Icing The Hype
Sep 03, 2013
Cooks ‘97% consensus’ disproven by a new peer reviewed paper showing major math errors

Anthony Watts, Watts Up With That

UPDATE: While this paper (a rebuttal) has been accepted, another paper by Cook and Nuccitelli has been flat out rejected by the journal Earth System Dynamics. See update below.  Anthony

“0.3% climate consensus, not 97.1%”

PRESS RELEASE September 3rd, 2013

A major peer-reviewed paper by four senior researchers has exposed grave errors in an earlier paper in a new and unknown journal that had claimed a 97.1% scientific consensus that Man had caused at least half the 0.7 C global warming since 1950.

A tweet in President Obama’s name had assumed that the earlier, flawed paper, by John Cook and others, showed 97% endorsement of the notion that climate change is dangerous:

“Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” [Emphasis added]

The new paper by the leading climatologist Dr David Legates and his colleagues, published in the respected Science and Education journal, now in its 21st year of publication, reveals that Cook had not considered whether scientists and their published papers had said climate change was “dangerous”.

The consensus Cook considered was the standard definition: that Man had caused most post-1950 warming. Even on this weaker definition the true consensus among published scientific papers is now demonstrated to be not 97.1%, as Cook had claimed, but only 0.3%. 

Only 41 out of the 11,944 published climate papers Cook examined explicitly stated that Man caused most of the warming since 1950. Cook himself had flagged just 64 papers as explicitly supporting that consensus, but 23 of the 64 had not in fact supported it.

This shock result comes scant weeks before the United Nations’ climate panel, the IPCC, issues its fifth five-yearly climate assessment, claiming “95% confidence” in the imagined and, as the new paper shows, imaginary consensus.

Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’: a Rejoinder to ‘Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change’ decisively rejects suggestions by Cook and others that those who say few scientists explicitly support the supposedly near-unanimous climate consensus are misinforming and misleading the public.

Dr Legates said: “It is astonishing that any journal could have published a paper claiming a 97% climate consensus when on the authors’ own analysis the true consensus was well below 1%.

“It is still more astonishing that the IPCC should claim 95% certainty about the climate consensus when so small a fraction of published papers explicitly endorse the consensus as the IPCC defines it.”

Dr Willie Soon, a distinguished solar physicist, quoted the late scientist-author Michael Crichton, who had said: “If it’s science, it isn’t consensus; if it’s consensus, it isn’t science.” He added: “There has been no global warming for almost 17 years. None of the ‘consensus’ computer models predicted that.”

Dr William Briggs, “Statistician to the Stars”, said: “In any survey such as Cook’s, it is essential to define the survey question very clearly. Yet Cook used three distinct definitions of climate consensus interchangeably. Also, he arbitrarily excluded about 8000 of the 12,000 papers in his sample on the unacceptable ground that they had expressed no opinion on the climate consensus. These artifices let him reach the unjustifiable conclusion that there was a 97.1% consensus when there was not.

“In fact, Cook’s paper provides the clearest available statistical evidence that there is scarcely any explicit support among scientists for the consensus that the IPCC, politicians, bureaucrats, academics and the media have so long and so falsely proclaimed. That was not the outcome Cook had hoped for, and it was not the outcome he had stated in his paper, but it was the outcome he had really found.”

Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, an expert reviewer for the IPCC’s imminent Fifth Assessment Report, who found the errors in Cook’s data, said: “It may be that more than 0.3% of climate scientists think Man caused at least half the warming since 1950. But only 0.3% of almost 12,000 published papers say so explicitly. Cook had not considered how many papers merely implied that. No doubt many scientists consider it possible, as we do, that Man caused some warming, but not most warming.

“It is unscientific to assume that most scientists believe what they have neither said nor written.”


Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’: A Rejoinder to Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change

David R. Legates, Willie Soon, William M. Briggs, Christopher Monckton of Brenchley



Agnotology is the study of how ignorance arises via circulation of misinformation calculated to mislead. Legates et al. (Sci Educ 22:2007 to 2017, 2013) had questioned the applicability of agnotology to politically-charged debates. In their reply, Bedford and Cook (Sci Educ 22:2019 to 2030, 2013), seeking to apply agnotology to climate science, asserted that fo ssil-fuel interests had promoted doubt about a climate consensus. Their definition of climate ‘misinformation’ was contingent upon the post-modernist assumptions that scientific truth is discernible by measuring a consensus among experts, and that a near unanimous consensus exists. However, inspection of a claim by Cook et al. (Environ Res Lett 8:024024, 2013) of 97.1 % consensus, heavily relied upon by Bedford and Cook, shows just 0.3 % endorsement of the standard definition of consensus: that most warming since 1950 is anthropogenic. Agnotology, then, is a two-edged sword since either side in a debate may claim that general ignorance arises from misinformation allegedly circulated by the other. Significant questions about anthropogenic influences on climate remain. Therefore, Legates et al. appropriately asserted that partisan presentations of controversies stifle debate and have no place in education.

UPDATE:  Cook and Nuccitelli paper rejected:

Bishop Hill writes:

The Benestad (Cook, Nuccitelli) et al paper on “agnotology”, a bizarre concoction that tried to refute just about every sceptic paper ever written has been rejected by Earth System Dynamics

Based on the reviews and my own reading of the original and revised paper, I am rejecting the paper in its current form. The submission is laudable in its stated goals and in making the R source code available, but little else about the paper works as a scientific contribution to ESD. While I think as an ESDD publication at least a discussion was had and the existence of the R routines has been brought to the attention of the various interested communities, the manuscript itself is not a good fit for this journal and would need substantial further revisions before being ready (if ever) for this journal.

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