The myth of the 97% climate change consensus

97 percent- just dont lift the hat

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What is the origin of the false belief – constantly repeated by President Obama, the media and others – that almost all scientists agree about global warming?

Claims continue to be made that “97% of scientists agree that climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” That’s what Secretary of State John Kerry told graduating Boston College students. It’s what President Obama said in his State of the Union address and a recent tweet.

There’s just one problem – aside from the fact that this assertion is being used to help justify policies and regulations that are closing down fossil fuel power plants and crippling our economy. The claim is completely bogus. As Heartland Institute president Joe Bast and climate scientist Roy Spencer make clear in this article, the papers used to create and perpetuate the 97% claim are seriously and fundamentally flawed. The alleged consensus simply does not exist; much less does it represent anything remotely approaching 97%.


By Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer

The myth of the climate change 97%

What is the origin of the false belief that nearly all scientists agree about global warming?

Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer

Secretary of State John Kerry, President Obama and others frequently claim that climate change will have “crippling consequences,” and that “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree that climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” In reality, the assertion is science fiction. The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and exercises in counting abstracts from scientific papers – all of which have been contradicted by more reliable research.

One frequently cited source is Naomi Oreskes. She claimed to have examined abstracts of 928 articles and to have found that 75% supported the view that human activities are responsible for most of the observed warming over the previous 50 years, while none directly dissented. Ms. Oreskes’s definition of consensus covered “man-made” influences but left out “dangerous” – and excluded scores of articles by prominent scientists who question the consensus. She also failed to acknowledge that a study published in the journal Nature noted that abstracts of academic papers often contain claims that aren’t substantiated in the papers.

Another widely cited source for the consensus view is an article in Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union. It reported the results of a two-question online survey of selected scientists, and claimed “97 percent of climate scientists agree.” Most scientists who are skeptical of man-made catastrophic global warming would nevertheless answer “yes” to both questions. However, the survey was silent on whether the human impact – or the rise in temperature – is large enough to constitute a problem. It also failed to include scientists most likely to be aware of natural causes of climate change.

There is no basis for the claim that 97% of scientists believe that man-made climate change is a dangerous problem.

To read the rest of their article, go to



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Let the games begin…

97% of democratic politicians are liars, which works our well since 97% of democratic voters lack critical thinking skills

Prof Mike Hulme (founding director of the Tyndal Centre (UEA) joined in criticising Cook et al (and Anderegg
Mike Hulme July 25, 2013 at 6:39 am
Ben Pile is spot on. The “97% consensus” article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed. It obscures the complexities of the climate issue and it is a sign of the desperately poor level of public and policy debate in this country that the energy minister should cite it. It offers a similar depiction of the world into categories of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to that adopted in Anderegg et al.’s 2010 equally poor study in PNAS: dividing publishing climate scientists into ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’. It seems to me that these people are still living (or wishing to live) in the pre-2009 world of climate change discourse. Haven’t they noticed that public understanding of the climate issue has moved on?
My take on the Doran survey (including sceptical feedback form the actual participants of the survey)
And Prof Richard Betts (Head of Climate Impacts, UK Met Office, IPCC AR5 and AR4 lead author )thoughts on the ‘dangerous’ misrepresentation of Cook et al, by Obama’s twitter account.
@BarackObama Actually that paper didn’t say ‘dangerous’. NB I *do* think #climate change poses risks – I just care about accurate reporting!

Quote from co author Maggie Zimmerman 97.4% Doran Zimmermann EoS paper
“This entire process has been an exercise in re-educating myself about the climate debate and, in the process, I can honestly say that I have heard very convincing arguments from all the different sides, and I think I’m actually more neutral on the issue now than I was before I started this project. There is so much gray area when you begin to mix science and politics, environmental issues and social issues, calculated rational thinking with emotions, etc.”
– M Zimmermann – The Consensus on the Consensus

I was familiar with the Doran and Cook studies, but not of the Oreskes or the PNAS one. I can see why now! Neither of those actually quantified the data. Just hyperjected. But they are good to know if someone should try to sneak them through.


I beg to differ: democratic voters are extremely critical when their entitlements are threatened…

97%? FEH! Kim Jong-un got 100% “consensus” in the North Korean “election”.
obama must admire that guy so much…

“The “97 percent” figure in the Zimmerman/Doran survey represents the views of only 79 respondents who listed climate science as an area of expertise and said they published more than half of their recent peer-reviewed papers on climate change.”
Actually, the 97% figure represents the views of only 77 of those 79. Two of the 79 were identified as skeptics and excluded by Professor Doran for his famous 97% calculation.


What amazes me the most… that most people don’t think claiming something like that….is as lame as I think it is
If the science was “robust”…they wouldn’t have to claim anything….and they wouldn’t


President Obama warned Friday that storms like Hurricane Sandy will become more frequent as climate change intensifies.
While being briefed by emergency response officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters, Obama urged the public to prepare now for this year’s hurricane season.
“The changes we’re seeing in our climate means that, unfortunately, storms like Sandy could end up being more common and more devastating,” Obama said.

As been said “never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” The 97 percent story simply won’t die because it’s too valuable to the alarmists.

Retired Engineer

I suspect 97% of alchemists thought they could turn mercury into gold. And probably 97% thought the world was flat a long time before then. So now, 97% of the scientists who think AGW is real agree that AGW is real. Makes sense. Sort of …

The one thing you can accurately predict about the weather is that is going to be unpredictable.


Dr. Spencer is to be thanked for dismantling the “97%” myth so clearly.
Sadly with this Administration in full hunker down mode and controlling the President’s information sources even more tightly, the chances of him hearing that he is repeating old, inaccurate and disreputable claims about climate science and climate risk is practically zip.


Politicians always claim the means justify their ends and if truth is a casualty well that’s just too bad. As a consequence of this cynicism scientific truth is being trampled underfoot and civilization forced into retreat. The finer sensibilities of scientific truth-seekers are being battered in this shallow age of uncritical media and political hack ‘scientists’. But who would ever have thought ‘damned lies and statistics’ could be peddled as science by educated men? They shouldn’t just know better. They should be better.

Mario Lento

This post is a keeper, in that it clarifies without ambiguity, what the argument about the 97% is really about. It’s like the game “Telephone” Someone tells a story with specific details to someone, who passes it on… it grows details out of thin air and sheds factual content as it propagates.


A lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.

Mario Lento

An angry person tells 10 people about their experience, and a happy person tells 1 other…

hunter said:
May 30, 2014 at 2:56 pm
…chances of [obama] hearing that he is repeating old, inaccurate and disreputable claims about climate science and climate risk is practically zip.
I ‘m sure he knows and is more than happy to propagate climate disinformation. Moreover, I bet he wouldn’t at all mind suppressing dissent.
Wouldn’t surprise me if he were to issue a decree declaring WUWT to be illegal.


Another problem with the questions is that the word “significant” isn’t defined.
Depending on the context, significant could mean as little as 10 to 20%.

Mario Lento

I like to think of significant is within 1 order of magnitude… base 10. But that is still subjective I guess.
For instance, if absolute temperature increased by 1 order of magnitude, then we’d be 30C warmer.

James Ard

I’m with Latitude. For them to have to make the claim to begin with is proof enough the science is junk.

Chad Wozniak

The figures for calculating the 97 percent are 75 out of 77 “qualified” scientists.
Now, say we accept that number, as the number of AGW believers in the scientific community. Next we consider the Petition Project (aka Oregon Petition), a document stating that neither CO2 nor man’s activities have any discernible effect on climate, and signed by 31,000+ degreed practicing scientists.
This works out to 0.22 percent of “scientists” who accept AGW, or a 450-to-1 majority of skeptics over believers.
No matter how you figure it, there is an ENORMOUSLY, OVERWHELMINGLY large majority of theoretical scientists, and especially of applied scientists (astronomers, meteorologists, engineers, geologists, chemists, to name a few). Applied scientists know better than to rely on superstitions as the basis of their calculations; if they did, bridges would fall, buildings would collapse and chemical plants would blow up.
Unfortunately, the same sorts of constraints imposed by reality do not seem to apply to something as nebulous and climate “science.”

Why doesn’t the article, right from the start, mention that the 97% consensus is based on 75 of 77 respondents:
“…the most specialized and knowledgeable respondents (with regard to climate change)… 97.4% (75 of 77) answered yes to question 2.”
Isn’t this the basis for the 97% figure? It doesn’t mention anywhere in the article about 75 of 77 respondents…


Worse then that is the fact we do not know how many climate ‘scientists’ there are , worse than that we have no agree definition of what is a climate ‘scientists’ , remember both railway engineers and failed politicians have been called climate ‘scientists’ . But worse of all is that the 97% fails on the basic maths front , for if you have no idea of the size of the whole group you can simply have no idea what percentage of the whole group a sub-group is to any degree of accuracy worth a dam.
The 97% is crap from the bottom to the top.

Tom Port

Well. I for one am still a strong supporter of Obama for a whoe host of reasons, but I have to agree he and his advisers on climate need to listen to the skeptic side rather than dismissing it. Sadly, he is apparently only listening to the climate doomsayers who grabbed the bit in their teeth thirty years ago and, if they don’t stop soon to rethink the issue, are about to gallop off the cliff as a result.

I suspect that 99.9% of people have never heard of the Petition Project, including President Obama and John Kerry.

“Why has punditry lately overtaken news? Why do lies seem to linger so long in the cultural subconscious even after they’ve been thoroughly discredited? And why, when more people than ever before are documenting the truth with laptops and digital cameras, does fact-free spin and propaganda seem to work so well?” ~Farad Manjoo – True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society~

97% of Lemmings say you should jump off a cliff.


Unfortunately, this should go in the WUWT Resources, perhaps under a new category “Climate Myths”.

dmacleo says:
May 30, 2014 at 4:13 pm
Very good, dmacleo. I had a hard time finding the original 97% figure basis. Even on WUWT.
There are a lot of legal articles about John Cook 97%, but it’s hard to find the 75 out of 77 article/issue.


LaMaisonDieu says:
August 12, 2013 at 11:55 pm
Peer-Reviewed Survey Finds Majority Of Scientists Skeptical Of Global Warming Crisis


Regarding two “97%” surveys that warmists more often cite, here is a summary of most of their flaws, by WUWT-commenter Robin Guenier:

“The flaws in the Doran paper are well known: (A) it used a hopelessly inadequate sample size (79 respondents) and demographic (nearly all from N America) and (B) in any case, most sceptics would agree with both its propositions: (1) that the world has warmed since the 1700s and (2) that mankind contributed. It made no mention of GHG emissions.
“Anderegg is more sophisticated than the hopeless Doran. But there’s a basic problem: it’s concerned with whether or not respondents agree that “anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for “most [i.e. more than 50%] of the “unequivocal” warming of the Earth’s average global temperature over the second half of the 20th century”. The only scientists qualified to evaluate that are those engaged in detection and attribution (both difficult and uncertain). Yet the research was not confined to such scientists.
“And, in any case, the research itself is flawed. First, the total number of “climate researchers” who accepted the above statement was, according to the paper, 903 and the total that did not was 472. In other words, 66% – not the much-claimed 97%. The researchers got their 97% by restricting their findings to researchers “most actively publishing in the field” – in other words, the paper’s findings do not cover all “climate scientists”. Further, it wasn’t an opinion survey at all, but an analysis of scientists who signed pro/anti statements – not the most useful documents. And, again, it was essentially confined to North America and was not concerned with whether or not the warming was dangerous. For these reasons, it’s valueless as a measure of climate scientists’ opinion about the dangers of AGW.”

This George Mason Univ. poll [run for them by the Harris polling organization in 2007] surveyed 489 randomly selected members of either the American Meteorological Society or the American Geophysical Union. It did not cherry pick the respondants who gave them the answer they wanted, and it asked more sophisticated questions [than the Doran and Anderegg surveys], below:
Under its “Major Findings” are these paragraphs:
“Ninety-seven percent of the climate scientists surveyed believe “global average temperatures have increased” during the past century.
“Eighty-four percent say they personally believe human-induced warming is occurring, and 74% agree that “currently available scientific evidence” substantiates its occurrence. Only 5% believe that that human activity does not contribute to greenhouse warming; the rest [11%] are unsure.
“Scientists still debate the dangers. A slight majority (54%) believe the warming measured over the last 100 years is NOT “within the range of natural temperature fluctuation.”
“A slight majority (56%) see at least a 50-50 chance that global temperatures will rise two degrees Celsius or more during the next 50 to 100 years. (The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cites this increase as the point beyond which additional warming would produce major environmental disruptions.)
“Based on current trends, 41% of scientists believe global climate change will pose a very great danger to the earth in the next 50 to 100 years, compared to 13% who see relatively little danger. Another 44% rate climate change as moderately dangerous.”
IOW, 59% doubt the “catastrophic” potential of AGW. I suspect that number would be higher now, after six more flat years.

J. Philip Peterson says:
May 30, 2014 at 4:21 pm
Very good, dmacleo. I had a hard time finding the original 97% figure basis. Even on WUWT.
There are a lot of legal articles about John Cook 97%, but it’s hard to find the 75 out of 77 article/issue.

I keep it handy for reference on my site as I would lose it w/o that LOL

Mario Lento

Tom Port says:
May 30, 2014 at 3:34 pm
Well. I for one am still a strong supporter of Obama for a whoe host of reasons, but I have to agree he and his advisers on climate need to listen to the skeptic side rather than dismissing it. Sadly, he is apparently only listening to the climate doomsayers who grabbed the bit in their teeth thirty years ago and, if they don’t stop soon to rethink the issue, are about to gallop off the cliff as a result.
Maybe we can help, Tom, since you sound reasonable. As a skeptic, I did not like Obama not too long after he opened his mouth during the 2008 election. At first I found him charming, but then I listened to his words, and found him divisive. He stirs racial tensions that were not there, thus creating them, he wants to make our energy prices soar, and he pits have-nots against the haves. He’s incredibly duplicitous.
Anyway – Could you provide the “Host of reasons” you are strong supporter” of Mr. Obama?

george e. smith

@BarackObama Actually that paper didn’t say ‘dangerous’. NB I *do* think #climate change poses risks – I just care about accurate reporting!…..”””””
So since you care about accurate reporting, would you care to say just precisely which changes in climate, that have been shown by experimentally measured (not models) data, to have already occurred, YOU “think” pose risks; and specifically what risks you “think” are posed by these climate changes that HAVE occurred.
How much credibility do YOU place in what YOU “think”.
Just for the sake of reference, I have personally observed various aspects of earth’s climate, for more than 3/4 of a century, and at locations spread over about 3/4 of the earth’s surface; and so far I have not observed, or heard about from others, any change, or any collection or combination of changes, that would cause me to be concerned for as long as one second, to the extent that I would alter anything that I am doing, or recommend to any other person, that they also change, so as to cause a perceptible reduction in any future risk from future changes in climate, that have been shown by peer reviewed research to result in observable changes in climate, whether of negative or positive change in the outcome of such changes.
And the amount of money, I am personally willing to invest, for the express purpose of attempting to ameliorate any such likely changes in earth’s climate, is precisely zero, in US dollars; or in Euros.
I am also willing to invest that same amount of money, for the express purpose of further research into ANY and ALL aspects of climate, and or climate change. I’m also willing to invest a like amount of money into the search for any form of life; intelligent or not, outside of a shell approximately +/- 25 km about mean sea level on planet earth. And I would make a like contribution towards research into the development of controlled thermo-nuclear fusion energy for the purpose of commercial supply of such energy.

Chad Wozniak

@J. Phi;lip Peterson –
I wrote to Obama and reported the Petition Project to him in my letter, and I got a response which implied strongly that he did know of it – and was ignoring it.

Elsewhere, Craig Idso, Nicola Scafetta, Nir J. Shaviv and Nils-Axel Morner and other climate scientists protested that Mr. Cook ignored or misrepresented their work.
I am disappointed they did not link to the “Elsewhere” which was here:

Alan Robertson

The 97% “myth” is not a myth. It is a lie. It is a big lie, It is so big it is beyond a big lie.


Instead of complaining about the 97% figure, why doesn’t somebody do a proper survey? Surely with hundreds of billions being spent on climate change, there is someone out there with the resources to do it properly. Until then, we will just keep hearing about 97%, but.complaining that the the study was poorly done will have no effect on those citing it, particularly politicians. Alternative numbers from a better survey might have an effect though.
Such a study need to be graduated, testing questions from “Does the climate change?” through to “Do we need radical global economic action right now?”, and positions in between.

Steven Mosher

Riddle me this, riddle me that. Deconstructing the consensus using my alter ego, [trimmed].
[Riddle me this: who “trimmed” Mosh’s comment, and with no reason given? ~Snr. Mod.]


The petition states that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of … carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

If any Warmist disagrees with this statement then please show me the evidence? Heck, it’s failed to cause any statistically significant surface warming for 17 years now. The oceans ate my global warming! This was not predicted, therefore the IPCC is full of shi!t.

Eamon Butler

So, is it time for a properly designed and conclusive survey to be conducted? Without the tricks and dishonesty.


Nuccitelli’s attack response at ClimateConsensus in The Guardian was suitably scientific!
28 May: Guardian: Dana Nuccitelli: The Wall Street Journal denies the 97% scientific consensus on human-caused global warming
The Rupert Murdoch media continues to deny the reality of human-caused global warming
This week, they published an editorial denying the 97% expert scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming. The editorial may have been published as a damage control effort in the wake of John Oliver’s brilliant and hilarious global warming debate viral video, which has now surpassed 3 million views…
The Wall Street Journal editorial was written by Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institutepolitical advocacy group of Unabomber billboard infamy, and Roy Spencer of “global warming Nazis” infamy…
For example, in order to reject the findings of the paper my colleagues and I published last year finding a 97% consensus on human-caused global warming in the peer-reviewed literature, Bast and Spencer referenced a critical comment subsequently published by David Legates et al. in an obscure off-topic journal called Science and Education. That paper was based on a blog postwritten by Christopher Monckton, who’s infamous for calling environmental activists “Hitler Youth.”…
If Murdoch’s The Wall Street Journal keeps publishing editorials that flat-out deny reality, especially from people who compare those they disagree with to terrorists and Nazis, it will lose credibility and fall by the wayside as the rest of the world moves on to debate how to best solve the problem.

Alan Robertson

Steven Mosher says:
May 30, 2014 at 5:50 pm
Riddle me this, riddle me that. Deconstructing the consensus using my alter ego, [trimmed].
WTF are you talking about? Speak up! You are either defending the 97% consensus myth, or you are not. None of your Batman nonsense, speak up or GTF down the road.

Mario Lento

Eamon Butler says:
May 30, 2014 at 6:00 pm
So, is it time for a properly designed and conclusive survey to be conducted? Without the tricks and dishonesty.
There’s your answer:

Mario Lento

Is the alter ego the reasonable guy? I notice [trimmed].
This is not [snipped] so, are you playing more odd ball games? Sounds like you have no alter ego as this is distinctly Mosheresk.
[Reply: see mod comment above. ~mod.]

Alan Robertson

Mario Lento says:
May 30, 2014 at 6:11 pm
Sounds like you have no alter ego as this is distinctly Mosheresk.
Mario, you have been paying attention.

Mario Lento

Alan Robertson: Yes – specifically your recent post to Mosher… seriously – WTF is he thinking?