97% Climate consensus 'denial': the debunkers debunked

By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley

Not the least of many signs that the rationalists who have dared to doubt the official story are winning the debate on the climate is the childish bluster to which the dwindling band of true-believers resort when they meet an argument they cannot defeat.

The IPCC’s version of the vaunted “climate consensus”, in which it is about to proclaim 95% confidence on 0% evidence, is that at least half of the 0.7 Cº global warming since 1950 was manmade.

Cook et al., paid schoolboy interns in propaganda studies at Queensland Kindergarten, are not pleased with Legates et al. (2013), written by grown-ups, which demonstrated that the kids, surveying the abstracts of 11,944 papers on global climate change published from 1991-2012, had marked only 64 abstracts out of 11,944 as explicitly endorsing the IPCC’s version of consensus.

The kids themselves had gone to great lengths to contrive not to reveal that devastating fact in their headcount paper, which on that and many other grounds would not have passed peer review in a real scientific journal instead of a comic.

Scientifically speaking (if one can regard brats counting heads among scientists as science), the zit-faces’ omission to reveal just how few papers they themselves had categorized as supporting the notion that Man was the cause of at least half of the small global warming since 1950 was lamentable.

Indeed, one could argue that their lapse amounted to deception. Here is why.

The tiddlers’ seven “levels of endorsement” of climate consensus were –

1 “Explicitly states that humans are the primary cause of global warming”

2 “Explicit endorsement without quantification”

3 “Implicit endorsement”

4 “No opinion or uncertain”

5 “Implicit rejection”

6 “Explicit rejection without quantification”

7 “Explicit rejection with quantification”

The first level of endorsement, which only 43 abstracts explicitly agreed to, was equivalent to the IPCC’s version of consensus. The small fry, hoping to get away with concealing the fact that even their own skewed allocation had only marked 64 abstracts as falling in level 1, simply aggregated levels 1-3 as a single quantity.

It was this oddity that first attracted my attention to the deception. In effect, by aggregating the three pro-consensus levels of endorsement, the smelts were using a different, and not a little weird, table of endorsement levels:

3 “Endorsement”

4 “No opinion or uncertain”

5 “Implicit rejection”

6 “Explicit rejection without quantification”

7 “Explicit rejection with quantification”

The little ones’ paper was published in a comic that has thus far proven unwilling to publish much, if anything, in the way of adverse comment on what they had written. Fortunately, some of the grown-up journals (though not yet Nature or Science) are beginning to allow rationalists to give the other side of the story once again. And that has tweaked the teenies to chuck a tanty, as they say Down Under.

In their lavishly-subsidized internet sandpit, misleadingly called “Skeptical” “Science”, the goo-goos throw a long, whining, self-justifying tantrum entertainingly entitled Debunking 97% Climate Consensus Denial.

Reading this fascinatingly repellent whinge is like watching a Bela Lugosi B-movie while still sober. The fascination lies in the fact that anyone bothered to distribute it at all.

Well, let us debunk the debunkers’ debunkment of Legates et al’s debunkment of the debunkers’ dismal paper.

You’re going to like this: for the tiny tots’ desperation is hilariously self-evident. Their please-sir-me-too paper says it found exactly the same “97%” “consensus” as two earlier laughable and long-discredited head-count surveys, Doorstop & Zimmerframe (2009) and Scrambledegg et al. (2010).

The bimbi’s results remind one of nothing so much as elections in the Soviet-era “democratic” “republics” of Eastern Europe: Comrade Zarkov (Communist Party) 97%, spoiled ballots 3%. Checksum: voters not shot 97%, voters shot 3%. Confidence interval 95%.

Well, here is how the kiddiwinks attempted to attack Dave Legates and his colleagues, of whom I am proud to be one.

First they quote the introduction to their own paper, which had said: “We examined a large sample of the scientific literature on global [climate change], published over a 21 year period, in order to determine the level of scientific consensus that human activity is very likely causing most of the current GW (anthropogenic global warming, or AGW).”

Yet their paper had not given the answer, because it was far too low. It revealed just how few abstracts had explicitly stated support for the IPCC’s version of consensus. That was the last think the diddumses wanted.

Now that they have been caught out, they say this:

The IPCC position (humans causing most global warming) was represented in our categories 1 and 7, which include papers that explicitly endorse or reject/minimize human-caused global warming, and also quantify the human contribution. [Yup, you’ve seen it too, but try to keep a straight face for just a little longer].

“Among the relatively few abstracts (75 in total) falling in these two categories, 65 (87%) endorsed the consensus view.”

Just like that, the rugrats eliminated 99.4% of the papers in their sample, claiming 87% support for the IPCC’s version of consensus among just 75 papers. And that’s an even smaller sample than the 79 analyzed by Doorstop & Zimmerframe (2010), and not much more than a third of the 200 analyzed by Scrambledegg et al. (2009).

Opinion pollsters would not regard a sample size of less than 1000 as being statistically reliable, and even then only if steps had been taken to eliminate bias.

The result is even more nonsensical even than that. For it should be obvious even to the wee lambkins that those abstracts they had assigned to categories 5 and 6, as well as those in category 7, did not and would not endorse the IPCC’s version of consensus, for they had all implicitly or explicitly rejected the notion that Man has any influence on the climate at all.

So, suspending disbelief in the tiny sample size that the children’s method engenders, let us do the math for them, for they are not old enough to do it themselves and Miss Prism, their amiably dotty and self-evidently over-indulgent nanny and tutor, is on annual leave in Bunbury, Western Australia.

There were 43 abstracts explicitly endorsing the IPCC’s version of consensus. But there were 54 in level 5; 15 in level 6; and 9 in level 7. Total sample size was thus a not exactly significant 121 out of 11,944 papers, or just 1% of what was already a smallish sample of the entire literature. So the consensus, on their own dopey basis, is not the 97% they originally published, nor even the 87% they now claim, but a mere 35.5%.

And how do the babes-in-arms answer Legates et al.? They say that we have taken “quantification … to the extreme”, because our paper “focuses exclusively on the papers that quantified human-caused global warming and takes these as a percentage of all [11,944] abstracts captured in the literature search, thus claiming the consensus is not 97%, but rather 0.3%.”

Well, at least they have understood the math now.

And, whether these intellectual minnows like it or not, focusing on quantities, rather than elaborately suppressing inconvenient truths by carefully not focusing on quantities, is what grown-up mathematicians and scientists do.

Next, these critters draw a spectacularly bad analogy between our manifestly correct arguments against their now-discredited paper and the notion that just because CO2 represents only 0.04% of the atmosphere it cannot cause much warming. Seems they have not yet heard of the logarithmically-diminishing returns from adding CO2 to an atmosphere that already has 0.04% CO2 in it.

The central dodginesses in the tweety-pies’ argument are the carefully implicit assumptions that if 97.1% of those few that expressed an opinion one way or the other on global warming say or imply we can cause some warming, 97% of those not expressing an opinion would say the same if asked; that 97% of the entire sample would also say or imply we caused at least half of the global warming since 1950; and that, as Mr Obama’s twitteratus tweeted, the same 97% would go still further and say the warming we had caused or might cause was “dangerous”.

Non-sequitur piled upon non-sequitur, and all depending upon the authors’ failure to adhere to a single, clear definition of consensus throughout.

What does the silly Cook survey really reveal? It reveals the utter stupidity of all such headcounts among scientists; despite the authors’ attempt at artful suppression, it reveals the truly interesting and no doubt unintended result that explicit support among climate scientists for the IPCC’s version of consensus is vanishingly different from zero; and, above all, it reveals that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists do not express political opinions about the climate in their published papers. They just get on with the science.

In that last thought, perhaps, lies the hope for this once-honorable discipline that the likes of Cook et al., and those who fund them, have done so much to drag into the dirt.


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What’s there not to like about this Monckton bloke ?
Just one observation M’Lord, the perceived warming is largely Mann made.

High Treason

Lies, damned lies and statistics. We can look forward to more and more desperate and fanciful BS coming out in a desperate attempt to get us to believe. Eventually the propaganda machine will run out of puff/fluff and implode into the sea of treachery from which it emerged.There is a strong possibility that the AGW rubbish will be conveniently “forgotten”by the UN in 2015 to make way for the “Millenium 2015” project.

A careful reading of the good Lord’s post would appear to indicate a certain level of dissatisfaction with the presumed integrity of Cooked et al’s school project.
Well done, (and so they should be!) LOL.


Oh, you’ve done it now! You’re definitely not getting a Christmas card from Cook this year.

Hot under the collar

Damn clever these “scientists”.
With their taxpayer funded “research” they appear to have the ability to prove their opinion in any subject they have a funding bias.
They demonstrate they can increasingly prove more and more about less and less, soon they will be able to prove everything about nothing.


I don’t think my husband would mind if I told you that I LOVE YOU.

Hot under the collar

I don’t think my wife will mind if I tell him I love him too!


It’s time for the new Australian government to look into what Cook’s employers are spending/wasting the taxpayers money on.

Not exactly the carefully orchestrated blitzkrieg attack on the legitimacy of “climate denial” that Cook was aiming for :-).

son of mulder

I am afraid that your comparisons are being grossly unfair to kids with zits and kiddywinks.

Thanks, Christopher. That was an enjoyable read. It made me smile from start to finish.

Richard of NZ

Which periodical was the Crooke et. al paper published in? Was it the “Beano” or the “Dandy”?

I reckon government funded pseudo science should come with the following warning printed in big red friendly letters across the title page:
Intelligence Warning: this paper/analysis/report/summary is very likely to contain the following: bias, misrepresentation, exaggeration and ignorance. Readers are advised to consult other independent sources, cross reference and perform their own science before depending upon on any results or conclusions contained within. No warranty, whether direct or implied, is given as to the correct application of scientific methods. Here be dragons!
Only then can we be assured that the right kind of approach can be ensured to such works of poor fiction.


The insults should be taken out. Other than that, a rational analysis.


Why must Monckton be such a boor about being right? I cringe every time I see his writing. He is not the counter-propagandist he fancies he is. He is a strutting, graceless, self-regarding, triumphalist rabble-rouser. Stop caressing him. He rallies the less thoughtful sceptics (the mere “deniers”) but he persuades no one. He doesn’t even try. Send him to find a platform elsewhere.
He is not an enemy but he is surely a liability.

Hot under the collar

The paper deserves the derision.

Freudian slip? “That was the last think the diddumses wanted.”


Did Cook et al ever publish the list of journals their analysis was based on, and criteria for inclusion/exclusion of journals?


The insults should stay in. Cook, et al, deserve it by their behavior and their vituperative reaction to any criticism of their methods, and their failure to supply the original data in full. They sneer at anyone who questions their methods or results. They are the Reinhart and Rogoff of the climate world, and they are causing as much damage as Reinhart and Rogoff have.
Nice job, Mr. Monckton, Temporary Potentate of the Burmese Parliament, or Whatever.


… the dwindling band of true-believers …
Bishop Hill referred to them as bitter enders.
“a person who persists until the bitter end without compromising or yielding; diehard.”

David Riser

I third the “take the insults out”. Why fall to their level; that blog is not worth reading or naming.


“Richard of NZ says:
September 10, 2013 at 3:02 am”
More likely Viz.

I hadn’t heard of Doorstop & Zimmerframe (2010). Is that any more useful than Vroomfondel & Majikthise (approx. 4 million BC)


Re: my comment at September 10, 2013 at 3:51 am
By way of explanation, Reinhart and Rogoff’s research work “purported to find a magical debt ratio beyond which economic growth plummets to negative territory.” That debt-to-GDP ratio was 90%. So Reinhart and Rogoff recommended austerity measures, adopted worldwide to the great harm of citizens in the countries where it was adopted. People are still suffering from their thinking. Spain? Greece?
The problem was (1) Reinhart and Rogoff left out huge chunks of data (and countries) that would have rendered their argument moot, and (2) refused to share their data. A grad student finally got it out of them after five years and uncovered the deception. It was published early this year; it took the grad student over a year to accept that he was seeing what the data was actually showing.
Two PhD students give a super wonky explanation of it here if this stuff rocks your boat:

Gareth Phillips

Look, it was a dodgy study, there is lots of information out there to demonstrate that. However demeaning and making personal insults at the research assistants in every other line is below you and you really should avoid a race to the bottom on insults. Ok, I know everyone does it, but if what you say is correct you don’t need to mimic Sceptical science to prove your point.


David Riser says:
September 10, 2013 at 4:09 am
I third the “take the insults out”. Why fall to their level; that blog is not worth reading or naming.

Becausethis blog is worth reading, and it’s entertaining, and it won’t make a damn bit of difference to the SkS people. Further, they are not the standard that the people on this blog attain to, and they don’t deserve the respect you would accord an honorable opponent.

Several people here have called witty and accurate descriptive phrases “insults”.
NO! Cook et al. deserve all the derision which can be piled on them for their shameful damage to science and the reputation of science.
If you want to see insults then refer to the defamations the kiddywinks have doled out to anybody who challenges their nonsense.


Consider the following analogy:
Suppose that a pharmaceutical company carried out a study to determine the efficacy of a drug. At the end of the study, a statistician summarized their results: 32.6% per cent of the subjects improved to the treatment to some extent, 66.4% of the subjects reported no change in their condition and the condition of 0.7% per cent of the subjects deteriorated. Thus, the statistician reported that the treatment with the drug produced an improvement in 32.6% of the subjects.
The company decided that they don’t like the results as reported by the statistician so they bring in the Cookup Gang to re-evaluate the analysis. The latter point out that the statistician had included those subjects in which the drug had produced no effect and that only those who had in fact responded to the treatment in some way should be considered when evaluating how successfully the drug works: 32.6/(32.6 + 0.7) = 0.979 or 97.9% of the subjects whose condition responded to the treatment in some material way show improvement.
I sincerely doubt that any drug regulation agency would agree that 97.9% represents the “improvement rate” in any meaningful fashion because eliminating the subjects whose condition was unchanged is clearly not a rational approach for calculating the percentage of subjects whose condition improved due to the treatment.
But why stop there. One can create a 97% “consensus” among a million people on any topic just as easily with only 100 determined individuals. Simply have 97 of these “agree” and 3 of them “disagree” and you don’t need to worry about including the other million people who have chosen not to offer a position.
Given the structure of this ineptly designed and even more ineptly executed “scientific study”, if Cook et al was trying to provide genuine convincing evidence about the level of consensus for (C)AGW, eliminating the large majority of the cases which did had chosen not to explicitly state a specific position on global warming was scientifically dishonest.

Richard Barraclough

David Riser,
I agree with you. This whole post is quite incoherent, and out of keeping with the considered opinions which usually make this blog such a good read.


Further…David Riser says:
September 10, 2013 at 4:09 am

There is a great tradition that the accused take. Giordano Bruno’s Spaccio de la bestia trionfante, or The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, is one example although it was not a blog. 😉 He indicted the church that was indicting him. There’s a point at which you say Basta!

This is off topic. Reinhart and Rogoff are experienced and respected researchers (unlike Cook & co). They are rather cautious in their policy advice (unlike Cook & co). They make all their data freely available to anyone (unlike Cook & co). When an error was discovered in Reinhart and Rogoff’s data, they fessed up and worked overnight to assess the implications (unlike Cook & co).


Patrick – Viz? Not worthy of their pages, or Beano or Dandy. I was thinking of the very second-rate johnny-come-lately Beezer…

Mark Richardson, a co-author from Reading University, actually went further with this deliberately misleading quote
” “We want our scientists to answer questions for us, and there are lots of exciting questions in climate science. One of them is: are we causing global warming? We found over 4000 studies written by 10 000 scientists that stated a position on this, and 97 per cent said that recent warming is mostly man made.”

Hot under the collar

@Txomin and @David Riser (third it?),
If you feel the “insults” should be taken out, perhaps if you write to “the temporary delegate from the Republic of Myanmar”, he may consider apologising to any children he may have inadvertently insulted in his article.


Richard S.J. Tol says:
September 10, 2013 at 4:31 am

Respectfully, they didn’t, and wouldn’t, supply the data for five years. Check it out. They are tenured Harvard professors. Yes. Thomas Herndon got the data five years after their paper appeared and there were huge gaps. (I’m working from memory here, and it’s way past my bedtime.) They left out Canada, New Zealand, and Australia in their data sets (a whole decade) that would have dramatically altered their findings. You can look at Japan to know that their thesis doesn’t cut it. But they managed to seduce the IMF who used their original findings as a cudgel.
People are physically, mentally, and emotionally suffering from the effects of their work, Dr. Tol.Really suffering.


“Jeef says:
September 10, 2013 at 4:32 am”
I class anything from Cook as just about worthy to feature in Viz’s “Letterbocks”, and that’s pushing the limits even for Viz. Some not actually funny, but completely stupid, which makes it funny! It’s like converting the 0.3% consensus in his work to look like 97%! As with many comic strips, some are funnier than others. Viz comic strips are sedate compared to anything Cook has produced.

Jim A

I’m surprised.
When you have a bunch of jackals cornered in a net of their own making, do you poke at them with a sharp stick?
Read in context the simple points are smothered in a slurry of invective.

As I said, this is off topic. I do recommend that you double check you assertions. A comparison between R&R and Cook & co is hugely insulting to the former and a big compliment to the latter.


So what they did is a lot like a typical “results-driven” survey, used regularly for decades now by activists everywhere.
You set up a survey. It contains 5 choices:
1) Yes, I’m still beating my wife
2) I’m not beating my wife anymore
3) I do not beat my wife
4) I have never beaten my wife
5) People who beat their wives are despicable
Now, on a typical result set the bulk of the answers will be 3, 4 or 5. An extremely small number will honestly answer 1 or 2. A larger number will answer 1 or 2 because they think it’s funny.
The key is answer 3. Because it contains a relatively neutral statement with no qualification many people will answer it before reading the other options.
However, let the results doctors at this, and they will conclude this:
80% of respondents answered 1, 2 or 3, none of which deny that they have ever beaten their wives.
Only 15% answered 4, they have never beaten their wives.
Sadly, only 5% are actively AGAINST wife beating.
Conclusion: 80% of wives have been beaten, and 15% are at risk.
(Seriously, I have seen a similar survey published in this manner)

@ richardscourtney 4.25 am
Plus 100.
To those who think Lord Monckton’s description of the puerile persons responsible for his paper is insulting should maybe consider the fact that satire has always had a place in politics, because what Cook et all published has nothing to do with science and is therefore richly deserved.
O.T. a question for Lord Christopher, was the De Havilland Mosquito B Mk. XV1, 692 sq. no. 8 group 1944, (spelled ‘Moncton’ Express 111) named after your family?

Michael Larkin

Thanks, Christopher Monckton. I now understand what they did. Astonishing. Mind you, whilst it may be true that scientists didn’t get involved in the politics in their papers, how many of them are now standing up to be counted in the disapproval of it? All that is required for evil to triumph, and all that.


@Txomin I agree. The insults make it far too easy to dismiss the article’s actual content (and its content is very good) by focusing only on the language used to write it.

Jan Smit

Oh come on guys; insults? Don’t be so bloody precious. The Good Lord’s sagacious and sardonic wit are a joy to read. A veritable breath of fresh intellectual air. May he live long and prosper.
He does not stoop to their level by returning mud pie with mud pie. No, rather he slices their petulant pétard pudding with the Saracen sword of his surgical intellect, revealing their prognistications for what they really are – hot-air tantrums. Not so much hissy fits, as hissy farts…
So let him have his say in his own inimitable way, for I’m sure it brings great cheer to many of my fellow lurkers – he certainly always brightens up my day!

James Ard

I’ve never seen so many euphemisms for children in one piece in my lifetime. I don’t think his lordship was insulting the kids as much as he was putting together a work of art. The stuffed shirts need to loosen up and take a laugh when they can get one.


Like Reinhart and Rogoff? More like Statler and Waldorf


It is possible to carry out the same sort of analysis on papers in genetics to see how many endorse Darwinian evolution by natural selection.
Creationists and ID’ers have done this and asserted that the very small number that explicitly endorse Darwinian natural selection indicate that the science does not represent a consensus support of evolution because so few papers in the field explicitly endorse it.
Biologists claim that Darwinian evolution is the basic, underlying theory that makes sense of biological observations, and yet it is almost never mentioned explicitly in any current paper on genes or species change.
GHG effect causing warming is a theory somewhat older than Darwins evolution, and AGW is also an older theory than the DNA genetic theory of evolution.
Perhaps the notable ABSENCE of specific endorsement of the underlying theory in both cases has a common cause.
And it is not because less than 90% of the published biological research does not accept the basics of Darwinian evolution, any more than the lack of specific mention of AGW is a sign of any lack of support for the theory. Rather in both cases the theory is so well established that over 90% take it as a given.
Quibbling over whether the majority of peer reviewed research in the biological field endorse Darwinian natural selection as the mode of evolution when so few explicitly mention it makes creationists look idiotic.
Are AGW rejectionists going down the same path?


Richard S.J. Tol says:
September 10, 2013 at 4:53 am

I understand your objection to my parallelism. Objection duly noted. You’re right in that a paper by a grad student in psychology and his buds aided by crowdsourced assistants (who even objected on a blog to what they were doing) does not meet the professional level of Reinhart and Rogoff’s careers.
But the consequence of the results of what they did–and let’s admit that Cook et al just lucked out bigtime–has had similar effects. Reinhart and Rogoff did not rush to fix it overnight; they sought to minimize the damage. Here are two papers I saved since the April 2013 Herndon revelation that called their original findings into question. Reinhart and Rogoff got caught with their pants down, but they won’t suffer; they’re tenured.
A Note on Debt, Growth and Causality by Arindrajit Dube
After crunching Reinhart and Rogoff’s data, we’ve concluded that high debt does not slow growth
Aren’t you an economics guy? I’m stepping into an area that you are far more proficient in, so I will agree to disagree. I come down on the side of pain caused to others.

John Endicott

I have to agree with those that think the insults are uncalled for. What did children ever do to be insulted by being compared to Cook at al.? 😉

Cook, et al, deserve ridicule since their “study” was terribly skewed and intellectually dishonest. A dry recitation of their errors would have been both just another recitation of the errors and rather boring. Satire and ridicule is more readible, but it did tend to go on a bit.

Bennett In Vermont

CodeTech at 4:54 am
Perfect! And like Mr. Tilsdale, I had a grin throughout the reading of this essay.