: “When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?”
75 of 77 (97.4%) answered “yes” to this question: “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”
(3146-79) / 3146 = 97.5% of the respondents were excluded after the responses were received.
Plus, neither of the two questions actually addressed anthropogenic global warming!
The first question asked respondents to compare current temperatures to the depths of the Little Ice Age (“pre-1800s”), and asked whether it’s warmer now. Well, of course it is! What’s remarkable is that they didn’t get 100% agreement. 3 of 79 apparently didn’t agree even with that.
The second question asks whether any human activities significantly affect global temperatures. That encompasses both GHG-driven warming and particulate/aerosol-driven cooling.
Since just about everyone acknowledges that anthropogenic particulate/aerosol air pollution causes cooling, I would have expected just about everyone to answer “yes” to this question. Yet 2 of 77 apparently did not.
Why do you suppose they didn’t ask an actual question about Anthropogenic Global Warming? Why didn’t they ask something like, “Do you believe that emissions of CO2 from human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, are causing dangerous increases in global average temperatures?” 

Note:  If you read the Doran article, you might wonder whether they actually did ask a question like that, because the Doran article mentions that “up to nine” questions were asked, but never tells us about the other seven. So I bought the Zimmerman report, to find out. It turns out that other questions were mostly just about demographics. These were the nine questions:
 
Q1. When compared with pre-1800’s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?
1. Risen
2. Fallen
3. Remained relatively constant
4. No opinion/Don’t know
 
Q2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?  [This question wasn’t asked if they answered “remained relatively constant” to Q1]
1. Yes
2. No
3. I’m not sure
 
Q3. What do you consider to be the most compelling argument that supports your previous answer (or, for those who were unsure, why were they unsure)?  [This question wasn’t asked if they answered “remained relatively constant” to Q1]
 
Q4. Please estimate the percentage of your fellow geoscientists who think human activity is a contributing factor to global climate change.
 
Q5. Which percentage of your papers published in peer-reviewed journals in the last 5 years have been on the subject of climate change?
 
Q6. Age
 
Q7. Gender
 
Q8. What is the highest level of education you have attained?
 
Q9. Which category best describes your area of expertise?
 
Dave Burton
March 1, 2012
 
Permalink: http://tinyurl.com/Clim97pct

David, UK

It was designed to get the outcome it got. There never was any other possible outcome. All that followed then was just conjecture and bullshit.

Does changing minus signs to plus signs count as human-induced global warming?

Taphonomic

I’ve always thought that my geostats professor would have whacked my peepee with a ruler if I attempted to hand this in as completion of an assignment. There is no way I could have gotten partial fulfillment of an M.S. degree with Kendall Zimmerman’s thesis.

Otter

Serious question time, guys:
I had been told somewhere, that there were at least three other studies done, which came to same conclusion: 97%
Now, I find that to be total bull (and unfortunately, I have never been able to find my way back to that list the person presented).
Here’s my question(s):
1. Are any of you aware of these other studies?
2. Have they ever been picked apart like the one mentioned above?
and
3. Where might one find this information?
I’d be pleased to hear from any of you… say, perhaps, AGW fanatacists.

Rob Potter

Note also that the second question does not mention CO2 – only human activity as a significant factor. Since pretty much everyone accepts a significant urban heat island effect and most accept that this affects the temperature as measured by the weather stations, which are then used to estimate mean global temperature. On that basis, you could include me in the 97/98 %, but I sure as heck don’t think human CO2 emissions are significant.
In all surveys, it pays to study the actual wording of the questions – and when the results are being spun, it pays to compare the message you are being given with the actual question asked.

Glenn

Can this data be verified or replicated? Names of respondents and contact information would be required, and although I haven’t opened the pdf (it freezes my browser) such information is likely to be withheld due to privacy issues. If this is so, then are we expected to take their word for it? Perhaps they would release such information only to True Climate Scientists to whom they could trust with the metadata.

Otter

Wow did I scramble that last bit.
I AM interested in hearing from anyone who is aware of those other studies. AGW fanatacists need not apply.

Gunga Din

So……..the science of the consensus is unsettled?

More interesting is the number of scientists who once believed in AGW theory who have since made a beeline for the UN exits. After the foi2009.pdf disclosures that has been anyone with a reputation to protect. No valid scientific question that can be described as Left vs. right issue–that is how we know that global warming is about politics not science.

Henry Clark

daveburton: Very good summary. I’m glad to see skeptics seeing through the tricks well enough for me not even to need to write more myself. 😉

77 is the number of respondents to question #2 “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” So I think the graph at the top of this post is in urgent need of revision. Specifically, the labels on the 3rd and 4th bars are not accurate.

daveburton

Otter, the first paragraph of the Doran article mentions one:
“…attempts to quantify the scientific consensus on anthropogenic warming have met with criticism. For instance, Oreskes [2004] reviewed 928 abstracts from peer-reviewed research papers and found that more than 75% either explicitly or implicitly accepted the consensus view that Earth’s climate is being affected by human activities. Yet Oreskes’s approach has been criticized for overstating the level of consensus acceptance within the examined abstracts [Peiser, 2005] and for not capturing the full diversity of scientific opinion [Pielke, 2005]. A review of previous attempts at quantifying the consensus and criticisms is provided by Kendall Zimmerman [2008]. The objective of our study presented here is to assess the scientific consensus on climate change through an unbiased survey…”
Okay I recognize that the final sentence about their “objective” is guffaw-provoking. But Oreskes [2004] is one such other study. (Note: Zimmerman [2008] is just the study report upon which Doran’s article is based.)
Here’s an article which quotes Benny Peiser saying that, of the 928 abstracts, “just over a dozen explicitly endorse the “consensus,” while the vast majority of abstracts [do] not mention anthropogenic global warming.”
In other words, Oreskes [2004] was as much of a fraud as Doran/Zimmerman.
However, there are also some surveys that the Climate Movement activists never cite:
1. What Scientists Really Think About Global Warming, by S. Robert Lichter.  Harris polled 500 leading American Meteorological and Geophysical scientists in early 2007, and even back then (before Climategate) there was no consensus. They found that:
“97% agree that ‘global average temperatures have increased’ during the past century. But not everyone attributes that rise to human activity. A slight majority (52%) believe this warming was human-induced, 30% see it as the result of natural temperature luctuations and the rest are unsure.” (More details here.)
2. From the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society we learn that most broadcast meteorologists disagree with the IPPC claim that humans are primarily responsible for recent global warming.
3. A subsequent survey of all American broadcast meteorologists by researchers at George Mason University confirms that result.