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Do 97% of Climate Scientists Really Agree on Global Warming?

By way of an introduction, and balance, it's worth noting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) climate website, not surprisingly, says, "Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position." The NASA website then goes on to list statements "on climate change from 18 scientific associations." In addition, the first reference on the NASA climate webpage includes the studies that Neil Frank critiques in his commentary cited below.

But let's do a little fact-checking. At the Arlington County Board's traditional New Year's Day meeting -- held this year on January 3, 2017 -- County Board chairman Jay Fisette said, "Arlington must strengthen our efforts to protect the environment. We DO accept the reality of climate change. In the absence of federal leadership and assistance, cities and urban counties across America are taking the lead."

Then in a press release last week, Arlington County "reaffirmed" its "commitment to climate action. The news release made three key points:

  • Supports Mayors National Climate Action Agenda
  • Signs “WE ARE STILL IN” open letter to international community
  • Board to consider climate action resolution later this month

In reaffirming the commitment, the news release noted:

“Arlington stands with communities across our nation and around the globe who recognize that climate change is real and that we must, both on the local and on the global level, meet its adverse effects with strong, effective action,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “Just as we joined the Compact of Mayors in 2015 and agreed to set goals for reductions in greenhouse gases, so do we join the effort today of local communities that are pledging to uphold the Paris Agreement, even if the federal government does not.”

"On Monday, June 5, Arlington joined mayors, governors, college and university leaders, businesses and investors in signing “WE ARE STILL IN,” an open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement saying these entities – already primarily responsible for the dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years, will multiply and accelerate their actions, whatever policies the federal government may pursue."

Consequently, it was with extreme interest to read the comments of Neil Frank on the purportedly overwhelming consensus among climate scientists on global warming. Frank holds a Ph.D. in Meteorology, was the longest-serving Director of the National Hurricane Center (1974-1987), and continues research on global climate change.

In a Commentary for CNS News last Friday, he points out that most of the studies which purport this consensus "rarely specify what it is to which the scientists agree. Usually it is nothing more than that the earth has warmed since 1800 and that human activity has contributed significantly to the warming—something almost no skeptics would deny." Rather, Frank says:

"No study—whether a survey of published articles or a survey directly of scientists—has found anything remotely near a 97 percent consensus not only that the earth has warmed and that human activity has contributed significantly but also that human activity has been the primary driver, that the warming caused by it is dangerous, and that attempting to prevent future warming by reducing CO2 emissions would do more good than harm—and those are the issues debated."

Frank critiques several studies including one published by historian Naomi Oreskes by Science in 2004. He found that "an attempt at replicating the study both found that she had made serious mistakes in handling data and, after re-examining the data, reached contrary conclusions." Frank looked at two other studies -- one by Peter Doran and Maggie Zimmerman and a second by William Anderegg et al -- but found problems with their methodology.

Finally, he looked at a John Cook et al's study, "Quantifying the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature," which he says is "(p)robably the most widely cited study claiming to find such consensus." This study Frank says, "purported to find that 'Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.'" He points out, though:

"Of course, “Humans are causing global warming” is something that nearly every skeptic—including myself—could affirm. The question is not whether we’re causing global warming, but whether we’re causing most of the recent warming, whether it’s dangerous, and whether we should abandon abundant, affordable, reliable energy from fossil fuels in exchange for sparse, expensive, intermittent energy from “renewables” in an effort to stop it. Cook et al.’s paper was critiqued in another paper by David Legates et al., who reviewed the same papers Cook et al. had reviewed and concluded that the actual consensus supportable by their abstracts was only 0.3%."

Frank found several other problems with the Cook et al study. He also links to a Wall Street Journal op-ed about "The Myth of the Climate Change 97% (Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2014, but behind their paywall).

At National Review Online (NRO), October 8, 2015, Ian Tuttle wrote about the 97% consensus, writing "The myth of an almost-unanimous climate-change consensus is pervasive. Last May, the White House tweeted: “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” A few days later, Secretary of State John Kerry announced, “Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists tell us this is urgent.” But, she writes, "'Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists' say no such thing."

Tuttle also reports on a 2012 poll of the American Meteorological Society, which "reported a diversity of opinion," as well as "a study of 1,868 scientists working in climate-related fields, conducted just this year by the PBL Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency, three in ten respondents said that less than half of global warming since 1951 could be attributed to human activity, or that they did not know."

Finally, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine collected 31,000 signatures of scientists who "reject global warming and say 'no convincing evidence' that humans can or will cause global warming?" The entry notes, however, "The majority of signatures are engineers (10,102). 3,046 are in medicine. 2,965 are in biology, biochemistry and agriculture. 4,822 in chemistry and chemical engineering . . . Without formal training in climate science the level of understanding remains unknown among those that signed the petition. A key question is not how many of those that signed the petition know climate exists, but rather how many of those that signed work directly in the field of climate science."

If you prefer a video version of the argument against the 97% consensus of climate change scientists, click here for a 4+ minute video, narrated by Alex Epstein, from Prager University. Over 2.3 million people have viewed it. For five additional short PragerU videos on climate change, click here.

In another video, posted just last week at You Tube, Dr. Don Easterbrook, a geologist, questions the 97% consensus before a State of Washington legislative committee.

So who are we to believe? A fair and balanced consideration of Neil Frank's analysis or Ian Tuttle's report in NRO tells me there is no way  there can be a "97% consensus." Yet the federal government has spent billions of taxpayer dollars on so-called climate change while Arlington County has spent who knows how many taxpayer dollars for its Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) or to create its 26-page Community Energy Plan (CEP) in June 2013. And remember, Frank served as Director of the National Hurricane Center for 13 years, someone who should fully understand global warming.

Do you think the county should have reaffirmed its commitment to climate action? Do you think the county should be following the climate lemmings? If you remain skeptical about global warming, Growls readers are encouraged to contact the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

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